The government should extend the furlough scheme to support aviation and tourism businesses, according to MPs from across the political spectrum.
The call to extend furlough, currently due to end in October, for these sectors was made by a succession of MPs during two debates held in the House of Commons on Thursday (10 September).
Shadow culture minister Alex Sobel said: “Ending the furlough scheme means two things: mass unemployment and mass business closures. We need a targeted extension of the furlough scheme to protect our most vulnerable workers and industries.”
Politicians from all parties also called for a suspension of Air Passenger Duty (APD) payments for the next 12 months, as well as relief from business rates and an extension of the temporary VAT reduction for the domestic tourism sector.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the House of Commons transport committee, said aviation deserved specific support because it was being affected by Covid-19 “interventions” – particularly the current 14-day quarantine regime for destinations without a travel corridor.
“When there are these interventions, I think that justifies a sector-specific deal for aviation,” he added. “I would also like to see an extension of furlough for aviation and a cut completely in APD for a period of time.”
Former transport minister Chris Grayling added that a “pragmatic approach” was needed to ensure the survival of regional airports, which were “cornerstones of local economies”.
“Regional airports are facing a financial crisis,” he said. “We need a sensible series of steps to make sure the airports are still here when the crisis begins to end.”
During a debate on domestic tourism, MPs talked about the need for further government support to prevent “good businesses” from failing in the coming months as winter approaches.
Several MPs also emphasised the need for specific support for the UK coach holiday sector, such as the extension of finance holidays so coaches are not repossessed.
Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport, tourism and heritage, said the government would continue to “monitor” the tourism sector and “take further action when necessary”.
But he reiterated chancellor Rishi Sunak’s previous assertion that the furlough scheme would not be extended “indefinitely”.