I have just a brief question for the Minister. The explanatory notes say that the provisions relate to
“European airlines that have an air service operator’s licence from another EU Member State”.
That is in paragraph 66 at the bottom of page 12. That is in paragraph 66 at the bottom of page 12. It comes back to the issue I raised earlier about Brexit. The context for part of clause 20 seems to be the relationship we currently have with the European Union, but which we are unlikely to have in another 105 weeks. I am seeking reassurance that, under clause 20, we are not constitutionally locking ourselves into something that will not be part of our constitution in 105 weeks’ time.
I never want to be locked in anywhere—I do not know how the hon. Gentleman feels about that—but he is right. As he implies, there is a balance to be struck between getting the absolute protections that we want for our consumers who travel overseas, and allowing our businesses to move forward with certainty in planning their growth and development. To clarify, when I described my occasional visits to the Co-op travel agents in Spalding, I rather suggested that I journeyed abroad recreationally a great deal, but most of my family holidays are actually spent on the east coast of England. I do not really like moving far from the east coast—from Northumberland down to Kent. That is quite sufficient for me. I am a man of simple tastes. None the less, there are those who travel widely and regularly, and it is important that they are protected by the Government supporting the industry by underpinning an already strong system. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is our intention.
The Civil Aviation Act 1982 already confers a power on the Civil Aviation Authority to obtain information from persons, businesses and practice to determine whether there is a need to hold an ATOL licence. This is based around the existing scope of the scheme, which focuses on holidays offered to consumers in the UK. Clause 20 will extend the scope of the information powers to bring in the new scope of the ATOL scheme introduced through clause 18. Essentially, clause 20 reflects clause 18 in those terms, and is certainly consequential to it. In effect, the Civil Aviation Authority will have the power to obtain information from all businesses that are selling flight holidays in the UK, which is the existing scope, and UK-based operators selling to consumers in Europe, which is the extended scope. The practical effect of the clause is to make it easier for the Civil Aviation Authority, as the regulatory authority, to ensure that businesses selling holiday packages have the required consumer protection in place.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West is right to say that, as we go through Brexit process, it is important that the improvements that we believe will come from the new European approach to these matters are not compromised. In a way, the improvements bring other countries in Europe up to a standard that we have enjoyed without any diminution of the protection offered here. That will probably be the net effect of that new regulatory environment. It is important that our departure from the European Union does not compromise that.
It would be well beyond my pay grade and outside my orbit to anticipate what the negotiations we are about to enjoy with the European Union will mean in respect of Brexit, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield and others on this Committee would not expect me to do so. However, it is clear to me that there is strong mutual interest across the European Union in maintaining a system that is consistent, reliable and comprehensible. Those seem to me to be the things that underpin the regime that Europe has been working to try to bring about and that Britain has long had. While I cannot anticipate the outcome of those negotiations, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield mentioned in his opening remarks, I can stress our determination to ensure that, for us and others, those protections will remain in place. Certainly we would not want to be in a circumstance where any holidaymaker from the United Kingdom was worse off than they are now.