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A Green Industrial Revolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:04 pm on 15th January 2020.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 6:04 pm, 15th January 2020

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and thank him for putting the record straight. I was not in the Chamber yesterday because I was dealing with the issue itself, but it sounded to me, from his comments earlier, that he regretted the rescue of Flybe, which I was surprised about because there are 2,400 jobs at stake and communities that would have had no other way of being connected. Just as an example of this, there are 46 Flybe routes that no other airline covers. There are 11 destinations that have no rail links whatever, and a further 12 that it would take more than six hours to get to. It was absolutely the right thing to do because it helps to connect our communities and level up our country. That is the right approach for a responsible Government when there is a strategic national interest, which is what makes this different from previous airline failures.

None the less, because the issue has been raised in this afternoon’s debate, I will say that we want to see aviation become much greener. This is an enormous challenge and, indeed, as many Members have said, an enormous opportunity for this country. If we can get to the front of that technological research and development, we can offer electric planes to the world. Right now, it is good to see that the University of Cranfield, among other places, is working on an aircraft—a Britten Norman aircraft—which is the only British-manufactured general aviation aircraft, a commercial passenger plane, being converted to an electric aircraft, which will fly in the Scottish highlands and do the island hops. It will be the world’s first commercial electric aircraft, and that is happening in Britain. Across the House, we should all be doing everything we possibly can to get to the forefront of electric aviation and, probably in between then and now, hybrid aviation. It is a big part of my work. Members may think I am absolutely obsessed with aviation, but that is where ideas and new technology will come from, so it is right to focus on it.