New transport minister Lord Callanan has insisted that the government remains a “pro-aviation, pro-travel” administration.
Callanan made the statement during his a speech at the ABTA’s Travel Matters conference in London, when he also cited the decision to allow Heathrow to build a third runway as an illustration of this policy.
“Our airspace is a piece of national infrastructure as important as our roads and railways,” he said. “We’re a government that recognises the vital importance of air travel to our country.
“Soon we’ll be publishing a call-for-evidence for the government’s aviation strategy - our plan for how we can best support the industry in future.
“None of us like to see our airports being overtaken by competitors but that’s what has increasingly happened in recent years. Unless we get this runway built, that slide could continue.”
Even though the government approved Heathrow expansion last year – the policy still has to be voted on by parliament and there remain many vocal opponents to the third runway within the cabinet, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
This vote on Heathrow has yet to be scheduled - the government initially said it would be held at some point during winter 2017-18 but it is unclear whether this has changed due to the general election result.
Callanan added that “securing the best possible access to European aviation markets” was a priority in the Brexit negotiations with the European Union, which started in Brussels last week.
“It’s in the interests of the UK, the EU, European countries, and everyone who travels between them that we seek an open, liberal arrangement for aviation,” said Callanan.
“Of course, the final outcome will have to await the conclusion of negotiations.”
Turning back to Heathrow, Callanan said an expanded hub airport “could increase passenger choice, lower fares, and give the UK room to grow our travel links for decades to come”.
He also stressed the importance of new domestic air routes to Heathrow after the new runway is built.
“It’s good news that Heathrow airport has promised 14 domestic routes, and that’s what we’ll make sure the airport delivers - for the good of the whole United Kingdom,” he added.