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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 Jun 1995

Vol. 143 No. 15

Package Holiday and Travel Trade Bill, 1995: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main purpose of the Bill is to transpose EU Council Directive No. 90/314/EEC on package travel, package holidays and package tours into Irish law. The Bill will also make a number of technical amendments to the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982, mainly to remedy a number of anomalies which have come to notice in the light of experience of operation of this Act since 1982.

The EU Directive was designed to harmonise aspects of national provisions relating to travel in the Union, and to improve protection for the consumer in the travel trade sector. Package holidays now form a fundamental part of tourism, but the laws governing these packages vary considerably between member states. These disparities in national practices give rise to inconsistencies in the field of packages and package travel in the various member states.

The directive aims to stimulate greater growth in the package travel industry by removing these disparities and distortions thus enabling consumers in the Union to benefit from comparable conditions when buying a package in any member state, in other words, to secure a level playing field between all member states. The directive makes an important contribution to protection of consumers and to completion of the Single European Market by laying down common rules and a common framework for holiday packages in all member states.

The Bill before the House sets out a framework for regulating all the essential elements of the travel contract, including the information which must be contained in brochures and its accuracy and clarity; the information which must be provided by the organiser and/or the retailer to the consumer, both before conclusion of the contract and before the start of the package; the essential features of the contract and the responsibilities of organisers and retailers for the performance of the contract; the ground rules for cancellation or transfer of bookings; and the security to be provided by the package provider in the event of insolvency to enable the stranded holidaymaker to be returned to the point of departure or, in the event of the holiday not having commenced, to be refunded moneys paid over.

All of these elements taken together are the essential features of any holiday package and contribute to ensuring that the consumer gets what he or she paid for and has adequate means of redress in the case of a genuine grievance.

The Act will be brought into operation by means of a commencement day order under section 1. I will be bringing the Act into operation on a date which will allow adequate time for its implementation in order to allow tour operators and travel agents time to prepare fully for the new requirements. An important point here is that during the lead-in implementation time the onus will be on the travel trade to ensure that they stock only brochures which — on the date when the Act comes into operation — comply fully with the new requirements. I know the trade has been following developments in this legislation very closely. As soon as the Bill is enacted my Department will be bringing its provisions to the notice of all tour operators and travel agents. In the interests of consumers it would not be reasonable that there should be a delay of longer than three months in bringing the Act into operation.

At present the consumer buying a package holiday is in the vulnerable position of paying in full and in advance for a product almost entirely on the basis of the description in the brochure. In future, intending purchasers of prearranged packages will be able to rely on the descriptions in the brochure. Package organisers will not be able to make exaggerated claims about particular holidays and will have to be able to stand over any description given in advance. In addition, the brochure must contain general information about passport and visa requirements, which apply to the purchase of the package, and health formalities required by national health authorities in the countries to be visited. The information to be provided to the organiser before the start of the package must include the name, address and telephone number of the representative or agent of the organiser at the holiday location or, if there is no such representative or agency, a telephone number which will enable the consumer to contact the organiser or the retailer. This provision is, to my mind, very reasonable. If the consumer gets into difficulties of some kind, it is only right and proper that he or she be able to contact some representative of the organiser to provide assistance.

There has been much discussion about what precisely will constitute a package holiday under the new Bill. The Bill defines a package as a combination of at least two of the following components: transport, accommodation and other tourist services accounting for a significant proportion of the package. The combination of two of these items must be prearranged by the organiser, sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price, and must cover a period of more than 24 hours or include overnight accommodation. I understand that the Director of Consumer Affairs, who will be policing the legislation when it is enacted, has suggested that his office will draw up guidelines in conjunction with the travel industry on what exactly constitutes a package. These guidelines will make it clear that business travel is not included.

In the case of bed and breakfast accommodation, the Bill will not apply where such accommodation is offered on its own — in other words, to the vast majority of cases. The Bill will apply where accommodation is combined with transport or with another tourist service, such as golf or fishing. People on these kinds of holidays will spend considerable amounts of money. It is only right and proper that they should have the protection of the kind provided for in the Bill, whether they are staying in hotels or bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Bill is about regulation of package holidays. Ad hoc arrangements made by travel agents, specifically for the requirements of individual customers, do not come within the scope of the proposed legislation. If, for example, a business person walks into a travel agency, asks for a flight to London and also asks the agent to book a particular hotel, this is not a prearranged “ready made” package, it is a “made to measure” one, and does not constitute a package. If, however, the travel agent advertises a weekend in London which includes flight and accommodation, this would be prearranged and would constitute a package.

Questions have been asked about whether youth and educational exchange organisations come within the scope of the Bill. The short answer is that they do. Youth and educational exchange organisations are engaged in the business of selling packages to the public on a full-time basis. Consumers in this sector are no less entitled than others to have the comfort of knowing they have the protection of this legislation, both from the point of view of getting what they pay for and having their money secure in the event of the organisations in question being unable to meet their obligations. This is all the more important as those involved are often young people.

This treatment of educational and youth exchange organisations is consistent with that taken by other member states, none of whom has exempted this kind of travel from their legislation transposing the directive into national law. Packages in Ireland, organised on an occasional basis, such as scout camps and school or parish outings, are quite a different thing. I will be exempting these packages by way of regulations made under the Bill.

It is important to note that this Bill encompasses, in addition to travel agents and tour operators, everybody who organises or sells packages such as carriers and hotels. The exception to this are organisers who organise and sell packages on an occasional basis; they are excluded from the provisions of the Bill.

Following the enactment of the legislation, I will be introducing regulations specifying precisely the classes of persons who are deemed to be acting occasionally as package organisers. Examples of such classes would be community, social, sporting or voluntary organisations which organise packages within Ireland as part of the general objectives of that organisation, schools or educational institutions which organise packages, parish outings and pilgrimages and packages organised by charities or benevolent institutions in pursuit of the objectives of that body. I should point out that this exemption will apply to home packages only. The organisation and sale of packages abroad will, of course, continue to come within the provisions of the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982, as has been the case since 1982.

One of the main features of the Bill is that it will make the organiser of a package holiday primarily responsible for the proper performance of the obligations arising out of the contract. I am aware there is concern in the travel trade industry regarding the extent to which organisers could be held liable to the consumer following the implementation of this legislation. In this regard, I would like to clarify that the retailers, liability to their customers will not be dramatically increased following the Bill's enactment. Under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980, the seller, or retailer in the case of the travel trade, is already responsible in almost all cases for the performance of their side of the contract. The effect of the Bill will be to place responsibility on the organiser similar to that already on the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act.

There has been some speculation that the new legislation will make the organiser liable for any or, indeed, all damage suffered by the consumer. This is not the case. Section 20 of the Bill makes it clear the organiser will not be responsible if the failure to perform the contract, or its improper performance, is not due to the fault of the organiser or the retailer or another supplier of services. If, for example, the consumer suffers damage entirely due to his or her own negligence, then the organiser would clearly not be liable. In the event of a claim about failure to perform the contract, or improper performance, the specific conditions of the contract pertaining to the package would have to be taken into account in each particular case in determining the organiser's liability, if any.

I must stress again that this is consumer protection legislation. One of its main purposes is to ensure that the consumer can, without difficulty, seek redress from the retailer and/or the organiser in the event of improper performance of the contract. Should this improper performance be the fault of a supplier of services, the retailer and/or the organiser will, of course, be able to seek legal redress from that supplier.

Concern has been expressed in recent months regarding the safety of Irish holidaymakers overseas. There have been cases of tragic accidents abroad in recent years resulting in injuries and even the death of Irish holidaymakers. While these have fortunately been small in number relative to the numbers holidaying abroad — it is estimated 350,000 Irish people will go abroad on holidays this year — I can fully understand the concerns raised.

This Bill is meant primarily to transpose the EU Directive on Package Travel into Irish legislation. It is not a vehicle for introducing wider measures. The Bill provides, in line with the EU Directive, that where a package in a member state includes accommodation the contract with the consumer must state the compliance of the accommodation with the laws of the member state. This will put a greater onus on the package organiser to ensure all accommodation it provides for Irish holidaymakers is of an acceptably safe standard and to ensure all elements of the contract with the consumer are fully and properly performed.

As this legislation is a consumer protection measure the Director of Consumer Affairs will, as I said, have the primary role in enforcing it. The Bill will operate in addition to the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980, and the director is, given his other responsibilities in the field of consumer legislation, the appropriate competent authority to police this area. As is standard practice, the Bill provides that breaches of specific provisions will be offences, either summary of indictable, depending on the gravity of the offence.

Some worries have been expressed that the implementation of this Bill will affect the prices of holidays being sold. Any increase in the price of package holidays as a result of these measures will be minimal. Travel agents already must carry insurance to cover their activities. While some extra insurance by organisers may be necessary to cover the actions of foreign suppliers of services, there should not be any need for large increases in liability insurance because there will be little change to the levels of liability already carried under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act.

The price of holidays may rise modestly in the first year but the present high level of competition in the travel trade business will have a stabilising effect and bring prices down again quickly. The Director of Consumer Affairs, who will be enforcing the legislation, will be vigilant to ensure the Bill is not used as an excuse for increasing prices beyond the level which is absolutely necessary. The added benefits and security the consumer will enjoy will more than compensate for any small increase in prices in the short term.

I have been speaking up to now about the various elements relating to regulation of the travel contract. I will now turn to the second main area covered by the Bill, which also arises from the EU Directive. The Bill lays down the arrangements for the security of moneys paid over by consumers to enable them to be brought back to their point of departure or, where they have not travelled, to be refunded deposits which they have paid over.

The Bill provides for two options for the package provider in arranging the necessary security for moneys paid over by consumers. A package provider who is a member of a body approved by the Minister to administer bonds, such as a trade association, may provide security by means of a bond taken out with an institution authorised to issue such bonds, such as a bank.

Alternatively, security may be provided by means of an insurance policy taken out by the package provider or retailer in favour of the consumer. Transport carriers, hotels and anyone organising holiday packages now come within the definition of package organiser as specified in the directive and under the Bill must have security against insolvency in respect of their package travel activities.

The effect of the financial security provisions is to give people holidaying in Ireland who are customers of Irish based package organisers comparable protection to that which people going on holiday overseas enjoy under the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982. It is only proper that Irish people spending their holidays at home should have this protection in the event of insolvency of the package provider or retailer. People taking holidays in Ireland who are customers of package organisers in other EU countries will be covered by the legislation implementing the directive in their countries of origin.

As I mentioned in my introductory comments, there is a third element to the Bill. I am taking the opportunity to amend certain provisions of the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982, which has been the Principal Act governing the sale of overseas travel up to now. Before turning to these amendments I will outline the reasons for the enactment of the 1982 Act and the philosophy underlying it.

The House may be aware that prior to the introduction of the 1982 Act the Irish travel industry operated on an unregulated basis. In December 1980 Bray Travel Limited, then one of the largest tour operators, went out of business resulting in the loss of holiday money and the deposits of over 1,500 people and the stranding of a number of holidaymakers abroad. There were also a number of other collapses in 1981.

While voluntary bonding arrangements have been introduced by the Irish Travel Agents Association and by a number of individual operators in response to these developments, it was evident that a need existed for a statutory framework to protect holidaymakers. The basic elements incorporated in the 1982 Act were a bonding arrangement for tour operators and travel agents for the protection of their customers; a backup travellers protection fund to be raised by contribution from tour operators and to be used where individual bonds proved inadequate; and a system of licensing to regulate entry to the trade.

The Act sought to prevent failures in the trade as well as to provide remedies where failures occurred. Consumer protection was the major motive, but the licensing and bonding elements had also as a major objective the imposition of certain rigours and disciplines designed to seek to prevent failures and ensure the financial viability and operational integrity of tour operators and travel agents. These disciplines related to the financial affairs, the business and organisational resources and the general fitness of applicants to hold travel agent's and tour operator's licences.

Following the passing into law of the 1982 Act, regulations were enacted which set out in detail for the travel trade how the new procedures would operate in practice. Contributions to the travellers protection fund were suspended in April 1987 as it was felt that there was sufficient money in the fund to deal with possible contingencies. There are at present 320 licensed travel agents and 55 licensed tour operators bonded under the 1982 Act.

I am satisfied that the system of existing licensing and bonding has worked well over the years. Where there have been collapses of tour operators and travel agents, customers affected have been repatriated where necessary and moneys passed to the operator or agent have been refunded. These funds enable the customers, if they so wish, to make alternative holiday arrangements. I realise that is not as easy as it sounds. Apart from some minor amendments, I do not propose to change the 1982 Act. The Bill now before the House will operate in addition to this Act and will also provide added protection to the consumer.

I propose to amend a number of the definitions in the 1982 Act to make them consistent with the current Bill. The Bill will also make it clear that the provisions of the 1982 Act now apply to all travel commencing in the State to destinations outside the State or Northern Ireland. Problems were experienced with the operation of the 1982 Act in identifying what was encompassed by overseas travel. In particular, the 1982 Act referred only to travel to a place outside Ireland and did not specify that the travel had to commence in Ireland.

The 1982 Act excluded carriers from its licensing and bonding requirements, that is, persons whose principal business is the provision of transport. The Bill before the House provides that carriers selling package holidays outside the State or Northern Ireland will in future require a licence from my Department. This will level the playing field between carriers and the tour operators with whom they compete.

The principal benefits to the consumer of the Bill before the House are that consumers will have easier access to redress; more comprehensive and concrete information will be available; consumers will be guaranteed a minimum degree of protection; the quality of service will be improved; and there will now be provision for security against insolvency for domestic as well as outbound packages.

I understand that the home holiday business generated approximately £400 million last year. It is important to the national economy and makes a significant contribution to year round tourism. In recent years the trend has been one of steady increases in short holidays outside the peak months. It also generates substantial employment. Domestic tourism accounted for an estimated 20,000 jobs in the Irish economy in 1994. I hope that the protection accorded to domestic holidaymakers by this legislation will encourage more people to stay in Ireland for their holidays generating additional business and assisting job creation.

Outbound tourism is also a major business. It is estimated that approximately 350,000 people will take holidays abroad in 1995. For most customers a package holiday is a once a year experience for which they have gone to considerable expense. They are entitled to a safe and enjoyable holiday which runs as smoothly as possible. The new legislation will enhance even further the already high quality of the Irish travel trade industry. It will provide a framework which will give a better quality of service and improved protection for the consumer while at the same time keeping to a minimum the potential costs for the package organiser.

Before concluding, I take the opportunity to express my appreciation of the large amount of preparatory work done on the Bill by the former Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Brian Cowen. He was responsible for seeking and obtaining Government approval for the drafting of the text of the Bill and much of the initial consultations with the travel industry were held when he was Minister. It is only proper that his contribution should be acknowledged.

I am happy to recommend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for his elucidation of this welcome legislation. I am sure I have misinterpreted his final remarks, but he might clarify his reference to the amendments he proposes to the Transport (Tour Operators and Travel Agents) Act, 1982. Section 27 of the Bill amends the definition of "carrier" under section 2(1) of the 1982 Act as follows:

"carrier" means a person (other than a package provider where the package includes transport commencing in the State to destinations outside the State or Northern Ireland)...

Given that Northern Ireland is mentioned in the Bill, does this mean it is encompassed within the island of Ireland for the purposes of this legislation and that holidays sold from the State to Northern Ireland are not treated as being overseas?

That is correct.

I am pleased to note that we have achieved unity in the travel trade in this respect.

I thought that would cheer up the Senator.

I am delighted. It is a wonderful start. Presumably in this context the Minister will also make some reference to the recent initiative signed in Washington between his colleague, the Minister for Toursim and Trade and Baroness Denton with regard to furthering our mutual interests on the island from the tourist viewpoint.

Perhaps he will extend it to Rockall also.

He might start something new here; we may have more than we bargained for at the end of the debate. The provisions of the Bill originated in a EU Council of Ministers decision during Ireland's Presidency in 1990. It gives effect to a EU Directive laying down common rules for package holidays which will go some way towards reducing if not eliminating many of the different practices which have been in operation throughout Europe.

Once implemented the Bill will bring Ireland into line with our EU colleagues and provide a large measure of protection to the 350,000 Irish people, referred to by the Minister, who travel abroad on package holidays each year. Concern has been expressed in some quarters that, once enacted, the Bill will increase costs in the travel trade, especially insurance costs, where travel agencies would have to increase their cover in anticipation of claims from clients who feel aggrieved. This problem surfaces regularly.

Compliments have been paid to the Irish travel trade, both outside the House and in the debate on the Bill in the other House. I endorse this view in the majority of cases but complaints against individual travel agencies are common, especially in the provision of accurate information and the quality and content of the destination. In several celebrated cases, the holiday which the client booked fell far short of what was advertised. I acknowledge that the Irish travel trade has operated a voluntary code of conduct in this regard and has usually compensated the victims, but too often shoddy and inefficient service, coupled with incompetent couriers have ruined holidays for many people.

The Minister alluded to what, in theory, appears to be the ease with which aggrieved clients can seek refunds under the bonding scheme introduced under the 1982 Act. However, in practice, it appears to be more intractable.

I will not mention individual travel agencies or companies because the entire travel trade has been tainted by incompetence at one time or another. It would be unfair to single out any company by name on the basis of one or two incidents and give the impression that it was any more incompetent than the rest.

However, in a recent overseas travel experience — an area to which I will specifically refer later — four separate incidents occurred. They did not individually impact adversely on the short few days that one was away from this country, but collectively they amounted to an unacceptable low standard from a travel agency which is taking people's money and which should provide the best possible service.

Reference is made in the Bill to the obligations placed on a travel agent to ensure that it has a representative present at the destination. However, in the above example, the courier accompanied the people on the journey but was not seen for the following three or four days. In one of the three hotels there was no contact number or name publicly displayed for the people on the trip. I am glad the Bill will place an obligation on the company to ensure that an agent or representative will be available to consumers if an emergency arises. This was not the case in this instance.

On two occasions a bus arrived at different times to those stated. In one case it arrived half an hour early and left and in another it arrived an hour earlier than it was due. The second incident occurred on the day of departure when many people were not in the immediate area of the hotel, although the courier was prevailed upon to go back to the hotel to be there at the time specifically stated. I am not suggesting the people would have missed their train, but I know some people had left clothing behind which they were almost prepared to abandon because they thought the bus would not be going back to the hotel. This all happened on a trip of four days duration.

The last nail in the coffin involved an excursion. In advance it appeared well organised in that a flier was handed around to everybody which gave details of the trip. This included the time of departure, the content of the excursion and the price. However, on the day in question the courier did not turn up and was not to be seen. The coach driver, who was a local, seemed to be in charge and informed those travelling on the trip — the cost of which was £35, which is quite expensive for a couple of hours sightseeing — that he would be taking them to a particular destination some miles from their hotel, where they would be left for an hour before returning to the hotel. The circular indicated that more detailed trips were involved in the excursion. These four incidents were minor in themselves, but I am sure the travel trade would agree that they were unacceptable. I am pleased the Bill will address some of these aspects; it is long overdue.

I am pleased section 11 will place an obligation on the organiser or retailer of a package holiday not to include anything in a contract which contains false or misleading information and that there are stringent penalties for failing to comply with this measure. The Bill is concerned in the main with the contract between the consumer and the travel agent and is the latest in a series of European inspired legislation aimed at strengthening consumers' rights.

I accept the Government is responding to a specifically focused EU directive on package holidays and the travel trade. The Minister stated that the Bill's focus is not wide, but I am somewhat disappointed that the Government has not incorporated any protection for travellers who purchase travel insurance. Following a bitter personal experience, to which I will refer in detail later, I am convinced that this aspect of the travel trade is in urgent need of review. The necessary legislation to protect the interest of the consumer should be introduced as a matter of priority and complementary to the provisions of this Bill.

All of us who travel abroad know that we are, if not legally obliged, certainly prevailed upon to purchase travel insurance. Usually this travel insurance comes as part of the tour package. In most instances consumers do not even question the cost involved because it is usually minimal; it is of the order of around £10 per person. It is treated in much the same way as the £5 travel tax or the various airport taxes that are included in any travel package when one gets the bill. Of course, people are aware that they should have travel insurance, but it is not highlighted to the degree that it should. Consequently, it goes by default. I am convinced that there are companies operating in the travel insurance area who, if it was more strictly regulated, would be out of business tomorrow morning. To put it bluntly, travel insurance is a scam.

In 1992, my wife and I travelled to Spain for the football international between Ireland and Spain. Our personal luggage was stolen from a hired car within hours of arriving in Seville. We immediately contacted the local police and filed a theft report. On returning to our hotel we contacted the courier attached to the travel agency with whom we travelled and informed her of our disaster. She immediately reassured us that we could claim for our loss under the provisions of the holiday insurance cover which we had purchased at the same time as our tickets. The courier further referred us to the copy of the conditions which accompanied the travel tickets, which were in our possession.

A quick perusal of the cover confirmed that under section 4 of the insurance certificate, personal baggage was insured up to a limit of £1,000 for loss or damage

... to personal baggage taken or purchased on holiday, including clothing and personal effects carried on the person, trunks, suitcases and like receptacles occurring during the period of the holiday by accident or misfortune.

I submit that nothing could be clearer. We had our luggage stolen. Section 4 of the insurance certificate specifically addressed our particular personal experience and we returned home safe in the knowledge, reinforced by the opinion of our travel courier who was more experienced in these matters than us, that it would be a simple matter of claiming. How naive.

On our return home we immediately filed a compensation claim with the adjusters enclosing all the relevant documentation. Imagine my surprise and horror when I received a reply from the adjusters informing me that their liability was repudiated due to exclusion (c) to section 4 of the travel insurance certificate. I will read part of this exclusion to illustrate the point that I am making.

The exclusions to section 4 include

.... damage due to various vermin, (b) loss arising from confiscation, (c) damage or loss to bicycles, contact or corneal lenses, spectacles, dentures, audio or video equipment, telescopes, binoculars, antiques, watches, furs, precious and semi-precious stones and articles made of or containing gold or silver other than personal jewellery, damage to fragile articles and loss or damage to unattended baggage, the loss of cash, bank or currency notes, travellers cheques, prepaid petrol coupons, travel tickets, documents, stamps, coins, works of art, loss or damage directly or indirectly occasioned by happening through, or in consequence of, war. invasion, acts of foreign enemies etc.

One side of this insurance cover sheet tells me that I can claim up to £1,000 — a modest amount — while the other side tells me that I cannot.

It was drafted by the Department of Finance.

This type of travel insurance is wholly unacceptable and weighed heavily in favour of both the travel agent and the insurance adjusters. It is anti-consumer and provides only a thin veneer of cover for those booking package holidays. Despite efforts on my part to have some legal constraint placed on companies such as this one to sell this type of insurance, I was informed by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Consumer's Association and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs that there is a legal vacuum in this area which needs to be addressed. Following persistent correspondence with the company concerned they eventually made an ex gratia payment to me and my wife, without prejudice on their part, in order to keep me quiet.

I welcome the provision in the Bill which states that information provided to the consumer before the start of the package must include the name, address and telephone number of the representative or agent of the organiser at the holiday location. It is incredible that the Minister has to include this in a legal document as I would have thought it would be a basic requirement, so from that point of view the sooner he introduces the law the better.

It is incredible that in a country with such a highly educated workforce the travel trade can still employ, with all due respects, people as couriers who can just about make a cup of tea or add two and two.

I am pleased that organisations engaged in the business of selling packages to the public are included under the youth and educational exchange. I know that some doubts and concerns were raised about this during the earlier debate in the Lower House, but why should young people be excluded from provisions of this nature in consumer legislation. I heartily endorse the Minister's comments in that regard.

The Minister gave us information on the price of holidays, and concern was expressed that the implementation of this legislation would lead to increased costs. I would be interested to know where these increased costs will arise. The travel trade has expressed concern about this, but I would interpret that as a vested interest protecting itself.

The Minister goes to some lengths to dampen public concern that there would be significant price increases for package holidays as a result of this. It might be useful if he could elaborate on his comment that while some extra insurance by organisers may be necessary to cover the actions of foreign suppliers or services, there should not be any need for large increases in liability insurance.

I raise this matter because of the tragedies that, thankfully, do not happen all that often. However, when they do occur they are all enveloping as far as the immediate families are concerned. One can only sympathise with the family of the Dublin couple who were found dead in their apartment in the Canary Islands. In recent weeks their sons have made a submission to the European Union for changes in the law in that regard.

I am anxious to know from the Minister whether this legislation covers such eventualities — not necessarily where the supplier is at fault — and what legal steps need to be taken by travel operators to ensure that tragedies of this nature can be prevented — in other words, by inspecting the premises in which people will be spending their holiday to satisfy themselves that these buildings are safe and adhere to EU standards if they are within an EU country as, in this instance in the Canary Islands, they were.

There may be some derogation which the Minister could clarify, in that the Canary Islands do not form part of the EU for some legal instruments, although I am not sure. My reason for raising this is not so much to rake over it but to raise that point. In this instance it was alleged that the authorities were not responsive to approaches from representatives of the family. These serious allegations were made against the authorities in Spain which, as a member state of the EU, is one of our European partners. So, what legal sanction is there within this Bill to protect Irish consumers' rights in another EU country where there is no official co-operative response to tragedies of this nature, or to something affecting holiday travel much less?

I commend the Minister for introducing this legislation. While it does not happen often, we have increasingly been debating consumer protection legislation in this House, and it is to be wholeheartedly welcomed. I would be grateful if the Minister would specifically address the question of travel insurance in the context of this legislation.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome this legislation which he is introducing. In his speech the Minister said that:

For most customers a package holiday is a once a year experience for which they have gone to considerable expense. They are entitled to a safe and enjoyable holiday which runs as smoothly as possible.

We have to base our approach to the legislation on that aspect of it and for that reason I welcome the Bill. When I first saw the Bill I had certain reservations about it, but following discussions with the Minister I am satisfied that my concerns were not justified. Consequently, I am in the happy position that I can fully support the Bill today.

I intend to raise one or two questions with the Minister, who, I am sure, will be able to provide satisfactory answers. I was interested in Senator Mooney's experience of travel insurance and I will also be outlining a similar situation to the Minister. As the Minister said, the Bill gives effect to the EU Directive on package holidays and makes a number of technical amendments to the Transport, Tour Operators and Travel Agents Act, 1982.

There has been some delay in putting into effect in our domestic law the obligations of the EU Directive on package holidays, the intention of which relates to package holiday operators, including the large scale ones. Initially, I was concerned that the scope of the Bill was being extended to cover small time operators such as bed and breakfast establishments. I do not believe that that was the intent of the original directive, but the opportunity was availed of by ourselves to extend the implications of the Bill to the small operators, I do not know whether it is a good or a bad thing, but if we approach it from the point of view of protecting consumer interests then we have to accept that that is the way to go.

I welcome the fact that the legislation will insist that the kind of information given to the customer before the conclusion of a contract and the start of the package is accurate and that it truly reflects the content of what is on offer. It is also important that the rules for the alteration and cancellation of packages, which I will be dealing with later, be dealt with. That is an area which has caused considerable dissatisfaction for many consumers.

The Bill goes on to specify the essential features which a contract must contain. It also contains provisions on the security which must be provided by the package provider in the event of insolvency to ensure that stranded holidaymakers can be brought back to their point of departure and obtain refunds. It is important that the consumers get what they have paid for and what they are assured is available. If they have genuine grievances in relation to their holiday, it is equally essential that the machinery is in place to rectify that grievance.

With regard to the point made by Senator Mooney, I have been dealing with a case on behalf of a person who booked a holiday with a national travel agency and paid a deposit. I will give this information to the Minister. The following week the person concerned took ill and on medical advice cancelled the holiday. There was an interval of about eight weeks between that time and the proposed departure date. The person was advised at the time of booking the holiday that they should have travel insurance.

On their recovery to health they sought, first of all, a refund of their deposit, which the travel agency refused. They then recalled that they had been advised to take out travel insurance which would cover such an event and they applied to the travel insurance company for a refund of their deposit. They discovered from the travel insurance company that it had been billed by the tour operator for the cancelled holiday and it produced invoices to that effect. This caused some alarm to the person concerned and I became involved at that point. The person made further inquiries because he happened to be aware of other people who were travelling on the same aeroplane and he discovered that the aeroplane was full.

Therefore, it appears that it would be in the interest of the travel organiser for as many people as possible to fall ill after having booked their passage because, first, they could hold onto the deposit; second, they could claim from the travel insurance company; and, third, they could fill the aeroplane with additional passengers. This is the unacceptable face of consumer dissatisfaction. I have no hesitation in raising it here in conjunction with the issue which Senator Mooney raised and I will supply the Minister with the details. I am not doing it so that — although I would be delighted if it could happen — a proper refund would be made to the person in question but rather to allow the Minister of State to consider for himself the arrogance and unco-operative attitude of this national travel agency.

I am glad that the Minister of State is allowing adequate time for the implementation of the Bill so as to allow travel agencies and operators to prepare fully for the requirements. I notice that business travel does not come within the remit of the Bill. The reasons which the Minister of State advanced for this exclusion are reasonable and satisfactory and I accept them.

On the question of the home market, I said earlier that I believe that the intent of the EU directive was aimed at large scale operators, and I was referring to a large scale operator in the specific case which I mentioned. Therefore, I was concerned that at an early stage the powers of the Bill would be extended to small operators. The Minister of State stated that it will not apply to bed and breakfast accommodation if it is offered on its own, which he said happens in the majority of cases. However, he said that the provisions of the Bill will apply where accommodation is combined with, for example, transport and other tourist services such as golf and fishing. If these elements are found to be unsatisfactory, I am not sure whether it is the bed and breakfast operator or the organiser who will be deemed responsible.

The other aspect of that question which I wish to raise relates to agri-tourism. The reduced potential for expansion in agriculture and farming in this country has led to the development of what is known as agri-tourism, which invariably offers some sort of activity in addition to accommodation, such as fishing. I am not sure to what extent golf forms part of agri-tourism, but perhaps if accommodation is offered in conjunction with a local golf course, it does. There are also walking, cycling, boating and open farm holidays.

I am concerned that this provision might inhibit the development of agri-tourism which is important in many areas of the country. There is no reason why it should do so if the arrangements are properly made and if both operations are dovetailed together. However, because agri-tourism is such a recent development, operators may regard this measure as something which will inhibit the potential growth and development of their industry. I would be glad if the Minister of State would avail of the opportunity to assure those engaged in that industry that such fears can be dealt with.

I accept the Minister of State's point that it would be unreasonable to expect that the implementation of this legislation would lead to a substantial increase in holiday prices, although there may be a marginal increase. If there was an attempt by the industry to substantially increase the cost of overseas holidays in order to comply with the requirements of the Bill, such a move could only be regarded as a rip off and I am sure that the appropriate steps could be taken to deal with it.

Senator Mooney referred to the tragic deaths of a Dublin couple in Tenerife and I join in expressing my regret to the members of their family. I have a special reason for referring to that because I stayed in that apartment complex prior to the accident. I had a very enjoyable holiday and found it to be a particularly satisfactory apartment with wonderful facilities. However, I am concerned by the information coming through that very few steps have been taken by the authorities to deal with the danger of an unfortunate recurrence.

I wish to ask the Minister of State a somewhat different question to that asked by Senator Mooney. If Spain has incorporated the effects of the EU Directive in its domestic legislation, what has the EU done in relation to this case to ensure that there is proper compliance by the Spanish authorities? It is an excellent apartment complex with excellent facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants and everything that one could ask for. A very close relative of mine was going on holidays there some weeks ago and asked me for my opinion. My opinion was: "Do not go near the place because I do not think it has been sorted out yet". It is unfortunate that such a situation would continue.

I would like greater clarification of the definition of the retailer, the organiser, the travel agent and the provider of bed and breakfast accommodation. I am referring to the domestic market in this context. The Minister says that the effect of the Bill will be to place responsibility on the organiser of the holiday. He says that under the Sale of Goods Act the seller and the travel agent already have a legal obligation. However, in the context of smaller scale Irish tourism there is a multiplicity of characters or elements involved. There is the organiser of the event, the travel agent, the seller, the retailer and the person who is providing the accommodation. That appears to be a group of five. Does responsibility for the product rest more with one of the elements of that group than with another? What is the individual responsibility of each element involved in the holiday?

My concluding point relates to the arbitration process that must be installed. It is evident that as a people we have become more ready to assert rights, be they legitimate or assumed rights. A tendency to claim dissatisfaction and compensation with regard to various products has mushroomed in recent years. There always will be certain people who will be dissatisfied with a particular product, and not always for good reason. While our principal aim must always be the satisfaction of the consumer that they are provided with a genuine product, at the same time we must ensure that there is an adequate arbitration process so that unjustified claims of a product being unsatisfactory can be addressed in a fair and objective way.

I welcome the Bill in broad terms. I will have more comments to make on Committee Stage. However, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this necessary and desirable legislation.

Could the Chairman tell me when I have five minutes left in case I go on too long?

I welcome the Minister and I welcome the Bill to a certain extent. This is a consumer protection Bill that is being introduced on foot of a European Union directive. The total emphasis of the Bill is on the protection of people's money for the package holiday, the quality of the service one receives and so forth. That is fair enough. However, the Minister would have been wiser not to mention the word "health" at all in the Bill if it is only going to be addressed in such an inadequate manner.

I followed the debate on the Bill in the Dáil and in the Select Committee very carefully and I am not the only person to bring up concerns regarding the lack of protection vis-a-vis health in this legislation. I would be glad if, perhaps, the Minister would consider changing other parts of the Bill in this House. The old adage says that one's health is worth more than one's wealth. Our health is being given little protection in this Bill. Not only is the health of the individual going abroad important but their entire holiday is spoiled if they go to an area where they contract some disease which makes them sick while they are there. In addition, people returning from abroad with serious illnesses will have to receive medical treatment in the State and that might be a great financial burden on the State for quite some time. The treatment of many of the diseases which can be contracted outside this country can be extremely costly.

According to figures from the Department of Tourism and Trade about 350,000 people will go abroad on package holidays this year. A large number will go to destinations outside the European Union or Europe in general. It is difficult to get the relevant figures because many people do not leave directly from Ireland but depart on package holidays which they pick up in other cities abroad. However, people from Ireland travel to Africa, Thailand, Bali, Indonesia, China, South Africa and Brazil in quite large numbers. They, I believe, would have little knowledge of the health regulations or health dangers in the countries to which they are travelling.

I do not for one instant think that every travel agent must be an expert in tropical medicine. Indeed, there is not one official consultant in tropical medicine in the State health service — everybody must rely on going to private practitioners. It is totally inadequate for the Minister to say that travel agents must give information about health formalities required by national administrations. National administrations will have, for a start, the minimum requirements for people travelling there and often those requirements are totally inadequate when one gets there. It is quite common, for example, to be told that a disease is not likely to be prevalent in a country only to find when one goes there that the conditions are such that the disease must be there.

It would be better if we made our own recommendations or followed World Health Organisation recommendations as to what people should know about the health problems in the country they are visiting rather than relying on what those countries require, as was the case in the past with regard to visas for countries with yellow fever and so forth. We should make the recommendations for people visiting foreign countries. There was a ridiculous situation in the past whereby smallpox vaccination was required to enter America although smallpox had virtually been eliminated — there were only a few cases left in the Somali desert. This was not a procedure without risk. The requirements for entering a country are not always those which are the most useful or suitable for the person who is visiting. The Bill should be changed to provide for recommendations by our own Department of Health instead of the requirements of the national administrations.

People from this country travelling abroad have another serious problem which people from some other countries do not have. We have an appallingly low immunisation rate. Ireland has the second lowest immunisation rate in the European Union for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. We have the lowest rate for polio. These diseases are to be found abroad so Irish people are more likely to go abroad inadequately protected than anybody else.

I was fascinated to see that as a result of the number of young people who are backpacking abroad it was recommended in Great Britain that diphtheria and polio boosters should be given at the termination of the school cycle. We would have to start with about one-quarter of our population being given their initial inoculations at that stage. This is a serious situation which we need to address at once. Our attitude to vaccinations is casual, to put it mildly, and the fact that so many more people are going abroad now means that they are in far more danger than people from other European countries.

I have a table which details the triple vaccine up-take rate for European countries: it is 99 per cent in Denmark and 95 per cent in Portugal while our rate is just 65 per cent and the Greeks are at 45 per cent. However, even the Greeks have managed to push their polio up-take to 96 per cent while ours is the lowest at 81 per cent. This has to be seriously addressed. The Minister may not feel it is part of his brief to do this but warnings should be given with holiday details and parents should be asked if their children have been immunised against these diseases.

These things do not just happen in the most exotic of places. There is a serious situation in the former Soviet Union because of an increase in the number of cases of diphtheria and the number of deaths from it. It is not as popular to go there now as it was immediately after travel to Russia became easier but a considerable number of people still go there. Do they have any notion that booster doses are required or recommended? Occasionally there are outbreaks of polio in the most surprising places. There was one in the Netherlands a few years ago. How is an ordinary citizen to know that there has been an outbreak of polio in the Netherlands?

There should be an onus on the Department of Health and package tour operators to let people know that risks have arisen in certain countries and that they should take appropriate measures. It is important to remember that countries are eager to attract tourists and will not be likely to publicise problems. Some countries have been notorious for infected water in certain areas. This Bill does not place any onus on package tour operators to tell people that there have been outbreaks of diseases, such as viral hepatitis or one of the dysentries. One does not necessarily have to go to Indonesia to contract such diseases; they can be contracted within the European Union.

We are more at risk from hepatitis A than other people because this country has cleaned up its act so well. About 30 per cent of people in their twenties have no immunity to hepatitis A. We could include that in our tourism brochures. Hepatitis A is spread by the faecal contamination of water or food. We are so pure and clean here that the water is rarely infected by anything like this and a large number of young people travelling abroad have no immunity to hepatitis A. The disease is not contracted in the same way as hepatitis B which is, of course, contracted through either sexual activity or blood. There will not be a requirement on people going to southern Europe to be vaccinated for hepatitis A but it would be worth warning people that this would be a good idea.

All I ask is that our Department of Health at least produce pre-departure information which tour operators would be obliged to give people when they are booking their holidays so they will make an effort to be vaccinated against diseases. As tour operators have pointed out in the past, it is important that information be given well in advance because there is no point in getting vaccinations the day before departure. Many vaccinations should be given at least four weeks prior to departure. This pre-departure information should not be a requirement of the country to which people are travelling but should be given by our own Department of Health.

I cannot see why the information cannot be distributed to tour operators and travel agents and updated on a regular basis. If there is a specific risk in a country at a certain time, people should be told about it. It is not even suggested in the Bill that people be informed of the World Health Organisation recommendations. It is just a requirement on the country to which a person is going. A standard health leaflet should be produced. Those involved in tropical medicine — and in other branches of medicine — would be delighted to be involved in producing it. I suggest the Minister look at that as soon as possible.

The most likely problems for people in Europe are caused by the dysentries, hepatitis A and other water borne infections. However, it is important to point out that risks may arise from time to time in certain countries, even within the European Union, and it is worth explaining what they are to people before they travel. It is also important to point out that this does not relate only to drinking water. There is also a question of sea bathing, etc., in those areas. Typhoid vaccination for people travelling abroad has improved, perhaps this could be mentioned in leaflets. This area has not been addressed adequately and I would like the Minister to do so.

Are we involved in the Europe against AIDS programme as it affects holidaymakers? I was at a meeting with other European parliamentarians in Barcelona recently. Some of the people there had a package with them which I have not been able to find here. It is produced by the European Commission for the Europe against AIDS summer campaign for 1995. It is a factual campaign with leaflets and information which are to be given to young people.

The winter AIDS campaigns and the occasional television advertisement are long forgotten at this time of the year. It is generally accepted that people's behaviour in all sorts of activities when on holiday differs totally from their behaviour at home. This campaign is called the Flying Condom campaign. I gather they have kites which one can fly but I do not think they are shaped like condoms. This is the sort of thing young people should be told about before going abroad. Sexual activity abroad can be as dangerous as it is at home. We advise them when they are at home but, even though it has been shown that young people's behaviour is less likely to be circumspect when abroad, they appear to be in no way informed about this sort of campaign.

I was fascinated to discover that the Scandinavians have a campaign called Hot and Safe. Field workers go to popular tourist resorts and make contact with people to advise them against risky sexual activity.

It sounds like a great job.

I do not know how they worked out their success rate.

Acting Chairman

I remind the Senator that she has five minutes remaining.

Do not be such a spoil sport.

I will leave this copy of the Europe against AIDS summer campaign with the Minister because our Department of Health should be involved in distributing these leaflets. There is no more obvious place to distribute them than in travel company offices.

I would like some commitment from the Minister on my final point because it is one which everybody in Ireland takes very seriously, particularly after various sad events over the last month. We should grasp the opportunity presented by this Bill to pursue measures for the protection of children from commercial sexual exploitation. This Bill could make it an offence to promote, organise or profit from child sex tours. If the promoter is a company, it could be liable if it is incorporated in Ireland or carries on its activities in the State; if the promoter of these tours is an individual, he should be made liable for the conduct of promoting, organising or profiting from sex tours outside the State. The penalties could be very harsh; they could be loss of a licence for a tour operator as well as financial penalties and confiscation of property.

Such provisions should be put in this Bill because Ireland has international obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 19 of this convention places an obligation on the State to take appropriate legislative measures to protect children — not just Irish children — from all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse. Article 34 specifically contains an undertaking by the State to protect children — again not only Irish children — from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. The way to do this is to pass legislation and this Bill provides an ideal opportunity to legislate to prevent the use of children in prostitution and other unlawful sexual practices.

Sexual exploitation of children is morally repugnant to most Irish people. A majority of Irish people would be very glad to see us show our concern for exploited and abused children. We often talk about our great love of children, the protection afforded children by our Constitution and so on. This would be a concrete way to show that we will not tolerate the exploitation of poor children in foreign countries and to discourage the participation of Irish nationals or businesses in this exploitation.

If we were to criminalise the promotion and organisation of sex tourism involving children, we would be complying with international regulations and would also send a very clear message that this sort of activity is unacceptable if it is carried out by Irish nationals whether at home or abroad. Campaigns are already under way in France and Germany to have sex tourism directed against children treated in this way. In both these countries it is now possible to prosecute nationals who have committed sexual offences against minors in foreign countries.

In addition to that legislation, the Australian Government passed the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) (Amendment) Act, 1994, which creates specific offences of promoting, organising and profiting from child sex tours; New Zealand will also pass such legislation. Tourism organisers in general would be most supportive of such measures and I see no reason to think that the Irish public would not be equally sympathetic. It would show our abhorrence of and voice our lack of toleration for such activities if we included such provisions in this Bill.

I welcome my friend and colleague, the Minister, Deputy Stagg, to the House. I have tracked this legislation through the other House, through the select committee and the different issues which people addressed in their contributions are very interesting. Many of the contributions I have read address this Bill from the vantage of the Irish traveller overseas. Senator Henry, because of her background, was able to give us a medical perspective on travel which was very interesting and valuable. However, this issue was addressed elsewhere by the Minister.

It is worth noting that this Bill is about the consumer. We have in this House someone whose name is synonymous with providing excellence to the consumer; I refer to my colleague, Senator Quinn.

I will deal with this Bill from the Irish perspective. This legislation gives rights to people coming into this country. Ireland's business is overseas business. While the protection of our own citizens who wish to travel overseas on holidays is very important, of equal concern to us is the fact that people who choose to holiday on the island of Ireland and to spend their money here should also be guaranteed excellence in the product we are selling.

When consumer legislation of any type is introduced, the providers of the services affected immediately and automatically become suspicious. This was also true in the case of such legislation introduced in this House in the 1960s and 1970s. The implementation of any such consumer legislation, we were told, would inevitably lead to massive job losses and factory closures. The opposite is almost always true. The improvement of standards of consumer goods and services has always resulted, in my opinion, in an increase in the use of those services or in the purchase of those products.

When the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980, was introduced, giving consumers solid and substantial legal rights for the first time followed by the appointment of a Director of Consumer Affairs, businesses in general were begrudging in welcoming many of the provisions of the legislation because they feared they would not be able to meet the required standards. We now know that this is absolutely untrue. When the Irish decide to get their act together, they produce a service or product which is second to none and is accepted internationally as such. We do not lack the ingenuity, but sometimes we lack initiative and commitment to standards and this has sometimes resulted in damage to our reasonably high reputation abroad.

The Minister has produced a Second Stage speech which takes us nicely through the various sections in the Bill and disposes of arguments which have yet to be made on Committee Stage. I commend the fact that this is a comprehensive speech, it is extremely well laid out and very easy to follow. Other Ministers might note that the layout and details given in the Minister's speech were of immense help to those of us who are spokespersons on this legislation.

When I was growing up, foreign destinations were the preserve of the rich. One might get as far as Birmingham; a Dubliner might get to the Isle of Man on the ferry.

On the August weekend.

In Cork one went to Youghal on the train, which unfortunately no longer runs, but in the main those who went to the continent or to America came from a certain stratum of society. For most of us, the money simply was not there. As the country grew in prosperity, people were better paid and travel became easier through technological advances such as the advent of jet planes and so on. Then came the package holiday which opened up the world to the vast majority of ordinary people. This was marvellous. For many years it led to an exodus to places like Torremolinos in Spain, the Canary Islands and so on.

The Minister said that people plan for holidays. I am sure that now as in the past the greatest expense for people, apart from a car or a house, is a holiday. In many cases it is still not an annual event; it might be once every five years or a decade or once in a lifetime. One thing we can be sure of is that it is always planned with greater concentration than Montgomery planned his desert campaign and with more anticipation. There was a belief — it is a bit like the Bible, the written Word — which I never shared——

The Senator is turning to religion.

It is like Fianna Fáil manifestos. I seem to have lost faith in the written Word.

Senator Magner came from there himself so he is familiar with it.

We do not publish manifestos anymore, we simply ask people to vote for us.

That happens when one is in Government for too long.

People were inclined to believe precisely what the brochure stated, which included an outline of beautiful surroundings, scenic views, wonderful apartments, hotels and swimming pools et al. People were disappointed when they arrived in a particular resort to find it was nothing like the pictures in the brochure. In some cases it probably led to marital breakdown because if there is any pressure on a marriage, a bad holiday will bring it to the fore. Murders have been committed while people have been on holiday. A statistic — I will not vouch for its accuracy because I cannot recall where I read it — showed that pre — or post-holiday tension contributed to marital stress. I am glad the Bill will make the job of the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor, a lot easier when it comes to the divorce legislation.

Those who will come within the remit of this legislation, perhaps 400,000 or 500,000 holidaymakers visiting this country each year and who will spend millions of pounds, need to be reassured that there are guarantees in place which protect them and which give the native provider the impetus to upgrade their services to ensure that their word is their bond. There is no better assurance from a supplier of any service or product than that person or company's word which is their bond. The Bill covers wide area in terms of people going on holiday abroad and visitors who we welcome so much.

Three million people come here.

That is an enormous number. I do not know the amount of money generated, but it must be hundreds of millions of pounds. Thanks to the situation in Northern Ireland, that is only beginning. We hope the peace process will continue to develop and that in the not too distant future this will not only be a beautiful place to visit but one of the safest places in the world. This only around the corner. I believe visitors should be afforded protection not only as regards their rights but also in relation to the valid points made by Senator Henry that are within the remit of the Department of Health and which are worthy of note.

The package holiday trade — this is not meant to sound elitist — covers the mass end of the market. Many people who use it for the first time are unfamiliar with the customs or mores of the country they visit and do not know where to go to complain or how to establish their rights while there. They must overcome a language barrier and, in many cases, they have limited funds and cannot afford a protracted correspondence between a foreign country and home. If the provider, whether Spanish or any other nationality, decides to play the language barrier for all it is worth, there is a dialogue of the deaf while people's money runs out and their holiday comes to an end. This leads to tremendous frustration.

From that point of view, this Bill will be welcomed by everybody. Some people have reservations about minor aspects of it. Reservations were expressed about the timing of the introduction of the Bill given that the 1995 brochures are already published. I take it from the Minister's comments in the other House and here that he intends to give some leeway to take account of these reservations, which is fair.

In most respects, the providers of the service, travel agents and so on, do a good job. Those with whom I have dealt over the years have been diligent, fair minded in their approach and understanding and have provided a high level of service to the customer. Dealing with the public is not an easy job; Senator Quinn might have something to say about that. No matter what one does, one cannot please some people. There are con merchants in the travel trade, but there are also con merchants on the customer side which we should not forget. I come from a city where a person is sued if they sneeze. The local authority has no money because people have got used to the idea that, even if it is their fault that they fall, trip or whatever, they look around for something to fall over. People have made a career from claiming.

Senator Mooney read out some of the conditions attached to travel insurance and I have no doubt they were inserted after long experience of fraudulent claims. Jewellery, precious gems and coins are excluded. There must have been an occasion when somebody decided to make a claim when their baggage was stolen for items which they did not bring with them, for example, a gem left to them by their granny worth £2,000 or £3,000. Suddenly there is an insertion in the insurance certificate which excludes precious gems other than personal jewellery. There is always a history as to why these conditions are included. While the consumer needs to protected from the supplier, the supplier also needs some protection from unscrupulous customers.

As the Minister said, the Bill gives effect to an EU Directive. We joined the EU and we must pay our dues in relation to the legislation which the Union, in its wisdom, decides to put in place. Each member state has an obligation to conform to that directive. Given the exhaustive consultation process, the Minister was generous to pay tribute to Deputy Cowen, the then Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, a development which should encouraged. Credit should be given where due, whether that person belongs to a different party or a previous Government. If people put in the work, they are entitled to a modicum of recognition. It is generous and a welcome development and I hope all future Governments give credit where it is due when Ministers, by the nature of their jobs, move on.

As I said earlier on — I do not intend to detain the House much longer — the Bill has the ability to protect the indigenous tourist trade. This is my main concern. I heartily acknowledge the people who travel abroad on holiday. I hope they enjoy themselves.

I spent last week on the Shannon, however, and all I could see along entire stretches were cars with English registrations, people fishing happily on the banks and cruisers travelling up and down the river. I was in Terryglass on Saturday night and an American family from Santa Monica were in the berth alongside mine, next to them was a German family and further on was a Swiss family. The United Nations were in Terryglass last Saturday night. This represents great business for this country and it is business we must look after. We have not even begun to exploit it. To consider the cruise-hire business alone, which yields huge amounts of money, there are 7,000 boats in Holland — a country the size of Munster — and only 800 boats on the Shannon, the largest water-area in Europe. That gives an idea of what is awaiting this country in the future.

Tourists travel to Ireland, hire cars and cruisers and spend their money in shops, pubs and stores in the midlands and areas which would never see a tourist. Banagher, a reasonably large village in County Offaly, is booming because of that kind of trade. It is a cosmopolitan gathering place at this time of year for people from across Europe. This was a community that depended on turf and the ESB's peat-fired power stations.

Bord na Móna.

It had nothing else. They have it now, however. There are new apartment complexes in the village itself. The pubs are full. The supermarkets are modern, well-stocked and provide an astounding range of food and consumer products. It is an amazing display.

The Senator has one minute to finish his odyssey to Banagher or anywhere else.

Did you notice that the PD's are always mean about time?

Acting Chairman

I am speaking as Acting Chairman.

I suppose it is——

Acting Chairman

This is the Chair, Senator.

Is that against the rules? I am sorry. I withdraw it completely. In conclusion, I commend the Minister for bringing the Bill to this House. I am sure its passage will be peaceful and swift.

I welcome the Bill. I am pleased that the Minister is here to take the Second Stage debate on this legislation, which is the result of an EU Directive. As Senator Magner stated, tourism is one of the greatest opportunities for the country in its long history of dealing with business and the attainment of future progress. I could not agree more with what the Senator said. With regard to the areas he spoke about in Leinster and along the Shannon, which flows into my own area of County Westmeath, the potential tourism is offering, and can offer, is way beyond our wildest dreams.

Why are these people coming to Ireland from Europe, America and the rest of the world? The ceasefire has made Ireland a friendly destination and has played a major part in attracting our near neighbours from the UK. Until the ceasefire, Ireland was the only country in the EU not attracting the largest volume of tourists from its nearest neighbour. That will not be the case from this year onward. It is a bonanza to be involved in the tourist business, the hotel business and the bed and breakfast business — as I am myself — at present. It is absolutely stimulating. There are not enough working hours in the day to take on the challenges and opportunities being presented. The Minister is probably aware of the conference which took place in this city two weeks ago. Buyers from all over the world, particularly America and Europe, came to Dublin and Blarney Woollen Mills, House of Ireland, various hotels, the Wax Museum etc., displayed their wares for them. It was the most successful conference of its kind ever witnessed in Ireland. To say that at least 60 per cent of accommodation for the peak months of next year was sold would be an understatement. That would be the low figure of the peak four months of sales of accommodation already sold in the various hotels and top-class guesthouses for next year. This shows the opportunities which are available.

I would also pay great tribute to the work of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, in the film industry. He has opened up, free of charge to the entire world, a massive promotional stage for the country. The famous Tullynally Castle is situated in my village of Castlepollard and during the next two weeks 220 people will be employed to make a film there. Not one guesthouse in Castlepollard, Coole, Multyfarnham or Castletownfinea has a bed available for the next fortnight. It is a great change to see the business that is now being attained in the lake district, the undiscovered part of Ireland, which Senator Magner referred to earlier.

I pay tribute to the marvellous achievements of the Eurovision Song Contest during the past three years. It has encouraged interest in Ireland from new and exciting young tourists. The success of Riverdance in particular has shown the new, modern Ireland, not the Ireland portrayed in America as the home of the shamrock and the harp, which itself must be commended, but a place were 50 per cent of the population is under 30 years of age. This is the new Ireland of high technology, the great standard of education, the great presentation of speaking the English language and the great, young, energetic country on offer to visiting tourists. I must also pay tribute to Steve Collins for his magnificent victory over Chris Eubank. This has helped to give Irish people, at home and abroad, pride in their sportsmen and women. Sport is playing its part in showing Ireland as an island of success.

As some Senators might know, I have been to America five times since New Year's Day to promote the businesses I am associated with, at my own cost and expense which is correct. I travelled to Branson, Missouri, the centre of music marketing. The town has a population of 7,200 people and the figure for visiting tourists was in excess of 4 million. I travelled there to see how they were achieving this marvellous success and I met some people who are coming to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick's Day next year. I asked them why they had decided to come to Ireland and they told me it was because they had seen the beautiful Christmas Day Special hosted by Perry Como. He had recommended Ireland as a friendly, green country while filming his show here.

While these points may have been trivialised by the business world in the past, many people in Government and the political parties are beginning to realise that this is a marvellous, free marketing opportunity in which endorsements can be received — endorsements that could not be bought in marketing terms — of how to promote and market Ireland. No one owes Ireland anything and Ireland does not owe anything to anyone. When given the opportunity and an equal break, tourists visit this country and meet a nice friendly people. They experience a very high standard of service whether they stay in hotels or eat in the some of the best restaurants in Europe. They meet people who speak good English, who are willing to show them around and who extend their hospitality. I think we can hold our heads high in relation to this. Standards have increased greatly here in the last ten years.

Golf is the fastest growing sport in the world. We have the highest per capita number of golf courses in the world. While golf was a game of the gentry in the past, it now offers enormous potential for attracting people to this country. About six weeks ago I was in the UK for seven days. While there I did a great deal of market research on what Ireland was offering by way of package holidays. A great number of these holidays were geared towards those who were interested in fishing and golfing. Golf courses are not available to them in England or, where the game originated, in Scotland. Golf can be available to them practically on demand in Ireland, which has the world's finest courses. The Minister's own town has the great experience of nearly having full employment because of the spectacular course there. The Minister and I have discussed this on many occasions.

We should examine where we are going to make progress and how we can create more jobs for all our people. There is now a tendency to think that people over 40 years of age find it very difficult to get jobs. From my experience in the tourist industry, I would be delighted to employ men or women over 40 years who were willing to work because I know they would be willing to work for me until possibly the end of their working lives and would not be career hunting.

Such workers would be anxious to please and satisfy the demands of the tourists staying in their employers' hotels and whom they would be taking on arranged trips. They are a very satisfactory workforce. People aged over 40 can regain employment in the tourist industry because they have the correct attitude and have obtained a fair amount of experience and expertise, particularly in telling the history and old stories of their areas, which are vital and important to give areas their identities. In my area the seven wonders of Fore are a unique tourist attraction. Everybody wants to know where are the crosses, the water that will not boil, the tree that will not blossom and the anchorite over the door. What better person to relate all this than a local person in their middle years who has time available and is seeking to regain employment.

I agree with most of the sentiments in the Bill, the purpose of which is to comply with the EU Directive. Irish people are much travelled compared to people in the US, which is the biggest English speaking country in the world. It would not surprise the House if I said that only 10 per cent of Americans have a passport. This indicates that possibly only 10 per cent of Americans leave America. I would be surprised if the proportion of Irish people who have passports and have left the country at some point in their lives is less than 40 percent, or even 50 per cent.

My greatest experience and the greatest education I could have received has been the opportunity of travel which I call the "university" of travel. Those who travel regularly update themselves in new technology, ideas and techniques of marketing. They see and meet the demands of world business people, travellers and tourists. This is the finest degree people can award themselves each year. In the latter part of January, in February and in early March people should travel to see how the Australians succeeded last year and see the marketing plans of the Canadians for, not this year, but next year. Some 60 per cent of all package holidays were put to bed by 31 May this year.

Ireland is in a favourable position because of the visit last week by Prince Charles, the forthcoming visit of President Clinton, the visit of other foreign state dignitaries and our success in the Eurovision Song Contest. These promotions and visits are doing us tremendous good. This is also true of the films being made here. I look forward with great enthusiasm to the future in Ireland with regard to employment and opportunities in the tourist industry. It is very important that we update ourselves and tighten up regulations for those who, by not complying, fail to sell Ireland as it should be sold, whether they are in the bed and breakfast, hotel or package holiday trades.

Some years ago planes taking people on pilgrimages to Medjugorje, Lourdes and Fatima used to be eight or ten hours late. We rarely see planes being late now when we are travelling to America or anywhere else abroad. They are pretty much on time unless there is an act of the God such as a storm.

I am in favour of tightening up the law and regulations in this area. I look forward to Committee Stage when we can tease out in more detail some of the Bill's provisions.

I welcome the Minister and his explanation of the Bill. He explained that the effect of the Bill will be to place responsibility on the package holiday organiser similar to the one already on the retailer under the Sale of Goods Act.

I want to make two main points about the Bill. The first is to signal my disquiet about the length of time it has taken to translate the EU Directive into our national legislation. Next Tuesday, 15 June, will be the fifth anniversary of the passing of the Directive by the Council of Ministers. It happened not during the last Irish Presidency but the last Irish Presidency but one. In other words, it happened a long time ago. Five years is much too long for us to get to this stage. One of the main objectives I set out for myself when I became a Member of this House was that I hoped to encourage more speedy action in the mechanisms of Government. This is a prime example of the unnecessary delay I had in mind.

This is not unduly complicated legislation. Neither was the necessary process of consultation with the industry particularly difficult or contentious. There is nothing at all in this situation to justify taking five years to turn this directive into law. I suggest the delay was simply due to a lack of any sense of urgency, perhaps to a feeling that delays of this order are par for the course, to use a golfing term, and are therefore acceptable at certain levels in our Administration. I was not aware the Minister is a golfer until Senator Cassidy reminded me.

I do not think these delays are acceptable and I hope the House will agree. I think Ireland should, as a matter of general principle, move to enact EU directives as quickly and as promptly as we can. It is one way of showing we take our responsibilities as a member State seriously and of keeping our credentials in order. We should give an example to the other members of the EU and not drag behind with the rearguard as we too often have done in the past.

In the present case there was an additional reason for moving more quickly. An important aim of this legislation is to strengthen the degree of consumer protection in the tourism area. The Minister explained this very well. If that needed to be done, and we all agree it did, it should have been done as quickly as possible if we were sincere about the interests of the customer.

I was delighted to hear Senator Magner speak about the need to be customer-driven. In this area the customer needs a higher degree of protection than elsewhere but traditionally he or she has received less. I grew up not as a grocer but in the tourism industry — my father ran Red Island holiday camp. It succeeded from 1947 until he died in 1972 but at that stage it became threatened. As Senator Magner said, from the 1940s to the 1960s Irish and British people tended not to go to the continent. After that. Red Island was challenged by package holidays to Spain and France.

The business my father built up was based on what is called the boomerang principle. Senators may notice some of us wearing a boomerang in our lapel or as a tiepin. The concept behind this important principle is that the objective of the business and every decision it takes is to get the customer to return. This is such an essential element of any business, especially tourism, that we must be driven by it.

I moved into the grocery business in later years but the protection for the tourism customers is more important than for others. A customer who shops in a supermarket does so at least 50 times a year and so has the opportunity to change the supplier immediately if he or she is not satisfied. If something goes wrong with one item bought in the weekly shopping, it rarely creates a major family crisis.

However, buying a holiday is different; such a purchase is made once or perhaps twice a year and is of huge importance. If something goes wrong it is a family disaster, as Senator Magner said. As well as that, buyers of holidays never become as knowledgeable about what they are buying as shoppers in a supermarket. They must rely much more heavily on what the tour operator tells them. With holidays the balance of information and knowledge is tilted in favour of the supplier.

For these reasons buyers of package holidays need a higher degree of consumer protection. I welcome this Bill and the Minister's explanation because it will strengthen protection but, at the same time, I regret that we did not act with more urgency to bring it about. There is nothing we can do now about the delay but I hope my remarks may have an effect on other Ministers and civil servants who have other measures languishing in the corridors of power; I exclude the present Minister from these comments. We should not spend five years waiting to put an EU Directive into legislation — we must put a greater degree of urgency into the process.

My second point can be achieved through amendment of the current Bill and I hope the Minister and the House will see fit to do so. Senator Dardis will probably agree with me; he has strong concerns about words and he will be pleased that I could not find the phrase "in relation to" in the Bill. However the word "consumer" is used 86 times. I want the Minister and the House to consider changing these references so that on each occasion we talk about the "customer", not the "consumer".

I am not dealing in semantics, there is an important issue at stake. In my business I have found that if we talk about "customers" people tend to behave so that the customer benefits. On the other hand, if we talk about "consumers" people behave in a different way and the customer does not benefit as much. For instance, my company holds regular "customer panels", not "consumer panels".

There are two main difference. First, the term "consumer" is dehumanising. We cannot but think of customers as people with individual human needs but it is much easier to think of consumers as a commodity or a series of numbers. The philosophy of good customer service is based on treating customers as people and individuals, not as abstractions. Since this Bill is largely concerned with protecting people, the terminology should reflect that.

Second, "consumer" is inappropriate because it reflects a view of economics in which the customer is the last link in a supply chain. It is a top-down view of economic activity which is not in the interests of customers. It suggests the role of the customer is merely to "consume" what the supply chain has seen fit to provide.

We will never understand economic activity unless we realise the customer is not the end of the chain but the hub around which all economic activity revolves. The customer is the point of the exercise — everything else in the equation is subordinate. We deny that reality if we call the customer a "consumer"; we downgrade the customer's role and significance.

This is important far beyond the present context. There is immense potential to stimulate economic activity by making this nation much more customer-driven than in the past and the first step towards that is using language which reflects a customer-driven approach to business. Using the word "consumer" in the Bill is therefore inappropriate and we should switch to "customer". The thrust and the tone of the legislation would be greatly improved by doing so.

"Customer" can have exactly the same legal force and meaning as "consumer"; it appears in other legislation so we are not breaking new ground. The parent directive we are implementing does use the term "consumer" but that is no excuse. We should not allow our language to be dictated by bureaucrats who are more removed from market realities than we are. In the definitions clause we can state if necessary that "customer" in the Bill has the same meaning as "consumer" in the directive.

I hope the Minister will take this on board and agree to introduce the necessary amendments on Committee Stage. It is fully in the spirit of this Bill to show that we regard the customer as king in the holiday business as much as elsewhere. I congratulate the Minister, not only on bringing the Bill thus far but on his contribution explaining why it is required. I wish him every success with the remaining Stages.

I welcome the Minister and this Bill. It deals with tourism, which is an important aspect of our economy, especially in the sense of people coming to our country to spend money here. Tourism is now a major business. It is estimated that 350,000 people will take holidays abroad in 1995; this is the other side of the business. The Bill deals with people who come to Ireland and it underpins the quality of the product we give them. It has a quality assurance aspect and it protects those who travel abroad for holidays. The holiday business generates approximately £400 million per year.

The trend, which has been growing over a number of years, of holidaymakers travelling to Ireland in the off-peak season is very welcome. In my part of the country we have winter holidays to various sporting activities, and we hope that will continue for many years. I welcome the protection the Bill accords to those travelling here to enjoy holidays and I hope it will attract more people in the future.

This Bill, which should have been introduced three or four years ago, is a response to an EU Directive. I welcome the fact that it sets out a framework for regulating the essential elements of a travel contract. It is important that information contained in brochures is correct because people make decisions about travelling abroad on the basis of such information. This Bill ensures that will be the case. Information must be provided by the organiser or retailer to the customer before the conclusion of a contract so that people have a clear understanding of what to expect when they go abroad on holidays. The Bill is welcome in that regard. It ensures that the organiser's responsibilities are clearly outlined in the execution of the contract which is completed between the person going on holidays and the travel agent.

The Bill also covers the ground rules for cancellation, transfer of bookings and the security provided by the travel agent in the event of insolvency in order to enable the stranded holidaymaker to return to the point of departure or, if the holiday has not started, to refund moneys paid. Too often in the past holidaymakers have had long planned holidays destroyed because of insolvency or difficulties within the organisation. People save for many months or years to travel on holidays and it is disappointing if everything is destroyed and they are given little information about what is happening. I welcome the fact that the Bill will control this situation.

This Bill ensures that the person buying the package holiday will be able to rely on the descriptions in the brochure. Package organisers will no longer be able to make exaggerated claims about particular holidays and they must stand over any description given in advance. It is also important that brochures contain information about passport and visa requirements which apply to the purchase of the package and health regulations required by national health authorities in the countries to be visited.

I do not envy travel agents their work in trying to arrange package holidays to the US because there is still confusion about those who travel to the US without visas. People have been turned back at the point of entry because something was found in the computer which said they were not eligible, although they understood that under the new arrangements they could travel there. I know people who, having organised their holidays and agreed with the tour operator that everything was in order, got a letter from the American Embassy a week before they travelled asking them to contact it to discuss the situation. They were asked if they had relations in America and doubts were cast on the bona fides of their returning home. This is a grey area over which the Minister and the Government have little control. The American Embassy and Government should be informed of the people's concerns about this situation which we thought was clear cut following the changes introduced some months ago.

I welcome the fact that the Bill will not apply to bed and breakfast accommodation. I pay tribute to the work done by the bed and breakfast community throughout the country because it has brought Irish life to the visitor. Owners of bed and breakfast accommodation bring people into their homes where they experience family life and have an opportunity to discuss aspects of Irish life which they would not be able to do if they travelled from hotel to hotel. They make an enormous contribution to our tourism industry because those who stay in such accommodation will then market Ireland when they return home.

Many owners of bed and breakfast accommodation group together in order to advertise or promote events and facilities in their regions. For example, one such group in Adare, County Limerick advise people — they do not sell such advice — to travel to various places, such as aviation museums, heritage areas, etc., in the region.

They are exempt.

I am pleased the Minister has confirmed that they are exempt.

They must take down the signs.

We will deal with the signs.

You must not disagree with your partner in Government. I ask Senator Neville to continue.

It will move sideways from the grass verge.

I welcome this Bill and I look forward to its speedy passage through the House.

It is always a danger to chair sessions of the Seanad because one is tempted to speak and this can only be done from the floor. We would not presume to misuse the prerogative of the chairman.

I hope you, Sir, watch his time.

In welcoming the Minister from the constituency of Kildare North, I reassure him that the allusion which Senator Quinn made to the Red Island holiday camp was a matter of geography, not political complexion.

The Labour Party gave up camps a long time ago.

I know Senator Quinn would like that point made.

I welcome this legislation and what the Minister said when introducing it to the House. There is virtually nothing in it with which I disagree. However, a couple of areas need to be strengthened, perhaps not by this legislation but by other methods. One relates to the duties of the carrier to and from this country and the other relates to bus operators. It has been my experience when travelling abroad on package deals that everything goes wrong when one gets into the hands of the tour bus operator who either fails to show up, shows up in the wrong place or the bus breaks down. This area in our domestic tourism industry needs attention because it is critical to the success or otherwise of the holiday. The proliferation of tourism means that there is an urgent need to expand the fleet available for ferrying people around the country. However, these must be of an acceptable standard.

This Bill is a response to an EU Directive. The point has been made that we have been tardy in our uptake of EU Directives. It seems to take a long time for directives, which are mandatory, to become law.

Several references were made to fresh water fishing. As a practitioner of fresh water angling — the Minister is more successful than I am — I want to make some points. This country is portrayed as one of the premier angling locations in the world and our wonderful water is available to anglers. People who sit on the bank of the River Shannon without anyone else within a hundred yards of them think they are in paradise. It is also true that we allowed the sea trout to disappear from the west of Ireland, that we destroyed Lough Sheelin and the other midland lakes — some of them are only now recovering — and that we had a general indifference to the quality of the waters and the fishing stock within them. This must be accepted. It is not a criticism of any specific Government but of successive Governments that these things were allowed happen.

I recall that when I started to fish on Lough Corrib 25 years ago, people flew from America to visit the lake, hired a car at Shannon for a month, stayed in the best guesthouses and hotels, had a gilly every day of the week and left substantial amounts of money in the areas that they visited. This was at a time when our tourism industry was not well developed. Those people have gone. As they have the money, they will go to Alaska, Russia, New Zealand or anywhere. Unless we provide a facility of the very highest quality and guaranteed sport they will leave, as they have left in their droves.

There is a lesson for us in this. It is to do with the quality of the product which we have to offer and in providing an assurance that it is maintained. As one who has fished these waters in the west of Ireland, I am aware of their capacity and wish to see it exploited to the national advantage, as it can be. Bord Fáilte have responsibilities in this respect. When fishing was damaged, as in the case of the western fisheries, we were still promoting them. To attract people in the knowledge that when they arrive the sport will not be there for them is the worst offence. This comes back to the point made by Senator Quinn; it is to do with the rebound factor: once bitten, twice shy. Such people do not come back, and they were big spenders.

There are two aspects to the Bill. The first is in respect of people coming into the country, the second is in respect of people travelling out. We all know of the experience of people, as relayed to us on numerous radio programmes, who got a brochure with a picture of a hotel but when they got to the hotel they found it was a construction site with a kango hammer going outside the room, if they were lucky enough to get a room. They must be protected, as must those who booked a holiday, paid their money and then found that the company collapsed leaving them without recourse. It is legitimate that people be fully compensated in those circumstances.

Reference has been made, as you yourself referred. Sir, to people who went on pilgrimages. They were among the most abused. It was such a thrill and experience for them to visit places of pilgrimage on the Continent, such as Lourdes and Fatima, that they put up with conditions that no other traveller would have tolerated, including being left in airports for hours on end. The modern equivalent of the pilgrim is the football supporter. When Ireland played in Rome in the World Cup, many of the football supporters had similar experiences due——

Acting Chairman

I was there myself.

——solely to the ineptitude of the tour operators. Many of us flew in and out satisfactorily and left people behind us at airports who had been there long before we arrived and long after we had left. This is not acceptable and must be eliminated.

The pilgrim to Fatima, Medjugorje or wherever obtained indulgences. This was an "add on" factor.

People who had that faith tolerated things that the business travellers would never tolerate in their wildest dreams. They should not have to put up with these. In this respect, Aer Lingus have responsibilities. Brochures should be accurate. I welcome the provision that the agent should be available. It is essential, especially where people are far from home.

With regard to the specialist holidays, the fisherman booking into an establishment on holiday will want to know if it has a deep freeze, an airing cupboard or an airing room. Factors such as these are important when it comes to making decisions about such holiday destinations, apart from the quality of the water, which is the major consideration.

There has been success in rural areas in terms of developing the product, through LEADER and similar programmes. We have also diversified it, which is to be welcomed. As Senator Quinn remarked, the customer is king. We must remember this because if we do not, visitors do not return. We are operating in a highly and increasingly competitive international environment. Those of us who visited Portugal in the past week will recognise how they have organised their tourism industry and how immensely powerful it is. We must be aware that this is the type of product we are competing against in an international market.

It was always said that if only we had the weather of Spain and Portugal we would have a marvellous tourism industry. That is not true. The people visiting Ireland expect it to rain and they do not mind it raining. I have met people from California in the west of Ireland who welcome rain,

Senator Magner might like to note that I began fishing in Banagher when I was approximately ten years of age. At that time there were fish in the River Shannon above Meelick weir and there was salmon in Meelick weir. They are not there now because of the peat that has come down from the Bord na Mona works.

Acting Chairman

Perhaps that issue might be the subject of an Adjournment debate.

I was a little diffident about engaging in this debate until I listened to it on the monitor and decided to attend the House. I then realised how unfocused were the contributions, so I do not consider that mine will be any worse.

Thank God for Trinity College.

Absolutely. My first point is a specific grievance and is in respect of target focusing on a niche market in which many tour operators engage. They select specific categories of person and produce special benefits for them in terms of age and so on. I especially resent the imposition of single supplements. This is a nasty and unpleasant way of doing business because it means, for example, that somebody like myself who normally travels on my own must pay a considerably increased amount of money simply for the pleasure of an extra couple of cubic centimetres of bed space. Nothing else is provided. It is a discriminatory practice and I ask the Minister to consider at some stage — whether it be within the provisions of this Bill or not — the creation of a level playing field for single persons. We are considerably discriminated against by the operation of the single supplement.

I understand that the Minister referred to the question of safety conditions, not simply the kind of comfort in terms of locations, but also within apartment buildings. There was a recent case——

The Tansey family.

The tragedy involving the Tansey family took place on the Canary Islands, which are under the jurisdiction of Spain. The authorities did everything possible to frustrate the inquiries which the family made. It became increasingly clear that safety provisions with regard to the insulation of gas fired central heating or water heating equipment had not been entirely complied with in the apartment block and the unfortunate couple had been gassed in the block. The Spanish/Canarian authorities made things extremely difficult for the investigators.

A number of issues arose from this. One was the question of a general implementation and inspection programme to a kind of European standard of safety for all these holiday apartments. There was a British standard of safety involving the awarding of a kite mark. Perhaps holidays which meet this standard should be awarded some kind of mark, such as an asterix, so that people would know that they are buying something that has been inspected and that is safe.

The Minister or his advisers will be more aware of the technical matters surrounding the Tansey case but, as I recall, there was a problem with regard to jurisdiction and there were some difficulties experienced by the children of the family in bringing matters before an Irish court. This is something that needs to be examined. Why should the grieving family have to travel backwards and forwards to make application in the Spanish courts in a situation complicated by official, bureaucratic obstruction? It should be possible to introduce an amendment which would make the tour operator liable in the country of origin for the standards of safety in the apartment buildings which form an essential element in the package, in other words, the entire package should be made subject to law in the country of origin of the passenger. I am not sure if this is addressed because the Minister in his speech is slightly coy and says that not all matters raised by this tragic case are capable of being met within this framework. I am not sure if this one is but it would seem to be very useful to locate total responsibility in the country of origin of the passenger.

My third point relates to the question of health. A number of us received briefing material from a distinguished former Member of the House and former Government Minister, Mrs. Nuala Fennell. The burden of the information she sent — and I do not believe I will be the only person to speak on this issue — is that many Irish people are unaware of the risks they run, particularly in what are now termed exotic holidays, for which there are now, curiously enough, packages available. They are very attractive, particularly for people who want to collect labels and gloat and boast to their friends. I am having a wonderful time since my retirement. I am saying "yes" like Molly Bloom to absolutely every proposition that is but to me with the result that I have been in Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, Beijing and I am just off to Brazil. As a result, if the House will indulge me, I have a bum like a pincushion from the attentions of the tropical diseases unit in the Royal College of Surgeons.

Acting Chairman

Senator, can we please get back to the Bill.

This is part of the Bill.

Can we have the labels deposited in the Library?

Yes. They will be part of the collection I am donating to the State. People are often not aware of the necessity to get this kind of precaution and vaccination. I feel quite strongly about it because one of the principal infectious diseases, particularly in the Far East and also in South America, is the hepatitis family; hepatitis A and B are very dangerous, nasty diseases. I speak with some feeling because, although I was inoculated for hepatitis A when I went to China two years ago, I managed to contract some other form of hepatitis from the drinking water in Eastern Europe, despite the fact that I was careful. It is an unpleasant, debilitating disease that takes a long time to get through ones system. Hepatitis A and B can be even more serious than the kind of hepatitis I acquired.

People are also not always aware of the timescale. If you visit the tropical diseases unit too close to the time of your visit, you may not be providing yourself with accurate protection. In the light of this and the fact that there appears to be a decreasing resistance to hepatitis A — and this was revealed in some medical studies recently — it would be a good idea if the Minister gave a commitment to ask the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, to consider the production of a health guideline leaflet which would be included, perhaps voluntarily at least in the beginning, with the package brochures. I am sure the Minister is aware that this exists already in the United Kingdom; there is a "Protect Your Health Abroad" leaflet. It would be useful if we had this kind of leaflet produced by our Department of Health with the assistance of the tropical diseases unit in the Royal College of Surgeons. It would prevent illness; I have no doubt about that. It would mean that people approached the right authorities in time.

For example, with malaria one must start taking the pills a fortnight before travelling, continue the dose while on holiday and a fortnight after returning. Depending on the part of the world, there are resistant strains of the malaria infection and travellers have to take a different medication which may not suit them. With the latest medication — I cannot remember the trade name — one person in 10,000 has a severe reaction to it; it is not principally a physically toxic reaction but they suffer from a pronounced clinical depression as a result of the chemical operation of the medication on the brain. If you start taking these pills about five days before travelling, you may find you are a very depressed little person walking along the Great Wall of China; you might even be tempted to jump off and I am not sure that would be a particularly good thing. However, if you do feel inclined to jump off, you should at least have insurance so that your spouse and infants are looked after.

It might be a good idea to make some minimal level of insurance mandatory as part of a package. I am not sure if it is; perhaps it is. The Minister is nodding so maybe it is mandatory. My travel agent almost invariably includes a travel insurance element when I ask him to book tickets abroad for me. Perhaps it is this baleful influence of Thatcherite economics where they slim everything down and remove the so-called fat from everything in sight, except myself, but I have noticed once or twice that I am not always covered. A minimal level of health and travel insurance should be a mandatory element in every decent package.

I want to welcome the Minister to the House and to say how much I have been enjoying this debate. It has been almost as good as a package holiday. However, it strayed a little over a number issues. I was interested to hear Senator Norris say that he is accepting every proposition that is being put to him. I presume that is in relation to travel. I will have to clarify that later.

He was not clear about that.

On another matter, I want to inform Senator Magner that Banagher is a town. They would be upset in County Offaly if he referred to it as a village. I was delighted to hear the Senator wax eloquently on the attractive features of Banagher and, indeed, of the midlands. I refer to his trip up the Shannon.

If it is good enough for Mr. Anthony Trollope, I suppose it is good enough for me.

As the Minister said today, the purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the EU Directive on package holidays, package travel and package tours. The purpose of the directive was to harmonise aspects of national provisions relating to package travel in the EU with a view to improving protection for customers and eliminating distortions of competition between the various member states.

This is effectively a charter of rights for all EU consumers travelling on package holidays. All of us are aware of the plight of many Irish holidaymakers who found themselves stranded abroad when the tour operator suddenly went out of business or, as has happened to many people, that holiday destinations and the actual services provided did not live up to what was promised in the brochure. The benefits of the Bill are twofold: it will benefit Irish holidaymakers going aboard because of the protection afforded to them and it will also be of immense value to the Irish tourism industry because it will give holidaymakers coming into the country the extra protection that is now required. The latter will further improve Ireland's position as a tourism destination. This is most important because, as the Minister said, the home holiday business generated approximately £400 million last year. This is most important to the national economy and it makes a significant contribution to the Exchequer.

The total number of visitors to Ireland rose to 3.3 million in 1993, an increase of over 60 per cent on the 1987 figure. According to the Minister, domestic tourism accounts for over 20,000 jobs, a substantial number. Increased tourism and foreign travel earnings amounted to over £560 million since 1987. This is the result of the huge investment which has been made in tourism, by the private and the State sectors. The benefits to the Exchequer have been enormous and we all acknowledge that fact.

It was agreed that I would speak on this Bill after Senator John Dardis took one look at the points made by Deputy Bobby Molloy in the Dáil and said: "There is something in there about hepatitis. I think, Cathy, that is your area so you can talk about it." However, he was obviously stimulated by the level of debate in the House and decided to say much of what I intended to say. I will deal with the health aspect — a point I intended to cover after I had made the points which Senator Dardis stole from me.

We welcome the Bill and support it. However, some of its provisions, particularly the health measures, are causing some people concern. We are all aware of unfortunate people who became seriously ill while they were abroad on holiday, perhaps from food they ate or by drinking contaminated water. This highlights the type of information on health requirements which should be provided to people going on holidays abroad, but also the important issue, as Senator Norris said, of ensuring that people are immunised against infectious diseases which are prevalent in the more exotic holiday destinations to which people are now going.

The two diseases which are particularly relevant in this context, and which have been raised by other Senators, are hepatitis A and hepatitis B, for which effective immunisation is available. While the areas of price, accuracy of brochures and cancellations, etc, are important, the risks to people, particularly young people, of the infections they could contract while abroad are very important and should be highlighted.

Hepatitis A is one of the major diseases from which travellers are at risk. It is a very serious and debilitating infection of the liver and each year ten million people worldwide contract it. It is transmitted from person to person by the consumption of food or drink which has been contaminated. People who are infected with the virus are capable of spreading the infection to others before they become obviously ill themselves with the disease.

Hepatitis A is linked to poor hygiene conditions. Travellers to parts of the world where standards of sanitation are less than ideal and the public water supply is suspect should be aware of the risk posed by hepatitis A. Young people, apparently those under 40 years of age, are particularly susceptible because, as Senator Henry said, many older travellers from this country have already become immune to the disease. They have been exposed to it earlier in life, but since our hygiene standards have improved so much, our younger people no longer have that exposure.

Hepatitis A is not endemic in Ireland, northern Europe or North America. However, the level is quite high in Portugal, Spain and other Mediterranean countries, places to which many Irish people travel. There is a very high incidence of hepatitis in Africa and South America so a very high risk is posed to Irish people who travel there. Vaccination is now available against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B, but, as Senator Norris said, it is most important to get the vaccination in time. Many people get the vaccination too late and they do not have the benefit of its full effect while they are away.

Hepatitis B is an extremely infectious disease and can cause serious liver disease. The World Health Organisation estimates that one million Europeans are affected every year by hepatitis B and we must accept these figures. As a result, it would be appropriate if the Bill spelled out in specific detail obligations on tour operators to provide people who are going on holidays abroad with fuller information about health risks. It is important that the requirements in relation to health risks in a host country form part of the essential terms of the holiday contract and are spelled out in section 14. I ask the Minister to consider this aspect.

Senator Dardis mentioned other areas which I intended to cover. I am sure the Minister has enjoyed his afternoon in the Seanad and some of the Senators' contributions. Senator Donie Cassidy encouraged us all to go on our package holidays to his area. I listened to Senator Magner talking about the holidays of his youth, when he travelled from Cork to Youghal on the train.

The only point which hurt the Senator was Banagher.

I said Banagher itself would be upset. I was not hurt at all.

That would not upset me greatly.

Would it upset the Senator that Banagher was upset?

Not in the slightest.

The Senator went on at length about the joys of it. I am sure it would——

It must be very glad of the publicity.

Very glad, delighted, as I was myself to hear the Senator talking about my constituency.

I was talking about Deputy Pat Gallagher's constituency.

We share the one constituency.

I think that map is shaded red.

Not for long.

There are many representatives from Laois-Offaly in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Senator Honan, without interruption.

We welcome the Bill and I have enjoyed Members' contributions.

I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate. I appreciate the constructive manner in which comments were made and the general support which was expressed for the Bill.

A number of questions were raised and Senators suggested amendments to certain sections. Before addressing these points, I reiterate the importance of bearing in mind that the Bill's primary purpose is the transposition of the EU Directive on package holidays and tours into Irish law. Ireland is obliged to transpose this directive by virtue of our membership of the EU. By enacting this legislation we are fulfilling our obligations in this regard.

A point was raised about the delay in bringing this measure before the Oireachtas. Senator Quinn complained strongly about this. The directive was not due to be implemented when it was passed, rather on 1 January 1993. While it is two years since the process of bringing the legislation before the House started, it is not an unduly long time. I agree it is longer than desirable and there was nothing preventing its introduction between 1990 and 1 January 1993, but we were not required to do so until that date.

As Senator Magner said, it was the opinion that the trade, as the providers of services, would circle the wagons and try to prevent the introduction of the regulation for as long as possible. The consultative process was rather lengthy and gave rise to the delay. However, there is now a new dynamic junior Minister in the Department who has introduced the legislation in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Modestly put, Minister.

I am delighted to introduce the legislation in the Seanad and that there is such a level of agreement on it. In the Bill we are seeking to strike a balance between the rights of consumers and the cost to the travel trade. I believe we have found this balance and I understand the travel trade, with which my Department has held a number of rounds of consultations, is generally satisfied with the Bill.

A number of matters are still of concern to the trade, but a Bill which posed no concern to the trade would have been ineffective. While there is some flexibility with regard to implementing the directive, it is quite limited. We must implement it in both letter and spirit and the Government has sought to do this.

I will now deal with points raised by Senators during the debate. A number of speakers raised the issue of bed and breakfasts. Some Members asked whether this legislation will apply to people who offer bed and breakfast type accommodation. While I understand the reasons for the concern, I assure the House that it is not well placed. The normal bed and breakfast operation will be outside the scope of this Bill. The provisions of the Bill will not apply where bed and breakfast accommodation is offered on its own. In other words, the vast majority of bed and breakfast establishments will not be covered by the Bill.

A similar situation will apply where a group of bed and breakfast establishments advertise their existence as bed and breakfast places and mention other services available in the area which would not be covered. This type of agri-tourism, to which Senator Howard and others referred, will be outside the scope of the Bill because a package is not being presented. They would be included if they offer not just accommodation, but either accommodation and travel or accommodation and fishing or golfing as part of the package. In that situation they are offering a package and the people concerned would be entitled to expect protection in that situation.

This is a piece of consumer protection legislation which highlights the responsibility of the package provider to ensure that the product and the manner in which it is sold is satisfactory. While a greater onus is being put on package organisers, nonetheless customers will have to prove their claims and the organiser will not be liable where the customer is at fault. Senator Quinn said that the word "customer" would be a more friendlier way to describe the type of person we are talking about. The customer is the hub and centre of the tourism trade and I accept that.

One of the problems I would have in accepting an amendment to change that word — Senator Quinn said that it was used 86 times in the Bill — would be that it would cause considerable further delay in bringing it into operation and may have the effect of it not being available for next year's travel trade. One needs a long lead in period to allow the trade to adjust to the new regulations. The travel trade's 1996 brochures will be out in the autumn of this year and if these measures are not put in place well before the end of that term, the trade will not be able to take it into account. It may lead to a further year of delay before we would have the measures in place. However, I will look at that matter and see if there are any means of including it in the Bill. I would consider including such a provision in the Bill desirable as long as it does not affect its conditions or terms. It is an indication of our desire to promote a friendly term for "consumer" and I accept that it should be "customer".

A number of Senators have raised the issue of health formalities. The Deputies in the Dáil were concerned about overburdening the travel trade with requirements to provide information in this regard. We are sticking closely in what we now have in the Bill to the terms of the directive. While I agree that it is highly desirable for the customer travelling abroad to be given the fullest possible information in good time so that he can put it into practice, this is neither the business of my Department nor this Bill. However, I will raise the matter directly with the Minister for Health so that the type of measure that is in vogue and in practice in Britain, where this type of information is available to all those travelling abroad from there, would be available to people travelling abroad from here through the travel trade. I will ask the Minister for Health to bring in that type of information package on a voluntary basis. If it does not work effectively on that basis, I am sure the Minister would consider bringing it in on a statutory basis.

The area of safety was also raised. The Bill will require and make liable the organiser or supplier of the service for anything less than the requirements of the country in which the service is provided. For example, the tragic Tansey case was mentioned. Section 14 (c) of the Bill deals with that situation to some degree insofar as it will be a requirement that compliance with the law within that state will be a requirement for the supplier of the service. If that had been in place prior to that tragedy, there would have been an opportunity for that family, or anybody else similarly affected, to take a case in the Irish courts. That will be available in the future. We have met the problems raised by that case as far as we could under this measure, and I am conscious that the EU Commission is currently looking at safety regulations for gas appliances to be applied to national legislation across the EU. In that situation the organiser or retailer could be sued by the customer. I have dealt with the delays in implementing the directive. The point that it was not due to be implemented until 1993 might have been missed by some of the Senators who commented on that area.

Senators have also expressed concern about the possibility that the implementation of the directive will result in large increases in holiday prices. I do not expect any such large increases as a result of the legislation. Additional costs, if they arise, will be because of the need for package providers to have additional insurance cover in respect of the activities of providers of accommodation abroad. The travel trade business is highly competitive and this will have its own effect on keeping prices steady. I am satisfied that some of the figures used in the previous Dáil debate — I am glad to say that they were not used here — were way over the top and there was no basis for them.

I will look at the possibility of changing the word "consumer", which is mentioned 86 times in the Bill, to "customer", but it could create a possible danger, which is the reason I am not saying that I will not accept it, although I see it as highly desirable.

Some of the other points raised by Senators are not pertinent to either this Bill or my Department. For example, I was not dealing with the additional charges for airline tickets or hotels for single people in this Bill. However, I have dealt with health risks in this Bill and I will pursue that matter with the Minister for Health and ask that the system in place in the United Kingdom be established here as well.

We are seeking to transpose the new directive as speedily as possible into Irish law to give our consumer protection and I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

It is proposed to take Committee Stage next Wednesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 14 June 1995.
Sitting suspended at 5.50 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.