Whitehall official rules out coordination on ‘raft of reforms’

The industry faces a “raft of regulatory reform” threatening “significant strain” on travel businesses, but it can’t expect Department for Transport and Department for Business and Trade reforms to be brought together.

That was the message delivered to the annual Abta Travel Law Seminar in London on Tuesday as the government dropped a commitment to revoke all EU laws it has not reviewed and retained by the end of this year.

The ditching of the ‘sunset clause’ in the EU Retained Law Bill going through Parliament had been expected despite the government previously insisting it would not extend the end-of-year deadline. Instead, the government confirmed on Tuesday it would revoke about 600 of 4,000 EU laws.

Craig Belsham, assistant director for partnerships and the international consumer team at the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) which is reviewing the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs), told the Abta seminar: “We’re conscious of the need to work alongside the Department for Transport [DfT] and CAA.”

He insisted: “We’ll work with the DfT on the interface between the PTRs, Atol reform and consumer protections.”

But asked if the Atol and package travel regulations and separate systems of protection for flight and non-fight packages could be brought into one system, Belsham said: “I don’t see that happening.

“We certainly want to work with the DfT, but I don’t see that change being imminent.”

The CAA and DfT are responsible for the Atol scheme and its reform.

Belsham promised a consultation on PTRs reform “shortly”, saying: “We want to get on with it.” He suggested: “One area we’ll look at closely will be domestic package holidays. Would removing these from the PTRs encourage the domestic industry?

“There could be circumstances where we don’t think consumer financial protection is needed for domestic tourism services.”

Abta director of public affairs Luke Petherbridge noted “we’re looking at a raft of regulatory reform” and warned: “The volume of reform will put significant strain on travel businesses. The industry needs to be clear about its priorities when responding to consultations.”

Petherbridge described a wholesale dropping of EU law as “insane” and said: “There is notable opposition to the Bill, including from Abta and other business organisations.” But he added: “I don’t think the government will drop the bill. Rather we’ll see a narrowed focus.”

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