Covid-19 Update 5
Monday 23 March 2020
As we start this week, we continue to have a lack of information on what the aviation package will contain and getting clarity on this continues to be our number one priority.
On Sunday, I spoke with the Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst MP, to discuss the importance of swift action. She understood our urgency and assured me that her Department was working through the weekend, including with HM Treasury, on the support package. I again impressed on the Aviation Minister the importance of acting now, rather than later.
On a conference call this afternoon with the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, I made the same point: we are still waiting for an aviation package, despite being identified as being at the forefront of COVID-19 impacts. The CBI supported this and urged the Business Secretary to reiterate the message with PM, Chancellor and Transport Secretary, which he said he would do.
We have also been discussing with airports and the Government the relevance of the job retention measures announced on Friday. The measures are, of course, welcome and will be useful in some circumstances. However, from an airport perspective, it appears to create the perhaps unintended incentive to lay off staff rather than seek to keep them operational in order to provide skeleton staff to support people, communities and business relying on their local airport for lifeline services, cargo, search and rescue operations. In addition, this could impact an airport’s ability to reopen or scale up operations after the COVID-19 pandemic has receded. Furloughed staff could fall foul of regulatory requirements, such as currency for air traffic controls and validations for security staff.
We made this point on the job retention measures, amongst others, in our submission to the House of Commons Treasury Committee’s Call for Evidence on the COVID-19 financial package, which closed this evening. Also in Parliament today, we secured the request for an Urgent Question in the Commons on the progress Government was making with the Aviation support package. The Government asked that debate on the Urgent Question not take place, to allow civil servants to focus on getting the support package finished. The AOA hopes that the Urgent Question will return on Tuesday and that Parliamentary scrutiny of Government work can continue.
Alongside this direct engagement with Government and Parliament, the AOA has been engaging with the media and journalists on the back of our recent press releases. We’ve briefed journalists from Bloomberg, the Guardian, the FT, ITV News and BBC News today and over the weekend.
Finally, the AOA has consolidated relevant links and information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on a special webpage, which can be found here. An archive of the daily updates can also be found on this page. If you are no longer in possession of your AOA login details, my colleague Patricia will be more than happy to get you setup again
PS We received the information below on the Business Support campaign from Government, as it may be of use to AOA Members:
“The new Business Support campaign for COVID-19, has been launched today. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide government-backed loans of up to £5 million to small and medium businesses. The Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility will provide a quick and cost-effective way to raise working capital for those large firms who need it. The new website page can be found here.The campaign’s objective is to ensure businesses are aware of the support available to them and how to access it.