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Air Connectivity: Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Volume 676: debated on Wednesday 13 May 2020

What steps his Department is taking to safeguard air passenger routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (902569)

What steps he is taking to ensure that air connectivity continues between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. (902582)

The Government are committed to maintaining air connectivity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during these unprecedented times. That is why we worked with the Executive to provide a £5.7 million financial support package to City of Derry and Belfast City Airports to ensure that services to and from London will continue.

Does the Minister agree that the Government’s £5.7 million investment in maintaining air passenger flights is an important step in ensuring that that vital support link is maintained so that, post covid, we continue to strengthen the economic links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This support package is key to safeguarding vital connectivity, providing links to Northern Ireland’s key economic zones. As he knows, Northern Ireland benefits enormously from the Union with Great Britain, which is Northern Ireland’s main market for sales and tourism. We want to further strengthen these ties to support the movement of medical supplies and key workers and to assist with Northern Ireland’s economic recovery from this crisis.

Given the integration between the Northern Ireland economy and the GB economy, air connectivity is vital to any recovery plan out of this health crisis, yet it has practically stopped at present. Will the Minister commit first to continue support for our airports, including Belfast International, secondly to work towards the abolition of air passenger duty, which adds substantially to costs, and thirdly to give every encouragement to present airlines and prospective carriers to open routes quickly again?

The hon. Gentleman makes some excellent points. It is vital that we continue to prioritise connectivity. As he knows, we stepped in where necessary to protect connectivity that might otherwise have been lost. Ministers agree that at this stage Belfast International is financially stable, but we will certainly keep that under review and continue to work closely with the Executive on all those issues.