Crawley has been hit hard by the pandemic, particularly with the effect on our aviation sector which includes, but is not limited to, workers at Gatwick Airport.
While the closure of all travel corridors was a hammer blow to the industry it was unfortunately a necessary measure to protect our country from new variants of COVID-19. What needs to happen now is support for this vital part of our economy.
Last week I led a cross-party approach of 86 MPs and Peers to the Prime Minister calling for urgent support for the aviation, travel and tourism industries in light of these further restrictions.
We all recognise that these sectors and the people who work in them have faced perhaps the toughest year they have ever experienced. Passenger numbers have hit historically low levels, even during the peak summer season.
The Government is spending more than £280 billion on its overall response, including on the furlough scheme, loans and grants, and tax cuts and tax deferrals. Such assistance is undoubtedly welcome.
What is also needed, however, is additional sector-specific support for aviation, travel and tourism.
It is these industries which will form a vital part of our nation’s long-term economic recovery, and communities such as Crawley will be at the centre of this bounce back. However, these industries need support to get through the challenging weeks and months ahead.
The consequences of not protecting these parts of our economy are unthinkable and will be felt across towns throughout the UK.
We understand that restrictions will remain for the time being but there is action which can be undertaken during the lockdown period: the Government must urgently deliver a full and comprehensive package of support and a pathway for the reopening of international travel when it is safe to do so.
It is the areas such as ours, of which aviation, travel and tourism play a great part, which have borne the brunt of the collapse in passenger numbers.
The situation will improve. We can see light at the end of the tunnel. Over 125,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in Sussex and East Surrey. A couple of weeks ago in the House of Commons, I questioned the Exports Minister, urging him and the Chancellor to support the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership freeport bid for Manor Royal.
While we are in a national lockdown, this time should be used to decide how to support the industry, the jobs it creates, and the prosperity it provides.
As Crawley MP and Chair of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group this is the call I will continue to pursue.
Henry Smith MP