Government urged to reconsider plans to sell air traffic services

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A UNION has warned the government not to sell off air traffic control services.

Prospect, the union representing more than 3,000 air traffic controllers, engineers and specialists, is calling on the government to change its mind over the proposed sell-off, ahead of this week’s budget.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in last June’s emergency budget that the government was looking at its options to sell off its interests in National Air Traffic Services (Nats), which has its main centre in Swanwick, near Fareham.

Garry Graham, Prospect’s national secretary for aviation, said: ‘We have been consistent in warning that this is a route which the UK government should not go down.

‘Air traffic control is a vital part of this country’s infrastructure.

‘A safe, efficient and effective air traffic control system is crucial not only to the UK economy but also to every member of the travelling public.’

Nats handles 22m flights a year and receives no public subsidy. The union said it generated £100m in profits last year, some of which went back into the public purse. Mr Graham said the union is also aware that the government proposals are causing increasing alarm across other aviation-related industries.

He added: ‘We met the secretary of state for transport after the emergency budget announcement and have sought to have an ongoing dialogue with the Department for Transport and other stakeholders.

‘Not one argument has been put to us as to why any potential sell-off is in the interests of our members or, crucially, air traffic management service delivery for the UK.

‘We are deeply concerned that full-scale privatisation will lead to a drive for profits and dividends which will undermine the delivery of this crucial service.’