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 Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 2:46 pm, 12th May 2020

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for her question. I absolutely agree with her, as a passionate supporter of aviation, and indeed a qualified pilot, about the importance of the industry. The reach of the sector, in all the ways she described, is immense. The UK has the world’s third biggest aviation industry, and it is very important that we support it through this crisis.

The sector has enjoyed enormous support from the Chancellor—I received a letter only in the last day thanking us for the support so far—and the extended furlough scheme will be hugely welcomed. As I said, there is a process that enables aviation companies, whether they are ground support, airlines or airports, to use the various schemes available and, if that is not enough, come to the Department for Transport and work with us and the Treasury to see what else can be done.

For the benefit of the House, I should say it is important that we do not find ourselves in a situation where shareholders benefit through the good times but the taxpayer picks up the tab in the bad times. It is very important that we get the balance right, with shareholders also being asked to contribute. However, I absolutely reassure my right hon. Friend that I have daily situation reports. We are tracking it carefully and working extremely hard to do whatever we can, even though, as she rightly points out, the global aviation market has now shrunk to a tiny percentage of what it would be ordinarily. The best way to resolve that is to beat this virus, which is why it is so important that people follow the guidance.