Thomas Cook - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:36 pm on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Liberal Democrat 3:36 pm, 25th September 2019

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating that long but very useful Statement, and for the letter that was sent out to Members. I echo the thanks to the staff of airlines, customer services, ground crew and so on, who have done so much to restore some order to what could have been a catastrophic situation. Those thanks must especially go to the employees of Thomas Cook, many of whom are showing a degree of compassion and humanity towards their customers that is sadly lacking in the attitude of the directors.

Given what we know already about the state of Thomas Cook, can the Minister say more about how the Government are going to, and I quote from the Statement,

“seek to understand the failings of stewardship”?

I will not repeat the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, but these questions of governance and of the failings of governance are key, both to prevent this happening again and in protecting consumers in this sector and others.

I can understand why the Government were reluctant to go in with a classic bailout, but I wonder whether they ought to have thought more about whether it was possible to fund Thomas Cook for a few weeks, specifically to bring back those customers who were already abroad. Might that not have been more efficient than having to scrape around for aircraft wherever we could get them? I would like to know more about that.

I understand that CAA guarantees to hoteliers apply only to those passengers who have ATOL protection. There are 40% who do not have that protection, and we are hearing all sorts of stories about people being locked out of accommodation. Not everyone has the financial resilience to simply pay a bill on demand to a hotel, especially as they have already paid once for a holiday, so I would like to hear more about the 40% who are not covered.

The Minister may be aware that the vultures are already gathering, and there are stories emerging of scams where people purporting to be from Thomas Cook are offering refunds to get people’s bank details. Will she urgently consider a social media campaign to highlight the dangers of this and setting out exactly what people should do if they have been affected?