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Holidaymakers (Safeguards)

Volume 884: debated on Monday 13 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to introduce legislation to compensate those members of the public who have lost deposits as a result of the collapse of travel firms, in accordance with his undertaking following the financial failure of Court Line.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proposals he has to increase safeguards for holidaymakers; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if his proposals for the protection of holidaymakers are ready; and if he will make a statement.

I expect to be able to introduce a Bill very shortly, and I would ask hon. Members to await the submission of my proposals to the House.

As the Government have admitted liability to compensate those Court Line holidaymakers who were deceived by the Government's inept intervention, will the Secretary of State now say where the money will come from?

The hon. Gentleman knows that no such liability has been admitted or even implied. He will also know that the rĂ´le of Government in the affair is being investigated, and no doubt will be thoroughly investigated, and that the House will, before very long, I hope, get a full report on it. But leaving that aside and turning to the question of the proposed Bill, it would be better, instead of my trying to anticipate major features of the scheme, if we waited until the details were published.

Is there not an embarrassing contrast between the alacrity with which the Government promised action before the General Election and the delay to which their proposals have since been subject? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as a result, retail travel companies are outbidding one another in desperate attempts to secure the public's confidence by promising to refund within 24 hours, and then being trumped by further promises to refund within 12 hours, and so on? As we are now at the peak of the booking season, can the Minister at least tell us from what date the scheme will operate?

I cannot take it upon myself to make specific commitments in advance of the agreement of this House, but when the Bill has been published I hope that it will be found possible on both sides to make speedy progress with it, so that we can assist holidaymakers, including those who lost their holiday last year.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it would be better to take these travel firms into public ownership, instead of propping them up? Will he explain when the Labour Party's promise to take back into public ownership those sections which were hived off by the previous Tory administration will be put into effect?

I should certainly hesitate to give any priority to the air travel industry, in terms of public ownership, if I were to decide that that was the right thing to do. But in the air travel business there is, of course, a substantial public sector, represented by the extensive holiday activities of British Airways.

Contrary to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), is the right hon. Gentleman fully convinced that legislation for the future protection of holidaymakers is still the answer? Has he not seen the growing number of voluntary arrangements within the travel industry since the unfortunate Court Line situation? Would he not be better advised to have some consultations with the industry to see whether the public can be given security without the cumbersome legislation which he may be envisaging?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the scheme which we have discussed and to which we are hoping to give legislative form in the near future was discussed very extensively with the travel organisations, and particularly with ABTA. Although it is true that one or two specially well placed travel firms can offer very generous and secure facilities to their customers, this is not something that can be reasonably expected of the great majority of travel firms.

As future holidaymakers now booking holidays will want to know where they stand, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that they will not have to contribute any part of the cost of holidays lost by Court Line customers?

The contribution which the travelling public will be asked to make will depend entirely on the date of the coming into effect of the levies proposal.