Local MP Huw Merriman has co-sponsored a Westminster Hall Debate on support for the aviation, tourism and travel industries.
Speaking in the debate, Huw raised the huge mental health implications that restricted travel has had on binational families and the industry as a whole. He highlighted that the data shows that travel to amber list countries is safe – 0.4% of amber list passengers arriving to the UK tested positive between May and June, and there were no positive cases from 90.4% of amber destinations.
Huw's full speech:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr Huq. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), who has done so much to champion the plight of Gatwick and the wider Sussex community, and my friend the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), a fellow Transport Committee member, who speaks for me as well as himself. The remarkable point is that our calls are on all our Front Benches—we are all, cross-party, disappointed with all the Front-Bench positions. We do not feel that we are being led to a better place for our constituents and those who want to go abroad to see their loved ones and retain some life.
I have received emails not only from constituents but from people across the country who are crying out for some form of help to allow them to get back to their lives. I will read a few, if you do not mind, Dr Huq. Anna Wozniak is a cardiac physiologist at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. She has worked hard through the pandemic. She cannot afford to meet her boyfriend in America anywhere and meet the cost of testing, nor to take time off work to quarantine. Erin Cork from London has not seen her boyfriend, who lives in New York, for 467 days. Imagine that.
Missed life events have come through as well. Giulia Molteni is a dual UK-Italian national. She is 35 weeks pregnant with her first child. Her double-vaccinated Italian parents have not seen her while she has been pregnant, and she feels that she needs her mother’s support. Her parents want to come to the UK, but it is a huge financial commitment, and they are concerned that Italy could be added to the red list, as hotel quarantine costs are out of the question. One of our own in the travel sector, Louise Gardiner, works as a ground staff member at Heathrow. She had her son Rowan in May 2020 and he has met his Californian father only four times. He has never met his paternal grandparents. Louise was supposed to move to the US to be with her partner, but due to the pandemic her earnings have been lost, so she no longer qualifies as a sponsor.
I could go on and on with all the emails that I have received, but this is not just about holidays, as people sometimes say—although what is wrong with going on holiday? People’s lives are being ruined. Their mental health is being put at risk because of a ridiculous and restrictive policy that appears to have no basis when we look at the data. Let us look at what has happened with the traffic light system and travellers returning to the UK. Analysis of the latest figures from NHS Test and Trace found that only 89 of 23,465 passengers who travelled to the UK from amber list destinations between May and June tested positive for coronavirus—a rate of 0.4%. There are 167 countries on the amber list, and there were no positive cases from 151 of those.
If the Government look at the data, it surely demonstrates that going abroad is safe when we consider the amount of covid on these shores. It has positive benefits not just for people, but for our international trade and our economy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley has stated, it is worth billions to the economy. What will actually pay for our NHS and our vaccination programme? International travel and international trade.
I will be particularly interested to hear the Labour Front-Bench spokesman’s speech and whether he will talk about why the sector needs aid and a specific sector-based deal. He might be better placed to call for his own leader and shadow Home Secretary not to ditch the amber list and move all those countries to red, because that will just put more and more people on the scrapheap when it comes to their jobs.
Dr Huq, I have taken my four minutes, but I could go on for four hours. I am absolutely sick and tired on behalf of all the people who want to get their lives back safely and travel abroad, and the workforce I met yesterday, who care so passionately and are so positive about their sector and their customers. Let us give them their opportunities back, take a bit of a risk, cash in on the vaccine dividend, and allow people to travel internationally again.