Pilgrimages

 

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

 

What information they have regarding the levels of deceit and fraud suffered by Muslim pilgrims going to Mecca and Medina arising from the actions of United Kingdom-based pilgrimage arrangers and what action they are taking.

 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Baroness Vadera): The Government do not hold records of the number of cases of detriment caused to British Muslim pilgrims arising from the actions of United Kingdom-based pilgrimage arrangers. Indeed there seems to be a reticence among pilgrims to bring complaints to the attention of the relevant authorities and this is one of the issues we are aiming to address.

 

Nevertheless the Government are well aware that there are serious problems in this sector and my department, in conjunction with other government departments, the Civil Aviation Authority and local authority trading standards officers are working to improve compliance with UK regulations on package travel, to inform pilgrims of their consumer rights, and to whom they should complain.

 

Last year we began an information campaign to inform pilgrims of their rights and my honourable friend the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs wrote to all MPs to ask for their help at the constituency level. There is evidence, in terms of a rise in complaints to the appropriate authorities, that this met with some success. We shall build on that this year by better targeting consumer information and publicity via a further pilgrim awareness campaign later in the year, and by seeking ways of ensuring that Hajj and Umrah travel organisers meet their statutory obligations. To begin this process, my honourable friend the Minister for Trade and Consumers Affairs will be holding a meeting in July to which have been invited Hajj travel organisers and we expect Muslim representative organisations to attend. We shall inform them of their responsibilities to their customers and explore with them their ideas on how the Hajj travel industry can improve.

Updated: 13/12/2009 — 6:24 PM