Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 378)



  360. You no doubt read the report of the proceedings that took place prior to Christmas where the BAA suggested that there was some £10 million additional costs towards security. As someone who travels in the airlines, I do not see that at all, I do not see any improvement at all. Has the Government done an audit on that figure and is it willing at any point to pay out any form of compensation?
  (Mr Jamieson) Are you saying that BAA said £10 million?

  361. £10 million additional cost on security.
  (Mr Jamieson) Our role in government is to make sure that the security and safety issues are being met and we in the Department have inspectors that go out and check that security is at the levels we want.


  362. How recently has that happened? Are they still doing it? Will you give us a note on that?
  (Mr Jamieson) I can say that it is very regularly.

  363. I am sure. We are not criticising you, we just want an up-to-date account of how often recently.
  (Mr Jamieson) One figure I happen to hold in my head is that there have been 50 visits to Manchester Airport, to give you just one example of the level of checking that there is.

  364. Thank you, but I still need a detailed note.
  (Mr Jamieson) Yes indeed.

Mr Donohoe

  365. I do not know what the note will contain but what I would want it to contain is whether the Government are of a mind, if the figures that BAA have given us of £10 million for the period up to the end of March 2002 is proved to be right, to give some grant to BAA for the additional costs of security, which is not of their making but the Government's making?
  (Mr Jamieson) The proposal we have at the moment for £40 million extra assistance to the airlines covers insurance and it covers the issues I talked about earlier. At the moment we have no plans to make any extra funding for security available to airports. This is a difficult issue, but we see this in terms of the airlines. It is a compensation issue specifically for the four days. The difficulty would be if we had some on-going commitment to security to the airports. This could be seen then as a subsidy issue rather than compensation, and it would also be, of course, subject to discussions within the European Union on state aid rules. At the moment, it is our feeling still very strongly that security and the cost of security at the airports should be met by the consumer and ultimately the person who pays for the cargo or pays for the ticket.

  Mr Donohoe: One final question to Mr Griffins, and you can answer it as well, Minister, if you want, going back to an earlier point: do you not think it is long overdue that these negotiations are taken away from the United Kingdom Government and given to the European Parliament to determine and to negotiate, given that it is, after all, a pan-European negotiation that would be more likely to bring about success?


  366. We know how helpful and how well-equipped and how expert they are for doing all the negotiations for all of the bilaterals throughout the whole of the European Union.
  (Mr Griffins) In due course they may well be just that.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, that is as far as we are going down that road. Miss McIntosh?

Miss McIntosh

  367. Staying with the negotiations, Mr Griffins, you did say that it is possible that negotiations will be concluded within the next two months. You then went on to say in reply to Mr Stevenson's question that it would be very nice if they achieved agreement on opening up America on cabotage, wet leasing and foreign ownership. My first question to Mr Griffins is are you actively negotiating the open skies within that two month time framework on those three issues of cabotage, wet leasing and foreign ownership?
  (Mr Griffins) The answer to that is no because I do not believe that is achievable within the next two months.

  368. I am assuming that he may like to reconsider then the answer he gave Mr Stevenson where clearly you were specifically asked, Mr Griffins, when the negotiations might be concluded and you said, yes, before the initial opinion presumably of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice. You then went on to say to Mr Stevenson that, yes, it would be nice if we achieved agreement on open skies, cabotage, wet leasing and foreign ownership. Can I confirm that you are not actively including this as part of the present active negotiations?
  (Mr Griffins) I think yes we can and if I can correct what I must have said wrongly, I did not intend to say that we were negotiating for what I termed Nirvana, which was full access to the US market with the hope of achieving that in the next few months. I did say yes to the question that there was a possibility of our concluding an agreement and that agreement would be based on the pragmatic approach which I believe was broadly endorsed by the Committee last time we presented it to them, which was achieving that through a system of alliances, but alliances which were acceptable to the competition authorities as a first step.

  369. Also, you did say earlier that you are not a competition authority and not responsible for that. Can I ask Mr Griffins further, when he prepares his written note to this Committee, is he aware that British Airways told us at our last evidence session that in September their cargo measured in cargo tonne kilometres fell by 38 per cent in September alone and in October it fell by 23.8 per cent, were you aware of that?
  (Mr Griffins) The answer is yes, but merely as figures because I read the transcript of that last hearing.

  Miss McIntosh: My final question is to Mr Jamieson. The CAA have called for primary legislation. The Air Travel Trust Fund, which was set up in 1975, is now in debt and primary legislation is required to provide the powers to impose a levy to recoup the cost of a fund for holiday makers. The CAA have said in written evidence that they expect an increase in the number of collapses of companies, possibly including larger companies. Will you give an undertaking to this Committee today that you will make parliamentary time available to bring such primary legislation before this House before the summer session this year?


  370. I do not actually think that is accurate. The ATOL schemes are already set up. The existing machinery is there. I do not want to spend a lot of time going over the set of circumstances. If there is any alteration in the existing machinery, certainly in the existing legislation, will you give us some information on that? In fact, if you check, I think you will find primary legislation is not required and is already in existence.
  (Mr Jamieson) I think the simple answer is the answer I gave earlier that if there were catastrophic collapses then we would obviously have to act proportionately and appropriately and time would have to be made available.

Miss McIntosh

  371. Would you seek to recover that through a levy?
  (Mr Jamieson) That would be one option.

Andrew Bennett

  372. An Aviation White Paper this autumn?
  (Mr Jamieson) Sorry, I did not hear that.


  373. You promised us an Aviation White Paper, Mr Bennett wants to know when we are going to get it?
  (Mr Jamieson) It will be produced in the autumn.

Andrew Bennett

  374. It is still on course?
  (Mr Jamieson) Yes, indeed. We are totally committed to that and we are still very much on course.

  375. What about all those jobs in the UK which are associated with the airline industry, particularly in the air frames, those sorts of things, the skills, is the Government doing anything to protect those skills within the country?
  (Mr Jamieson) This is a difficult area, Chairman. As I talked about earlier, it is very difficult for us to take action that is going to interfere artificially with the market. All throughout the airline industry from the people who are actually operating the airlines right down to the people who are making the meals and the sandwiches that go on the aeroplanes, all of these people have been hit in some sort of way and that is very much regretted. What I can say to Mr Bennett is this: some of those jobs that have been lost, and very regrettably—fortunately we are in a position where our economy is doing well, it is still buoyant and doing well in comparison to many other countries which have been affected by September 11th—many of the jobs, not all, have gone in areas of very high employment in the South East.

  376. I understand that. There is a particular problem, is there not, about the time it takes to train the people to do aircraft maintenance and to do some of the air frame manufacture. Now that skill base is getting substantially reduced in this country, are you not alarmed at the contraction of that skill base?

   (Mr Jamieson) I think if it contracted very substantially, and we felt that was a risk to impeding future growth and recovery, then I think it would be appropriate for us to take action. Those very skilled people, we are not aware of those people being laid off in large numbers. Sadly I think a lot of the people who have lost their jobs in these circumstances are often people with low skills and some of those people who do the low paid, low skill jobs, it is those largely, I am afraid, who have suffered in the present circumstances.


  377. The use it or lose it rule is a very important one. What is the Government's attitude towards that?
  (Mr Jamieson) We are working with the European Union on this issue, Chairman. At the moment the summer slots for this year will be protected for next year and we are anticipating that there will be a decision that the winter slots will be protected again for next year. This will be very much an interim measure and it would be a measure that would, if you like, react to the present circumstances but it is not something, I think, we would see going on a long term basis.

  378. Minister, you may say that if in fact this is frozen this will give an unfair advantage to some airlines?
  (Mr Jamieson) That is a matter we will have to consider, it is a matter we are carefully balancing because, equally, some of the airlines will recover very rapidly, they will get their traffic back next year we hope, but it is an area where we have a very, very careful balance and obviously it is something which we have had to give very careful consideration to.

  Chairman: Minister, you are very kind and I think you have been saved by the bell. Thank you very much.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 21 March 2002