Last week there was a 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 well being too.
With this in mind it was reassuring to see a high turnout of MPs in the chamber. In fact so great were the number of parliamentarians wishing to participate that there was a three minute limit on speeches. Not only ideal for brevity but this also enabled a wide selection of colleagues to speak and convey the strength of feeling to the new Aviation Minister, Robert Courts.
The issue of Coronavirus passenger testing continues to be of particular concern. The introduction of a testing regime at airports for arrivals would not only give confidence in the sector, but also in terms of public health.
In more than 30 countries there is COVID-19 testing upon arrival by air. Without such a system in place we are at a disadvantage with our European and worldwide competitors.
I have been clear that support for the sector is not just about the airlines and brands which are known throughout the world; it is about the people who work for them and for other businesses across the industry. While UK support for workers has exceeded what is on offer in other major European countries, it is important that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can continue beyond October so that workers in the aviation sector are able to receive further support. The Future of Aviation Group, which I have set up and chair, are calling for this to remain in place until March of next year, while recognising the need for eligibility conditions.
In the debate I reiterated the importance of addressing Air Passenger Duty (APD). This has hit businesses and hard-working families who want a break for years. UK APD is the highest charged anywhere globally.
The removal of APD until the end of next year’s summer season could save 45 per cent of air routes out of the UK that would otherwise be lost due to the impact of the pandemic, as well as helping to protect up to 10,000 jobs. We cannot allow APD to become a tax on recovery.
I also called for a sustainable regrowth of our aviation industry. Earlier this year the sector committed to net zero carbon by 2050, with more work to be done. Government support of £500 million, which would be matched by industry, would help sustainable aviation fuel production facilities in the UK, with the significant economic opportunities this could generate.
Through taking the right action at the right time we can secure the recovery for our whole country.
Henry Smith MP