Sadly, although I was on the list to speak there wasn’t enough time to get called on yesterday’s important backbench debate on support for the aviation industry.
Here’s my speech (there was a three minute limit) on behalf of constituents who’ve been in touch who work for British Airways, Easyjet, Virgin Atlantic and Airbus in Newport and Filton. We have a world class aerospace and aviation sector in Wales and the UK and it’s vital we support this sector.
If there had been time to speak, this is what I would have said:
On behalf of my constituents who work for major airlines such as Virgin, EasyJet and British Airways, I want to echo what other hon. Members have said about the devastating impact the ongoing pandemic has had on the aviation industry, an industry devastated by the Coronavirus crisis with demand wiped out and a long slow painful recovery ahead. It’s a sector of huge strategic and economic importance – Aerospace is worth £1.47bn to the Welsh economy and supports 11,700 jobs, including constituents of mine who work at Airbus in Newport and over the border in Filton.
Today we recognise the economic impact of the crisis on the aviation sector and the human impact. Constituents from across the aviation industry – including cabin crew and pilots – have raised concerns with me about their futures, and in particular the way in which the turbulence of the pandemic is being used as an excuse to launch an attack on jobs, wages and working conditions.
The treatment of British Airways employees during the pandemic has been outrageous. To cut 12,000 jobs, while taking taxpayer funding for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is an abuse of responsibility, and a betrayal to a dedicated and loyal workforce. That the company then went further by proposing changes to terms and conditions on a “fire and rehire” basis remains totally unacceptable. The Government really should have done much more by now to ensure that actions such as those taken by BA cannot be allowed to stand without consequences for their lucrative landing slots. I pay tribute to all the unions involved in fighting for the workforce, Unite, GMB and others.
We still need to see the Governments aviation strategy – a strategy the government admitted we needed six months ago – a support package for the sector which protects employment during the challenging current circumstances, and helps stimulate the sector into making long-term changes, including on becoming more environmentally sustainable. Help for the sector should be accompanied with clear conditions including – concrete assurances that jobs and staff salaries are protected, and workers’ rights upheld’ firm commitments from aerospace giants on tackling climate change, and assurances that companies in receipt of taxpayer support must ensure that their tax base is in the UK. Without urgent government intervention the UK’s aviation infrastructure will face irreparable damage and be placed at an economic disadvantage to European counterparts who are providing more support.
It is vital that we support our aviation sector throughout this crisis and recognise its huge strategic importance for our economy and communities. We also need to ensure that it adapts to the challenges of climate change, and that it needs to treat its employees – the world-class aerospace and aviation workforce in Wales and across the UK – with the dignity and respect they deserve.