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Future of the aviation and aerospace industry

Volume 679: debated on Tuesday 1 September 2020

The petition of residents of Glasgow North,

Declares that job losses at British Airways, Rolls-Royce and across the aviation and aerospace industry will be a devastating blow to employees of these firms and will cause major economic damage to the whole of the UK; supports the early intervention by the Scottish Government in removing the business rates liability for one year and urges the UK Government to follow suit.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to secure a sustainable future for the aviation industry, to ensure that urgent discussions take place between relevant ministers and these firms to protect the maximum number of jobs, and to ensure that workers play a full role in the decisions being taken about this industry.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Patrick Grady, Official Report, 21 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 2119.]


Observations from the Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Kelly Tolhurst):

The Government recognise the challenging times facing the aviation sector as a result of covid-19. Aviation plays a critical role to our future as a global trading nation and for local economies such as that in the constituency of Glasgow North. Additionally, we recognise that this will be a very distressing time for employees of British Airways, Rolls-Royce and across the aviation and aerospace industry, as well as for their families and for local communities that are supported by the industry.

The aviation sector is able to draw upon the unprecedented package of measures announced by the Chancellor, including a Bank of England scheme for firms to raise capital, Time to Pay flexibilities with tax bills, financial support for employees and VAT deferrals. These measures have been designed to ensure that companies of any size receive the help they need to get through this difficult time—airports, airlines and the wider supply chain.

We have kept an open dialogue with the aviation and aerospace sectors with regular structured engagement from the start of the pandemic with unions and industry bodies such as ADS, Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK as well as with individual airlines, airports, ground handlers and manufacturers. We are also acutely aware of the impact on the aviation workforce and we are actively working with unions and industry to make sure we identify opportunities to retain key skills within the industry, or ensure they are able to find new employment or retrain and upskill as necessary.

The Department for Transport has established a Restart and Recovery unit to work directly with the sector, initially focusing on the immediate practicalities of restarting the sector and setting a clear vision and objectives looking forward to the longer-term recovery phase. This work has been guided by the International Aviation Taskforce’s Expert Steering Group, a collaborative working group with representation from across industry and Government, including the devolved Administrations. Through this group we have developed safer travel guidance for operators and passengers, published on 11 June 2020. The Expert Steering Group has also recently established subgroups which bring together expert parties to consider urgently how specific measures could address the exceptional short-term sector financial challenges facing the industry in the context of latest trends and outlook.