Flying Schools — [Sir Robert Syms in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:25 pm on 12 September 2023.

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Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:25, 12 September 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Robert.

I, too, congratulate Tim Loughton on the powerful personal testimony that he brought to us of constituents and others affected by the closure of flight schools. I also congratulate the hon. Members for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon) on their testimonies. For one moment, I thought the Democratic Unionist party was getting on a biblical stage—the tale of two sons, like Cain and Abel, one becoming a farmer and the other a shepherd. One will become a pilot and, on behalf of His Majesty’s official Opposition, I wish that son well in his endeavours.

We are in this debate because two flight schools have closed, one at Dundee airport and the other at Shoreham airport—I say that before I am admonished by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, as my notes call it Brighton City airport—which is a sad loss of the jobs for trainers and staff. As the hon. Member for Strangford said, we have a world-class aviation sector in the UK, and we want to keep it that way.

The closure of those valuable facilities most severely impacted the aspiring student pilots who were just setting out on their careers. The closures left them and their families seriously out of pocket, as we have heard. Commercial pilot training can cost up to £150,000 and is not currently eligible for student funding, which is available for other professions such as law and medicine. With no mechanism for student finance, many aspiring pilots take extreme measures, such as multiple loans and—when they can—credit cards, borrowing from friends and families or, as Baroness Vere said as Aviation Minister back in 2019, relying on the bank of mum and dad to get through training.

In May this year, the Government published a report called, “Addressing the cost of pilot training”, which was a fascinating 62-page read in preparation for this debate—