Helen Liddell in the Press

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To tell them you're fired! Ha ha ha!

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Liddell hits barrage of criticism

CATHERINE MacLEOD, Chief Political Correspondent in

TRANSPORT Minister Helen Liddell faced a barrage of criticism in the House of Commons yesterday over the Government's intention to partially privatise the National Air Traffic Services.

As scorn rained down on her from Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairwoman of the transport select committee, Mr Tony Benn claimed the statement owed much more to Mrs Thatcher than it did to a Labour manifesto.

Mrs Liddell was having none of it, replying that Baroness Thatcher would never have taken the needs of the Nats employees into account. She said: "We have learned from the mistakes of Mrs Thatcher and her supporters and that is why we are putting in place a public-private partnership that will add to air traffic service, not detract from it".

In a gallant attempt to defend a policy she has only recently inherited, the embattled Minister argued that the partnership would enhance air safety with more money and a greater range of management skills.

Mrs Liddell said that, under the proposed PPP, 5% of the shares would go to employees, while the Government would retain 49% of the shares and would hold a "golden share".

The remaining 46% would be sold to one firm via a trade sale and defence and national security considerations would be taken into account when choosing the private partner.

Tory transport spokesman Bernard Jenkin claimed the Government's position "has all the hallmarks of another convoluted compromise" and insisted the proposals were privatisation in all but name.

Ayr Labour MP Sandra Osborne, who led the campaign against partnership, was "extremely disappointed".

She said: "I'm not satisfied the proper investigation of the option of an independant, publicly owned corporation has taken place. While I welcome the fact pensions and conditions of service will be protected for existing staff and retired members, it will mean new members will have an inferior contract." - July 28 1999