HL Deb 19 January 1989 vol 503 cc325-6

Baroness Burton of Coventry asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether air matters are included on the agenda for the informal meeting of the European Community Transport Ministers' Council to be held on 13th February, and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to put forward any such items for discussion at that meeting.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, we have not yet received an agenda for the meeting on 13th February. This is an informal Council and it is therefore entirely for the presidency to determine the agenda. However, I understand the presidency has indicated that it would like some discussion of air traffic control issues.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, that is a somewhat lukewarm response, but I should like to thank the Minister for having gone to the trouble to give us even that amount of information. I hope he is aware that my being troublesome and persistent in this matter gives him the excuse for being the same.

As regards his reply today, as air traffic control issues are to be discussed on 13th February, can he say whether it is expected that the Commission will table its proposals on the matter? As for the second part of my Question, which the Minister did not answer, is it at all likely that the Government will be putting forward any suggestions concerning a discussion on liberalisation?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in reply to the second part of the Question tabled by the noble Baroness, of course we shall not hesitate to take the opportunity to put forward proposals on further liberalisation and to remind the Council to secure early progress on that issue. We are confident that the Commission will bring forward its proposals by the agreed date of 1st November.

As regards air traffic control matters, the Commission's proposals are being discussed at official level and are not yet ready to be put to the Council. However, we are not yet convinced that the Commission's involvement in air traffic control is necessary. As I have said before, we believe that ICAO and Eurocontrol should remain in the lead.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Minister will appreciate that we on this side of this House are giving full support to his efforts on Eurocontrol. However, is there likely to be any discussion on the question of aircraft and airport security. either at this meeting or at a future meeting? Further, I should like to ask another question which I hope is not too far beyond the scope of the Question on the Order Paper. With regard to 1992, will there be discussions at some stage on the question of road haulage and also coastal cabotage?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, this is an informal Council and therefore it is for the presidency to decide the agenda for it. So far as I am aware the presidency does not propose to discuss aircraft or airport security.

As regards other measures which come before the Transport Council, we are indeed extremely anxious that progress should be made on the subject of cabotage and we shall be lobbying the presidency to that effect as soon as possible; and similarly on road haulage.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, will the Minister agree that not only the Government but also all air users should be most grateful to the noble Baroness for her constant questioning on this most important subject? However, can he say a little more about the Government's view on air traffic controllers? It appears to me that the delays which caused so much chaos last summer were, at any rate in part, due to troubles over air traffic controllers.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful that the noble Baroness raises these questions at regular intervals. It gives me an opportunity to put forward the Government's views on liberalisation and other matters. Indeed, I do not think that there is very much between the noble Baroness and myself as regards our ultimate objectives.

Air traffic control problems are a different subject and I have answered many questions about them. There are problems at the moment which we have been seeking to address over the past year, and we shall continue to do so.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, in this happy atmosphere perhaps I may ask the Minister whether he is aware that I think I am in complete agreement with him about whether or not the Commission should have a hand in air traffic control. However, I am still somewhat puzzled by his answer because I think he told the House that it was anticipated that air traffic control would be discussed on 13th February. What I am not clear about is whether that is likely to be discussed on the 13th, without the Commission having tabled its proposals. If that is so, it seems a very odd position.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I think the answer is that, being an informal Council, it is not a Council at which decisions can be taken but one at which subjects can be discussed.

Back to