Peers vote to delay air traffic control sale

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The Independent Online

The government's plans to sell off part of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) suffered a setback last night after peers voted to delay the scheme.

The government's plans to sell off part of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) suffered a setback last night after peers voted to delay the scheme.

An alliance of Tories and Liberal Democrats supported an amendment that would ensure that the proposals should be put on hold until after the general election. The Tories proposed the delay because the Government had "famously" claimed before the last general election that "this air is not for sale".

Earlier, the Government survived a Liberal Democrat attempt to set up a public trust to run the service.

The debate over the partial sale of Nats has been affected by concern over the state of the privatised railways. Lord Brett, a Labour peer and former head of the union for air traffic controllers, said: "The Government will not deliberately put safety at risk but it can, as we have seen in other areas, produce machinery changes which in the event, with hindsight, do indeed put safety at risk."

But Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, the Transport minister, insisted that the scheme would be the most efficient way to ensure continued safety and investment.

To avoid possible future defeats, Labour peers have been ordered by the Government's business managers to cancel all engagements during the month of November to ensure that all legislation becomes law in time for the Queen's Speech on 6 December.

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