I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to authorise the establishment of a Ministry of Tourism with powers to lay down a code of conduct for the tourist industry and to consider and act on complaints made by holidaymakers regarding tourist facilities both in this country and in respect of travel overseas; and for matters connected therewith. [Interruption.]
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
The Bill underlines the need for a Ministry of Tourism. Failure to grasp the opportunity to appoint such a Ministry under the Development of Tourism Act, 1969, makes this Bill not only necessary but imperative. There is no need to stress the fast growing industry which tourism is both at home and overseas. It provides work in many parts of this country where work is otherwise difficult to obtain.
By the 'seventies close on 4 million people were visiting Britain from overseas and spending over £350 million. Britons were spending holidays abroad and spending money to the extent of about £300 million. We are dealing with a growth industry in the best sense of the word. The English Tourist Board will shortly be setting up 11 regional boards which, with the boards for England and Wales, will give comprehensive national coverage for the tourist industry. We would like to see under this Bill and under a Ministry of Tourism tour operators, travel agents, hotels, restaurants and all catering establishments and rail, air, sea and coach travel connected with the industry.
There is no reason why rail, sea and coach travel in connection with tourism should necessarily remain within the control and under the jurisdiction of the present boards. In our view, the Ministry would be a watch-dog on standards of travel by railway and in other forms. It would also be able to deal with the question of conference halls in Britain, of exhibition centres and things of that kind. Even the Association of British Travel Agents has to travel overseas for its conferences. Conference halls in development areas such as Northumberland could bring much-needed work to those areas.
Under the Development of Tourism Act, 1969, the registration of hotels, boarding-houses, holiday camps and similar establishments will be put into operation in April this year. Registration will also be widened for the purposes of air travel. The Bill would make various trade bodies within the tourist industry responsible for registration of its members under the control of a national tourist board.
I come to the question of registration—it is becoming accepted as a principle that tour operators and travel agents should be registered—in relation to holiday makers. On 17th June, 1970, the Financial Times said of the approaching holiday season:
All in all, the tourist industry is in a state of flux as far as providing a consumer safety net is concerned, but there will certainly be alterations in time for the 1971 scene.
We have already dealt in this House with the 1971 scene. We are now approaching the 1972 holiday season, and many people who have booked feel that protection is necessary.
Five major tour operators in Britain account for more than half the inclusive tour market. The Association of British Travel Agents recently launched an appeal to its 340 members urging them to take part in an arbitration scheme initiated by Clarksons Holidays. In introducing the scheme to the members of A.B.T.A., its chairman paid tribute to Clarksons for initiating the idea of the scheme. I do not stake a claim in this matter, but I must point out that we put such an idea to A.B.T.A. as far back as the beginning of 1969, at which time we were told by the then chairman:
There is no place in the administration of the Association for a complaints department.
If one can pick up converts along the way in that fashion, no cause is lost.
However, there is arbitration and arbitration. In this case people are not
able to opt out of the scheme and could, therefore, lose access to county court proceedings. Initial sums of from £10 to £30 for a family of five have to be lodged before arbitration hearings can be entered into. Indeed, a member of the Institute of Arbitrators. Mr. Cedric Barclay, said:
The whole purpose of the scheme is to avoid the adverse publicity travel agents may have suffered from in the past two to three years.
In my experience of the distributive and service trades I am convinced that the best way to avoid adverse publicity is to give the customer value for money, which is what this Bill endeavours to ensure. We have already seen the need for this as various consumer protection organisations such as the Holiday and Travel Provident Association have moved into this area, simply because of the need for registration and protection.
There is need for this Bill. It is all very well for prominent tour operators to say that of 17,000 people who went on a particular type of holiday, only 50 complained. That is all right for the majority, but not particularly comfortable for the 50. It is estimated that the number of visitors to Britain will increase to 10 million by 1975. A Ministry of Tourism and a national tourist council or board to speak for the nation are necessary.