HC Deb 21 February 1984 vol 54 cc784-90

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Tourism (Overseas Promotion) (Scotland) Bill [Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Lang.]

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. MacKay

I was putting into context the role of the British Tourist Authority and the size of its budget.

I have been asked what sort of consultation there will be between the Secretary of State and the British Tourist Authority. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has put his finger on it. The Scottish Office will consult in its usual fashion. Sometimes we act on the advice that we are given, and sometimes we do not. I am not speaking with my tongue in my cheek. In the case of consultation by any Government Department—certainly the Scottish Office—the Department is not absolutely bound to accept the views that it receives. It will not be so bound in this case.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will show the BTA the programme that the Scottish tourist board wishes to carry out— say—next year. It is easier to think in terms of a whole year's programme. He will ask the authority what its views are. It may reply that it is completely opposed to the programme. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend would then have discussions with the Scottish tourist board.

We want to make use of the link with the BTA's offices and apparatus around the world. However, if my right hon. Friend decides that it is in the best interests of Scottish tourism that the project that he is considering should go ahead despite the fact that the BTA does not like it, he will be able to give his approval to the STB for the programme to go ahead. The BTA will have no veto, and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will have no veto on any project put before the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Wilson

I marvel at the high quality of codswallop that the Minister is producing. Does he not agree that, if there were a dispute of that magnitude, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would seek the opportunity to follow discussions with his right hon. Friend through the medium of a Cabinet sub-committee? Is not that the way in which differences between competing Departments are sorted out? Does the Under-Secretary of State say that there would be no question of taking a difference to a Cabinet sub-committee for resolution?

Mr. MacKay

I cannot envisage any situation in which that would happen, unless the Government took leave of their senses and appointed someone like the hon. Member for Dundee, East as chairman. Such a chairman might be looking for confrontation. However, the Scottish tourist board has perfectly reasonable chairmen who would not seek confrontation. For a properly designed programme of the type about which we are talking, Opposition Members are devising purely hypothetical circumstances in an attempt to do I am not sure what but, in the case of the hon. Member for Dundee, East, to advance the cause of nationalism. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Garscadden, who, I am sure, is not attempting to do that.

Mr. Dewar

I might be doing the Minister an injustice as he might be coming to this point. However, will he explain why, if it is so essential to hang around the Secretary of State a statutory duty to consult the British Tourist Authority, it was not necessary to have a similar safeguard in the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982 when we were doing the basic model as regards local authorities' rights to promote their areas overseas? If there is no clear reason why that difference is being made, we are left inescapably with the theory which was advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that the words have been added as some form of danegeld to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. MacKay

I assume that the hon. Gentleman has accepted my point that there is no veto. I have certainly made that clear. We approach the matter from the Scottish tourist board's point of view. It will spend £200,000 of direct Government money and about £100,000 provided by the trade. We believe that the relationship between the Scottish tourist board, the Secretary of State and the British Tourist Authority is a little different from the relationship between local authorities, the Secretary of State and the British Tourist Authority. The hon. Gentleman might say that we can merely continue in the way that we are going, but the Secretary of State consults the British Tourist Authority about proposals from local authorities. It is fairer and better in the case of the Scottish tourist board that consultation should be on the face of the Bill. Perhaps it should have been on the face of the previous Bill. That might be a reasonable argument, but it is not important enough to make us amend that legislation to bring it into line with the Bill.

When considering the powers of the Scottish tourist board in overseas promotion, we must lay out clearly and honestly that my right hon. Friend will be expected to consult the British Tourist Authority to see what programme it has and how the Scottish tourist board's programme fits in with what the British Tourist Authority is doing. The British Tourist Authority might be able to adapt and respond to the programme put up by the Scottish tourist board so that the effort of the two bodies could be maximised.

It is clear that the final decision rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. He will take the advice of the British Tourist Authority and then make a decision. There will be no veto by the British Tourist Authority. The Opposition's suggestions and suspicions are totally unwarranted.

Mr. Dewar

I have listened closely to what the Minister has said. I understood him to say that in the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982 these words are not necessary because the Secretary of State, in any event, does the consultation as a matter of good manners and good management practice. The Minister has also put great stress on the independence of the Scottish Office in this machinery and the fact that it will be dictated to by no one. Why does he not give a little example of that smeddum and independence by accepting the amendment and leaving the matter on the good practice basis which has worked so satisfactorily with the other machinery?

Mr. MacKay

My point is that it has worked satisfactorily since the 1982 Act, but I think that, on reflection, it may have been wiser to be open and straightforward on the face of the Bill and say that there will be consultation with the British Tourist Authority before my right hon. Friend gives his final decision. That is perfectly fair and reasonable and, with my assurance that there is no way in which the British Tourist Authority will be able to impose a veto, I am sure that the House can happily pass the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Henderson

Does not my hon. Friend find it curious that the Labour party put through a Bill on tourism which prevented the Scottish tourist board from promoting Scotland overseas but now quibbles about a Bill that enables it to promote Scotland overseas because of an argument about who is consulted about what?

Mr. MacKay

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. However, to be equally fair to the Opposition, who were in Government in 1969, I think we have moved a little from that position, and the Opposition now accept that they would be better off if the 1969 legislation had included a section similar to clause 1 of the Bill. I say "equally", but I think that what we are doing tonight is improved by making it perfectly clear that what goes on in practice is an obligation on my right hon. Friend that he should consult the BTA before taking his final decision.

Mr. Maxton

I do not find the Minister's explanation satisfactory. What he describes is the wrong way round. The sort of consultation about which he is talking—genuine discussions among the professions, the experts—should take place not between the Secretary of State and the British Tourist Authority, but between the Scottish tourist board and the British Tourist Authority. If the Scottish tourist board has a scheme to put up, it has a member on the British Tourist Authority who can raise it at the authority, the consultative process can be carried out, and agreement can be reached. The position referred to by the hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) is then reached at which the Secretary of State would become the arbiter. When consultation takes place between the British Tourist Authority and the Scottish tourist board and disagreement ensues, the Secretary of State becomes the arbiter.

Whatever the Minister may say, if the clause is left unamended, although the British Tourist Authority may not have an absolute veto, in my view no Secretary of State for Scotland will ignore its advice. If what the Minister says is correct, he would do better to accept the amendment to omit the words. As the Minister has said, consultation will take place anyway, so what is the purpose of having such unnecessary verbiage in the Bill? These words should be omitted.

Mr. Dalyell

My hon. Friend uses the words "unnecessary verbiage". Our experience of parliamentary draftsmen is that they very seldom include unnecessary verbiage. This is far from unnecessary verbiage. If it were all as innocent and straightforward as the Minister makes out, why is the House devoting, on a Tuesday in prime time, six and quarter hours or more to the topic? Why is the Bill being considered in prime time if it is as easy as the Minister makes out? The Minister said that the decision is with the Secretary of State for Scotland. Where is that stated in the Bill? At no point in the Bill can I find any such statement. On the contrary, if the Minister looks carefully, after the phrase to which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) referred to in lines 15 and 16, he will see the words, (3) Nothing in the section shall— (a) affect the power of the British Tourist Authority to carry on any activities outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Scotland; The Bill does not say that the final decision is with the Secretary of State. On the contrary, it gives the British Tourist Authority carte blanche.

I wish to ask a simple and artless question. Can the Minister tell us, with crossed heart, that his statement that the final decision will lay with the Secretary of State for Scotland has been agreed with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his senior officials? Can he stand up, cross his heart and say, "Yes, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his senior officials have absolutely agreed that the final verdict is always for the Secretary of State for Scotland"? It is no good the Minister nodding silently. Silent nods are not recorded in Hansard. I am giving the Minister the opportunity to shut me up for a long time. I pause for a reply; will I get one?

10.15 pm
Mr. MacKay

I nodded to the hon. Gentleman simply because the occupant of the Chair would not like two hon. Members to be on their feet at the same time. The Bill is a Government Bill. It has been through the machinery of Government. It represents a clear view of Government policy, from all parts of Government. I have stated the simple fact of the matter. As it says on the face of the Bill, the Secretary of State, before giving or withholding such consent, will consult the British Tourist Authority.

I have made it perfectly clear that consultation means what it has always meant for the Scottish Office. I cannot speak for other Departments, but I know that the hon. Gentleman has been involved in some of them. The Scottish Office does not necessarily accept the opinions that it receives. It simply asks for views, but it is not bound to accept them.

I have made the position clear. There is nothing sinister about it. It is not a veto given to the BTA or to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It is quite simply a power given to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to consult the BTA, to consider what it says and then, if he so chooses, to ignore what it says and give his permission to the STB to carry out the programme that it put before him.

That is as clear an explanation and an assurance as I can possibly give the Committee. I hope that the hon. Member for Garscadden will withdraw the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 13, Noes 125.

Division No. 171] [10.18 pm
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm Skinner, Dennis
Buchan, Norman Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Canavan, Dennis Wrigglesworth, Ian
Cartwright, John
Dalyell, Tam Tellers for the Ayes:
Godman, Dr Norman Mr. Gordon Wilson and
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Mr. James Wallace.
Maxton, John
Alexander, Richard Hanley, Jeremy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hargreaves, Kenneth
Amess, David Harris, David
Ancram, Michael Harvey, Robert
Ashby, David Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Hayes, J.
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Henderson, Barry
Baldry, Anthony Hicks, Robert
Batiste, Spencer Hind, Kenneth
Bellingham, Henry Hirst, Michael
Berry, Sir Anthony Holt, Richard
Body, Richard Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bottomley, Peter Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Braine, Sir Bernard Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Bright, Graham King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Brooke, Hon Peter Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Bruinvels, Peter Knowles, Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Knox, David
Carttiss, Michael Lang, Ian
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Chapman, Sydney Lightbown, David
Chope, Christopher Lilley, Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Lord, Michael
Conway, Derek McCrindle, Robert
Cope, John McCurley, Mrs Anna
Dicks, Terry Macfarlane, Neil
Dorrell, Stephen MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Maclean, David John.
Eyre, Sir Reginald Major, John
Fairbairn, Nicholas Mates, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Mather, Carol
Forth, Eric Merchant, Piers
Fox, Marcus Monro, Sir Hector
Franks, Cecil Moore, John
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Gale, Roger Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Galley, Roy Murphy, Christopher
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Needham, Richard
Goodlad, Alastair Nelson, Anthony
Gower, Sir Raymond Neubert, Michael
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Newton, Tony
Gummer, John Selwyn Nicholls, Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Onslow, Cranley
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, John (Harrow W) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Parris, Matthew van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Pollock, Alexander Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Powell, William (Corby) Waldegrave, Hon William
Powley, John Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Proctor, K. Harvey Waller, Gary
Rathbone, Tim Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Renton, Tim Warren, Kenneth
Roe, Mrs Marion Wheeler, John
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wilkinson, John
Squire, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Steen, Anthony
Stevens, Martin (Fulham) Tellers for the Noes:
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Taylor, Rt Hon John David Mr. Archie Hamilton.
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Clauses 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

  1. Clause 3
    1. cc789-90
    2. Short title and commencement 380 words
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