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Thomas Cook

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 2:03 pm, 25th September 2019

I should have picked up the point about Thomas Cook employees abroad in answer to a previous question. We are actually bringing back some of those people, starting with the crews and the operational people. I think I am right in saying that yesterday we had brought back about 150 so far. We are not ignoring them, but we need to bring passengers back first. I have asked the CAA to be as flexible as possible in bringing back Thomas Cook employees, and the hon. Gentleman is right to remind me that I had not mentioned that before.

The hon. Gentleman asked a number of other questions that I have previously answered, and I do not want to go round in circles. The House must know that no Government would want to lose an iconic, 178-year-old famous British name. I hear people ask, “Why don’t you just put the money in?” All those people have to do is open the books to realise that there is a £1.7 billion debt, with £1.5 billion lost in six months alone, and that another profit warning had been issued.

I am afraid that this situation is entirely different from that with Condor, which is a fundamentally profitable airline, and it just would not be responsible to throw good money after bad. We would probably be back here in a very short time to offer a bail-out to get people home, rather than to bail out the company. This company just was not a going concern with which we could do that.

The hon. Gentleman asks sensible questions about whether other holidaymakers are being held to ransom or being held captive elsewhere in the world, and I am not aware of any other location in which that is the case at the moment. However, it is a live and moving situation, and under our direction the CAA has been issuing proactive letters to explain that holidaymakers’ bills will be settled in places were some hotels have not had bills settled for the past three months because of the company’s bankruptcy. I pay tribute to and thank our foreign mission in Cuba for proactively getting in touch with Ministers yesterday to resolve that appalling situation.

I think that covers the majority of the questions that I had not previously answered.