HC Deb 12 December 1977 vol 941 cc16-8
19. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received from tourism interests concerning the alteration to the constitution of the British Tourist Authority proposed in the Scotland Bill; and if he will ensure that the board retains a membership adequate to represent all the interests of tourism.

Mr. Dell

I have received representations from the British Tourist Authority and one of the regional boards. But members of the BTA board are not at present appointed in a representative capacity, and I am sure that the smaller board will be able to maintain its close links with the tourist industry.

Mr. Adley

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but is he not aware that the reduction of British Tourist Authority board membership from five to one, as proposed in the Scotland Bill, will reduce the scope of the board to include the varied commercial interests involved in the tourist industry? In view of the fact that there is now on the Order Paper an amendment signed by representatives of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party to increase this number from one to three, will he give the amendment his support?

Mr. Dell

Obviously the House will have to consider the amendment, but it was thought that within the context of devolution it was sensible that the chairmen of the national boards should have a decisive influence on the operations of the British Tourist Authority, which acts as an agent for them. The constitution was designed to achieve that effect. I think that that is the best solution.

Mr. MacCormick

In view of the importance to Scotland of the tourism industry, does the Minister agree that once we have the devolved siutation the Government should do all they can to encourage the airlines to make direct flights available between Scotland and other countries abroad?

Mr. Dell

There are many routes between Scotland and other parts of the world. It is also a matter for the airlines to discuss the commercial viability of particular services.

Mr. John Ellis

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that tourism is perhaps the fastest growth industry we have, and would it not be better, whether in Scotland or anywhere else, to have a Minister in office directly responsible for tourism? Would the Minister be opposed to that?

Mr. Dell

I am the Minister directly responsible for tourism, and I am in office.

Mr. Neubert

Is it not an unjustifiable consequence of the devolution proposals that England, which attracts the vast majority of visitors from overseas to Britain, should be left at a disadvantage?

Mr. Dell

I do not believe that England is at a disadvantage. I hold strongly to the view that this is a United Kingdom and that each part of the United Kingdom benefits from the promotion of any other part of it.

Sir A. Meyer

I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman's last statement, but is he none the less aware that it would be extremely difficult to satisfy legitimate Welsh requirements on the basis proposed in the Bill?

Mr. Dell

I hope that is not the case. I think that this is a sensible solution to a problem in which the interests of Wales and Scotland are keenly involved, as well as those of England. I think that the system will work well, and on this basis the British Tourist Authority is able to act as the promotion agent overseas for the three national boards.