Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

More immigration not the answer to airport travel chaos, says Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government is doing all it can to avoid summer disruption at Britain’s airports (Ben Smith/PA)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government is doing all it can to avoid summer disruption at Britain’s airports (Ben Smith/PA)

The Transport Secretary has rejected calls to open the door to more “cheap” foreign workers in a bid to relieve the pressure on the aviation sector.

Air passengers have faced days of disruption at Britain’s airports, with a total of 20 flights listed as cancelled at Gatwick Airport on Saturday, while 17 were marked as delayed.

Grant Shapps said he will “do absolutely everything possible to make sure” holidaymakers are able to get away without issues during the summer but stopped short of allowing a temporary migration influx to bridge the labour shortage.

Following a meeting with airports, airlines and ground handling companies last week, the Cabinet minister said he had answered industry demands to speed up security checks for workers and allow some staff in non-security related jobs to take up training immediately.

But he said it is up to the sector to fix the issues, accusing bosses of “cutting too far” during the coronavirus pandemic, despite receiving £8 billion of state support and having access to furlough money to keep staff on the books while travel restrictions were in place.

It came as London Mayor Sadiq Khan laid a portion of the blame on Brexit and urged ministers to open up jobs to European Union workers once again in order to avoid a summer of travel “misery”.

Mr Shapps, asked whether he would temporarily allow more foreign workers into the industry to alleviate staffing pressures, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “The answer can’t always be to reach for the lever marked ‘More immigration’.

“There is not some pull that is going to relieve this.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected calls to open the door to more ‘cheap’ foreign workers in a bid to relieve the pressure on the aviation sector (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Transport Secretary denied that the UK’s divorce from Brussels was the main factor behind the chaos and queues seen at Britain’s airports over the four-day Platinum Jubilee break, pointing to large-scale disruption elsewhere in Europe.

On Saturday, the majority of flights for every airline at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport were either listed as delayed or cancelled.

Mr Shapps added that the Brexit vote had been about moving away from hiring “cheap labour from somewhere else”.

“I didn’t vote for Brexit but the country did and we’ve made our choice – we want a high-wage, high-skilled economy,” he said.

“That means the aviation sector, like all other sectors, and as the HGV, the lorry driving sector has now done, needs to change.”

Mr Shapps said he will be pushing for it to be made easier for passengers to receive compensation or be given rearranged flights if they are inconvenienced, and called on airlines to rethink how they sell seats on their routes.

He also rejected demands for the Army to be brought in to assist with the situation.

The former Conservative Party chairman added: “We need the industry itself to deliver.

“It is very important that flights aren’t oversold, for example, and I want to make sure there is automatic compensation for passengers.

“We’ll work with the industry very hard between now and the summer to make sure we don’t see a repeat of those scenes.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said EU workers should be allowed back to help alleviate the problems witnessed at the UK's airports
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said EU workers should be allowed back to help alleviate the problems witnessed at the UK’s airports (Ian West/PA)

“Clearly, they have been taken by surprise by the way people have returned to travel after two years of being locked down, but I’m not surprised – we were saying all along: You will need to be ready for this.”

Mr Khan said the problems facing international travellers are “self-inflicted”.

The capital’s Labour leader told Sunday Morning: “What we don’t want is a spring misery turned into a summer misery.

“Many families who have saved, who have paid for a holiday and are looking forward to a holiday are going to be let down.

“What you can do very easily is make sure those who were in those jobs before, who have gone back to their country of origin, from the EU, are encouraged to come back.

“This is self-inflicted from the Government. Listen, it isn’t about Covid, this is about Brexit plus Covid.”

Lisa Webb, a law expert at consumer rights group Which?, said airlines needed to “follow the rules when flights are disrupted” following a “hellish week” for travellers.

“The shameful scenes at UK airports this half-term are the result of an industry in which some airlines feel they can get away with ignoring consumer rights and acting with near impunity,” she said.

“It is clear that passenger rights need to be strengthened, so the Government must drop plans to cut compensation for delayed and cancelled flights and the Civil Aviation Authority must be given the power to issue direct fines so it can hold airlines to account when they flout the law.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]