Posted by

Peter Campbell, Policy Adviser

29 Jun 2012

This week saw the launch of the Aviation Foundation’s four key tests that the forthcoming government strategy on aviation must satisfy. A successful policy, they contend, must:

  1. Deliver a clear policy conclusion that can be progressed without further delay;
  2. Aim for cross-party consensus and a commitment that lasts beyond the term of one Parliament and ensures the policy will be implemented;
  3. Achieve cross-departmental consensus and support Britain’s economic growth, consistent with our trade, tourism, transport environmental and climate change strategies;
  4. Be based on a policy process that has considered all options rationally and objectively on their merits.

The BCC wholeheartedly supports these principles, believing them to be sensible proposals against which any future strategy’s success can be measured. This is an industry which is worth £50bn to the economy and provides over 1m jobs, let alone the wealth and jobs it creates through allowing businesses to access global markets. It simply cannot continue to be left to the mercy of short-term thinking and political horse-trading which ignores the reality presented in the data.

The government is asking the private sector to deliver export led growth and to attract inward investment. Businesses have been continually disappointed, however, when the tools which are vital to this aim, in the form of connectivity through and capacity at the nation’s airports are not provided. China will have built 70 new airports by 2015 and another 97 by 2020, while our competitors in Europe delight in the UK’s dithering.

In some recent survey work, the BCC found that nine out of ten foreign business leaders say direct flights influence their inward investment decisions, while eight in ten would trade more with the UK if air connections with their home markets improved. With the Chinese economy due to grow by $1,600bn over the next few years, this attitude found in foreign boardrooms clearly puts the UK at a severe disadvantage compared with our foreign competitors. Last year’s BCC report ‘Flying in the Face of Jobs’ found trade with countries that enjoys direct flights from the UK was worth 20 times that from countries with no such links.

Delay is no longer an option. While Britain dithers, others do, building more runways, new airports and developing connections to global markets. Our businesses, which are crying out for the same resources in order to meet the government’s challenge around private sector growth, deserve better than more empty words. The BCC wants to see action, and with the Aviation Foundation’s tests as a marking scheme, we will be watching carefully.