Aviation Industry — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of Worker Exploitation: Leicester Textile Industry – in Westminster Hall at 3:21 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit) 3:21 pm, 18th November 2020

I, too, congratulate Chris Grayling on securing the debate. It is surprising that we have to have a debate on this issue, so long after the problems in the aviation and the aerospace industry were apparent.

It was clear from the first day of this crisis that here was an industry that required specific attention to be given to it. We have had a strategy for the hospitality industry, but we are still struggling with a response for an industry that is important for regional connectivity, investment in regional economies, businesses in regional economies and trade, because a lot of trade is now carried in passenger planes.

In highlighting the problems with the aviation industry, it would be remiss if I were not to mention that some of the responses from the industry itself have been less than satisfactory, especially the way in which it has treated some of its employees through hire-and-fire schemes. It would be wrong if we did not mention the impact that has had on many loyal workers.

A number of issues have been mentioned today, but I want to highlight three things to the Minister. First, there is the need to give people the confidence to get back into planes, so that we do not have to keep giving bail-outs to airlines or airports. We have had a good discussion about the testing regime that is required and what is needed to put that in place. I hope the Government will look at that as a priority.

Secondly, I want to highlight how we encourage people not only to have the confidence, but to get moving back into the aviation industry. I know it is not the Minister’s remit, but, as Paul Holmes pointed out, a substantial piece of work has been done on the impact that a temporary reduction in air passenger duty would have on getting people flying again. The Government’s argument has always been that that is costly, but given the fall in numbers at present there is not a great deal of revenue coming from air passenger duty anyway. If we can get people flying again, get the country connected and get airlines moving, that is a bonus.

The last point I want to make is about duty-free shopping. It is surprising that at a time when airports have problems tax-free and duty-free shopping has been removed. It is a major revenue raiser and in Northern Ireland there will be nothing in those airports. I should like the Minister to address that.