In May 2020 I launched the Future of Aviation Group to campaign for Britain’s aviation sector following the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative impact. In October 2020 the Group was officially registered with Parliament as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation.
In our relatively short time we have a proven record of effectively campaigning on behalf of aviation workers, businesses and customers.
With Gatwick Airport in my constituency this has been a cause of importance throughout my time as Crawley MP, and before when I served as Leader of West Sussex County Council. The Group seeks to highlight the importance of a vibrant aviation sector to consumers, businesses and the overall UK economy. The Group is urging Government to introduce measures in support of this vital sector’s recovery to assist global Britain – essentially to support the international trade we rely on.
COVID-19 has affected the aviation industry more than most other sectors – it was one of the first to be affected and will be one of the slowest to recover. Not only is it a significant employer of my constituents but with British aviation being world leading, our country as a whole.
I have made this call in the House of Commons, in cross-party approaches to secretaries of state, as well as in the local and national media.
Over the summer of 2020, the Group launched its Aviation Recovery Plan, making 10 key calls to the Government:
1: Introduce COVID-19 testing
2: Maintain regional travel corridors
3: An employment support package to March 2021
4: Support the green recovery
5: Take action on business rates
6: Temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty
7: Support for UK travel inbound tourism
8: Absorption of CAA/NATS charges for 2020-21
9: Airspace modernisation
10: Bring forward public procurement and accelerate public investment
I have been clear that aviation’s recovery is not only about flights and trade, it is about what the sector means to hard-working families and whose employees have in many cases given significant periods of their lives to the industry.
In September 2020 I took part in the House of Commons debate on the aviation sector’s future. Obviously a subject of great importance not only to our national COVID-19 impacted economic recovery but for Crawley’s wellbeing too.
One central issue to the Aviation Recovery Plan was the call for sector-specific extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of March 2021. In the months that followed it was welcome news that Government extended furlough not just for the aviation sector, but would continue the entire scheme until that date.
Throughout the pandemic I have spoken out in support of the industry; please see below a snapshot of my work in this regard. In Parliament in November I reiterated my calls on issues ranging from moving on from quarantine, addressing Air Passenger Duty and business rates, and introducing a testing regime.
Days after I took part in this debate the Group secured two major policy victories, with the Government confirming the introduction of COVID-19 passenger testing for international arrivals into England.
The announcement of a COVID-19 testing regime for international travellers is positive news for our aviation, travel and tourism sectors; it will allow us to restart commercial air travel with confidence once restrictions are lifted. It also provides much-needed clarity and certainty which will be essential to these sectors’ recovery from the deeply damaging effects of this pandemic.
I am grateful to the Government and the Prime Minister’s Global Travel Taskforce for listening to the calls for testing made by industry and from all sides of the political divide. It is essential for ensuring that global Britain is open for business.
The impact of business rates on affected firms is also a key issue. As the ‘Test to Release’ scheme was announced, the Government confirmed a new package of financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. For Gatwick Airport, this funding is designed to help with the cost of paying business rates, providing much-needed financial relief.
Combined, the new funding and quarantine measures will give a much-needed boost to the aviation sector, which has faced a challenging year after passenger numbers severely declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airports, airlines and other aviation businesses have also been able to draw on the Government’s unprecedented support, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Business Interruption Loans. In total, the aviation and aerospace sectors have received over £9 billion in support.