Henry Smith MP: Test at airports and scrap air passenger duty to save aviation industry

Crawley MP, Henry Smith has called on the government to scrap or at the least reduce air passenger duty for a year or more to help the aviation industry hit by coronavirus.

In a speech in parliament Mr Smith also urged the government to move from quarantine to testing at airports.

Last month, traditionally the airport’s peak time, fewer than one million passengers went through Gatwick, four million less than normal for the time of year.

During the debate Mr Smith said:
“Business at Gatwick Airport has reduced by more than 61% since the start of the pandemic. In August—its peak time—when it would normally have more than 5 million throughput passengers, it had fewer than 1 million. Some 40% of jobs have been lost, as they have been at some of the airlines that operate from the airport, such as Virgin Atlantic, which is headquartered in my constituency, and easyJet, whose largest centre of operations is there too.

“We need to move from quarantine, which was a natural response in the early days, to a testing regime. Our competitors, such as Germany and France and, further afield, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, are testing, which is putting the UK aviation industry and business more widely at a competitive disadvantage.

“Last week in the House of Commons, I asked for the Global Travel Taskforce, which the Prime Minister rightly established, to report as soon as possible. I hope that testing will be part of that. Anything that requires a quarantine of more than three days effectively means that travel does not happen in any meaningful sense.

“We charge the highest air passenger duty anywhere in the developed world—twice as much as some of our competitors such as Germany. Many of our competitors do not charge any at all. We need that to be reduced or, indeed, scrapped for at least the year to come, and, I would argue, for longer still.”

Mr Smith also spoke about environmental protections: “I echo what the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell have said about building back better and greener. I welcome the UK aviation industry’s commitment before the COVID-19 pandemic to reach net-zero carbon by 2050, and the Jet Zero Council. If we invest in technologies such as hydrogen, we can build back better, greener and more sustainably, which is good for our economy and contributes to the global environmental effort.”

Henry Smith’s full speech can be watched here:

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