HC Deb 22 November 1983 vol 49 cc167-80 3.33 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Norman Lamont)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Government's review of tourism policy, instituted in July last year by the then Under-Secretary of State for Trade. I am grateful to all those who contributed, including right hon. and hon. Members.

Tourism is undoubtedly one of our most important industries. In 1982 its turnover, at some £8.5 billion, almost matched that of the motor industry and it employed around 1 million people. The Government recognise the great economic and employment potential of tourism and are determined to encourage the industry's development.

The review, which was concerned primarily with the activities of the British tourist authority and the English tourist board, and with the relationships among all the tourist boards, produced many proposals for improving tourism generally. Details of some, and of how they will be pursued, are in a paper which I have placed in the Vote Office. They include improving hotel standards, new training initiatives, proposals for computerised reservations systems, signposting policy, revitalising the traditional resorts and dealing with the tourism needs of London. The review has also pointed to other tourism issues which are the responsibility of other Departments. I intend to invite them to consider further action.

The Government's main instrument for encouraging tourism is the statutory tourist boards. In recognition of the widely accepted view that the boards need to improve their own co-ordination, the Government have decided that new organisational arrangements are required. I am therefore inviting the British tourist authority to transfer wherever possible its remaining United Kingdom activities to the national boards, so that it may concentrate on its prime responsibility: to promote Britain overseas. I am asking the BTA and the ETB to seek shared accommodation, to merge certain common services, and in consultation with the Scottish tourist board and the Wales tourist board to eliminate duplication in their publication programmes. The review has shown that a revised approach is also needed to planning the BTA's overseas promotions so that full account is taken of the requirements of England, Scotland and Wales in the main marketing programme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has announced separately improvements agreed with the BTA for the promotion of Wales overseas. None of those important changes requires legislation. However, the Minister of State, Scottish Office, last week introduced in another place a Bill containing proposals for limited overseas promotion by the STB, which will require some amendment to the 1969 Development of Tourism Act.

Sir Henry Marking, the present BTA chairman, has agreed to leave his post at the end of March 1984, some five months before the end of his appointment, to permit a new chairman to begin carrying through the changes at the BTA as soon as possible. I should like to record the Government's sincere appreciation of Sir Henry's tireless and valuable work as a promoter of tourism. As the successor to Sir Henry at the BTA, my right hon. Friend is appointing Mr. Duncan Bluck, currently chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways and of the Hong Kong tourist association, with effect from April next for a period of three years.

The Government believe that rationalisation of the BTA and ETB activities could best occur under a single chairman. My right hon. Friend therefore intends to ask Mr. Bluck to serve also as chairman of the ETB when Mr. Michael Montague finishes his current term there. Mr. Bluck will examine possibilities for further collaboration and the possibility of a merger of the two bodies. Mr. Montague, who has also done much valuable work at the ETB, will play an important role for the rest of his term in helping to bring the two boards closer together. I have asked him additionally to report to me urgently on how the non-statutory regional tourist boards might take on additional responsibilities, particularly in marketing. The important role of the regional boards in English tourism has been emphasised by this review.

I place great importance on attracting private finance to tourism and I am therefore pleased to be able to inform the House that the English tourist board has been instrumental in setting up a new equity fund for tourism, financed by the private sector but with access to advice from the boards. Full details will be announced at a later date. In the meantime, however, I plan to maintain grants for section 4 expenditure in England at about the current level over the four years to 1986–87, giving a total of some £35 million for the period.

These moves towards closer co-ordination, clearer objectives and better use of resources by the boards should benefit tourism, but the review confirmed that the main task of realising tourism's potential for growth must rest with the industry itself.

Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

I welcome the fact that this statement has been made. Many of us had feared that, with the departure from the Government of Mr. Iain Sproat, the review which he initiated might have been quietly buried in the Department. However, we believe that the statement misses much that really matters to the tourist industry. We welcome the hon. Gentleman's support for the principle of continued public spending, but there is little point in spending directly on tourism when, at the same time, public spending on the services that are crucial to tourism—railways, roads and other forms of communication, for example—is being cut back. Will the hon. Gentleman speak to his friends in the Treasury about this point?

Last year, for the first time in 16 or 17 years, far from earning foreign exchange through tourism we fell into deficit on it. That was certainly the result of an over-valued exchange rate. The over-valued pound that damaged manufacturing industry has also hurt the tourist industry.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is the central finding of the programmes analysis review conducted by his own civil servants some years ago? Is the hon. Gentleman aware of that review, and does he intend to publish its findings?

The hon. Gentleman has announced measures for rationalisation. We welcome anything which will save money and make the services more efficient, but can the hon. Gentleman explain the precise relationaship between the British tourist authority and the Scottish and Wales tourist boards? Will not those boards be left out in the cold with an ill-defined role, particularly in terms of promoting British tourism overseas? Can the hon. Gentleman elaborate on the precise relationship that they will enjoy with the newly merged BTA and ETB?

Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House, with reference to the paper in the Vote Office, that it is not the purpose of the rationalisation to centre tourist resources in London? He should bear in mind that in the interests of London's hard-pressed facilities and of the economic needs of the regions, it remains vital to spread our tourist effort throughout the country.

We welcome the news that private equity finance is to be made available, but when is the detail of the scheme likely to be made public? In view of the importance of the tourist industry, do the Government have any plans for an early debate?

Mr. Lamont

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that exchange rates have a profound influence on tourist flows. That is precisely why we should be sceptical about the effect of public spending on tourism—I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman is also right to say that Government activities in many Departments influence tourism. That is one of the points brought out in the paper that I have placed in the Library. He can take it that I, as sponsor of the industry, make representations all the time to other Departments in Whitehall about the effect of Government policy on tourism.

As regards the relationship between the BTA and the Wales tourist board and the Scottish tourist board, the Minister of State, Welsh Office, announced some changes in staff at the BTA and at the Wales tourist board to create better liaison in the marketing of Wales, and the same applies to Scotland.

In addition, as the hon. Gentleman knows, those tourist authorities will do a limited promotion. The hon. Gentleman said that we should not place too much emphasis on London. He must recognise that a large proportion of the tourists who come to this country come to London, and a large number of tourists who go to other parts of the United Kingdom come to London first.

On the hon. Gentleman's last point, the details of the equity fund are for the fund to announce. I expect that there might be an announcement in January. A debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Sir Paul Bryan (Boothferry)

Is the Minister aware that Mr. Duncan Bluck, in addition to having a broad and successful business background, played a large part in building up one of the world's most successful airlines? We are extremely lucky to obtain his services.

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have no doubt that in Mr. Bluck we have a first class business man who will make an excellent sponsor for the tourist industry.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Will not the promotion of tourism for Scotland be a dog's breakfast? Is it not amazing that the Government are introducing a Bill to give limited powers to the Scottish tourist board—I think that the Minister described them as "very limited powers" — for promotion overseas? Would it not be better to give the Scottish tourist board complete autonomy to promote tourism to Scotland overseas?

Mr. Lamont

It would not be a good idea to have complete freedom in that sense. It is important that the promotion of tourism overseas to this country should be co-ordinated. It makes no sense for the different parts of the country to be in competition with each other, wasting large sums of public money. The function of the British tourist authority is to co-ordinate the marketing of the distinctive parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

Leaving the ethnic arguments aside for the moment, may I congratulate my hon. Friend on this welcome and wide initiative? Is he aware that these plans will greatly increase the opportunities for training schemes for young people in an excellent and growing industry where the future is very encouraging?

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of the most important points about the tourist industry is not just that it has a great capacity for growth but that it also has a great capacity for growth in employment. It is extremely important that there should be improvements in training to encourage young people to enter the tourist and leisure industries. I welcome the fact that the English tourist board will be publishing a booklet for young people detailing some of the opportunities that exist. The English tourist board calculates that about 250,000 extra jobs could be created in tourism up to 1990.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

They all go overseas for their holidays.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

While I welcome the publication of this review, does the Minister recognise that some of us are a little confused about what he is trying to do? He is giving some autonomy to the various regional boards, but there is a similarity of facility and there will be one chairman for the BTA and the ETB. Does the Minister not agree that this may cause some conflict of interest?

In the light of the importance that the Minister rightly places upon the tourist industry within the British economy, does he not recognise that there is a need for some parity of access to the fiscal legislation as between the tourist industry and British industry in general? In relation to the specific proposals that the Minister has placed in the Vote Office——

Mr. Skinner

Declare your interest.

Mr. Ashdown

—do they recognise the importance of the small hotel and guest house? Will some Government assistance be provided towards, for instance, rate relief and the provision of low interest loans for the small hotels and guest houses which needs Government legislation?

Mr. Lamont

Almost everyone who has looked at the relationship between the different boards has agreed that there is a great overlap between the BTA and the ETB, Different people have different ideas of what the functions ought to be. We believe that having a common chairman will remove much of that overlap. I have said today that we think that the BTA should be confined to the external promotion of this country and the ETB confined to marketing England in England. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the fiscal equality of treatment between manufacturing and service industries. It is a principle to which I subscribe. It arises in the review of regional policy, but the cost of ensuring complete equality of treatment is large and it has to borne by the Exchequer. The English tourist board well understands the needs of small hotels. It is part of its function in its marketing effort. It is within the power of district authorities to make available special loans for complying with Government regulations, such as fire regulations. I cannot promise rate relief for the hotel industry. It would impose enormous burdens on other ratepayers.

Mr. John Spence (Ryedale)

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a substantial and important point in relation to tourism in my constituency? The tourist board has calculated that it has an income of about £12 million a year, which is a substantial contribution to the economy of the constituency. There has been substantial private and public investment in tourist facilities in the constituency.

One section of the review deals with signposting. As part of the constituency lies within the national park, we are plainly interested to see that any advertising on trunk and country roads should be artistic and tasteful.

Is the Minister aware that I have been able to get no sense from the Government Departments responsible for planning decisions? There are several Government Departments and public bodies involved, including the Department of Transport, the police, the Department of Trade and Industry, the tourist board and the planning authority. It is important to bring them together to reach a cohesive decision. Could my hon. Friend——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am very sorry to stop the hon. Member there, but that is long enough.

Mr. Lamont

I shall certainly take up the point mentioned by my hon. Friend with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Signposting for tourist facilities is a matter of long-standing grievance and controversy. My hon. Friend may know—it is in the paper in the Vote Office — that there is to be an experiment in the signposting of tourist attractions in two local authority areas — Kent and Nottingham. I shall certainly pursue the points he mentions.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

Will the Minister accept that there will be a warm welcome for his assurance that the regional tourist boards in England will be strengthened? These boards, especially in Yorkshire, have done excellent work on limited budgets. If the Government are to take the regional promotion of tourism seriously, would it not be sensible to drop this silly idea of building a new London airport at Stansted and devote these resources to the development of the regional airports?

Mr. Lamont

I shall certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman said about the proposed airport. Regional boards have an important role to play. Who else can market individual parts of the country if not the regional boards? I agree that the Yorkshire tourist board is one of the very best.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to protect the business of the House. We have an important Bill to discuss after the statement. I shall call the hon. Members who have been standing in their places, but will they please ask brief questions?

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On what basis will funds be allocated between statutory regional boards, such as those for Scotland and Wales, and non-statutory ones such as the south-west tourist board which tends to get far less resources than the population and unemployment in the area justify?

Mr. Lamont

I have not proposed any changes to the funding of non-statutory boards. That is a matter for the ETB. That issue will be considered in the review of non-statutory boards to which I have referred. I note what my hon. Friend says about the imbalance between non-statutory boards and, for example, the Welsh or Scottish boards. Strictly speaking, however, the latter should be compared with the English tourist board rather than with the regional boards.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

Why does the Minister, like many of his colleagues, insist on putting such weight on encouraging tourism in London? Does he not understand that the capital city generates its own enthusiasm among tourists? Does he agree that the £8.5 billion turnover is enormous and that it would be much better to encourage tourism in areas such as Northumbria? Is he aware that the Northumbria tourist authority badly needs money to encourage tourists to visit that wonderful area where we have magnificent rivers, hills, mountains and lakes and the finest beaches in the country?

Mr. Lamont

I sympathise with and understand the hon. Gentleman. I do not intend to put all the resources into London. However, the industry told us that many of the tourists who come to Britain come to London. If we undersell London we undersell the rest of the country as a tourist attraction.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I welcome the attention that my hon. Friend is giving this important area of policy. May I have his assurance that his announcement today represents a re-evaluation by the Government and a recognition of the major contribution that tourism makes to our economy? May I have his fuller explanation as to how the arrangements that he has proposed will lead to what is desperately needed —improved co-ordination between the various authorities and relevant public bodies and more effective promotion of Britain abroad as a tourist attraction?

Mr. Lamont

I hoped that I had made it clear that we intend that the BTA should withdraw from its activities in domestic tourism and transfer them to the national boards. That is a clear dividing line between the national boards and the BTA. It is easy to say that, but implementing it involves overlap. There will be argument about what the overlap should be. Because of that argument, we have decided that the best way to resolve the problem is to have a chairman who is common to the ETB and the BTA. I confirm that we recognise the fundamental importance of tourism to our economy, especially in terms of employment.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May we have an assurance that, with his colleagues in the Scottish Office and the Treasury, the Minister will reflect on the mounting demands being put on the overstretched resources of the Historic Buildings Council in England and Scotland? If much of our tourist heritage is to be preserved, ought not that matter to be considered in some depth with the understanding that, for every £100,000 that is given to those bodies, a great deal of employment is potentially created? Could that matter be considered seriously?

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. I shall discuss it with the Department of the Environment.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is great substance in what the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said? Will he tell the Chancellor that, if tourism is to flourish into the 21st century, he should consider removing VAT from repairs to buildings? Will my hon. Friend be more adventurous about signposts? Does he agree that the illustrative signposts on French motorways are helpful without being offensive?

Mr. Lamont

I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend's point about signposts. Many interests are involved in that long-running argument. At least we have an experiment going. It is not intended that the experiment should be the end of the matter. I note what my hon. Friend said about VAT on repairs on historic buildings. He knows that that is a matter for the Chancellor. I shall take it up with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Is the Minister aware that we have considerable sympathy with him in his dilemma, which seems to be how to attract people to the United Kingdom via London and then to get them out of London into other areas? If we are to do that, will the Minister have regard to the facilities that are available in regional airports such as Prestwick? Should we not make it more convenient for people coming across the Atlantic to land at Prestwick? Although the Scots might argue, as an ethnic minority, that we should have complete autonomy, is the Minister aware that his proposed structure does not even provide constructive conflict? Does he agree that it gives an authority to the ETB through the joint chairmanship of that body and the BTA which completely submerges the rights of Scotland and Wales? Does he agree that there are real dangers in that approach?

Mr. Lamont

We are giving Scotland much more than it has been given by previous Governments. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have acknowledged that I, as the Minister responsible for the English tourist board, can be regarded as generous to the Scottish tourist board——

Mr. Douglas

The hon. Gentleman is a Shetlander.

Mr. Lamont

—as we have conceded it some ability to promote Scotland as a separate and distinctive entity. It has not had that before. I made only a passing reference to London in my statement because it is mentioned in the paper which is in the Vote Office. We cannot get away from London's importance as a gateway to other tourist destinations.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the important part that town halls have played in the development of tourism in Britain? Does he understand the anxieties that are felt in my constituency about the fact that, with Government support, a new conference centre is being built in Birmingham at a cost of £90 million, yet Bournemouth faces the possibility of penalty for building its own centre which costs less than one fifth of that in Birmingham? Will my hon. Friend join me in making representations in support of Bournemouth's application?

Does my hon. Friend recognise the importance of holiday flatlets to British tourism? Is he aware of the great anxiety about the current taxation treatment of proprietors of such flats? Does he agree that they should be treated under case 1 of schedule D and not under case 6 as is being proposed by the Inland Revenue?

Mr. Lamont

I am well aware of my hon. Friend's point about the taxation of income from holiday flatlets. That matter is under review. It has been discussed with the Treasury and many representations from the tourist industry about it have been received. I am pleased to acknowledge that Bournemouth is an extremely important tourist centre. I note my hon. Friend's point about competition for business tourism. It is an extremely important part of the tourist industry. Subsidised competition will have to be watched.

Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)

Will the Minister assure us that money allocated to each board, whether it represents a nation, a region or an area, will be closely related to the size of the tourist industry in the area it serves?

Mr. Lamont

That is a logical statement. We shall try to follow it.

Mr. Penhaligon

You have never done so before.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

When reviewing facilities for tourists in London and the rest of England, will my hon. Friend bear in mind the English tourist board's anxiety about the British pub and the legislation that affects that worthy institution? Will he press his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to undertake a reform of the licensing laws after fresh consultations with leaders of the licensed trades and bearing in mind the recommendations of the Errol committee which sat some 12 years ago?

Mr. Lamont

I shall certainly bear that point in mind. One of the consistent themes throughout the review of tourism was the sense of limitation imposed by the licensing laws. Several proposals for gradual or partial change have been made, such as flexible licensing hours, allowing children to go into places where alcohol is sold and allowing alcohol to be sold with food. We intend to consider such changes.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Is the Minister aware that there will be considerable concern in Scotland that the joining of the English tourist board and the British tourist authority into one organisation will mean that abroad they will be treated as synonymous? Is it not essential that the Secretary of State for Scotland makes a statement as soon as possible, preferably this afternoon, on the structure and financing of the Scottish tourist board, and whether it will be an autonomous body?

Mr. Lamont

There is a Bill going through Parliament——

Mr. Maxton

It is in the other place.

Mr. Lamont

Yes, but those Bills normally come here eventually. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to be on the Committee on that Bill. The British tourist authority and the English tourist board are not being merged, but that matter should be studied.

Mr. Tony Speller (Devon, North)

Will my hon. Friend accept that tourism and hospitality are our most successful and labour-intensive industry at present, and that on the education side there are two jobs for every graduate in catering management? Will my hon. Friend do all he can to assist the growth of places in education in the catering world?

Mr. Lamont

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. The industry offers good employment prospects. It is extremely important that the training in our colleges should be on the scale and of the type required by the industry. The Department of Education and Science acknowledges that. That has been communicated to the National Advisory Body. The NAB has acknowledged it, although it has yet to make its decision on funding, and recommendations to Ministers. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

In attempting to concentrate the Minister's mind on the regions, I make particular reference to the Greater Manchester metropolitan authority, which is trying to finish attractions such as the new aerospace museum. It is believed that there will be 200,000 visitors in the first year of opening. The development of the central Manchester station, which covers about 26 acres is now at an advanced stage. Millions of pounds are being spent on the development, but there is a grave shortage of hotel and bedroom accommodation. We are told that two applications for two large hotel developments are awaiting approval by the Department of the Environment. Will the Minister use all his good offices to encourage an early decision on those much-needed hotels?

Mr. Lamont

Yes, I shall do that.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

I welcome my hon. Friend's much-needed reforms, but I remind him that the Yorkshire and Humberside area receives fewer tourist funds from Government sources than Wales, although the population and the potential are greater. There will be great disappointment that my hon. Friend's changes do not appear to correct that imbalance. Will my hon. Friend consider that matter again?

Mr. Lamont

My hon. Friend's constituency and area of the country benefit from the efforts of the English tourist board, and those of the regional tourist board. I was near my hon. Friend's constituency last week at a function organised by the Yorkshire and Humberside development association. I know that it is a flourishing body, promoting many good projects. It is unique in the support received from the tourist trade. That is a good way in which to finance such regional bodies.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Minister agree that it is delightfully ironic that hosts of Tory Members representing seaside resorts in Britain are worried about the state of tourism in their constituencies, and elsewhere, when, given half a chance, most of them spend their holidays in the Common Market? Will the Minister also tell us—he has failed to do so up to now—exactly when this quango, or series of quangoes, will be placed into the jigsaw that he has described? Will that increase or decrease public expenditure?

Mr. Lamont

We are not expecting an increase in public expenditure on tourism. I gave details of the amounts under section 4 assistance—£35 million over the four years. I expect total support for the boards not to be altered as a result of the statement. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his information about where my hon. Friends take their holidays. He does not tell us where he takes his. Perhaps it is outide the EC, in the Caribbean.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

Is my hon. Friend aware that not only the House but the tourist industry will welcome the appointment of Mr. Duncan Bluck? Besides leading Cathay Pacific to another record trading result in extremely difficult times for civil aviation, he has been an extremely successful chairman of the Hong Kong tourist association. If he can do for our tourist industry what he has done for the Hong Kong tourist industry, he will have been an inspired choice.

Mr. Lamont

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

I welcome my hon. Friend's statement, but the BTA will now concentrate its efforts on overseas promotion. Does my hon. Friend accept that Wales has had far from a fair share of that promotion in the past, much less than Scotland, let alone England? Will he give a more detailed assurance that we will now be given a very real chance of increasing our lamentably low 3 per cent. share of the overseas visitors market? Last week's appointment of one lonely overseas marketing director to work with the Wales tourist board is far from enough.

Mr. Lamont

The Wales tourist board is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. He will be able to give my hon. Friend more details about it. With regard to the BTA's efforts for Wales, I am satisfied that the changes in staff and organisation that were announced by the Minister of State, Welsh Office, will lead to an improvement for Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Does the Minister appreciate that those of us north of the border will view with great suspicion the amalgamation of the English tourist board and the British tourist authority, as the Arts Council of Great Britain is essentially the Arts Council of England? Will my hon. Friend take an example from Scotland and use the funds available to promote the injection of private funds into tourism, of which the recently privatised Gleneagles hotel is a magnificent example? If my hon. Friend has any difficulties in England about the licensing laws, all that he need do is introduce the licensing laws of Scotland.

Mr. Lamont

That might be a good development. At this stage the BTA and the ETB are not being amalgamated. My hon. and learned Friend referred to the need to get more private capital into tourism. That is precisely what the ETB has been trying to do. It has been trying to use the limited Government money that has been made available to get more money from the private sector. The equity fund to which I referred shows that it has been successful in that.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

Is my hon. Friend aware that people in Wales will be satisfied that the Wales tourist board is not to be abolished, as originally rumoured? None the less, it badly needs strengthening. Is my hon. Friend further aware that there is general support throughout the House for spreading more evenly between the manufacturing and service industries, including tourism, the benefits of favourable tax treatment?

Mr. Lamont

I note what my hon. Friend says. He will have heard my reply to a previous question on that matter.

Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)

As chairman of the Conservative Back Bench tourist committee, I welcome my hon. Friend's statement. May I thank my hon. Friend particularly for the restructuring of the boards, the intended unification of the chair and the importance that he places on the take-up of employment within that most important industry? Will my hon. Friend therefore see that the employment figures, in all their breadth, come from one unified source? My hon. Friend referred to the importance of commercial tourism, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) referred to an important initiative in the Birmingham area, near my constituency. Will my hon. Friend stress that importance by issuing at least six-monthly figures of the increased numbers employed, the increased turnover and the increase in conference and commercial tourism?

Mr. Lamont

My hon. Friend has asked before about calculating the numbers employed in tourism. It is a difficult subject because it is difficult to define the tourist industry as such, but I shall discuss with Ministers in the Department of Employment whether we can do something to satisfy my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend also asked about business tourism. Many of the matters that are referred to in the paper that I have placed in the Vote Office, such as computerised reservation systems and hotel standards, are relevant to business tourism, which is an important part of this expanding market.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)

Is my hon. Friend aware that his decision to streamline the work of the two principal tourism structures under a common chairman will be greatly welcomed by those involved in the tourist industry? Can he elaborate a little on what he sees the future role on the non-statutory regional boards to be? Those involved with the implementation of tourism throughout the country deal most with regional boards' personnel.

Mr. Lamont

We believe that a common chairman for the two organisations will remove the overlap and will result in more effective promotion. With regard to the non-statutory boards, I have asked the ETB to consider this. I have it in mind that they should play a bigger part in the marketing effort and in the marketing of individual regions of the United Kingdom and perhaps do some of the work that is presently done by the ETB. That would mean that the ETB might have to support them. I have asked the chairman of the ETB to report to me urgently on this matter.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

I do not feel a need to do any special pleading on behalf of north-east Kent, which has been attracting foreign tourists since the time of Boadicea, and the best is still the best. I welcome my hon. Friend's statement about the provision of section 4 grants, but may I ask him yet again to ensure that these grants are used as a pump-priming exercise for the provision of new facilities, not for the topping up of a shortfall of capital?

Mr. Lamont

Yes, that is extremely important. The money should be used where private sector finance is not available. It should be used for projects that are thought to be unusual or those that improve the product. There is no point in the taxpayer financing tourist developments that could perfectly easily he financed by the banks or the markets. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Watson (Skipton and Ripon)

Despite all that has been said, I do not completely understand what will happen about the responsibility for overseas promotion. I understood my hon. Friend to say that the Scottish tourist board and the Wales tourist board would have responsibility for overseas promotion but that henceforth the English tourist board would not have responsibility for overseas promotion. Does this mean that the British tourist authority will confine its promotional activities to the English tourist industry; does it mean that some duplication will continue; or does it mean that the English tourist industry will be in the hands of a relatively poor relation?

Mr. Lamont

The English tourist board has never done promotion overseas. The overlap has been that the BTA has to some extent become involved in domestic tourism. The BTA is being asked to withdraw from that and to concentrate exclusively on the external promotion of the United Kingdom. The BTA is in a position different from the arrangements announced for Scotland because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that, in accordance with the Scottish Conservative manifesto, there would be some promotion independently for Scotland. I can assure my hon. Friend, however, that that is a limited effort and will be done in collaboration with the BTA. That independent promotion in Scotland, limited though it is, cannot take place without the BTA being involved and without my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland giving his approval.

There is not complete symmetry between the ETB and the Scottish tourist board. The overlap that we have sought to remove was between the BTA and the ETB, with the BTA getting back into England. It is like a discussion on the Trinity—it is so complicated. Whatever the degree of overlap, the answer is to have a common chairman for the BTA and the ETB, whatever the differing views about the role of those two organisations.

Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

In view of the growth in foreign currency earnings from overseas visitors in my part of York, the north-east and nationally which amounts to about £500 million a year from taxation, will my hon. Friend consider ways to maintain Britain's tourism appeal through reinvestment in amenities, conservation and resort development? Will he discuss with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the question of the continued tax discrimination against the hotel industry in comparison with manufacturing industry?

Mr. Lamont

I have said in response to earlier questions that I shall discuss that with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The other points that my hon. Friend has made about improving the product are extremely important and a number of them are covered in the paper in the Vote Office. The English tourist board will be seeking to take those points further.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

I welcome my hon. Friend's emphasis on private finance, but will he try to ensure that the tourist industry gets a larger slice of the European regional development fund infrastructure grants, particularly in regions such as the south-west, which depend on tourism?

Mr. Lamont

Yes, of course I will do that, but we can only get access to the ERDF for tourism in assisted areas. In that sense it is different from the way in which we spend our own Government money on the promotion of tourism.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware that the popularity with overseas tourists of the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham palace is so great that my constituency's schoolchildren cannot get to see it although some of them have been trying to do so for about 10 years? This is not helped by the fact that in some weeks the ceremony takes place only two or three times. Will he try to do something to ensure that the ceremony takes place every day, with proper access for our own people as well as for overseas visitors?

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

What about a matinee?

Mr. Lamont

I knew that my responsibilities extended far and wide, not only to British Leyland and the British Steel Corporation but to the changing of the guard. I shall certainly follow up my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), but I did say that I would call only those hon. Members who had been attempting to catch my eye.

Mr. Faulds

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that in the reorganisation that he has announced greater appreciation is made of the value to British tourism of the great range of industrial and archaeological heritage throughout Britain, which would bring benefit to an area such as the west midlands which is not normally thought of as a tourist area?

Mr. Lamont

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The success of tourist attractions such as the iron bridge near Telford shows that. There is enormous scope in some of our old industrial areas for redeveloping factories and industrial sites as tourist attractions. It is happening to a considerable extent in certain areas of the country but there is much more scope for it.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Does the Minister realise that it is not good enough to restrict the Scottish tourist board to what he has described as a small and limited role? If that is all the Tourism (Overseas Promotion) (Scotland) Bill amounts to, it will be a sad anti-climax. The Minister has been careful to stress that limited role. Will he give an example of what exactly the Scottish tourist board will be allowed to do? Will he explain what is wrong with competition between the Scottish tourist board and those in other parts of the United Kingdom. After all, there will be competition within the British tourist authority for resources for overseas promotion. I cannot see what is wrong — I ask the Minister to tell me—with a determined Scottish effort with an adequate Scottish budget to establish a Scottish presence in the overseas tourism market.

Mr. Lamont

I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would think that I had been generous in acknowledging that there is scope for an independent Scottish effort, and that Scotland is a different country with a different tourist product. He should direct his question about the independent effort of the Scottish tourist board to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I agree that there is scope for competition, but we must be careful not to have too much duplication and waste, because we have had that in the past. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman should not forget that the whole question of different tourist boards was looked at by consultants, who reached the conclusion that there was a considerable overlap and that some money was not being wisely spent.

  1. Statutory Instruments, &c. 87 words