Comment: What can the industry expect from a new government?

Luke Petherbridge of Abta outlines the travel issues the next government should consider

After more than a month of political campaigning, and with millions casting their votes on Thursday (July 4), we’re about to discover who will form the next UK government.

While many commentators have suggested the result is a foregone conclusion, we’ll have to await the results to fully assess what this might mean for our sector. But what of the reforms and legislation the previous government was progressing?

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No government can bind its successors, so these will become matters for newly elected ministers. But we do have clues as to what the next steps might be.

Looking first at the review of the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) and Atol reform, I suspect each may be of interest to new ministers and picked up relatively early in the next Parliamentary term.

There is a provision in the PTRs that there must be a review after five years so we can expect officials will press to continue the process.

Of course, new ministers might have different priorities in terms of the legislation they want to review or amend. For example, post-Brexit deregulation – and using the Retained EU Law Act – was a priority for the Conservative Party.

This may well be less of a focus for new ministers, who may be keen to ensure consumers feel their rights are being enhanced.

On Atol reform, the CAA was clear in an update that it believes in the case for change. So, you would also expect the regulator to be recommending new ministers proceed with reforms.

Our view on Atol is more nuanced than on the PTRs, where we have broadly supported the reform push even if we don’t agree with every recommendation. On Atol, Abta has always been sceptical of the assumptions around resilience – both of the industry and the scheme itself – and the need for fundamental change.

That is not to say we would oppose any reforms, but a fresh pair of eyes brings an opportunity for the industry to restate its case.

There is also the future approach to existing laws, including the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero by 2050.

It’s important the next government puts the support in place for the industry to decarbonise, including delivering Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) plants in the UK. This will in large part rest on putting the right regulatory, tax and incentives regime in place to encourage investment.

We also want to see progress in other areas such as airspace modernisation, which will help to reduce emissions in the short-term, and infrastructure improvements to improve domestic and international connectivity.

The Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act adopted last September is also of interest to the industry. The next step on this, the development of secondary legislation to outline activities covered by the legislation, will now pass to the new administration.

Abta supported the Bill’s passage through Parliament and will remain engaged with officials on the next steps.

The opening of Parliament with the King’s speech on July 17 will outline the government’s priorities for its first year. That will be the first time we can properly assess what the next government’s agenda might mean for the travel, tourism and aviation sectors and Abta will be analysing the programme carefully.

I wouldn’t expect any of the issues above to feature as they fall into more detailed, technical areas of policy, but that won’t mean we don’t see action on these topics.

It’s difficult to say precisely when we’ll have firmer information on timelines for policies. But Abta will be working closely with ministers and officials in the next government to represent members’ views.

I expect these to be topics of conversation at Abta’s conference programme, including our re-arranged Travel Matters policy conference on December 3. I hope to see many of you there.

Luke Petherbridge is director of public affairs at Abta

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