Andrew Griffith – 2020 Speech on Brexit and Civil Aviation

Below is the text of the speech made by Andrew Griffith, the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, in the House of Commons on 10 June 2020.

This is my first chance to welcome the Minister and the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) to their places. I congratulate them both on securing such an important brief at such a critical time.

I am pleased to support the Government on the Bill. As we leave the European Union and become a sovereign state once again, we should feel capable of regulating our own affairs, and to set our own level of insurance requirements in aviation. Just as it makes sense to control our own fisheries and protect our own marine environment, so it makes sense to do so for the sky above our heads. The acid test of a regulatory structure, however, must be whether it supports the aviation and aerospace sectors.

Having taken back control, we must be generous and collaborative with our international partners. I encourage the Minister, therefore, to seek bilateral aviation safety agreement with both the US Federal Aviation Authority and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and ensure that where there are opportunities to deregulate further than either, we remain in alignment with both in respect of matters such as type certification, personnel licensing and trading standards.

While I am on the subject of regulation, I should like to congratulate Sir Stephen Hillier on his appointment as the new chair of the Civil Aviation Authority. My constituency, as well as being one of the most beautiful from the ground, is even more spectacular from the air. It is home to the excellent South Down gliding club, formed in 1930 and one of the oldest in the United Kingdom. Sir Stephen has a distinguished aviation career, and I ask him to consider making one of his priorities during his term in office the protection of airspace for recreational general aviation, such as gliding, which is so critical to providing affordable access to the skies and thereby inspiring future generations.

Going into this pandemic, our aviation sector was world leading in growth, jobs and competitiveness, but that is now at real risk. Aviation has taken the full force of the economic impact of the covid-19 crisis, devastated by border closures and the drop in passenger demand. Many of my constituents work for British Airways, Virgin, TUI and other airlines, or for businesses that are part of the extended Gatwick supply chain. I know of constituents such as Antonello and Grainne Patteri, who have served British Airways loyally for 24 years but whose loyalty sadly is not being reciprocated. I share their worry and frustration at how they are being treated, and it is right that I raise it with the Minister today.

While other industries are beginning their recovery, the downturn for aviation has only been exacerbated by the imposition of blanket quarantine, which hangs the “closed” sign on Britain just as our competitors reopen for business. I believe that the Minister fully understands, having previously worked in the financial sector, that if planes full of passengers from Iceland, whose last death from covid was in April, or from covid-free New Zealand were landing in the UK this afternoon, it would actually lower our average infection rate. I am reassured by the Government’s undertakings to implement air bridges as a matter of urgency, as well as to look again at testing ​on arrival—something I first raised in April—but could she be so kind as to provide an update in her winding-up speech?

My final point relates to future opportunities. Together with quantum computing, artificial intelligence, fintech and the life sciences, aviation and aerospace is one of the key industrial sectors where UK businesses have a global competitive advantage in a growing and high-value industry.