Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill

A new Parliament begins and, on a hot midsummer’s day, the Queen set out the government’s legislative agenda. As someone who thinks there is already far too much law — and, particularly, far too much bad law — I’m thrilled at that we have a threadbare legislative programme. Parliament must devote all of its attention on Brexit and the various Bills that will facilitate it (not least the (once Great) Repeal Bill). This will be more than enough work for the next two years, and the country would survive without any other new laws being passed during that period.

But, whilst threadbare, the agenda is not entirely without threads. I count 11 substantive non-Brexit Bills we will see over the next couple of years:

  • Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill
  • Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill
  • Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
  • Civil Liability Bill
  • Courts Bill
  • Data Protection Bill
  • Financial Guidance and Claims Bill
  • Goods Mortgage Bill
  • High Speed (West Midlands — Crewe) Bill
  • Smart Meter Bill
  • Space Industry Bill

There are also three Finance Bills, a National Insurance Contribution Bill, a European Union (Approvals) Bill and three draft Bills on domestic violence and abuse, tenants’ fees, and patient safety.

Wasting no time, the first new Bill — the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill — was published today. I say “new”... the Bill is actually just a ‘copy and paste’ of clauses 18 to 20 of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill which was presented in the last session of Parliament. Moreover, despite the Brexit focus of this first session of Parliament, the Bill will actually bring UK law into line with EU legislation, specifically the EU’s Package Travel Directive which was revised in 2015 and which gives EU member states until 2018 to harmonise domestic law with the Directive.

The Bill is a rather dull, but important, one providing additional protection for holidaymakers. Primarily, the Bill revises the Air Travel Organisers’ Licence scheme, managed by the Civil Aviation Authority, which protects passengers buying package holidays which include a flight in situations where the business selling the holiday package became insolvent. At present, the scheme only protects people who buy from businesses based in the UK, but the Bill will extend that protection to purchases from all business based in any European Economic Area country (i.e. any EU state plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

The EU’s Package Travel Directive is one of literally thousands of ways that EU membership and harmonisation of legislation benefits all of us. With a single, EU-wide framework for insolvency protection when it comes to package holidays, businesses can operate across the EU with a single framework to follow, reducing compliance costs and therefore making it easier and more affordable to provide those services across the EU. When we leave, and if our we adopt a different framework, businesses wishing to provide services in the UK and the EU will have to comply with two different frameworks, raising costs, and disincentivising EU-based businesses from offering services in the UK.

So the new Parliament begins, with a focus on sovereignty and separating our legal framework from the EU’s. And to start that process, we’re exercising that sovereignty by bringing our law, at least in this field, entirely in line with the EU’s legal framework. Taking back control never felt so good.