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Air Traffic Control firm will not be sold off
2:14pm Tuesday 10th July 2012 in Politics
The Government has scrapped plans to sell its 49 per cent stake in the Hampshire-based air traffic control company Nats.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said it was best for taxpayers, travellers and Nats if the Government retained its shareholding.
The decision was welcomed by the Prospect union, which represents more than 3,000 air traffic controllers.
But Prospect said ''all eyes would now turn'' on the Airline Group - a body of seven airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic - which owns 42 per cent of Nats.
There has been interest in Nats from Germany's state-controlled air traffic control body, Deutsche Flugsicherung, which could also be keen to buy the Airline Group's stake.
Ms Greening said the response to a call for evidence about the Government's Nats' shareholding had ''highlighted the strategic importance of Nats to the UK and the far-reaching implications of a sale at this time''.
She said these included the continued development of the Single European Sky agenda - an EC initiative by which the design, management and regulation of airspace will be coordinated throughout Europe.
Ms Greening said he had also considered the ongoing work on the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research programme.
She went on: ''In parallel I have considered the potential value that could be realised through a sale of the shares alongside the benefits from receiving dividends from a retained shareholding.
''After considering these factors, I have concluded that it is in the best interests of the British taxpayer, the travelling public and the company itself to retain the Government's shares in Nats at this time.''
Prospect national secretary Garry Graham said: ''The Government has clearly listened to the representations made by stakeholders for safety and service delivery to remain paramount, and for the UK to continue to have an authoritative voice in Europe, particularly during the development of the Single European Sky initiative.''
He went on: ''All eyes will now turn to the Airline Group - and their intentions. The need for stability and a commitment to safety and service delivery should be at the heart of any decision that they make.
''They purchased their stake because they had a vested and visceral interest in safety and service delivery. We are concerned that their position is now focused on short-term commercial gain.''