Business Secretary claims he’s considering support for travel agents in emotional radio exchange

Kwasi Karteng
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Business Secretary claims he’s considering support for travel agents in emotional radio exchange

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told ABTA’s Northwest chair Richard Slater that he is considering specific support for travel agents during an LBC radio phone in.

Mr Slater, director of Henby Travel in Macclesefield, was invited by the show’s host Nick Ferrari to quiz Mr Kwarteng, who was a guest on this morning’s programme.

Mr Slater took the opportunity to point out that travel agents have received the lowest re-start grants and no specific sector support.

Then, sounding emotional, he asked: “Given how much we’ve suffered, what will he do to protect them? Why are we bottom of the list for economic support. Why are you ignoring travel agents?”

Mr Kwarteng said it wasn’t the first time he had been told the Government wasn’t looking after agents, but he said they had given loans and added: “You might have benefited from the furlough scheme.”

He said the Government had avoided ‘trying to slice and dice bits of the economy, taking a sector-by-sector approach, saying that it had given lots of ‘general support’ instead.

Contradicting himself, Mr Kwarteng then admitted the Government has a different strategy for the hospitality sector and added: “Travel agents are very much part of that conversation.

“I am looking at ways we can support key businesses.”

Mr Slater told the Business Secretary his agency has handed out £1.8m in refunds during the pandemic. “We have had to work throughout, we have not been able to take advantage of the furlough scheme,” he said, adding that while a nearby hairdresser had received an £8,000 re-start grant, his agency had received only £2,667.

“Mr Rutley our MP said that was because we had been trading throughout, but you had the travel ban so how could we?”

Mr Kwarteng appeared to blame local councils for the unequal distribution of restart grants, saying they had ‘issues’, but he admitted ‘there are specifics here that I’m not on top of’, before suggesting Mr Slater ‘get in touch with [the Government’s] Business Department.

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