As the first week of August arrives, the thoughts of many families will be on summer holidays and getting away!
Passengers should be helped to do so with confidence. A safe return to international travel, one which utilises the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine dividend, will support the over 10,000 Crawley aviation related jobs and wider Gatwick economy.
This is a point I continue to pursue as Crawley’s MP and Chair of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group.
It is the uncertainty which is affecting many people’s plans. Government is of course in an invidious position, with difficult decisions needing to be taken every day.
However, the announcement at short notice last month of changes affecting travel from France raises significant questions about the traffic light system.
Consumer confidence is vital for the prospects of aviation, travel and tourism businesses.
Nearly nine in ten adults have received at least one dose, over 46 million people, more than any other country in Europe.
More than 75,000 people in Crawley have already received their first dose, and I am grateful to all who are involved in the vaccine roll-out for this source of hope.
Uncertainty, however, remains for many, including those in sectors which have not been part of the national reopening. While much of the country has emerged from pandemic restrictions, international travel has not. It is with this in mind that I am leading cross-party calls for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to be extended for a further six months beyond the end of September, so that employees in the aviation, travel and tourism industries can continue to be furloughed as air travel picks up.
Figures from the ONS show that 57 per cent of employees in passenger air transport and 51 per cent of those employed by travel agency and tour operators remain on furlough.
It cannot be forgotten that these industries are major economic enablers locally, regionally and nationally. If jobs are not protected it will affect Crawley families as well as impacting on our national recovery.
Already we have seen the effect of the pandemic on airport communities such as our own. It is this that is at the heart of my representations on behalf of this sector and those who work in it.
I have called on the Transport Secretary to, at the earliest possible opportunity, expand the number of destinations on the international travel green list. I also signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister urging him to hasten plans to allow fully vaccinated people to avoid quarantine.
By using the vaccine dividend which so many people in this country have worked hard to achieve, we can support and protect jobs which continue to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Henry Smith MP