HC Deb 27 November 1978 vol 959 cc17-9
15. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will now take steps to amend the guidelines applicable to section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 so that aid can be made available nationally to suitable projects, rather than remain restricted to development areas only.

29. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what plans he has to extend the areas of the United Kingdom eligible for financial assistance under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Meacher

As my right hon. Friend announced in a Written Answer on 22nd November, the Government have decided to make this assistance available in future in intermediate areas as well as development and special development areas to which it had previously been confined. We shall review the eligible areas in two or three years' time.

Mr. Ross

Is the Minister aware that judging from that answer constituencies such as mine, which are dependent on the tourist industry, will not receive the assistance to which they are entitled? Is he aware that the Isle of Wight is trying to extend its season and that it needs substantial financial input to improve facilities? Other parts of the country such as North Wales are receiving substantial sums. Is it not time that the scheme was operated on a countrywide basis rather than the money going to the intermediate and development areas?

Mr. Meacher

The hon. Member is wrong in his original premise. About two-thirds of the Government's tourism budget is spent across the whole country. It is not limited to development and intermediate areas. We are talking here about the bricks and mortar provided for in section 4 of the 1969 Act. For that the budget is £2 million to be paid in the next year to the development areas. To provide the extra £1½ it seemed best to restrict the allocation to the intermediate areas otherwise the butter would be spread too thinly.

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister appreciate that there are different criteria for helping the tourist industry? Why is he so much against the South of England which could make a contribution if it were to receive help from the Government?

Mr. Meacher

We are not against assisting the South of England. Promotional expenditure is not regionally limited. It goes to the whole country. Considerable benefit is derived from that. We have to decide how a relatively small amount of assistance for building and projects can be best spent. Our view is that it should be limited to those areas which have considerable unexploited tourist potential and a high unemployment level.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Minister aware that in the Aberdeen area there is a considerable welcome for the proposal to extend tourism assistance to intermediate areas, a move that is long overdue? What estimate has the Minister made of the additional employment what will be created by this decision?

Mr. Meacher

I cannot give a direct answer to that question because it will depend upon the way in which the money is spent. I estimate, however, that it will involve at least a few hundred new jobs.