HC Deb 14 February 1977 vol 926 cc20-2
18. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the estimated gross foreign currency earnings attributable to United Kingdom tourism, the amounts spent by United Kingdom citizens on holidays abroad and the resultant balance on the tourist account, for the years 1975 and 1976 respectively.

Mr. Meacher

With permission, I will circulate this information in the Official Report.

United Kingdom earnings were increasing faster than expenditure abroad last year and the favourable balance was improving from £239 million in 1975 to over £400 million in the first nine months of 1976.

Mr. Neubert

Is it not clear from that reply that, at a time when there has been little else to cheer about, the growth of tourism in the past year has been one of our success stories? What positive ideas do the Government have for encouraging the tourist industry and this healthy trend?

Mr. Meacher

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's opening remark that this is one of Britain's great success stories. Indeed, I myself recently said so loud and clear on television. On the question of improvements, we have the tourist guidelines which we brought in in November 1974, and these are gradually coming to fruition in conjunction with new policies about which, I hope, we shall soon be able to make an announcement, particularly in respect of the so-called "fragile" areas.

Mr. Powell


Mr. Meacher

For the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman, that is to promote the potential of tourism in the development areas.

Mr. Donald Stewart

The Government are blocking a Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) to make Scottish banknotes legal tender. In the light of that, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it would be legal for any tourist to take an unlimited quantity of Scottish banknotes out of the United Kingdom, since the Government would regard it merely as a suitcase full of waste paper?

Mr. Meacher

That is really a question for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Why do the Government persist in spending so much on promoting tourism in Scotland and Wales compared with the amount spent in England?

Mr. Meacher

What my hon. Friend says is not entirely true inasmuch as, under Section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which includes development areas, the funds we have cover the north of England as well as Wales and Scotland. I am aware of the point that the per capita expenditure is much lower in England, but that is because most of England is not in development areas, whereas almost the whole of Scotland and Wales is.

Mr. Wigley

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the balance of funds in respect of tourism in Wales is very strongly on the positive side? Will he also confirm that the funds given to the Wales Tourist Board are very much less than the funds given to the Irish Tourist Board, and that if we were to get the equivalent in Wales a still stronger balance of pay. ments could be achieved there?

Mr. Meacher

Yes, Sir.

Following is the information:

Travel Account £ million
Credits Debits Balance
1975 1,114 875 239
1976 (January-September* 1,135 718 417
*Seasonally adjusted. Figures are not yet available for the fourth quarter of 1976.

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