MPs will gather on Thursday (24 June) for a second parliamentary debate on government support for the travel sector – a day after the industry stages a day of action to lobby members for recognition of the challenges the industry continues to face owing to the Covid crisis.
Gatwick MP Henry Smith and transport committee chair, Huw Merriman MP, will lead the discussion on the government’s support for the UK’s aviation, tourism and travel industries – or lack of it from the industry’s perspective.
Around 800 industry representatives are expected to congregate in London’s Parliament Square, outside Westminster, on Wednesday, with another 200 set to make the case for travel outside Holyrood in Edinburgh and another 100 at Stormont in Belfast. A virtual lobby will be hosted in Wales, directing the sector’s message at the Welsh Assembly.
Thursday’s debate has been convened by parliament’s backbench business committee, supported by no less than seven petitions to parliament bearing around a combined 350,000 signatures calling for various concessions and additional support measures for travel.
These include extending furlough for travel sector businesses, having government detail a formal plan to "save future travel", providing direct cash support for struggling travel businesses, and broadly taking action to support the travel and aviation sectors.
An initial parliamentary debate was held on 10 June where several MPs expressed a strong understanding of the issues facing travel and put forward the plight of their constituents; however their pleas for additional support and a further reopening of travel are yet to be taken up by government.
Several legal challenges to government over its support for the travel and aviation sectors are at an early stage, including a proposal for a judicial review of the government’s traffic light regime brought by Manchester Airports Group and Ryanair. Tui yesterday pledged its support for the action, while British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are already behind the bid.
Abta, meanwhile, has still not ruled out taking legal action against the government over its provision of financial support for travel compared to that afforded to other sectors such as hospitality. Abta chief Mark Tanzer, speaking during Abta’s Travel Matters seminar on Tuesday (22 June), said suing government remained an option.
Thursday’s debate will not result in any formal government action or a commitment to act, but Abta has been encouraging members – and the travel sector at large – to lobby their local representatives to ensure the industry’s voice is heard in Westminster on Thursday.
The debate comes ahead of the first formal review of the government’s traffic light regime, with national press headlines in the days leading up to the debate suggesting the government will look to reopen travel in late-July or early-August by allowing fully vaccinated travellers to return from amber list destinations without having to quarantine.
Health secretary Matt Hancock this week confirmed the government was looking into such a proposal, although prime minister Boris Johnson was more circumspect when pressed on the issue, warning it would be another tough year for travel whatever happened.
It is also hoped more countries will be added to the quarantine-free green list. These could include some of the island destinations the Foreign Office is currently not advising against travel to such as the Canaries and Malta, which was on the cusp of being added to the green list earlier this month. It is also possible a limited number of Caribbean destinations could be added.