The comments by Grant Shapps at the Tory Party conference yesterday on what is referred to as Operation Matterhorn according to the tweet will no doubt have raised a few moments of applause for him in the auditorium along with tweets from supporters like Charlotte. However it is clear that we need current and future Governments to working out what happens when large dominant companies go bust as happens relatively frequently. The collapse of XL in 2008 followed by Monarch in 2017 and Thomas Cook a few days ago have all led to the very same outcome and frankly it is time for Governments to realise that our nation will always be better served by a diverse and broad market and that when a small number of companies begin to dominant any industry, particularly ones that can have a serious impact on our lives that some protection is needed to avoid the Government of the day spending large sums of public money when things go wrong. The cost for the Monarch collapse is estimated to have cost us £40.5m! The protection we need is to limit the expansion of larger businesses, which often happens by their ability to crush their competitors. However one factor that is hard to ignore is that the owners and managers of very large businesses have a habit of investing in party politics which of course closes the eyes and mind of politicians such as Grant Shapps, Peter Bone, Martin Callanan, Chris Grayling and Charlotte Vere.
Back in October 2008 Peter Bone made the statement “Many people will ask why we are protecting the banks and bank jobs at colossal risk when we allow other companies to go to the wall. The employees of XL travel or Travel City Direct and others in that group, who lost their jobs overnight, must wonder why they are being asked to bail out bankers.” And then in October 2017 Lord Callanan spoke about Monarch “The reason we felt the need to step in on this occasion—as indeed the last Labour Government did in the case of XL Airways in 2008—is that there just was not enough capacity available in the commercial market to repatriate so many people. Even if you had had the money, travel insurance and ATOL protection, you would not have been able to purchase a commercial flight in the market—the capacity was just not there—and therefore people would have been stranded abroad.”
The Governments of the past have kept on saying they will resolve matters. Back on 9th October 2017 Chris Grayling said “right now our efforts are rightly focused on getting employees into new jobs and getting passengers home. After that, our effort will turn to working through any reforms necessary to ensure that passengers do not find themselves in this position again. We need to look at all the options—not just ATOL, but whether it is possible to enable airlines to wind down in an orderly manner and look after their customers themselves, without the need for the Government to step in.” and then on 9th May this year he stated “Following on from the experience of Monarch, I commissioned an independent Airline Insolvency Review, chaired by Peter Bucks. The review has considered consumer protection in the event of an airline or travel company failure. The final report has been published today.….The Government is considering the range of options put forward by the review and will work swiftly to introduce the reforms that are needed to ensure a strong level of consumer protection and value for money for the taxpayer.”
It is clear that it takes far too long for people like Grayling and Callanan to achieve a very realistic result and it would be much better if our Governments of a range of hue’s could instead look to avoiding businesses becoming the dominant parts of such an important market.