Aviation Industry — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of Worker Exploitation: Leicester Textile Industry – in Westminster Hall at 3:10 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Labour, Luton North 3:10 pm, 18th November 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir Edward. I thank Chris Grayling for securing the debate.

We in Luton are proud of our airport and its aviation industry. Thousands of local jobs depend on the airport and its supply chain, but the industry has been hit by a double whammy. Coronavirus has taken foreign travel off the table for millions of people and, coupled with the Government’s unforgivable lack of sector-specific support for workers and the industry, that risks ripping the heart out of my town’s economy.

It is not just pesky Labour MPs on this side of the Chamber who are crying out for support, but the industry, workers, charities in Luton who rely on our airport’s support, and Luton council, which is intrinsically linked with the airport. We in airport towns are all worried about what will be left for our constituents and their jobs in 12 to 18 months’ time.

My hon. Friend Rachel Hopkins and I have raised the issues faced by aviation workers in our town whenever we have been able to—we will never stop fighting to save the jobs of the people who we represent. Every time, however, we have received the same stock answer, which I am sure the Minister has in front of him again: the Government

“have confirmed that we are prepared to enter discussions with individual companies seeking bespoke support as a last resort, having exhausted all other options.”

I am pretty sure that everyone in the room has received that response. Will the Minister tell us what discussions have taken place and how many jobs have they saved? What are the criteria? Have any green commitments been secured for that support?

Does saving thousands of jobs not represent value for taxpayers’ money? Is this about saving the jobs of my constituents or saving the pay checks of their bosses? How many more times will those of us in the Chamber with airports in their constituencies have to come here to ask the Government to support the industry, as the Governments of France, Germany and Spain have done, only to receive platitudes but no action?

The Government should know full well that this is exactly the sort of behaviour from politicians that the public hate: all talk, no action. In fact, despite the Government’s promises to do whatever it takes to get people through covid, they clearly have a blind spot when it comes to airport workers and airlines. Where is the response to job losses in Luton? Where is the plan for testing at airports, for which the industry has been crying out for months? The Government’s travel corridor policy is failing.

There is still time for the Minister to prove me wrong, and I hope that he does. I hope that he acts to save thousands of jobs in my town of Luton and in all the towns represented here today.