HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc866-7
3. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he still expects to fulfil the promise he made to members of the public, who had advanced deposits for travel with Court Line, for a full refund; and when such refunds will be received.

The Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Shore)

The legislation foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech will make provision for repayment to help these holidaymakers and others travelling abroad by air who lost money this year as a result of the failure of their air travel organiser. It is too early to say when the refunds will be made.

Mr. Rost

If the ombudsman confirms that the Secretary of State for Industry was guilty of misleading the public concerning the Court Line travel arrangements, who will pay the money?

Mr. Shore

That is a somewhat hypothetical question, but it is open to the ombudsman to make recommendations about such matters in his report.

Mr. Skinner

On the question of repaying the money, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Court Line directors must be held responsible, especially as they were so lavish in the way they threw their money around that they were prepared to allow the jet "Halcyon Days" to be used by the Leader of the Opposition in the February election seemingly without any payment until about six months later? Will he ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General what he is doing about my letter regarding the misuse of funds during the election period and non-payment of those moneys after the 35 days' completion date?

Mr. Shore

I think that the House is aware of the statements that were made by the directors of Court Line in the period preceding the collapse. I think that my hon. Friend, like others, would be best advised to await the report of the inspectors who will be going into the matter in, I hope, a thorough and full way.

Mr. Neubert

If the reports are true that it is proposed that future clients of travel companies should pay in the price of their holidays for the liabilities of another travel company which has failed in circumstances in which the Government's rôle is so dubious as to be the subject of an official investigation, is it not unacceptable that such a principle should be established? What are the grounds for it and what possible precedent could there be?

Mr. Shore

That is a matter that deserves serious debate and examination. I hope that the opportunity will be provided before long when we present the Bill. There is here a question of fairness and of whether we should draw a line arbitrarily and abruptly between an arrangement which I hope will give genuine security to future holidaymakers and those holidaymakers who had expectations of reasonable security under a statutory bonding system which proved to be inadequate.