Day after day the Regulators of air traffic tell us it will be another 12 or 24 hours before flights can resume. Meanwhile, perishable goods needed in the UK go bad in foreign warehouses, the flow of time sensitive and high value components for British business dries up, sales personnel are grounded, business executives fail to meet potential and present clients, to say nothing of the many people stranded abroad unable to return home to work and school.
It is a good rule that UK Ministers do not intervene daily with their offices or seek to make any new policy statements or announcements as Ministers during an election campaign. However, they do retain their Ministerial jobs whilst losing their MP ones just in case there is something urgent which needs Ministerial level decision.
Surely this issue is just such a one. Given some doubts about the propriety of meeting, they could consult representatives of the other main parties first to lay down ground rules. For surely this is a case where a cross Whitehall review of the options is needed?
We are told the ash cloud is too dangerous to allow any plane to fly through it, so it is best to ground all jet planes.A review would ask
1. Is there any way of flying or protecting the engines so that the dust is not lethal?
2. Are there corridors to the west that would allow contact again with the Americas and Asia via the western routes?
3. Could planes take off from say Bristol and Liverpool, fly out low over the sea far enough to be free from the overhead dust and then climb to a more fuel efficient altitude?
4. Are there staging airports in the Atlantic area they could use to refuel if they have to fly low for any distance?
5. What action is being taken to improve capacity on road and rail ferry routes in all directions to the continent?
6. What do the latest tests show about plane stamina and ability to fly round the obstacles?
7. What actions are other countries taking to allow some flights?
8. Should there be any queue or rationing system imposed if we remain artifically very short of capacity for any length of time? Are there for example priority goods that need to be flown in first?
There are doubtless many other questions experts could raise. The need surely is to get some lateral thinking on how we can get the UK on the move again. This is one time when it does need a government to ask the questions and co-ordinate the response, as it is a branch of government, the air space regulators, who are saying no-one and nothing can fly anywhere for the forseeable future.
Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both at 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU