The company… holds a monopoly of air traffic control for aircraft flying over the United Kingdom and, with its Irish counterpart, the North East Atlantic. It also provides air traffic control at most of the large airports around the country.
NATS was once a public body, but was converted into a public-private partnership in July 2001. The government maintains a 49% shareholding, with 46% held by a consortium of airlines, and 5% by employees.
It still provides a quintessentially public service, however, but because it’s not 100% government-owned, it’s not covered by the 2000 FOI Act (nor are any other public-private partnerships).
The public has a right to see information held by the British Potato Council, the Horserace Betting Levy Board, or the Architects Registration Board – but none at all to understand how NATS handles flights on which 200 million passengers travel every year.
The Act, however, gives the relevant Secretary of State the power to “designate as a public authority for the purposes of this Act any person…who appears to the Secretary of State to exercise functions of a public nature.”
Wonder if the new government will commit to making this change as soon as it takes office…