Edward Davey MP
Minister for Employment Relations
Consumer & POstal Affairs
|Mr Khalid Pervez
Association of British Hujjaj (Prilgrims) UK
249 Ladypool Road
|16 October 2010|
Thank you for your letters of 24 and 31 August, about the activities of certain disreputable Hajj and Umrah travel operators and inviting me to the launch of the National Hajj and Umrah (Health and Safety) Awareness Week at the House of Lords on 6 October. Thank you also for your kind words on my appointment as Minister with responsibility for consumer affairs.
I was interested to learn about the issues surrounding disreputable Hajj and Umrah travel operators and also about the dedicated work of your organisation in providing valuable advice and support to UK pilgrims.
Your letter of 24 August talks about the continuance of unacceptable behaviour from some of these travel operators. I appreciate that pilgrims are continuing to be affected by these outfits but since the Department became fully aware of this issue there has been signs of progress. For example, there has been an increase in complaints to Trading Standards Departments indicating improved pilgrim awareness as to the fact they have rights, a significant increase in the number of Hajj tour operators who now hold an Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL) and a willingness of the legitimate side of the industry to engage on this issue.
My Department is working with the industry on developing standard clauses for contracts and with the longer term aim of establishing core industry standards. I understand that a standard draft contract is now near completion. We will continue to encourage self regulation within this sector of the travel industry in order to establish good practice and to provide pilgrims with indicators as to which organisers are committed to providing a good service.
On the issue of raising pilgrim awareness, we are currently in discussions with Tower Hamlets Trading Standards and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) about contributing to a proposed information pack designed to help pilgrims avoid substandard operators.
The Association of British HuJjaJ (Pilgrims) UK is to be commended for its continuing hard work and commitment towards the health and welfare of thousands of British Muslims who go on Hajj and Umrah each year.