Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if some of the time which was devoted to resale price maintenance in the House had been given to this very important aspect of consumer protection, many British holiday-makers would have been saved from some of their experiences in the past two or three years?
I am sorry for any holiday-maker who has a bad or unsatisfactory holiday but I do not accept the hon. Member's contentions. The number of complaints known to the Board of Trade about the conduct of travel agencies is small in relation to the number using their services. Secondly, and most important, we have no evidence to suggest that in countries where registration is compulsory the standards of travel agents are higher than they are in Britain.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the distinction between a travel agent and an inclusive tour operator, which the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) does not seem to appreciate? Would not the hon. Gentleman consider, as a means of protecting people against inclusive tour operators who have not sufficient resources, making it compulsory upon them to publish details of their paid-up capital on any literature sent out to the public?
That is an interesting suggestion. I do not know that it would give very much more protection, but, as I explained in my original Answer, my right hon. Friend is keeping in touch with the British Travel and Holidays Association which has been looking into this matter.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) appears to be equally badly informed as the Board of Trade? Is he aware that there is considerable disquiet and that the Board of Trade has failed in its duty to that section of the public by not doing something before now and that there is ample evidence which the Board can obtain if it seeks to look for it in an effort to alleviate the suffering that has taken place?
The hon. Member will know that the Consumer Council has had a look at this matter and that all that it has said is that there might be a case for the compulsory licensing of travel agencies. We will continue to discuss the matter both with the Council and the British Travel and Holidays Association, but current evidence does not show that the Bill which the hon. Member wants would have alleviated distress in certain of these cases.
I have considered a communication from a correspondent of the hon. Member about hotel accommodation provided for him at a foreign resort. If the facts are as he says, I certainly sympathise with the hon. Member's correspondent, although I understand that the firm in question has now agreed to make a cash refund.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the firm in question changed hands on 9th July, that efforts are still being made on the Continent to contact the previous directors of the firm and that it is due to their activities that a great deal of the suffering has taken place? Is he also aware that information on this matter, as well, appears to be utterly inadequate?
With great respect to the hon. Member, I am prepared to go into the case but from the facts I am not in a position to do so. Nobody but a court of law is in that position especially because, as I understand, the dispute arose on what type of accommodation the firm's customers were entitled to expect in relation to the advertisements and whether the accommodation which the firm provided fell short of the standard. That, at the end of the day, is a matter for the courts.