Henry Smith MP has reiterated his support for Crawley and Gatwick aviation sector workers, businesses and passengers during a House of Commons debate on the industry (on Thursday, 10th September).
The Crawley MP, who is also Chair of the Future of Aviation Group, cited the Group’s Aviation Recovery Plan in his speech.
Commenting after the debate, Henry said;
“COVID-19 has affected the aviation industry more than most other sectors. Gatwick Airport is a huge employer in our town and across the wider south east of England, and I make no apology for highlighting the impact of the pandemic on our local area in the context of Britain’s economic recovery.
“On issues such as passenger testing it’s clear that we have more work to do. This would help provide confidence for businesses and customers alike. The current situation will not only limit leisure travel, but will hurt our aspirations for a truly global Britain. It is sending out the wrong message at the wrong time.
“What would also support workers further is sector-specific extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until March 2021. Aviation will essentially experience three winter seasons because of coronavirus and we need further safeguards in place to protect the positions of hard-working employees at Gatwick and elsewhere.”
During the debate; on the Crawley and Gatwick aviation sector, Henry said;
“I first had the opportunity to raise the potential impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector back in January. I have the privilege of representing the world’s busiest—or it certainly used to be the world’s busiest—single runway airport, and this issue is extremely important for the wellbeing of my local economy, which has the headquarters of Virgin Atlantic Airlines, easyJet’s largest centre of operations and many others.
“However, as other right hon. and hon. Members have said, this is also an extremely important industry and sector for the UK economy.
“…the UK aviation industry is vital to the whole of our national economy, and there is a ripple effect. If, as an island trading nation, aviation is not supported, the negative impact is felt throughout the whole economy. That is why I make no apology for being parochial about Gatwick Airport; this is an important issue for the whole British economy.”
On COVID-19 testing at airports, Henry said;
“Over 30 countries test arrivals for COVID-19. That is important not just for confidence for people travelling again, but for public health confidence. We are at a competitive disadvantage with countries in Europe, such as France, Germany, Italy and Austria, who do test if we are not testing. Further afield, other countries such as the UAE and Singapore test too. It is absolutely vital. Virgin Atlantic tells me that it does not expect business to be at even a quarter of 2019 levels by the end of this year. Testing would help that.”
On sustainable growth, Henry said;
“In February, the UK airline industry committed to net zero carbon by 2050. We need investment—some £500 million of matched investment—from the Government with industry to develop sustainable aviation fuels. That is the way we recover, for our whole country.”
Please click here for the full text and video of Henry’s speech.