HC Deb 10 December 1986 vol 107 c329
6. Dr. Michael Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce measures to regulate the sale of prepaid packages for touring abroad.

Mr. Howard

My right hon. Friend has no plans at present to introduce legislation to regulate package tours. The Government favour self-regulation by the travel industry provided that it operates effectively. The effectiveness of the Association of British Travel Agents' code of conduct is currently being reviewed by the Director General of Fair Trading.

Dr. Clark

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there are travel firms in Britain which try to persuade Britons to go to America by selling them hotel vouchers which purport to offer a discounted rate whereas, in the majority of cases, the vouchers are more expensive than the hotels would be if they were booked on the spot? Is he further aware that the majority of the hotels also require a surcharge to be paid and that, in this way, British tourists are being cheated? Does my hon. and learned Friend intend to look into this matter? Will he refer it to the Director General of Fair Trading?

Mr. Howard

This is not a difficulty which has previously been drawn to the Department's attention, but if my hon. Friend will send me details of the cases that he has come across, I shall certainly look into them.

Mr. Heffer

Is it not clear that many ordinary working people get rooked and find themselves in great difficulty? They go on tours only to find that the hotel does not exist or that it is overbooked or that it is nothing like the brochure says. They get a pretty raw deal. Does the Minister listen to the excellent programme called "Breakaway" on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday mornings? Does he agree that if it was not for that programme, many people would not get a square deal? Is it not time that the Government did something about protecting ordinary people on package tours so that they can have a decent holiday, and, which is contrary to the Government's nonsensical philosophy, have proper protection?

Mr. Howard

I am a frequent listener to the "Breakaway" programme and I welcome the publicity that it can draw to the cases of people who need help. They have remedies under the law and under the arbitration provisions of the ABTA code of conduct. Those provisions should be drawn to the public's attention.

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