HC Deb 26 April 1990 vol 171 cc265-6W
Mr. Hayward

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent meeting of European Transport Ministers in Paris.

Mr. Parkinson

I attended the second meeting of the European civil aviation conference of Transport Ministers which was held in Paris on 24 April.

In response to a United Kingdom initiative, the meeting took a major step towards reducing air traffic congestion and flight delays. Ministers unanimously agreed an action programme to increase capacity in Europe, by integrating air traffic control systems and optimising the air traffic route network.

The programme commits the ECAC states to intensify work on measures to handle safely the forecast growth in traffic to the end of the century. The Civil Aviation Authority already has an investment programme of about £100 million a year. Our European partners are also investing substantial amounts on updating their air traffic control equipment. The ECAC programme will build on and give emphasis to this work.

Ministers agreed to harmonise air traffic control systems in high-density traffic areas by 1995, and elsewhere not later than 1998; optimise air traffic services route network and airspace structure by 1995; achieve comprehensive radar coverage throughout the continental ECAC area by 1995; reduce safe minimum separation distances between aircraft to 5 nautical miles in high-density areas, and to 10 nautical miles elsewhere; complete automatic data links between air traffic control centres and aircraft from 1998 onwards.

The programme will be managed by Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control body centred in Brussels. It will be overseen by a group of senior officials from participating states, reporting to their respective Governments.

At the meeting, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden indicated that they would apply to join the existing 11 members of Eurocontrol soon. Four more states have also recently been accepted for membership. Ministers reaffirmed that they hoped the remaining ECAC states would join Eurocontrol.

Ministers agreed that they would meet again in the second half of 1991 to review progress.

This is an important and historic agreement which should greatly contribute to the welfare of European civil aviation in the years ahead.