HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc883-6
15. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action is proposed to help those people booking overseas holidays and travel who suffer loss as a result of the failure of travel organisers; and if he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Moonman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will give consideration to an inquiry into bonding arrangements and other matters relating to the operation and management of the travel industry.

Mr. Shore

As already announced, existing protection afforded by travel organisers through their bonding arrangements for customers booking overseas holidays and travel is to be strengthened by the introduction of legislation. I doubt whether a further inquiry would serve any useful purpose at this stage. Our first priority must be to put our proposals into effect.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. However, in view of the loss of confidence in the travel industry and the need to avoid a repetition of the Court Line disaster, is it not urgent that he should look at this matter soon and bring legislation forward? In the meantime will he encourage the British travel industry to cater for holidays at home, as people are now thinking twice about going abroad next year?

Mr. Shore

The second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question opens up a wide area. I am, of course, much concerned with it, and I agree that we should certainly improve our holiday facilities at home, not only for our own holidaymakers but to cater for the enormous and very welcome increased number of tourists visiting the United Kingdom from abroad.

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I wholly agree that it is urgent for all kinds of reasons to create a new framework on which the confidence of the people of this country in the overseas holiday trade can be rebuilt and established.

Mr. Michael Morris

To take that matter further, as we are about to enter another season, will the Secretary of State consider making a further statement with regard to repayment, perhaps on no other basis than an interim basis for those who have suffered loss during the past season?

Mr. Shore

I shall consider that, but I hope to be in a position at least to introduce legislation before very long.

Mr. Moonman

I note that no review or inquiry is being considered by my right hon. Friend, but will he take into account that months before the Court Line disaster, some of us raised in the House the need for a State interest in this matter? Since market forces are quite incapable of dealing with the present problem, in the absence of legislation will my right hon. Friend give an indication that this is one industry where the State has a real interest?

Mr. Shore

Not only has the State an interest in the broad sense in the health of the overseas holiday industry but a major State corporation, British Airways, has a considerable actual stake in the whole business of overseas holidays and carrying people to foreign parts. However, I remind my hon. Friend that, while I am in no sense satisfied with the state of the industry—how could I be, after the events of last sumer?—we have in this case a regulatory agency, the Civil Aviation Authority, whose duty it is to examine and keep under review the general health and financial stability of overseas holiday firms.

Mr. Rost

As the Minister refused to answer my earlier question about whether the Government would honour their election bribe to repay the Court Line depositors, will he do so now?

Mr. Shore

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the election is over, and that was not put forward in any such spirit whatever, as will be made clear when we debate the matter properly. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Before very long, I hope.

Mr. Rost

Just before the next election?

Mr. Shore

I must have received at least 200 letters from Conservative Members during the period following the Court Line collapse all urging me to do precisely what I have done. So let them be quiet on that matter. I hope to bring forward legislation, and when that legislation is introduced I shall hope that it will be possible to get on with the job of repayments.

Mr. Heseltine

The Secretary of State will do well to remember that the reason why my hon. Friends urged him to do what he has now done was that his right hon. Friend had given assurances which encouraged people to put their money into holidays which they would not have done if the words had not been used.

Mr. Shore

Once again I have misjudged the hon. Gentleman. I had actually thought that his question might have been out of some concern for the holiday-makers themselves.