asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will examine the recent proposals, a copy of which has been sent to him, presented by the Association of British Travel Agents to its member firms in the travel trade in regard to the association's plans for an independent arbitration scheme to deal with complaints from holidaymakers and the travelling public; and if he will make a statement.
I welcome arrangements which help to resolve difficulties between holidaymakers and tour operators. It is too early to judge how effective this scheme will be in practice.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we share his interest in this matter—indeed, it would be difficult not to do so—because we forwarded the idea of this scheme to the Association of British Travel Agents four years ago? Does he realise that it will be necessary to have talks with the travel trade about the exclusion clauses in its agreements with the holidaymaking public in order to make a real success of a scheme of this kind?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in and, indeed, considerable knowledge of this matter. I am sure that what he has said will be taken into careful consideration. The scheme has only just been announced and we must see how it works. However, I congratulate the industry on a commendable and responsible initative.
While welcoming the initiative of the association, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is aware that it is being suggested that this year again we are liable to have the situation which came to our notice last year of hotels not being ready for holidaymakers who had booked many months previously on the basis of an artist's impression? Is it not vital, if the good image of the travel trade is to be preserved, that the A.B.T.A. and others do their best to eliminate this extreme irritant to the public?
I agree that the practice to which my hon. Friend refers is deplorable. I believe that the A.B.T.A. has this matter very much in mind and is anxious that as many of its members as possible should participate in the scheme.