Covid-19: Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 2:46 pm, 12th May 2020

Although many businesses across the transport industry are fighting for survival, I note that this is the first time since this situation began that we have seen a Transport Minister in the Chamber delivering a statement or responding to an urgent question. With that said, I welcome the accelerated investment in active travel schemes, which follows a similar announcement by the Scottish Government back in April.

The guidance for England highlights the serious challenges that operators will face in the implementation of the guidance for the foreseeable future and the real and understandable anxiety facing the travelling public. In the section that deals with vulnerable workers—those with medical conditions for whom coronavirus is a serious risk—it says that employers “should offer support”,

“should consider the level of risk” and should consider

“the guidance on clinically extremely vulnerable” people and so on. The word “must” does not appear once. Does the Secretary of State not agree that the language is too weak and needs to be strengthened, lest some clinically vulnerable workers be put at risk?

The running of regular services with capacity cut by up to 90% is unsustainable without Government support. Has the Secretary of State estimated how much the implementation will cost and when his Department will start to fund the support required by operators and local government? Given that I am still waiting on a response to any of the letters that I have emailed to the Secretary of State, dating back to the start of April, on the support—or rather, the lack of it—offered to sectors such as road haulage, coaching, roadside recovery, holiday travel and aviation, when does he plan to make a statement covering those issues?

In Scotland, aviation businesses such as airports, Loganair and baggage handlers are exempt from business rates for a year, but people are losing their jobs right now, with businesses folding or being forced to restructure and downsize, and some, such as IAG British Airways, sadly seeing an opportunity to force through changes to workforce terms and conditions that they had been trying to implement for a decade. The extension of the furlough scheme is welcome, but with social distancing likely to be with us for some time, the aviation sector requires more support; when will the Secretary of State introduce such measures?