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Jet Zero Council

Volume 682: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2020

[Mrs Maria Miller in the Chair]

I remind Members that there have been some changes to normal practice in order to support the new call list system and to ensure that social distancing can be respected. Members should sanitise their microphones using the cleaning materials provided before they use them and respect the one-way system around the room. Members should only speak from the horseshoe and can only speak if they are on the call list. That also applies to this debate, for which we are fully subscribed. Members are not expected to remain for the wind-ups. I remind Members that there is less of an expectation that they stay for the next two speeches following their own once they have spoken to make sure we manage attendance in the room.

I beg to move

That his House has considered the work of the Jet Zero Council.

May I say what a huge pleasure it is to serve under what I understand is your first Westminster Hall debate, Mrs Miller? It is also a great pleasure to have this debate responded to by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts). I am particularly pleased to see him come on to the Front Bench, because it is the first parliamentary engagement that I have had with him. I know he will do us all proud and cares a lot about this issue. I am also grateful to Mr Speaker for allocating me this debate. London Luton airport is close to my constituency and is an important source of jobs for my constituents.

The UK has the third biggest global aviation network in the world, and we are a leading aerospace nation. Aviation contributes more than £52 billion a year to GDP and the sector directly contributes 230,000 jobs, which are largely high value and high skilled, in airframe development and manufacturing. All of that will be a continued requirement for the industry as it decarbonises. At the moment, however, as a result of the pandemic, there has been a massive reduction in the number of flights, but passenger numbers are expected to recover to 2019 levels by 2023-24 or possibly earlier, depending on the progress of scientific breakthroughs in dealing with the virus. Industry projections also show passenger numbers rising by 65% from 2018 levels to 2050. The UK also has a legally binding net zero target for 2050, and we need to reconcile that vitally important target with the projected increase in demand. Progress has already been made: between 2005 and 2016, Sustainable Aviation member airlines carried 26% more passengers and freight, with carbon dioxide emissions rising by 9%. That is still 9% too much, but it shows that improvements are possible.

Speaking to the International Gas Turbine Institute last September, the Prince of Wales said

“the need to decarbonise flight must remain at the top of the agenda”

and issued a challenge to do so by 2035. In February this year, Sustainable Aviation members made a public commitment to reach net zero UK aviation carbon emissions by 2050, becoming the first national aviation body anywhere in the world to make such a pledge. In June, the creation of the Jet Zero Council was announced, with the objective of developing and industrialising zero-emission aviation and aerospace technologies. The first meeting was held in July. The council has an impressive membership of the great and the good of the aviation and aerospace sectors, and given its importance for aviation and aerospace employment, I think it would be sensible to have a worker representative on the council as well.

It could be said that the scale of the challenge is too big and that we should all fly less and that our aviation and aerospace sectors should contract. I disagree. Instead, we should harness our huge strength in aviation technology and engineering to find new solutions to allow us to fly without wrecking the planet. I want our constituents to carry on enjoying the pleasure and freedom of a sunny holiday, and I want UK exporters to find new markets for British business all around the world as they continue to fly on business travel.

But it is important that all that is done responsibly, so that we can fly with a clear conscience. That is why the work of the Jet Zero Council is so important, and why this debate matters so much. Not only do we need to turbocharge the science and technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, we also need to ensure that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of sustainable aviation so that the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future are provided here. We cannot leave that to chance, as has unfortunately happened with other technologies in the past. Germany, France, Norway and Indonesia are already making progress in that direction.

Calor’s parent company has already partnered with the Dutch airline KLM to build Europe’s first dedicated plant to produce sustainable aviation fuels in the Netherlands. A by-product of the plant will be low-carbon fuel for homes and businesses in the rural off-gas grid. Sustainable aviation fuels are a here-and-now solution using proven technologies that can be used in existing engines and transport pipelines, requiring no modifications to aircraft or refuelling infrastructure. At present, sustainable aviation fuels are the only option that can decarbonise long-haul flight, from which two-thirds of UK aviation CO2 emissions currently arise. It is important to note that second-generation sustainable aviation fuels do not rely on feedstocks that should be used for other purposes. Current sustainable aviation fuel is developed from sustainable feedstocks, waste oils, fats, greases, industrial gases and—I am told—even municipal solid waste as well as agricultural and forestry residue.

The UK’s first commercial sustainable aviation fuel facility, Altalto in Immingham, received planning permission in June. It is the first of its kind in Europe and is a collaboration between Velocys, British Airways and Shell. Other UK facilities such as the LanzaJet project in Port Talbot are also under development—it seems to help to have a Californian or holiday-sounding name for these new sites. Sustainable Aviation has asked for £429 million in Government-backed loan guarantees to support the establishment of the first flagship sustainable aviation fuel facilities in the UK. A grant of £50 million is being sought to move this work to higher technology-readiness levels, and to enable providers to move to commercial scale. A further £21 million is being sought to establish a UK clearing house to enable sustainable aviation fuel testing. By 2037, there could be 14 sustainable aviation fuel production facilities in the UK, which would create 13,600 jobs and add £1.9 billion to GDP when overseas export opportunities are included.

Altalto Immingham hopes to be producing fuel by 2025 and many of these jobs would be in our industrial heartlands, contributing to levelling up in areas such as south Wales, the north-west, Teesside, Humberside, St Fergus, Grangemouth and Southampton. There will also be a boost to the rural economy where feedstocks for facilities would be processed before final upgrading at an industrial plant. Electric and hydrogen technologies also have great potential to deliver zero emission short and medium haul flights.

The world’s first hydrogen-powered flight has taken place in God’s own county of Bedfordshire. As part of the HyFlyer, project, ZeroAvia commissioned at Cranfield University the first on-site hydrogen fuelling system capable of producing green hydrogen used to power zero-emission flight. In 2023 ZeroAvia will bring to market the first hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of flying aircraft with up to 19 seats in a certifiable configuration design for a range of airframes currently in use. It has the potential to generate significant new employment and investment in the aerospace sector. For example, easyJet, a major company at Luton airport, continues to work with Wright Electric on an all-electric 186-seat passenger jet, and only last month Airbus unveiled designs for hydrogen-powered aircraft that could be flying by 2035.

Technology improvements through fleet upgrades represent the largest long-term aviation decarbonisation solution in the sector. The Aerospace Technology Institute wishes to see funding doubled to £330 million a year to enable the UK to become a world leader in developing more efficient engines as well as hybrid electric and hydrogen aircraft. Every £1 of Government investment in aerospace research and development brings in another £12 in private research and development spending—pretty impressive leverage.

Airspace modernisation also has an important role to play in making use of aircraft performance capability and reducing emissions and noise. Today’s advanced aircraft still rely on old navigation technologies because the airspace structures they use were designed for the fewer slower aircraft flying in the 1950s. The new Whittle laboratory in Cambridge, and the national centre for propulsion and power that it will house, will ensure that the UK leads the development of zero-carbon flight and will play a central role in supporting FlyZero.

However, as I said earlier, the challenge from overseas is there. The German Government are already planning a large investment in a low emissions aviation research centre that will operate in direct competition with the new Whittle laboratory. The new laboratory will ensure that the new technologies are used across the industrial networks in Newcastle, Lincoln, Derby, Bristol, Glasgow and Lancashire as it partners with Rolls-Royce, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Siemens, Dyson and the Aviation Technology Institute. The new laboratory will co-locate with the aviation impact accelerator, the design of which is based on what Cambridge has learned from Dame Ann Dowling’s silent aircraft initiative. The residents of the villages of Kensworth, Studham and Whipsnade in my constituency will be particularly pleased to learn about that, because they are all under the flight path of London Luton airport.

The aviation impact accelerator will help speed up the delivery of new technology and scale up the infrastructure, investment and policy necessary for that. The new Whittle laboratory has already raised £23.5 million from its industrial partners, but it needs an additional £25 million from the Government to commence building in February next year. I hope that may be possible, because in the briefing in which the Secretary of State for Transport announced the formation of the Jet Zero Council, he said he was

“excited about a Cambridge University and Whittle labs project to accelerate technologies for zero-carbon flight”.

To speed up the council’s work, the Government should consider an airline scrappage scheme, with airlines encouraged to buy less polluting jets when available and take more polluting models out of service.

It is good to see hon. Members in the Room today. I look forward to their contributions and hope we have cross-party support for this important initiative.

To ensure that all Members here and on the call list have the opportunity to speak, I advise people to take seven to eight minutes, if that is okay, so that we have enough time to move to wind-ups just before half-past three.

Thank you very much, Mrs Miller; it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first of what will be many occasions in this now reactivated Chamber. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on successfully calling for this debate and on leading it with huge aplomb and great detail and knowledge of how important jet zero is to the United Kingdom.

It is worth putting the debate into context. At the moment, we face the crisis of the pandemic, with huge economic and employment crises coming quickly towards us. Just as in the second world war, when we laid down the foundations for huge education and health reforms, so too our current duty in Parliament is to think about the longer term and about how we can help to create an economic strategy that drives growth, jobs and innovation for a global Britain that can still play a major role in the world’s modern transport systems. That is precisely where jet zero comes into play. This is the nation that delivered the world’s first jet engine, and this is the nation that can deliver the fastest and best jet zero project. It is encouraging therefore that, on the one hand, the Government are committing funds to invest in the necessary research and development and that, on the other, industry and manufacturing are committing huge resource to doing the same.

As the Member of Parliament for Gloucester, where many years ago, Frank Whittle’s first jet engine limped down the Hucclecote runway for its first flight, I am delighted that just down the road at Gloucestershire airport, in the constituency of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), huge work is going on between Electroflight—an entrepreneur and innovator-led company—and Rolls-Royce, to create the world’s first electric aviation engine. That project, which uses the acronym ACCEL—Accelerating the Electrification of Flight—is one step towards the goal that my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire outlined.

It is an exciting project, but it is not just about Electroflight and Rolls-Royce. It also involves Airbus, which is the giant that effectively creates a network of mainframe contractors across the west of England—broadly, up the M5—and, when it comes to sub-contractors, across the whole country. The opportunities are therefore considerable, because Airbus stretches across the world. The project will impact all of us who have the privilege of serving as the Prime Minister’s trade envoys, particularly in Asia, where aviation will carry on growing, creating huge demand for all sorts of new aircraft.

New aircraft will probably be smaller compared with the previous tendency to buy larger aircraft. Of course, earlier this week, we effectively saw the end of the Boeing 747, which is the start of a trend in a different direction. The world expects to be able to travel, but also to be able to do so in a much greener way than in the past. For those of us who, like me, were airline managers in the ’80s, when it was unimaginable that anything other than carbon fuel would be used as the means to drive our aircraft, this is an especially exciting period.

What we all find exciting about this project is the way that industry is really excited to be working with the Government on an industrial strategy in which everybody’s aims are aligned. I am sure that the Minister will say more about the White Paper, which I believe will be published shortly and will lay out the Government’s ambitions for industrial strategy a few years since the creation of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). I hope it will also set out how innovation and quality will drive us forward, and how our focus—whether in space, with satellites and launching pads, or on new engines, lighter ways of manufacturing aircraft, and all the things that make up the 35% of an Airbus that is made in the UK—has the full support of Government and, I hope, of Members of Parliament across the House, so that industry will know that in the aviation and aerospace sectors, the nation’s Government and representatives are fully behind its efforts to produce a newer, greener and more sustainable form of international transport.

I thank the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), for securing this debate and for setting out the case for jet zero so eloquently. I can reassure him from the outset that there is very much cross-party support for this endeavour. However, I intend to set out a little bit of gentle challenge as well, because we need to ensure that we do everything we can at this point to support aviation.

Aviation was one of the first industries to be hit by this pandemic and I believe that it will be one of the last industries to recover from it, especially as measures such as quarantine remain in place and countries retain restrictions on visitors from the UK. The crisis continues to affect our aviation industry, and there are repercussions for the wider economy, too: the mass redundancies in airlines such as British Airways and easyJet are devastating for the employees and their families. Colleagues may be aware of the negative attention that was generated recently by what I regard as the rather insensitive comments of the Work and Pensions Secretary, when she suggested that cabin crew and pilots who lose their jobs can retrain as carers and teachers.

The consequences of the approach to the aviation sector’s crisis will be felt right across the economy, because aviation is a linchpin. It supports sectors such as tourism, it attracts inward investment across the country and it connects us to the rest of the world. Newcastle airport, which lies within my constituency, is an international and domestic transport hub, a strategic asset for our region, and it is central to our economic growth. Our airport supports manufacturing businesses, exports and higher education, attracting people to our world-class universities. So the Government need to understand the special status of the aviation industry and show much greater understanding of and support for it in the years ahead.

Treasury Ministers have repeatedly referred to a support package for aviation that has been provided, but I would say that the specific package that is needed has not been provided yet. Air bridges need to be arranged as soon as possible. There should be 12 months of business rate relief, which has already been given to airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These forms of support need to be provided to create a level playing field, so that we will all be able to “build back better” after this crisis.

The Minister today will also be aware of the growing concern in the travel industry and among travellers about testing being in place to replace quarantine measures. The current system relies on deterring people from travelling, and it is not effective as a public health measure because it does not do enough to pick up those people who have no choice but to travel and who may have covid-19.

I appreciate that Members may ask, “What’s this got to do with jet zero?” However, what we do now, in getting the right atmosphere and support package in place for aviation, is absolutely crucial to building the jet zero vision that we need for the future. I have to say that there does not seem to be that appreciation in Government yet that we need to keep the foundations that we have in our aviation industry in order to be in a position to build that greener, more sustainable aviation industry of the future. We need to create an investment environment so that people will invest in the future of aviation. It will take significant investment to create that green, sustainable future, but investors will not want to put that money into a distressed sector that has not been supported through this pandemic.

As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable aviation, I support the calls for investment in sustainable engines and fuel to make air travel cleaner and greener, to help the UK to meet its climate change targets, and to protect aviation jobs.

I strongly welcome the creation of the Jet Zero Council. It will be instrumental in connecting aerospace modernisation, sustainable fuels, technological developments, carbon offsetting and renewables in a coherent framework for delivery that Government and industry can support.

The Committee on Climate Change says that sustainable fuels are critical to cutting emissions from aviation, but at present the challenge seems to lie in international agreement on how to encourage their use. In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the chief technology officers of Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, Safran, Dassault Aviation and Raytheon urged greater efforts to create,

“conditions under which sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can be widely deployed”.

They warned that without broad agreement on tools and policies to encourage the use of green fuels, energy companies will not put up the trillions of dollars of capital investment required to meet the needs of the aviation industry.

I know that different approaches are already under consideration. For example, in August, the European Commission signalled it was considering an EU-wide requirement for a minimum amount of sustainable fuel on flights. However, we need to get to a place where even if different trading blocs have their own methods, we are driven by common targets so the pace of switching to sustainable fuels can be accelerated. Will the Minister respond to the concerns of the chief technology officers and work with our international partners to ensure that we do not miss out on these opportunities?

Decarbonisation of aviation will also rely heavily on market-based mechanisms in the short to medium term, so it is vital that these transitions run smoothly. Many aircraft operators that participate in the EU emissions trading scheme will also participate in the new UK emissions trading scheme. Will the Minister update us on how we will link those two schemes, as set out in the future relationship with the EU25?

I will touch on a couple of issues that relate specifically to jobs in the aviation sector. Sustainable aviation fuel is clearly required to meet our emissions targets and it will create many jobs. We need to ensure that that investment and those jobs go where they are needed most. I would argue that that is in the north-east. An airport scrappage scheme has also been promoted as reducing emissions and creating the quieter aviation that many people want to see in the future.

In addressing one of the immediate challenges we face, I return to the comments of the Work and Pensions Secretary. If we encourage everybody currently in the aviation sector to retrain as carers or teachers, we will lose the vital skills base that we need to build sustainable aviation, fuels and aircraft of the future. The current approach in the job support scheme, which provides only 67% of wages where those jobs cannot be undertaken, does not go far enough. Greater investment in retaining those skills and supporting those jobs now, as well as the jobs we will need in the future, is vital.

My final argument is that when we get things right on a cross-party basis and a governmental and business collaboration basis, a strong workers’ voice is always in there too. If we really want to make the Jet Zero Council work, we should have workers’ representation and the voice of workers, working with business and Government to maximise its potential.

I echo the sentiments of my colleagues. It is great to be here at your first debate, Mrs Miller. It is also great to be with the Minister of Aviation, newly installed in the position. I congratulate him on that and my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing this very important debate.

I am keen to speak because tackling and stopping environmental destruction is the defining mission of our age. We have seen so much of it over the last 100 years, and we have to bring it to an end. That is why I am chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the environment. Clearly, one of the biggest environmental challenges is tackling climate change. As a country, we have adopted the legally binding target of net zero by 2050, and I strongly welcome that. A huge body of work is needed to achieve it.

In many areas, progress is already quite advanced. Electricity is now 40% renewable, largely from wind energy, which is an enormous achievement compared with what was expected 20 years ago. Electric cars are not quite commonplace, but they are becoming commonplace. The technology is well advanced and proven; they are fantastic cars to drive and we now have a Government target of abolishing the sale of internal combustion engines by 2040 and we are consulting on 2035, which I certainly support.

Aviation, however, is a conundrum, because it is a growing source of national emissions overall—now 8%, increased from 5% five years ago—yet it is a very difficult source of emissions to tackle. We are not quite there, as we are in other areas.

There are those who would say, “Well, we should stop flying. Fly less. Make it so expensive to fly that people cannot go on holidays.” I absolutely do not support that, for the reasons echoed by colleagues. Aviation is jobs. My constituency is near Luton airport and Stansted. It is incredibly important in terms of leisure and business that people carry on flying. The challenge is to make sure that flying can be carbon neutral and that is why I welcomed so strongly the launch of the Jet Zero Council earlier this year.

Tackling aviation is difficult because electric batteries are too heavy to fly in planes. They do not have enough energy density to be able to fly a plane across the Atlantic. Low-carbon fuels are here, but they are still at a fairly early stage of development. Aeroplanes also tend to be long-lasting—fleets last for 40 or 50 years. It is not like cars, which have quite a high turnover, so it is easier to introduce new electric cars.

However, there is a lot of innovation in this area, as previous speakers have mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire spoke at length about the Whittle laboratory, which is just on the edge of my constituency—it is just outside, so I cannot claim it is mine, but it is a fantastic laboratory. Imperial War Museum Duxford is also in South Cambridgeshire. It is known for its battle of Britain aeroplanes and a Concorde, but it also has an AvTech—aviation technology sector—development, co-launched with Gonville and Caius College. The first company there is Faradair, an electric aviation company. It is developing a bioelectric hybrid aircraft, with the first flight aimed for 2023. It is aiming for an all-electric aircraft by 2030. It has a lot of energy and bright ideas and is definitely worth supporting.

Obviously, it is not only the UK that is doing this. Flight is of its nature international and the International Civil Aviation Organisation has been doing a lot of work trying to co-ordinate the industry. It has committed to a 2% annual increase in fuel efficiency. It has a global offsetting scheme—CORSIA—which starts in 2021. It is supporting sustainable aviation fuels and better air traffic management, which has been quite important for increasing the efficiency of aviation, as we have seen over the past five years or so.

Developments are definitely gathering pace. EasyJet is planning its first short-haul electric flights by 2030, which would be very impressive. Norway—I am half-Norwegian and am very proud of Norway—has the aim that all short-haul flights should be electric by 2040 and all electricity in Norway is renewable, so that would be completely carbon neutral, and it is investing in that.

With all these developments, there is a huge opportunity for the UK. We absolutely need to make it a national mission. If we are ahead of the curve, there are huge export opportunities as well.

On recommendations and policy, I would be interested, first, in including international aviation emissions in the 2050 target of net zero. Domestic aviation emissions are already in that target, but I understand the Government are thinking about the international emissions. That would be a good step, in order to put pressure on the sector and make it part of the national mission to become net zero.

Secondly, we should think about nature-based carbon offsets. Offsetting has a slightly bad name, because schemes are often not very robust. They can be made robust, however, and the Government should think about having a universal mandate on airlines, to give passengers an option for a robust offsetting of their flights. We could end up with lots more money for tree planting, which would be wonderful.

We need to do a lot more work to develop sustainable aviation fuels, as we have heard. There needs to be a whole regime to support the development and take-up of sustainable aviation fuels. For example, aviation duty is not taxed because it is cross-border and it has been impossible to get international agreement, so we have air passenger duty on flights taking off. We could think about moving to a system where air passenger duty reflected the efficiency of aeroplanes in the way that vehicle excise duty reflects the efficiency of cars. It may be too early to do that yet, but we could certainly move in that direction.

We will not get a UK-only solution on this. We should try to lead the world but we definitely need to work with other countries. We should absolutely work internationally and that should be a big part of what the Government are doing. This is a huge opportunity for the UK and we really must take advantage of it. We need a massive national commitment and the Jet Zero Council can lead the UK on this, and I commend the Government’s work on it.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mrs Miller. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing the debate and on the excellent speech he gave in opening it and the way he laid out the case so clearly.

I pay tribute to Sustainable Aviation, which is a coalition that brings together the aviation sector––airlines, manufacturers, airports––to work across the sector and move towards sustainable aviation and clean flight. It has done incredible work over a number of years to drive and focus the sector on the issue. It has been a delight to work with it in recent years in some of the roles that I have played in this place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) mentioned that the UK has led the world in innovation in aviation for over 100 years. I see another great opportunity before us as a country to once again take a lead, and lead the world in developing clean flight. I am delighted that the Prime Minister set out in his characteristic way a positive vision for the country to get behind and work towards having the first zero-emission transatlantic flight. It is a vision that I wholeheartedly get behind.

Aviation is crucial to today’s world for trade and the economy. We all know the huge challenges that the sector faces now, but we have to believe that that will be reversed and that we will once again have a growing, thriving aviation sector. We should use this moment as a great opportunity to make significant change that perhaps would have taken some time to develop but that, with some focus, could happen more quickly than it would otherwise have done. I believe that we will see that in many areas of our economy.

Moving towards clean flight can very much be part of that. As several hon. Members have highlighted, we are making progress. There are some great and exciting developments such as sustainable biofuels and electric and hydrogen-powered flight, all of which will help the sector become the clean way of getting around that we want it to be. I know that some people are sometimes cynical about this but there is no doubt of the Government’s commitment to get to net zero by 2050. We are leading the world as the only developed nation that has made that legal commitment. We should use this as an opportunity to take a lead globally and demonstrate to the world that clean flight is within the realms of possibility in the very near future.

I believe that the current attitude often shown towards flying––that it is the dirty way of getting around and we should all feel bad every time we get on a plane––can be changed. We can get to the point of zero-emission flight in the coming years. At that point, flight will become the chosen way to travel quickly and cleanly both around the UK and around the world. I genuinely believe that we can get to that point. Instead of being the dirty cousin of transport, flying will be the green choice, because we can fly cleanly and get places quickly. That is the ambitious aim that we should focus on working towards.

I know the Minister well and he will not be at all surprised that I want to raise my belief that our current challenges demand a response from the Government to ensure that we have everything in place to grasp this opportunity in the next five to 10 years. Our regional airports will be absolutely crucial, because the likelihood is that the first clean flights will be short-haul domestic flights. That is probably the first step, and if we do not have successful and operating regional airports across our country, we will not be able to make the most of the opportunity.

I am genuinely concerned that if we do not support the sector and our regional airports across the country, some of them will be lost and closed. The chances are, if they close as a result of the current crisis, there is every likelihood that they may never open again. Heathrow will be there, Gatwick will be there, Manchester and the other big airports will be there—they will get through this. It may be challenging, but they will get through this and will still be with us for many years to come, but our smaller regional airports—such as the one that I represent, Cornwall airport Newquay, and many others across the country—face a crisis now.

There is a risk that our smaller regional airports will be lost. If they are lost, the impact on the sector and on our ability to fulfil our ambitions for clean aviation will be greatly damaged. I say again to the Minister, who I know gets this, but through him we can get a message to the Treasury: we need to step up and provide more support for the sector and in particular for our regional airports, because they are struggling with the challenge of the current crisis. If we want them to be there, to survive and to thrive through this, they will need some more support. Please will the Minister take a message back to Government, in particular the Treasury, that if they are serious about fulfilling those ambitions, we need to do a bit more to help our regional airports?

To wind up, the only way that we will achieve our ambitions is by having a thriving aviation sector that has the funds to invest for the future. It will not happen if we do not have an aviation sector that is able to have confidence about the future and to invest in the future of aviation. Therefore, it is crucial at this time for the Government to stand behind the sector and to provide the support it needs, so that it can work with us to achieve our great and exciting ambitions for clean aviation.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, Mrs Miller, and I thank the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) for his contribution and for setting the scene.

I have had so much email correspondence from different constituents about this that I took the opportunity to make a contribution which, obviously, will be on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland aspect, but very much coming from Strangford as well, because I have numerous aerospace industries in my constituency. Therefore, if the Government take forward this strategy, which I hope they will, it will benefit my constituency and, indeed, many others. This matter is essential, and I am very thankful to the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate.

I am pleased to see the Minister in his place, and to put that on the record. I understand that this is his second debate in Westminster Hall. I missed his first one—I do not know how I did that, but there we are! I was not in the Chamber, so I was probably engaged elsewhere. As I said, however, I am pleased to see him, because we have a personal friendship and know each other. For the record, I have every confidence in him to take on the mantle for all of us here together, collectively, and ensure the delivery, so that we can all benefit across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I have been contacted by Sustainable Aviation. Members will know about that organisation and be aware of the background. They have provided a detailed briefing about the methods that Government could employ to obtain the target set by Jet Zero. They highlighted that between 2005 and 2016 Sustainable Aviation’s member airlines carried 26% more passengers and freight, but they only grew CO2 emissions by 9%. That is a clear differential that has to be addressed. They have a methodology, of which I am sure the Minister is aware, that I hope he will adopt. That would complement what was said by the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, who set the scene, and the other contributions that have been made from both sides of the Chamber.

The industry must be noted and celebrated. In a world where many appear to exist only to find fault—society seems, in many cases, to be like that—I wish to congratulate the industry for doing what it can to make sustainable changes. Let us give credit where credit is due for the direct and positive attitude it has adopted to try and make sure we can move in the correct direction.

Other Members have mentioned APD. The Democratic Unionist party is committed to that and has had many discussions with Government about it, although maybe not with this Minister. To be fair, we did have a discussion and a Zoom meeting about a fortnight ago, and APD was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson)—I just recalled that now. APD is important for us, and the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) talked about it as well. Many regions of the United Kingdom can gain from it.

My friend, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), is keen on the idea of using hydrogen to tackle the issue. He hopes that companies can be equipped with the skills and the interests to provide an opportunity to develop that.

The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) mentioned issues about electric energy. I do not know much about that, but I read the papers with some eagerness and I regularly see stories about electric planes and electric flying. Many parts of the United Kingdom have the ability and the interest to develop that.

In February 2020, Sustainable Aviation members made a public commitment to reach net zero UK aviation carbon emissions by 2050. That is a challenging target, but if they have set it, they must think it is achievable. They are the first national aviation body anywhere in the world to make such a pledge. The decarbonisation road map, published alongside the pledge, sets out a plan to achieve that by working with Ministers. It is clearly a partnership, because that it how it works and that is how they will gain their way forward.

The plan wants to do four things: commercialise sustainable aviation fuels, SAF; invest in cleaner aircraft and engine technology, although it is a challenging time to do that because many planes are not being used and the investment needed is not there, although there is a methodology to do it; develop smarter flight operations; and develop high-quality carbon offsets and removals. Under the plan, the UK will be able to accommodate 70% growth in passengers through to 2050. If we follow this plan, I believe that we can deliver what the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire asked us all to endorse and support, and take net emission levels from just over 30 million tonnes of CO2 a year down to zero.

I and others speak out on behalf of the aviation sector not because of the jobs alone, but because, let us be honest, the best way for me to get to the House of Commons is to fly. I fly from Belfast City to Heathrow every Monday, or thereabouts, and go back on a Thursday. Air travel for me is a way of getting here. For some it is a necessity. It is a necessity for me and, I suspect, a number of those here in the Chamber, as well as others among the 650 Members. When it comes to business and to flying, I support it as I believe it is a way forward. As with anything in life, changes need funding. I understand that there is a request for £500 million of Government funding over the forthcoming comprehensive spending review period to support SAF commercialisation and research and development.

Figures are easy to look at, but when we think about them further then we realise how big they are. The breakdown provides further clarification, which deserves consideration. I am not disrespecting anybody, but it is not just another pledge. Some £429 million is requested in the form of Government-backed loan guarantees for first-of-a-kind SAF facilities, so they will be paid back. The loan guarantees will help establish the UK as a global leader in SAF. Kick-starting SAF production in the UK will fully support the establishment of the first flagship SAF facility in the UK to unlock the wider potential out there that we can all gain from. First-of-a-kind SAF facilities are very hard to finance. The reason why SA is looking for the loan guarantee is simple. Conventional bank debt is not available, or, if it is available, it is offered at a prohibitively high cost, so it simply does not work out. A Government loan guarantee scheme that is tailored to meet the needs of emerging SAF technologies, providing a proportion of the total capital required, would unlock private finance to fund the first commercial scale facilities. Some £50 million in grants is required to help SAF technology providers transition from lower TRLs 3 to 6 and to support providers at higher TRLs to move to commercial scale. The UK is presently losing out to other countries that provide greater support and grant funding. “Invest today for the return tomorrow” is what my mother would tell me. She made sure that I followed that principle from the early age of 16, as I suspect many others also did.

Fully exploiting the network of UK expertise will enable the UK to showcase cutting edge facilities, creating a network of flagship SAF production facilities and providing a clear path to commercialisation. Some £21 million is required as part of the £500 million that is talked about. It is £429 million in loan guarantees from the Government, £50 million in grants, and £21 million to establish a UK clearing house to enable SAF testing. That remains one of the major barriers to new fuel supply chains. Aviation fuels need rigorous testing to ensure that they meet the safety and quality standards for aviation, and the United Kingdom is home to some of the foremost experts in fuel testing and approval. Others have referred to the expertise that we have in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I always say, and I will say it again: we are better together. That is the way it should be. Even my colleague and friend on the front row, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), would have to endorse that to make things happen, we do that better together. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland could benefit from the proposals that we have. We all need to feel the warmth of prosperity at a time when lots of the news is not good. Indeed, it is sometimes quite distressing.

I will conclude with this. It is clear that this is the time for the Government to determine how serious we are to facilitate the conversion to jet zero. I look forward very much to the Minister’s response to these and other proposals raised today by other hon. Members, by the shadow spokesperson for the Scottish National party, and by Labour Members as well. I have an industry in my constituency that I will support. I want to see it doing it well. I support Shorts/Bombardier, Magellan in Ballywalter and other companies in Crossgar and elsewhere. I support all my aero industries. I encourage the Government to put their money—if I can say this—where their mouth is and make the changes not only possible but probable for the sake of the industry and the future of our planet, because we have a duty to do that. Coming from an Orange background, I am not usually one for plying green strategies, but this is a green strategy that we can all support.

We now move on to the Front-Bench speeches. I ask Members to take about 10 or 11 minutes. I call Mr Alan Brown.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Miller. I congratulate the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing this debate and leading it so admirably. I apologise in advance: I have a funny feeling I will repeat a lot of what he said, but that shows agreement. He hoped for cross-party support, and I think that will be the outcome of today’s debate.

The hon. Gentleman correctly set out how important aviation is overall to the UK in terms of the £52 billion it brings to the economy. At the same time, we have to recognise, and reconcile with that fact, the challenge of achieving net zero, despite an increase in demand going forward. Interestingly, that concurs with the findings of Climate Assembly UK, which recently reported. As citizens, they accept that there will be a continued increase in the use of aircraft, but there need to be changes, in terms of some of the solutions outlined today, in order to get the balance right and achieve net zero. I note that they do not think that there should be quite as big an increase in world aviation as is projected.

As the hon. Gentleman set out, we obviously need to find new solutions, with sustainable aviation fuels being integral to that—I will return to that issue. He also highlighted the hydrogen fuel system getting developed in his area—in Bedford. I wish that well. I also agree with his calls for additional Government investment, particularly the £25 million that he says is needed to get the Whittle laboratory under construction next year. It will be good to hear what the Minister says on that.

I also agree with the call for an airline scrappage scheme. That would obviously generate turnover of aircraft in order to get new cleaner, greener aircraft, and it could generate another spin-off—the work that would be involved in decommissioning the aircraft that were scrapped. The Prestwick aerospace cluster, which is adjacent to my constituency, is looking to move into that market, so if the Government helped to incentivise the market with an aircraft decommissioning or scrappage scheme, that would certainly be really welcome. I would also like to suggest a bit of worker rep on the council. I hope that that is something the Government could look at.

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) gave us a wee bit of a history lesson on the original jet engine and spoke about the development of the electric jet engine. Obviously, we want to see that developed. Also mentioned was the importance, when a big company such as Airbus is involved, of a UK-wide supply chain and all the spin-off jobs that come from that. That is really important, and it is crucial that we remember that.

Next up was the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell). She said of her comments that hon. Members might pose the question, “How does this relate to jet zero?” And I must admit that, initially during her contribution, I did wonder. But I accept the argument: we do have to sort out the here and now because there is an aviation crisis that needs to be resolved. She correctly highlighted the injustice that has been perpetrated by BA and similar redundancies from easyJet. Unfortunately, the Government response has not been robust enough. I would remind people in the Chamber to support the Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), the fire and rehire Bill, which would stop companies such as BA treating their employees like cattle, disposing of them and rehiring them on lower conditions.

I commend the hon. Lady’s work as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable aviation. I agree that there needs to be international collaboration on the use of sustainable aviation fuels, and it is important that we get jobs located where they are required and where currently local economies might be struggling. The proposals for where the sustainable aviation fuels may be located back that up. It would create much-needed jobs where they are actually required.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) also does good work, as chair of the all-party parliamentary environment group. He, too, highlighted the importance of the challenge that we have going forward on climate change. It was good to hear about the work being undertaken with Faradair in terms of hybrid and electric planes. Again, we hope that that leads the way, but he correctly highlighted Norway, which, yet again—it leads the way on so many things—has a commitment for short-haul flights to be fully electric by 2040. It is worth noting that Norway leads the way in relation to electric vehicles, the use of renewable energy in terms of hydro, and its sovereign wealth fund, created from its oil funds. We really need to look at Norway for lessons and copy it instead of just always talking about the UK being world leading. It is a fact that other people do this.

I agree with the suggestion about revisiting air passenger duty and reflecting the efficiency of aircraft emissions. I think the Government need to look at that. Another elephant in the room, it seems to me, is the fact that kerosene, which is used mainly for aviation, is still zero duty rated. That is unsustainable going forward for trying to incentivise the use of sustainable aviation fuels. We need to look at the tax system in the round to incentivise use of clean green fuels and generate an income for reinvestment in that sector.

The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), as always, stood up for regional airports, including his own. I add my voice to the call for the support of regional airports; that is vital. The hon. Gentleman made the good point that the initial short-haul flights will be between regional airports; we need to remember that. I do not quite share his belief in the Prime Minister’s vision, but hopefully I will be proved wrong and we will see that delivered in the future.

No debate would be complete without the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) speaking at length about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and goading me about “better together”. It is great to see him back in his place, sticking up for the aerospace industry in his constituency and again highlighting the importance of sustainable aviation fuels and the ask of industry from the Government. It is good to hear how much faith the hon. Gentleman has in the Minister. Hopefully, the Minister will repay that faith in his summing up and confirm the money that the Government are going to invest.

Aviation, as we heard, is a vital sector for connectivity, outbound and inbound tourism, and even exports of goods. For those reasons, it is vital that the industry is supported. Tonight, I will be launching a petition on support for the travel industry, because the Government really need to step up to the mark there.

On a positive note, I welcome the setting up of the Jet Zero Council. We want to see the green recovery in general and the UK Government have an opportunity to lead the way in sustainable aviation. It is fine to be a world leader in terms of the legislation for 2050 net zero, but we need the corresponding action and investment to back that up. As others have said, the UK Government have missed out in the past in offshore and onshore wind, where there was not the drive or the vision in the Government investment to make the UK world leading in that. The manufacturing and other aspects went elsewhere. As such, we need to step up to the plate in terms of net zero aviation.

As for being world leading, the Scottish Government set net zero legislation before Westminster, with an earlier date of 2045 for net zero, and they are the first Government in the world to include international shipping and aviation within the net zero targets. They have also committed to decarbonising aviation by 2050. Can the Minister advise whether the UK Government will follow the SNP’s lead in Scotland and the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which is to include international aviation emissions within their net zero targets?

The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow next year, which is a tremendous opportunity to lead the world in a number of initiatives and commitments. The UK Government’s “Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge” document stated:

“Internationally, we are committed to negotiating in ICAO for a long-term emissions reduction goal for international aviation that is consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, ideally by ICAO’s 41st Assembly in 2022.”

Can the Minister advise what progress has been made regarding those negotiations and whether there are any commitments that can be included within the nationally determined contributions for COP26? That certainly would set a tremendous example.

As we have heard, one of the key aims of the Jet Zero Council is the delivery of sustainable aviation fuels plans. Again, that is a chance to be world leading, but action is needed fast, especially as we have heard that Norway has mandated airlines to reduce the amount of standard aviation fuel that they use. France and Germany are driving and leading sustainable aviation fuel collaboration, so the UK needs to move fast.

Other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Members for Strangford and for South West Bedfordshire, highlighted the need for the Government to provide the £500 million asked for, which would deliver the private investment to see sustainable aviation fuel plants up and running in the UK. In terms of the Government-backed loan guarantees, I suggest that if the Government can find £20 billion for Hinkley power station, and potentially another £40 billion for two more power stations, the £500 million over a period of five years is quite a small ask. I look forward to the Minister’s confirming that in his summing up.

When we look further, we have renewable transport fuel obligations to further incentivise the use of sustain- able aviation fuel. The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire also touched on airspace modernisation. That in itself will facilitate a reduction in emissions, by allowing more efficient flightpaths, but the modernisation programme is currently at risk because it is being delivered by NATS, which relies on income from airlines. Reduced numbers of flights mean reduced income for NATS, and that puts the modernisation programme at risk. Direct support from Government is something else that the Minister needs to consider.

On nuclear power, does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the crucial things about the electrification of short-haul flights is that we will need more electricity? In that context it is important to replace our nuclear power stations, to generate that electricity.

Yes, I agree it is important. They need to be replaced because half the existing nuclear power stations will be phased out in the next four years. However, they do not need to be replaced by nuclear; they should be replaced by renewable energy, so I absolutely do not agree on that point.

We also heard about Airbus being a Jet Zero member, and how it is developing the ZEROe hydrogen aircraft. We look forward to hydrogen aircraft being up and running. I draw Members’ attention to a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology briefing note that highlights the fact that hydrogen emits twice as much water vapour as existing jet fuel. That is a potential issue, and perhaps the Jet Zero Council could look at that, in collaboration with the Government. The need for wider sector support from the Government, by doubling of Aerospace Technology Institute funding to £330 million a year, is also rightly identified. What assessments have the Government made of those asks?

There seems to be cross-party support for jet zero and the aim to get net zero aviation by 2050, but there are clear asks for the Government, and I look forward to hearing the Minister confirm those financial commitments that have been asked for around the tables.

3.36 pm

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Miller. I congratulate the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing the debate. The fact that we had contributions from Members with constituencies as far afield as Strangford and St Austell and Newquay, taking in Gloucester, Newcastle upon Tyne North and South Cambridgeshire on the way, says an awful lot. Each Member stressed the importance of the sector to their constituency. I was on the board of London Luton airport a long time ago, when I was a councillor in Luton, and I appreciate the importance of the airport to the town and to Dunstable and the wider area. Of course, now I am a Bristol MP, and we have a vibrant aerospace sector—and we are home to Concorde, although I note that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) says that he has a Concorde as well. Technically ours is just over the border in Filton, but I think Bristol lays claim to those areas when it is in our interest to do so.

We all know how important the subject of the debate is and, particularly at such a difficult and challenging time for the sector, it is important to take a considered, nuanced approach to the issues that we are discussing. We might, if we had had the debate much earlier in the year, have been able to focus purely on decarbonisation and the need to make progress with that in the sector, but covid has, as with so many other things, turned everything in the aviation world on its head. There have, as we have heard, been unprecedented falls in demand for flights because of the pandemic. The sector has faced immense financial hardship and it is predicted that it will not fully get back to its feet until 2023 or 2024 —or, given the degree of uncertainty, who knows?

Now, therefore, the discussion of decarbonisation must also deal with how to save aviation jobs in the short term, ranging from those in manufacturing, technology and design to those in airports and airlines, and the supply chain. We should not forget the many small companies that also rely on the industry and need to be part of the shift. It is one thing to consult bigger companies as part of the Jet Zero Council, but for every big company at the forefront of innovation there will be many other small and medium-sized enterprises that rely very much on being taken along on the journey.

Labour has called for a sector-specific package for aviation, which will be conditional not just on the protection of jobs—including an end to firing and rehiring on inferior contracts—but on progress in meeting environmental targets. It is important that those two objectives should be intertwined. Some nations uncritically bailed out their aviation sectors because of the pandemic without considering the climate impacts, but other nations have been both ambitious in protecting their aviation sectors and sensitive to the need to decarbonise the sector. France, for example, provided more than €15 billion, much of it to Air France, conditional on a number of things. For example, France expects the airline to renew its fleet with more efficient aircraft; to source 2% of fuel from sustainable sources by 2025; to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide from domestic flights by the end of 2024; and to ensure that overall emissions from all flights are halved by 2030.

I welcome the Minister to his new post. I hope that we hear from him how the UK can follow France in taking such a lead, because this is too important an opportunity to miss, given that we need far more intervention and investment in the aviation sector—more of a lead from the Government—than we perhaps would in normal times. How can we maximise the opportunity to get the sector back on its feet and also accelerate the progress we all want to make towards net zero?

Intervention is desperately required, both to safeguard jobs and to allow us to become world leaders. Setting up the Jet Zero Council, bringing together all those top minds in the industry to discuss the issues, is a good start. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) said, it is a notable omission that there are no workplace representatives on the council. I hope the Minister will address that in his response, because this is very much about everyone involved in the sector, not only the companies behind it.

I confess that, when I first took on the role of shadow Minister for green transport, I was quite sceptical about some of the claims about sustainable aviation fuel being the way forward. There was lots of talk about sucking carbon out of the sky, but it was not really backed up by much science in the debates or the representations that I heard. In the six months that I have been in this job, and having had so many meetings with people, I have been on a steep learning curve, and I now think there is huge potential for us to make progress in developing sustainable aviation fuels. As well as speaking to sustainable aviation figures, I have spoken to Velocys, which is pioneering production in the UK; I think it has £500,000 funding for a centre in Immingham. The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire talked about it trying to create sustainable aviation fuel from waste, which is a really interesting development.

I also met the Electric Aviation Group, which has a connection with Bristol and with companies such as Airbus. Unfortunately, it has not been invited to join the Jet Zero Council—I have just had a letter back from the Minister about this—but it is working on a hybrid electric aircraft for UK skies. It was interesting to hear from the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire that easyJet is also looking to develop an electric plane soon. The Electric Aviation Group says that, eventually, easyJet could probably fly hybrid planes to most destinations that it flies to in the future. It is obviously a bit more complicated for longer-haul flights. Hydrogen was mentioned by a number of Members, and the fact that Airbus, for example, is exploring it via its ZEROe concept. We obviously want to go down the path of clean, green hydrogen if we can, rather than blue hydrogen. I hope that the Jet Zero Council helps us move on to that path.

As I said, it is quite exciting how much has been done on sustainable aviation fuels. I think that a lot of progress will be made in the next few years. As other Members said, that in itself does not address the immediate issue, which is that—putting to one side covid and the fall in aviation emissions that we have had as a result of people just not flying—the trend of the last decade is aviation emissions either stagnating or increasing, whereas other sectors have been pretty successful in cutting emissions, such as the energy sector, as the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire said. We are just not seeing that for aviation.

Aviation counted for 8% of UK emissions in 2019, according to the Committee on Climate Change. I agree with the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire on the need to include international aviation emissions in the UK’s net zero emissions legislation. Domestic aviation emissions have fallen to some extent, but those international emissions are not currently included in that legislation. I do not know whether the Minister will have something to say on that, because, as I understand it, the Government have said that they want to look at how we can include international aviation and shipping emissions in that target. That would act as a real incentive; rather than just focusing on emissions from domestic flights, which are a tiny minority of journeys, we must look at the international picture.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire also talked about carbon offsetting and planting trees, and options such as those must all be included. We also need to consider the issue of aviation demand, once passenger numbers start to return to normal levels. The debates around airport expansions and attributing responsibility remain important conversations to have, particularly given the recent court ruling against Heathrow expansion.

An estimated 70% of all flights in Britain are taken by just 15% of adults, and I think the Treasury is due to consult on the potential for greening aviation taxation soon. We need to look at how aviation can achieve a sustainable level of demand and remain affordable for ordinary families. I am certainly not arguing that ordinary families should not have the right to fly, travel and go on holidays, but I would argue that we need to place more responsibility on the minority of frequent flyers. Perhaps covid has alerted people to the fact that they do not necessarily need to fly across the world for a business meeting—there are things such as Zoom now. The UK’s replacement for the EU’s emissions trading scheme may well be another opportunity to green aviation taxation appropriately, so I hope we see some ambition from the Government on that in the coming months.

To conclude, I urge the Government to balance things out: in the longer term, the Jet Zero Council is a very exciting proposition, but we know that it will not deliver the solutions that we need to deal with aviation emissions in the short term. Alternative fuels have a role to play but, given the crisis in aviation, what we need from the Government now is a coherent package that looks ahead to international leadership at COP, but also looks at how we can save jobs, reskill people who work in the aviation and aerospace sectors, and create those jobs of the future—saving the industry and saving the planet at the same time.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Miller, particularly on your first day in Westminster Hall. I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on securing this very important debate and giving colleagues across the House, after listening to his speech—which, if I may so, had great expertise and eloquence—the opportunity to discuss the crucial subject of tackling climate change. I also thank him for providing me with an opportunity to highlight how the United Kingdom is showing, and planning to show, bold and ambitious leadership in this area, including through the new Jet Zero Council. He has—

I beg your pardon, Mrs Miller. It is only my second debate, so that is a schoolboy error at the beginning. I shall ensure that I address the Chair.

My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire is quite right to view this matter in a positive and forward-looking way. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) made the same point, and I agree entirely with that sentiment. Last year, the UK maintained its place at the vanguard of reducing carbon emissions and became, as my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) is right to point out, the first major economy in the world to set a 2050 net zero target.

It is critical that aviation plays its part in delivering the UK’s net zero ambitions. My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay also pointed out that there is opportunity here. We are in the vanguard of the biggest step forward in British aviation since the post-war era, a step in which this incredible industry continues its global leadership in the fight against climate change. I will dwell at the outset on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). He is quite right that succeeding in this challenge will benefit not only the planet, but the economy, because this would potentially give us a share of a market expected to be worth £4 trillion globally by 2050.

We already have a range of programmes supporting research and technology on zero-emission flight, including the Aerospace Technology Institute programme, which has £1.95 billion of public funding committed for 2013 to 2026, and the Future Flight Challenge of £125 million of public funding. These programmes have helped to deliver incredible progress in recent decades in the fuel efficiency of commercial aircraft. The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) made an important point about the short-term steps that can be taken to help with sustainable aviation. Fuel efficiency in the short term for commercial aircraft is an important and significant first step in reducing carbon emissions.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) is quite right to point out the steps that industry has taken. It is good to see him back in his place. I thank him for his kind comments. Although he missed yesterday’s debate, he will be glad to know that his hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Paul Girvan) mentioned him in the debate, so he was here in spirit, if not in body. The Government will continue to look at the further support that we can provide to the ATI and, in turn, places such as the Whittle laboratory, which was mentioned, to support our zero-emission flight ambitions.

Several hon. Members mentioned airspace modern- isation, which is a key part of the overall picture, as is the case with airport emissions. Our airspace modernisation programme will allow aircraft to fly more direct routes, using performance-based navigation systems, and reduce the need for holding stacks. Several hon. Members have rightly mentioned sustainable aviation fuels, SAFs, which are a major part of the picture. We can achieve substantial greenhouse gas savings compared with fossil fuels, and these will play an important role in the transition to net zero.

We are looking to build a sustainable aviation fuel industry in the UK, reducing emissions further, securing green growth and supporting the jet zero agenda for post-covid-19 economic recovery. By 2040, this sector could generate between £0.7 billion and £1.7 billion per annum for the UK economy, with potentially half of that coming from the export of intellectual property and provision of engineering services. This industry could create between 5,000 and 11,000 green jobs, disproportionately in areas of regeneration. We are already supporting this sector through recent changes to the renewable transport fuels obligation and the capital funding that is available through the future fuels for flight and freight competition.

We now have the opportunity to further capture the economic and environmental benefits of this technology. We are working across Government and with stakeholders in industry, such as Sustainable Aviation, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay, to build upon the existing package of support, to effectively scale up SAF production in the UK and to drive down its costs.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. We will be consulting with all stakeholders across industry to see what can be done. I cannot make that commitment at this stage, but I have heard what he has said and it will be taken forward.

To return to the subject of the debate, having talked about some of the short-term and medium-term steps that we are taking, let me turn to the Jet Zero Council in the medium to longer term. The UK will continue to deliver on the measures that I have mentioned, but that is not enough. Decarbonising aviation will not be straightforward, but I want us to stop viewing this as a challenge and instead view it, as many hon. Members have said, as an opportunity. Britain has always led the way on aviation and we will continue to do so. There is a huge prize in sight: developing the sector that meets the challenges of the future. We will be front and centre, capturing the first mover advantages.

In July, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport created the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between the aviation industry and Government to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint and put the sector on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. The Jet Zero Council brings together Ministers and CEO-level stakeholders from every part of the aviation sector. It is a technical, focused body. It can only have a finite membership, but I have heard the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, and the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) and for Bristol East about the importance of workers. They are crucial to the success of our net zero ambitions, and we will make sure that we fully engage with their representatives as the work of the Jet Zero Council progresses.

The council will drive the ambitious development and delivery of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions, utilising multiple perspectives and bold new thinking. That will include developing and industrialising clean aviation and aerospace technologies, establishing UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels, and implementing a co-ordinated approach to the policy and regulatory framework needed to deliver net zero aviation by 2050.

The council’s focus on clean aviation technologies has been echoed by the Prime Minister, who set out the Government’s ambition for the UK to demonstrate a zero emissions transatlantic flight. In July, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced the launch of the Aerospace Technology Institute’s FlyZero project. Funded by the Government, the 12-month project brings together experts from across the aviation and aerospace sectors to establish the opportunities in designing and building a commercially successful zero emissions aircraft. Last month, I saw the fruits of that work: a trial flight of a hydrogen electric aircraft made possible by £2.7 million of Government funding through the ATI’s HyFlyer project.

Things are currently incredibly difficult for the aviation sector, as we all understand and as a number of hon. Members have referred to. The unpredictable covid-19 infection rate makes it difficult to plan ahead, but the sector will recover, and when it does, we want it to come back better than ever before—more sustainable, cleaner, greener and even more ambitious. Covid-19 has meant that people have had to profoundly change the way they live, work and travel, and it is only right that aviation changes to become greener as we build back. I encourage all hon. Members to actively support the UK’s leading role in sustainable clean aviation. Our aviation industry and our economy depend on it.

I thank the Minister for his response and I thank hon. Members, from pretty much the whole of the United Kingdom, who have contributed. Three central points stand out. First, how do we get from here to there? We have to bear in mind everyone who works in aviation today who is having a really tough time. We do not want to lose those skills and we have to look after those people. Secondly, the urgency of the climate challenge, which my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) talked about, is pressing. Coronavirus cannot stop us recognising that. Thirdly, we have to keep the UK in a world-leading position, so that jobs and the high skill value are here in the UK.

I am encouraged by the Minister’s response. He talked about bold and ambitious leadership, keeping the UK front and centre, and keeping our first mover advantage—

I have finished.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the work of the Jet Zero Council.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.