Taxpayer support for aviation sector reaches £7.2bn – Shapps

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Taxpayer-funded support for the aviation industry during the coronavirus pandemic has reached £7.2 billion, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Cabinet minister said the money is a combination of loans and guarantees for struggling firms, and furlough payments to workers.

He told the Commons Transport Select Committee that 55,000 aviation workers have been furloughed during the pandemic, receiving a total of between £1 billion and £2 billion.

Aviation companies have received £3 billion through the Covid corporate financing facility, while £3.4 billion has been made available as part of the UK export finance scheme.

Mr Shapps said: “A lot of people in the aviation sector, sadly, will have lost their jobs because there’s been redundancies because these airlines haven’t been able to fly.

“There are wider measures in place through my colleagues, particularly the Secretary of State at DWP (the Department for Work and Pensions), for example for retraining, for opportunities to enter into new sectors.”

He said the aviation recovery plan being developed by the Department for Transport will include ways the industry can “take advantage” of the reduction in demand, such as by introducing more competition.

Pressed on when the strategy will be published, he replied: “The best I can give you right now is later this year.”

Responding to Mr Shapps’ remarks, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “It’s been a year since the Chancellor promised a sector support package for the aviation industry, but now the Transport Secretary tells us there won’t even be a recovery plan – with no guarantee of financial help – until later this year.

“This is simply not good enough for the thousands of workers who have lost or face losing their jobs right now.

“Labour has called for a proper package of financial support for aviation, with clear conditions on environmental protections and workers’ rights.”