HC Deb 26 May 1966 vol 729 cc694-5
6. Mr. Birch

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he proposes to take to offset the effects on the tourist industry in North Wales of the Selective Employment Tax and the withdrawal of investment allowances.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes)

Apart from the grant to the British Travel Association, the industry will benefit from the raising of initial allowances from 10 to 30 per cent. and the building grants that will be available throughout the new development area. I hope also that it will benefit in due course from the Exchequer-aided research work being done by the Wales Tourist and Holidays Association.

Mr. Birch

Does the right hon. Gentle. man appreciate that most of the North Wales hotels are not in the Welsh development area at all, and does he realise that the effect of the withdrawal of investment allowances and Selective Employment Tax is positively to invite people in this country to take holidays abroad and to invite people abroad not to take holidays in this country?

Mr. Hughes

I agree that some hotels are not in the area, but a large number are. I fully appreciate the importance of the tourist industry not only in North Wales but in mid-Wales and a large part of South Wales as well. It is too soon yet to judge the precise effect of this tax on particular industries and in particular areas.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

The right hon Gentleman may think that it is too early, but is it not clear from the evidence already coming from these areas that the burden of the Selective Employment Tax is being heavily felt by all parts of the tourist industry? Does not he understand how much it is resented?

Mr. Hughes

The burden of this proposed tax cannot possibly be felt yet. The hon. Gentleman must realise that tourism is helped in other ways. We shall be watching carefully to see what transpires during the next few months.

14. Mr. Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what new proposals he has for encouraging the Welsh tourist industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The Wales Tourist and Holidays Association is engaged on a research programme into the facilities now available and the future of the industry. A progress report is expected shortly.

Mr. Gower

Will the Secretary of State treat this as a matter of urgency? Is he aware that the Selective Employment Tax and the withdrawal of investment allowances could have a deplorable effect on many parts of Wales which are more than generally dependent on tourists?

Mr. Hughes

I do not take the dismal view which the hon. Gentleman takes, but I am aware of the importance of the work which the research unit is doing. It started its work in April, 1965, and is engaged on a three-year programme. We shall await the outcome with great interest.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

We fully recognise that the Secretary of State has not long held his office, but will he[...] appreciate that there are many people concerned about the future of the tourist industry? We hope that we shall not have to wait three years for some efforts from him.

Mr. Hughes

We are aware of the importance of the tourist industry to the Principality. What I said was that the research unit is engaged on work which would take three years. It will be producing progress reports, and I am now awaiting such a progress report. I am anxious also to meet the officials of the Tourist Board to see what, if anything, can be done in the meantime.