Grant Shapps tonight unveiled plans to make future flights more environmentally friendly – on the same day the Government was accused of bringing aviation in the UK to its knees.
The Transport Secretary used the daily Downing Street press conference to unveil the formation of a ‘jet zero council’ bringing together figures from the aviation industry, environmentalists and politicians.
He said its goal was ‘flight across the Atlantic without harming the environment’, with the aim of achieving it ‘within a generation’.
But his announcement came on the same day that three of the UK’s largest airlines launched a legal case against the Government’s 14-quarantine for new arrivals, warning it threatens the industry’s survival.
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair believe the quarantine policy, which came into effect on Monday, is ‘flawed’.
The airlines announced they have asked for a judicial review to be heard ‘as soon as possible’, claiming the measures introduced this week will have a ‘devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy’.
But his announcement came on the same day that three of the UK’s largest airlines, including British Airways, launched a legal case against the Government’s planned 14-quarantine
Mr Shapps told the Downing Street press conference tonight: ‘There’s a real determination within the industry to have a greener restart so we’re bringing together leaders from aviation, environmental groups and Government to form the jet zero council.
‘This group will be charged with making net-zero emissions possible for future flights.
‘Our goal within a generation will be to demonstrate flight across the Atlantic without harming the environment.’
Mr Shapps also said the Government was ‘actively looking at travel corridors’ as a way around the quarantine.
These would see bilateral agreements with other nations to allow reciprocal quarantine-free travel.
But the airlines, launching their legal bid today, said they have seen no evidence of when proposed air bridges between the UK and other countries will be implemented.
Instead, they want the Government to re-adopt the policy it introduced on March 10, which saw passengers from countries deemed at high risk of coronavirus infection being order to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.
The three airlines said in a joint statement: ‘This would be the most practical and effective solution, and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June.’
Among the claims made by the airlines in their legal challenge to the quarantine are:
- The guidelines are more stringent than those applied to people confirmed to have Covid-19;
- There was no consultation on scientific evidence provided for ‘such a severe policy’;
- Foreigners commuting weekly to the UK are exempt.
Most international arrivals into the UK have been required to enter a 14-day quarantine since Monday.
All passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have to fill out an online locator form giving their contact and travel details, as well as the address of where they will isolate.
People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to make sure they follow the rules.
Border Force officers are carrying out checks on arrivals and can refuse entry to a non-resident foreign national who refuses to comply with the regulations.
Failure to complete the locator form is punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice.
In addition to complaints from the travel industry, the scheme has been met with strong criticism from opposition parties and some Conservative MPs.
Downing Street said it ‘wouldn’t comment on any ongoing legal matters’.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: ‘I would emphasise that we have obviously brought these quarantine rules into place to protect public health and ensure we don’t import the virus as cases in the community reduce.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the policy can ‘help stop a devastating second wave’ of coronavirus.
Shadow Transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘The Transport Secretary talks of ”an impossible few months” for the aviation sector, yet fails to acknowledge he has the power to act, and has chosen not to.
‘Thousands of jobs have been under threat of redundancy, with staff, the sector and politicians of all sides urging the Government to act, yet Tory Ministers have been found wanting.
‘Labour has consistently called for a sectoral deal that supports the whole aviation industry including securing jobs and protecting the supply chain, while continuing to press for higher environmental standards.’