Jim McMahon – 2021 Letter to Grant Shapps on the Aviation Industry

The letter written by Jim McMahon, the Shadow Transport Secretary, to Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, on 9 July 2021.

Dear Grant,

I am writing to you after your media appearances this morning, when you spoke of the challenges passengers would face going aboard this summer.

On BBC Breakfast, you said:

“The real backlog will be from the place you’re coming from” and that “People should expect more disruption than usual”

While it’s right to manage expectations, Government ministers are not merely commentators on the situation – they are empowered to seek to address problems they foresee.

The unlock date is still 10 days away. Ministers should be actively working with the industry and major UK tourist destination airports to create a process that is both safe, appropriate but also workable.

So can I ask you whether you have met or spoken with every airline that flies into the UK from a Green or Amber list country, to talk them through the new processes and ensure that their staff will know how operate this new system as speedily as possible?

Is the Government confident that all airlines flying from these destinations can read the UK’s NHS app and understand when to allow a traveller on board or when not to? Would these challenges not highlight the need for an international vaccine passport, or at least international agreement on how a Covid passport might work?

As I asked you yesterday, whilst we have our own Covid passport via the NHS app there have been issues with other countries accepting this as sufficient proof entering into those countries. Do you know how many countries now accept the Covid passport of the NHS app as proof of someone’s Covid or vaccine status?

Finally, you noted in your BBC interview that more UK Border Force staff will be stationed at UK airports to deal with the expecting increase in traveller numbers. How many more officers will there be and what is your target time for how long will a traveller should expect to have to wait to go through a major UK airport such as Heathrow?

Yours sincerely,

Jim