HC Deb 27 March 1985 vol 76 cc462-3
3. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next intends to meet the chairman of the British Tourist Authority; and if he will discuss with him the level of British Tourist Authority funding.

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

I am next meeting Mr. Bluck on 15 April. I expect to discuss a range of issues with him concerning the promotion and development of the United Kingdom tourism industry, which I am very pleased to see has just had a record year and seems set for even further growth in 1985.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. He will be aware of my interest in the tourism industry. Does it remain Government policy to invest in success? Is my hon. Friend aware that, unlike the spurious claims of cuts in the National Health Service, there has been a cut in real terms in the budget of the British Tourist Authority overseas? Can he tell me of any other investment by the taxpayer which has been so cost-effective?

Mr. Lamont

Of course we want to encourage tourism. It is a great growth industry and a positive prospect for employment. My hon. Friend is right, there has been a cut in real terms in the budget of the BTA, but it was relieved of some responsibilities in 1983. Furthermore, spending on tourism as a whole—the English Tourist Board, the BTA and section 4 — has broadly kept pace with inflation. We strongly want to encourage tourism.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Minister aware of the recent increase in tourism in industrial areas and the efforts of some northern cities to attract foreign tourists to learn some of the history of our industrial areas and to visit local museums? Will he discuss that with the British Tourist Authority and help it to encourage that process?

Mr. Lamont

I entirely agree. Cities such as Bradford have done remarkably well, as has Liverpool—

Mr. Meadowcroft

And Leeds.

Mr. Lamont

And Leeds, the hon. Gentleman prompts me. I have discussed the matter with the chairman of the BTA. We want to encourage such domestic tourism.

Mr. Bevan

As to investing in success, when my hon. Friend meets the chairman of the BTA, will he discuss an investment which the chairman could make through the ETB in the Birmingham convention centre? Following the success of the national exhibition centre, it will create thousands of jobs and bring prosperity, through business tourism, to the midlands, and especially to Birmingham. I should be obliged if he would take that chance.

Mr. Lamont

I shall certainly discuss that matter. When my hon. Friend talks of investing in success, he should bear in mind that our intention is to support the boards so that they can support British tourism. The overwhelming proportion of the money invested in tourism will and must come from the private sector.

Mr. Hicks

Is my hon. Friend aware of the real contribution that tourism makes to regional economies? Is he further aware that it is important, especially in respect of section 4 grant-aid, to make additional funds available to increase the quality of tourist attractions?

Mr. Lamont

I am aware of the importance of tourism to the regions and areas such as the south-west. When I announced the conclusions of the review of tourism, I said that we intended to maintain the level of section 4 assistance, which we have increased to £8 million. That remains our intention.

Mr. John Townend

When my hon. Friend meets the chairman of the BTA, will he emphasise the need for Yorkshire and Humberside, and especially the seaside resort of Bridlington, to receive treatment equivalent to Wales, which has hitherto had a much greater share of resources than its population warrants?

Mr. Lamont

The comparison should be between not the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board and Wales, but between the English Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board. I am aware of the point that my hon. Friend makes.