A four-point plan to avoid a further “fudging” of UK aviation policy has been outlined by industry leaders.
The chief executives of BAA, British Airways, Manchester Airports Group and Virgin Atlantic have joined forces with along with heads of the British Chambers of Commerce and the TUC under the auspices of the Aviation Foundation.
They called on the government to adopt four key tests to secure a credible and lasting aviation policy. The new lobby comes ahead of the launch of the government’s consultation on aviation policy next month.
The Aviation Foundation says any successful aviation policy must:
• Deliver a clear policy conclusion that can be progressed without further delay.
• Aim for cross-party consensus and a commitment that lasts beyond the term of one parliament and ensures the policy will be implemented.
• Achieve cross-departmental consensus and supports Britain’s economic growth, consistent with our trade, tourism, transport, environmental and climate change strategies.
• Be based on a policy process that has considered all options rationally and objectively on their merits.
The tests are designed to ensure the consultation does not become a pretext for further delay.
Aviation collectively generates over £50 billion of wealth for the UK each year and protects almost one million British jobs, according to the Aviation Foundation.
It says UK businesses trade 20 times as much with emerging market countries that have a direct daily flight to the UK as they do with those countries that do not.
International Airlines Group chief Willie Walsh said: “We’ve had years of government inactivity on aviation policy and this consultation must result in a plan of action and the commitment to see it through – not another fudge.
“It’s the UK that loses out while around the world they will rub their hands with glee as we stumble along our path of inactivity.”
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said: “Whatever decisions emerge from the next government policy review, history shows they will not be implemented without real leadership by all political parties.”
He warned that the aviation policy review is the last chance for Britain’s political leaders to work together in the national interest and prevent the UK “slipping out of the premier league of global connectivity”.
Matthews added: “It is time for narrow political interest to be put to one side and for our political leaders to grasp the nettle and work together for the good of the UK as a whole.”
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “In my 11 years as chief executive there have been eight transport secretaries, seven business secretaries, six home secretaries and eight tourism ministers, but not a single strategic aviation policy that has met the country’s needs.
“In every other leading country, aviation is an expanding industry that underpins and facilitates growth in other parts of the economy.
“In the UK, crazy taxation and on-going indecision on how to deal with the crippling lack of capacity is stunting economic growth and having a strangling effect on tourism.
“To ensure that UK plc. is not left behind the rest of the world, the government needs to develop a long-term credible aviation policy – and fast.”
MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish added: “UK aviation is a hugely significant creator of wealth and employment in its own right.
“But its importance goes much further than that, which is why this country should have an aviation policy that truly addresses the needs of all, whether it’s business or leisure, passengers or freight, hub or point to point.
“In the UK regions, where recession has hit particularly hard, economic growth driven by aviation is needed more than ever.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Trade unions have pushed the government for a meaningful growth strategy and the aviation sector clearly has a central role to play.
“Aviation provides hundreds of thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs for our members. In these difficult times, such jobs are at a premium. Of course, it is vital that our environmental and climate change commitments are taken into account as we develop the sector, but I am confident that that can be done.”
BCC director general John Longworth added: “The government must stop tip-toeing around on aviation because of short-term political considerations.
“Unless politicians grasp the nettle and make some tough decisions, both our export and inward investment potential will suffer. My message to Westminster is clear: don’t condemn Britain to second-class status as a trading nation. Deliver an aviation strategy that’s actually worth the paper it’s written on.”