British tourists’ safety must be prioritised when David Cameron renegotiates the country’s EU membership following the deaths of Bobby and Christianne Shepherd in 2006, a shadow minister said last night.
Labour’s Mary Creagh also pressed ministers to “do their bit to put things right as well” by match-funding Thomas Cook’s “financial gesture of goodwill” to the parents of the children, which was announced in May.
Creagh, leading an adjournment debate in Parliament last night, reiterated her call for a Europe-wide campaign for improved carbon monoxide safety.
Tourism minister Tracey Crouch was urged to commit to push for better safety standards across Europe and the UK.
She committed to meeting with Abta to ensure the industry understands its “duty of care” to holidaymakers.
Bobby and Christianne from Wakefield died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty boiler on their Thomas Cook holiday to Corfu.
Creagh, their local MP, said the final school photo of the pair had become a symbol of their parents’ long fight for justice and of the “cold-hearted indifference” of Thomas Cook and the government, the Yorkshire Post reported.
In an emotional speech, she added the parents had informed her they will “never again have a perfect day”.
MPs heard of the repeated delays faced by the children’s parents – and their parents’ partners – in finding out the truth via the courts and inquests.
Creagh said: “British families need and deserve good safety standards across Europe and across the UK, and the opposition of the government and of other member states means progress on carbon monoxide safety has stalled.
“The EU Commission has decided there’s no case for introducing legislation for carbon monoxide safety in holiday accommodation after its green paper.
“That must change. The government too has a duty of care to British citizens and the prime minister should make the safety of British tourists a priority as he seeks to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Nothing will bring back Bobby and Christi. But their parents’ dearest wish is to spare other families the heartbreak they have suffered.”
She added: “Their parents have told me they will never again have a perfect day. So the powers that be, whether in this government or at Thomas Cook, should be in no doubt that whatever power this place gives us, I intend to use to campaign for justice for Christi and Bobby and their parents.
“Theirs is a cause that cries out for justice, attention and for change and we must see that they get it.”
In reply, Crouch said the previous Tory-led coalition government had concluded – in response to a European Commission green paper on tourism safety – that UK legislation does make necessary safety provisions for British tourists.
In addition the commission is not considering EU-wide regulation, she said.
But she suggested the government could look at beefing up enforcement of the current rules and said she would be meeting Abta to make sure companies understand their duty of care.
Crouch said: “This is an area we need to keep under constant review.
“There is no room for complacency and while we might think as a government at the moment that there’s not a need to amend the primary legislation, there is a strong case for considering how effectively these laws are enforced.
“As you pointed out, Abta and its partners have long campaigned on this issue and I can tell you and the House as a direct response to this debate I will be meeting with Abta and the industry to ensure that it fully understands its duty of care to consumers.
“It’s imperative that the sector commits itself to upholding best practice, from industry suppliers all the way to the end user, the customer.”
Crouch also said Thomas Cook needs to maintain a fundamental standard of “human decency” and should “reflect at length” on how the Shepherd family were treated.
The minister said: “I do think it is absolutely clear that the extended and ongoing dialogue between them (Thomas Cook) and the family has contributed to the family’s distress.
“Clearly there are lessons that Thomas Cook must learn from this dreadful episode. The coroner’s report makes clear that they need to review and improve their safety practices. Robust safety procedures are enshrined in law and they were not followed.
“Thomas Cook should also reflect at length upon how they have treated a grieving family. Their duty of care extends beyond the physical and the letter of the law, there is a fundamental standard of human decency that must be met in the future.”
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