I congratulate the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double). I represent the constituency in which Heathrow is located, which in no way can be described as a regional airport—I apologise if he feels that I am Zoom-bombing the debate—but I think it is absolutely critical to have a discussion about the need for a new aviation strategy, as a result of the development of regional airports over the recent period.

The aviation national policy statement previously before the House is no longer relevant. Aviation movements have changed. The way in which aviation will be used in the future has changed dramatically. As the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) said, we also now have to address aviation’s role in achieving net zero, as well as the impact of the pandemic. All of those factors need to be taken into account in the discussion of the future of regional airports.

The pattern of aviation is changing. We now know that the whole approach on which the last strategy and policy statement was based—with a major hub and a large number of regional airports that feed into that hub—no longer reflects the pattern of aviation. Even Howard Davies, the chair of the commission into the development of Heathrow and the potential for a third runway, identified that in the initial work and has confirmed it subsequently.

For my constituency, that means that we no longer want nor need a third runway at Heathrow, but we accept the need for investment in regional airports, because passengers simply want to fly point to point. In addition, we all want to overcome the environmental impact of aeroplanes coming from regional airports into Heathrow and outwards, which is wasteful and does not do regional economies any good whatever.

It is time for the Government to look at this matter overall. They need to look at a new national policy statement for aviation, which accepts that regional airports play a role in levelling up, of which there is no doubt; that the focus of concentration and investment should no longer be on a major hub at Heathrow and therefore a third runway is no longer necessary; and that if we are going to have an environmental aviation policy, it has to be localised and focus on minimising travel in some forms and, at the same time, on developing the science.

It is important that other hon. Members have time to speak in the debate about their own airports, so I have one final point. It is a plea from all of us for help on the pandemic. We are all hoping that we can come out of the pandemic as rapidly as possible, that people can start travelling again and enjoying their foreign holidays, and that we can maintain the level of jobs in our aviation sector. I still believe that will take some time and we have to be realistic, and therefore, communities that are dependent on aviation, on their local airports and on the aviation sector will need continuing support. I am worried about the run-down and closure of the furlough scheme.

The sector needs special assistance and our communities need longer term strategic support, particularly if jobs are to be shed in the sector. We need to ensure that we have a comprehensive strategy for the workers who will be displaced. That means investment in training and in developing local economies, which will be based on new high-paid, high-skilled jobs, particularly in artificial intelligence and technology, because many of our constituents who work in the aviation sector are highly trained. This is a time to stand back, put in motion some urgent measures to deal with the pandemic and then look at a long-term, stable aviation strategy that contributes to our economy and to tackling the existential threat of climate change.


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