The Committee on Consumer Protection recommended that the Consumer Council should confine itself to those services which are linked with the supply or treatment of goods. The Council's terms of reference require them to have regard to the views expressed by the Committee. My right hon. Friend would not, therefore, expect the Council to consider the activities of travel agents.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this leaves rather a wide gap in consumer protection? In view of the liquidations and take-overs which have taken place in this trade over the last twelve months, will ILT, ask the President of the Board of Trade to look very closely at this matter with a view to extending the activities of the Consumer Council?
My right hon. Friend has an open mind on this issue, but he feels that the Consumer Council has a lot of things to deal with in relation to goods. However, if the Council represents to him that it wishes to look into the matter which the hon. Member has raised, he will certainly consider widening the terms of reference.
Is not this an industry in which there has been a bit of trouble with people going out on holiday and finding the facilities they contracted for were not there? Is not the number of travel agents increasing almost as rapidly as the number of betting shops? Would not the hon. Gentleman consider looking at this matter on his own, getting his Department to look at it, to see whether anything can be done to protect tourists before the Summer comes on?
The hon. and learned Gentleman will not be surprised to know that I have looked at this. I can tell the House that the Association of British Travel Agents, to which the majority and certainly the more reputable travel agents belong, is very conscious of these matters and has a pretty strict code of standards, probably stricter than Parliament would ever enforce by Statute. It follows from that that if people want to be secure when doing business with a travel agent they know that members of the Association are strictly policed. Equally, there are travel agents not in the Association who are highly reputable and who honour their contracts.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that this question of bad services to the public is just as important as that of the public being swindled by bad goods being provided? Will he keep his mind open and try to say something about it in the debate on Monday?
I have an open mind, but it is very much harder to get precise information on matters like these than when one is dealing with goods, which can be much more precisely defined. The Molony Committee had a good deal to say about this matter, and I commend its Report to my hon. Friend. I have an open mind, as my right hon. Friend has, to all suggestions about how services could be better covered.