The chair of Parliament’s transport select committee told the sector “don’t let MPs off the hook” as he backed this week’s Travel Day of Action.
Conservative MP Huw Merriman urged the sector to turn out in large numbers to lobby Parliament on Wednesday, telling Abta’s Travel Matters conference on Tuesday, “Come and give us what for” as he highlighted the questions he has posed to Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “The evidence points to being able to open up. The government has just been unnecessarily cautious. I’ve asked the prime minister to clarify what milestones would allow us to ease restrictions. It seems as if decisions are made more for political reasons. I want to know the decision-making process.”
He added: “I’ve asked about sector-specific support. If the government is going to say the industry can’t operate it has to compensate the industry. If it won’t let the sector do business it has to pay a subsidy. That also means extending the furlough scheme.”
Merriman described the government’s mixed messages on travel as “totally nonsensical” arguing: “If you don’t wish people to travel, don’t come up with a rule set that allows them to. It’s just politics and it’s maddening.
“If I don’t get specific answers that will tell me there is no proper policy in place.”
However, he said a restart to coincide with the planned easing of domestic restrictions on July 19 “maybe the best we can hope for”, noting: “It would be unusual to see international travel opened before domestic restrictions end.
“I hope for a forward date that would kick in at July 19, for an indication at the next review that July 19 will see a move for those who’ve been double jabbed to be able to visit amber countries as if these were green.”
Merriman said: “The industry is on its knees. The workforces and business leaders have been absolutely heroic and refused to give up. The umbrella organisations that represent them are excellent. I would like to see MPs on all sides push their front benches to do more. My message is ‘Don’t let MPs off the hook’. Hold them to account.”
He was due to speak in a Westminster debate on travel on Thursday. Wednesday’s day of action was organised by the Save Future Travel Coalition.