Skip to main content

Transport Supply Chains: Covid-19

Volume 680: debated on Thursday 17 September 2020

What recent steps the Government have taken to support the UK transport sector and its supply chains during the covid-19 outbreak. (906190)

What recent steps he has taken to support the UK transport sector and its supply chains during the covid-19 outbreak. (906220)

What recent steps the Government have taken to support the UK transport sector and its supply chains during the covid-19 outbreak. (906211)

The Government have undertaken activity across the freight sector to ensure that supply chains are maintained, from vehicle inspections to drivers’ hours and the temporary establishment of freight public service obligation contracts.

Covid-19 has placed major strains on supply chains across the UK, and many businesses that rely on red diesel are concerned that planned tax changes will have a detrimental impact while they struggle to recover from the pandemic. Will the Minister make representations to his Treasury colleagues to delay these changes until enough support is put in place to develop green alternatives to diesel-powered refrigeration?

The hon. Member rightly notes that those tax matters are for the Treasury. I will be sure, in the early days and weeks of my time in this brief, to listen to all representations from the sector and consider any appropriate action.

Several of my constituents in the aviation sector have had their terms and conditions of employment unilaterally changed, and for the worse. While support for the sector is vital, surely when executive bonuses and dividend payments seem unaffected, the protection of workers’ rights is equally essential. Will the Minister commit to supporting the Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), as well as the calls of the trade unions?

The hon. Member makes an excellent point. The workers to whom he refers are highly skilled, highly trained and of enormous value to the UK and the aviation sector. I urge all employers to treat those who work for them with respect and sensitivity, and I urge them to work in a spirit of partnership with unions and employees.

Remaining in Scotland, we go to Douglas Chapman—he is not there. Let us go to the shadow Minister.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would like to say that my thoughts, and I am sure the thoughts of the whole House, are with the injured and all those affected by the recent bus accident in Winchester.

Local coach companies are much loved small businesses with the owner’s name and the town of origin proudly painted on the side of the coach. These are local small businesses that have served their communities through thick and thin. However, day trips and coach travel for football supporters have disappeared because of the coronavirus, and four in 10 of these much-loved local companies could go out of business this autumn, with the loss of 27,000 jobs. Will the Minister reassure the House that the Government will take urgent action to support these family-owned small businesses, and will he meet me and the coach operators as a matter of urgency?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that very important point. I know that that is an area in which he has a particular interest. I would be very glad to meet him and representatives of the sector to look at what may be done.

I echo the comments of the shadow Minister on the bus accident in Winchester.

Yesterday, the British Airways chief executive told the Transport Committee that he would protect BA at all costs. Those costs will be borne by 10,000-plus jobless employees and the remainder whose terms and conditions have been permanently slashed and are as yet unknown. Many of those jobs and thousands of others across the sector could have been saved had the Secretary of State kept his word to stand by the industry’s side. When will we see business rates relief for England and when will we finally see the promised sector-specific support?

The hon. Member refers to some of the decisions taken by BA. These are, of course, commercial matters, but, as we have been clear, they are none the less ones that we regret. There are a number of aspects here, but the thrust of his question is, of course, with regard to support for the aviation sector. The Government have made available £330 billion of support through loans and guarantees across the breadth of the entire economy.