Business secretary Andrea Leadsom has admitted she didn’t speak to Thomas Cook ahead of the iconic operator’s collapse last week.
Documents, seen and cited by The Guardian, show Leadsom and ministers and officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Indistrial Strategy (BEIS) had “little to no discussion” with Cook before the company entered liquidation.
This was despite records of phone calls and meetings indicating ministers were aware of Cook’s financial plight.
Speaking to ITV News, Leadsom said the Department for Transport led on matters pertaining to Cook.
“I picked up the phone to [transport secretary] Grant Shapps, who picked up the phone to Thomas Cook,” said Leadsom. “You don’t want to have mixed messages, or too many cooks spoiling the broth.”
Following Cook’s collapse, Leadsom and BEIS were among the most vocal, pledging to get to the bottom of what happened to Britain’s oldest travel company.
Leadsom has convened a cross-government taskforce, and vowed to instruct the Insolvency Service to fast-track its investigation into the collapse of Cook and the conduct of its directors.
The TSSA union, which represented Thomas Cook’s retail staff, accused Leadsom and BEIS of “sitting on their hands” while 9,000 jobs were on the line.
“Government ministers should not have been passing the buck but rather, acting in concert to save a cornerstone of the British high street,” said general secretary Manuel Cortes.
A BEIS spokesperson told The Guardian UK government officials “meet with a range of businesses on a regular basis”.