Henry Smith MP has secured and led a debate in Parliament (on Thursday, 24th June) highlighting the support of MPs across the House of Commons for the aviation, tourism and travel sectors.
The Westminster Hall debate entitled ‘Support for the Aviation, Tourism and Travel industries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic’ saw the Crawley MP, who is also Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation, lead calls to the Government in support of a safe and prompt reopening of international travel.
“Every industry which has been affected by the pandemic wants to reopen safely rather than relying on Government handouts, and aviation, tourism and travel are no different.
“There are continued calls for support for these sectors and I reiterated these in the debate. The best way, of course, which Government can support these sectors is to work towards a quick reopening which is safe for passengers and workers alike.
“Work has to take place now to ensure that the summer season can be where this industry bounces back.
“This is about far more than two weeks on the beach – as nice as that is! It’s about our position as an outward-looking, trading nation – and what Global Britain means for the rest of the world.
“It is to the Government’s credit that over 75 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered. It’s incredible that three in five adults in the UK have now had both doses of the vaccine.
“Let us utilise this nation’s vaccine dividend, reopen international travel safely, and support our airport communities in Crawley, the wider Gatwick area, and the whole United Kingdom.”
Speaking in the debate; on the effect of Covid-19 on aviation, tourism and travel, Henry said;
“Aviation, travel and tourism were among the first sectors to face the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which were almost immediate, and unfortunately, owing to the nature of those industries and the restrictions still in place, they will be among the slowest to recover fully. In normal times before the pandemic, more than 1.5 million people were employed in those sectors. Sadly, many of them have lost their job over the past 15 months or so. About 50% of people in the sector are still on furlough, which finishes at the end of September, and I fear that if travel, aviation and tourism cannot pick up meaningfully over the summer months, many of them will also unfortunately lose their job.”
On the importance of aviation to the wider economy, Henry said;
“Do not mistake this for some parochial plea for support for these sectors because aviation and international connectivity are essential for the UK economy. In normal times, outbound travel accounts for a contribution of about £37 billion to our economy, and inbound travel accounts for £28 billion. That travel has not been able to operate meaningfully for a year and a half, and the impact has been significant. If we were able to operate in a more meaningful way this summer, it would make a contribution to the UK economy of an estimated £19 billion—quite significant.”
On the importance of support from the Government, Henry said;
“The title of the debate refers to support for the travel and aviation sectors. The best way to support them is to allow them to meaningfully and safely operate. If that cannot happen, I am afraid the bill for unemployment benefits this coming autumn and winter will be a significant burden to the taxpayer. Many companies and employers in the sector will be coming to the Government asking for bailouts. Far better that we let the industry recover and make money for the UK Exchequer, whose bills are already significant, than cost it some more.”
On the success of the vaccination programme, Henry said;
“I pay tribute to the Government for the world-leading vaccination programme over the past six months. We were told just before Christmas that if we had a successful vaccination programme, that would allow us our liberty and enable us to get back to much more normal life. Yesterday, we hit the target of 60%-plus of people across the country who have been doubly jabbed with Covid-19 vaccines. I fear that we are squandering the vaccine dividend that we were told would allow us far greater freedoms once again.”
On the consistency of Covid-19 travel restrictions, Henry said;
“We hear that Wembley will be three quarters full for the Euros final, because an exception will be made for VIP guests from UEFA to come to London. I do not mind Wembley being near capacity. I welcome that easing of restrictions, but what is not right is to have one rule for VIPs and another for everybody else. When parents cannot go to school sports days, VIPs should not be able to come to Wembley.”
On the best way to support jobs, Henry said;
“The answer is to open up in a realistic and pragmatic way, to save jobs and recover our economy from the devastating effects of Covid-19. The best way to support the travel, aviation and tourism sectors is to allow them to operate, save those jobs and make money for our economy, rather than them being yet another burden on every taxpayer for years to come.”
Please click here for the full text and video of Henry’s speech.