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Our air is for sale

Issue No. 1695

Our air is for sale

"THIS 'RAILTRACK in the sky' has no justification in economic, financial or operational terms." That is how Peter Reed, a former manager at the Civil Aviation Authority, describes the government's privatisation of air traffic control. He continues, "Privatisation will create pressures tending to reduce operational standards for commercial profit, threaten public service functions, distort and reduce long term investment, undervalue safety, and increase costs."

But deputy prime minister John Prescott was pressing ahead with the sell-off at the beginning of this week despite a threatened revolt by Labour MPs. Prescott wants to sell 51 percent of the state-owned National Air Traffic Service (NATS) to private businesses.

The move flies in the face of a clear pledge given by New Labour before the 1997 general election that "our air is not for sale". Even Prescott's former junior transport minister Gavin Strang opposes the plan, and is leading the parliamentary opposition. A parliamentary committee report slammed the privatisation as "the worst possible option". All the unions with members in civil aviation oppose the plan, and even the Royal Air Force is reported to be against it.

Prescott slammed

JOHN PRESCOTT has resorted to lying to push through the air traffic privatisation. He says half of Britain's air traffic control system is already in private hands. Paul Noon, general secretary of the IPMS union which represents air traffic controllers, slammed Prescott's claim. Noon says Prescott's figures "include private aircraft at tiny airfields, which have no air traffic control service at all". He continues, "According to the Civil Aviation Authority, in December last year 87 percent of passengers at all UK airports were handled by the NATS system."

NHS privatisation worse than Tories

NEW Labour is planning to turn the elderly out of NHS hospital beds and into private nursing homes. It will mean privatisation. The government says it wants to stop so called "bed blocking" by elderly people not well enough to go home.

It admits the NHS needs 4,000 extra beds. But elderly people are in beds in general hospitals because the Tories and New Labour have shut over half the cottage hospitals in the country. These hospitals used to provide the care for the elderly near to their homes. The government is also pushing ahead with Private Finance Initiative schemes. These will slash the number of NHS beds by at least 4,000.

Even the Labour head of the Commons health select committee, David Hinchcliff, denounced the plans. He pointed out that private nursing homes were more concerned about profits and filling beds than helping people return to their own homes. "The private care sector has a record of encouraging dependence rather than independence. It is in their interest to do that. They then get the business."

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Sat 6 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1695
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