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  Air traffic control bosses under
the spotlight

 

 
This is an extract from the uncorrected oral evidence of Mr Richard Everitt, Chief Executive of National Air Traffic Services Ltd to the Public Accounts Committee

The hearing on 18 November 2002, concerned the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General into the Public Private Partnership for National Air Traffic Services. You can read the full report by clicking here

 
Mr Bacon: I have a copy of the report accounts and the page concerning the directors salaries, it is not particularly clear so if you can give us a note setting out all of remuneration for non-executives and executives for the period prior and after the part privatisation that would be very helpful. It appears there were 3 executive directors getting round 230,000. Tell me, given that your controllers had to go on strike to get their pay rise, asking government for more money, do you think the pay rise and bonuses were excessive?

Mr Everitt: My personal pay was settled at the time I joined the company.

Mr Bacon: I was not just talking about you, I was talking about everybody.

Mr Everitt: So far as the second director is concerned, that contains an exceptional bonus which was paid and agreed prior to PPP and which triggered on the opening of Swanwick.

Mr Bacon: This was the 69,000 to Mr Chiswick?

Mr Everitt: Part of the 69,000 was his general bonus and the second part, the 39,000, related to Swanwick.

Mr Bacon: Given what has happened, do you think these payments were excessive?

Mr Everitt: The payment was contractual.

Mr Bacon: I did not ask about its legal status. I asked whether you thought this was excessive.

Mr Everitt: It was certainly justified against the fact that he took hold of this project three years before.

Mr Bacon: If you could put it in the note. I certainly would have expected it to be legal. I was asking what your personal opinion was of them. If you could let us have a note on that, that would be very helpful. What is your current situation so far as shortage of controllers is concerned? How many are you short now?

Mr Everitt: In Swanwick we are now in the winter season so we would not normally open as many sectors as we would in the summer. Our plans are focused on next summer and a considerable amount of work is going into the planning for next summer. On our current estimates we would think that we could be up to 12 controllers short for next summer, but we are working on that and our plan is not settled.

Mr Bacon: My question is about now, what are you at now?

Mr Everitt: From the summer we were 40 short.

Mr Bacon: Could you say that again?

Mr Everitt: Between 30 and 40 short this summer.

Mr Bacon: And right now?

Mr Everitt: I do not have the precise number as of this moment.

Mr Bacon: Could you send us a note showing how it has changed in the past and what you are anticipating in the future?

Mr Everitt: Sure.

Mr Bacon: How many days have you bought back?

Mr Everitt: You mean in terms of the deal that we did we controllers for voluntary attendance?

Mr Bacon: Yes, how many days?

Mr Everitt: I could give you a note on that. Very few so far, they would mainly be for summer next year.

Mr Bacon: How many days off are controllers owed?

Mr Everitt: As part of the pay deal we are buying out their days off.

Mr Bacon: I was not asking you that, with respect.

Mr Everitt: I have not got the number at my fingertips.

Mr Bacon: I would like to know how many days off controllers are owed. If you cannot answer the question now could you not answer a different question I did not ask but just save us time and send us a note. I do not have a lot of time and it is just annoying when I get an answer that is not an answer to the question I asked. Could you say what has been the increase in overload reports?

Mr Everitt: I can give you a precise number on that but, again, I would want to give you a note. There has certainly been an increase but that has apparently been a consequence of Swanwick coming into operation.

Mr Bacon: Are you familiar with the form that controllers fill in when they have a report?

Mr Everitt: Yes, a 1261.

Mr Bacon: Is it correct that the form has been changed so that it no longer has to be countersigned by the watch manager and supervisor?

Mr Everitt: That I do not know, I would have to check.

Mr Bacon: Again if you could let us have a note. I understand it did used to have a section underneath where the watch manager or supervisor had to agree or not agree with the comment logged by the controller. I am told this section has now been removed and I would like to know if that is the case or not.

Mr Everitt: I would have to check.

Mr Bacon: Your approval under Article 88 of the Navigation Orders; is it permanent or temporary?

Mr Everitt: I think it is an indefinite approval.

Mr Bacon: You think it is?

Mr Everitt: Yes.

Mr Bacon: What about when it was first given in January, was it permanent or temporary?

Mr Everitt: Indeed it was --- I will need to check that but my understanding ---

Mr Bacon: There is a letter to you from Mr Dancer, the head of Air Traffic Safety Standards Department from 22 January in which he tells you that your Article 88 Air Navigation Order approval has again been time-limited. It cannot be indefinite and time-limited at the same time, can it?

Mr Everitt: I would need to check that.

Mr Bacon: Which is it now? Indefinite?

Mr Everitt: My understanding is that it is indefinite but I would need to check.

Chairman (Mr Edward Leigh MP): You seem to have to check a lot of things. You run this thing.

Mr Everitt: I did not come prepared for operational questions, I thought we were talking about the NAO Report.

Mr Bacon: I am curious because the Health and Safety Executive on 18 January, four days before you opened, said there were concerns about safety in relation to the centre and what it called "design deficiencies" which may have implications in relation to air safety and that as a result of that, presumably, that was why you were given a time-limited approval?

Mr Everitt: No.

Mr Bacon: That is not the case?

Mr Everitt: I do not think that is the case at all. We were given checks before we opened Swanwick and the safety regulator was perfectly content that Swanwick met all aviation safety requirements and the health and safety issues were around the possible effects on people at work, as it were; they were not air safety issues.

Mr Bacon: Is it a matter of the regulator's opinion or is it a question of what the law says?

Mr Everitt: The aviation safety regulator clearly has to make judgments, as most regulators would have to in these circumstances, and those were the CAA's judgments.

Mr Bacon: What I want to know is if your contempt was okay, why did your approval say, and I have got a copy of it here: "This approval is effective from 26 January 2002 to 26 July 2002, unless revoked, varied or suspended", and why was it given this time-limited condition?

Mr Everitt: Can I just check for one moment. Could I give you a note on that rather than speculate.

Mr Bacon: You have been telling me in your first answers that the approval was indefinite.

Mr Everitt: That is my understanding.

Mr Bacon: This is a fairly fundamental thing, whether you can operate or not. It says here: "Air Navigation Order Article 88, approval for the provision of air traffic services." That is what you do, is it not?

Mr Everitt: Indeed.

Mr Bacon: So this is the right piece of paper I have got. You have approval here subject to the conditions stated in the schedule and it has got a date on it and it says effective to 26 July. In your first answer to me on this subject you were saying it is indefinite. It plainly is not indefinite, is it?

Mr Everitt: My understanding relates to the current approval we have. We have approval to operate an air traffic service as issued by the regulator.

Mr Bacon: I hope you do. My question was whether it is a permanent approval.

Mr Everitt: Could I give you a note on that.

Mr Bacon: Yes please, fine. I want to ask you about height capping. I understand this is a standard procedure in the industry. How much has height capping increased since Swanwick opened?

Mr Everitt: I can give you a percentage but obviously, as we have boarded in and dealt with the situation this summer, there has been an increase in height capping, yes, and that has been part of the management of the system as we have worked through the opening of Swanwick.

Mr Bacon: Could you give me a note - and perhaps you can answer it now and if you can that would be great - on how many journeys there have been which have been height capped since Swanwick opened?

Mr Everitt: I think that would be difficult but I will do my best.

Mr Bacon: And also over the last three years at West Drayton prior to Swanwick opening how many journeys were height capped?

Mr Everitt: I will do the best I can but we obviously do not measure each one.

Mr Bacon: No further questions.

 


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