§ Mr. Nigel Griffiths
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many of NATS' air traffic controllers are eligible to retire under the early retirement agreement; how many of these are watch supervisors; how many are involved in training for the NERC; how many his Department estimates will exercise their option to retire if Serco is selected as NATS' strategic partner; and what impact this would have on the capacity of the air traffic control system. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth
The Flexible Retirement Scheme for NATS Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) was introduced on 1 April 1998. Since the scheme was introduced, 106 Controllers have become eligible to retire early, of whom 25 have exercised their right to do so. Of the remaining 81, 52 remain in employment and could exercise their right to retire. Controllers wishing to retire under the scheme are required to give a minimum of12 months notice of intention to retire".
This "notice of intention" was specifically built into the agreement to minimise the impact on the operational service of controllers wishing to retire under the scheme.
Between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2002, a further 56 NATS Controllers become eligible to retire under the scheme, of whom two are watch managers and 18 work on the activity to be transferred to NERC.
It is not possible to estimate whether any more air traffic controllers might opt to retire early as a result of the selection of a Strategic Partner for the NATS PPP.
As regards the impact on capacity, the training programme for the transfer of air traffic operations from West Drayton to Swanwick is in progress and the overall staffing position is currently tight but manageable. If a123W
significant number of controllers chose to retire early this coming year, there would be a corresponding impact on the capacity of the air traffic control system.