Over the past few weeks, I have spoken in debates about the regulation of the civil aviation industry and the future of town centres. I have provided extracts from these speeches below, which can be viewed in full by clicking the title of the debate or Bill.
Civil Aviation Bill
The Civil Aviation Bill will make great progress in providing better protection for customers by rolling out ATOL protection and bringing it up to date to account for types of holidays that have entered the market since existing legislation came in to force, such as buying holidays through airlines.
I welcome the Bill and as the debate continues I will try to get these rules extended to deal with issues faced by local schools with booking skiing holidays only to find out they weren’t covered by insurance schemes. Here is an extract of my speech:
“Overall, I strongly welcome the Bill as a simplification of the regulatory regime for airports. Everyone wants all our airports to offer the biggest range of destinations and airlines, and to be as cheap as possible so that we can get the cheapest flights. The Bill will take us some way in that direction. I welcome the clauses requiring airports to publish full passenger service information, and I agree that it should include the whole passenger experience, from arriving at the airport to the annoying behaviour of some airports that prevent us from dropping people off without paying for parking or make us drop them off so far from the airport that they have to lug suitcases around—not to mention those trolley charges that result in us carrying three suitcases around the airport just to save £1. All those costs should be clearly published, so that I can compare what my full journey costs will be and ensure that I do not need a taxi from somewhere or have to pay all those little hidden costs, and so that I can also understand and fully appreciate what the cost and quality of my full airport experience will be.”
Future of Town Centres and High Streets
The Government commissioned a review by Mary Portas which examined how high streets can be revived in Britain. Here’s an extract of my speech, in which I outline why the Portas review may be helpful in finding solutions to some of the problems facing town centres:
“We have to send out the message that if we are trying to save our town centres, we cannot add extra out-of-town shopping that reduces the footfall that town centres desperately need to attract. The council’s report states that we might need another supermarket in the Alfreton area in 2026. I look forward to catching HS2 to that supermarket in 16 years’ time, but in the meantime I am not convinced that we need it.
It would be remiss of me not to comment on parking, which is a long-running local issue. Our parking charges are actually quite low: 50p an hour is a typical rate. With the amount the petrol costs to get to the car park, I wonder why those charges are such a concern, but clearly they are, especially for the convenience store that has reopened in Heanor market place—I pay a huge tribute to Mr Patel for that. His problem is that there is a Tesco store down the road. If I want to buy a pint of milk I can park there for free, but if I want to buy it at his shop I have to find the change, find the machine and pay the 50p, and if I accidentally stay longer I get the privilege of a £25 fine. Finding a solution to that problem is key.
The most encouraging thing about Mary Portas’s review is that she did not try to take us back to the golden age of the 1950s or claim that this is just about getting all the shops back. She recognised that we have to do something different, and find different uses to get people using town centres again, whether that is a social use, a health use or something else. The challenge for all of us, and for our councils, is to find something that will work for each town centre, and find a way of making it happen. If that means shrinking the shopping area and moving shops to a viable area, rather than having them too spread out, or if that means finding other uses and allowing empty shops to become restaurants or café bars to try to get that footfall and find a viable use, that is the way forward, and that is what we need to do.”