Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-65)



  60. Mr McNulty, I suspect we may see you again on that matter. The relevance today is that of timing of the juxtaposition of events, as it were, is it not? It seemed to us that the potential for an open aviation area, quite apart from, heaven forbid, phase one "open skies", to have an impact on competition, pricing and airline restructuring, as far as the UK is concerned is not entirely dependent on runway capacity and slots and all that in the UK. Hence, if the Commission were to be pushing forward on the slots issue more speedily than it pushed forward on other issues, clearly there will be some problems arising for us and no doubt for the Commission. Do you recognise that there are some interconnections in your own thinking? Would the Commission share that view in its timing and phasing of an examination of slots?
  (Mr Baker) I think you can look at the common aviation area in Europe, which is generally judged a great success. The competition benefits would have been even greater if they were not inhibited by the lack of airport infrastructure. That would actually apply also to the transatlantic Open Aviation Area. The difficulty, though, is that it is not open to the Commission to create more slots at London airports.

  61. Is the mandate a public document?
  (Mr Smethers) I am afraid not. I thought you might ask that question. I specifically asked the Commission whether we could let you have the mandate on a privileged basis but the answer was "no, it is a confidential document".

  62. I thought you might give me that answer. That is a disappointing answer from the Commission. In the briefing notes to the MEPs, MEPs were assured that, following intensive negotiations with HMG, they would now have texts which meet our conditions and those do various things, including, as far as possible, preventing one Member State benefiting from not acting properly to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of all EU airlines. Are those texts publicly available? Those are the safeguards that meet our conditions.
  (Mr Smethers) If I heard properly, the reference there was to the draft framework Regulation because that requires any Member State that is negotiating bilaterally with a third country to include the Community designation in its negotiations. It also requires Member States to report back to the Commission and the special committee on what happened. There will be some transparency at least about the extent to which Member States have tried to achieve Community designation. That is contained in the draft framework Regulation, which is available.

  63. I am relying on paragraph 4 of the document headed, "Briefing for UK Members", the reference to texts which meet our conditions, that we needed to have in order to agree on this particular general way forward. It referred to six conditions. My question was whether the texts setting out the way in which those conditions have been met are publicly available.
  (Mr Smethers) Some are and some are not because some of those conditions have been met in the texts of the two mandates. Those mandates are not public documents. Some are met in the framework Regulation, which is a public document.

  64. Would it be possible to give us a note on that?
  (Mr Smethers) Yes.

  65. Mr McNulty, we have gone five minutes over time and it is a discourtesy to you for which I apologise. Was there anything you wanted to add before we bring this session to a close?
  (Mr McNulty) Only to assure you that today's minimal verbosity is not a precedent!

  Chairman: I have no doubt whatsoever about that. On behalf of the Committee, thanks to you and to your colleagues. We are extremely grateful.

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