DfT confirms travel reforms held back by ‘lack of time’ in Parliament

Important regulatory reforms affecting travel are being held up by the “very limited capacity” in Parliament ahead of a general election, a Department for Transport (DfT) official has confirmed.

Speaking at an Abta Aviation Forum in London on Monday, DfT deputy director for aviation Michael Stark acknowledged the industry is awaiting proposals on reform of Atol, the Package Travel Regulations and air passenger rights, but identified the Parliamentary timetable as “a challenge”, saying: “Capacity is very limited.”

He said: “I can’t offer any indication on timeframes because of where we are in the political cycle. [And] I can’t speculate on the timing of the general election, [but] it will play a fundamental role in the future government’s policy agenda.”

However, Stark also blamed an industry “lack of consensus” for the lack of progress on reform.

He noted the DfT had consulted on proposals to grant the CAA new enforcement powers, reform delay compensation and introduce new rules on accessibility as well as reform Regulation 261 on air passenger rights and insisted: “We’re committed to taking legislation forward as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”

But he argued: “There seems a consensus that Regulation 261 needs to be reformed but that is where the consensus ends. It’s hard to see the landing space for this, and if we can’t see the landing space the alternative is the status quo.” More generally, he said: “We need compromise. The alternative is to get nothing you want.”

Stark acknowledged: “Atol reform has been under way for some time [and] there is a perception it’s not progressing and not a priority.” But he insisted: “That is not the case. This work is complex. It’s vital we take the time to ensure the policy is right. It remains a priority and we’ll work as quickly as we can.”

He added: “Atol reform was one part of the Airline Insolvency Review [and] we continue to consider how to progress on Atol reform and other issues in the Airline Insolvency Review.”

However, he refused to be drawn on whether a further consultation on Atol reform would be published before the general election.

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