LCCI call for UK safe travel corridors with other nations

Wednesday 3 June.

On behalf of London business, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has today questioned government proposals to introduce a blanket ‘quarantine’ for all international arrivals to the UK.

In a letter to Paul Scully MP Minister for London (also copied to the Home Secretary and Transport Secretary), LCCI’s CEO Richard Burge proposes that government instead take a ‘risk-based approach’ by introducing country by country assessments for quarantining visitors and the introduction of safe travel corridors with other nations.

He tells that: “Domestically, the Government’s roadmap to restarting the economy is correctly centred on a risk-based approach. Yet this blanket aviation proposal doesn’t appear to be risk-based. If it was, it would recognise that arrivals from some countries with much lower transmission levels than the UK and low incidence of the disease would not increase our risk, provided they adopted our social distancing protocols on arrival.  The proposal sends out the message that the UK is closed for business, at a time when we are beginning to restart our economy.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry believe that better risk-based policy would enable the UK to limit Covid-19 transmission, whilst fuelling economic recovery.”

The letter also tells that the financial pressures on London’s airports during this crisis have been huge, with London Heathrow having seen passenger volumes fall 97% year-on-year, for example.

LCCI call for the Government to also look at targeted support for airports, including business rates holiday or rate reduction, plus extension of the Job Retention Scheme for the aviation sector.

 

The letter reads as follows:

 

2 June 2020

 

Mr Paul Scully MP

Minister for London

Minister for Small Business, Consumers & Labour Markets

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

 

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of London business, regarding the government proposal (announced by the Home Secretary on Friday 22 May) to introduce a blanket quarantine (bar specific exemptions) for all arrivals into the UK.

Domestically, the Government’s roadmap to restarting the economy is correctly centred on a risk-based approach.  Yet this blanket aviation proposal doesn’t appear to be risk-based.  If it was, it would recognise that arrivals from some countries with much lower transmission levels than the UK and low incidence of the disease would not increase our risk, provided they adopted our social distancing protocols on arrival.  I’ve attached related data from Airports Council International.

The proposal sends out the message that the UK is closed for business, at a time when we are beginning to restart our economy.

The economic case for international travel into the UK is, of course, clear.  Office for National Statistics data shows that inbound visitors to the UK spent £28.4bn in 2019 during their visits. Furthermore, an estimated £5.8bn of inbound visitor spending came from business travellers. Just two examples of the many economic benefits of the aviation industry to both London and the UK.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry believe that better risk-based policy would enable the UK to limit Covid-19 transmission, whilst fuelling economic recovery.  Namely by:

  • Adopting country-by-country assessments for quarantining visitors: based on rates of infection in different countries.  The Foreign & Commonwealth Office would monitor countries that have a lower ‘R’ number than the UK. Visitors from these countries would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine rule.
  • Establishing safe travel corridors with other nations: building on the inbound quarantine adjustment above.  The UK Government should discuss with other nations reciprocal rules for UK tourists.

The financial pressures on London’s airports during this crisis have been huge, with London Heathrow having seen passenger volumes fall 97% year-on-year, for example.  Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have already announced plans to scale back operations at London airports due to the steep drop in revenues.

Facilitating increased international travel via the above two proposals will help, and whilst I understand the funding challenges facing councils and government, I still feel you could further boost the aviation industry by:

  • Providing business rates alleviation for airports: Provide UK airports with a 12-month business rates holiday, as we have seen Scottish and Northern Irish authorities introduce for their airports.
  • Alternatively, reduce business rates so that what airports pay is in line with actual operations during COVID-19, rather than paying for facilities that they are not able to afford or use.
  • Keep in place the Job Retention Scheme for airports beyond October 2020: the recovery in international air travel will not happen overnight.  The UK’s aviation sector will need continued support via the Job Retention Scheme to prevent widespread redundancies.

As Minister for London you will be aware how vital the capital’s aviation, hospitality and tourism sectors are to both the London and UK economies.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what we are proposing.  Plus, it would please be helpful to receive clarity about how businesses, particularly those in the aviation sector, can inform this policy development.

Kind regards,

Richard Burge

Chief Executive

 

cc. Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department

     Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport