HC Deb 18 October 1976 vol 917 cc940-1
17. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will resume from the CAA powers over the scrutiny of holiday tour operators who are not members of ABTA, following the bankruptcy of Pearl Islands Tours Ltd.

Mr. Clinton Davis

My Department has never exercised such powers, and I consider it more appropriate that the Civil Aviation Authoriy should continue its present functions.

Mr. Whitehead

Is my hon. Friend aware that this firm apparently traded without an ATOL licence this year although it quoted one? Is he further aware that as a result a great deal of money was lost by many people who thought they were covered by the Air Travel Reserve Fund Act 1975 when they were not covered? Can he further say what effective form of policing the Civil Aviation Authority was able to bring about in this case? What form of compensation will there be for people who lost money and holidays when this firm collapsed?

Mr. Davis

I do not think that it would be right for me to comment on the specific facts relating to this case, because, as I understand it, the CAA has instituted a prosecution against Pearl Islands Tours Ltd. for illegal trading during 1976. On the question of adequate surveillance, however, I must point out that, however vigilant an organisation might be that is invested with the power to police other organisations, there are, unfortunately, bound to be breaches of the law. I do not believe that the surveillance by the CAA has been proved inadequate. It was made clear during the passage of the Air Travel Reserve Fund Act that it related to licensed air travel organisers, and this company was not licensed.

Mr. Tebbit

After all that wordy waffle, will the hon. Gentleman tell us how he expects the CAA to do its job properly when, as it points out on rage 10 of its annual report, its effective functioning is in jeopardy and responsibility for this state of affairs lies wholly with the Government, who have been warned, both formally and informally, on a number of occasions? What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about that?

Mr. Davis

There is the very closest liaison between the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority. I do not accept the indictment coming from the lips of the hon. Gentleman or that he has placed a correct interpretation on the facts.