§ Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)
I beg to move,That this House recognises the great importance of tourism as a growing industry in this country and in particular the East Midland Region of England; welcomes the significant part it can play in reducing the number of unemployed; and accepts the Government's commitment to further growth of the industry.Taking advantage of my luck in winning the long-standing Back-Bench privilege to choose the subject for today's debate, I worded the motion with my constituency and the unemployed in mind.
Those who were lucky enough — or unlucky, depending upon one's view—to hear my maiden speech last year will recall that my constituency's major industries are mining, agriculture and tourism. I need say nothing more at present about mining in my constituency, except that it is the greatest coalfield in Britain.
I doubt whether anyone in the country or in the world has not heard of Sherwood forest and its famous characters Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the wicked sheriff of Nottingham. Increasing tourism means more jobs. I am not a recent convert to the needs of the unemployed. As long ago as the last election I said that this human tragedy was our party's greatest enemy. I was in the distinguished position, according to a Sunday Times survey of the time, of being the only new candidate to say that and be elected.
Today I am worried that we might be blinkered by the euphoria that the new technology will be our saviour. That is true only in as much as it can create new wealth, not wholesale jobs. The latest estimate for jobs in high tech is about 6 per cent. of the working population, leaving the service industries as the only viable alternative for job creation in the non-academic sphere. Sticking out a mile as the industry with the greatest growth potential is tourism.
My noble Friend the Earl of Stockton, in his historic speech in the other place, talked about new horizons, more leisure and fewer working hours not only for the British people but for the rest of the western world. With that potential reservoir of customers we must build on what we have already achieved to provide services and amenities for visitors.
Last year, British tourists spent £4.5 billion here and overseas tourists £3.5 billion, making an impressive total of £8 billion. In the first nine months of this year, a record 11 million tourists visited Britain. That is 12 per cent. more than last year. The 1973 total was 7.5 million, which shows that the tourist industry is the leader in terms of growth and employment. It is ahead of aerospace and the motor industry. Projected forward to the next five years, that works out at a 54 per cent. increase in income, amounting to £14 billion at current prices, and shows the immense opportunity before us.
With that record, it is clear that the industry's future can be established by the continuing involvement of the national and regional tourist boards, with their expertise and cash working in harmony with local government, and with private and commercial enterprise. Such pump priming with taxpayers' money will give us an excellent return on a ratio of one to four between local authorities and commercial investment.
I believe that this expanding industry will find its growth in the regions and cities. No region is better placed than the east midlands, which is situated midway between 650 the first leg of the tourist milk run from London to York and Edinburgh. That analysis is endorsed by a recent ministerial review of tourism.
I remind the House of the important part that the industry plays in the east midlands economy. Visitors spend about £360 million annually on accommodation, in restaurants, shops and garages and on entertainment.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
My hon. Friend is concerned about employment and the economy in the east midlands. Will he comment on the astonishing fact that 20 times as many Conservative Members are in the Chamber as Labour Members? Only one Opposition Member is present. That is disgraceful and shows a complete lack of care by the Opposition for employment and the economy of the east midlands and the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend speaks for us all.
About £54 million is spent by overseas visitors, £212 million by British tourists staying away from home and £101 million by day trippers. It is no idle boast to say that there is something for everyone in the region's five counties — Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.
The famous Peak district of Derbyshire has added attractions, with the new impressive cable car at the heights of Abraham Matlock and the opening of the new Brittania park in 1985. There are many local initiatives. An example is the centenary celebrations of the famous author, D. H. Lawrence.
This year the number of jobs in the region was equal to 32,000 full-time workers, with many more in supporting roles. I draw particular attention to the cost to the Government of creating one new job in the tourist industry. It costs £4,500, compared with £35,000 to create a new job in the manufacturing industries. It will not have escaped the Minister that £4,500 is less than the cost of keeping someone on the dole.
I have provided only a glimpse of what we have achieved. We are looking to the future and to the direction in which we should be going to help. After close consultation, the East Midlands tourist board, local authorities, regional organisations and the private sector have issued a framework for the east midlands. It aims at improvements to provide a better quality of attraction and accommodation in line with market needs, at encouraging the development of new accommodation and facilities where there are deficiencies in provision and, where potential exists, at creating new areas of tourist activity.
To attract and accommodate new and expanded tourism, effective and co-ordinated marketing and information dissemination, including signposting, is needed. Since Nottinghamshire has been chosen as one of the two trial areas for additional signposting, I ask my hon. Friend to confirm that the charge to local authorities will be outside the ceiling for increased expenditure for the current year.
We must help to extend the tourist season with all-weather, health and recreational facilities as well as tourist accommodation. We should develop the holiday village concept. Rural tourism projects such as farm accommodation, countryside hotels, accommodation in pubs and attractions based on rural traditions will strengthen the rural economy. This will cater for the present growth sector of short holiday breaks for families at the weekends. Travelling tourists and senior citizens might take up the midweek places.
651 Another significant group is the 18 to 30-year-olds who must be persuaded that Britain is better for an away break than going abroad. Such people are not satisfied with visiting places depicting our traditional heritage. They need a crowd-puller such as a theme park. There is no better place to start than right there in Sherwood forest.
For visitors, Sherwood forest goes hand in hand with Nottingham—like Robin and Marian, like Torvill and Dean. In the middle of 500 acres of natural forest is that gigantic tree, the Major Oak, under which the devoted couple spent their romantic moments. It is now gazed upon by 1 million people annually.
When in Nottingham, the visitor's mind turns to the barbaric sheriff who did so much to persecute the innocent peasants of that time, when justice had a totally different meaning from that of today. Perhaps we are seeing something of those far-gone days on the picket lines that are part of the coal dispute. Acts of violence are condoned and encouraged by the equally hated and self-styled sheriff of Sheffield.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
When all the evil was going on to which my hon. Friend has referred, was the Nottingham council Labour-controlled?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Labour party is a modern phenomenon which is being phased out gradually but surely. Sheffield tried only recently to turn history on its head by claiming that Robin Hood came from that area. I must tell Sheffield to be patient, as it will have a winner in the near future. It will be able to show tourists the 20th-century castle of the last union dictator.
Nottinghamshire's success so far has been spearheaded by the local authorities, mainly by the city council and the county council. They have been supported by the East Midlands tourist board and the Countryside Commission. I pay tribute to the countryside division of Nottinghamshire county council, which has developed with vision and attraction during the past 10 years the two famous country parks of Sherwood and Rufford, which have attracted 2 million visitors. A further 500 acres of reclaimed pit spoil is now being transformed into the Leen valley country park.
Nottingham would not forgive me if I failed to mention Newstead abbey in my constituency, which was the home of Lord Byron. The abbey attracts worldwide attention.
My purpose in using the opportunity that is afforded to Back Benchers to submit motions to the House is to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State whether he has any new initiatives which can be implemented to finance the essential theme park, whether it is situated in the city or the forest. As local authority expenditure is being capped, the regional tourist board's budget is being apportioned according to the national board's allocation. Its role will be mainly marketing and advising, and private and commercial interests will be left to capitalise on our heritage.
Nottingham, without a doubt, has been outstandingly successful and the Robin Hood theme park will take us forward to the next important stage in the county's provision for visitors. Above all, it will create new jobs.
I hope that I have presented sound facts, figures and statistics, but perhaps the most vital factor in ensuring a successful tourist industry in my area is fun. It can be said that fun covers laughter, interest, action, suspense and even education. The role of the theme park will provide 652 all those things. It will capture the imagination of all ages. It will offer the choice of active participation or exciting spectatorship. Our pubs, hotels and restaurants will present the most delicious food and the warmest welcome to visitors. We propose to build for the east midlands a reputation as the best tourist region in Britain.
§ Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) on his initiative in introducing the debate. I am glad that so many hon. Members are present to avail themselves of the opportunity of giving their constituencies an advertising broadsheet and perhaps to give my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State some useful advice on the promotion of tourism.
I appreciate the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood but I think that he spelt incorrectly the name of the area of greatest attraction in the midlands. In fact, it is Shrewsbury and not Sherwood. It seems that he rejigged some of the letters in Shrewsbury. It is a great privilege and an experience of considerable interest to represent one of the finest Tudor towns in Britain. Hon. Members may be aware that Shrewsbury is listed by the Department of the Environment as being among the top 12 towns of the most historic significance. It is a town that I commend hon. Members to visit. I had great pleasure during the summer recess in seeing many hon. Members wandering around the Pride Hill shopping area of Shrewsbury while visiting a beautiful and historic town.
Shrewsbury, like many historic areas, is not without its transportation difficulties. We are in the process of a major public inquiry into the extension of the M54, which runs from the M6 to Telford. It would not be appropriate now to comment on the outcome of the inquiry. However, it is of considerable importance to historic towns that they have a sensible road system so that the inhabitants can enjoy their life while having the benefit of the trade that tourism brings by various forms of transport, especially the motor car. Motor cars bring about 70 per cent. of the tourists that visit the midlands.
Shrewsbury still has the benefit of a rail link but one wonders for how long that will continue. It is not the fastest service in the country. That is much to my regret during my weekly journeys by rail. Shrewsbury has an attractive railway station and can be described as a typical country station. It is being modernised considerably, but the historic nature of the town is being kept in mind.
We all look forward next week to an announcement on Stansted airport. I shall be able to support the Government only if they propose to develop Manchester and Birmingham airports. It is important to the midlands that those airports are developed. The development of a third London airport at Stansted would not find favour 'with those of us who have a regional interest to express in the House.
§ Mr. Jessel
Many of us will sympathise with my hon. Friend's wish to attract more airport traffic through Manchester and Birmingham airports and other airports in the midlands. Does he agree that it is essential to prevent an increase in traffic through Stansted and Heathrow? Will he insist with equal force that there should not be a fifth terminal at Heathrow? He will recognise that a decision not to proceed with a fifth terminal would direct more traffic to the north.
§ Mr. Conway
My hon. Friend's intervention would obviously be better directed to another quarter. Most of us who represent tourist areas away from London appreciate that London is an important gateway for tourism and that many of the tourists whom we welcome to the midlands begin their stay in Britain in London. We are not so naive as to think that we should stop tourists arriving in London and ask them instead to come direct to us. To have them arriving in Stansted would discourage them from travelling to the west, and the House will understand that I have a particular interest in Shrewsbury. It would discourage them also from travelling further on, into Wales. My hon. Friend's concern about the development of Heathrow and increasing traffic in other regional airports may be lessened when the Government come to denationalise British Airways. When that happens we may be able to sort out the mess of scheduled, charter and part-charter travel which is distorting the market.
I direct the attention of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to his Department's activities in the promotion of tourism in Britain. The House will know that that responsibility lies with the Department of Trade and Industry, especially with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), the Minister of State. The Department is aware of the importance of tourism to jobs and trade. However, there could be a great deal more co-ordination. There are several tourist boards and I am pleased to serve on the Heart of England tourist board. It has dedicated officers and it does an extremely good job.
There is a role for the Department in co-ordinating to a greater extent the efforts of the English regional tourist boards and the activities of organisations such as the British Overseas Trade Board and the regional employment promotional councils, which are part-financed—up to 50 per cent. —by the Department. It would be useful and a recognition of the importance of tourism to jobs and trade if more foreign missions that promote industrial employment and orders also developed a role for tourism. A great deal of co-ordination at minimal cost could be achieved and could be of considerable benefit to Britain.
Hoteliers in my constituency, who, naturally, I meet regularly, tell me that one of the greatest things the Government could do for their business would be to seek to end the wages control that applies to that industry. That is a false control. It does not reflect the market available to them and goes a considerable way towards generating the amount of foreign labour employed in many of our tourist areas. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will use his considerable influence with the Treasury to reduce the cost of employing people at the lower wage scale levels, especially with regard to national insurance contributions.
During the last Session, I introduced, on behalf of Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council, a Bill to enable us to provide more car parking spaces to cater for tourists in Shrewsbury. Sadly, it did not receive the necessary support from hon. Members, and it failed to progress. To a considerable degree, therefore, the House has a responsibility for the traffic problems in Shrewsbury. I intend on many occasions to return to that issue —regardless of how boring the Department feels it is—when we debate Department of Transport issues. Traffic causes a problem in Shrewsbury and hurts that attractive and historic town.
654 I look forward to learning of the success in Sherwood of the signposting exercise mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood. Lack of signposting is a problem in my constituency also, and the hoteliers feel —I sympathise with them—that a more sympathetic view by those involved in planning and other controls would considerably help to increase employment in the constituency.
Those who visit Shrewsbury can be assured of a warm welcome and the friendliest staff in this country. I look forward to welcoming hon. Members, if they find time during the Christmas recess, to visit the finest historic town in the country.
§ 10.1 am
§ Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)
I recently gave a talk at a conference organised by the City branch of the Institute of Directors. That conference was about the regeneration of the economy so, having been given a choice of subject, I chose tourism as the most hopeful growth industry. I was dismayed, however, after I had finished my speech and the questions started to come in, to hear one man say how pleasant it was to have a diversion from the main topic of the day. I fear that I retorted rather sharply that, if that was how he regarded it, my message had failed completely. Insufficient understanding of the importance of tourism is too prevalent, even among a fairly sophisticated audience of business men.
Tourism is not a candyfloss industry or some peripheral activity—acceptable, but not like the serious business of earning the country's wealth. We must get that message over firmly and, for that reason, I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) chose this topic and placed the emphasis on jobs and job opportunities.
The size and scope of the tourist industry is not clearly understood even within this House, and certainly not outside it, except by those closely connected with the industry. I am not especially keen on figures, but perhaps a few will illustrate the point. In 1983, the tourist industry generated £7.6 billion—the latest full figures available. That is a colossal sum. When it is compared with the output of any other industry, one notes that, far from being a peripheral industry, tourism is essential to our economy's well-being. The English tourist board estimates that about 1.5 million people are involved in the tourist industry. I should add that I act as an adviser to that board.
We must realise that it is not simply a matter of hotels or caravan sites. They are certainly central to the industry, because if tourists spend time away from their homes—I suppose that if they do not, they are classed as day trippers — hotels and other forms of accommodation are important. The importance of the industry spreads much further than that. As well as hotels, restaurants and cafes are affected. That excellent but perhaps little known paper "British Business", which I believe is a product of the Department of Trade and Industry, says that in the last year there was an increase in the number of jobs in the hotel trade of 17,000 and in the cafe trade an increase of 6,000. When we consider the difficulties of producing that number of extra jobs by more artificial and deliberate means, we can see the potential and importance of the tourist industry.
What about transport? I do not know the proportion of visitors travelling on the London underground, but I 655 suspect that they must be making a substantial contribution to the running of that system and the money generated from it. British Rail and the coaches that travel all over the country benefit from our visitors. I hope that we can encourage more people not to do just the circuit of London-Stratford-on-Avon-Edinburgh or some such route, because that under-values and under-plays what can be offered by other towns and cities and parts of the country. We could thereby greatly increase the amount spent on transport.
Theatres also have a great part to play in entertaining visitors. I have American friends who come over here especially for the west end theatre. That is the one aspect that pulls them—not only because the variety and scope is far greater than they can find on Broadway, but because the theatre is far cheaper. They get better value all round. I hope that there will be a development of the theatres in the provinces.
Hon. Members may know that recently we established the Theatre Royal in Plymouth which is generating great interest and is very much a tourist attraction. I need hardly say that there were numerous and passionate arguments and disagreements about whether it should be built. There can be no gainsaying the fact that, now the theatre has been built, it is providing a wide range of entertainment from classical to pop and is drawing in visitors. That theatre is a great advantage and addition to what my city of Plymouth can offer.
I am pleased that the English tourist board's latest promotion is going under the theme of "England entertains". If we increase the quality of the entertainment and the number of entertainers—whether in a hotel or in the theatre—more employment will be provided in that profession.
I shall now consider the role of the Government, local authorities and private enterprise in promoting tourism and, thus, the growth in jobs. As a Conservative, I believe that the key role should go to private enterprise. It is right and proper that private enterprise should bear the brunt. It is essential that in tourism, which is so scattered in its impact, there should be a good lead from the Government and good support from the regional tourist boards. In that respect, local authorities certainly have a part to play in supporting their local tourist board and in providing an impetus for others. I commend to the House the marketing bureau set up in Plymouth, which was one of the first in the country. It brought together representatives of the local authority and private enterprise. They work together to promote Plymouth as a place where tourism is important.
I am pleased to see that this example is followed, for example, in Bristol. It is tehnically part of the west country but I am not sure that Devon and Cornwall see it that way, although that is irrelevant for this argument. Bristol has brought up to date a derelict part of the docks and has made a good and enterprising area out of what was a seedy and rundown one. There is no end to the scope, not solely in the more obvious tourist attractions, but within cities as well.
I thought it worthwhile to study what is happening in a part of England far removed from my own, because it is easy to become parochial on these occasions. It is extremely instructive to look at Northumbria. It could not be much further from my west country.
When the Northumbria tourist board was set up in 1969, it calculated that tourism was worth about £4 million — not much. It is now reckoned to top about £200 656 million and there is still great scope for going further. I have read that Durham county council has an ambitious project to recreate an entire 19th-century lead mining complex at Killhope Wheal— not something that one normally associates with tourism, but how enterprising to have a little of our industrial history put in a form which tourists can understand. I hope that that will be done in different ways all over the country.
The chairman of the Northumbria tourist board has rightly said:Tourism is our only growth industry, so it is vital that it continues to grow.I share the dismay expressed about the lack of representatives from those areas. They are the ones who ask for most, and badger the Government most about unemployment. That is right, because it is a vital subject, but why are they not present today when the debate deals with the greatest capacity for increasing employment and hope for our young people?
§ Mr. Jessel
When my hon. Friend hears what I have to say I do not think it will be reluctantly, because I am sure that she will agree with me that no Member of the Liberal party or the SDP has been present for at least half an hour.
§ Miss Fookes
Yes, it was worth giving way. I hope, however, that my hon. Friend will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make his own contribution when I shall look forward to doing the same to him.
I was about the make a point about prospects for young people. It is essential that tourism is promoted by those who have resonsibility for such matters as a worthwhile occupation for young people to enter, whether that be in the traditional occupations in hotels, cafés and the like, or in the leisure and entertainment centres—the complexes which are springing up to cater for visitors—or in the theatre, or transport which has a tourism input.
I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to promote training in those occupations. My understanding is that the youth training schemes are beginning to recognise the possibilities and to allow that tourism is a possible work experience for young people. I believe that that must be geared so that young people at school are aware of the possibilities of tourism when they come to consider a worthwhile career.
I come now to a point which many hon. Members may feel controversial, but which I believe has an important input to our tourism potential. It is what is called, rather curiously, the continental fixed link — the Channel tunnel, Chunnel or possibly part bridge, part tunnel. I do not pretend for one moment to have any idea what might be the best form in engineering and financial terms. What seems to be glaringly plain is that such a link would be extremely valuable in making it much easier for continental visitors and even American visitors, who may fly direct to the continent rather than to us, to come here. I recognise, of course, that we may have a flow the other way. Apart from the employment opportunities available in building the tunnel — they are not to be underestimated — it would make us much more accessible to the continent and therefore increase vastly the opportunities for tourism.
§ Mr. Forth
I recognise the force behind my hon. Friend's argument. The sea crossing can be, in itself, a pleasant experience and take little over an hour on some of the faster ships. It is a highly acceptable way of crossing the Channel and provides a great deal of employment. How will an underground railway tunnel, where one has to get on to the train to go under the Channel, be a step in the right direction and significantly improve the pleasantness or speed of the journey?
§ Miss Fookes
I suspect that the answer to that will depend upon how good a sailor one is. Many people dislike crossing the sea and would infinitely prefer to go under it.
I am not suggesting that there should be only one way or the other. Surely my hon. Friend agrees with the Conservative principle that there should be freedom of choice and as much choice as possible. No one will be sent underground if he does not want to go. I should expect that the links over the surface of the water will continue, as they did after the advent of aeroplanes. I see a role for that crossing, and I hope that the Government will look kindly upon that suggestion. They have already said that they will not put public money into it, and I accept that. If private enterprise judges that it is worth building and is willing to risk its money, that is the best bet for the country and the House.
I do not wish to detain the House long because many of my hon. Friends are anxious to speak. I hope that the lessons to be drawn from the debate will not be lost upon those outside the House. Tourism provides a better opportunity for employing more people than any other industry that we can think of, or are likely to see in the foreseeable future. I do not underestimate the value of manufacturing industry, but I suggest that tourism and manufacturing can go side by side.
§ Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)
I must declare an interest in these matters. I am an adviser to Horizon holidays and Best Western Hotels. I am a governor of the St. Andrew's Old Course golf hotel and country club. I wish to speak not about those matters, but about the effect on tourism generally and on the west midlands.
I have listened to my hon. Friends speaking about enchanting places such as Shrewsbury and Sherwood forest, which I have had the delight of driving through on many occasions. I appreciate them and the vistas of the coastline around the country, which provide the traditional form of holiday tourism. But they are not something that I have in my central west midlands constituency of Birmingham, Yardley. What I have is another form of tourism, which does not enjoy the same benefits. It is exhibition, conference and business tourism, which is the fastest-growing employer of labour, contrary to what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) muttered from a sedentary position. Instead of destroying industry tourism is helping to preserve and perpetuate it and to give it the richness and wealth that it deserves.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I sought to make the point that hon. Members from Humberside are fully aware of the advantages of tourism, but that manufacturing is a major area of employment. Considering that the hon. Gentleman comes from the west 658 midlands, it should be in the forefront of his mind that something must be done about manufacturing if he genuinely wants to do something about jobs.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is because the west midlands has been the iron heart of England and has been concerned about jobs and manufacturing that the Government gave the equivalent of assisted status in a discretionary way to the west midlands. I would appreciate it if the hon. Gentleman would make a full speech on the matter later because, Lord alone knows, his ranks are so depleted that he needs to. It is astounding and bewildering that Labour Members are completely uninterested in the subject of our fastest-growing industry. I shall listen to the remarks which he will make from a more proper stance later.
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)
I can understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to move from a point on which he is on such weak ground, but will he tell the House what has happened to manufacturing employment in the west midlands during the past five years?
§ Mr. Bevan
I listened to the point made from the serried ranks of the Labour party. Industrial capacity in the west midlands has been much reduced during the past 40 years by the actions of successive Governments, especially the Labour Government, who introduced the formula of assisted area status through the President of the Board of Trade in 1945. Under the Labour Government that policy continually militated against the west midlands. The area was additionally burdened by the policy of not granting industrial development certificates to allow factory development.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Butcher)
I do not wish to divert the debate into an equally important question, but does my hon. Friend agree that the most prominent estimate of jobs lost to the west midlands region through discrimination against it in regional policy has numbered about 112,000 jobs? Does he agree that the region has been an industrial blood donor to other parts of the country?
§ Mr. Bevan
I agree with my hon. Friend, who puts the point succinctly. The west midlands has been a blood donor to the body politic which was laid out for operations continually by the Labour party when it was in Government. That being so, it is essential that we start to make provision, despite the St. Vitus' dance example from Opposition Members, for a healthier framework and body in the west midlands.
I welcome the presence of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary who has done much to assist the west midlands lately. I hoped that his right hon. Friend the Minister who has special responsibility for tourism would be present this morning, but I am aware that he has additional responsibilities brought about by the great tragedy wrought at Brighton by the outrageous bombing. I hope that my hon. Friend will pass on the important messages about tourism.
I have the honour to chair for Conservative Members the committee that deals with tourism matters. Because tourism is so important, it is essential that there should be a Secretary of State for tourism with Cabinet rank, and a full and separate Department. I hope that the Government will see that that is an appropriate way in which to recognise and give a sense of direction to these most important matters.
659 The Minister has just conducted a review of tourism and introduced many new matters, including a new structure, which are welcome. It is essential to have a Select Committee to undertake a permanent review of the accomplishments of tourism and progress made by it, and to give inducement and encouragement because vast sums are involved. Tourism brings vast improvements to employment. We must back up the new structure for tourism.
All those engaged in tourism are subject to the adjudication of at least six Ministries at the moment, including the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Transport, the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office. As a result we are subject to the considerations of many Ministers within those Ministries. That diffusion is not in the best interests of the sector, and points to the need for an adequate reform, which I hope will come about shortly.
I asked a written question on 15 July 1982 regarding the numbers then employed in the tourist industry. The Minister replied that precise numbers employed were not available as the 1968 standard industrial classificationdoes not identify tourism as a separate industry."—[Official Report, 15 July 1982; Vol. 27, c. 434.]Although attempts have been made since then to get a better overall presentation of the figures, it is not possible to assess the full benefit of tourism to the country in terms of wealth and the jobs. That needs continual attention.
In a subsequent contribution in the Chamber I urged the Minister to give us regular monitored figures — I suggested quarterly figures—but it was not accepted. It is still necessary to argue the point that we have an intelligence of overall tourist figures that distinguishes all the categories of employment involved. When the question was asked in July 1982, the answer was that about 813,600 people were employed in some departments of tourism. It is variously estimated now that 1.2 million to 1.4 million people are currently employed in tourism.
The BTA's most recent publication opts for a figure of 1.4 million people employed in the industry. If the earlier figure was correct, that is an increase of about 600,000 in three years. The BTA makes the more modest claim that at least 50,000 jobs are being created every year. While most other industries, including many in the west midlands industrial sector, have, regrettably, been shedding jobs in one way or another, the tourist industry is accumulating jobs, generating employment and bringing more and more people, especially young people, into the profession, for that is indeed what it is—a trade, a profession and a vocation.
Tourism is and will continue to be Britain's biggest job creator. That is why special attention must be paid to giving it the necessary muscle to continue that progress. It is already the third largest industry in this country and will be by far the largest well before the year 2000. It is also the second biggest currency earner, after North sea oil, which it will shortly overtake just as it is overtaking industries at present considered more important, such as the motor industry and the retail industry, considered as a conglomerate.
To back up the necessity for new labour, we need a young persons' tourist task force. On previous occasions I have urged consideration of this as a means whereby 660 young people can give a national service to their country just as when I was younger. and in better condition, I and others contributed in a more military sense.
If young people today wish to serve in that military sense, I hope that there will be opportunities for them in the armed forces, but in a civilian sense tourism offers breath-taking opportunities to take up even more of the unemployed. Such a task force could help in the planning sphere through pilot schemes and later general schemes and in building and refurbishing the heritage, which has been a major feature of the presentation of our castles, country homes and estates as a tourist attraction. The theme park concept also needs to be developed further, not just in Sherwood forest, but perhaps also in docklands and around the national exhibition centre complex in the west midlands.
Young people could be employed on a local, residential basis just as national service men were, acting as guides or linguistic helpers and generally training for entry into the hotel sector and other areas of the profession. If the service chiefs say that such a scheme is no use to them, it could certainly be of use to tourism. Let us not, therefore, throw away this chance for a substantial take-up of unemployment.
By 1985, the number of overseas visitors to this country should reach 15 million per year, including 3 million from the United States and Canada. Visitors already bring in approximately £5 billion in foreign exchange, and domestic tourism generates about £6 billion for the home market. That is the size of the industry with which we are concerned.
The CBI has announced that it intends to examine the job creation prospects of the tourist industry to sharpen awareness of that vital aspect of the industry. In the public sector, the Government should set up a Select Committee to examine in detail the importance of tourism in continued job creation and the provision of the necessary private and public investment in the infrastructure needed to support the industry. For the first time, our tourism figures have caught up with those of the sunshine areas of France, Italy and Germany and will shortly leave them behind, to achieve the highest level in the world per head of population.
Holiday tourism is still in the lead, but it is being closely chased by business and conference tourism. Nevertheless, there is still a dire need for capital schemes to assist the industry. Capital schemes for sewage disposal in many seaside resorts could lead to sewage-free seas and mammoth clean-ups of the beaches. It is also vital to continue to create and refurbish the necessary hotel support. We must reintroduce building and refurbishment assistance, either as grants or as pump-priming loans to modernise and improve the infrastructure.
We must also widen employment in tourist-related industries. In the second quarter of 1984, employment in restaurants increased by 6.9 per cent., in public houses by 4.2 per cent., in hotels by 6.4 per cent, in sports areas by 3.2 per cent. and even in museums by 6.4 per cent. at a time when the increase in all industries was just 1 per cent. and in the service industries together only 2.5 per cent. In Scotland alone, figures for the tourism sector showed an increase of 18 per cent. between 1982 and 1983.
It is in the context of golf in particular that sector tourism can be developed in Scotland. The number of north American tourists to the United Kingdom — I 661 realise that it was affected by the low value of the pound compared with the dollar— increased by 33 per cent. between 1982 and 1983.
Let us consider the necessary reforms that we must introduce to satisfy the tourists. We must not lag behind the continentals in this respect. A reform of our licensing laws is long overdue. We must allow free access to hotels and public houses at any hour of the day for the taking of refreshments of an alcoholic nature if that is what is desired. The obsolete laws introduced in 1916 to keep munitions workers out of the public houses should be repealed immediately, as was suggested by the Errol report among others.
Shopping hours should also be reformed. That would create jobs just as jobs would be created in the licensed trade by freeing the hours. The industrial building licence should be allowed for the large stores. That would affect tourism directly, because tourists from the continent home in on the big stores in the south of England. They come over on one-day and two-day trips and clear the shelves of clothes, often by midday. The large stores contribute to tourism and they should be helped.
There was an increase of 17 per cent. in the number of overseas visitors between August 1983 and August 1984. The contribution to the balance of payments increased by 23 per cent., and earnings increased by 15 per cent. in 1983 compared with 1982.
Areas of the west midlands considered by some to wear a sombre robe are in fact dynamic and attractive centres for exhibition, conference and business tourism. My constituency of Yardley is cheek by jowl with the newest and fastest-growing centre in the world in this respect, providing great prospects for job and wealth creation.
There are three wards in my constituency. Two of them have unemployment rates of 18.4 per cent. and 18.7 per cent. In the third ward, Sheldon, which is the nearest to all the new infrastructure that we have created in Birmingham the unemployment rate is only 11 per cent. That is no accident. As a councillor in those days, I was proud to contribute to many of the decisions that led to that result. Nine years ago, we created the national exhibition centre, with its nine halls. We planned and built Birmingham international station at a cost of £6 million —a magnificent station giving immediate admission to the exhibition centre for passengers from London and Birmingham and on the main inter-city trains. We also have the Birmingham international airport terminal. We have plans to build another industrial and commercial estate in the area, extending over 120 acres.
At our urging, the Government wisely agreed to the creation of the freeport. I thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for his contribution. The freeport is shortly to come into existence in Birmingham. Also, a few miles away, we have created a sports arena. There may even be plans to create a sports quadrena in the fullness of time — one of the most futuristic in the world.
We shall ask for Government assistance to add to the national exhibition centre an international convention centre, and to take up a further 80 acres of total dereliction in the Gas street basin area — the inner area of Birmingham. We shall ask the House for permission to run a road race for motor cars on the roads of Birmingham as part of our tourist effort. Contemporaneously, we should 662 aim to reduce the cost of travel in this country. This has partly been achieved by the running of express coaches on the motorways. A further achievement will be the reduction in internal air fares that must come about.
We must also be aware of the vast advantages of conference tourism. Birmingham demonstrates the great role that the cities will play in providing for conference and business tourism. The number of international meetings held in Britain has increased by nearly 80 per cent. in 10 years. Birmingham was able to host the international Rotary convention this year—[Interruption.] That is no laughing matter. It was the largest single conference ever held anywhere in the world, and it was hosted at the national exhibition centre. It was reckoned to bring in a vast amount of money, not least in terms of spending by each tourist. The average delegate spends £360 per visit, or £56 a day. That figure must be compared with the £23 a day generated by holiday tourists. A delegate spends more than twice what the holiday tourist spends, and therefore he employs vastly more people.
In 1983–84, the exhibition business in Britain brought in £1,250 million. Sixteen million people have visited the national exhibition centre since it was opened nine years ago. Thirty-five exhibitions are held there annually, with 65 other events, including sporting events. A total of 2.5 million people spend £70 million in the region in spin-offs in hotels, travel, theatres and restaurants. Some shows can produce as much as £50 million individually, 25 per cent. of it from overseas.
The national exhibition centre is responsible for creating 4,000 jobs—that is not chickenfeed—and half of those jobs are permanent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) said, tourism is not a candyfloss business. It is a serious business and a job creator.
I ask the Government to help us to finance the international convention centre. If they cannot give us first division status for regional aid, let them help us in respect of the £54 million which will be required over and above the Brussels money which will be forthcoming and the local and private money to be invested in the Birmingham convention centre. We are asking for an injection of money to prime the pump.
When completed, the convention centre will generate an additional income of £38.2 million a year at 1983 prices. That is sufficient to support another 1,857 full-time jobs. Spending generated by the centre and those jobs will lead to the creation of a further 876 jobs. That makes a total of 2,733. A new 500-bed hotel is to be built in the city centre privately. An entire new area of the city will be developed. The canals, or "cuts" as they are called in Birmingham, will be rebuilt. There are more miles of canal in Birmingham than in Venice and recreating the canal structure will generate more tourism in Birmingham.
I have made my plea for continued help with the convention centre and for the car race, a Bill concerning which will shortly be laid before the House. That race will bring in at least £1 million in the first year in profits. We recently had a trial, which was fully supported by the police. No fewer than 250,000 people turned out to see the vintage cars. Those figures will be regarded as chickenfeed in the future. We in Birmingham are not wailing. We regret that our industry is not stronger but, given a chance, we shall reinforce it. Given the chance we shall create wealth and employment in conference and business tourism.
§ Sir John Wells (Maidstone)
Hon. Members will not be surprised if I start by paying tribute to our former colleague, the late Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd, who, in a few short years of work with the Leeds castle foundation, built up the notion, activity and reality of Leeds castle, which is in my constituency, from one of the nation's unknown beauties into one of our premier tourist attractions. That success is due almost entirely to the energy and loving care of our late colleague.
I do not wish to bore the House with special pleading but I firmly believe that those parts of the home counties with interests and features to offer visitors and tourists should put their best foot forward. London hotels are, lamentably, far too expensive. Just a few miles out of London there are hotels in my constituency and elsewhere which are nearly as good and a great deal cheaper. I urge overseas visitors to sleep out of London and see some of our local beauties. [Laughter.] I remind right hon. and hon. Members who are laughing that Charles Dickens made one of his characters say:Kent, sir — everybody knows Kent — apples, cherries, hops, and women.We have perhaps the premier carriage museum in the world, tucked away in what were formerly the archbishop's stables. We have great spring blossom routes signposted by the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club. People drive round our farmland and see the beauties of our countryside. We have many farm trails. They are important for overseas tourists and for educating our urban neighbours.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) dealt at length with the nature—I shall not say the beauties—of Birmingham. He has mentioned the charms of its canals. I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends and Labour Members—there are no Liberal or SDP Members present—of the importance of educating the urban young into the rural way of life. Kentish farmers are leading the way in providing farm trails and educational facilities. However, there is one great danger, which applies to Wales as much as to Kent. People walking in the countryside with dogs allow them to run loose and worry sheep. That is a serious matter as we now have more sheep worrying. That happens because some visitors to the countryside do not understand the country code. I hope that the tourist boards and those who encourage visitors to the countryside ensure that they behave themselves and see that their dogs do likewise. Nevertheless, we who live in the country are privileged to be there and want to share it with our neighbours from the towns.
Kent has the two great cathedral cites of Canterbury and Rochester. I should like to make a specific point to our tourist authorities. Our great historic buildings are in danger of wearing out as a result of too many feet pounding through them. There is also a real danger of inconvenience and unpleasantness for people who live there and wish to live a quiet and peaceable life. Cathedral closes were designed not as tourist attractions but as places for clergy and meditative people to live in peace and some seclusion. A balance must be struck.
I should like to pay tribute to the extremely good work of the Historic Houses Association. It has maintained the flow of publicity material and ensured that historic houses 664 that are visited by the public are still living entities, nearly always inhabited by families who have been there for several or many generations.
A completely new aspect of tourism has hit Britain this year. I refer to the Liverpool international garden festival. Everyone knows that Chelsea is the greatest flower show in the world, and I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland — the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott)—in his place. Chelsea has a new rival in the form of this imported continental notion of a garden festival which runs for some six months rather than the four days of Chelsea.
The festival is over, and technically it is unnecessary for me to declare an interest. However, I should inform the House that I was an exhibitor. My only faintly light-hearted criticism of the organisation is that I received a £4.20 invoice for the amount of electricity I had consumed. I wrote to the Merseyside development corporation and pointed out that I should be delighted to pay for the electricity if it would reimburse me for the few hundred pounds it owed me in prize money. I am delighted to be able to inform the House that the prize money was forthcoming and that then I paid £4.20 for the electricity I had consumed. It is unfortunate that the organisers made the recipients of prizes wait for their cash until they had the neck to write and ask for it. Liverpool was the first venture of its kind. I believe that we shall go from strength to strength with this new style of exhibition.
I wish to pay a tribute to two people who not only made the Liverpool festival possible but brought about the smooth working of its day-to-day arrangements. The commissioner, Lord Aberconway, was very largely responsible not only for the vision he brought to the organisation but for its execution. There are many other people whom I should like to single out for praise, but there is one person in particular I should like to mention. He had great charm and energy. Above all, he possessed the great British quality of pouring oil on troubled waters. Anybody who has ever tried to stage an exhibition knows that tempers become frayed. This person was Mr. Bill Richards. He should be named in this House as the person who carried out the most wonderful work in Liverpool during the past summer.
Before I leave the new international garden festival concept, I must warn my hon. Friend and the Department than when unattractive city after unattractive city comes bidding for an international garden festival to rescue their nasty dumps and make them into more attractive places, it must be borne in mind that those cities must possess the basic charm of Liverpool. They must have fine buildings, fine parks and the potential of Merseyside. It is no good going to places where it always rains and where the natives are unfriendly. Nobody could have been kinder, nicer or friendlier than the people of Liverpool. It was due to the natural good nature of the citizens of Liverpool that the festival was such a success. It is essential that the Department, or whoever considers the granting of licences for the holding of such festivals, should be selective.
Finally, may I say a word about Chelsea and the horrors which afflict Chelsea because of the traffic jams. The Royal Horticultural Society is trying very hard to alleviate the problems. It is looking at every possible way in which to maintain the pre-eminent excellence of Chelsea and at the same time make Chelsea a more pleasant place for its inhabitants. I have already mentioned the wearing out of facilities and the wearing out of buildings. It is essential 665 that life should not be made intolerable for those who live adjacent to our great tourist centres. For this reason I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) is here. He is the only Minister sitting on the Government Front Bench. He will be well aware of the problems, even though he is unable to voice a constituency interest. I hope that I have been able to voice that interest for him.
I turn to another rural aspect of tourism. The depleted Benches opposite will probably howl at me for what I am about to say. There is no doubt that the blood sport industries of this country provide a massive tourist import. Fishing in all its forms, shooting in all its forms and hunting in nearly all its forms attract people from America and from the Continent in ever-growing numbers. These interests provide employment not only for those who live in the countryside but also for those in the sporting industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Yardley, in his wide-ranging dissertation on Birmingham, forgot to mention the very successful gun-making industry in Birmingham. If it were not for the great tradition of the English best gun we should not have that great industry in Birmingham. The fact that one of our great gun-making companies in Birmingham is celebrating its centenary this year is to be welcomed. Therefore, we should be grateful to those of our rural colleagues who are providing such pleasant, healthy and open-air recreation for visitors.
My next point has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley—the tourism generated by exhibitions and conferences. Not sufficient people know about it. The exhibition industry falls into two parts: the hall owners and those who stage the exhibitions. The national exhibition centre has been excellent for the nation and for the west midlands. However, when one drives through that area one finds that the car parks are miles away from the NEC. Better car-parking facilities ought to be provided. It is unfortunate that the car parks for the greatest motor show in the world should be scattered over so wide an area.
§ Sir John Wells
I shall not give way because many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Let me continue with the point I am making about the division of the exhibition industry into its two component parts: the hall owners and those who organise the exhibitions.
The hall owners are charging higher and higher rents. It is possible for a British exhibition organiser to hire a hall in Gothenburg, Boston in the United States, Hamburg or New York and mount a cheaper exhibition than can be mounted in London or by the NEC. Hall rental and service charges are getting out of hand. In part this is due to the activities of authorities like the Greater London council which have pushed up the rates. It is also due in part to the demands of the fire officers. We respect the sensible rulings of fire officers, but I have a nasty suspicion that they believe that they must exert an ever-increasing tightening of the regulations in certain areas, not in order to save lives but in order to save their jobs. This is a harsh criticism to make, but I believe it to be true. British fire officers have a superb record. Virtually no lives have been lost as a result of fire hazard. The hazards have come from the collapse of stands and other such matters. My hon. Friend the Minister and his Department must give some 666 guidance to fire officers. They should not be over-zealous because that is one of the contributory causes of increased charges. They should not be negligent, but there is a sensible mean course which has not been pursued in recent years.
Will my hon. Friend make representations to all the hall owners not to price themselves out of the market? In addition, I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the need for another exhibition hall or centre in Greater London. There are opportunities in the docklands. There are opportunities, not on green field sites but on demolition sites. When my hon. Friend seeks advice on that matter, I hope that he will seek it from not only one man representing one point of view, and a vested point of view at that, but from as broad a base of people as he can find who really understand the industry.
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, I asked for a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the incident in my constituency yesterday in which what was described as an undercover unit of the British Army killed two people who were described as an active service unit of the IRA. That incident raises fundamental questions as to whether the authorities in Northern Ireland have abandoned—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
Order. I must have a point of order on which I can rule. The hon. Gentleman must not develop an argument.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is now abusing the procedures of the House. If he has a point of order on which I can rule, I shall try to help him, but he must not try to develop an argument.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I regret that I cannot help the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that he will be able to find ways in which he can raise the matter about which he is obviously worried.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
First, I warmly welcome the excellent motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) in bringing before the House today one of Britain's most important industries —tourism. I must declare an interest as parliamentary consultant to Consort Hotels, an important organisation of independent hoteliers, and also as secretary of the all-party parliamentary tourism committee.
As many of my hon. Friends have already said, tourism is an important growth industry. Britain is one of the few countries in Europe, if not in the world, which does not give adequate recognition to an industry employing some 1.5 million people, earning £5,000 million a year from overseas visitors. I am saddened—I put it no stronger than that—that the Minister of State, Department of 667 Trade and Industry who has sole responsibility for tourism has not found the time in a busy day to join us in this debate, but I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will make known to him what is said. Nevertheless, this is the first debate on this important subject since the general election. We have had one short statement and several parliamentary questions, but this is the first debate.
Tourism should be managed in such a way that it generates wealth and employment at both a national and local level. Look at the enterprise in areas such as Bradford and the successful harnessing of tourists with history, along with the revitalisation of the inner cities. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) is, I am sad to say, missing, but no doubt if he were here he would mention the Bradford chop. However, the matter goes much further than gastronomy. The old satanic mills of the 19th century have been reborn.
Let me take the example of my constituency of York to illustrate the link between history and tourism. Fairfax house, recently opened in York, must be one of the finest Georgian houses in Britain, with an exquisite range of Georgian furniture. There is also a link with overseas countries. The most imaginative development of the Viking centre links Denmark with the United Kingdom —perhaps York is the Commonwealth of Scandinavia. Not least, there is the work of the churches, such as the Undercroft museum in York minster. I could give many other examples in other fine cities but those are a few that I want to single out in York.
Local initiatives rely upon councils and the Government to be sympathetic and to set the groundwork. Have local authorities an effective tourism strategy? Does each acknowledge the employment aspects and ensure close links between, for example, further education and industry? Is the infrastruture of car parking and signposting provided? When we as tourists so often visit lovely parts of the country, we find that the signposting is inadequate. The conflict generated in turn forces the local population to wear badges saying, "I'm a resident, not a tourist."
We do not want to alienate this vital and important part of our economy. It is a growth area. In England last year the local economy benefited by £7,600 million, £4,300 million of which came from British tourists. The balance came from overseas.
Does each local authority belong to its regional tourist board? There are some glaring anomalies. The south-east tourist board covers Kent, west Sussex, east Sussex and part of Surrey. Yet west Sussex, a prime county for tourism, is not a member of the board. Will my hon. Friend the Minister write to the county and district councils—to encourage them to join and participate in the management of tourism? I should like the carrot to be voluntary. Unless we can spell out the key advantages to participating in the decision-making process, we are partly working in a void.
The absence of west Sussex from the south-east tourist board means that inquiries to the board by the travel trade and the public cannot be fairly dealt with. Justice is not done to that important geographical area while a major constituent part fails to pay its dues and participate.
Of course there are and should be constraints. So far in the debate we have heard a lot in favour of tourism. However, it would be wrong not to mention some of the environmental constraints. Some years ago the Greek 668 Orthodox church announced the text of a new prayer asking the Lord to have mercy on Greek cities, islands and villageswhich are scourged by the worldly touristic waveand to protect the Greek people fromthese contemporary western invaders".Many inhabitants of Britain's tourist centres, especially London, would fervently subscribe to that plea. I am not sure whether that would apply to the see of Durham. The Bishop of Durham should be mindful, before he moves into that area as well, that within his jurisdiction there is a substantial tourist trade. I hope that we shall not require such prayers on too common a basis here. We should appreciate that while tourism has many plus points we should not at the same time consume our environmental seed corn.
In an industry with a turnover of some £9 billion, more than the aerospace industry and not far short of the motor industry — an important point when one takes into account the hon. Members from the west midlands who have participated in the debate — the growth signs continue to excite. Employment in the hotel trade has increased by 7.5 per cent., or, to put it in numbers, by 17,000 and in restaurants and cafés by almost half that figure, with an additional 6,000 jobs simply in the second quarter of this year. When compared with the rest of British industry, that is a sizeable leap forward, as there was only a 1 per cent. increase for all industries and a 2 per cent. increase for the service industries. Not surprisingly, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is devoting more time to the service sector of the economy.
New jobs are being created in tourism at the rate of some 50,000 a year. That is a striking contrast with many parts of our economy, but do the Government appreciate that investment in the service sector will produce more employment per pound invested than the manufacturing and processing industries? The investment is not all in de luxe hotels. Indeed, no new hotel has been buil: in the nation's capital for some time. The plans for the development of the South Bank have not materialised. Tourism is just as much about the marginal hill fauns with an income derived from farmhouse tourism.
One or two specific points concern me and others who have tourism closely at heart. The first is the thorny question of classification. Earlier this year, the Minister asked the English tourist board to examine ways to strengthen the voluntary registration scheme to make it a more effective weapon against poor standards. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister how far the discussions between the English, Scottish and Welsh tourist boards have gone, and how much consensus there is. Is my hon. Friend aware of the unrest in the hotel sector?
There was a proposal to have a unified registration system of one to five crowns and for it to be adopted by 1987, but hearts are being developed by the Hear) of England tourist board and another symbol is being developed in the Isle of Wight. There is great confusion not only for British tourists going to another part of the country, and who want a recommendation for hotels and other forms of accommodation through such symbols, but for the overseas tourists coming to the country who see the great number of symbols and try to understand what they mean. We need one common symbol system for the United Kingdom, and proper verification, especially with all the electronic data that can be easily retrieved by the tourist and travel trade.
669 We want one system and a nationally agreed scheme, but the Grant report for the Scottish tourist board showed only 42 per cent. of its establishments were classified correctly. We need a self-policing voluntary scheme, as just under half of the establishments approached by the inquiry were not able to fill in the forms properly.
Consultation has not been adequate. Why have important organisations such as the RAC, with its vetting system and officials, the AA, Michelin and Egon Ronay not been consulted? There seems no qualitative aspect to the proposed system. We effectively have registration, which is different from classification, through the fire and hygiene regulations, but this can cause problems. At what stage is a house promoting tourism? I have this problem in York, which is a thriving centre for tourism. Does an advertisement placed by a house owner constitute a change of use? Is it letting one room to a student? Is it letting two rooms to tourists on a regular basis, or is it, as the York city council suggests, the letting of 25 per cent. of rooms? I could go on and give other examples of what is interpreted by district councils. I am trying to emphasise that, in the absence of case law, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming for small bodies to take through court, we need a move by the Executive in setting out clearly what is meant by registration. We should not leave it to local officials of each district to set different criteria.
Signposting has been referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Sherwood and for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway). I welcome the experimental tourism signposting scheme that was used this summer in Kent, which included new brown and white signs with symbols to denote a range of tourist attractions. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the second scheme, which is to take place in Nottinghamshire next year. However, let us move further on from these two experimental schemes. Why do we not show access to hotels? Why, if one is going to a particular centre, is it not possible to see the hotels clearly shown in advance? There should be more than a little symbol on the wall saying "hotel". Is that the hotel that one is booked into? Does one want to go there? Why is there no consultation before the signs go up?
My hon. Friend the Minister may respond that this is a matter for the highways authorities, usually the county councils, which do not generally permit hotel signs within the highway boundary. There is the associated problem, as the nation takes more and more to cars, of car parks in national tourist parks. Tourists clearly require accommodation, refreshment and a variety of services. Therefore, the responsibility for requiring a criterion that will be adopted on a local and regional basis may revert to the Department of Trade and Industry. Again, in the example of signposting, we are showing lack of co-ordination.
The third sector in which we show a lack of co-ordination is licensing. This occupied the time of the House a week ago, and many of us participated in that debate or read with considerable interest the views of our hon. Friends. However, it is time to implement reforms and to see licensing in the wider framework of tourism. Why should a visitor from another part of the country or an overseas visitor who is seeking refreshment, whether alcoholic or not, find only that he is told the time of day?
670 It would be remiss if we did not draw attention to the importance of education for tourism. Clearly, there is an inadequate link between education and tourism. There is too great a concentration of resources on management skills rather than on craft courses. We need assistance at all levels. How often, when we have been to a hotel, restaurant or café, are we served by non-EC nationals or EC nationals of another state? I am in favour of mobility and I am glad to see that so many people come to Britain, but it is sad when so many youngsters are not going on craft courses despite unemployment. We need to develop the craft side and give a feeling of satisfaction in a growth industry. I hope that my hon. Friends in the Department of Employment will take this on board. Will they visit jobcentres and the hotel and catering schools and talk to hoteliers and restaurateurs?
Many of my points have been about the lack of co-ordination. Different Departments are working on tourism. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) referred to five Departments concerned with tourism, plus the Department of Trade and Industry. That is stating the case by half. Twelve Departments are involved with tourism, and I shall mention these to show how much we need a co-ordinating committee that will pull this together.
First, there is the Department of Trade and Industry, with specific responsibility for tourism. Secondly, there is the Treasury, with responsibility for fiscal matters. How much of the new tax approved in the autumn statement in this House last night will go towards developing the infrastructure of tourism? Thirdly, there is the Department of Transport, which is concerned with highways, with coach and train regulations, and with the provision of adequate coach and car parking in great cities such as London. Fourthly, the Home Office has responsibility for licensing and for fire regulations. It is also responsible for television licensing. There was a significant lack of consultation when the new rates for television licensing were introduced for the hotel industry. Fifthly, there is the Department of Employment, which obviously is concerned with employment matters.
Sixthly, there is the Department of Education and Science. Here it should be noted that the tourist industry, through its hotels and catering, provides two vacancies for every university graduate. No other industry in Britain could make that claim. Seventhly, , the responsibilities of 'the Department of the Environment include sport. Eighthly, , the Department of Health and Social Security is responsible for the health regulations governing hotels and other accommodation. Ninthly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is concerned with farmhouse tourism. Tenthly, the Foreign Office obviously has a responsibility for the overseas aspects of tourism. The eleventh and twelfth examples are the Scottish Office and Welsh Office, and to make it a baker's dozen we have also the Northern Ireland Office.
Through unco-ordination there has been confusion in an industry that is essentially voluntary. We need to co-ordinate and to recognise the potential of tourism. We need a Minister whose sole responsibility is tourism and who will ensure that the industry goes from strength to strength.
Little mention is made in Britain of the European Community's investment in tourism. In the period from 1975 to 1983, tourism projects represented under 1 per cent. of the total European regional development fund 671 allocation. Britain benefited most. The allocations of grant to Britain for tourism for infrastructure projects were £9.03 million. It is interesting to note how we compare in that respect with the other member states of the European Community. It is obvious that we are doing extremely well. West Germany comes next, with an allocation of £7.2 Then there are Italy, with £6.8 million, France with £1.5 million, and Denmark with a mere £42,000. There is no such investment in Ireland, the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium and Luxembourg. Therefore, we are using our channels of communication correctly in the interests of tourism by seeking sums from the EC, and that effort should be applauded.
In November last year, my hon. Friend who has responsibility for tourism announced that he planned to maintain grants for section 4 expenditure in England at about the current level over the four years until 1986–87, making a total of about £35 million for the period.
The industry needs more incentives. There is a need for much more co-ordination and recognition. We are sowing a seed that is bearing fruit. Let us consider that today.
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)
I intervene at this point in the debate because I think that there is a danger —I exempt the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory), who has just made a thoughtful speech, from my criticism —of the debate becoming a series of encomia for the tourist attractions of the constituencies represented by the speakers, and I am anxious to give the debate a slightly sharper focus.
I welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) chose tourism as his topic following his luck in the ballot. His interesting contribution gave the debate a worthwhile start. I wonder whether his constituents in Sherwood, when looking at the hon. Gentleman's 1 per cent. majority and thinking of the deficiencies of the Conservative Government's record in regard to tourism and many other matters, may think that he did enough this morning at least to guarantee himself a job in tourism after the next general election.
§ Mr. Andy Stewart
Does not the hon. Member recognise that in the past six months 20,000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers have withdrawn their political levy to the Labour party?
§ Mr. Gould
I thought that I was rather generous in giving way so early in my speech, but I shall not be diverted by that sort of point. However, I hasten to agree with another point that the hon. Gentleman and other speakers have made—that we should all welcome and recognise the importance of the tourist industry.
There is no question but that an industry that now has a turnover of about £8 billion is of very substantial significance. It is an industry whose foreign exchange earnings will, we hope, approach about £5 billion. That is of very considerable value and benefit to the economy. We are told that 1.4 million jobs are produced by the industry. There is some slight variation in the figures that are given. It is notoriously difficult to ascribe certain kinds of economic activity to tourism. It is difficult to separate the meals bought in restaurants by tourists from those bought by local inhabitants. Nevertheless, I am content to accept the figure of 1.4 million jobs. I also accept the argument that tourism, by its nature, is a labour-intensive industry, and is likely to provide yet more jobs in the future.
672 I listened to and understand the predictions that tourism might well create 50,000 new jobs a year, and that there might be 250,000 jobs to come from that source over the next few years. That has been recognised by the Confederation of British Industry, which has instituted its own examination of the job creation prospects.
The debate takes place in the context of a somewhat wider argument concerning the role of service industries as compared with that of manufacturing industries in our economy. I do not think that we need get too bogged down on that argument. However, when I hear Conservative Members, such as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes), claim that tourism is our only growth industry, I fear that that tells us little about tourism but a great deal about the state of the rest of the economy. If our economy were as flourishing and as healthy as is sometimes pretended by Conservative Members we would not be pointing to tourism as our only example of growth. We would be looking, as the Prime Minister herself did only a year or two ago, to electronics and information technology, not to mention all the other aspects of manufacturing industry that have so sadly suffered over recent years.
While registering the point that the tourist industry figures, in terms of turnover, foreign exchange earnings and employment, all look somewhat better than they should—simply because the industry is at least keeping its head above water while so many others are sinking —we cannot afford the luxury of picking and choosing between jobs in one industry or another. We are not in a position to say that we would much rather have higher paid jobs or more highly skilled jobs somewhere else. In our position we are bound to take what we can get. That is a sad reflection of our present economic plight, but it is nevertheless a realistic acceptance of it. So, when hon. Members and all those involved in the industry point to the real prospect of job creation, I am prepared to acknowledge and welcome it. But that in turn imposes an obligation on the Government and on the industry to make sure that the job prospects are brought to fruition, and that real efforts are made to maximise that potential. In that context there has been a danger this morning of being somewhat carried away by euphoria.
One speaker after another, intent on praising the attractions of his own constituency, has tended to give a somewhat one-sided picture of the way in which the industry is developing. As in so many other matters, Conservative members have a curious blind spot — it may be shared by the Minister when he responds—in looking at balance of trade figures. They are very content to point to figures that show an increase in our foreign exchange earnings but seem totally oblivious of the other side of the account. Although the picture is promising and offers some hope for the future, it is by no means as healthy and as satisfactory as has sometimes been suggested during the debate.
The number of overseas visitors, for example, is only now approaching the peak that it reached in the late 1970s. There followed an enormous trough, and that in turn was reflected in tourism's contribution to the balance of trade figures. In 1981, virtually for the first time in modern history, an industry which traditionally had earned us a substantial balance of foreign exchange payments went into a deficit of £302 million. The following year the deficit rose to £472 million. In 1983 there was a slight improvement, with a deficit of £399 million. This year we 673 appear to be on course for a deficit of about £354 million. Most worrying is the forecast commissioned by the industry, which suggests that by 1987 the deficit will have increased to £519 million.
Looking back over the recent period we have to recognise that the number of overseas visitors spending nights here between 1980 and 1983 fell by 2.5 per cent., whereas the number of British visitors who spent nights abroad rose by 51.4 per cent. The trend is very much against us.
The industry's own forecast is that between 1982 and 1987 the number of long holidays taken in Great Britain, whether by overseas tourists or by British holidaymakers, will fall by 2 per cent. The rosy forecasts so often made for employment in the industry will be realised only if real efforts are made to ensure that that growth occurs.
Unfortunately, when we consider the factors which will influence that development we find that, true to form, and in this case quite realistically, the Government take the view that the most important influence on the future of the industry is the general economic climate. I say "unfortunately" because the experience of the past three or four years suggests exactly what impact the general economic climate has on the tourist industry. We have moved into deficit in the industry, because the figures fell in exactly the same way as so many other industries suffered.
It is easier to identify some of the precise causes when we consider tourism. One of the them was the grossly overvalued exchange rate against the American dollar. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) pointed out, it is true that that has been remedied. We see the benefits of having a more realistic exchange rate. But the pound remains substantially overvalued on any reckonable basis against many of the European currencies, and that must still be hurting our tourist industry.
But it is more than just a question of an overvalued exchange rate. It is the general climate in which investment throughout the economy has been depressed in recent years, and again it is possible to identify the respects in which the tourist industry is peculiarly vulnerable to some of these developments.
The Government have made great efforts over recent years to cut the level of spending on public services and to prevent local and other authorities from maintaining their levels of expenditure. The consequence is that many basic services on which tourism depends, such as public transport, are now less good, less efficient and less good value for money than they were only a few years ago. As a consequence of our impoverishment through high unemployment, we are now a shabbier, scruffier, dirtier country to visit than even a few years ago. Anyone who cares to visit European cities will notice the staggering contrast between the levels of cleanliness and prosperity visible in the streets of our major cities. That is a great deterrent—one which we shall ignore at our peril—to overseas visitors. They find that the promoted tourist attractions are well worth visiting, but the time that they spend scruffing around our increasingly dirty streets because local authorities cannot afford to clean them properly is becoming less and less pleasant for them.
§ Mr. Gould
Wandsworth is a case in point.
The Government are in grave danger of making this worse. In the future we know that there will be even less spent on some of these services. The trend of Government policy on taxation will add to indirect taxes and make our country more expensive for tourists as a result. There is a great deal implicit in the Government's economic policies over the past three or four years and what they propose to do in the remainder of their term of office which, inexorably, will move against the interests of a developing tourist industry.
Apart from reversing their overall policies, which is unlikely, the only way that the Government can remedy the situation is by taking some action to promote tourism directly. Many hon. Members have rightly said that the prime responsibility must rest with private enterprise. But it has been noticeable and noteworthy how many of them have managed to slip in a plea for this or that public expenditure project to promote tourism. The hon. Member for Yardley ran up a bill approaching £1 billion by the end of his shopping list. He was looking for very substantial intervention.
§ Mr. Gould
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has costed it, but I doubt whether even £54 million will get past his right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary.
The Government also have an obligation to shape the structure of public involvement in the industry. Just over a year ago we had a statement by the Minister of State following the long-awaited results of the review of the tourist industry. What was announced then was a slightly curious mish-mash of a reorganisation. Everyone accepted that something had to be done, but what came forward was what might be described as a half-way house. It was neither a merger nor a clear division of responsibilities. We have the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board operating under the same chairman but still with somewhat different functions. It will be interesting to hear the Minister say how he sees that reorganisation developing. Has it been successful? Is it working well? What further changes does he think may be necessary? Is it still the case, for example, that the Scottish and Welsh tourist boards are in limbo, without a clear relationship established with the more central authorities?
Then there is the role of the regional boards. This is a matter about which I know the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) has been extremely worried. He argues—and I agree with him—that to stimulate tourism in the regions, which has been the theme of so many speeches in the debate, we need more powerful, though possibly fewer, and better resourced regional boards. There is no sign that that is the direction that the Government are taking.
The London tourist board is a good example. Only a year ago the Minister told us that London was the gateway for English tourism and that that was where our effort had to be concentrated. The London board is now issuing cries of distress because it has lost its GLC funding. If the Government have their way there is little prospect of that being restored, yet they have done little by way of response to that loss of resources.
In the last financial year, the general resources available to all the regional boards fell in comparison with 675 the preceding year, though admittedly only by 0.2 per cent. When the industry pleaded for help through capital allowances, the Government, claiming that they were treating the tourist industry in the same way as manufacturing industry, refused it capital allowances and reduced those available to the manufacturing industry.
Several hon. Members have stressed the need for more training in the tourist industry. That is a general problem. We have paid far too little attention to the training of skilled people in industry, and tourism is no exception.
The local authorities have an important role in promoting tourism in the regions. They are able to make proper co-ordinated arrangements with regional tourist boards and other interested parties. Again, the thrust of the Government's policy is to reduce the resources available to local authorities. If the authorities showed any signs of wanting to do something on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Yardley they would promptly be rate-capped and told that they were acting beyond their competence.
In the tourist industry, as in so many other industries, the prospects and potential are obvious, but the Government offer nothing more than rhetoric. They say that they see a wonderful and glorious future for the tourist industry, but that it has nothing to do with them. They say that the industry must get on by itself and that they will create the economic climate in which its efforts will succeed. Unfortunately, difficulties of a general economic nature will penalise and handicap the tourist industry.
When the Minister replies to today's excellent speeches, I hope that he will make a practical commitment in terms of interest and, most of all, in terms of resources. We do not want the Government to fund the entire enterprise. We want them to provide the seed money, without which the potential for the tourist industry cannot be realised.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) was full of doom and gloom. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) and others have made clear, tourism into Britain remains buoyant. Tourists from the United States are increasing because of the rise in the value of the dollar and more tourists are arriving from Europe, Japan and the rest of the world.
We should not be gloomy. Tourism is a great growth industry. Britain pulls the crowds. Tourists spend £5 billion a year here. Tourism is a job creator. The hon. Member for Dagenham rightly said that we cannot pick and choose which jobs we create, yet many people are noticeably unenthusiastic about tourism. One wonders why. I have identified three reasons.
The first is a vague feeling that the production of physical objects has a higher value than the production of services. That is sheer nonsense. What matters is that people's demands and requirements are met, so that employment is generated. It does not matter whether one manufactures something which, when dropped, hurts one's toe, or whether one provides a service such as insurance or hotel accommodation. We must get away from the peculiar metaphysical distinction between the production of goods and the production of services, because it makes no sense.
676 Secondly, some people find tourist annoying. They jostle on pavements; there are many of them; they queue in shops and cause delays for local shoppers. We must get over that because of the economic importance of tourists.
Thirdly, in some people's minds tourism is linked with hotels and restaurants and some think that cooks, waiters and those doing other quasi-domestic work are servile. That traditional British attitude has never been shared on the continent, where the chef at a restaurant or hotel and his staff are honoured and respected as highly valued citizens.
Perhaps that prejudice in Britain has diminished with increased foreign travel. I am not sure how far that process has been hastened or otherwise by the large number of British girls who, in the last 20 or 30 years, have gone on holiday and fallen in love with Italian, Spanish or Greek waiters or others employed in the tourist trade.
Tourism is vital. It has great potential for increasing employment. People come to Britain not only to seek specific enjoyments that generate income and employment, such as the arts, our heritage, our traditions and the beauty of our countryside, to patronise hotels and restaurants or even to shop. Many tourists come here simply to wander around to see what they can see and get the feel of the place.
According to the ETB's digest of tourist statistics for 1983, a survey of people leaving the country revealed that the two most popular tourist spots were Piccadilly circus and Trafalgar square. They were more popular than Buckingham palace, Westminster abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the Tower of London, St. Paul's cathedral, the National gallery, the British museum and other venues in London and the provinces.
Such places are so overcrowded that we should concentrate on dispersing tourists nationally and locally. London has its great art galleries and historic places such as the National gallery, the British museum, the Tate gallery, the Victoria and Albert museum and the science museums. We should try to persuade more tourists to visit other places such as the magnificent Wallace collection, the splendid Dulwich picture gallery and the Imperial war museum in south London.
The same applies to the east midlands. Another table in the digest says that the number of visitors to Burghley house, Stamford, between 1982 and 1983 rose from 46,600 to 61,400—an increase of 32 per cent. in a year. That is a remarkable achievement.
There is much to see all over Britain. We should try to persuade more tourists into the mark 2 places instead of trying to cram them all into the Tower of London, Stonehenge, Stratford-on-Avon and Hampton court in my constituency, which is one of the most popular places in the country.
Much more can be seen in the Twickenham area besides Hampton court. Twickenham Week was started four years ago when the Prince of Wales visited the area on the 900th anniversary of the town. I have the honour to be president of Twickenham Week. The occasion boosts the area, which contains many historic and lovely buildings, including the historic St. Mary's church, Marble Hill house, and Orleans house gallery. Many places in Teddington are also worth seeing. I refer to St. Mary's church, the famous Horace Walpole house and Strawberry Hill, which was the foundation for the new gothic architecture without which the Palace of Westminster would never have been constructed in the 19th century.
677 Near Hampton court there is Bushy park and Garrick's villa, and many other places are to be seen along the Thames.
Hampton court itself remains an important place and its interior was visited last year by about 500,000, in addition to those who visited the gardens. Its success was augmented by the son et lumière programme of its history, which was presented in aid of the Save the Children Fund and sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board, whose headquarters is nearby.
There is a problem with the increase in the number of restaurants in outer London areas, where traditionally residents are not used to so many. There were about a dozen restaurants in my constituency 15 years ago, and now there are well over 30. Given the nature of the area and the size of the main streets, some of the restaurants are close to housing areas.
There is an increasing demand for the services provided by restaurants, both from tourists and local people. However, when a restaurateur wants to open a new restaurant, he encounters planning difficulties. There is often local opposition because of the need to provide car parking space, the noise of doors being slammed late at night and the way in which cooking smells and canned music impinge on the environment of those living nearby. This problem has arisen in several places locally and seems bound to continue.
There is conflict between the demand for restaurants, which stems partly from the growth of tourism, and the protection of the environment of those living nearby. I hope that the Department of the Environment will co-ordinate experience in different parts of the country to ascertain what we can learn from one another in resolving a problem which has given rise to considerable local controversy in many areas.
I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood for having brought the motion before the House and given us the opportunity to debate it. I fully support it.
§ 12.3 pm
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)
I, too, extend my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) for providing us with an opportunity to discuss the important subject of tourism and employment. The House will know of my interest in the subject as a constituency Member and as the parliamentary consultant to the British Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers Association.
It is an unfortunate fact that all Governments spend far too much time attempting to save declining industries and giving insufficient attention positively to support and encourage successful and expanding sectors of the economy. We all know why this unsatisfactory situation exists. It has become a characteristic of our system that Governments, for whatever reason, spend a disproportionate amount of time in responding to events rather than seeking to influence the pattern and sequence of future developments.
There is no doubt in my mind that tourism, and especially the Government's attitude to the industry, is caught up in the unfortunate framework to which I have referred. However, the present Administration have made certain attempts to enable the tourist industry to break out of the dilemma. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, 678 Department of Trade and Industry and his immediate predecessor, Mr. Iain Sproat, carried out a thorough investigation of the tourist industry. They deserve much credit for taking that initiative. Their review of tourism has led at least to the establishment of the basis of a fabric for a future strategy for tourism. It is important that we do not lose this initiative.
The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) observed that in structural terms we need to follow through that initiative on behalf of the regional tourist boards. We must also maintain the impetus in a financial context, especially as there is a good base on which to build.
Tourism is our largest growth industry. It is estimated that 1.4 million are employed in it. Furthermore, it is creating about 50,000 new jobs annually. That figure is in stark contrast to the regrettable job-shedding that is taking place in so many sectors of the economy. Tourism is the greatest single earner of foreign currency. It produces annually about £5,000 million in invisible exports. In addition, it is earning about £6,000 million from the domestic market. It can be justly proud of its record nationally on behalf of those who are involved in it.
I welcome the initiatives that have been taken by Ministers and I welcome also the recent announcement of the CBI to carry out a study into job creation prospects in the tourist industry. Both the Government and the CBI have recognised the important role that tourism can and should play in our economic and social life. Our immediate task is to persuade Ministers of the need for some modest pump priming to increase the momentum. I shall suggest one or two ways in which that should be done.
Section 4 grant aid for approved projects is now available throughout the country. I was all in favour of that development. In addition, my hon. Friend the Minister of State has ensured that greater emphasis is placed on what might be described as the two sharp ends, the need to persuade overseas visitors to come to the United Kingdom and, secondly, the need to ensure that once they are here their requirements and expectations are met. It is in the latter context that section 4 grant aid is important.
In 1983–84 the English tourist board allocated £6.3 million for this purpose. It was able to assist 503 projects. That meant that 116 projects were assisted in the southwest at a cost of £2.76 million. Although 116 projects were assisted, 151 were approved by the West Country tourist board. That means that a significant number of worthwhile projects had to be excluded because of financial constraints. The cost to the taxpayer of the creation of each full-time job in tourism in the south-west is about £5,000. That is money well spent, besides the fact that it is cost effective. In my constituency of Cornwall, South-East unemployment is 16 per cent. We all know that the cost to the nation of each of those unemployed is almost £6,000 a year. I should have thought that that was a worthwhile conversion ratio in respect of the money made available under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969.
Last year, some 3,500 places were made available for training through the provisions of the hotel and catering industry training board. About 90 per cent. obtained jobs at the end of their year's training with the employer with whom they had spent most of their time. I gather that this year more places are available than have been taken up. I should have thought that the Government, and especially the Department of Employment, had a responsibility to 679 make that information more readily available. Increasingly, there are enhanced career structures in employment in the tourist industry.
Excellent work has been undertaken by COSIRA—the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas. That council does an excellent job. I welcome its emphasis in trying to persuade people to diversify their plans and its advocacy of the concept of, for example, multi-purpose land use in conjunction with agriculture, especially in the hill areas.
I emphasise the need for an adequate infrastructure. The issue of roads and signposting is important. I support everything my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) said about the need for a fundamental reform of the licensing system. Such a reform is long overdue.
I emphasise the importance of tourism to regional economies. My county of Cornwall has more than 3 million visitors a year but, sadly, only 10 per cent. of them come from overseas. I certainly share the view of my hon. Friends that we should move away from the London-Stratford-Oxford-Cambridge circuit. Nevertheless, £250 million is spent by visitors in Cornwall of which, it is estimated, £90 million stays within the county. The equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs are provided by the tourist industry. There is no doubt that the tourist industry has an important part to play not only in the national and regional economy but in providing greater job opportunities. I hope that, as a result of this debate, the Government will at least take on board some modest financial pump priming to ensure that the momentum is sustained.
§ Mr. Peter Hubbard-Miles (Bridgend)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate as the only Member present representing a Welsh constituency. I recognise the fact that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is not directly responsible for tourism in Wales, but I am sure that my comments will find their way to the right desk.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) painted a scenario similar to the one in which my constituency is set. My constituency is perhaps suffering because it contains a famous coalfield and industrial area. It is not recognised sufficiently as an area of great beauty and historical interest. Travelling through the area, as I do regularly, one crosses the Severn and is then close to the beautiful area of the Wye and Usk valleys. One then goes through the Vale of Glamorgan to the Gower peninsula. If properly presented, this area will become a great centre for tourism.
I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood romanticise about Robin Hood and Maid Marian. I understand that recent research leads us to suspect that King Arthur was buried within or close to the boundaries of my constituency.
Within my constituency—and perhaps unknown even to those living there — there is tremendous historical interest. Within three or four miles of one another are the castles of Ogmore, Coity and Candlestone. The Roman road leading from Cardiff to the west called at the buried city of Cynffig which is another area of great interest. My constituency on the Bristol channel has nine miles of golden sands from the east to the west and, if the tide is right, I can walk the whole length of my constituency on golden sands.
680 The Welsh scene includes the Wales tourist board, the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh water authority and, recently, CADW which has been created to look after the ancient and historic monuments in Wales. Greater co-operation and co-ordination is needed between those bodies. We must recognise that, together with local authorities and central Government, they all have a part to play in bringing about an awareness of the need to develop tourism in this area of high unemployment.
There has been considerable investment by the private sector. New hotels have begun to spring up in various places. Local authorities, together with the Welsh Development Agency, have developed marinas and coastal attractions. I hope that the commercial success of Superted—the Welsh Rupert—will result in a Superted theme park on the south Wales coast.
I have referred to being able to walk along the golden sands that stretch from one end of my constituency to the other. That is where the crunch comes, or perhaps I should say squelch, ouch or yuk. One may find oneself walking not on golden sands but on a deposit from the inadequate and antiquated sewage disposal units which occur on the south Wales beaches and, I imagine, at many other coastal resorts.
The Welsh water authority has a programme for the modernisation of those sewage disposal units. It has a capital programme amounting to about £75 million over the next 10 years. Investment in such schemes is necessary. They will be profitable by improving the prospect of tourist development. I make no apology for urging my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to ensure that no impediment is placed in the way of the development of those sewage disposal units so that the polluted beaches can be cleaned up.
I should not like hon. Members to imagine that all beaches are polluted. Most of those in my area are up to EEC standards. The fact that one or two are not up to those standards but are heavily polluted is bound to detract from the tourist value of the area. It is a matter of great anxiety to many that the developments should not be hindered.
Recently, the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) opened a new plant in his constituency. As a result, the number of complaints about pollution of the beaches east of the Mumbles dropped dramatically last summer. A continuation of that programme is needed in Barry and my home town of Porthcawl where there is desperate need for a new sewage disposal unit.
I should like to pay tribute to those conservation, preservation and historic societies which take care of and protect our places of beauty and historical interest. They do a tremendous job of making people aware of the interesting parts of the environment. There are times, however, when they pay more attention to the means of achieving their objective than to the objective itself While they argue about where a sewage outfall should be sited, the four-letter word remains on the beaches. It is sometines distressing to think that those who seek to improve and protect the environment are deferring the time when it will be improved.
The parts of south Wales that I represent, and the constituencies along the south Wales coast, suffer seriously from unemployment. We have the infrastructure. The M4 and the 125 inter-city line run through the middle of my constituency. That has enabled the Secretary of State to attract inward investment to the area. Considerable success has been achieved in bringing industry to that part 681 of south Wales. There have been the Ford, Sony, Smith Kendon and Callard and Bowser factories, and now the new science park which has attracted a number of companies from America. Good communications should encourage the Secretary of State to take even greater advantage of the area. He should use them to develop the tourist industry.
It is a matter of great joy to me that, with good communications backed by the Cardiff airport, industry from all over the world is taking its place in the Principality—in the industrial and coal mining areas of south Wales.
We have places of great beauty and historical interest in south Wales. Much can therefore be done to alleviate unemployment by improving the tourist attractions. I hope that the Secretary of State will seek to bring together the agencies involved in tourism, make the south Wales coast another great attraction for tourists and allow the area to make its ever-increasing contribution to solving the unemployment problem.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
The House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) for choosing this subject for debate today and also for his distinguished speech. It seems to me that he has talents not just as an accomplished parliamentarian but as a future Hollywood screen writer, as he showed with his reference to Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
There have been many good contributions from the Conservative Benches, but it is unfortunate that a depressing feature of the debate is that there has been almost complete silence from and absence of Opposition Members. One is almost tempted to ask, "Do they not care about where the new jobs are coming from?" If nothing else has emerged from the debate, it has become clear that tourism is one of the great growth industries of the future.
We have heard, time and time again, that the industry employs 1.4 million people and that 50,000 new jobs a year are being created. Of which other industry can it be said that over the next five years—before the end of the decade—250,000 new jobs will be created? However, the Opposition do not wish to take part in the deliberations about its future. The industry has been consistently undervalued and underrated. So much so that tourism is the slumbering giant of British industry. If my hon. Friend's debate does nothing else, I hope that it will improve our national and parliamentary perception of the potential of tourism.
A change of attitude is needed by the Government, Parliament, industry and the public. I should like to share my few thoughts on the subject with the House. A change of attitude within Government has, to some extent, already started. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibilities for tourism has done a fine job of overhauling the tourist boards. But one energetic Minister does not make a Government policy. Improvements are needed in the Government's attitude towards tourism.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) spoke eloquently—I wholeheartedly agreed with him—about the lack of co-ordination in the tourist industry. The problem goes deeper than that. The flow of information, especially statistical information, to Government on tourism is amateurish and inadequate in comparison with 682 other industries. Even the most specialised classification of manufacturing industry is carefully watched by the Government in terms of statistics and the monitoring of figures, but the statistics on tourism are not much better than mere assertions provided by tourist boards.
We do not know where the 50,000 new jobs a year are coming from, nor do we know how the £5 billion a year of foreign currency earnings is spent. There is a whole range of leisure industries, such as gardening, do-it-yourself, health and fitness businesses and sports clothing industries, that are untabulated and unrecognised in job-creating and financial statistics. The entire database of the tourist industry is weak, especially when compared with other industries, such as the heavy and electronics industries, and needs to be overhauled.
Secondly, there needs to be a change in the Government's attitude towards the tourist industry and grants. So far they seem to have been positively parsimonious in their efforts to prime the pump for Britain's fastest-growing industry. The largest source of grants for tourism comes from section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969. These are running at the rate of £35 million for the next four years, that is, at about £9 million a year. That is not much for an industry that is creating 50,000 new jobs a year. Even when the coal industry is working, it employs only 250,000 people, but the taxpayer subsidises that industry to the tune of £1.3 billion a year, even in a good year. In comparison, therefore, tourism seems to be the poor cousin.
The time has come to shift ministerial responsibility for tourism from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Employment. I mean no reflection on any of my hon. Friends who are Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry, especially not on my hon. Friend the Minister of State who has responsibility for tourism, but that responsibility nevertheless needs to be changed for two reasons.
First, our most important fight is for jobs. Tourism is one of the few battlefields on which the nation is winning. We need to continue to win that battle. Employment is the key to the future of tourism and needs to be recognised as such by the Department, which has a large budget to encourage further employment. Until about a year ago the Department of Trade and Industry used to look at tourism almost entirely in terms of statistics for imports and exports. But tourism must be considered primarily in terms of jobs.
Tourism should also be considered in terms of training. Again, the Department of Employment is the spearhead Department in training matters and needs to seize that responsibility. There is a need for a change of attitude towards training in the tourist industry. The industry is crying out for a new training structure. As a nation we are not yet accustomed to the concept of professional service and hospitality, as it is understood and trained for by other tourist nations, such as the Swiss. British tourism is still bedevilled by what may be called the Fawlty Towers dimension of service.
All hon. Members know of the stereotypes, such as the grumpy cab driver, the surly waiter, the scatterbrained telephonist and the cleaner who flicks round with a duster that leaves the room even dustier when he or she has finished. Although the British love to laugh at those archetypal characters from "Manuel" country, visitors to Britain may have a different reaction when they encounter them. Obviously I speak of a minority. For every one 683 Fawlty Towers there are probably 50 good hotels. However, we need a training programme in the tourist industry and a training programme for the marketing side of the tourist industry.
The attitude of the public to tourism needs to be changed, especially the attitude of Opposition Members. British thinking remains rooted in the past when it comes to jobs. There is a great deal of macho union talk about the dignity of labour, as though this phrase refers only to heavy industry labour in smoke-stack Britain. Yet we are living in a era of massive and uncomfortable structural change in British employment.
Tourism has a great part to play in the new structure, but it still has a second-class status, even among the new sunrise industries. The Government rightly place much emphasis on the North sea oil and gas industry. Offshore, it employs only about 21,000 people. The Government's great white hope for jobs—cable television, which I persist in thinking will amount only to a licence to lose money—employs even fewer people. Well established high technology industries such as aerospace and computers are far smaller than the tourist industry. It is important, too, to bear in mind that high technology sunrise industries engineer labour out of the system whereas the tourist industry is labour-intensive and highly resistant to machine replacement.
As professionalism in the tourist industry grows, so I believe will recognition that there is just as much dignity of labour and managerial and technical skill in that industry as in any other. This becomes clear when one considers the specialisations within the industry. I shall refer to one of which I have professional knowledge—the health and exercise sector. I declare an interest as chairman of a health hydro. That sector of the industry did not exist 10 years ago but today there are many health hydros, health farms, exercise centres, fitness classes, body maintenance organisations, spas and gymnasia employing, at a rough guess, between 50,000 and 100,000 people. It is labour-intensive, it has large foreign currency earnings, job satisfaction is high, and it deserves encouragement.
Most tourist enterprises will always be cottage industries to some extent, inspired by individual proprietors and relatively small business men. In terms of creating jobs for the future the Government should seriously consider large tourist projects that create large numbers of jobs. Here I refer to the success of Alton towers and other theme parks, which seem not to have existed a few years ago but are now major employers. Alton towers' latest development is to transform Battersea power station into a huge pleasure park á la Disneyland, directly creating 4,000 jobs in south London and perhaps a further 2,000 indirectly. The Government should study the pump-priming effect of such major tourist magnets as theme parks and sports centres.
My constitueny is in east Kent, which has a very high rate of unemployment—nudging 20 per cent. One job in every 10 is in tourism, which employs a total of about 18,000. The area is well supplied—perhaps even over-supplied—with hotels and boarding houses and we have experience of the magnet effect of a major tourist attraction such as a sporting event. This year, Sandwich is once again proud to be the venue for the open golf championship. This means that for a week or so in the summer 130,000 extra visitors come to east Kent, many flying into Manston airport on charter aircraft from 684 overseas, filling all the restaurants, hotels and boarding houses and bringing an enormous transfusion of economic vitality to the local tourist industry. If only we could have such a magnet all the year round or at least for the peak months.
I would like to see established in east Kent a magnet such as a national exercise and fitness centre; or an all-year-round garden centre; or a major national sports complex; or a coastal national park with nature trails and jogging tracks; or a historical theme park illustrating some of the pageant of English history at the Bulwark shore, from the landing of St. Augustine to the retreat from Dunkirk. A project of this kind in east Kent would he an enormous creator of jobs. The total cost of building such a centre would be perhaps £10 million or £15 million—far less than the £25 million that the Kent coalfield and its 2,400 miners lose annually on their activities in the same region.
I have sought to illustrate from a national as well as a constituency angle that at this time of our country's history, when the Government deserve credit for having to some extent won the battle against inflation but have not yet really begun to fight the battle against unemployment, tourism is a vital part of the battle and more attention and activity by Government and everyone else deserves to be devoted to it.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) on raising this important matter and on his excellent opening speech. As a number of hon. Members have said, tourism can and does play an important part in revitalising inner city areas, especially those suffering economic and social decline. It can provide new jobs where they are most needed. It is worth repeating that British tourists spent some £4 billion in England last year and that overseas tourists in Britain spent over £3 billion. We can conclude from that that Britain is one of the most popular tourist areas in the world.
Tourism benefits local communities by attracting money and providing jobs as well as creating and supporting extra amenities and facilities which are available for the residents to enjoy. That is why it is to be hoped that no local authority will ignore the tourist potential of their own area.
Figures published by British Business—a weekly news magazine published by the Department of Trade and Industry—show an encouraging increase in employment in many tourism-related industries in the second quarter of this year. That is especially welcome in the east Midlands. As has been said, employment in the hotel trade has increased by over 17,000 — 7.5 per cent. — while employment in restaurants and cafés has increased by 3.5 per cent., providing over 6,000 more jobs.
It is the service industries that are currently showing the biggest growth, and that is due in no small measure to tourism. In the east Midlands, in particular, that is an encouraging development.
I believe that tourism will remain one of the great growth industries, and I hope that the east Midlands as a whole will grasp the opportunity that it presents. Some people may say that certain cities are at a disadvantage in that events of historical importance may have happened elsewhere. I do not accept that argument. Cities are often surrounded by beautiful countryside and numerous stately 685 homes, castles and other tourist attractions, and they are ideally placed to be promoted as centres for touring holidays. Tourists today are far more mobile than ever before. The cities themselves can provide entertainment and other attractions for travelling tourists who may be visiting nearby areas. We should not accept the idea that in order to exploit tourism one requires the presence of a castle or stately home. Cities in the east Midlands can increase their tourist potential, even with the absence of crumbling monuments in their midst, by providing entertainment and recreational activities.
It is not always necessary to spend huge sums from public funds. Many firms are becoming aware at last of the benefits to the local economy that can be derived from tourism and from increasing the attractiveness of inner city areas. One of the welcome developments of the past few years has been the increased sponsorship of the arts and live entertainment events by business. That trend should be welcomed.
I congratulate the English tourist board on its plans to publish the first-ever handbook, which, I understand, is aimed at school leavers and careers advisers, on employment opportunities in tourism. As tourism expands it will need to train and employ many people.
Most right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned the areas that they represent, so I do not apologise for referring to mine and surrounding areas. Derbyshire is and deserves to be an excellent and established tourist area. Britain's first national park is in Derbyshire and at Matlock Bath we have the country's first cablecar system. Wirksworth, which used to be the capital of lead mining in the midlands, is now a thriving tourist area. Crich has a tramway museum. At Harlington, former railway lines have been used imaginatively to provide the Tissington trail and the High Peak trail which are ideal for cycling or walking through a beautiful area which is also of historic interest. Nearby Bakewell, which is known for its tarts of a non-human variety, has been known since Saxon times for its iron-rich springs and fine gardens.
I was amazed to learn quite recently that there is a castle at Bolsover. I do not want to be provocative so I shall not suggest a possible use for its dungeon. However, information and publicity is extremely important and perhaps the district of Bolsover should try to get some publicity for the area's more positive features.
In the city that I have the honour to represent, we have the Royal Crown Derby factory, a fine cathedral, the Bridge chapel, the Guildhall and a fine selection of parks. I hope that, in the interests of both tourism and those of the city, Derby might soon have a new hotel in the market place instead of the derelict monstrosity that stands there. I urge the Government to support Derby's urban programme submission. It is a good case and I hope that the application will not fall on deaf ears. As I think Lord Byron said, there are things in Derbyshire as noble as in Greece or Switzerland. I would humbly agree.
What can and should be done to boost tourism? Several of my right hon. and hon. Friends have referred to road signs. The problem is that all signs are, legally speaking, advertisements and therefore covered by the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1984, which require express planning consent from a local authority. The country has an obligation to inform people of its heritage and attractions rather than 686 merely assist those who want to find a garage for petrol or to visit a WC. More flexibility and good will is needed by many district and county authorities. Signs should be regarded not as an eyesore but as information to encourage people to stop and spend money.
We should also examine our attitude to tourists. The common view of the tourist is of some aging gauche American who wants to see a stately home. That is not the case. A tourist is someone who spends money during a visit, whether he be a sportsman, a rock climber, a potholer, a pop music fan, a railway enthusiast or just someone who is taking the family out for the day. Local authorities especially have tended to have a rather blinkered view of their areas in regard to their potential tourism value.
Businesses and local authorities should use imagination to encourage visitors. It is not just a case of, as I thought the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said—I hope that I misunderstood him — putting in more Government money. Planning committees should not be so narrow-minded and licensing justices should remember that we are now in 1984, not 1915. It is interesting that a recent survey of all overseas visitors to Britain showed that more then half of those interviewed had one special complaint, which was the inflexibility of Britain's licensing laws. It must be maddening for foreign tourists to find that if they go north of the border to Scotland the licensing laws are far more flexible than they are in England and Wales, where they may have difficulty in getting a drink. On a recent visit to Stratford-upon-Avon I met a number of American tourists who were bewildered by what they regarded as our archaic licensing laws. They had spent an interesting morning looking around Stratford-upon-Avon and decided at a quarter to three or 3 o'clock to have a meal and a drink. They were amazed to find that many of the town's fine establishments were closed or were about to close and that therefore they were unwilling and unable, if they abided by the law, to serve them. The Home Office must be urged to look at an early opportunity at our licensing laws.
We should not look down upon or discourage what colloquially can be called "popular entertainment." Alton towers was recently described to me by somebody as a hideous, over-blown pleasure park. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) has indicated, Alton towers is also a place that provides entertainment and pleasure for tens of thousands of tourists. Just as important is the fact that it provides jobs for very many people: not just for bar and kitchen staff but for security officers and musicians. On a recent visit to Alton towers I was surprised to find that a number of bands and musicians play there on a full time basis. The employment opportunities in places such as Alton towers cannot be underestimated. There is another spin-off. Money is spent by tourists either on their way to such places or on their way back. Money may be spent in a public house or in a restaurant or even at a garage which benefits from the sale of a couple of gallons of petrol and a Mars bar, or whatever, by customers who would not otherwise be using that route.
The House should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) for initiating the debate. Tourism in Britain is a growing industry, not an industry that is nearing its peak. It is only in its infancy. Many economic benefits are to be obtained if only we seize the opportunity.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)
On behalf of my hon. Friends and colleagues I welcome the debate and am grateful to the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) who introduced it. I apologise for not having heard some of the speeches made earlier in this important debate.
As a nation we have more leisure. Other nations share this predicament. The tourist of tomorrow will be a very different animal from the rich American whom we used to believe was the only kind of tourist who came to this country. I share the opinion of the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), but we need to change not only the Government's attitude towards tourism but the attitude of the average Briton towards the average tourist. We complain that we cannot get on buses because they are full of tourists or that it is difficult to go Christmas shopping because the shops are full of tourists, without acknowledging the enormous financial advantage that accrues to this country from tourism.
I wish to mention a few aspects of tourism whereby the Government could and, I maintain, should provide help. People who have nice houses find that it is extraordinarily difficult to open their houses as hotels or guest houses and the Government ought to encourage this. They should make it easier for them to erect signs and to employ young people, even if occasionally they have to bring a glass of wine or a glass of beer to a customer. There is no reason why they should not be 16 or 17-years-old. Altogether there is no good reason why local authorities should make life quite so difficult and I am sure that the Minister could find it in his heart to persuade local authorities to look more benignly on such applications.
We should deregularise some of the insane laws that affect entertainment. We should encourage theatres to open on a Sunday. If we signposted motorways more realistically we would make Britain more attractive to tourists. We are the only country whose motorways do not signpost the distance to the next exit or tell travellers where the next exit will take them. When I make such suggestions to the Minister of State, Department of Transport, she says that extra signs always make for extra carelessness and more accidents. I do not believe that. Any hon. Member who has been to America will know that that country has more signs than perhaps any other country, yet its accident rate is no higher. People can drive and look at signs without it harming them.
Training structure must be looked at. I have in my constituency the excellent Isle of Ely college in Wisbech. The catering school there has a restaurant in which people can eat the food prepared by the students. That restaurant has to charge VAT. As a result, the prices are higher than they should be and local people are not encouraged, as they might be, to go and help in the training of young caterers.
A law should be passed outlawing gratuities. At the moment a visitor to any hotel or restaurant in France knows that the gratuity is included in the bill, whether it is for accommodation, food or drink. If good tourism is to make the tourist feel comfortable and at home, to make him worried about whether or not to leave a gratuity is a rotten thing to do to him. It would not be difficult to outlaw gratuities. They should be added to the account. We could even set up yet another small quango, if need be, to which 688 anyone who is discontented about the gratuity that has to be paid, or even members of a hotel staff who are unhappy about the distribution of gratuities, can appeal.
The deregulation of licensing hours has been a success in Scotland, despite all the fears that it would lead to public drunkenness and marauders coming south still filled with drink obtained north of the border outside our licensing hours. That has not happened. It is time, for the sake of tourism, that we looked again at licensing hours and made it easier for people to obtain drinks when they wished to do so.
The difficulties for hotels and guest houses in employing casual labour should be looked at. The Minister might consider legislation to allow any young person working in the tourist industry to earn up to £50 a week without paying tax. That would be an assault not on the Inland Revenue but on Britain's black economy. Perhaps, instead of talking about student loans, students might be encouraged to work in their vacations in the tourist industry. It would cost little money to forgo an element of tax or national insurance which is paid at the moment.
Above all, our attitude to the catering industry must change. The service industry is somehow thought to be unBritish. It is perfectly British to eat and drink but it is nasty and foreign to cook, wash up and pour things out of bottles into glasses. Until we are persuaded of the decency of the catering profession, that attitude will pertain. It is up to all of us to say that the catering industry is an honourable calling.
I made my maiden speech on this subject many years ago, and I have not referred to it again until this moment, but the problem has got no better. Socially, someone who goes into catering is still very low on the totem pole and it is not until we begin to show the real dignity that there is in the industry that we shall attract the right people.
We have so much to offer in the way of good food and drink. There is regional excellence, in local baking and cheesemaking, brewing and cider-making. With Government support, and a little more money to the English tourist board so that it could publish abroad the joys of coming to this country, tourism here would make for greater and more permanent employment.
§ 1 pm
§ Mr. Christopher Chope (Southampton, Itchen)
make no apology for speaking about tourism in Southampton, particularly as today is a sad one in Southampton because P and 0 has withdrawn its cross-channel ferry services from Southampton. That means that there is no cross-channel ferry service from Southampton to the continent for the first time in 140 years.
Tourism in Southampton is estimated to be worth about £35 million a year. At least 600,000 tourists stay in the city each year, mainly at the 65 hotels and guest houses. Some 1,650 bedrooms, a high proportion of them with their own bathrooms, are registered with the tourist board. The last detailed analysis was taken as long ago as 1976, but then it was thought that some 4,500 people were employed in hotel and catering in Southampton alone. I suspect that the figure is now considerably higher. Southampton has been promoting itself as a centre for tourism with tremendous flair and ability. It is known as the summer time city, not just because it is a lively city in the summer but because it has attractions throughout the year and has a pleasant, 689 genial climate. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) knows the attraction of Southampton well, from his service in that city in the past.
I pay tribute to Mr. Shaw, the tourism and publicity officer, because that small tourist office succeeded in winning the award for the most travel-trade-minded tourist authority in the United Kingdom this year. Tourism is dependent on many other jobs and tourism in Southampton is inextricably involved with the port, the docks, the liners, the cruise ships and ferries. A recent survey showed that 12 per cent. of overseas visitors to Southampton came there by ship. Next year, the figure is likely to be nil unless something happens in the present docks crisis.
Southampton has not only tourists but cruise ships, and it is the leading cruise port in the country. Some 60 per cent. of our cruise business goes out of Southampton. It is the home port for Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2, and P and O's Canberra. Recently, the city was honoured by the decision of P and O to choose it as the location for the naming, by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, of the magnificent luxury cruiser, Royal Princess. That ceremony was itself a tourist attraction, and many come to Southampton to see the magnificent cruise ships. On one memorable day early this year—there was even a photograph of this in The Standard — the QE2, the Canberra and the Norway were all in the port at the same time. Sadly, it seems that such a sight will never be seen again by the people of Southampton if the dockers carry on as they have during the past few weeks.
When they are in port, the cruise ships do not generate much work for the dockers, but their passengers provide work for taxi drivers, the hotel and catering trade and even British Rail, and they spend money in the superb shops in the shopping centre. That is why it is so sad that some of the dockers now seem determined to drive the cruise ships out of Southampton for good. Four times already this year, the QE2 has been diverted to Cherbourg because of industrial trouble in Southampton. Each time it has cost Cunard not less than £1 million in transferring passengers by air to the mainland and so on.
The price of docking in Southampton has increased so dramatically over the past few years that it is now more expensive for the QE2 to dock in Southampton than to dock in New York, despite the weakness of the pound against the dollar. Seven years ago it was twice as expensive for the QE2 to dock in New York as in Southampton. That is an indication of the extent to which the port of Southampton has lost out in competition and become uneconomic.
If the QE2 moves from Southampton to a different home port—if it does it will be very much against the desires and interests of Cunard—it will be a disaster in jobs lost to the people of Southampton. At present, about half the QE2's crew of 1,250 are drawn from the Southampton area, so that that ship alone provides substantial local employment.
I appeal to the dockers in Southampton to enter into an agreement for normal working at all times in respect of the cruise ships to ensure that they remain in Southampton.
During the summer, when the second of the unnecessary dock strikes was taking place in Southampton, I was in the port of Miami, the cruise capital of the United States east coast. I had a meeting there with somebody called Arthur Coffey, the local president of the 690 principal union involved in that port. He told me that the other unions in the port of Miami have a no-strike agreement in respect of the cruise ships operating from that port. That is how they keep and build business against competition from other United States ports. As a trade union leader, he found it incomprehensible that dockers' leaders in Southampton were prepared to sacrifice not only their own jobs but the jobs of many others as well in a political strike in support of the miners.
We are now involved not in a political strike but in an equally pointless industrial dispute which has brought the port to the present crisis point. This morning I received many letters from people employed by Solent Container Services Ltd., which has a staff of 170. Since 1971, the company has grown to the point where it has about 80 per cent. of the port's container traffic. Its success depends upon the dockers being prepared to work efficiently and effectively. It looks as though the people who worked so hard to build Solent Container Services Ltd. into a successful firm will be the victims of this latest crisis in Southampton's history.
Constituents have written to me asking what can be done about it. I hope desperately that something can be done, because time is running out. It is estimated that, within the next two weeks, the last of the major container consortia will, if matters are not put right in Southampton, be tempted to use Felixstowe in the long term.
The employment that comes from tourism and from cruise ships is not only in the service industries. When the cruise ships are refitted in Southampton they provide valuable work for the people in the ship repair yard. It is estimated that the shipping coming up the Solent each year would generate about £16 million worth of ship repair work for people in Southampton were they able to get the contracts. There is a knock-on effect in the tourist industry.
I hope that I shall not be criticised for having concentrated so much on one aspect of the tourist industry in Southampton, but it was necessary for me to do so in view of the limited time available. I know that several of my hon. Friends wish to participate in the debate.
There is quite a problem with the cruise ships and the employment on them of British personnel. It was a great disappointment to me and many others who went to the naming ceremony for the Royal Princess to discover that hardly any of those employed on that British ship were British. A few of the officers are British, but almost all those employed in the hotel and catering section are foreign.
I am told that one of the reasons is that the National Union of Seamen has priced its members out of those jobs. If that be true, it is very sad. But the position has not been helped all that much by the decision to withdraw the allowances for overseas earnings that seamen used to enjoy.
§ Mr. Chope
That was a wholly mischievous remark. The truth is that, because of its good will, Cunard is subsidising its other activities to try to give jobs to British people. It is determined to keep a British crew on the QE2, but it is costing the company between £5 million and £6 691 million a year more than it would to employ a foreign crew. It is not the fault of the shipping companies. They are bending over backwards to try to give jobs to British people. It is the job of our unions to make sure that those companies can offer terms of employment which are attractive and competitive in the world market.
I end with a final plea to the dockers in Southampton: "Settle your differences; think not of yourselves but of all the other people in Southampton whose jobs depend on your actions."
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)
All hon. Members contributing to the debate have referred to tourism as one of our great growth industries. They are right, of course. Perhaps not everyone appreciates how sensitive the industry is to the exchange rate. A study of the development of the industry shows that there have been considerable changes from one year to the next in the numbers of visitors coming here. This has been linked closely to the value of the pound against other international currencies. In the last quarter, about 900,000 people came from the United States. That reflects the value of the pound against the dollar.
There is no doubt that the industry has a great deal further to go in the future. On current predictions it is estimated that by 1988 16 million people will come here from overseas countries and spend £7.5 billion. By the end of the century the figure could be more than 20 million people spending more than £10 billion. There is also a commensurate growth in the numbers of Britons travelling abroad, but perhaps it is fortunate that visitors who come here spend rather more than citizens of the United Kingdom who visit foreign climes.
The British Tourist Authority and the individual tourist boards have done a great job in one of their most important tasks, which is to ensure that the influx of tourists is spread reasonably evenly throughout the year. Between July and September, fewer than 40 per cent. of the total number of visitors arrive on our shores. Similarly, 60 per cent. of all their time here is now spent outside London, and that must be not only to their benefit but also to the benefit of the people who have to assimilate considerable numbers of additional visitors.
It remains true, though, that the target of most tourists at some stage of their visit here is London, and we have seen considerable improvements in many of the facilities available to them. One has only to go round Covent garden and see the thriving community of small businesses with high turnovers there to appreciate what can be achieved. Half the turnover of some shops in central London comes from overseas visitors.
Despite the improvements, there are still too few pedestrian areas in London compared with those in other European cities. The Greater London council has not fulfilled the potential for freeing parts of our great city from the scourge of heavy traffic.
In the environs of the Palace of Westminster little allowance is made for the tourists attracted here. The tourist may well not be able to come in, but I should like him to be able to go to an exhibition centre close to the Palace to fulfil the hope that Barry and Pugin had when the palace was built after the great fire of 1834. I should like to see a parliamentary exhibition centre, as originally planned for Westminster Hall.
692 The other side of Bridge street adjoining Parliament street is to be developed. The mass of scruffy shops which do not do credit to the Palace could be replaced by a centre to which visitors, attracted to the Palace of Westminster, could go to see artefacts and exhibits which would make the place more real to them.
The unwary visitor to London is likely to fall prey to unlicensed traders, pickpockets and illegal gainers who throng our streets in the summer months. We must ensure that the war on these parasites continues.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) referred to Bradford's tourist attractions. In the past it would have been considered curious for the hon. Member for York to refer to Bradford in that way, but things have changed a great deal. Bradford uses the slogan "A surprising place". Today it would be surprising if any publicity about Bradford did not refer to it being a centre of tourism. The slogan "the mythbreakers" is also used in Bradford. The myth that Bradford is just a city of dingy old mills has been well and truly broken. About 750,000 people a year visit local attractions, some of which are in my constituency. I think of Haworth, the home of the Brontes, and Ilkley.
Bradford has packaged its attractions, and 20,000 package holidaymakers visit Bradford every year. Since 1980 the area's tourism has grown to be worth £2 million a year. Many other areas which are considering expanding their tourist industries get in touch with the Bradford city council to find out how it achieved such success. Other places often base their own publicity and literature on the excellent material produced by Bradford.
The old buildings that have been cleaned and refurbished attract tourists and are also of enormous benefit to the local inhabitants. An attractive city with attractive surrounding countryside and leisure facilities will attract new manufacturing investment.
Keighley is the only part of the Bradford metropolitan district which does not have intermediate area status. We do not whinge about that. We get on with the job of building up our economy.
However, it is notable that the European Community non-quota fund for textile areas is intended to be used for building up new industries to replace the employment that was previously provided in the textile industry. I cannot think of a better industry than tourism, bearing in mind the attractions that are to be found in the area which I represent, for replacing some of the jobs which previously existed in the textile sector.
There is a good deal of duplication in the promotion of tourism in the area which I represent. In addition to the English tourist board, there is the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board, the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council and the Bradford city council. I do not decry the work of the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, but when the council is abolished we may be able to ensure that available funds are applied more economically. Bradford has shown that it is well capable of publicising the facilities that exist.
It is important also to draw attention to transport. There is a need to increase the number of routes to Manchester international airport, which has within a short distance from it enormous numbers of attractive tourist areas. There is a need in Bradford district to complete the new Aire valley trunk road, the construction of which is due to commence in the next financial year. The area is badly cut off—I refer specifically to Keighley—and that is a 693 considerable disincentive to tourists who wish to enjoy the moors and dales. At a more basic level, there is a lack of signposting. One has to be a local in parts of west Yorkshire to know which routes to follow. There is considerable scope for improvement.
It is regrettable that many people have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. That must change in future if we are to attract more tourists. The impression is given that there is a sellers' market, and that must be dispelled. Three examples are the non-availability of teas after half-past five in the afternoon, our antiquated Sunday trading laws and the licensing laws. I need not refer to them further because other hon. Members have already taken up these issues.
Tourism produces invisible earnings. Tourists are often all too visible but the benefits that they produce remain invisible. These benefits percolate subtly into the economy. My hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) have said that tourism is regarded by many as not having the same significance as manufacturing industry. I hope that that belief is now starting to disappear. I hope also that the debate will have helped more people to appreciate that tourism is a vital industry today and will be even more vital tomorrow. It should merit our support in every possible way.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
By way of introduction, let me start by saying that I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) is not in his place. It seems that he and I will have to pursue elsewhere an alternative debate. He ascribed to Lord Byron the following words: "There are things in Derbyshire as noble as in Greece or Switzerland." I do not dispute the sentiments but I do dispute that they were uttered by Lord Byron. I may well be mistaken, but I think that they were said by Jane Austen, and had she lived 175 years later she would have resided in the constituency of Basingstoke. There is no evidence that I am aware of that Jane Austen ever went to Derbyshire and, therefore, I feel that these fictional words would be far better attributed to Hampshire.
I listened with greater seriousness and even a degree of sadness to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope). It is clear that matters in Southampton have not changed significantly — indeed, they may arguably have worsened—since the days when the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and I knew Southampton in what might be called our previous political incarnations.
I, along with every other Conservative Member who has spoken in this debate, welcomed the knowledge that my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) had drawn lucky in the ballot for today's proceedings and had selected this topic. I endorse all his comments.
Clearly, tourism has considerable importance. This is true from the point of view of the money it attracts, especially from overseas, and the wealth it thus recycles. Tourism is also important as a potential and real creator of employment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) reminded us, the tourist industry is important for its sheer breadth.
694 I regret the fact that the hon. Member for Dagenham is not present. His speech must be answered carefully and seriously. There is general common ground between what he said and what I believe. The differences between what he said and what I believe is more of degree than of kind. Of course tourism is important, but it is easy, especially in a Friday morning debate, to overstress its importance. If we look to tourism as the means to revive our national economy, we shall delude ourselves. Tourism is a small, but important industry, and that is that. I would go further, and agree with the hon. Member for Dagenham that unless and until we restore health to our manufacturing industry we shall not see the revival of the national economy for which we long.
During this debate a plethora of statistics have been cited—perhaps none more significant than those given by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory). My hon. Friend pointed out—I do not believe we can dispute this—that in the last year employment in the hotel trade increased by 17,000—an increase of 7.5 per cent.—and that employment in the cafe and restaurant trade increased by 6,000, or 3.5 per cent. Of course, that is welcome. It shows a significant employment increase, well above the rate of job creation elsewhere in industry.
Somewhat contradictory statistics have been cited by some hon. Members. I was under the impression that, during the first eight months of this year, the tourist industry had earned for us £2.75 billion of foreign currency. Other hon. Members have said that the amount was higher. Be that as it may, clearly it is a significant and valuable contribution to our balance of payments and should be welcomed.
We have learned that last year the industry's national turnover was £9 billion. My hon. Friend the Member for York pointed out that that is higher than the turnover of the United Kingdom aerospace industry and is almost equivalent to the motor industry's turnover.
I acknowledge the fact that my hon. Friends the Members for Maidstone (Sir J. Wells), for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) and for York touched briefly but not in great detail on a different aspect of the tourist industry. It is what I would call the poor relation of the tourist industry, not so much in the financial sense but because it is a relatively unknown newcomer, at least in its present scale. I refer to tourism as the "farmers alternative cash crop". There was an article in the Daily Telegraph earlier in the year written by Evelyn Cox. I quote from it. She stated:Along the country lanes of Britain, to the despair of the highway authorities, signs are going up: Bed and Breakfast; Farm Accommodation; Cottage to Let; Camping; Caravan Site; Fishing; Farm Shop.Then waxing lyrical she went on:Quite as much as the blackthorn blossom and the dog violets under the hedgerows they are today's sign of spring and of a new aspect of British farming.Tourism, in some of its various forms, is a major agricultural crop. It is a major support for thousands of family farms.
That development has not, perhaps, received the same attention as other features of tourism and farming. During the past 10 years or so, as a result of the uneven-handedness of the common agricultural policy, our farming has evolved in two different directions, until we have reached the point where we almost have two separate industries operating under contrasting economic systems. On the one hand, subsidies and rising yields have meant 695 that it pays the farmer to grow grain wherever possible. The results are plain. The eastern half of England has become a virtual prairie, and the EEC intervention stores are bursting with surplus grain.
On the other hand, and most significantly in relation to today's debate, for the livestock farmer life has been less of a fairy-tale existence. The level of subsidies, where subsidies have existed, has not been high enough to compensate for the increased price of grain for animal feeds. That has led many livestock farmers to diversify into the leisure industry.
Livestock farmers have set out, not merely to produce food for the market but to meet the growing demand for access to the countryside and to rural activities such as fishing, shooting, horse-riding, and, as I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone said, even fruit-picking. It is a change that the farming community has met with extraordinary vigour, enterprise and enthusiasm. After all, tourism is an entirely different industry from pure farming. For a community which naturally leads a fairly isolated and independent existence, tourism demands a new approach to life. It is one that fits in ideally with farming. On the livestock farms, most of the relentless slog takes place during the winter months when the livestock is in. Nowadays, when the animals go out in spring or early summer, the trippers come in.
The rural tourist industry has a great advantage over the seaside tourist industry because the season lasts for the seven lush months although, as we have heard, country sports — for good or ill — will bring people to the countryside at other times of the year.
It is no overstatement to say that tourism has brought money, life and hope to much of the countryside where vigour was draining away as employment in agriculture declined. Many village shops and pubs have survived because of tourism. Local craftsmen find a demand for their wares. Other farms are diversifying into cheese-making to satisfy a growing demand for produce grown literally on the doorstep.
The benefits have not just been financial. Unlike many industries, tourism in the countryside can, with careful management, enhance the environment. Untidy farms are spruced up, redundant farm buildings are converted into attractive holiday flats and cottages and, dare I say it, tatty market towns are transformed into idyllic backwaters. The appearance of the landscape begins to matter as well as productivity. Features such as hedgerows, dry stone walls, copses and pools become vital assets in attracting visitors to an area rather than mere hindrances to modern farming methods.
Farm tourism has gone some way towards reconciling the enduring conflict between, on the one hand, those who see the countryside as a factory floor for food production and, on the other, those who regard it as an amenity that everyone has a right to enjoy. We must not forget that farms involved in the tourist trade in all its forms—from bed-and-breakfast to pick-your-own—provide not only access to the countryside but a chance to savour the delights of country life. It is, therefore, not surprising that farm tourism has developed significantly recently.
Farms have learned what people want. Marketing is becoming increasingly professional and is moving from the technique of the daubed sign on the roadside. There are now a number of well-publicised booking agencies and voucher schemes to attract holidaymakers from home and abroad.
696 As in other areas of farm production, group marketing co-operatives are being formed. Last year 10 holiday groups covering 300 farms joined forces with the British Tourist Authority to tempt more foreign visitors to spend a holiday on a farm. No wonder farmers turn to the alternative cash crop. The harvest is good. So much for farm tourism.
In a recent Department of Trade and Industry press release in early November, I noted that the Minister said:Tourism is going to remain one of the great growth industries for the rest of this century and beyond. This is an exciting prospect for Britain because of the variety of our attractions and the infinite possibilities for developing new and unexploited ones. The Government clearly recognise the great potential of tourism and are determined to encourage its development.The most positive features that have emerged from the debate are, I hope, the recommendations from Back-Bench Members to the Government on that theme.
I shall refer briefly to five points. The first is not a Government matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) spoke of the need for a Select Committee on tourism. I accept and endorse that suggestion.
Secondly, two or three Conservative Members pointed out that 12 Government Departments look after different aspects of tourists and tourism. I underline the point that that disparity cannot be the best way to look after things, that greater cohesion and co-ordination are needed, and that a better flow of information to the Government is needed.
Thirdly, it was pointed out that section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which deals with grant aid, channels about £9 million a year in that direction. I do not regard public expenditure as evil; indeed, public expenditure in that direction would be especially profitable. I urge the Government to review that sum.
Fourthly, we heard about the tourist infrastructure of roads and signposts. The present state of affairs is far from acceptable.
Fifthly, we heard about licensing and the need for pubs, shops and theatres to operate under different licensing laws which would be more acceptable to tourists. That is an important suggestion.
My final observation brings me back to my starting point. Obviously, tourism is important, but we must not overstate that importance in our search for other ways to revive the national economy.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
My first point—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is the only Labour Member here."] No, there is one here from Scotland. Scotland is an important part of the tourist industry. My hon. Friend has just reminded me—not that I need reminding after all my travels in relation to the miners' strike — that Scotland is a very beautiful country and one of the areas to which a large number of people go for their holidays, although I am not sure how many of them are Members of Parliament.
We have heard a lot of talk in the Chamber today about what a wonderful place Britain is and how we need to jack up tourist receipts and so on. I have been looking at the all-party "Whip" that hon. Members receive weekly. There are trips all over the world on offer. As I do not get involved in "fact-finding tours" — really just a euphemism for a fortnight's or a month's holiday — I made some inquiries about how many Members of 697 Parliament apply for those trips. In winter, they usually go to places somewhere between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn. There are never any fact-finding tours of Greenland in winter, although I am sure that there must be plenty to find there. I was told by the person concerned that when he tried to open the door at 10 am the other day to see how many letters there were for the Caribbean trip around Christmas time it was jammed up because there were so many letters on the other side.
I do not want to over-egg the pudding, but there is always a certain amount of hypocrisy in all this talk about holidays in Britain. Like many other people, most Members of Parliament get their passports and go off on what I call a MacDonald holiday.
§ Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)
I commend the hon. Gentleman's austerity and seriousness of purpose in confining his travels to this country in support of the miners' dispute, but I put it to him seriously that if he continues to support that tragic and self-destructive strike he will risk turning the mining industry of this country into a museum, with Bolsover as the showpiece and himself as a prime exhibit.
§ Mr. Skinner
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman intervened. He failed to recognise, however, that the person trying to turn the mining industry into a museum is MacGregor. He was brought over from America, but not because he was interested in Britain, tourism or anything else. He left this country in 1941 when we were fighting the Nazis. He may wrap himself up in the British flag now, but he was not prepared to face Hitler then. He got on a boat and went the other way at the same time as the Prime Minister was deciding not to join the Land Army, the WAAFs or anything else, but to go off to university on public money so as to make a name for herself. Now they are having to shut down libraries and God knows what else.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to discuss those matters, I am happy to go on for ever. MacGregor wants to shut 20 pits in the next 12 months and 70 pits in the next five years and to make 70,000 miners redundant. The net result of that loss of wages will be that not enough money will be spent on tourism, which brings us back to where we started. The reason why so many people cannot trot off abroad, as Members of Parliament do, is that they do not have the cash. There are 5 million people out of work. They are not all included in the official statistics because those figures do not cover women who do not register and all the people on cheap labour schemes like the YTS. That means that a great deal of money is not being spent which would be spent if people had a few bob in their pockets.
It is not just miners who will not be able to go on holiday next year but all the other people whom the Government have thrown on to that pile of human misery known as the dole queue. The Government are hell-bent on seeing to it that there is a large reservoir of manpower on the dole so that they can depress the wages of the rest—except for Members of Parliament, of course, who had two wage increases last year and can have fact-finding holidays on the cheap. The Japanese Government will pay for a trip and I have no doubt that Members wanting to go to impoverished Third world countries can always find the money from somewhere. There is always a gravy train to hop on.
698 As for the Common Market, we could do a lot more for tourism in this country if we were not saddled with that great debt round our necks. We could use 1 per cent. of VAT for tourism in this country instead of sending it over to Brussels and Luxembourg to pay for all those bureaucrats — that mafia. The Common Market is supposed to be producing wine, but some of those vines only exist on paper. That is a fact. It has been reported in the posh papers.
Where could we spend that 1 per cent.? I have spent one or two of my holidays on the canals and rivers here in Britain, with my family. Very nice—away from it all—but things could be a lot better. If we spent money on improving the canals and waterways, a lot more people might spend their time and money in Britain. The Government think that everything just spins round their little cocoon. They think that they do not have to do anything at all or to spend any money, and it will all happen. They think that they can sit back while the forces of monetarism take us to a sort of utopia where everyone will live happily ever afterwards. It is time that they dropped that antiquated idea.
We know that that is not happening. As each year goes by, there is less and less money to be spent. We need to spend money positively—on refurbishing the canals, for instance. Money has been spent on Blisworth tunnel over the past two years, and the tunnel has just been reopened, but there are countless other problems to be tackled and repairs to be done.
The other year I took a boat down the Stratford canal, and I nearly had to carry that boat down that canal. I pumped away, but the water kept coming in at one end and out of the other. At every lock I had a political discussion with the lock-keepers. I told them about all the people on the dole—all the young people coming out of school with O-levels and A-levels and going straight into Mrs. Thatcher's Yosser-land shouting "Gi' us a job—gi' us a job". That is a real indictment of our society.
Those little locks are about 7 ft wide. I thought that some of the engineers and carpenters who have been thrown out of work could team up with the young men and women who do not have jobs. They could teach them a trade and put money in their pockets. The young people would have a bit more money to spend and — who knows? — they might spend some of it on tourism in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the Government have a crazy way of running the economy.
Then there are the roads. Motorways are handy for some people, but we also need to spend money on improving the road infrastructure in the regions and in particular the east midlands, to which the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) referred. His constituency is well known for its tourist attraction and its major roads—
§ Mr. Skinner
And its miners, some of whom, I am told, helped to put the hon. Gentleman in this place. I am not so sure about that. Anyway, it takes all sorts to make a world.
More money must be spent on the railways too. Up in the north, a railway is to be closed which is supposed to one of the greatest railway attractions in Britain. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) knows something about that. The railway between Carlisle and Settle is not far from his back door.
699 The whole thing is crazy, and it is all based on the nonsensical idea that everything has to make a profit. If this place had to make a profit—especially on a Friday—it would be struggling. In fact, it would have been closed down centuries ago. The thing costs a small fortune, and it is not just us—it is that lot up there in the Press Gallery, which I am not supposed to refer to. We keep the place open because it is supposed to be the mother of parliaments. It is supposed to be a tourist attraction.
The Government could make a few more bob if it was on telly. Have the Government thought about that? We could spend a lot more money very usefully on the railways, on the roads and on the canals. The sewer infrastructure wants a lot of money spent on it. All that would improve the attractiveness of Britain. Do not get me wrong, I am not into the national interest or anything like that, but if we want to improve on the amount of money that is spent in Britain we have to do some of the basic things that Governments would normally do rather than say that it is none of our business and that everything will come out right in the end.
I agree about tourism having a marginal effect on the economy. Nobody should give the impression that, if we improve Britain's tourist attractions, the whole economy will be put right. That is the last thing that I would suggest, but we could make quite a considerable change and get more people into employment. One thing is certain—tourism will last longer than North sea oil. I harbour the suspicion that there will be a tourist industry after that lot has gone. People should pay a little more attention to that fact. The Government should do that. Even a Government who object to planning and intervention should realise that tourism will last longer than some of our other assets. It will outlive privatisation. When the Government have sold off all the assets that they can find, we shall still have tourism.
The hon. Member for Sherwood has introduced a theme, perhaps unwittingly—I do not know—that turns the Government's philosophy on economic policy on its head because the moment we start talking about wanting to improve Britain's tourist attractions we talk about intervention. The motion could have been headlined, "Government intervention needed. Crisis signs. Amber warning lights. We need money in the east midlands." Spend a bit on Hardwicke hall or Bolsover castle. We have one or two attractions. We also have Cresswell crags.
§ Mr. Skinner
I am pleased about that. There are wonderful places in my area. We have spent this week abolishing the GLC — well, I have not; I have been voting against abolition. The Government have spent this week trying to abolish the GLC but on Friday morning they want to save tourism. There is a bit of a contradiction there. One of the GLC's main functions is to ensure the provision of necessary finance for the great tourist attraction of London. It is a bit fanciful for all these Tory Members, who went through the Lobby supporting the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment to abolish the GLC—no doubt they will do the same on Report and in Committee—to complain today about there not being enough money in the country to attract visitors. London is the centre of tourism in Britain.
I have gone on a bit longer than I wanted. We have covered quite a wide area. Nevertheless, this is an 700 important debate. A delegation from the Peak District national park board came to see the Minster a couple of years ago about getting more money to enable that attractive area, which covers several counties, to attract more visitors. The board had some jobs that it wanted doing. The delegation left that meeting with, to put it in simple terms, a flea in its ear. If the Minister wants to do something useful, he should get in touch with John Beagle, the chairman of that board, and restart negotiations with a view to providing more finance. We should have no more of this talk about there not being enough money in the country. This Government can find money for all sorts of things if they want to.
The Government have spent £12,000 million on Trident and they are spending £20,000 million a year to finance the dole queue. There is plenty of money in the country. Since the Prime Minister came to power £2 billion has been spent on her gallivanting round the world. I do not suppose she would call that tourism, but the British taxpayer has had to fork out 2 million quid for the Prime Minister to go tripping round the world and lie in a gondola in Venice. Somebody in Bolsover said to me that they thought she was selling Walls Cornetto. If the Government can find money for that and for all the other things they are prepared to waste money on, they can find money for tourism, if they have the will and the guts to do so, and make this country a more attractive place for tourists.
One comes back to the basic philosophy of having to intervene to do what all these Tories have been asking for today, sometimes on a major scale, sometimes on a minor scale. It cannot all be done by privatisation or by leaving it to busybody entrepreneurs in this leaner and fitter Britain which the Prime Minister wants to create. They are not doing it. If they were, these issues would not he raised today. So the facts are on our side. The philosophy is also on our side. I hope that as a result of our debate fewer Tory Members of Parliament will consider walking through the Lobby to smash the Greater London council and the metropolitan counties, which have helped to provide money for tourism. I hope that they will think twice before doing so. They would not want to go through the Lobby with me. They could go through five minutes later.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
It is singularly appropriate to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), who laid such stress on the role that Robin Hood played in the history of his area. It seems to be a very contemporary theme, because this is the week of robbing the rich to help the poor. This is a theme which can be continued in our debate. In doing so, I am glad to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood. We on this side of the House agree—I say, regrettably, only this side of the House because sc few Members of the Opposition have chosen to come here today to support the theme — that we must look at tourism, and the service sector generally, for the employment prospects of the future.
This theme is not attractive to the Opposition. They are still wedded to the idea that the major employment prospects for our country come from the manufacturing sector. Anybody who takes a realistic view of the trading, commercial and business prospects for this country must admit that this is no longer the case. It will become increasingly difficult for the United Kingdom to compete with the countries of the Third world because of their 701 lower unit labour costs and their lack of shop and workplace regulations. Although we shall always be a manufacturing nation—and proud of it—and although our technology will carry us forward, the combined effects of overseas competition from low-cost countries, of the increasing use of robotics and of technology and mechanisation mean that we cannot look to the manufacturing sector for the future major expansion of employment.
§ Mr. Gould
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that in this country, as in most others advanced countries, the long-term trend is towards a decline in the share of employment provided by manufacturing. But surely he accepts that over the past four years we have suddenly dropped, because of this Government's economic policy, well below any pre-existing trend or any conceivable trend established anywhere else. All that we are asking for in terms of employment in manufacturing is that we should replace those jobs that were quite needlessly and wantonly thrown away by mistaken economic policies.
§ Mr. Forth
The hon. Gentleman's point illustrates the difference in attitude towards the problem. In 1979 the accumulated problems of featherbedding, of cosseting and of ignoring the real difficulties facing us finally caught up with us after years of neglect and of pretending that they did not exist. The reason for the sudden change that the hon. Gentleman mentioned is precisely that. It had nothing to do with the deliberate running down of industry by the Government. It was a recognition—we said this before the 1979 election—of the problems of manufacturing industry and that we could no longer artificially maintain unnecessary levels of employment and manning, inefficiency and lack of productivity and profitability.
Those were the accumulated problems with which we have had to deal as a Government and a country. It is because of that that we now look increasingly to the service sector. Included in that is this vital element of tourism which is so rightly raised by the motion before the House today.
In tourism we have a combination of a number of different elements which provide an increased possibility for employment and therefore hope for the future. It combines travel and transport because people have to move around the country in order to enjoy its different tourist facilities.
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and others have made many pleas for increased expenditure. The hon. Gentleman will not hear that plea from me today and he would not expect to. There are other answers to the problem, apart from throwing money at it, or, to use the trendy expression for throwing money at things, investing in the infrastructure.
The deregulation of Britain's bus industry, both in the past and to come, will provide increased employment prospects, efficiency and effectiveness for those wishing to travel. The catering trade, which has been mentioned, the accommodation trade and the retail trade will also benefit in their different ways from the provision of services related to tourism.
Important elements are built in, such as deregulating the licensing provisions and shop-opening hours — something which I am confident the Government will tackle in the next 12 to 18 months. Those will all make 702 their contribution to the development of tourism. It is in deregulation and in freeing the industry to make better use of its resources that the real future lies, not necessarily in the expenditure of public money on what is and should be essentially a private enterprise.
My constituency of Mid-Worcestershire has a growing tourist centre, mainly centred around the ancient town of Droitwich, where we are now rebuilding, in an excellent partnership between the local authority and private enterprise with private resources, the unique brine bath facility which will draw many more people to that town. Incidentally, to recognise the spa towns—as I do—is another way in which we can in future attract an increasing number of tourists to Britain. It is in such ways, in towns such as Droitwich in Mid-Worcestershire, that we can look to the future with a combination of private investment, partnerships between private business and local authorities and with the Government not necessarily spending public money but looking at ways of reducing and removing the restrictions and regulations which at the moment inhibit the tourist industry.
It is in all those ways that we can look confidently to the future. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood for allowing us to discuss the matter today. I hope that we shall return to it again and again as one of the major future sources of employment.
§ 2.3 pm
§ Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on tourism today, representing as I do a constituency which has some 2 million visitors a year. That shows the extraordinary importance of tourism to our local economy.
There are of course problems of accommodating and coping with such a large number of tourists as come to Stratford-on-Avon and the surrounding area. I want to pay tribute to Stratford town council, the Stratford district council tourism sub-committee, and the Stratford-onAvon district marketing group. Between them they are approaching systematically the need to develop tourism on a sensible pattern for the future in our area. I congratulate all those concerned.
It is not only to Stratford itself that people come. They come to the whole of south Warwickshire. There are 120 villages in my constituency, one more beautiful than the other. There are also the National Trust properties such as Coughton, Charlecote, Upton and other famous houses such as Ragley.
It is not only the most famous landmarks that draw people. For example, there is the Stratford motor museum, and a little way from Stratford there is the Napton Nickelodeon at Napton on the Hill. It is an internationally celebrated museum of mechanical music. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made his customary humorous reference to the monkey and the organ grinder yesterday, but if he is interested in organ grinding he should join his constituents and take a trip to Napton to see what organ grinding is about.
The importance of tourism for jobs in my constituency is enormous. It is estimated that some 20 per cent. of ratepayers in Stratford-on-Avon district are directly involved in tourism. But there are two threats to tourism in Stratford.
One is a major threat, with which many of my colleagues will be familiar because I had the opportunity to talk about it in an Adjournment debate earlier this year. 703 The Foreign Office and the BBC are proposing to site a transmitter, which would be one of the largest in Europe, at Bearley, three miles from the centre of Stratford-on-Avon. Some 24 masts, up to 300 ft high, would be an appalling visual intrusion into this historic and beautiful landscape, and, even more seriously, the effects of radio frequency interference on computers and other electronic equipment in the area would be devastating. The Royal Shakespeare theatre has said in plain terms that it would have to close in Stratford if the transmitter were built, and many other businesses, including 10 major hotels, for which conference business is an important trade, are seriously threatened.
I am also very concerned at British Rail's proposal that a section of the north Warwick railway line running into Stratford should be closed. This seems an extraordinarily short-sighted and negative policy. Stratford is one of the major tourist centres in the country, and already it is not easy to get to. There is poor road access and now there is a serious threat that British Rail will diminish rail access as well. I would regret it very much if that were to happen.
These are instances of how, as too often in Government, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. I welcome, however, the Government's positive approach to the promotion of tourism, and their recognition that it is one of our growth industries. I welcome the rationalisation of the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board. I hope that the promised economies that that rationalisation was supposed to yield will be forthcoming.
We need a vigorous approach to ensure that there is a devolution of funds, in particlar for marketing, to the regional tourist boards. At the moment, we have some joint schemes for tourist promotion by the English tourist board and the regional tourist boards. That is a good interim policy, but we want to make more funds available on a devolved basis to the regional boards such as the Heart of England tourist board, which could enable them to do an even better job.
A rationale for the integration of the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board was that it would yield economies of perhaps £500,000 a year. If that is split up between 12 tourist boards, there is a useful £40,000 to £45,000 to supplement the funds available to each for marketing. The Heart of England tourist board has about £7,000 of its own to spend on marketing. Impressively, it raises about a further £140,000 from local organisations and local authorities to help its promotional work. It would make an enormous difference to the possibilities of promotion if we could ensure that the fruits of that reorganisation start to flow through reasonably soon.
It would make sense to spend a little more on bringing in, for example, writers from the travel press who could see for themselves at first hand. That is highly cost-effective. We need to prepare better brochures and press features on the area. We need to promote bed-and-breakfast establishments. A large number of these are small businesses which do not have enough resources to achieve publicity on their own. We need to produce a good package which can be available to travel agents all over the world to show the sort of accommodation that is available. We also need a central reservation facility so that a tourist who contemplates coming to the heart of England from, say, Dallas can discover where he can stay 704 and what is available in south Warwickshire. For these reasons I hope that we shall soon see some fruits from the £500,000.
It is important to promote the interests of the regional airports. London has the lion's share of benefit from tourism. We do not begrudge London anything, but it is most important to have a balanced development. I am glad that the future of Birmingham airport was relatively well secured this summer, and that the Civil Aviation Authority's proposals to remove the licences for British Airways to fly out of Birmingham to certain European destinations did not prevail. I am glad that BA is now working with some of the smaller independent airlines. I hope that we shall not only develop business with Europe but that increasingly Birmingham will be made a second stop airport for intercontinental flights, so that, after calling at Shannon or Prestwick, for example, they will call at Birmingham.
I hope that we shall channel more resources towards training. Large numbers of people, particularly in the smaller tourist establishments, lack sufficient training. It is a problem to get them to recognise that that is what they need. As hon. Members have observed, tourism is naturally a labour-intensive business. That is one of its most hopeful and advantageous features for the future. It can make an important contribution to alleviating the unemployment problem. It is most important therefore that those who work in tourism should have training and be enabled to develop their expertise so that we can make the best of our opportunities in tourism.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Butcher)
As several of my hon. Friends have already remarked, my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) has done the House a great service in choosing the subject of tourism for debate. No doubt many of the matters that he has placed on record on behalf of his constituents with regard to the problem of unemployment and the interests of the east midlands will be appropriately reported in the east midlands area. My hon. Friend has given us great food for thought.
During the debate several hon. Members have, quite appropriately, managed to reconcile the interests of manufacturing industry with those of the service industry, the tourist industry and all the components that make up what we hope will be a growing labour market. I am delighted that at long last in this House we are moving away from the sterile debates of high tech versus low tech, sunrise versus sunset, and service sector versus manufacturing sector. We are surely now agreed that they are all part of one wealth creation process. I am already on record as being one of the hon. Members who believe that manufacturing still has to be the core of wealth creation but that the service sector is certainly the most efficient job creator at the moment, with about 280,000 new jobs in the teeth of the recession. Prominent within service sector activity is the tourist industry, which has made a magnificent contribution to job creation in the United Kingdom.
I think it is important to deal with signposting. which was mentioned specifically by my hon. Friend. He asked about the cost of the experiment in Nottinghamshire, and 705 what cost would fall on the local authority. My understanding is that financial assistance is being considered by the English tourist board.
The expenditure ceilings on local authorities are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, but I welcome Nottinghamshire's participation in this imaginative experiment. I have no doubt that the tourist attractions and local communities concerned will reap the benefit of more effective signposting, as will the many visitors to Nottinghamshire. At a later date I hope that we shall see tourism signposting arrangements on these lines considered for adoption throughout the United Kingdom. This is a matter at which the Department of Transport is already looking. But there seems to be another area of consensus in the debate that we could perhaps make some slightly more imaginative moves in signposting.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not mind if I do not march too far into the subject of the Robin Hood theme park. A number of proposals and possible sites are being considered for this development, and initiatives of this kind are to be welcomed. I am sure that my hon. Friend will watch progress with interest and report back to the House or the appropriate quarter if he feels that we have a sticking point. We shall do whatever we can to help on a multi-departmental basis if need be.
I have taken very much to heart the comments of a number of hon. Members about the need for co-ordination. Someone has to hold the sponsoring responsibility for tourism, but it is precisely because the industry embraces so many disparate economic and commercial activities that it would be difficult to appoint a "supremo" who somehow could have an input into all the various Government Departments, although I shall come to the possibility of a Select Committee—and an even more dramatic move proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan).
Inevitably and understandably, my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) asked for the M54 to be extended, not just for tourists but for the peace of mind of his constituents. He made another interesting proposal, which was echoed by a number of my hon. Friends, that Birmingham and Manchester airports should be considered for expansion as opposed to the consolidation or further building on the Heathrow site. It was interesting that that suggestion came from representatives of nearly all the regions represented in the House today, including the hon. Member whose constituency is almost directly under the flight path of that very busy airport. No doubt my right hon. and hon. Friends will look again at the opinions which emerged from the contributions of my hon. Friends on that issue.
In a strong and ebullient speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley correctly emphasised the important contribution that exhibition and conference tourism makes to our economy. I am sure that he will not be embarrassed if I remind the House that, as a former colleague of his on Birmingham city council, I witnessed his personal contribution in seeing that that imaginative exhibition centre, the NEC, got off the ground. It is to his credit and that of his other colleagues that Birmingham has built itself a major revenue earner for the benefit of its ratepayers and residents.
706 My hon. Friend mentioned licensing hours and shop hours. This is where I am caught on the hook which has been dangled before a number of Ministers responsible for tourism. I cannot anticipate the outcome of the deliberations on changes in the licensing laws or the thoughts of others on shop hours—no doubt the House will take a view shortly—but it would appear, watching the signs, that there are moves in those directions which will be helpful to the tourist industry.
I say in his absence to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir J. Wells) that, although I suppose educating young urban dwellers into a rural way of life, which as ever was a typically astute and provocative suggestion from my hon. Friend, may have attractions, it may also have disadvantages. Some people argue that there is no point in decanting people from the cities only to decant them back again when the vogue changes in a couple of decades, in order to move them back yet again in another two decades. We do muck about with our population more than most countries.
I agree that we should not indulge in garden festivalities by planting garden festivals everywhere that is derelict or requires clearance and long-term rehabilitation. But a new approach is developing which people from all parts of the country and all walks of life find of interest and from which they derive great benefit. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone was able to report that he got his money out of Liverpool. The Government sometimes have equal difficulty in resolving cask problems with Liverpool.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) settled once and for all the question whether tourism is a diversion and a candyfloss activity or a real job generator. I was delighted that she was able to make her observations in a forum where major employers are represented. There are misconceptions about this industry; it is an industry, and a wealth creator. Jobs and job opportunities are being generated in the 17,000 hotels and 6,000 restaurants to which my hon. Friend referred.
My hon. Friend reminded Londoners that, although they might have cheered the line "bloody tourists" in a song by a punk rock group, the same tourists are keeping many of our theatres going, helping to reduce overheads and to distribute them more equitably throughout the year. Directly and indirectly, tourists help to continue the rich cultural life of our capital.
Another theme of the debate, highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Drake, was that the best way to promote cities is by self-help. Government and local authority funding, as ever, can help only on the margin. It can be used to good effect only when it is drawn in by local authorities with good, sound and imaginative management. I am sure that Plymouth is promoting itself well.
There was an interesting exchange between my hon. Friend the Member for Drake and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) about the Channel tunnel and freedom of choice. My two hon. Friends were able to agree because of that proposition. The argument will come to the fore as some difficult decisions are made by others and, in due course, the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) raised the vexed question of hotel registration. A number of proposals have received a mixed reception. My Department has received the English tourist board's proposals and is studying them. The board is anxious to 707 obtain the industry's full co-operation and will be glad to receive detailed comments on its proposals until March next year. There is still time. Those with an interest should continue to make their views known, not least to hon. Members.
I refer my hon. Friend to my remarks in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood about signposting. We must start from a suck-it-and-see basis. The evidence of the two experiments will be examined with rigour.
My hon. Friend the Member for York rightly said that we should not consume our environmental seed corn. He also reminded us that liaison between local authorities and tourist boards is a key factor. The people on the ground must get on and be vociferous in championing the interests of their own localities.
In the short time that is available, I shall deal briefly with the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). I congratulate him on being president of Twickenham Week. He is therefore an activist and not merely a commentator. We offer him our sympathy in trying to reconcile the demands of the eaters in the burgeoning restaurants in his constituency with those of the residents in the area who have been subjected to the increased demand. I understand that there are a number of "noises off" which cause a disconcerting set of circumstances in Twickenham.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) is a great expert and seasoned commentator on these matters, as well as an activist. He advised and exhorted us not to lose the initiative, but to maintain the momentum. He stressed that many regional economies gain a great deal from or are dependent upon tourism. I can assure him that his representations will be treated seriously. I shall respond to his remarks in greater detail, especially those directed to training and section 4 grant aid. I cannot report on the section 4 issue now, but I am optimistic that certain moves that are being made with the training boards will bear fruit and that there will be a recognition of and proper status attributed to the professional training that those at technician and management level in the tourist industry have received.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) left us with perhaps the phrase of the debate. He described the tourist industry as the slumbering giant of British industry. That may be, but perhaps he will agree with me that it is a giant which has woken up in the past two or three years. He reminded us that we should obtain better statistics on tourism and observed that theme parks and the approach adopted at Alton towers offers prospects for the future. I congratulate him on being able to witness the open golf championship in his constituency.
I shall combine my response to the observations of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) with my response to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) — [Interruption.] Perhaps I had better 708 uncouple that connection. It seems that the view of the House is that confusion could arise if I took that line. I found it easy to agree with parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham. The majority of hon. Members have extolled the virtues of London as the "major draw" area from which the rest of the country eventually benefits. I recognise that at the very least there is room for improvement in the way in which London presents itself.
Great strides have been made, but it seems rather strange that, while we have a marvellous link between Gatwick airport and Victoria, jet-lagged travellers from various parts of the world are spewed into Victoria station, perhaps with leaks from the roof trickling on them, not a taxi to be found and sheer chaos on the other side of the barrier. That should be considered. Perhaps I am being unfair to choose one of my hobby horses, but the general observation that London could try to tidy up some of its tattier areas is well taken.
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) is another great expert in these matters. He would like to see more young people working and training in the tourist industry. His argument that we should do something to reduce or eliminate the on-cost of employment for employers is being considered by many commentators and pundits in the context of making the offering of employment generally more attractive to employers. Although it may not be totally in line with the fervour of today's debate, it would be unwise to pick out catering, rather than other sections of the industry, to try that approach.
Time has pressed on. I agree to write to hon. Members about the specific points on which they may not have received answers today.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House recognises the great importance of tourism as a growing industry in this country and in particular the East Midland Region of England; welcomes the significant part it can play in reducing the number of unemployed; and accepts the Government's commitment to further growth of the industry.