Stewart Jackson MP on Thomas Cook

07:22 Monday 28th November 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Peterborough-based travel company Thomas Cook could axe 1000 jobs in a radical restructuring. It’s after the banks threw it a £200 million lifeline. It sells more than 22 million holidays in the UK every year, but bookings have dropped, partly due to the unrest in popular destinations like Tunisia and Egypt. Let’s speak to MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson, who’s with us this morning. Morning Stewart.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: First of all I suppose we’ve got to say thank the Lord we can still not just book it, we can Thomas Cook it. That’s the good thing.
STEWART JACKSON: Well that’s one of the reasons I brought the issue up in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, in the House of Commons, because I saw the media coverage, not the local media I have to say but the national media, turned very ugly on Tuesday evening, making particular reference to the share price. And there are 18,000 people that work for Thomas Cook across the world, with 1600 working in Peterborough. And quite frankly there were elements of the media which were more or less dancing on Thomas Cook’s grave, before it was even dead. And I thought it was important to make the point that this is a viable company that’s been going for 170 years. It’s a big company, offering many millions of holidays. And we needed to get a sense of perspective. Since then of course, they’ve got their £100 million loan agreement from the banks, and they’re looking .. they’re going to announce in two weeks, a restructuring programme, which hopefully will keep all the jobs in Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, but there are going to be job losses. There is going to need to be some sort of restructuring. It’s part of a bigger picture really, isn’t it, about the way we do things these days, the way we buy our holidays, the way we buy our music. Traditional companies are having to adapt or die, aren’t they?
STEWART JACKSON: Yes. I think the power of the internet has been very significant in this case. But in fairness, Thomas Cook have also undertaken a quite significant amount of acquisition of different companies, over the last few years. They’ve bought a lot of the Co-op travel stores on the high street, they also bought My Travel in Bradford a few years ago. Perhaps that was imprudent, and they over-stretched themselves. The other thing as well we should remember, and it’s been reported today, that they’ve paid the former Chief Executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa over £15 million in bonuses in the last four years. He took £1.1 million following his departure in August. People are now looking and saying, actually, should we have been rewarding someone that wasn’t actually delivering the goods in higher profits. And I think governance activists, company governance activists, are looking at putting pressure on the company, and it may be the board may look at those payments and say that they weren’t appropriate. But certainly , in the short term, the company’s position is stronger today as a result of the bank lending. And hopefully they’ll be in a position to protect most of the jobs,if not all of them, on the high street.
PAUL STAINTON: Well let’s hope so. Let’s hope we keep all of those jobs in Peterborough, Stewart. Keep your eye on it for us, won’t you. MP for Peterborough, Stewart Jackson, with some good news, or sort of good news, about Thomas Cook. At least there’s no problems about its immediate future, although there may be some job losses to come.