The business secretary has pledged to set up a cross-government taskforce to assist Thomas Cook staff after the historic operator collapsed into liquidation on Monday (23 September) after 178 years.
Andrea Leadsom said the government recognised the situation was a “hugely worrying” time for Cook staff, stressed she would instruct the Insolvency Service to fast-track its investigation into the collapse of Thomas Cook – including the conduct of the company’s directors.
Leadsom said the taskforce would consult key stakeholders, monitor the impact of Cook’s collapse on businesses, and evaluate existing support schemes.
She also stressed the government’s Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response Service was on hand to offer Cook employees tailored support to help them back into work.
“This will be a hugely worrying time for employees of Thomas Cook, as well as their customers,” said Leadsom. Government will do all it can to support them.
“I will be setting up a cross-government taskforce to monitor local impacts, will write to insurance companies to ask them to process claims quickly, and stand ready to provide assistance and advice.
“I will also be writing to the Insolvency Service to ask them to prioritise and fast-track their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thomas Cook going into liquidation.”
BEIS – the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy – has told Cook employees the Insolvency Service will be able to advise on claiming money owed and where to seek support.
On the taskforce, BEIS adds its investigation will involve “local stakeholders”, while the Insolvency Service’s review “will also consider the conduct of the directors”.
Meanwhile, transport secretary Grant Shapps has admitted the effort to repatriate more than 150,000 Thomas Cook customers would undoubtedly be “enormous”.
Thomas Cook’s collapse is very sad news for staff and holidaymakers,” said Shapps. “The government and the CAA is working round the clock to help people. Our contingency planning has helped acquire planes from across the world – some from as far away as Malaysia – and we have put hundreds of people in call centres and at airports.
“But the task is enormous, the biggest peacetime repatriation in UK history. So, there are bound to be problems and delays. Please try to be understanding with the staff who are trying to assist in what is likely to be a very difficult time for them as well.”