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Thomas Cook’s bosses will face scrutiny as part of an investigation into the tour operator’s collapse. Business secretary Andrea Leadsom asked the official receiver, which oversees liquidations, to look at whether bosses’ actions “caused detriment to creditors or to the pension schemes”.

The request came amid criticism over executive salaries at the firm. Top directors at the holiday company have been paid a combined £20m in salaries and bonuses since 2014.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson questioned whether directors should pay themselves “large sums of money” as their businesses go “down the tubes”.

“I think the questions we’ve got to ask ourselves now [are]: How can this thing be stopped from happening in the future?

“How can we make sure that tour operators take proper precautions with their business models where you don’t end up with a situation where the taxpayer, the state, is having to step in and bring people home?”

Mrs Leadsom said the official receiver’s inquiry would look into the conduct of the firm’s top directors.

“I ask that the investigation by the official receiver looks, not only at the conduct of directors immediately prior to and at insolvency, but also at whether any action by directors has caused detriment to creditors or to the pension schemes,” she wrote in her letter to the Insolvency Service.

The service has the power to disqualify people from serving as company directors for up to 15 years if it finds them guilty of misconduct and can pass information to criminal enforcement bodies in the most serious cases.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Thomas Cook bosses should pay back any bonuses they received.

“I think they need to really examine their own consciences about how they’ve brought this about and how they themselves have exploited the situation,” he told the BBC.

Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser said he was “deeply sorry” about the firm’s collapse and said the company had worked “exhaustively” to salvage a rescue deal.

The company went into liquidation on Monday under the weight of a £1.7bn debt pile. As the result, the government is having to fly home around 155,000 customers from 18 countries.

Some 22,000 jobs worldwide are at risk too, 9,000 of them in the UK.

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