HC Deb 23 November 1994 vol 250 cc593-4
14. Mr. Etherington

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what further discussions his Department has had with representatives of the major package holiday operators about the need to maintain and inspect safety levels at foreign holiday destinations.

Mr. Ian Taylor

I have had no such discussions and none have been requested. All major tour operators in the UK observe guidance drawn up by the International Federation of Tour Operators, and endorsed by the Association of British Travel Agents.

Mr. Etherington

The Minister must surely be aware of the growing concern about the lack of adequate safety standards in holiday resorts in Spain and Tenerife. This year alone there have been three deaths in Spain due to faulty heating appliances, which have led to carbon monoxide poisoning. Will he therefore ask the major tour operators why they continue to send people to places with inadequate standards? If he does not receive a satisfactory answer will he do something about it in the same way as Dick Spring did when one of his constituents in Ireland was killed in similar circumstances? Will the Minister ask the Foreign Secretary to display the same zeal as that displayed by Mr. Spring?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Member should be aware that the tragic cases in Spain, which he mentioned, led to a joint Foreign Office and Irish Foreign Office initiative because two of the couples were, I think, of joint nationality. The hon. Gentleman should not try to distinguish between the Irish effort and the British effort. There are problems related to carbon monoxide poisoning and travel firms are well aware of them. As the campaign in the UK shows, the problem does not occur only during holidays—there are between 30 and 40 known deaths from the same problem in the United Kingdom each year and we are talking with travel agency groups about that. They are not irresponsible, but are doing their utmost to check reports of faulty installations, which often involve cheap methods.

Mrs. Lait

Is my hon. Friend aware of the Rytlewski case in my constituency, in which a young girl fell to her death from a low window in Spain? Are there any proposals for the compulsory insurance of all travel companies or compulsory registration with the Association of British Travel Agents? Are any discussions being held in the Council of Ministers to promote standard safety procedures throughout the Community?

Mr. Taylor

I am very sorry to hear of the tragic case of my hon. Friend's constituent. Travel companies take out policies and inspect all the hotels that they list in their brochures. They also have guidance covering fire safety, swimming pools and public hygiene-and buildings too, I think.

The European Union has made several attempts to draw up a common system of regulation, particularly for fire safety in hotels. I am not aware of the point that my hon. Friend has made. The difficulty is always that we must ensure that the regulations move up to the highest, not the lowest, common denominator. I shall have to look again at my hon. Friend's suggestion.

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