HC Deb 09 July 1986 vol 101 cc358-97

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a further sum, not exceeding £759,406,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1987 for expenditure by the Department of Employment on the promotion of tourism, including grants in aid, general labour market services, including a grant in aid, services for seriously disabled people and an international subscription.— [Mr. Trippier]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren).

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This Estimate refers only to tourism in England. Expenditure on tourism in Scotland and Wales comes under different headings. However, in view of the fact that the Select Committee report has significant effects on tourism in Wales and in Scotland, can you advise the House whether we are debating only this class of expenditure or whether we are combining with it expenditure that refers to Wales and to Scotland?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me to reflect on that for a moment or two? I shall advise him later.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may be that I can be of some assistance. Hon. Members from Scotland and Wales have persuaded the Government to reject the Select Committee's recommendation which would have brought all of this expenditure under one Estimate. They cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am not sure whether that is a point of order or helpful. Perhaps the House will allow me to reflect on the point raised by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley).

7.5 pm

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye)

I beg to move, That Class VII, Vote 1, be reduced by £500 in respect of Subhead A1(1) (Grant in Aid to the British Tourist Authority). I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) for setting the tone and making sure that everybody in the House understands that we are debating tourism problems and opportunities for the whole of the United Kingdom.

In the many months during which we looked at the problems and opportunities of tourism, the Select Committee not only learnt a lot but received much help from all those engaged in that great enterprise. I think that I can speak for the whole of the Committee when I say that we found that tourism in our economy was a breath of fresh air. It is an industry of new opportunities and far horizons. However, I do not think it is inappropriate to say that nobody on the Select Committee, least of all its Chairman, which I have the honour to be, regards tourism as a substitute for manufacturing industries. Markets and jobs have been lost because costs and quality in industry have exceeded customers' willingness to pay. Tourism must face up squarely to the fact that the need to hold on to its expansion and market opportunities will rest very much on its ability to deliver services in terms of opportunity and quality and of a size, price and sense that customers are willing to accept.

I should like to make one technical plea. Throughout our hearings we kept hearing the word "product" — a ghastly word—in relation to tourism. Tourism is about service to others. The word "service" is becoming an acceptable word once again in the English vocabulary. Pride in service to customers is a sound base on which we found many enterprises flourishing. With the permission of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) I shall refer to some of the more excellent ones that we found in the Principality.

It is essential that service should be there at all times so that tourism can expand its strong enterprise base. I should like to pay particular tribute to Mr. Duncan Bluck and the members of the British Tourist Authority, the Scottish Tourist Board, the Wales Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board who, throughout our hearings, gave us every assistance. They tended to show us all the good things, and we had to look round the side to find some of the bad. However, overall I believe that we came away with a real understanding of what tourism in this country is all about.

Our elegant Clerks tried to talk the Select Committee down in the report. The Select Committee visited more than 100 sites, not just 80. We ranged from underground rivers in Northern Ireland, with Special Branch looking for mines in the river to make sure that our passage would be safe, to travelling on Snowcats in the Cairngorms in the middle of winter dressed in our city suits, much to the amazement of the skiers. In Wales, we had tea with an elegant lady, called Auntie Jean, at her mountain farmhouse, and we also sampled the disarray of the baggage pouring off the jumbo jets at Heathrow at dawn.

We recognised that tourism is about opportunities right across the United Kingdom, and it affects everybody in this country. Tourism is not just a good thing for many people; it is a hit of a bore for some. It causes problems in our cities, which the Government have to face in collaboration with local authorities and the other authorities responsible for tourism.

However, we must address ourselves to the Government's reply, because the move to reduce the vote is serious. If necessary, we may have to press it to a Division if we do not get a satisfactory response from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. However, we shall see how he copes, and whether he copes as elegantly as he has on other occasions.

Our report was published on 4 December. My trepidation about my hon. Friend's response is conditioned by the fact that it took the Government over six months to give us their reply. It is true that the grace of the Select Committee allowed them an extension beyond the 60-day period that is normally granted, but we looked forward to a strong and virile reply from my hon. Friend and from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Employment. We noted along the way their production of the document entitled "Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs". We found it a little disappointing and slightly humiliating that the Government's reply to one of our main recommendations was slipped out in the House of Lords on 27 February, when we were told that that recommendation was not acceptable to the Government. The fact that it was unacceptable would not have been so bad, but it went against convention, and there was not even a nice little letter to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry explaining what the Government were going to do. We are an understanding crowd until we find that other people are unkind to us. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will take note of the fact that there is a convention, and it would be helpful if it were followed at all times, not just for the Select Committee on Trade arid Industry, but for all Select Committees.

I should like to explain why the Select Committee on Trade and Industry is tackling the debate, not our elegant brothers in the Select Committee on Employment. It is merely because, during Government reorganisation, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tried to slip away from Trade and Industry to Employment and leave us high and dry studying tourism. However, we were able to persuade the powers that be that he should not get away with that and that we would still be after him shouting tally-ho, as we are tonight.

Her Majesty's Government's reply is disappointing, bearing in mind the strong quality of Ministers and civil servants whom we met during our inquiry, who were dedicated and eager to make a success of the growing tourism industry. I thought that there might be three reasons for that. First, they were uncertain how to answer the questions where answers could not be avoided. We did not study Sunday trading, but I have no doubt that tonight some hon. Members will wish to question whether that should have been included in the reply.

Secondly, I wondered whether they were stopped in their tracks by the Treasury, as so many enterprises that should be pursued are stopped nowadays by that awesome hand. That would be a pity. The Government are dedicated to the enterprise culture and looking for new opportunities for employment, so there are times when they cannot avoid being the entrepreneur. They must twist the arm of the Treasury so that it does not hold up the progress that is being called for at all levels of Government.

Thirdly, I wondered whether the Government were worried by the size of the challenge presented to them. When I look at the response on education needs, it seems to me that three or four agencies are being cobbled together to act as an answer rather than there being a dedicated policy recognising how much training there needs to be in all the opportunities that tourism presents, such as hotel management, catering, transportation, and so on, and understanding the scale of enterprise and education that is required to take advantage of the opportunities.

The Government's reply shows that perhaps they still have not understood the lack of rationale that one has found so frequently in the way in which the Government deploy their resources for stimulating tourism. After all, tourism is big business. It now employs more than I million people. It is a much larger employer than the electrical and instrument engineering, mechanical engineering, transport, equipment, chemicals and manmade fibres, paper, printing and publishing industries. All those industries employ fewer people than are known to be currently working in tourism. The contribution to our gross domestic product is now approaching £10,000 million a year. It is the biggest single industry in this country, exceeded only by the oil extraction and natural gas industry, which I think everyone will agree is not atypical of industry. Tourism is a big business opportunity, which the Government must measure up to rather than just turn away from some of the home truths that we produced in our report, which sells at the reasonable price of £5.40, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although complimentary copies are available to you.

Tourism's contribution to the gross domestic product also shows the tremendous number of people who visit this country. In our report, we drew attention to the visits by overseas residents to the United Kingdom, excluding our own people going backwards and forwards to the seaside, visiting the Tower of London, the fens or Scotland. Whereas in 1973 there were about 8 million visits to this country, now there are over 12 million, which is more than 50 per cent. higher. Perhaps some of the birds have stayed on their roosts in the United States of America, although the word "chicken" would not occur to me.

The industry has grown rapidly. The Government might be good enough to consider whether they have recognised the dimension of that growth. With respect, perhaps they will have a second look at their reply to see whether it matches the opportunities that are available.

The rationale problem is real. Let me refer to the aid distributed round the country. Hon. Members from the Principality and Scotland will cheer lustily when I say that they do very much better than the bulk of people in the other part of the United Kingdom called England, which produces most of the income from tourism. The latest data available to the Select Committee showed tourist spending in England approaching £8,000 million a year out of the £10,000 million spent in the whole of the United Kingdom. Scotland had nearly £1 billion and Wales £500 million, although I am sure that it is all well spent.

In the report we draw attention to the amount of Government aid. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) was instrumental in producing that part of the report. Government funding is in no way related to spending. One can argue that where spending is low, it is better to spend more money on investment. On the other hand, where the spending is high one would expect Government support to reflect in some way the amount of money being spent.

Mr. Wigley

Were the Committee's recommendations in relation to Wales and Scotland geared towards improving the performance of tourism in Wales and Scotland?

Mr. Warren

From my experience'of visiting large parts of the Principality and of the northern kingdom, I and the Committee found little to criticise there. Indeed, we found more to criticise in England.

That brings me back to the rationale. The investment needs to go to the places where the money is being spent to raise the quality. The performance in Wales, particularly at an excellent hotel that we stayed at in Llandudno, which exceeded anything that one would ever find in London, is evidence and justification of what I am suggesting to the House.

In England, tourist spending is about £8,000 million per year, yet Government funding is only one thousandth of that at £8.6 million a year. The ratios in Scotland and Wales are five to seven times higher than that in terms of income from tourism. The Government must tackle this problem of rationale. Tourism is a big business producing £10,000 million a year. It makes no sense not to consider the income and how the industry can be incited to grow more rapidly. The return on investment in Scotland and Wales is very reasonable, but I am pleading for a rationale. I am not asking for cuts in enterprise or investment in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

I am slightly reassured by the final comment made by the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren). However, he will appreciate that in the part of the country that I represent, the highlands and islands of Scotland, for reasons of geography the degree of investment compared with the return will always be more unfavourable than it would be in Edinburgh or in London. The same argument can apply to Wales.

I am sure that hon. Members will be interested to learn that I spoke to a friend in London this afternoon who had just returned by car ferry from France. He told me that on the maps handed out by the British car ferry company, no routes are shown north of Carlisle. That is very worrying, and it acts as a disincentive.

Mr. Warren

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) will have noticed, as he hares south to Westminster, that there are no signs indicating London on any motorway north of Birmingham. The hon. Gentleman would do well to recognise that the ratios are so adverse against investment in England that the Government must take action, although we do not believe that there should be a decrease in investment in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

One of our essential recommendations—almost like casting a fly across Whitehall waters—is that it would be a good idea to abolish the tourist boards. Quangos are not popular on this side of the House although they may be popular elsewhere in the House. However, we thought that abolishing the tourist boards was a good idea not simply because change would be a good thing in itself but because Britain is the only country in Europe—the only country in the world, according to our survey—which has separate tourist authorities carrying out the same function. In France, a tourist would visit the French national tourist board, and the same applies in Switzerland or Italy. Those countries have a single tourist authority. I hope that the Government will face the need to rationalise the unusual position in Britain. In the same way, I think that it is about time that we had a United Kingdom football team competing in the World Cup.

Mr. Wigley

No way.

Mr. Warren

I recognise that that view is not shared by some hon. Members representing Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. However, the Select Committee and I want to bring the best to bear on the opportunities available. Before the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, who is representing the whole of Scotland in this debate tonight by the look of it, challenges my view—

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

What about me?

Mr. Warren

I apologise to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). I meant also to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley).

Before anyone challenges my idea, I hope they recognise that the Scottish Tourist Board is allowed by the British Tourist Authority to spend only £200,000 a year on advertising abroad. Furthermore, no one in Wales is allowed to advertise abroad unless they have the authority of the BTA. I hope that Ministers, especially the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, will recognise that the Select Committee report represents an opportunity for them to gang up against my unfortunate friends who represent English interests in the Cabinet in relation to tourism. That was the fly that was floated across Whitehall waters, but again it was not snatched eagerly by the Government.

The Select Committee has tried to bring a kind of rationale to the tourist industry and its relationship with the Government. The Select Committee made 37 recommendations to the Government to review and report back to the House. I would not dream of recounting all 37, as many other hon. Members wish to speak tonight.

I should like to comment on one or two of those recommendations as I represent a coastal constituency which has many problems in trying to develop tourism. Members of the Select Committee who visited Hastings and other areas found a common theme: that change was required to develop opportunities for generating tourism.

We welcome the opportunity for the development of tourism in the industrial heritage of Britain which spawned the industrial revolution. It was good to see that old factories and waterways are not being destroyed but are being renovated and retained as symbols of the start of the industrial revolution. However, when we saw how other enterprises, such as museums, were maintained, it came as a surprise to us to discover that the Government—even though they were often a source of funds for museums—are content to allow the local authorities running the museums to decide when they should be open. Tourists wanted to visit museums on Saturdays and Sundays and many were not open at those times.

We were conscious of the fact that some large enterprises carried enormous muscle in getting loans and aid from tourist authorities to generate new business in tourism. We came across a hotel which had received £300,000 from the taxpayer with no pay-back required. The company which owned the hotel could have afforded to borrow that sum from a bank. In another case, a bigger and more beautiful swimming pool had been built. We learnt that the swimming pool was built with Government funds, even though there were plans to build it before the grant was made available. Needless to say, we all enjoyed our swim.

I am not frowning on people who have had such success. Indeed, I must tell the House that we believe in sampling tourism at every opportunity. I do not condemn success in obtaining grants, but in many cases there was not the rationale which we sought through the Select Committee report and which we looked for in the Government response.

The Select Committee thought that a loans system would be a good idea. There should be a limit on grants so that more people can share in the opportunity to get the money that is available, and the money should be recycled as new investment in further tourist ventures. The Government replied that that could not be done through the high street banks. We think that is nonsense. After all, the banks are capable of lending money anyway. I fail to understand why they cannot act as Government agents in this case as they do on loan guarantee schemes. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can enlighten me on that point.

We were also concerned about the basic quality of education and management which is available. I would like to pay a small tribute—it is never too late to do so —to my late hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, Mr. Martin Stevens, who put so much effort into the educational and training aspects of the report. There seemed to be too much variation in the Government's reply on the quality of knowledge about careers advice in tourism. Several agencies were involved, but concentration would be more sensible.

On classification schemes for hotels and catering, it was disappointing that the Government did not appreciate in their response that it would be a good thing to have their heavy hand ready, if necessary, as is the case in so many continental countries, to ensure that classification takes place. Although one welcomes voluntary schemes —the one in Scotland is very good—it would be valuable to have the Government pushing hotels and catering establishments towards a common scheme. That has not proved impossible in any other country of which I have knowledge, and it is long overdue here.

I shall not dwell on the licensing laws or the shops legislation, save to say that in peripheral areas such legislation or lack of it nullifies many endeavours, especially in coastal areas where the tourist season is far too short to make the necessary killing to bring wealth and employment to the community and establishments need to be able to open at the right time to take advantage of the tourist trade.

In terms of regional grant, local authorities need far more Government help in recognising that it is not just a matter of "night visitors". Day trippers are very expensive to entertain, taking up a great deal of local authority time and investment for a relatively small return. It is high time that the Government acknowledged that the peripheral resorts, as well as some of those in the centre, should have recognition in terms of grant from the Department of the Environment for what they are doing for the rest of the country and encouraging the invisible export of tourism.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

Would my hon. Friend include among resorts those towns which specialise in drawing conference trade? This is a great problem in Harrogate. The conference centre costs our ratepayers a great deal of money and brings a great number of people not just to the town but to Yorkshire generally. However, we cannot get the formula for grant-related expenditure to take account of this and enable the town to flourish.

Mr. Warren

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, whose devotion to the tourist cause in Harrogate is well known. I pay tribute to the valuable document that he produced during our study. Indeed, recommendations Nos. 20 to 22 refer to business and conference tourism as a new opportunity. What has been done in Harrogate, Bournemouth, Brighton, and now at the Queen Elizabeth hall, represents a style that must be enhanced, but this can be done only with direct and indirect Government help. The Government must recognise the value of those facilities both to the community and to the Treasury.

Another recommendation relates to tourist information centres. I am glad that the Government intend to do something about this aspect. I hope that bodies such as the British Airports Authority and the ports authorities will ensure that information centres are so strategically placed that tourists actually pass them and that leaflets will be available. One that we sampled had nothing available other than advertisements for day trips to France, which did not seem a very good idea. Whatever one thinks of the Channel tunnel enterprise — personally I support it—tourists going in and out of that hole in the ground will expect to be welcomed and to know, when they come up and sniff the beautiful air of Kent or Sussex, where they can go from there and how they can do so as speedily and pleasantly as possible.

The problems of tourism in London are well known, but the response of authorities such as Westminster city council has been disappointing. I hope that the Government will get together with local authorities in the capital to ensure that there are adequate facilities for coach parking rather than just shunting the problem back as something that local authorities ought to deal with. The whole of London — indeed, the whole country — is affected if one cannot get around the streets in a timely and reasonable manner.

A particular concern relating to the way in which the Government look after tourists entering and leaving the country was illustrated during our visit to Cardiff airport. We heard, to our dismay, that one day in the early spring of last year every other airport in western Europe was closed but the stacks of jumbo jets could not land at Cardiff, where they would have been good revenue earners, because Customs and Excise had not been alerted 24 hours in advance. The vagaries of the weather men, let alone the weather, do not often bring such a chance twice. The responsiveness of Customs and Excise needs to be much more real and imaginative—I dread the next time I try to get through the green channel having said that —and not tied to outdated rule books probably devised in the days of the stage coach.

Finally, throughout our study we found that tourism was a good symbol of United Kingdom enterprise, a creator of new enterprise and new opportunities for wealth and employment, bringing wealth and new life to our coasts, our cities and our countryside—and long may it prosper. I commend the amendment to the House.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I should put beyond doubt the matter raised by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). It will have become clear during the speech of the Chairman of the Select Committee that the debate will cover England, Scotland and Wales. I am glad to confirm that the promotion of tourism in all those places may be discussed in the debate.

7.37 pm
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

I am grateful to be called so unexpectedly early in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let me therefore be the first to welcome the opportunity of this debate and of the debates which followed publication of the Select Committee report. Although I do not agree entirely with the analysis by the Chairman of the Select Committee, for territorial reasons which he may well appreciate, the report provoked a debate which was healthy in itself and generated a useful debate in the Scottish press and among Members of Parliament for Scotland.

Mr. Wigley

And Wales.

Mr. Kennedy

And Wales. It raised the whole profile of tourism, which was most helpful and constructive.

Having said that, for once I find myself complimenting the Government on their response to the Select Committee with regard to the retention of the Scottish Tourist Board. I join the Chairman of the Select Committee in deploring the manner in which the manner in which the Government chose to issue their response, but many of us were extremely relieved at the view that they took.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

As there is no other Liberal Member and no Member at all from the SDP in the Chamber for this important debate, will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he speaks on behalf of the Liberal party or merely on his own behalf, and whether he also speaks on behalf of the wholly absent SDP?

Mr. Kennedy

I am happy to set the record straight. I am a Member of the SDP.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Good heavens!

Mr. Kennedy

On this occasion my particular interest is as a Member representing the highlands and islands of Scotland. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) will listen to my reply to his question. In political terms, the highlands and islands speak with a united voice, having two Liberal Members of Parliament and two SDP Members. The hon. Gentleman may take it, therefore, that on this issue I speak for my three hon. Friends completely.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

The hon. Gentleman is confirming that he is the spokesman for the Liberal party, is he?

Mr. Kennedy

That is rather obvious. I speak on behalf of the alliance in this debate, in the same way as, under the conventions and time constraints of the House in the earlier debate, a Liberal Member spoke on behalf of the SDP and the Liberal party.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop


Mr. Kennedy

I think that that is enough. I want to come to more substantive issues.

Mr. Crowther


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's intervention is concerned with tourism and not with party matters. We are discussing the promotion of tourism.

Mr. Crowther

I hope to bring the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) back to the point that he was making before he was interrupted. I wonder whether hon. Members properly understand the recommendation in the Select Committee report on this matter. When it was printed, I pointed out that there was a misprint — although nothing was done about it—in recommendation (2)(c), which states: the creation of boards, for the promotion, within the UK, of tourism in each region of England, of Scotland and of Wales"— but which should read, in each region of England, in Scotland and in Wales". In other words, we were proposing a board for each of the English regions, a board for the whole of Scotland and a board for the whole of Wales, each of them exercising similar powers, responsibilities and duties. I think that that recommendation has not been properly understood.

Mr. Kennedy

That is a very different proposition indeed. If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, the remit of the boards, both regional and national, would not extend to international promotion. The hon. Gentleman is nodding, and I must tell him that I am concerned about that. In Scotland we are rather zealous in guarding some of the promotional ability that we enjoy abroad, not necessarily in tourism, but with such projects as the Locate in Scotland Bureau and the Scottish Development Agency.

Dr. Godman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that hard evidence demonstrates that Scotland has been treated badly in respect of tourism promotion in international markets?

Mr. Kennedy

I endorse the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am concerned about international promotion of the highlands because, for example, it is easy in Tokyo to find out that one can fly to London, but one is not told that it takes only another one and a quarter hours to get to the highlands of Scotland. Therefore, even though the hon. Gentleman and I may be happier about the revised version, we remain unhappy about international promotion.

I had not expected so many interventions in what I thought would he a fairly non-controversial speech. As I know other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall move on swiftly.

In January the Paymaster General set out some of the additional steps that the Government were taking—and they were referred to in the Government's response—on an organisational basis through co-ordination at ministerial level of tourism as a whole. The priority that the Government are giving to that is welcome, and I

However, several points of concern remain. The first ranges across a variety of Government Departments and public concerns, and was reflected both in the Select Committee report and in the speech of its Chairman. Rather like the National Health Service, where too often we think only about decisions by the Minister for Health and not about decisions of Ministers in other Departments, such as Environment or the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which have health implications, tourism can also be greatly affected by decisions in other Departments. I welcome the greater degree of integration, which I hope will lead to greater emphasis on tourism and to the projection and promotion of tourism as a whole.

I referred earlier to the non-publicity for air connections to Scotland, especially the highlands. We are not satisfied that international promotion is making people aware that, having flown into a major international airport such as London, it is easy to take the next short hop to the highlands. The Civil Aviation Authority has put forward a proposal, which requires the approval of the Department of Transport, to change the pattern of flights out of Inverness away from Heathrow and into Gatwick. That would have serious consequences for inward investment, tourism and business. At least the Government's approach allows Ministers in other Departments to have their say about the implications for their Departments of something that is essentially a transport matter, and I welcome that thrust of Government policy.

Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

On two occasions the hon. Gentleman has laboured the point that the British Tourist Authority office in Tokyo tells inquirers about flights to London, but not beyond. Does he accept that if the principal recommendation of the Select Committee had been accepted, a future office in Tokyo would have come under the British Tourist Board and, under that recommendation, would have absorbed not only the current international tourist interest but a far greater involvement in domestic tourism, thereby possibly meeting the hon. Gentleman's point?

Mr. Kennedy

I obviously realise the potential on paper of that argument, but on a variety of issues experience north of the border — I speak not as a political nationalist, but as a nationalistic Scot —has taught us that the best laid schemes somehow do not work out in practice. What is presumed would happen does not happen in the way that we would wish.

Both the Select Committee's report and the Government's response refer to the Government's recognition of the importance of obtaining a good mix between the public and the private sectors inmarketing many of the facilities of tourism. That is a sensible policy. I echo what Dr. Pattison, the chief executive of the Scottish Tourist Board, said about the public sector exercising a prime pumping function to catalyse growth. That sensible emphasis is most welcome.

I can cite the example, which I have mentioned to the Minister previously, of a project in my constituency that involves the possible construction of a mountain railway and ski slopes on Ben Wyvis. That would achieve something that the Select Committee was anxious to achieve—an extension of the parameters of the present tourist season in that area. In that sense, the proposal would be welcome. I believe that it contains the right mix for public and private sector capital. Obviously, the proposal presents exciting opportunities for the highlands, and we- may well hear more about that. Also, it has implications for employment which are not insignificant.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)

I appreciate, as I am sure other hon. Members do, that the hon. Gentleman has been extremely kind and generous in allowing so many interventions. It is important that I intervene at this stage. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) intervened earlier. What he said made me think, and perhaps it will be quoted in later speeches. The matter is of direct relevance to those who may be fortunate in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, who represent constituencies in Wales and Scotland. I think that it is quite clear what the report says in its summary of conclusions and recommendations. I think that what is printed is precisely what the Select Committee intended to say.

Mr. Crowther

No, it is not.

Mr. Trippier

I must intervene at this stage because it may be appropriate for the hon. Member for Rotherham, who may be fortunate in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to make that clear. There is a difference of opinion between the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends, and certainly between him and me.

Mr. Kennedy

I appreciate that there is a difference of opinion about the interpretation and exactitude of the words that have been used in the report. Given that there is such a difference, I hope that it will be teased a little further during the debate. The Minister will appreciate that I have tried to respond to what I thought was the position. I have also given a further response to the redefined position that the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) put forward. I am grateful for the Minister's intervention. There have been quite a number of interventions. I shall not prolong the issue any further.

I welcome the fact that the Select Committee took time, in considering the problem almost internationally, to get down to the nitty-gritty of some issues. I was pleased that the Committee highlighted the issue of signposting. The north of Scotland is cursed by the constraints that are applied on local authorities and private developers in erecting signposts and direction indicators.

The hon. Lady the present Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told us in a debate several years ago, when she was a Transport Minister, that experiments would be carried out. Experiments were carried out in two parts of England, and steps were taken as a result. The brown road signs in the north of Scotland for bypass communities, and so on, are absolutely hopeless. They do not tempt anyone to follow a tourist route. The Government tell us that they are keeping the matter under review. I hope that they will be sympathetic to those who are sick and tired of not being able to get a sign up when they want to indicate to people that they can turn off the road and find a facility. Communities such as those off the A9 in the north of Scotland which find themselves bypassed have only the consolation of a sign that would not tempt people to turn their motor car off the road and explore the area. I do not think that the signs are good enough.

I know that the Scottish Office has an input in that respect. I have argued the matter with the relevant Minister. This debate provides a further opportunity to do so. I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for Scotland is present. I hope that he will endorse the sense of frustration that I have for the inadequate signposting that his Department is putting up in the highlands of Scotland. I hope that he can do something about it. Many matters are to be debated. I welcome such debates. From the earlier interventions, the debate looks as though it will be slightly more controversial over the exact meaning of the Select Committee's report.

7.53 pm
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)

Although tourism employs over 1 million people in this country and makes a vital contribution to the economy, unfortunately its image is not a good one. People in manufacturing industry tend to look down their noses at the services sector, and tourism comes so low down that it is almost touching the floor. Tourism has an uneasy relationship with manufacturing in areas such as Bradford and Keighley which are steeped in textiles and metal-hashing. We still have a job on our hands to persuade people that a belief in the importance of tourism does not reduce one's commitment to the view that this country cannot prosper unless its manufacturing industry is strong.

The latter belief is, I think, self-evident, but it is also a fact that a strong economy is a balanced economy. One of the reasons why many parts of the north of England have suffered so much from unemployment in recent years is that, in common with other regions, we have been dependent on manufacturing. A satisfactory balance between manufacturing and services provides greater flexibility, which enables the slack to be taken up when there is a downturn in the economy.

Much of my constituency is fortunate enough to be served by a newspaper, the Keighley News, which has earned respect because it takes important political issues seriously, even though its editorial policy differs from my own in many respects. Like myself, the newspaper believes that the importance of the manufacturing industry is paramount. I believe that tourism, in its widest sense— the Select Committee pointed out that tourism can include people who are predominantly involved in making visits in connection with their work—can make a significant contribution, while the newspaper regards it of no significance whatsoever. Part of the reason is that it is difficult to quantify employment that flows from the tourist industry. Even the Department of Employment has difficulty in assessing how many people owe their jobs to it, because they are scattered here and there in small units, including retail and catering establishments. However, if it were taken away we would soon recognise the difference.

A distinction is rightly drawn between overnight stays and day trips. There may be justifiable cause for complaint when visitors go to a relatively compact area, such as the south Pennines, as day trippers, imposing extra burdens on local services, but not staying overnight and bringing the extra benefit to the economy that would result. The Select Committee on Trade and Industry, in its report "Tourism in the UK", stated in paragraph 117: We recommend that Government investigates immediately whether the impact of tourism expenditure, particularly from day visitors, is adequately taken into account in the grant related expenditure allocation to local authorities. In their response, the Government admitted that the data on visitor nights which are used in recreation and environmental health GRE allocations were collected during the 1970s. That information is out of date, especially for an area such as Bradford where there has been a big change in recent years, with a new emphasis on tourism that did not previously exist.

The Government state that a more up-to-date system will he considered for possible use in 1987–88, taking account also of a national survey of British leisure day trips undertaken by the tourist boards in co-operation with the Department of Employment. I urge strongly that a firm decision is made to use more up-to-date facts which take account of the growth in tourism in areas such as west Yorkshire, and especially the incidence of day trips. We are losing out in our grant-related expenditure allocation. That will continue unless adequate allowance is made.

When the Local Government Act 1985, which abolished the metropolitan county councils, was completing its passage through Parliament, we heard a great deal about the funding problems that would be experienced by the regional tourist boards. I believe that those fears proved to be unfounded. While there was undoubtedly a period of uncertainty, the issue has been satisfactorily resolved.

The involvement of metropolitan county councils in tourist activities created a great deal of overlap. For a tourist attraction in my area to have to rely on not only the English tourist board but also the west Yorkshire metropolitan county council—which no longer exists—the Bradford district council and the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board to market its attractions, involved a great deal of wasteful effort and expenditure. Although there is still some joint marketing by the districts in west Yorkshire, Bradford people are far better placed to publicise the attractions of the area and their tourist and recreational activities than an authority based some distance away in Wakefield.

Bradford has led the way regionally and nationally in developing its tourist potential, and it has broken a few myths along the route. It is entirely appropriate that Bradford should be one of the four or five areas where the English tourist board has established a tourist development action programme involving a substantial industrial heritage element.

The principal vehicle for tourism development projects is the use of section 4 grants. It is intended that they should be provided only when there is an element of additionality —when the projects would not be embarked on if the grant were not forthcoming. It is difficult to test the validity of such a proposition, but when a grant is offered to one hotel project rather than another in the same area it is difficult to defend such distortion of the market unless one has some basis for the distinction. I know of at least one entrepreneur in my area who is making a good go of it despite having been refused a section 4 grant for no very obvious reason.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

My hon. Friend is making a valuable point, but a major recommendation of our Committee was that the Government pay 30 per cent. of the cost of extending the season by one month, whether at the beginning, the end or both. It must be truly additional. The PAYE returns would show when each establishment was open the previous season. Does my hon. Friend support that recommendation, which the Government have not seen their way to support?

Mr. Waller

That is an interesting suggestion. There is a need to extend the period during which tourists visit Britain, but it is paramount that money invested in the industry, whether through section 4 grants or otherwise, should show a proper benefit. I am reluctant to accept distortions in the market. By and large, I prefer investment to go into infrastructure projects which have an effect throughout the tourist industry.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslopf

Does my hon. Friend consider that to be a distortion? Prolonging the season would mean getting better value for the money invested in infrastructure. Is it a distortion for the Government to provide money so that entrepreneurs can, with 70 per cent. of their own money, discover whether the public will respond to an extension of the season?

Mr. Waller

That is an interesting point. I hope that my hon. Friend is able to develop it, perhaps in his own speech.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

It is in the report.

Mr. Waller

I shall be very interested to hear what my hon. Friend says.

There should be some rationalisation to take account of the fact that the Department of the Environment, which has no direct responsibility for tourism, controls more than 50 per cent. of development funding spent on it by the Government, when one takes into account grants from the European regional development fund. The system by which those resources are disbursed is somewhat unsatisfactory and amounts to a sort of charade whereby certain schemes are tailored to meet the criteria established by the Commission to recycle taxpayers' money into the economy.

Thus, the spending of £8 million on the remodelling and modernisation of the Alhambra theatre in Bradford was justified partly because we could not possibly turn down £2 million which was described as being "from Europe." The Alhambra theatre is complete and undoubtedly an asset to Bradford, and there is now no point in becoming involved in an argument about whether it represents good value for money, although £8 million is a great deal of money. There is, however, something nonsensical about the process by which such projects are assessed.

The Alhambra should teach us another lesson. Nobody who visits it could doubt that, internally, it is marvellously equipped, but tourism demands a high quality of service for visitors. Although the staff are courteous and helpful, I have heard repeated reports of tables piled high with dirty plates, mediocre food, but one typed and tatty menu for the use of all diners and people waiting 40 minutes to be served. It is not surprising that one of my informants told me of the complaints made by a party of Americans at the table next to her. First impressions are important, and if that is what happens I am afraid that people are not likely to come back for more.

One might say that Bradford council should have considered offering the catering service in its new showpiece theatre for tender to the private sector. I am afraid, however, that that is riot the type of radical step that we are likely to have with an administration at the city hall which recently put before ratepayers a programme which would have required an increase of more than 70 per cent. in the rates.

We must also pay more attention to the needs of visitors to different parts of the United Kingdom when erecting signposts, as the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) said. I noted his comments about the efficacy of the white-on-brown signposts, but Ministers in the Department of Transport reported in April that the experiment with such signposts for tourist attractions had been a success. Irrespective of colour, there is a great deal of potential for the use of nevi signs.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have I suffered a sudden defect of eyesight, or have we no Minister on the Front Bench listening to the debate, only the duty Whip?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a matter for me, but he has drawn the Government's attention to the position.

Mr. Waller


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Get a Minister immediately.

Mr. Waller

Many visitors travel by train.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Get a Minister immediately.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mr. Waller

It is important that British Rail should go out of its way to make it easier for people who are not used to travelling by train in Britain to find their way around the system. Everybody agrees that, in view of overcrowding in London, it is important to spread the benefits of tourism more evenly throughout Britain. In the 1990s, it seems likely that many visitors will arrive via the Channel tunnel. British Rail is already planning to introduce a link between the tunnel and the north-west which avoids a change of station in central London by following a route through Olympia and Willesden. Much of the latent opposition to the Channel tunnel in Yorkshire and the north-east can be mitigated by ensuring that there is a link to the east coast main line as well, although that presents greater difficulty. That should be a priority for British Rail, and I hope that Ministers in the Department of Transport will take an interest in the matter.

The Select Committee drew attention to the possible use of investing funds earmarked for tourism into outstanding rail routes. Among them, the Settle to Carlisle line stands out a mile. Since British Rail started to market it again, the number of people using it has increased tremendously and some stations that have closed are opening again this summer in connection with the Dalesrail venture. In the past few months, the relevant transport users consultative committees have been looking into BR's closure proposals. Although statute provides that such investigations are supposed to take only cases of hardship into account, I know that the excellent chairman of the transport users consultative committee for the north-east, Mr. James Towler, has interpreted the matter somewhat widely. I hope that we can agree that the continued and enhanced use of the line could generate new jobs for many people and that the loss of such jobs would constitute hardship.

Tourist earnings count as an invisible export. Tourism is undervalued because nobody sees the work force streaming into work at the beginning of the day and out again in the evening as they would at a factory, but it is important. It employs more than 1 million people. We should not undervalue it. I hope that we shall put increasing emphasis on it.

8.9 pm

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

I must take up the suggestion made by the Minister earlier and try to clarify the real meaning of paragraph 2(c) of the recommendations made in the first report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry which has caused some dismay. As I mentioned earier, the word "of" repeated in the second line should be "in". I took that up on the day that the report was launched. I discussed it with the Chairman, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren), and with the Clerk to the Committee. It was understood that an erratum slip would be issued, but apparently it was not. I am worried that this has led to so much misunderstanding. I repeat that the intention of the recommendation was that there should be a board in Scotland, a board in Wales and a board in each of the English regions exercising identical powers. I hope that that is now clear.

I shall mention only two or three of the matters brought out in the report. For far too long it has been assumed in many quarters that some parts of the country are suitable for tourism and other parts are not. In the report we tried hard to dispel that myth. Nowhere in Britain could tourism not be developed to the great benefit of the local economy. Many local authorities in the older industrial areas—I include Rotherham—have been too slow in the past to recognise the potential of tourism for economic growth and job generation.

In following the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) I must say that Bradford city council is an exception. Bradford, along with Sheffield and some other councils, has recognised the importance of tourism and is doing something about it. I am pleased that other councils are beginning to catch up. I do not pretend for a minute that tourism can compensate for the appalling loss of jobs in areas such as mine, although it can make a contribution — [Interruption.] I should be most grateful if the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) would allow me to continue my speech.

Tourism can make a contribution to the local economy by bringing new money into an area to the benefit of many service industries, especially the retail and the licensed trades, on which I shall comment later. All this requires a conscious effort. It does not happen by accident. It comes down, in the end, to the local authorities showing a little imagination and then making a firm decision to take tourism seriously. They must accept that things on the local scene which they have taken for granted for years may be of great interest to visitors, especially to American visitors, who are always fascinated by the fact that our history goes back so much further than theirs.

Those things must be exploited, but it all needs organisation. As hon. Members have said, that exploitation needs a good local transport system, adequate car parking, a well-thought-out system of signposting and attention paid to the general attractiveness of the street scene, to cleanliness and to landscaping. When all that has been done, it needs proper promotion in conjunction with the tourist boards. All that costs money. It should be considered as an investment but, unfortunately, the Department of the Environment will consider it merely as an item of revenue expenditure. That can cause problems for authorities which already face the threat of grant penalties or even rate capping.

As the report stated, the Government must consider tourism seriously. If they are to do something about tourism on the scale that we want, and if the authorities are willing to take their share of the work, the Government must show a sense of responsibility by making proper allowances for it in the grant-related expenditure assessment and in the rate support grant settlement. That is vital if we are to make any progress.

I mentioned earlier that an influx of tourists can contribute to the licensed trade in an area. That is mentioned in the report. People cannot spend money in a pub that is not open. The Government agree in their response that there is a need for reform, and their point has been proved, but they say that the problem is to find an opportunity to put the reform into the legislative programme. They must find the legislative time. I do not know why that should be a problem. They have decided to leave water alone, so let them turn their attention to the stronger liquids. There must be plenty of time in the next session for the matter to be dealt with adequately.

I am surprised that the Government got things wrong in the present session. Why on earth did they bring in the silly Shops Bill, which was bound to arouse enormous controversy, and which in the end was thrown out, instead of bringing in a sensible reform of the licensing laws, which they would have got through without much difficulty? That is now all in the past. As I have said, the opportunity will be there next session to do something about this issue. If they will not deal with water, let them deal with beer. I hope that we shall see that legislation in the next session.

Our report has not had as warm a welcome from the Government as I would have hoped. Nevertheless, it has been a useful study. We have made many recommendations, and—who knows?—over the years, many of them may be implemented.

8.15 pm
Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

Just as Mrs. Worthington has, since time immemorial, been urged not to put her daughter on the stage, so most hon. Members here this evening will know that, until recently, to become actively involved in the tourist industry in the broad, especially in hotels, was, to some extent, lacking in respectability. I am delighted to say that that is no longer the case. It is now understood that the tourist industry offers an opportunity for growth and employment. That must be a good thing to discover in a period when not too many growth areas confront us.

I speak at a time when tourism is very much in the public eye, not, I regret to say, because we are in a period —as we have been for the past five or six years—of expansion of tourism, but because in 1986, for various reasons, the number of tourists from the United States appears to have fallen considerably.

In 1986, there is no likelihood that we shall get back the tourists who changed their minds early and booked in groups to visit other places. Yet I wonder whether it is not a good thing that the constant expansion of tourism, which we had almost started to take for granted, has been arrested this year. I do not know whether it is because of the value of the dollar, the Chernobyl nuclear fallout, or terrorism—although I am told by all and sundry that that is the basic reason—but I know that, as the tourist industry has been expanding during recent years, there has been a tendency to take incoming tourists a little for granted. I wonder whether, at the heart of the reduction this year, there is not, to some small extent, an implication that the hotel industry and many other tourist interests have in recent years not been as caring as they might have been. That is just one observation I make, because the debate comes at an important and interesting time.

Some references are made in the report to investment in tourism projects. As one who has some connections with the City of London, I must say that until recently the average City institution would not touch a tourism project with the proverbial bargepole. I have always thought that that was not only a pity, but that it was rather shortsighted.

Just as tourism has become more respectable as a means of employment, so I detect a sign that investment in tourism by the City is becoming more acceptable. I welcome that and hope that it will develop, not only in the theme park areas, to which City attention has already been directed, but to areas for which the Committee discovered little provision—for example, two and three-star hotels in London. There is no doubt that London is well-served by luxury hotels and that many hoarding houses and one-star hotels exist on the periphery, if not close to the centre, but the lack of two and three-star hotel accommodation, to which the Committee drew attention, is something which I hope will be remedied by investment, not least from the City. I learnt today that there are proposals to develop hotels in Greenwich and in the docklands area, and I welcome that prospect.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will not mind my saying that the Government's response to the Select Committee's report is, to say the least, disappointing. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren), the Chairman of the Select Committee, that the speed with which the principal recommendation for a major shake-up in the administration of tourism was rejected was mildly insulting to the considerable thought that went into that report.

I did not expect the recommendation to be acceptable, especially in Scotland and Wales, and, of course, I was not disappointed. However, I was a little surprised that the Government allowed themselves to be subjected to what was evidently considerable pressure from Scotland and Wales to the extent that, well in advance of responding to the other recommendations, they felt it necessary, mildly surreptitiously, to reject the recommendation. I adhere unashamedly to that recommendation. I must tell the Minister that, if we are ever to get tourism on to the same organisational basis as it is in other countries, and to take maximum advantage of its potential, the suggestion of a British tourist board, in one form or another, is an idea whose day will yet come.

The Scottish and Welsh representations misunderstood to some extent the fact that they were to be redirected in their tourist efforts. There should be a British tourist hoard with two arms, one arm to attract tourists, not to Scotland or to Wales, but to Britain, and the other arm to try to maximise the tourism potential within the United Kingdom, not just Wales or Scotland. I must tell the Minister that the speed with which he rejected that recommendation, and the Government's complete failure to recognise that there may be something not absolutely right with the structure of the administration of tourism, is a defect on the part of his Department.

Some time ago I noted a movement in the general direction of the recommendation, in that the chairman of the English tourist board and of the British Tourist Authority had become one and the same person. That could be projected further. The British tourism effort would have been advanced considerably had the basic recommendation been accepted.

The other recommendation made by the Committee which was treated in a cavalier fashion was the suggestion that, to extend the season of tourist activities, there should be some financial inducement. I am prepared to listen to any alternative suggestion which the Government believe is more suited to achieving that objective than the Committee's proposal.

It is distressing that nowhere in the Government's report is there a recognition that some Government assistance might be justified in this area. It may be needed for only one year. It may only be a question of keeping open tourist interests for a little longer. To reject the Committee's suggestion, and seemingly to put nothing in its place, is to underrate the importance of extending the season of tourist operations. I hope that the Minister's reply will be a little more forthcoming than the Government's response to the recommendation by the Select Committee.

I have no inherent wish to see a bureaucracy develop to classify hotels. However, I must draw the Minister's attention to the fact that foreigners, especially Europeans, coming to this country are distressed to discover that whereas they can look in the bedrooms of hotels in, for example, Spain or France, to ascertain the classification of that hotel, in Britain there is no sign to that effect other than those provided in the semi-voluntary schemes of the AA and RAC. Visitors to Britain have a right to expect that there will be some sign of the quality of the hotel that they propose to use, without having the confusion of three stars from the AA or RAC being equivalent to five crowns in another scheme.

If the Government do not believe that they have a responsibility to introduce a classification system — I would accept that—I hope that they understand that, at the very least, they should introduce some sanctions to encourage a much wider voluntary conformity with the schemes that already exist. They have not responded to our recommendation in the way that we had a right to expect after putting in so much thought.

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) mentioned licensing hours. I agree entirely that it would benefit tourism enormously if more flexibility were introduced into licensing hours. I hope that the Government will be persuaded to move in that direction, but if the hon. Gentleman believes, or is trying to make the House believe, that the Government could introduce a Bill along the lines that he suggested without opposition, as he seemed almost to promise, he is either naive himself or he assumes that we are naive. I do not expect that there will be a rapid or early move in this direction, but I hope that the Minister will accept that the United Kingdom's licensing hours remain a major anomaly and create much disturbance in the hotel and catering industry. The sooner there is a move towards greater flexibility the happier I shall be, and I suspect that that is the attitude of the Government as well.

The Committee laboured long and hard to produce the report. We did not expect all our recommendations to be accepted; we understood that some were especially controversial. However, we are disappointed, because not only was our major recommendation rejected out of hand, with what could only have been scant consideration, but the Government's response to our other fairly profound recommendations, whether in accepting or rejecting them, did not provide alternative suggestions. I hope that the Minister will go beyond the Government's response and give us some heart after our labour.

8.30 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I represent a constituency which is not normally associated with tourism. However, I am sure that the House will agree, especially the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley), that that is to change over the next few years. My concern with the report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry — here I disagree utterly and completely with the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) — lies with recommendation 2(a) that the Scottish tourist board should be abolished. I rarely compliment the Government, but I am bound to say that they acted wisely in their response to that recommendation.

The report contains a great deal of sense in its observations on education and training, which are matters on which I shall spend some time. First, it states that tourism in Scotland has an annual value of £1,300 million and accounts for at least 5 per cent. of the work force in Scotland. These facts are to be found in paragraph 54. If we take into account the direct and indirect effects of tourist spending in Scotland, it has been estimated by the Scottish tourist board—long may it stay in existence—that tourism supports about 100,000 jobs, provides over £230 million of income to Scots and contributes over £130 million to the public purse. Given the remorseless decline of large segments of Scottish manufacturing industry—I refer especially to steel, shipbuilding and engineering and the coal industry — tourism remains one of the few bright prospects for the rehabilitation of the Scottish economy.

It is vital that Government policy is designed to secure the maximum benefit for our growing tourist industry. Tourism, however, remains vulnerable. It is an amalgam of many diverse activities and carefully selected policies are needed that are designed to protect its health and sustain its growth.

Despite what I said about my constituency, I wish to raise a constituency matter. I say to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) that I regret that a Scottish Minister is not on the Government Front Bench this evening. I am sure, however, that the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will pass on my remarks to the Secretary of State for Scotland. My constituency is racked by unemployment and has a male unemployment rate of fully 26 per cent. It has seen the continuing decline of numerous traditional industries, some of which have disappeared in recent years. Shipbuilding and marine engineering have declined and only one sugar refinery remains. Rope making has declined as well. Many traditional industries have suffered, yet the record of IBM demonstrates that in Greenock and Port Glasgow and the rest of Inverclyde we have a marvellous supply of skills and knowledge.

The Scottish Office, by way of the Scottish Development Agency, has helped to create the lnverclyde initiative. The initiative is seeking to regenerate the Inverclyde district and all of us — certainly all Scots Members—wish those involved well. My chief complaint against the Scottish Office and its Ministers is that public investment is somewhat meagre. I have sought unsuccessfully to persuade Ministers to provide more money for the initiative, and it is my view that lnverclyde could be an important area of tourism in Scotland. To that end, I hope sincerely that the Government will give every encouragement to the application which is being made by the Inverclyde initiative for a grant from the European social fund for a tourist industry training scheme. The scheme is designed for the unemployed who are aged under 25 years. It is a three-year innovatory programme that will experiment in different forms of training that are allied to the creation of new businesses in the tourist industry, which the Inverclyde initiative intends to stimulate.

For the year 1988, the initiative is seeking £48,000 from the European social fund. That will have to be matched pound for pound by the Government. Given such a modest request, the Government should support the application wholeheartedly.

Tourism spending penetrates all aspects of the Scottish economy. It remains remarkably vulnerable, however, to fluctuations in the patterns of tourist activity. A strong pound, for example, tempts ever more British tourists abroad and deters foreign visitors from coming to Great Britain. Other international events have the same effect, and we must bear in mind the Libyan crisis. I think that it was the Department of Employment which suggested recently that the number of American visitors to Great Britain had declined by 19 per cent. in the year that ended in June. Overall, the number of foreign visitors is down by about 15 per cent. over the year.

The consequence is inevitably a downturn in economic activity and a quite serious loss of jobs. Tourist-related jobs in Scotland are still largely of lowly status and are dominated by temporary and part time employment. Much needed employment is created for women, but these jobs are often lowly paid and insufficient to provide a primary wage.

There are structural weakenesses in the tourist industry which must be tackled with assistance from the Government and the state. For example, tourist businesses in Scotland are typically small scale. Almost two thirds of them employ no more than five people. Secondly, there is a substantial turnover among tourism-related businesses. As many as 50 per cent. of the businesses that offer accommodation in Scotland have been established in the past five years. Thirdly, few business men in the tourist industry in Scotland — less than 25 per cent. — have formal qualifications for the work that they do. Fourthly, the majority of these business men have no experience of the tourist industry when taking up ventures within it. These are major structural weaknesses, and I suspect that they are not peculiar to the Scottish industry.

I shall direct myself to key areas in the determination of state policy. The Government need to be more sympathetic to the case that is being made for tourism. I welcome wholeheartedly the Select Committee's report, despite its recommendation that the Scottish tourist board should be abolished. Government sympathy towards the industry should be based on a recognition of the benefits to the public purse. It has a job-creating capacity and its role, which has been outlined by the sole SDP representative in the Chamber, the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), is in regional, economic and social developments, especially in more remote communities. The Government must always recognise the potential for growth.

Much more emphasis needs to be placed on the domestic market. We must recognise that fluctuations in the value of sterling will make the industry vulnerable to reductions in foreign visitor levels. We in Scotland must do much more to persuade English visitors to come to Scotland. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will agree with me, but there have been dramatic changes in west central Scotland. I am pretty sure that five years ago most Scots Members would not have thought that Glasgow would receive more visitors than Edinburgh. It should not surprise us that Glasgow, with its unparalleled Victorian architecture—if it is matched at all, it is matched only by Sydney — the Burrell collection, fine churches and many different buildings and activities, is an important tourist centre. I look forward to the day when the lower Clyde becomes an important tourist centre.

I return to my central theme. The Government should ensure that tourism planning policies must relate to local development programmes which benefit and stimulate economic and employment growth in the area. I commend to the House the work of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in that respect.

There are many other areas in which the Government could do more. For example, they must develop infrastructures, and recognise, as has been said, the important role played by local authorities in the development of tourist facilities and resources. However, I think that time is against me, so I shall not elaborate on that.

Wider training opportunities for both employers and employees in the tourist industry can and must be provided through the existing educational establishments and facilities. The Government recognised the new needs of Scotland's leisure industries and the deficiencies in existing educational training by establishing the Gunn committee in 1979. However, the Gunn report has still not been published even though the English equivalent, the Yates report, was, I believe, published about two years ago. The Secretary of State for Scotland has a duty to the House and to the STB to ensure that that report is published.

I welcome the Select Committee's report, because it outlines the problems facing the industry. Paragraph 121 reads: At present the provisions for training for a career in tourism are pathetic". I agree with that. I suspect that it is true of the whole of the United Kingdom. The report continues: The BTA estimate that currently the tourist industry in the United Kingdom is generating upwards of 50,000 new jobs a year. This makes it the single biggest provider of new jobs in the economy, and it is vital that adequate education facilities are provided to ensure that people trained in basic skills are there to take the jobs. I wholeheartedly agree with that analysis.

It is encouraging that the Committee also welcomed the intervention of the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry in stressing the need for spending in higher education in order to reflect the importance of training for tourism. The Committee recommends that the Government gives urgent consideration to ensuring that the higher education system is structured so that, throughout the United Kingdom, sufficient people trained with tourism-related qualifications arrive on the job market to meet the needs of the tourism industry. Given the industry's importance to the Scottish economy, that is vital. That recommendation and the accompanying injunctions to develop collaborative links with industry and commerce are timely and are compatible with education institutions working within the framework for academic planning.

The report of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council has an important role to play in leisure management training and tourism training. A responsiveness to changing needs must be a central tenet of any educational institution in that area.

I believe that the key issue is the role of the existing institutions in providing education and training. The Secretary of State's decision, the report of the STEAC and the publication of the Gunn report are all vital. The Dunfermline college of physical education, which is in Edinburgh—so there are no constituency marks for my next point — has earned itself an important role by diversifying into this area of education and training during the past decade. I am happy to pay a richly deserved compliment to that college's management. It is vital that everything should be done to ensure that it continues to play that role, and that the college management should be allowed to continue its pioneering work unfettered. Education, training, research and development are as important to the tourist industry as they are to any other industry in the United Kingdom. That cannot he stressed enough.

8.44 pm
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

I congratulate the Government on rearranging the business this week so that we can debate this subject tonight. I believe that there is no more important subject than the development of the tourist industry. But the timing of the debate is also good, because the number of tourists coming to Britain has taken a bit of a dive due to anxieties felt in the United States about the possibility of terrorist attacks— which have not, thank heaven, occurred—and to the strength of the pound against the dollar.

Nevertheless, it is important that we should consider the long-term strategy for developing tourism still further in this country. As has been said many times, jobs in the tourist sector are real jobs. We are talking about career opportunities and jobs. In the tourist industry, there are many diverse types of job. Moreover, many of those involved in manufacturing depend on tourists as well as on people in this country to buy their goods.

There is also a large labour content in tourism. The hotel and catering industry employs many people, and provides them with real jobs. Those jobs are not servile. For some reason, we have allowed it to be accepted that it is a servile occupation to wait in a restaurant or to serve in a hotel. The same attitude is not found in other countries — notably, the United States. In the United States, it is a joy to be served by people who have a professional interest in doing the job. They do it extremely well, and no one would ever say that they had a servile occupation.

We must raise educational standards in this country and train people in the right way. We must achieve the necessary attitude of mind if they are to play a real part in developing our tourist industry. I read with interest the Government's response to the recommendations contained in the excellent report of the Select Committee. Indeed, I pay a warm tribute to the work carried out by the members of that Committee for investigating the matter thoroughly and producing a stimulating and informative report which can be built on. I am not necessarily saying that I agree with everything in it, but there is an enormous amount with which I agree. I know that much work goes into providing the information available in the report, and I also know of the time involved in visiting different parts of the country. Such visits are vital if Members of Parliament are to obtain the right information and have first-hand knowledge.

The Government should take a bold step on education. It is not enough for the Government to say that they will encourage colleges to increase the number of courses available for career training in tourism. We must do something much bolder than that. We must increase the number of courses available and their content. It is important to have full discussions with those in the industry, so that our school leavers can go into the jobs that are available in the industry. It is vital that we should consider this issue within the broad context of what we are trying to do, and ensure that enough money is made available to do it. It is estimated that up to 250,000 new jobs will be created in the tourist industry during the next five years. We must provide people to fill those jobs.

A number of important courses are held within our universities, polytechnics and colleges. I do not criticise any of those courses, but I have to say that they do not go far enough in covering the breadth of the disciplines in the tourist industry. I should like to see a new college of excellence set up, and I have made that recommendation before. It could be set up on the lines of the Royal College of Art. That is one of our most excellent colleges and is regarded as such in the architectural design and art professions in Britain. It could also be a college on a par with Imperial college. The industry needs a focal point, and that is my reason for making that suggestion.

The subject of conferences is important for many hon. Members, and not least for me because my constituency has a fine conference centre. The report refers to the need to improve the promotion of Britain as a base for conferences. I echo that recommendation. Something more should be done to build Britain's reputation as a pleasant, enjoyable and safe place for international conferences. It is a highly competitive business, and we must recognise that we are in strict competition with Europe, the United States and other countries.

The Government have said that they will have discussions about this with the British Tourist Authority. I hope that they will take it further than just having discussions and will ensure that there is sufficient promotional finance available. Whichever way we look at it, money will be necessary if proper promotion is to be undertaken.

The report refers to the difficulties in constituencies like mine over the wholly inadequate system of calculating the grant-related expenditure formula. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said, the data on which grant-related expenditure and visitor numbers are calculated go back to the 1970s. That is wholly out of step with changes that have taken place, not least in my constituency. It seems unfair that a town which has built a conference centre without any grants from Europe or from the Government, but has funded it wholly from the resources available to it in the form of loans and capital which bear heavily on the ratepayers, should, over successive years, have a reduction in the amount from the grant-related formula that has resulted in a high proportion of rates falling on each ratepayer to finance the conference centre. That also applies to a number of towns in Britain.

We have to recognise that a conference centre is not just for the benefit of a single town; its benefits go much wider. If the Government will relate the grants that are given to the development of facilities and to certain areas, that mechanism will allow the Government to encourage expenditure on the service sector in different parts of the country where the need is greatest.

Many of my hon. Friends have spoken about flexible licensing hours. I share the desire to see a change in the situation because for too long we have been wholly out of step with Europe and with most of the other countries in the free world. We must do something to change the ridiculous system under which somebody who comes out of a theatre in the evening and goes into a pub for a drink has to down it quickly before he is thrown out into the street because the pub is not allowed to stay open. I hope that in the next session some way will be found to bring licensing legislation before the House.

There is a minor but important way in which we could help people in the catering industry. At the moment restaurants are not permitted to sell alcohol with meals outside normal licensing hours. Extensions are applied for and in many cases freely given, but it is ridiculous that at certain times there is a cut-off and those dining in the restaurant find they cannot order a drink even though they are having a meal. Legislation introduced to correct that would not arouse a great deal of controversy and would go a long way towards easing the problem in restaurants.

We need a more positive approach to planning. Local authorities have begun to see the advantages of tourist projects. By responding quickly to applications, we can arouse enthusiasm and harness it to ensure that projects funded by private enterprise get off the ground. All too often an application is submitted and then there is a delay because of an inquiry or whatever. By the time it gets to the point where the planner is told that he can go ahead with the project, the people who are sponsoring it are fed up with the whole thing. That is because the climate has possibly changed and interest rates have gone up or down and nothing has happened and everybody has wasted two years of effort. Something needs to be done to spur on projects that will lead to employment.

We need to improve our methods of disseminating information about tourist areas. It is ridiculous that one cannot get adequate information at the point of port entry or at railway stations where people from abroad want to find out about travel. I know that something is being done, but let us do it fast and firmly.

The Select Committee report speaks about the grant of - 30 per cent. towards the labour cost of keeping facilities open during an extra month at an unpopular time in the year. I depart from the members of the Committee on this recommendation because it could lead to a tiumber of facilities being kept open for which there was no proper demand. One cannot successfully keep an ice cream parlour open if there is no one around to eat ice cream or go to a fun fair. Such money could be applied to building an infrastructure that would allow people more time to enjoy their leisure pursuits protected from the vagaries of our weather.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Does my hon. Friend think that people who have to pay 70 per cent. for keeping facilities open, because the recommended grant is only 30 per cent. of the labour costs and includes nothing towards overheads, would abuse that as they have to pay 70 per cent. out of their own pockets?

Mr. Banks

One of the problems would be defining which facilities or types of projects would apply for it. There is also a bureaucratic element in providing the grants for one twelfth of the year, and it could be abused. People would be inclined to take a gamble on the weather. If the weather was good, the results might be successful. It would be much better to provide people with protection from the weather.

Once again, I reiterate the importance of this debate. Our last debate on tourism took place some time ago. The tourist industry will provide more jobs, and that is what life is all about.

8.59 pm
Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)

I, too, welcome the report on tourism. It focuses attention on an extremely important industry.

First, I must declare two interests. Neither of them is particularly recent, but they are relevant to this debate. Early in this Parliament I was a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. It was at the time that the study of tourism was mooted. I had left the Committee by the time it began its deliberations on tourism, but I am pleased to say that during its deliberations the members of the Committee visited my constituency. Knowing of my interest in tourism, the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren), invited me to its meetings. They took place at Battle abbey and at Herstmonceux castle. Both meetings were interesting and useful. I shall deal later in my speech with the considerable and widespread interest in tourism in my constituency.

The second interest that I have to declare is that I began my business career by working in the tourist industry. When I left an American business school 20 years ago I went to work for the president of the American Express Company in New York. From that vantage point I quickly saw the importance of tourism to the national economies of countries large and small. Equally evident were the business ramifications of the international travel trade, not simply for hotels and restaurants and the turnstiles at historic monuments, but for high street shops, local transport, car rental and local publishing companies and many other businesses besides.

The Select Committee's report has highlighted the fundamental importance of tourism to this country. I shall not dwell on the statistics. However, the spending of £9 billion on tourism and the employment of I million people full-time and another 400,000 part-time speaks for itself. The British Tourist Authority has predicted that in 1988 about 16 million foreign visitors will come to this country. If tourist traffic continues to grow at the rate of 4 per cent. a year, another 400,000 people could be employed in the tourist trade by the early 1990s.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) pointed out that the tourist industry cannot be compared with the engineering industry or with any of the other great manufacturing industries in that there are no centres of mass employment. Employment in the tourist industry is diffused across the country. Nevertheless, employment in the tourist industry is vital. In our seaside resorts and in many other places the local community identifies its prosperity with the volume of tourist business that it enjoys.

Comments have been made about the Government's role in tourism and their response to the Select Committee's report. A number of Government initiatives are highlighted by the report. They are very welcome initiatives. The report says that, under the Development of Tourism Act 1969, about £14.5 million was spent on tourism in 1984 and that the Department of the Environment spent £17 million. Some of that money was spent under the guise of English Heritage, to which I shall refer in a moment.

The report also points out that under this Government central ministerial responsibility for tourism has been established. The responsibility is now in the hands of the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who is sitting on the Treasury Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier).

I wish to refer to two aspects of tourist development in my constituency, both of which were touched on by the Select Committee when it visited Battle abbey and Herstmonceux castle. There are numerous tourist attractions in my constituency of Bexhill and Battle. There are the seaside resorts, such as Bexhill-on-Sea, Norman's bay and Pevensey bay. It also contains a number of historic sites. Apart from Battle abbey, there are three castles in the constituency: Bodiam, Pevensey and Herstmonceux.

When the Select Committee visited Battle, it would have seen that tourism is very much part of the way of life there. People are attracted to Battle not only during the summer. For example, the Battle bonfire boys have been in existence for 300 years and they attract about 10,000 visitors to their bonfire night. That means much to local business. Furthermore, local business is making its own contribution by means of the "1066 Country" initiative. The East Sussex county council, the Rother district council and others are determined to focus as much attention as they can on the attractions of the history of that part of Sussex.

The Government are also playing a part by developing the local infrastructure, both in roads, as in the case of A21 and A27 improvements, and in the railway line. However, two particularly important points need to be brought to the attention of my hon. Friend. The first concerns investment by English Heritage in that part of Sussex. The Select Committee saw Battle abbey, where there are positive plans to develop tourism. It did not see Pevensey castle, however, where there is a small but nevertheless definite problem. The castle is looked after by English Heritage, but the Pevensey Town Trust is supposed to look after the environs. Only a few weeks ago the trust found that it had no funds to maintain the Pevensey cattle market site, which is the local car park, and had to close it. This has had a direct effect on local tourism. That is a typical example of how English Heritage could extend the scope of its activities if it were a little more ambitious and looked further than the project at Battle abbey.

English Heritage has also recently examined the Roman ruins at Beauport park, which could be developed and would bring more tourist trade both to Hastings and to Battle, and to the surrounding areas. Perhaps most important of all is Herstmonceux castle. I suspect that I would be ruled out of order if I were to embark on the various scientific arguments that surround the proposed move of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. However, the future of tourism at Herstmonceux castle is inextricably bound up with the decision to make that move.

The Chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council said in March that tourism was not part of his brief. Together with my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and for Hastings and Rye we pointed out to the Science and Engineering Research Council that tourism was a significant business in Herstmonceux and had attracted over 60,000 visitors. Since then, the council has made some important concessions on tourism. It has agreed to leave the astronomy exhibition centre in the park surrounding Herstmonceux castle, and will also leave some working observatories—the Equatorial Group—which should be sufficient attraction in themselves to make sure that the local tourist trade is not impaired.

The future of the castle remains a central concern to all those in east Sussex who wish to see tourism develop. I have suggested to English Heritage and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the council should begin urgent consultations with English Heritage to see whether it cannot transfer or sell Herstmonceux castle to English Heritage. It would be a tragedy if, to raise the money that it needs to fund the proposed move of the observatory to Cambridge, the council sold the castle into private hands and the public could no longer visit it. Even with the astronomy exhibition centre in operation, the attractions of the castle itself would be lost to the visiting public, and that is something that we must avoid at all costs.

I hope that my hon. Friend will bear my next point in mind. Yesterday during Education and Science Questions, it seemed clear from the answers given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would not interfere with the council's decision. If that means that he will not guide it on the sale of the castle, tourism in east Sussex will be badly damaged. That is of central concern and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will respond to it in replying to the debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will consider that English Heritage can expand its investment in east Sussex at Battle abbey and at Herstmonceux castle. If so, we shall see more people employed in the tourist trade in that part of southern England.

9.9 pm

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I wish to address myself to a restricted focus within the Select Committee report and the Government's response to it, that of seasonality. Great as is the employment provided by the tourist industry, its greatest single shortcoming is its seasonality — the fact that it does not provide employment for 12 months of the year. In most cases it does not provide pensionable employment. Therefore, the Select Committee was much taxed by the means through which the Government could assist in promoting what must be Government policy — that this enormous industry should be perennial rather than seasonal.

We discovered a circular position. Hoteliers complained that they could not attract residents because the facilities either did not open, or had closed, while many of the operators of facilities complained they could not keep their facilities open because there were not sufficient people in the hotels to patronise them. Both claims have demonstrable truth and justice in them. How, therefore, do we break out of that? How do we persuade operators to stay open later, or to open earlier in the year than they are prepared to do in their commercial judgment?

The Committee's answer was that the Government should pay a grant of 30 per cent. of the labour costs, not the overheads, of operators staying open for one month extra, for two years. We claim no magic for the figure of 30 per cent. We did not make any recommendation about whether the month should be in one slug, at the beginning or the end. PAYE returns will show when businesses were open in the previous year. The Committee has also recognised that many of the enterprises providing facilities for tourists are run by the self-employed, so that recommendation must apply to the self-employed as well as to the employing.

I am deeply disappointed that the Government's response was wholly negative, and I do not know how the Minister wishes us to interpret his apparent assertion that the tourist boards are responsible with him for rejecting the recommendation. Page 8 of the Government's response states: The Government's view, shared by the tourist boards, is that the combination of creative marketing with selected project development is the most effective way of dealing with the problems of seasonality and that the growing success of the Boards' campaign makes it unnecessary to explore alternative approaches such as subsidising the labour costs of tourist facilities in the way the Select Committee has suggested. None of the tourist boards had the courtesy to write to the Select Committee to say that they were advising the Minister to reject the recommendation. I do not wish to accuse them unjustly, and I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to intervene now if his reply has been misread. If he is attributing to the tourist hoards advice to him to reject our suggestion which they have not made to him, I ask him to intervene now and correct me so that I do not attribute to them something that they have not done.

Mr. Trippier

Let me make it absolutely clear that the view expressed by the hoards is the view shared by the Government—the Department of Employment—and, if my hon. Friend wishes, me in particular. I shall refer to that when I reply and try to develop the reasons why I reject the proposition.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am wholly happy that my hon. Friend should tell me why the Government reject it. But he appears to be attributing the Government's rejection to the tourist boards' rejection. The tourist boards have not told the Select Committee that they rejected our suggestion. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to send the Clerk of our Committee the letters from the tourist boards in which they have advised him to reject the specific recommendation of our Committee. My hon. Friend is inviting the House to reject our recommendation in paragraph 109 on the basis of the tourist boards' advice, and I am wholly unaware that the tourist boards have given any such advice.

Mr. Trippier

I do not understand how my hon. Friend interprets that from the paragraph that he has read out which is at the top of page 8. The first line says: The Government's view, shared by the tourist boards". What is wrong with that'?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

The tourist boards have not expressed any such view to the Select Committee. All I am saying is that if they have expressed such a view to my hon. Friend the Minister, but have not bothered to tell the Select Committee, I, and I am sure my colleagues on the Select Committee, would like to know the terms in which they have advised my hon. Friend the Minister to reject that.

I can do little better than specifically to draw to the attention of the House paragraph 109 — and I am not given to reading to the House. We said: A circular situation can exist whereby tourist facilities of all kinds close as what is seen as the 'season' draws to its end: and accommodation for tourists closes as there are not enough facilities still open to attract people into an economic occupation of the accommodation. Yet it is in the public interest to lengthen the holiday season, both to prolong employment and to get the best return from the public investment in infrastructure and holiday facilities. I do not see how anybody can depart from that reasoning. We go on to say: PAYE records will, in most cases, show during what period facilities were in fact functioning in a given year. It might be possible therefore to break this unproductive cycle by offering public money to pay a proportion of the labour costs of remaining open for a specified period longer than the previous year, both to promote longer employment, and to measure the cumulative effect of such a prolongation. The Committee did not claim that it knew the answer to such an experiment. We believe that such an experiment is worth while, and that nobody can know the answer until the experiment has been conducted.

We then go on in bold print with our recommendation. which says: We therefore recommend that for two years the Government should pay a grant of 30 per cent. of the labour cost of tourist facilities remaining open for one month additional to the period which the enterprise concerned (be it accommodation, catering, or other holiday facility) was open in the previous year, the regional tourist board being the arbiter for payment and qualification. That is one of the most constructive and positive suggestions that the Committee put forward. From whomever we took evidence, the point was made that it is an immensely seasonal business.

I must point out to my hon. Friend the Minister that the Government are moving more and more in the direction of wanting the private sector to take over the financing of pensions for people in this country, rather than the public sector. If they hold that view coherently and consistently, they must want the tourist industry, which is now such a major employer, to be perennial and to supply pensionable employment rather than seasonal and not supply pensionable employment.

It is all very well for the Minister to reject our recommendation and say: The Government's view, shared by the tourist boards, is that a combination of creative marketing with selected project development is the most effective way of dealing with the problem of seasonality". But has it been effective? It has not.

I do not believe that the tourist boards have written to my hon. Friend saying, "Reject the Committee's view and we will support you." I believe that if they had done so my hon. Friend would have the elementary courtesy to send the Committee copies of the letters concerned, which he has not done. I also believe that the tourist boards would have sent us copies. I believe, in the absence of such evidence, that he is attributing to the tourist boards a view which they have not expressed.

Mr. Kennedy

A conspiracy.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am not indulging in conspiracy theories, but I do believe that he is attributing to the tourist boards a specific view of our recommendations that they have not expressed.

I have focused on this point because my personal opinion is that the seasonality of the industry is one of its greatest vices as an employer. The Committee was much seized of that point. Of course, we covered many other things as well; but my dedication is not to expanding peaks, important as that is, but to turning the industry into a perennial one.

Look through the rest of our report, with its many useful and valuable recommendations, and accept them if the Government will, but why reject one of the most creative suggestions, where 70 per cent. of the labour cost risk and the whole of the overhead cost risk falls on the entrepreneur who applies for the grant? Why is it likely to be abused, when 70 per cent. of labour costs and the whole of the overhead costs fall on the entrepreneur who takes advantage of it? I suspect that it is rejected because it involves spending a bit more money. That is my honest opinion. I ask my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is now in charge of tourism throughout the United Kingdom, to reconsider this. It is a very good bargain for the taxpayer because the people who will be taken on would otherwise be drawing unemployment benefit or supplementary benefit.

Undeniably, it costs hoteliers more money to open earlier or stay open later. Staying open later can involve heating costs which can be considerable. Opening earlier may involve them in additional advertisement costs, but we want to persuade them to put their foot in the water and find that it is not freezing. We want to persuade them to try a longer season, slightly reducing their exposure, and then find that it pays them, so that after two years they would do it wholly with their own money and not at all with the Government's. We say two years. In the second year— let there be no misunderstanding about this—it would have to be a month longer than in the first year — [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Minister wish to contribute?

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Tony Newton)


Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I hoped that he would.

In the second year, those who wanted to benefit would have to be open two months longer than in the base year. That is the proposition that has been dismissed in such a cavalier way. I should like to see the letters from the tourist board because I should like to know the reasons that they gave the Minister—if they did, because I do not believe that they did — for turning down that positive recommendation.

The only other comment that I wish to make is about our structural recommendations. The money spent on promotion of tourism can do three things. It can persuade people to come from abroad to the United Kingdom who otherwise would not have come. It can persuade people from abroad to spend money on a longer tourist season in Britain, or it can rob Peter to pay Paul: it can merely persuade people to go to one location in the United Kingdom rather than another.

Unfortunately, it is that third facet that can well involve much public expenditure. At the moment, because we have a different system of financing from public money, from the Consolidated Fund, from the same taxpayers' money, tourism in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland compared with England, there are no cohesive parameters to that expenditure. That is why the Committee recommended a structure for the United Kingdom as a whole. We did not make recommendations as to what its criteria should be internally, but we recommended having a coherent structure, which we do not have at the moment.

My hon. Friend the Minister and, indeed, the House may be unaware that when we asked the civil servants from the Department of Trade and Industry who was responsible for the overall allocation of money within the United Kingdom on tourism they said that the Treasury was. We then sent for Treasury Ministers and said that the Department of Trade and Industry had said that they were responsible. We asked what their criteria were. The answer was, "They were wrong: we are not responsible." So we ended up discovering that nobody is responsible. This must be the only aspect of public expenditure in which no Minister acknowledges being responsible for the allocation of expenditure within the United Kingdom. That is unique.

In rejecting the Committee's recommendations, the Government have not put anything in the place of our recommendation. It is just left hanging in the air, with the Government rejecting our recommendation. Remember— I say "remember" because it is forgotten — that the Select Committees were set up in the first place to replace the old Estimates Committee and to try to bring coherence into public accountability. That is often forgotten.

If my hon. Friend the Minister rejects the Select Committee's solution to the problem of a coherent allocation of funds throughout the United Kingdom, what does he propose to put In its place? Does he propose to put nothing in its place, and to continue the existing system where there is no rationale within the United Kingdom for expenditure from the Consolidated Fund between England, Scotland, Wales, and Ulster? That is the conundrum into which my hon. Friend the Minister will plunge the Government if he rejects the Select Committee's recommendation.

My hon. Friend the Minister was perfectly entitled to find another solution in place of that suggested by the Select Committee. However, if he rejects the Select Committee's solution after the problem has been exposed and puts nothing in its place for the coherent allocation of funds for the promotion of tourism, by default he will state that he and the Government are happy with a chaotic, unjustifiable, illogical, irrational and capricious allocation of public expenditure between the different parts of the United Kingdom.

9.31 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

We have had an example in this debate of Select Committees working at their best. I believe that the Select Committee report is of a high quality. It is full of interesting and positive ideas.

The contributions by the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren), and by the other members of the Committee have shown the wide range of expertise that was brought to the task. Reading the report was an education for me.

On the other hand, the Government response to the report has been—to be polite—dismal. We have seen a fund of interesting ideas and a dismal Government response. The Government, in the face of these interesting recommendations, have more or less said, "Very interesting, but none of them is workable and the Treasury would not like them anyway."

Enough hon. Members have stressed how vital tourism is. Expenditure in the industry was £10 billion in 1984 and the forecast for 1988 is £14 billion. The industry employs more than 1 million workers and is on course to be the largest employer in the nation. Some of us have been guilty in the past—and at times we should admit such guilt—of ridiculing service industries such as tourism. Many of us have learnt that we should not do that to an industry which is bigger than most of the other manufacturing sectors and which has more potential than most.

The Select Committee report has produced some fascinating information. It reveals that 50 million overseas visitors come to this country, of whom 20 per cent. are business and conference visitors. That is a healthy trend and things appear to be on course, although there has been a sad setback. Over the past weeks I have spoken to people in the tourist business. Many believe that they are entitled to compensation from the Government as they have received a tremendous slap to their revenue, income and livelihood because of the Government's decision to offer bases to the United States. Perhaps some of the costs of the promotional work being carried out by British Airways and others in the United States should be taken up by the Government. I do not see why British Airways, British Caledonian and others should have to pay to correct a problem which has arisen through no fault of their own.

The Select Committee also dug up other worrying matters. The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) referred to the seasonality of tourism in some depth and made some interesting points. Employment in the tourist industry is not all short-term, seasonal, low-paid or on the whim of an employer for a few days or weeks. There is much long-term, pensionable employment in the tourist industry and the Opposition would be the first to admit that. But there is also a lot of the other kind of employment. As in every other industry, I hope that good, non-seasonal, well-paid jobs will emerge in the tourist industry. One way to achieve that is through better trade union organisation and better standards of work.

The very high level of unemployment in this country also affects domestic tourism. As the Select Committee pointed out, we are talking about not just foreigners coming here but British people holidaying in Britain. The most chilling figure in the report is that 40 per cent. of British people never have a holiday away from home, either here or overseas. That is a sobering thought for those who, like most Members of Parliament, have holidays every year, and it is a sad comment on the perspectives and prospects of many people's lives in 1986. There is major scope for the expansion of domestic tourism.

We have a vital and important tourist industry, but there is much to be done. What seems to emerge from the report of the all-party Select Committee is a desire not just for coherence, to which the hon. Member for Tiverton referred, but for a positive, creative Government policy for tourism. The Government brag about developments in tourism, sometimes as a political move to draw people's eyes away from the terrible decline in manufacturing industry, but at the bottom line of their response to the report there is no positive policy for the development of the tourist industry in the long term. Many of the Select Committee recommendations suggest that there should be such a policy, but that Government policy at present is uncertain, fragmented and unco-ordinated.

One does not have to agree with all the Select Committee's proposals on structure to understand the need to do something about the national, regional and local organisation of tourism in this country and its promotion overseas, and nothing that has been said in the debate has persuaded me otherwise. This most important industry must have a positive, planned approach, because without such an approach — ironically, this is the problem — it runs against market forces. The Government are still dominated by the idea that everything will turn out all right if market forces are allowed to go their own way, but in the tourist industry the result will be disaster. In this, as in so many other industries, we need a positive relationship between the private and the public sectors.

I mention just one small instance. There has been the most wonderful rebirth of the canal system in this country, especially in my constituency and in that of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), both of which are linked by canals. The canal system has been brought back to life not by private investment but by public investment. That development has just begun and it has a great future. Once the public sector, whether it be central or local government, makes the heavy investment necessary to bring the system back to life, the private sector will move in to build hotels, leisure facilities, pubs, and the rest—and so it should. But first there must be a planned investment in the infrastructure. A positive relationship between the private and public sectors is therefore vital.

Planning is also important in relation to the short season of employment in the tourist industry. I have listened carefully to what has been said about this aspect, and I believe that the Government should think again about the very positive measures that have been suggested. They have been rejected because it means the Government taking an initiative and saying — pragmatically, not ideologically — "We shall try having the public sector take a lead."

A matter to which the Select Committee did not turn its mind, but which affects me as I have four children of school age, is the blight on tourism of school holidays and the traditional works and factory holidays. As many people are restricted to taking their holidays in just six weeks of the year, it is no wonder that the tourist season is so short. It might be sensible to discuss that narrow vision of holidays with the Department of Education and Science because it is important to expand the tourist season.

I have great sympathy with the Minister, who has a large brief. I know that, because I have a large shadow brief. It is impossible to give a Minister a brief for education and training, virtually the whole of the Manpower Services Commission, co-operatives and small businesses, and at the end to add tourism. We need a Minister who can devote a great deal of his time to tourism. It is a vital industry, so why is there not a Minister responsible for tourism who could bring together the Departments concerned?

I believe that the shift in responsibility for tourism from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Employment was a retrograde step, made for political purposes.

Mr. Trippier


Mr. Sheerman

The Minister and I have to disagree on some matters.

There should be not a positive public relations exercise, but a real shift in emphasis to a Minister with real power co-ordinating all the efforts in the tourist industry. There must be a more positive lead from the Government in creative partnership between the private and public sectors. A creative partnership in many tourism and leisure projects could be beneficial in the medium to long term. The public sector could provide the essential infrastructure and the private sector could build on it. How can there be forward planning without a real move towards thinking and planning for the long term?

The Select Committee must surely have noticed, as it went about the country, that some of the most important initiatives in tourism development have been taken by local councils. West Yorkshire has suffered a body blow to tourist development with the abolition of the metropolitan county council, which was carrying out positive and creative work in tourism. That gap cannot be filled in the short term by the local councils. The Select Committee must surely have realised that, with the one hand, the Government have abolished some authorities while, with the other, they have placed the remaining local authorities in a straitjacket as regards the amount of finance and initiative they can put into tourist development. They are hampered at every turn. They have lost their ability under section 142 to raise money, and they have no compensation because of the abolition of the metropolitan counties. That has been a sad blow to local authorities which have been trying to show the way forward. Local councils know what they can do in their own areas.

We want a tourist policy that reaches the parts that tourist policy has never reached before. Tourism is ready to be exploited all over the region in areas such as my own. Good jobs can be created out of tourism.

Promotion is not enough. Someone said to me the other day that tourists come to this country to learn about British history, not to experience it. That is important to remember.

These days, people expect high standards of service. I have heard many remarks about poor service in this country. That leads me to education and training. The Government's policies and their answers to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry are laughable. If industrial training boards are abolished, training takes place on a voluntary basis. We know that not every industry carries out training. The tourist industry cannot be excused for not undertaking enough training and for not achieving high quality training.

The hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), made an excellent point when he said that we need a centre of excellence. Cornell university, across the Atlantic, has a magnificent hotel management course. That course is renowned. It is in one of the best universities in America. Let us compare that with our education and training effort. We need to train people properly.

Many people in this country do not like service. The class system does not exist in the United States. I dine in restaurants in London quite often. I have seen guests treat waiters and waitresses in a way that they would never treat them in the United States. That is another reason why people do not like service. Let us have tourism, but let us have a positive, planned tourist policy that takes us somewhere, and let us have a Government who will deliver it.

9.46 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)

We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate on what is, I think we would all agree, one of the most important subjects that we could discuss on the Floor of the House. I am disappointed that members of the Select Committee are concerned about the Government's reply to the Committee's recommendations. I found that the Select Committee carried out a detailed and thorough study. Its contribution to the debate on tourism is widely welcomed, and I can agree with much of the report.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Ongar (Mr. McCrindle) accurately described some of the issues as controversial. It was the major ones which were controversial and which, in the end, we rejected. I think that I am under a moral obligation, in the short time that I have at my disposal, to try to elaborate on the reasons why we rejected the two major proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar referred to one, and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) referred to the other.

I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) said at the outset that it had taken a year for the report to be completed. When the report was started, the responsibility for tourism was vested in the Department of Trade and Industry. It is perhaps somewhat strange that it should end up with that Department, but I am glad that it did. It is a bit like Magnus Magnusson on "Mastermind", where once something is started it must be finished. One does actually start with an initiative. I am glad that after all the research and hard work, the report was completed and I welcome many of the proposals. They are a great contribution to the debate.

Of course, an awful lot happened in that year. Although hon. Members have been kind enough to refer to one or two events, the point made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), is the most significant of all. Responsibility for tourism moved from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Employment. Not only did that give a higher profile to the industry, which all hon. Members seemingly support, but it was a clear recognition that we had a sector that had the wealth and job creation potential that we could not see in others.

At the same time, and for exactly the same reasons, we moved the responsibility of sponsorship for small firms. That was pointed out by my noble Friend long before he became Secretary of State for Employment. He was able to see the enormous potential in the sector. Not everybody who has spoken today saw that potential when he did. I should have thought that more credit would be given to him for taking on board the production of PLJ, as we affectionately know it—pleasure, leisure and jobs. That was developing all the time. The White Papers on deregulation are an important part of the process, but as far as I can remember nobody has mentioned them today.

It would be churlish of me to avoid answering questions that hon. Members have asked. The hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) asked me to draw to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland what he said about signposting. I am not sure whether my right hon. and learned Friend was in the Chamber at the time, but I am now under an obligation to write to him. I shall do that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) made an important point. The Department has an enormous task in trying to convince people in the north, especially in local government, of the enormous advantages of tourism and of the potential in their areas. My hon. Friend drew our attention to Bradford. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) talked of local authorities realising the potential in their areas. The Bradford example can be held up to the whole nation. It all started with a photographic museum, which now attracts more than 1 million visitors a year. Who would have thought it? If somebody had told me or the hon. Member for Rotherham 10 years ago that Bradford could be turned into a tourist area and that a major tourist attraction would draw 1 million visitors a year, we should

Mr. Geoff Lawler (Bradford, North)

On behalf of Bradford council, may I thank my hon. Friend for that advertisement? It will be greatly welcomed and I hope that it will generate a lot of custom from hon. Members during the summer recess.

Although it is obviously beneficial to widen the areas of tourism away from the traditional centres, tourism brings to areas such as Bradford an improved environment. More important, it brings an improved image, which leads to all manner of other benefits when it comes to attracting industry and improving the morale of local people in a depressed city area.

Mr. Trippier

The knock-on effect is often missed when we consider these matters. The best thing to come out of the debate—it was hinted at in the Select Committee report — is an acknowledgement of the fact that, whenever possible, we should approach these matters in a bipartisan way. I should like to take this opportunity to pay a compliment to many Labour councillors whom I have met and who have taken responsibility as members of regional tourist boards, for example. Many Conservatives are also involved. When it comes to tourism, they seem to bury the political hatchet and get on with the job, recognising that we have here a sector that can create wealth and work. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the House.

The thrust of the Select Committee's report is that there should he a British tourist board. The Committee used several tables. I appreciate that officials in the House and hon. Members have put in an awful lot of work, and I pay tribute to them for that. The tables, especially those on pages xxix and xxxiii, try to develop the argument that Government funding shows a disproportionate spend in favour of Scotland and Wales compared with England. The correlation between the tourism spend in England and the lower percentage grant is set out elsewhere.

The table that appears on page xxii is interesting, but no one seems to have referred to it. I studied it this afternoon at some length. If we extrapolate the correlation to which my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar referred to its logical conclusion, the tourist spend in London appears to suggest that the Government should support London more than any other area. The spend in London is obviously far higher than elsewhere, and disproportionate. However, I am sure that no one in this place would seriously suggest, unless he were fighting for his London constituency a little overmuch, that the Government should contemplate more spending from the tourism grant on London. It is the Government's policy to try to encourage the dispersal of tourists, which the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye acknowledged, from London into the regions, including areas of higher unemployment.

Mr. Crowther

The Minister is overlooking the fact that according to the table on page xxii the Government are already spending almost twice as much on tourism in London as in any other area listed in the chart.

Mr. Trippier

I thought that someone would say that. When spending is considered in proportion to London's population, it is a drop in the bucket.

No reference has been made to the level of unemployment in Wales and Scotland and how that compares with the average level in England. The latest figures show that there is 16.8 per cent. unemployment in Wales, 15.6 per cent. in Scotland and 12.9 per cent. in England. When Ministers at the Scottish and Welsh Offices gave evidence to the Select Committee they argued effectively, as some hon. Members have today, including the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), that it is extremely difficult to stimulate tourism. The region which I represent in part has the same problem. The problem is faced by the north-west, and very much so in Yorkshire and Humberside. Bradford, however, has shown us what can be done. It has shown other local authorities what the private sector and the Government can do together in partnership. I have no disagreement with the hon. Member for Huddersfield on that ground.

I welcome the contribution of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. It was quite a revelation for me, but not because he said it. I know the hon. Gentleman to be a decent chap. However, he is peddling propaganda which perhaps has not been approved by the Labour party. A number of Labour Members—some of them could be described loosely as distinguished members of the Labour party, like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)— seem from time to time to delight in rubbishing tourism.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East refers to those who are engaged in tourism as glorified ice-cream salesmen. Mr. Ken Livingstone has referred to jobs in tourism as Mickey Mouse jobs. This is serious. The hon. Member for Huddersfield will recognise that as a Minister I have a number of responsibilities and a great deal of work to do, and I think that he will have his work cut out in trying to persuade his right hon. and hon. Friends that they should stop the silly business of rubbishing tourism. We get it whenever there are employment questions, and it does an enormous amount of harm. Most important of all, it is an insult to those who are working in tourism. It is a gross insult to them at whatever level they work.

I hope that I have demonstrated that the Government have given careful consideration to the Select Committee's report. I feel that I am under an obligation to write to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton to explain our thought processes. I shall detail them as far as I am able as they are set out in any letters that may be available to him.

I assure the House that we have given the report very serious consideration. I welcome most of its recommendations. I suppose that the most welcome thing is that we all agree that we have a most dynamic industry, which will certainly go from strength to strength.

9.59 pm
Mr. Warren

I wish only to acknowledge the value of this debate. I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister further study of the statistics that he quoted. At first sight, he may not have interpreted them correctly. However, I value his kind assistance to us in answering the debate, and I hope that his work will lead to extra incentives to promote tourism.

Accordingly, I beg to ask leave to withdrawn the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The original Question was deferred, pursuant to paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 19 (Consideration of Estimates).

It being Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the deferred Questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings on Estimates 1986–87, Class XV, Vote 2 and Class VII, Vote 1.