#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 7th October 2020

Why is the UK the only country in Europe, indeed almost alone amongst all large economies, not to have announced a significant package of support for our aviation industry through the pandemic?

This failure to act is clearly a massive problem for Crawley, with thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly at risk due to the problems facing Gatwick. Yet, the Government’s unwillingness to support an industry which is struggling solely due to restrictions imposed on it by that same Government, is not only creating misery for thousands of Crawley families: it’s letting Britain down.

Just last year, the Government was committed to delivering a third runway at Heathrow at a cost of between £14bn to £31bn for no direct financial return. This wasn’t charity on the Government’s part, it was to ensure the UK remained a global leader in a growing industry. Yet, now the sector is on its knees, the Government won’t spend a fraction of what they’d planned to spend on Heathrow to keep British aviation alive.

The pandemic will end and things will slowly return to normal, but while every one of Britain’s competitors will have protected their aviation sector, the entire supply-chain for UK aviation will be in ruins. We’re witnessing an act of national vandalism, the end of a sector the UK has played a leading role in since its creation.

If the Government’s blindness to this crisis wasn’t clear enough already, it was driven home by the news that they are now looking to end duty free at airports, taking billions from aviation in consumer spending when the industry is at its weakest. You couldn’t make it up.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is currently racking up record levels of debt trying to stimulate the economy, some of it effective, some of it wasted. How will we taxpayers ever afford to repay those debts if we allow our leading industries to collapse? The only way we can afford what is happening right now is by focusing Government spending on preserving the engines of our nation’s prosperity, rather than throwing it away on freebies.

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