All the emailing, lobbying and letter writing seems to have had an impact on Thursday’s Parliamentary debate on aviation and travel, with many MPs making speeches on behalf of their constituency and the industry as a whole.
Travel Agents Reform Group Engaged Together (TARGET) said its 1,700 members who contacted their MPs should be rightly proud of their efforts.
Co-Founder Graeme Brett said: “We are delighted that travel agents can see the results of their letters and emails.”
“This is just the start.”
Although the House of Commons looked rather empty, many MPs participated via video link.
Was your representative one of them?
Robert Courts, Under-Secretary of State for Transport
Leading the debate for the Government, the Transport Under-Secretary (pictured above) said: “The Government understands the severe impact that COVID-19 and the necessary restrictions that have been introduced to control it and the effect that they have had on the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism sectors. We will be regularly reviewing travel measures, taking into account the latest data.”
Alex Sobel, Shadow Transport and Tourism Minister
Mr Sobel, who represents Leeds North-West, said he’d had assurances last year September from the Government that the industry would receive more help.
But, he told the Commons: “The sector is starting the season late and there’s still no plan.
“Neither our domestic nor international travel sectors know what support they can count on.”
Theresa May, Conservative, Maidenhead
The former PM gave the most impassioned speech of the session, saying the Government had ‘devastated industry, lost jobs and shut global Britain’. Listen to her speech here.
Henry Smith, Conservative, Crawley
His constituency covers Gatwick. He said: “The aviation industry was one of the first to face the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic 15 months ago and sadly, due to the overly cautious restrictions and the confusion coming from the Government, will be one of the slowest to be able to recover.”
Tulip Saddiq, Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn
She spoke on behalf of a local operator that’s losing £1m in revenue every three weeks.
“These companies haven’t even been able to take full advantage of the furlough scheme given that cancelling holidays, which so many have been forced to do, actually takes more work to cancel than arranging them in the first place.”
Chris Grayling, Conservative, Epson and Ewell
“People in the Department of Health and the public health world have done a fantastic job but they don’t understand the business world of the travel sector and the decisions they are taking are going to cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, put businesses out of business and leave this sector decimated.”
Graeme Morris, Labour, Easington
“Aviation travel and tourism is unique in this crisis. While other sectors are enjoying a cautious but steady recovery and reopening, the short-term and the long-term future of this sector remains extremely uncertain.”
Sir Graham Brady, Conservative, Altrincham and Sale
“There can be no global Britain without the aviation sector. We need clarity, certainty and a predictable approach.”
Yvonne Fovargue, Labour, Makerfield
She described the COVID test scheme as an ‘expensive mess’, with the little guidance available for consumers confusing, and asked: “Is it acceptable for the Government to expect travellers to do their own research?”
Stephen Hammond, Conservative, Wimbledon
“Unlike retail and hospitality, the travel industry has not had that same level of specific support and therefore I would urge the Government to think about, if it is not going to reopen the industry more quickly, what it may be able to do in terms of grants and support for the industry.”
John McDonnell, Labour, Hays and Harlington
“We need a continuing jobs support and retention scheme specifically designed for this sector.”
Huw Merriman, Transport Committee Chairman
“I don’t doubt that this minister, and indeed the Secretary of State for Transport and the Department for Transport, are pushing across Government to try and get aviation and the travel industry back to where it needs to be, but I do feel that the Government as a whole is being far too cautious.”
Neale Haney, Alba Party, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
“A plane can’t take off without an engine. And the travel industry’s engine is travel agencies. Without travel agencies we will not recover our travel industry.”
Simon Jupp, Conservative, Devon East
“If we can’t travel internationally, planes are grounded, airports are quieter and travel agents remain closed. Extend help to aviation and travel agents. Global Britain could become Little Britain if we don’t.”
Some agents queried on social media why Transport Minister Grant Shapps was absent from such an important debate. Travel Gossip understands that, since the debate was specifically about aviation, it was led by the lead aviation minister, his Under-Secretary, Mr Courts.
Not all MPs who wanted to speak on the subject were able to, due to time constraints.
Also speaking were:
Jamie Stone, Lib Dem Scotland Affairs Spokesperson
Scott Benton, Conservative, Blackpool South
Sarah Owen, Labour, Luton North
John Nicolson, SNP Digital Culture Media and Sport Spokesman
Karen Bradley, Conservative, Staffordshire Moorlands
Ruth Cadbury, Labour, Brentford and Isleworth
Janet Daby, Labour, Lewisham East
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative, The Cotswolds
Andrew Selous, Conservative, South West Beds
Margaret Ferrier, Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Nav Mishra, Labour, Stockport
Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative, Thurrock
Andy Carter, Conservative, Warrington South
Christine Jardine, Lib Dem, Edinburgh West
Ben Spencer, Conservative, Runnymede and Weybridge
Gavin Newlands, SNP Transport Spokesperson
Closing the debate, Transport Under-Secretary Mr Courts said: “We are united in this house on the critical importance of tourism, travel and aviation. A safe reopening of aviation is our aim.
“My understanding about how difficult things are for the sector at the moment, but we do have a plan in place for restarting tourism and aviation recovery in the short and long term.
“The tourism recovery plan, due to be published shortly, in conjunction with the aviation strategy will set out and reinforce this Government’s commitment to both sectors and helping us to reconnect and see the world, with the help of our world-beating vaccination programme.”