Supporting Crawley and Gatwick aviation sector workers

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has helped keep people throughout our country in employment. One million claims worth £15 billion have seen 8.4 million people retain their positions.

The Government should be applauded for the swift and bold action it took to protect jobs in Crawley and throughout the country.

While the scheme is set to conclude at the end of October, it is clear that not every sector will be able to carry on as normal, or anything close, by then.

As Chair of the Future of Aviation Group I am leading parliamentary representations calling for HM Treasury to reconsider its proposals for the job retention scheme, and to keep it open for the aviation, travel and tourism sectors, on which so much of Crawley’s economic prosperity depends.

At Prime Minister’s Questions last week I questioned Boris Johnson about the importance of such support.

Businesses in these sectors have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. Their recovery will take significantly longer than other sectors, with studies showing that international passenger numbers may not return to 2019 levels for a significant period. I urge the Government to reconsider the longevity of the scheme for those areas which are unlikely to recover swiftly from this international pandemic.

This is in no way to divert from work to prevent a second spike in infection rates. Through ‘air bridges’ it is possible to protect this country from risks posed by nations with high infection rates, while also allowing the Crawley economy and the aviation sector to come back from the brink and get back to work.

There are many different strands to how COVID-19 affects our local economy. I am also speaking out over the Government’s proposals for a 14 day quarantine period for those arriving in the UK.

If this were to have been implemented at all it should have been at the start of the pandemic and not now, when a focus needs to be on the recovery. I questioned the Home Secretary in the Commons over the Government’s plans to review this scheme, urging this to be undertaken as often as once a week, rather than every three weeks.

Like many MPs I have been in contact with the Chairman of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee in support of his application for a debate on issues affecting aviation sector staff. I am also supporting additional representations being made by Unite the Union with HM Treasury over the future of the furlough scheme.

By supporting the aviation sector and the wider Crawley economy we can bring forward the recovery to the benefit of businesses, workers and families.

Henry Smith MP