§ 12. Mr. Douglas
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the recent report of the Air Travel Reserve Fund Agency.
§ Mr. Ridley
We are monitoring the position of the fund in view of payments being made following the Laker collapse, but I see no immediate need to increase it. There is still over £16 million left in the fund.
§ Mr. Douglas
Will the Minister accept that that reply suggests appalling complacency in view of the stricutures in the report, which mentioned a £2 billion business, currently operating on exceedingly small margins and, therefore, with the probability of a collapse straining the fund and the ABTA/CAA bonds. Will the Minister adopt a more positive attitude to the searching report issued by Sir Kenneth Selby and the other members of the agency 595 and give a much better response, in view of the fact that we shall be debating this matter in an Adjournment debate later this week?
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman might like to know that even the Laker collapse cost the fund only £6 million. As I said, there is still £16 million left. It is right that I should give my view, because the hon. Gentleman has given his. Mine is that the fund is adequate for the present. The hon. Gentleman will be debating this complex and difficult matter with my hon. Friend. It will be possible to go into it much more deeply on Friday and there will be more to be said then. I want to reassure the public that, for the present, the fund is adequate.
§ Mr. McCrindle
I agree with my right hon. Friend that it would be unwise to be alarmist about this matter, but would he nevertheless concede that over the past five years the turnover of package tours has increased by about 300 per cent. while the value of the fund to which this question refers has increased by no more than 50 per cent.? If he is disinclined to agree to any additional levy, will he at least recommend that, although there is no immediate likelihood of a number of package tour companies going out of business, it would not be a bad thing for prospective holiday makers to effect the appropriate private insurance?
§ Mr. Ridley
I agree with what my hon. Friend says. I particularly agree that it would be altogether better if individuals insured themselves rather than have the matter organised centrally. As the report has been made by Sir Kenneth Selby, to whom I pay all due tribute, I have carefully studied the problem. I shall be asking my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to reply in some detail to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) about how we see the way forward.