HC Deb 22 April 1986 vol 96 cc153-4
1. Mr. Roger King

asked the Paymaster General if he will detail the number of foreign tourists entering Britain in 1979 and 1985 and also estimate the number of jobs created from this source.

The Paymaster General and Minister for Employment (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

The number of visits to the United Kingdom by foreign residents rose from 12.5 million in 1979 to 14.6 million in 1985. In the six years to June 1985 the number of employees in the hotel, catering and leisure sectors, which most directly depend on both foreign and domestic tourists' expenditure, rose by around 101,000. In addition, self-employment has grown, for example, by around 19,000 in the hotel and catering industries between 1981 and 1985.

Mr. King

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that extremely encouraging reply. Does he agree that if tourists moved outside the general area of London into rural areas more jobs and more opportunities in the tourist sector would be established?

Mr. Clarke

I am glad to say that the English Tourist Board has used the additional money that we have given it to increase by about 20 per cent. this year the subvention to regional tourist boards. We have asked the tourist authorities, in making use of section 4 grants, to concentrate on areas of high employment where there is potential for growth. We have taken on board my hon. Friend's valid point.

Mr. Madden

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the retention of the Settle-Carlisle railway line would attract more people to this country and promote employment? What is he doing to persuade the Secretary of State for Transport to keep this important line open?

Mr. Clarke

I remember from one of my previous duties the interest that arose in that railway the moment the railway authorities proposed to divert traffic from it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is continuing to look with interest at all the proposals to save this picturesque route.

Mr. Adley

In view of the Americans' facility of self-delusion, will my right hon. and learned Friend turn his mind to current opinion in the United States, which appears to see this country as a seething cauldron of unrest? Will he, as a politician, do what is perhaps not fair of us to expect the official British Tourist Authority to do and bluntly point out that if the Americans really want an unsafe holiday surrounded by violence the best thing they can do is go to Florida?

Mr. Clarke

I am afraid that there is a wave of feeling in the United States that it is not safe to come to Europe. That could lead to a decrease in the number of visitors to Britain. The tourist authorities have been bringing trade and travel representatives and journalists to this country to reassure them that our airport security is good and that safety levels here remain much higher than in United States cities. A formal political reaction might arouse more concern than reassurance. A concerted attempt to control terrorism, especially at airports, will do more than anything else to reassure American visitors.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the rather small number of new jobs to which he referred in his main answer are basically low-paid, seasonal, insecure and unskilled? Is he aware also that, in exactly the same period when that small number of jobs were created, we lost 1.75 million high-paid, regular, good jobs which earned more money for this country from abroad? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman also aware that in West Derbyshire it will take 30 years to erase the quadrupling of unemployment in the tourist industry during that period?

Mr. Clark

The figure I gave was for the increase in those trades most directly concerned with tourism. People know that well over 1 million jobs are dependent on tourism in one way or another, and the figures I have given in no way refer to the people who work in retailing, public transport or other sectors of the economy, where tourism helps. Those are real jobs—36,000 for men. They are perfectly good jobs and, with respect, the hon. Gentleman is out of touch with events and with the times if he goes back to dismissing tourist jobs as somehow not real jobs. West Derbyshire depends very heavily on tourism, and the hon. Gentleman's remarks will be carefully noted there if he tries to denigrate the industry.

Mr. Butterfill

Has my right hon. and learned Friend yet made any decision on the difference between the increase in funding he will allocate to the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board?

Mr. Clarke

Yes we have. I shall give my hon. Friend the precise breakdown in correspondence later. We have agreed an allocation to the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board and the amount for grants under section 4.