HOUNSLOW is an area which is steeped in aviation history and importance.
It is amazing to think that London’s first airport was at, what is now, Hanworth Air Park and that the world’s first air passenger terminal was at Heston aerodrome – both in Feltham and Heston constituency.
Today, aviation is still vitally important to Hounslow and indeed wider west London. The operation of Heathrow airport supports well over 110,000 local jobs - approximately 22% of total local employment, and adds a gross value added of £5.3 billion.
When I made my maiden speech, it was during the second reading of the Civil Aviation Bill. The basic aim of the Civil Aviation Bill is to modernise the civil aviation regulation in the United Kingdom, with the intention of benefiting passengers and airport users through better quality of service and reduced costs for industry. Issues being debated include how passengers could be better assisted to compare services and make more informed choices, and how the public are better informed about environmental effects and measures being taken to limit them. In addition we should see improvements to the ATOL scheme particularly in relation to package holidays.
This week, the Civil Aviation Bill is at the committee stage in Parliament, where a detailed examination of the text is carried out by committee members. The process goes on for the next four weeks. I will be sitting on the Civil Aviation Bill committee – my first such committee – and hope to hear from any residents or businesses with an interest in the Bill.
Modernising the regulatory framework for civil aviation has been an aspiration of successive governments, and work on the changes included in the Bill begun under the previous Labour Government. Much of our aviation regulation has not been modernised for 30 years, but we know that a successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for UK economic competitiveness.
This bill is important for Hounslow residents because it will keep aviation prices down and quality high; it will increase competition across UK airports and passenger rights will be strengthened with the ATOL reform proposals - which look to bring all Flight-Plus and package holidays sold by airlines into the ATOL scheme, and extend the ATOL scheme to include all ‘agent for the consumer’ arranged holidays.
Last week when I visited Heathrow Airport, I witnessed first-hand the important work being done on making Heathrow a better airport which will see ongoing improvements in customer experience. The shell of Terminal 2 has been completed, an impressive glass-walled construction, which is scheduled to open for passengers in 2014. The £2.3bn development will handle up to 20 million passengers a year.
A better airport layout over time will see less delays in adverse weather and faster transit for passengers. We need Heathrow to remain a world leader in the future and for the needs of local residents to be constantly addressed. And as we make progress, to do so in the context of a well planned and well managed world class aviation sector in Britain.