HC Deb 27 July 1983 vol 46 cc1171-2
5. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his conclusions of the review of tourism's statutory bodies.

13. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will make his announcement on the review of tourism policy.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Norman Lamont)

I am still studying the issues arising from the review. I hope to make decisions shortly and to make an announcement to the House after the recess.

Mr. Adley

My hon. Friend knows that I have an interest in the industry — [Interruption.] Knowing something about a subject is not necessarily a bar to asking a question. Is my hon. Friend aware that, as most people will agree, he is wise to study the matter for a little longer and to get it right rather than rush into a decision soon after assuming office? Does he accept that many people believe that the amendments tabled in Committee on what is now the Development of Tourism Act 1969 have largely been responsible for the conflict and duplication which have plagued the industry ever since? Will he give an assurance that he recognises the value of the British Tourist Authority and will do nothing to emasculate it?

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his understanding about the delay to the announcement on the review. I shall examine the issues that he has suggested concerning the 1969 Act. I shall also look into his latter point. I confirm that the tourist industry is a major growth industry and, above all, a major opportunity for more employment. The Government will do everything possible to encourage it.

Mr. McCrindle

While my hon. Friend is reaching his conclusions, would he care to comment on the widely circulated suggestion that there might be a case for a closer association between the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board, perhaps with the former concentrating rather more than hitherto on outward tourism? Has he held any discussions with representatives of City institutions about the possibility of introducing private capital into tourist development?

Mr. Lamont

The answer to my hon Friend's second question is yes. Most tourist facilities ere financed with private capital. I cannot comment at this stage on my hon. Friend's first point, because it is the central issue in the review. However, it is widely agreed that there is an incredible amount of overlap in the present organisations and that we must think again about it.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Before my hon. Friend makes up his mind, will he consider the disproportionate allocation of public funds to Wales as opposed to the south-west, where unemployment is extremely high? Moreover, the south-west does not have the basic industries to provide employment on the same scale as Wales. Will my hon. Friend examine whether that distortion results from there being a separate Welsh Tourist Board, which receives far more than its fair share of resources as compared with different parts of England, all of which are covered by the English Tourist Board?

Mr. Lamont

I assure my hon. Friend that I shall consider that. There are grounds for anxiety about the lack of co-ordination between the different organisations. It is obvious that Scotland and Wales must co-ordinate their activities with the British effort as a whole. I believe that we should boost the regional tourist boards.

Mr. Bill Walker

When my hon. Friend conducts his review, will he bear in mind that there has recently been a substantial reorganisation of tourism and the tourist-related agencies in Scotland and that another change might not be beneficial to the industry?

Mr. Lamont

I shall bear that in mind. My hon. Friend is aware that there was a commitment in the Scottish Conservative manifesto about the organisation of tourism in Scotland.

Sir William Clark

Does my hon. Friend agree that the tourist industry is labour rather than capital-intensive? Will he have urgent talks with the Treasury to see whether more fiscal incentives can be given in the form of capital allowances for the tourist industry?

Mr. Lamont

I shall bear that point in mind. It is a long-standing issue and I well understand the industry's desire to have capital allowances to help with tourist projects.

Mr. Eastham

As we are considering tourism in general, can we prevail or the Minister to consider the problem of transport and the location of airports? Will the Minister use his good endeavours to get the appropriate Ministers to encourage the expansion and full utilisation of Manchester airport?

Mr. Lamont

I shall be talking to Ministers in the Department of Transport about the impact of their policies on tourism.

Mr. John Fraser

Does the Minister agree that, bearing in mind tourism's potential for earning foreign exchange and creating employment, expenditure to support tourism is well worth while? Will he reverse some of the more asinine decisions of his predecessor, such as that forcing the closure of the British Tourist Authority's public office at St. James's Street—an act which would be unthinkable in any other tourist country?

Mr. Lamont

That decision has been made. It was my hon. Friend's view that there was unnecessary overlap between that centre and statutory tourist boards. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. Tourism is a big growth industry and we must do everything possible to encourage it.

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