HC Deb 06 February 1978 vol 943 cc1011-2
17. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied that hotel accommodation outside London will be adequate for the number of overseas visitors anticipated during the current year.

Mr. Meacher

Yes, Sir. According to the latest figures from the national tourist boards, an average of one hotel bed in two outside London was empty in the first eight months of last year.

Mr. Sainsbury

I note the Minister's apparent satisfaction. Is he aware that there is growing concern in the hotel industry that the shortage of hotel accommodation in and out of London will soon prove a restriction on tourism? In certain areas, including my constituency, hotels provide a major source of employment. The United Kingdom is alone in the EEC in not providing industrial building allowances or the equivalent for hotel building. There is considerable suffering in these areas from that failure. When will the Government stop discouraging the expansion of hotel accommodation?

Mr. Meacher

The Government in no way discourage the expansion of hotel development. The hotel development incentive scheme is a major factor in that respect. On the matter of capital allowances for hotel building, in the Finance Bill debates last year the Minister of State indicated that Treasury Ministers believed that on equity grounds the case was unanswerable. They said that there was no case in equity for treating commercial buildings differently from industrial buildings. This is a matter of financial priorities. Therefore, it is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Heffer

On Merseyside, and particularly in Liverpool, there is a lot of good hotel accommodation available. Will the Minister do his best to ensure that as far as possible tourists are directed to Liverpool? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I said "as far as possible". Is he aware that we consider Liverpool to be the Athens of the North? It is a fine artistic and cultural centre and the people are extremely friendly. Will the Minister take all these points into accouunt when he is discussing the subject of hotel accommodation and questions involving tourists coming to this country?

Mr. Meacher

I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State entirely agrees with him, except that he wishes that tourists could be directed to Birkenhead. On the question of encouraging tourists into the development area to which he refers, under Section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 project assistance is confined to the development areas. To that extent, we are already increasingly encouraging tourists into these areas. We shall continue to do so.