Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


44 Package and assisted travel arrangements

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document details(a) Commission Communication: Bringing the EU package travel rules into the digital age

(b) Draft Directive on package travel and assisted travel arrangements

Legal baseArticles 114 and 169 TFEU; Ordinary legislative procedure; QMV
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Document numbers(a)  (35257), —, COM(13) 513

(b)  (35192), 12257/13 + ADDs 1-3, COM(13) 512

Summary and Committee's conclusions

44.1 Council Directive 90/314/EEC created important rights for those purchasing package holidays, but the Commission pointed out that the structure of the travel market was much simpler in 1990; that it had become unclear to what extent modern travel services were covered; and that there were significant differences in transposition by Member States, leading to an uneven regulatory environment and to constraints on cross-border trading. It therefore put forward in July 2013 a proposal for a new Directive to clarify and modernise the protection available for different forms of travel; to ensure that purchasers are better informed; and to remove some outdated elements.

44.2 Our predecessors' Report of 9 October 2013 set out the content of the proposal in some detail, and noted that, although the Government was generally supportive of the Commission's overall objectives, it did nevertheless have some concerns. In view of this, the Committee held the two documents under scrutiny, pending further information, and was followed by a further Report on 26 November 2014, which described the progress which had subsequently been made in the main areas of concern. It also said that, although that Committee did not agree that scrutiny should be lifted, it was willing to grant a waiver so as to enable the Government to vote for the proposal at the forthcoming Competitiveness Council, when a general approach, allowing progress to the trilogue stage of negotiation, was expected to be agreed.

44.3 Since then, there have been a number of further updates, and we have now been told that the European Parliament has agreed a position similar to the general approach reached by the Council, which the Government believes strikes the right balance between the benefits of extended consumer protection and the additional burdens imposed on business.

44.4 This is a complicated and detailed proposal dealing with a complex area of activity, and its contents and their implications were set out at some length by our predecessors in their Reports of 9 October 2013 and 26 November 2014. Our own involvement has very much coincided with the end game in Brussels, and we note that the Council and European Parliament have reached an agreement on the scope of the measure regarded by the Government as striking the right balance. In view of this, we see no need to hold these documents under scrutiny, and we are therefore clearing them.

Full details of the documents: (a) Commission Communication: Bringing the EU package travel rules into the digital age: (35257), —, COM(13) 513; (b) Draft Directive on package travel and assisted travel arrangements, amending Regulation (EU) No. 206/2004, Directive 2011/83/EU and repealing Council Directive 90/314/EEC: (35192), 12257/13, COM(13) 512.

Background

44.5 Council Directive 90/314/EEC created important rights for those purchasing package holidays, ensuring that they receive essential information, making organisers and/or retailers responsible for the package, and regulating what happens if there are changes to the content. It also ensures that travellers receive a refund of pre-payments, and are repatriated in the event of the insolvency of an organiser and/or retailer.

44.6 However, the Commission pointed out (document (a)) that the structure of the travel market was much simpler in 1990, and that it had become unclear to what extent modern travel services were covered by the Directive. It also noted significant differences in its transposition by Member States, and that this had led to an uneven regulatory environment and had placed constraints on cross-border trading.

44.7 It therefore put forward in July 2013 the draft Directive at document (b) to clarify and modernise the protection available to travellers; to cover different types of arrangement; to ensure that purchasers are better informed about the services and remedies available; and to remove some outdated elements from the present Directive, whilst maintaining its essential characteristics. The detailed contents were set out at some length in the first Report produced by our predecessors on 9 October 2013, which also noted that the UK is one of the main markets for leisure travel and holiday arrangements, but that the Government believed action at EU level was needed to enable consumers to shop across borders, and to provide the required degree of legislative certainty. Consequently, although the Government had a number of detailed concerns, and would wish to consult stakeholders, it was generally supportive of the Commission's overall objectives.

44.8 Our predecessors next reported to the House on 26 November 2014, when they noted that the Government had provided an update on how the negotiations has progressed in the areas which had been identified as most in need of improvement, and that it believed significant progress has been achieved in all but two areas, thus addressing most of the UK's main concerns. In view of this, it asked if scrutiny could be lifted (or a waiver provided) in order to enable the UK to support the proposal at the Competitiveness Council on 3-4 December, when the Italian Presidency would be attempting to agree a general approach.

44.9 Our predecessors said that, given the impact of the package on both business and consumers, they hesitated to release the documents from scrutiny, but, as they had no wish to constrain the Government's negotiating position, they were willing to grant a waiver. They also asked the Government to keep them informed, and subsequently received updates on 14 December 2014 and 26 February 2015, the last of these indicating that, although there were still certain differences between the positions of the Council and the European Parliament, a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogue phase was expected by the end of May.

Minister's letter of 15 June 2015

44.10 We have now received a letter of 15 June 2015 from the Minister of State for Skills at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Nick Boles), confirming that the European Parliament has now agreed a position on the scope of the measure similar to that in the Council's general approach, which the Government believes strikes the right balance between the benefits of extended consumer protection and the additional burdens imposed on business.

Previous Committee Reports

Seventeenth Report HC 83-xvi (2013-14), chapter 4 (9 October 2013) and Twenty-second Report HC 219-xxi (2014-15), chapter 2 (26 November 2014).



 
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