The government is assessing various "travel certification" schemes as part of ongoing efforts to safely restart international travel, transport secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed.
Shapps told the Commons on Thursday (11 March) Iata’s Travel Pass and the World Economic Forum’s CommonPass were among the technologies being looked at by the Global Travel Taskforce.
The transport secretary also confirmed the taskforce’s 12 April report on restarting international travel would be made public, dismissing concerns it would be made directly to Number 10.
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham pressed Shapps on how the government proposed getting aircraft back in the sky, and steps ministers were taking with global partners.
Shapps said "mark two" of the Global Travel Taskforce, which met for the first time earlier this month, would introduce travel certification "using schemes such as Iata’s Travel Pass or the World Economic Forum’s CommonPass.
"He [Higginbotham] will be interested to know I have been having conversations with my US counterpart and many others around the world to get that travel going again," added Shapps.
Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman, who is also chair of the government’s transport select committee, asked Shapps to clarify whether 12 April would be the date by which the public and aviation sector would learn what government’s thoughts are on restarting international travel, or just when the taskforce’s recommendations would be passed to the prime minister.
"12 April is the date that we will report back, and we will make it public on the same day," said Shapps.
"Travel for leisure or other purposes will not resume or be allowed until 17 May at the earliest.
"It is important that people realise that that is the earliest date, but we are very keen to get the aviation sector that many members across the house have talked about back in the air, and this is the route to get it there."
East Devon MP Simon Jupp highlighted the impact of the pandemic on Exeter airport, where he said passenger numbers were down 90%. The airport was also hit hard in the very early stages of the pandemic by the collapse of Flybe.
"It is clear long-term solutions will be needed to ensure the recovery of my regional airport and many others across the nation," said Jupp. "Please will the secretary of state [Shapps] provide an update on the progress made so far towards the government’s aviation recovery plan and say when it will be published?"
Shapps said an update on these issues would follow in the Global Travel Taskforce’s 12 April report.
"We will ensure it contains a route not only out of lockdown for travel but, all being well, and as long the vaccination programme is going as it is at the moment here and internationally, for international travel," said Shapps.
"I stress to the house that while we are in control of our vaccination programme, we do not have control over other countries’ vaccinations. That is why we think we will require a combination of vaccination and testing for international travel to work again.
"There is a lot to be done. We are working hard, along with my honourable friend the aviation minister [Robert Courts MP] and we will report back to the house on 12 April."