14 AUGUST 2017
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Anyone with the wider interests of our industry at heart would have been cheered by the formation earlier this year by a group of like-minded MPs of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to promote the interests of general aviation within the UK political system.
APPGs are alliances that work across party lines to pursue a particular topic or interest. Inaugural chairman Byron Davies, MP for Gower, said at the time: “General aviation faces a number of major issues in the UK from Brexit to the future of airfields and we need to tackle these issues in parliament.”
How true. That was why, Davies said, he and Grant Shapps MP, who has now taken over as chairman, had decided to create an APPG “to seek to influence change in government policy and to support the general aviation community”.
Issues raised at the inaugural meeting included a plea for the APPG to focus on the preservation of GA airfields as an absolute priority. Roger Gale, MP for Thanet, said he was “fighting like hell” to get Manston airfield re-opened (see also this issue of BTN). Shapps added that his own local airfield, Panshanger, had a good chance of reopening thanks to local authority support.
In the way of parliamentary matters, where the wheels, to misquote Longfellow, do indeed grind exceedingly slow, not much happened then, with the announcement of the general election calling a halt to Westminster activities for the duration and the summer recess now upon us.
New chairman Shapps, however, has now issued an update to tide over the recess, hopefully reminding those of us who care that progress may yet be made. Indeed, there may be more support out there than you think – Shapps says he is “delighted” to report the group now has 28 parliamentarians from across nearly all the political parties in its membership.
He adds: “This is a huge increase in our numbers since the general election and proves that there is a clear interest in general aviation and a consensus across both Houses that this is a sector which needs a strong voice in parliament, in order to promote the high-tech jobs and growth it brings to our economy.”
He says the group over the coming months is keen to focus on the big policy areas surrounding general aviation, such as changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which were proposed in the recent housing white paper, and general aviation policy from central government through its new Aviation Strategy. Tellingly, he adds: “Our primary focus will be on getting a shift in government policy in order that a network of GA airfields is protected.”
To that end, the APPG is in the process of arranging meetings this autumn with both the secretary of state for transport and the minister for aviation to discuss the government’s plans for the general aviation sector – with Shapps adding: “As someone who is interested in how airfields can help propel our economy and jobs, we would welcome any comments and suggestions.”
He adds that the APPG does not seek to replicate the work of other “excellent” organisations already active in the general aviation sector: “Rather we seek to work alongside and to ensure that GA as a whole is far better represented in parliament and with ministers, who might not otherwise appreciate the full importance of GA to promoting jobs and growth in this country.”
In one sign of further progress, there is now a website. BTN urges everyone to do what the man says, and let him have those comments and suggestions.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Alan Dron, London
Interesting that the APPG is made up overwhelmingly of Conservative members. Just a couple of Labour MPs. Can one read into this that Labour MPs reckon that if you\'ve got a light aircraft, you must be a rich person and thus not worth representing?