Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-149)
SIR ROY MCNULTY AND MR DOUG ANDREW
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2002
140. How much is it on the ticket?
(Sir Roy McNulty) That is impossible to know because this is a charge which NATS levies on the airlines. How much of that the airlines put on a ticket is for the airlines to decide. NATS has no control over that.
141. How much for, say, a 737?
(Mr Andrew) Within UK airspace, it is about £46 for every 100 kilometres that 737 travels.
142. On the continent?
(Mr Andrew) It varies from the Belgians who will be a bit higher than that to the French who would be about 20 per cent below that.
143. Given a number of factors, one being 11 September and potentially the Middle East, the question that you heard in relation to reduction of staff of NATS and looking back a couple of incidents in the past few months, what is your current reading in terms of NATS's capabilities and how you see the position as of now, looking ahead to the next 12 months?
(Sir Roy McNulty) Might I ask capabilities in what sense?
144. As a safety regulator.
(Sir Roy McNulty) In terms of their safety performance?
145. How do you think, in the next 12 months, they will be able to react to possibly something happening that could create major difficulties?
(Sir Roy McNulty) From the point of view of normal operation, we are reasonably satisfied, although we continue to have a very high level of surveillance on NATS. We would expect, based on past performance, that they will continue to run a safe system. If something, God forbid, like 11 September happened here in this country, as Richard Everitt mentioned earlier, a lot more thought has been given to that over the last six months than had been given before and I think reasonably adequate contingency plans are now emerging.
146. That is despite teething problems and reductions in staff?
(Sir Roy McNulty) Yes. The reductions in staff to date, to the best of my knowledge, are almost entirely a management and administrative area which really does not bear directly on safety, capacity or anything like that. Some of the recent incidents where they have had system problems are more human error than capacity or manpower number issues and those they are trying to deal with as best they can. In terms of running a safe system, we would be confident that in the next 12 months NATS will continue to run a safe system.
147. NATS have given us evidence, which I am sure you have seen, about their overall staff numbers which are planned to decline from 5,700 to around 4,500, which is the 21 per cent we have been talking about. That is a very considerable change. Mr Campbell is saying to you are you therefore confident, no matter what? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility, God forfend it should be so, that we could encounter another major problem and what I think Mr Campbell wants to know is that we can have insurance that you believe the situation is now robust enough to protect the safe transmission and control of aircraft in those circumstances.
(Sir Roy McNulty) For all normal purposes, I am satisfied that we will ensure that there is a safe system within the bounds of human capability. In terms of another 11 September, God forbid, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of work has been done on that subject over the winter. The safety implications of that I am not sure we are fully at the end of grasping, but it is being worked on.
148. If the argument made by NATS to you for an increase is that they cannot cope under their existing situation with the economic situation they now face, what wold be your reply? Will you take that as being a determining factor?
(Sir Roy McNulty) It would be one of the factors but the other factors are the criteria and duties laid on us by the Transport Act to consider the interests of users and operators and travellers on aircraft; to consider the need for cost efficiency and issues like that. We would try to arrive at the best balance between those several factors. We would also consider very carefully, if NATS is saying that they have a financial difficulty, what really is the source of that financial difficulty.
149. Do you think the taxpayer got a good deal out of that private finance deal?
(Sir Roy McNulty) I think the taxpayer got an excellent deal, but you knew I would say that anyway.
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much.