HC Deb 26 November 1986 vol 106 cc383-404 11.31 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)


Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, Slough)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the documentation that is available on this matter. The report of the Scrutiny Committee dated 18 June 1986 has been available for some time, and it has been added to by a further report of the Scrutiny Committee, which was laid in the Vote Office at about 5 pm today. The later report is available to hon. Members if they have not already seen it.

There is a difficulty, because the motion refers to the explanatory memorandum…dated 24th November 1986". By definition, that was not made available to hon. Members until that day, which was two days ago, and the Scrutiny Committee considered it only today. The matters that arise from that do not come strictly within a point of order, and I recognise that the Minister may have taken this course to assist the House. I shall not pursue the matter further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, other than to say that I shall seek to catch your eye at a later stage if that is appropriate.

Mr. Trippier

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) for his courtesy in taking the time and trouble to write to me about the matter that he has raised. It may assist the hon. Gentleman, members of the Select Committee and, indeed, the whole House, if I make one or two remarks that may clear up the issue.

An explanatory memorandum was submitted to the House on 13 March and the Scrutiny Committee reported on 18 June that the proposal raised questions of political importance and recommended further consideration by the House. At that time we expected one of the proposals to be adopted at the June Internal Market Council, and we were grateful for the Committee's agreement that such consideration need not delay adoption. Adoption, however, did not occur in June, and it now seems likely that two of the proposals will be adopted in December.

I felt it desirable to allow the House to debate the document in advance of adoption, and tonight's debate was arranged accordingly. To ensure that Parliament had the fullest and most recent information available, the latest text of one of the proposals was received in French on Thursday 20 November and the memorandum was submitted to the House on Monday 24 November, which was more than 48 hours before the debate. I apologise to the House for there not being more time for the memorandum to be considered before the debate, but I felt it desirable that it should reflect in the most accurate manner the latest stage of discussions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I think that it is clear to the House, as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has said, that these are not matters for the Chair and cannot really be raised on a point of order. They concern the business of the House, which is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope you will agree that documentation and adequacy of notice are matters for the House and come within the narrow limits of points of order.

Mr. Trippier

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4761/86 of 6th February 1986, a proposal for Community action in the field of tourism, and the supplementary explanatory memorandum from the Department of Employment dated 24th November 1986; welcomes tourism's contribution to economic growth in the Community; and endorses the Government's efforts to ensure that Community instruments on tourism accord with that objective. Tourism is a very important economic activity for the United Kingdom and a major source of employment. About 1.2 million people are currently employed in the industry and it offers tremendous prospects for job growth in the future. The Government are determined to do all that they can to encourage the industry's development.

At a time when this Government are giving tourism greater recognition than at any time in the past, it is particularly apt that the European Community is now taking a much greater interest. It is good to see that others are recognising the economic importance of tourism, and I very much welcome the Community's involvement.

Whilst it is true that in one sense other member states could be regarded as our competitors in international tourism, there is also considerable scope for co-operation between member states for their mutual benefit. In many other areas of the world Europe is regarded as a single tourist destination by prospective visitors, and if people can be encouraged to visit Europe we have a good chance of persuading them to come to Britain during their trip. Closer co-operation can also enable countries, including the United Kingdom, to learn from others' experiences—from both successes and mistakes.

The Commission's document, which is the subject of tonight's debate, explains the Community's interest in tourism, its growing economic importance to member states and its importance to employment. The Commission is concerned that action should be taken to facilitate tourism within the Community, improve the seasonal and geographical distribution of tourism, make better use of Community funds, give better information and protection to toursits, improve working conditions in the tourist industry and increase awareness of the problems of tourism and organise consultations and co-operation. I am sure that the House will agree that these are all desirable objectives.

There is clearly a role for the Community as a whole if these objectives are to be achieved, but it is also important to bear in mind the different circumstances which may prevail in individual member states and the need for national priorities to be taken into account. The industry itself, throughout the Community, has a major part to play and its views must also be taken into consideration. I can assure the House that we shall continue to make these points quite clear in negotiations.

As a first step the Commission has put forward three legislative proposals and I would like to explain to the House their purpose and effect. All have undergone some changes already during negotiations in Brussels to meet concerns of member states.

The first is for a resolution on seasonal and geographical distribution of tourism. This seeks to extend both the tourist season and the distribution of tourist traffic around individual countries and so reduce congestion and environmental stress at peak periods. Member states would encourage tourism in areas with surplus capacity, alternative types of holidays and holidays out of season. I stress that it is not the intention of this measure to redistribute tourist traffic between member states.

This resolution deals expressly with matters of great concern to the United Kingdom and we must welcome this timely and sensible proposal from the Commission. It is entirely consistent with the Government's policy of encouraging the dispersal of visitors from London and developing tourism facilities in the regions, with particular emphasis on areas of high unemployment and potential for increased tourism. It also accords with the Government's objective of extending the tourism season so as to provide better utilisation of investment in tourism facilities and retain seasonal jobs for a longer period. In 1986–87 we have provided the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board with additional funds of over £6 million, 20 per cent. more than in 1985–86, to pursue these objectives.

I welcome the fact that earlier references in this proposal to discouraging tourism to saturated areas have now been removed. Whilst it is our concern to increase traffic to the regions, we would not wish actively to discourage visitors from any location. It must be remembered that London is a major draw for many overseas visitors and if they do not come to London they may not come to Britain at all. We must continue to exploit the attractions of London as a gateway to the rest of the country.

The second proposed measure is for a recommendation on standardised information for hotels. It will clearly be helpful for travellers within the Community to have available in a common format objective information about the facilities provided in particular establishments. I am pleased to see that the recommendation now calls on the industry itself to implement the proposed system. Greater flexibility has been provided as to the information to be given, and the symbols to be used have been agreed with industry representatives throughout the community.

The United Kingdom has recently made good progress in this direction domestically with the voluntary classification scheme for accomodation operated by the national tourist boards. It is envisaged that the commission's proposal will be implemented through this scheme in the United Kingdom, and I see it as a useful development of the scheme rather than as a replacement.

Although, in a number of other member states, there are a variety of compulsory hotel registration schemes, the United Kingdom Government are not convinced that the introduction of such arrangements in this country would be justified. We are anxious to remove unnecessary legislative burdens on industry wherever possible and to seek to encourage the industry itself to agree steps to improve standards. The recommendation is consistent with these aims.

We have some doubts about whether a community-wide grading system—that is, subjective rather than objective assessment—is ultimately achievable. At present, the proposed recommendation merely invites the commission to study with the industry the possibilities for action in this area. We would have no objections to that being done.

The third proposed measure is for a decision establishing a consultative and co-ordination procedure for tourism. All member states have welcomed the idea of setting up a framework in which individual experiences and problems can be discussed and scope for mutual cooperation explored. The present proposals are less widely drawn than originally, reflecting concerns expressed by member states. They would establish an advisory committee on tourism to facilitate consultation between member states and the Commission and, where appropriate, co-operation in the provision of services for tourists.

It is our intention that the proposed resolution and recommendation be put forward to the Council for adoption before the end of the United Kingdom Presidency. There remain a number of difficulties over the proposed decision, and it is now doubtful whether they can be satisfactorily resolved in time for Council consideration before the end of the year. As I mentioned earlier, these three proposals are only a first step. There are a number of other areas in which Community action is being considered and in which it is desirable. I should like to touch briefly on some of those.

Although tourism is widely recognised as an important sector of economic activity, there is a shortage of reliable indicators at Community level. Existing statistics are not comprehensive, and differing methodologies make proper analysis and comparison of performance difficult. It is proposed to study the possibilities of producing harmonised statistics on tourism throughout the Community. Within the United Kingdom, concern was previously expressed at the adequacy of statistical data on tourism in the Government document entitled "Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs". A review has since been carried out and a number of improvements are already in hand. We shall be happy to work with the Community with a view to achieving further improvements.

In a number of other member states, those working in the tourism industry regrettably encounter certain obstacles. Tourist guides, tour managers and couriers are sometimes hindered in their activities by protectionist measures favouring nationals of the country concerned. The Government are committed to a policy of free trade and welcome the Commission's investigations into these matters.

We also welcome the moves under way within the Community to liberalise air travel between member states. The United Kingdom Government are opposed to restrictive practices which keep fares unnecessarily high. It has already been demonstrated that lower fares and greater freedom to start new services stimulate traffic and, consequently, the development of tourism in member states.

Those are but examples of useful assistance to the development of tourism which do not involve substantial public expenditure by either the Community or individual member states. The Commission proposes to consider whether Community funds could be more effectively deployed for tourism development. We certainly wish to see the tourism industry receiving a fair share of Community funds, but we could not support a substantial increase in Community expenditure. The Government believe that the main responsibility for tourism investment must rest with the private sector.

Nevertheless, it can be expedient to use Community funds for the promotion of the Community as a destination to prospective visitors from third countries to supplement national promotion efforts. I understand that assistance was made available this year to the European Travel Commission for that purpose.

I hope that I have illustrated the potential benefits to the United Kingdom tourism industry which stem from the Commission's proposals, and I therefore commend them to the House.

11.44 pm
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Although we in the Labour party do not wish to divide the House, we wish to take issue with some of the points that the Minister made in his brief remarks.

A problem with the order is its distinct strands. The European Commission, to its credit, appreciates that a sensible, well thought through policy on tourism must be given a high priority in the European Community. It is an important industry. Indeed, within 18 months it will be the largest single employer in the United Kingdom. The Commission is aware of the numbers of people employed in the industry and the amount of revenue that member states gain from it.

Unfortunately, it seems from the Minister's remarks and the Government's response to the Select Committee's report that in the past few months the Government have not learnt anything about the necessity of having a positive policy on tourism. Regrettably, not only are the Government behind and reluctant to move in the direction of the all-party Select Committee's report and recommendations, but they are unwilling to take on board many of the more interesting and exciting proposals emanating from the European Commission.

Some of those include facilitating tourism and improving the seasonal and geographical distribution of tourism. The Minister said that the Government accept and applaud those proposals, but if one is to make an impact on these matters, one must do something about it. The Select Committee gave sound advice about how Governments extend the season—they subsidise the wage bills of companies which keep tourist attractions open for much of the season. It is a case of the chicken and the egg. If one relies on market forces, one never breaks through the traditional season. One must encourage a longer season. The sensible proposals of the Select Committee have still not been acted on.

The Minister mentioned improving working conditions in the tourist industry, but skated quickly over them. Let us not talk of the myth of the tourist industry. We recognise that it is a good employer for a high percentage of those working in it in full-time, well-paid jobs and enjoying its prosperity. However, about 20 per cent. of the industry involves seasonal, short-term low-paid jobs. People in them are vulnerable and need protection and help. None of the Government's employment strategies and proposals has done anything to help those exploited people, many of whom are women.

The Government missed a tremendous opportunity to give better information and protection to tourists. The Select Committee clearly stated that it was time that British people on holiday in Britain and foreign visitors to Britain should be able to find out what standard of hotel they would stay in. They pay their money, but they must have some criteria on which to judge whether they get value for money. Other countries started to do that a long time ago, but the Minister still says that it must be up to voluntaryism. The industry may be asked to act on the grading of hotels, but we know that it does not operate in over half the hotels in our country. It is time that British tourists going on holiday in their own country and foreign visitors had some guarantee of value for money. It is time that we acted in that area. Surely it can only be good for our visitors and expand the number of people wanting to come to our country if they know that they will have some benchmark by which to judge what they will get.

I do not think that voluntaryism works. The European Commission suggests that it does not work, as does the Select Committee. It is about time that a Government with a positive policy towards tourism introduced a system that made sense. I suspect that we will not get that because the Minister and the Government cannot listen and learn from the Select Committee or from the Commission as they still worship at the temple of market forces.

The Minister says that he welcomes the proposals to broaden tourism to the regions and to places where there is high unemployment. There could be no more heartfelt agreement from someone from my part of the country, indeed from the Minister's part of the country or from my hon. Friends, about the potential for expanding tourism and bringing tourists to the delights of other parts of the country they do not normally visit. It is important to realise that market forces will not bring them. The great canal system of our country will not be developed and exploited in the best way by private enterprise. The best sort of relationship, is a harmonious and creative relationship between the public and private sectors and national Government and local government.

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)


Mr. Sheerman

I have never seen private enterprise taking on the great capital expenditure, for example, of opening up a whole reach of the canal system of our country. Once it is done by a progressive local authority, private capital will come in and provide the hotels, pubs and boating facilities and all the attractions for tourists. However, it needs a planned partnership——

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Has not the hon. Gentleman heard of the canal societies up and down this country that are doing that very thing by voluntary labour, not through the local authorities? I can take the hon. Gentleman to canals where that is being done.

Mr. Sheerman

If the hon. Gentleman can give me any example of canal societies that are doing the massive task of capital reconstruction of our canal systems without Government money, I should like to hear about it. I should be interested to hear of an example not using money from the Manpower Services Commission. That is Government money, too. The hon. Gentleman is shaking his head and now thinks that perhaps I am right. A creative and planned partnership between the public and private sectors is the way to get our tourist industry booming.

If the Government want to bring tourism as a major industry to those parts of our country not yet visited by many tourists, they must invest and allow local government to invest in the infrastructure that will make those parts of the country attractive. That will mean providing more than £6 million to the British Tourist Authority. Local government must be liberated to do that job. The private sector must also be allowed to work within a planned policy framework.

The Minister's speech demonstrated that the Government have missed a number of opportunities. The last missed opportunity is referred to in the memorandum: a guarantee for those who go on package holidays. The Government ought vigorously to be trying to ensure—in the European Community, in the Commission and in the Council of Ministers—that those who go on package holidays to other member states are not profoundly disappointed by what they have bought. The package holiday is a unique consumer product. The consumer pays in advance for his holiday. According to the memorandum, 25 to 35 per cent. of consumers of package holidays are profoundly disappointed by the product that they buy—many of them dramatically so. They are re-routed to accommodation in resorts to which they do not want to go. The Government have failed to push hard enough for a recommendation that would improve the position for British consumers of package holidays.

The Opposition do not intend to divide the House. However, the tourist industry needs to move forward a great deal faster than it is moving now. Faster movement calls for a partnership between the public and the private sector. The Government must not leave a major industry at the mercy of the vagaries of market forces.

11.56 pm
Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

Tourism is a vitally important industry in the EEC, earning some £32 billion each year from overseas sources. Of course, in the United Kingdom tourism is our fastest growth industry. The British Tourist Authority forecasts that by 1988 Britain will be receiving 16 million overseas visitors who will spend £7.5 billion. In addition, the industry will see the expenditure of £7 billion by our citizens in the home market.

I welcome this debate—it is only the fifth debate on tourism since the general election—and the opportunity to discuss key EEC issues that are raised by European Community Document 4761/86. I declare an interest. I am the parliamentary consultant to Consort Hotels, the largest consortium of independent hoteliers in the United Kingdom, each of whose properties contributes substantially to the local community.

York is a leading tourism venue, where the industry now employs about 6,200 people. However, if the multiplier effect were applied in economic terms, one could see how dependent are so many related, or quasi-related, firms to tourism—from the laundries and bakers to the printers and language schools. In microcosm, it epitomises many of the problems relating to the development of tourism that are highlighted in the Commission's communication. May I he permitted, however, to return to some illustrations from York later in the debate and to dwell now on the general principles?

This Government, more than any other, have recognised the significance of tourism, and especially its place in terms of employment. It is right, therefore, that tourism should be further developed in the Community during the British Presidency. We must recognise that the visitor industry is a relatively new policy area for the EEC. It was only four years ago that the Commission produced its initial guidelines for a Community policy for tourism that identified areas where better co-ordination between member states would be beneficial.

Two related proposals have already been submitted to the Council. I refer to the draft recommendation on fire safety in hotels and to the draft recommendation on easing controls when crossing intra-Community borders. I urge my hon. Friend to examine the working of those controls. Often, British customs officers and regulations make life for tourists quite unreasonable. For example, senior citizens on a coach are required to get out and manhandle their luggage without trolleys and present each item to customs before re-presenting it to the driver and reboarding the vehicle. If that is not enough to turn off American visitors, I do not know what is.

The draft resolution which seeks a better seasonal and geographical distribution of tourism is to be welcomed if those initiatives reduce the surplus occupancy and ensure permanent rather than cyclical employment. Hoteliers and other providers of leisure facilities have been enterprising in promoting out-of-season holidays. Indeed, the mini-break is the fastest growth sector of the holiday industry. Increasingly, people are taking two or three short holidays.

After housing and food, holidays form the largest single item of family expenditure. This provides solid work. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) did not call them jobs for ice cream salesmen, as his predecessors on the Opposition Front Bench have done, nor did he call them Mickey Mouse jobs as he has done before. I am pleased to see that change of emphasis by the Opposition and glad to note that the hon. Gentleman did not denigrate this key sector of the industry. It is quite erroneous to equate service with servility. Service jobs are permanent jobs in an exciting field.

The action points identified in the Government paper "Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs" and pursued in the "Action for Jobs in Tourism" report have been taken up by the national boards. I was pleased to see the pilot scheme undertaken by the English Tourist Board with the northwest and south-east regional tourist boards. That will encourage tourist information centres to work in closer co-operation with tourist companies. It should enable the tourist information centres to provide more information and advice and, therefore, to give a better service. There is certainly scope for closer dialogue between the tourist information centres and the providers of mass transport.

Why do we not see more illustrated boards at train and coach stations showing the accommodation that is available and other facilities and a freefone link? West Germany has good examples of such displays. It is a development worthy of promotion and joint study in Europe.

The English Tourist Board's "Let's Go" campaign is specifically designed to promote awareness of the attractiveness of off-season breaks. I applaud its "Off Peak Value" logo. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, has not spoken about that, so I shall leave him a little fresh ammunition for his wind-up speech. That logo is designed to promote the theme of off-season holidays. I applaud also the initiatives of the awards to be made for off-peak promotions. They are sponsored by the Council for Travel and Tourism, the British Airport Authority, the British Incoming Tour Operators Association and the British Resorts Association.

A radical solution that could help all European countries would be to standardise the Easter holiday. There is no doubt that when Easter falls in mid April the tourist season starts in earnest. When it is at the end of March there is often a hiccup in trading in April. The spread and distribution of bank holidays is similar.

Mr. Tony Speller (Devon, North)

Does my hon. Friend think that the Easter holiday should be standardised regardless of the views of the Christian church? Would that be advantageous for tourism?

Mr. Gregory

I am speaking about the instability in the tourist industry caused by the constant movement of the date of Easter. As my hon. Friend will know, there is within the Christian churches a variety of different Easter dates. The spread of those dates has a bad effect on tourism.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

I am not clear about my hon. Friend's point. Is he saying that there should be a fixed Easter date?

Mr. Gregory

I am, and I am further suggesting that it should be a common date in the Christian churches.

I should like to develop the theme of the spread of holidays. Bank holidays are certainly within the purview of the Government, even if the Christian churches are not. The distribution of bank holidays so that they were on dates similar to the rest of the EEC would benefit the United Kingdom. We had two bank holidays 21 days apart in May and that was nonsensical. We should consider one at the end of October or the beginning of November, because that would create a mini boom for tourism.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield referred to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, which recommended that for two years the Government should provide 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 was open in the previous year. Britain rightly attaches importance to promoting our islands as a year-round destination choice, but there was not a fulsome response to the Select Committee's initiative. It said that a combination of creative marketing with selected project development is the most effective way of dealing with the problem of seasonality". What have the studies revealed, should the Select Committee's advice be taken, and how does Britain compare with other states?

As I referred to under-occupancy, it is fair to refer to the peak times for tourism. What work are the Government doing to promote local authorities each to produce visitor strategies which examine such questions as adequate car parking? For example, the labour-controlled city council in York refuses to acknowledge the importance of tourism to the economy by not having a chief officer designated with the responsibility, by not filling vacancies for, for example, a conference officer and by deliberately ignoring the chief mode of travel, the car. It will not adequately signpost accommodation or facilities and argues that visitors should effectively "park and ride" rather than the council building adequate car parks. Will the Minister review such strategies and give advice to encourage a better distribution?

Statistical information on tourism is not particularly good. Currently, statistics are collated by the World Travel Organisation in Madrid, the OECD in Paris and EuroStat in Luxembourg. Unfortunately, there is no common statistical base. All components of the tourism industry need better information for planning and strategy, and I urge the Government to establish a professional standardised basis throughout Europe.

Does compliance with the resolution on a better visitor distribution require amendment to existing legislation, particularly the Tourism (Sleeping Accommodation Price Display) Order 1977 and the statutory hotel registration scheme in Ulster under the Development of Tourist Traffic Act (Northern Ireland) 1948?

The second policy area under review, which recommends standardised hotel information, will certainly help travellers to break down language barriers. However, several questions arise, and I should be grateful if the Minister would respond to them. Will it be mandatory, and who will take responsibility for collating and checking this information on standardised hotels? As Great Britain—but not Northern Ireland—is out of line with the rest of Europe in not having an official government classification scheme for accommodation, will such information form a valuable introduction? How will a hotel be defined? Will it include premises that advertise accommodation but which do not currently pay commercial rates or VAT?

The interpretation of such facilities is riddled with anomalies at local authority level and urgently requires Government classification. Will the British Government take up the invitation to produce a harmonised hotel classification system for the EEC?

No wonder that the visitor to Britain is confused. Not content with the stars of the AA and the RAC as well as the Michelin and Egon Ronay ratings, he has the national tourist board crowns. There is no consistency, so that the two-star AA or RAC hotel can easily be graded four crown. Unless this is withdrawn and reconsidered in full consultation with the industry—I am sure the Minister will agree that there was a lack of consultation with the industry—Britain is shoring up a time bomb of complaints.

We need a well defined easily understood national grading system that has industry support, will appeal to consumers and have the authority of Government. Northern Ireland had operated a successful scheme since the 1940s, and I see no reason why we should not follow suit.

I believe that greater understanding of facilities will lead to travel beyond the already familiar centres. For example, only 40 per cent. of Americans visiting the United Kingdom move outside the capital. The percentage is better for Europeans in that 46.4 per cent. of French visitors, almost 60 per cent. of West Germans and more than 45 per cent. of Dutch visitors travel beyond London.

The other aspect under consideration tonight—the draft decision to establish a consultation and co-ordination procedure in tourism—is certainly overdue. Even in Whitehall, some 13 Departments have a special interest in tourism. Clearly mutual co-operation is necessary within the Community. It makes no sense for tour managers to be treated inconsistently. In some countries they require special licences and have to take special examinations. There is no harmony on that matter within the EEC. Furthermore, United Kingdom travel agents cannot sell packages in France and Spain.

Tonight's debate coincides with the World Travel Market being held at Olympia this week. We are making good efforts to achieve a free market in air travel, but there has not been an adequate push in Europe to remove the restrictions on accommodation and other leisure facilities. Within the EEC there is the Youth Committee, which includes tourism as that is regarded as part of culture, or "kultur" as the Germans call it, and there is the Inter Group on tourism akin to our Back-Bench Committee. However, there is still no tourism committee for this great growth industry. I hope that during the British Presidency such an initiative will be developed.

This year we have seen the spectre of terrorism undermine this great industry. The fragility caused by the Achille Lauro incident and the bombings in Greece, Italy and France surely must be dealt with by a more permanent structure. I hope that the EEC documents before the House will help the industry along that road.

12.11 am
Mr. Michael Hancock (Portsmouth, South)

This is a welcome opportunity to speak on tourism. I declare an interest, as I come from Portsmouth, which, in future, hopes to be the second major tourist attraction outside of London. It is also good to be able to talk to the Minister about something other than mogul foods in Portsmouth and tins of canned curry.

We have all accepted that tourism has enjoyed a rapid and uninterrupted expansion over the past 15 years, and the revenue from the industry has increased in the United Kingdom almost sevenfold in that period. The importance of tourism, as the Minister rightly said, should not go unnoticed in the short term, as it has a long-term role to play in finding worthwhile, lasting jobs for the whole of the Community.

There is justification in claiming that more needs to be done to help tourism, and the action should come not only from the EEC but from the Government as well. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) was correct to assume that there the Government can play a real role. He suggested that there was a two-part role, but I suggest that there is a three-part role—through local authorities, the Government and private enterprise. Portsmouth is a classic example of how, given the right incentives, initiatives and ideals, the three-pronged co-operation can bear fruitful results.

The Minister recounted the six points upon which the documents are based which would facilitate tourism within the Community. As I represent a constituency which includes the second largest ferry port in the country, I understand that the facilitation of the movement of tourists into and out of this country is of great importance. However, it has taken 10 years to get proper signs erected in Portsmouth directing people out of the ferry port to London. There was resistance to that all along the line from various organisations. Even a "Welcome to Great Britain" sign was a controversial issue when the ferry port was opened. It took us 10 years before we managed to have proper signs in the city, and it has taken 15 years to create an overnight staying spot in Portsmouth for continental visitors arriving in the city with trailers. It has taken 15 years to find the right place and provide a facility that is common in most European towns and cities.

Direction must be given on tourism—there is not enough of that. Certainly the Government do not give enough assistance.

The second point is the improved seasonal and geographical distribution of tourism. Once again this is a laudable sentiment, but what does it really mean? Does it mean that the queues waiting to view the Mary Rose and HMS Victory—and next year HMS Warrior—will continue to stand in the open, when it is raining, in August? Are we seriously suggesting that the tourist season can be prolonged to October in Portsmouth, and yet still not provide shelter? Believe me, the attractions of Nelson's flagship diminish greatly after standing for an hour in the rain with two children who are soaking wet by the time they get on board—and then have to pay to see round the ship.

If the season is to be prolonged—and that can he achieved in many ways—we must consider the cost implications. We must find a means to provide the wherewithal for local authorities and private enterprise. In many instances planning committees are a great obstacle to prolonging the tourist season. They obstruct the entrepreneur who wants to promote a longer season and bring attractions to parts of the country that are innundated with tourists during the summer but see none in the winter.

We must find better ways to achieve that aim—for example, through the better use of Community funds. I defy any hon. Member to say that there is an easy way to obtain Community funds to promote leisure and pleasure activities in this country. They simply are not there. Local authority after local authority is spending great sums of money trying to buy consultants to tell them how to obtain those funds—let alone actually achieve some money from the EEC in the long run. This year, when Britain holds the presidency, it should be trying to find an initiative that allows those funds to be more easily accessible to local authorities and entrepreneurs, who can then get tourism really moving along.

Hon. Members have said that tourism will be the biggest employer in future. It will not be if these obstacles are not removed and if funds from the EEC are not forthcoming. The Government must recognise that they have a role, at least in pump priming in many respects.

Another point is the provision of better protection and information for tourists—once again something that no one would deny. In Portsmouth, hotel after hotel has closed or been converted to a nursing or rest home, even as we try to attract more tourists to the town. There is a real shortage of hotel spaces. We are doing little or nothing to help people modernise their hotels. Many owners simply cannot find the resources to modernise, let alone find a standardised method of advertising. Once again the Government have a role to play if there is to be better protection and information for tourists.

When I took my children to Beaulieu in the summer, as I stood in the queue with several hundred others waiting to pay an exorbitant price to see Lord Montagu's exhibition, an American tourist—who happened to be married to an English woman—told me of his strange experience at the hotel where he was staying in the New Forest. Apparently he was paying twice as much for his accommodation as the person in the next room. When he made inquiries, he was told that the rate that he was paying was applicable to his room. He asked why the person in the next room was paying almost 50 per cent. less, and the manager was reluctant to answer him. That American went away thinking that there was one cost for the local and another for him. How on earth can we hope to attract people when somebody leaves our country with that impression? His wife said that unfortunately that was not an untypical reaction by Americans when they go home. They feel that they have been ripped off.

Mr. Speller

Does the hon. Gentleman have any reason whatsoever for saying that any hotel or hotel company in this country charges a different room rate for a patriot and for an expatriate? If he does, would he care to say where he gets his information from, as opposed to hearsay from the New Forest, or wherever?

Mr. Hancock

I was repeating what was said to me in all innocence. The people did not know that I was a Member of Parliament or had any interest in tourism. It was just a conversation. I asked the chap where he was staying and whether he was enjoying his stay in the New Forest, and he replied, "Yes, but I have had an annoying experience over the cost in the hotel." That reflects badly on our country. Undoubtedly, we need a standardised system of tariffs, and of getting that information around. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) hit the nail on the head by saying that it was long overdue. Undoubtedly it is. An initiative from the English Tourist Board, backed by the Government, should bring that about. Many of the hotel chains and individual hotels would welcome that—it is needed.

We would all support improved working conditions in the tourist industry, but sadly it is hit or miss, area by area and job by job. There is still an awful lot to be desired in the conditions in which people have to work and their terms of employment. It is a mistake to kid ourselves that everything in the garden is rosy. That simply is not so. We welcome those jobs, but we must find ways to make sure that there is a proper, firm basis for people wanting to work and to stay in the industry. We have to make the conditions of employment that much better. There must be a twofold approach by the unions and management.

We have to increase awareness of the problems of tourism and organise consultation and co-operation. If anything, the most important thing is to understand the problems of tourism. We have to do that. We have to find ways of consulting within the industry, with each other and with Europe about those very points. Perhaps the document that we are debating is the way forward.

I should like to talk about my area, which stretches from the edge of the New Forest in the west to Chichester in the east, and from the Isle of Wight in the south to Winchester in the north. Portsmouth is at the centre, I am glad to say. We cannot sustain ourselves as a major tourist attraction unless we have many of the things that I have spoken about—better hotels, standardised conditions in hotels, making them attractive, and better signposting so that people can see what we have on offer. We have to consider whether we price ourselves out. Do we have attractions which people will visit only once and not return to because we overcharge them for their enjoyment?

Mr. Butterfill

I am a little puzzled. The hon. Gentleman said that standardised conditions in hotels would make them more attractive. When I, and, I am sure, many of my hon. Friends, go abroad or to a hotel in this country, we find the fact that hotels are different attractive. They differ from each other. Why is the hon. Gentleman so insistent on standardisation?

Mr. Hancock

I am not suggesting for one moment that every hotel should be the same. The basic minimum standards are what we need. Few hotels pride themselves on advertising the fact that they have en suite bathrooms and facilities in the rooms. We are less than pushy, if that is the right word, in trying to advertise what is available. We should look carefully at that matter.

It is interesting to see how easy it is to get facilities abroad. Recently in Brussels, in the hotel in which I was staying with colleagues from the House, it was interesting that we could see what was available not only in our hotels but in other hotels in the centre of Brussels. We could compare what was available. In ferry ports, airports or railway stations in Great Britain, we should have such information and allow visitors to judge.

We need to make better use of our resources. The New Forest is a classic example of an area that is over-used in the summer and has virtually no visitors at all in winter, but which has major attractions which could and should be used to draw people all the year round. The drawback, sadly, is lack of resources in both the public and private sectors. My plea to the Minister is therefore not just to support the proposals before us, but to recognise that we must do a damned sight more if we are really to go places in tourism. If the rise of the past 15 years were to level out it would be a disaster for many reasons, not least the loss of employment prospects. The drive to sell our country and specific areas of it must be pushed harder and harder.

I am sorry to hear of the attitude of the hon. Member for York to his local authority. I hope that that is not common, because many local authorities have realised the enormous potential of their areas. Bradford is a good example. Another is Southampton, where the Labour-controlled authority has gone out of its way to promote the historic points in the area and to draw people to it. It is trying to rejuvenate the dock area and, to its credit, has made enormous progress in the past two or three years. It is not a matter of Labour and Conservative authorities having different opinions. It is a matter of mentality and of ambition for the area. The Government must foster and nuture such developments and encourage other authorities to take note of what can be achieved. Portsmouth, too—a Conservative-controlled authority, but working with the unanimous support of councillors of all parties—has tried to promote co-operation with the Ministry of Defence and private companies in the area, but the vital infrastruscture of hotels and other facilities is still lacking.

I hope that the Minister will find ways in which the Government can do more in the way of pump priming, because I believe that for a very small investment now an area such as south Hampshire could draw enormous benefits in the next decade or more. I hope that that kind of ambition for tourism and its development will flourish and bring even greater benefit to all of us through the present Minister and his colleagues, but we shall have to see whether their actions are as good as their mouths.

12.27 am
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

I must confess that I do not share to the full the enthusiasm for these documents displayed by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) or by the hon. Member for Portsmouth. South (Mr. Hancock), who apparently spent one night in Brussels. As a Member of the European Parliament I spent quite a few nights in Brussels and I remember the first meeting of the inter-group on tourism mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory).

I regard the documents as well intentioned but unlikely to achieve very much. They set out generalised views about tourism to which we all subscribe. We all agree that tourism is a most important industry, not least in Cornwall where we have just had two very bad summer seasons. Frankly, I doubt whether implementing everything contained in these documents would have overcome the difficulties that we experienced or added to tourism and the benefits of tourism in that part of the world. I am afraid that if some of the suggestions in the second paper—the Council's recommendation on standardised information on hotels—were carried out in a statutory or mandatory, rather than a voluntary, way, they would hinder the tourist industry.

I looked at some of the proposals and recommendations—put forward, no doubt, by an excellent bureaucrat in Brussels—which will probably be endorsed by the European Parliament. They suggest that inns, hotels and motels with 10 beds should advertise their prices in their brochures and in their premises. That is fair enough, but they should also show them in European units of account. What is more, they should update this information and bring forward proposals for no fewer than 26 standardised symbols for hotels.

Mr. Butterfill

Does my hon. Friend realise that they have to be done in three languages?

Mr. Harris

I was coming to the point that they should be not just in English but in two other languages. These signs portray a baffling variety of services and activities, and I wonder about the physical difficulty of displaying them in a hotel guide—for example, for west Cornwall. It would be very difficult.

More worrying than that, if this were ever put on a mandatory basis, is that all this should be checked regularly by some hotel body. My hon. Friend the Minister—who I thought struck exactly the right note in his opening speech and attitude to this matter—in his explanatory note from the Department rather glossed over the cost and gave the impression that it would be minimal. I do not think it would be minimal to check effectively on this. I am terribly worried that in subscribing to the ideals to which we all subscribe we could somehow go down this road and switch from a voluntary to a mandatory system, with all the bureaucracy that that involves—and to what effect? I suspect very little at the end of the day.

What will extend the season is for individual hoteliers to seize the opportunities that exist now and provide services on attractive terms, not terms subsidised by the Government. They should go out into the market place and provide services. My experience, having studied the tourist industry in the south-west in recent years, is that those hotels or, indeed, other components of the tourist industry—attraction centres and entertainment centres which provide good value for money—succeed at all stages of the industry. That will boost the tourist industry more than a whole of lot of well-meaning directives from Brussels. I am a European and proud of it, but I do not think that this is an answer to the problem. The answer is service, quality and value for money.

I shall give one example to the House of the way in which the tourist industry has been extended to great advantage in one part of my constituency. A few years ago I was very worried about the position with regard to the isles of Scilly. The isles of Scilly tourist industry appeared to be in decline. Certainly it was in difficulties. Parts of that industry joined together and gave it a boost by putting money into it. They did not get great dollops of money from Brussels or anywhere else. They did it themselves. They seized and developed the opportunity to develop the season, and now many thousands of bird watchers visit the isles of Scilly in September and October. That has been a tremendous boost to the season. That could be done by many other groups, although not always with bird watchers. That is a far more valuable way of extending the season than a pious wish in a document from Brussels. I am not hostile to the Commission or to the European Parliament, but I do not believe that this is the way forward. I applaud the Government's attitude to these documents.

12.35 am
Mrs. Elizabeth Shields (Ryedale)

As many hon. Members have said, tourism is a matter of national and international importance. If properly promoted it can bring much confidence and hope, especially to areas which suffer from job losses and unemployment. It is a very positive industry, because it enables councils and individuals alike to be creative in a wide variety of ways. Many jobs result from tourism, and they are especially important in rural areas, which have suffered considerably from the loss of work, transport, shops and schools.

With those country towns and villages very much in mind, this summer, Ryedale district council entered on its first full year of marketing tourism. By contrast with the council of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory), a special tourist officer was appointed by Ryedale district council with responsibility to promote what is in my opinion—perhaps I am biased—one of the loveliest districts in the country. The officer has introduced a series of initiatives, and the result has been a campaign to highlight the village heritage of the area. Among its 156 parishes, Ryedale has many of interest and some of special charm and character.

Local history, architecture and geographical features are included in the promotion, and the publicity of "Ryedale's Quest" has been widespread and successful. Each part of the country, too, must examine its cultural heritage and sites of interest and work on them, especially in our smaller communities.

Tourist attractions should not be tied into the summer months. We must extend the traditional period for tourists, because many people now have leisure time at much less popular periods of the year. Thus, seasonal use can be made of specific associations. As Christmas approaches, we in Ryedale are looking forward to our first Dickens festival to mark the visit of the novelist to Malton in 1843 to his lawyer friend, Charles Smithson. The offices currently used as the local museum, known as "The Dickens House" are thought to have been the inspiration for "A Christmas Carol". Next year, a converted former prisoner-of-war camp at Malton will be opened to the public, reproducing many aspects of life during the 1940s. It will be open all the year round, inviting educational visits from children and adults, and is a constructive and imaginative use of an otherwise derelict site.

Of course, marketing is a priority. It should be developed in a controlled, sensitive manner so that hitherto unspoilt parts of the country will not be harmed or destroyed. There should be free consultancy on marketing, as we have had this year from our district council, for local businesses and firms, because, in the long run, the results of good promotion are beneficial to tourists and residents alike.

12.38 am
Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)

I welcome this opportunity to debate tourism, because it will draw attention to the fact that it is an important industry. As many hon. Members have said, it is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the United Kingdom and has the potential for the greatest employment. That has happened, not through some great Socialist paradise of planning, but through free and private enterprise. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), suggested that we needed all these marvellous plans and these tripartite agreements, but that would be the death knell of tourism in Britain.

The Lake District in Cumbria has some of the finest hotels in Britain. The Sharrow Bay hotel, for example, receives the Egon Ronay gold plate award year after year. They have happened, not because of a Government plan in the Socialist years, not because of this Government, and not because local councils have taken the initiative, but because of the enterprise and nous of individuals who got them going.

I am concerned, like my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), about the direction part of the document. I do not like the references to sorting out the geographical distribution. My hon. Friend the Minister has been sound this evening in expressing the Government's reservations. We know that it would be beneficial to extend the season, but that will be done by letting entrepreneurs offer quality and improve their marketing, thereby persuading tourists to come. We shall not overcome the problems of saturation by allowing the EEC to pass regulations or directions. I know that initially there would be guidelines and incentives, but at the end of the day there would be quotas and levies, with tourists being shunted around Europe or being forbidden to enter certain countries because of a massive EEC plan, with the EEC thinking that it knows best. We have seen EEC quotas and levies placed on other products, and the last thing that tourism needs is that sort of centralised direction and guidance from the EEC.

I have no great reservations about standardising some of the information that is offered to tourists, but I oppose the concept of standardised grading across Europe. Tourism in the United Kingdom has expanded at record levels and it is experiencing record growth, and that has been achieved with the present grading system.

It is argued that when tourists come to Britain they have no idea of the quality of accommodation that they book and that they might be ripped off. I cannot imagine that foreigners are that naive. If someone cares to book into a hotel which has no crowns from the tourist boards, No AA or RAC stars, and has not been recommended by Egon Ronay or Ashley Courtenay, he should appreciate that he is taking some risks. If a tourist cares to book into an establishment which has been recommended by all the experts such as Egon Ronay and Ashley Courtenay, private entrepreneurs who are our most respected grading experts, he will know that he is going to high-quality accommodation.

If the EEC is concerned about promoting tourism, it should concentrate its efforts on the marketing of Europe generally in the United States and elsewhere. If it is concerned about tourism, it should concentrate on demolishing the air cartel in Europe, which keeps air fares artificially high. If it is genuinely concerned, it should concentrate on the problem of the free movement of people from countries outside the EEC who cross the EEC barriers and allow free movement, with visas, between them. If it is really concerned about tourism in Europe, it should support the British Government on the stance that they have taken against terrorism in Europe. Other EEC countries should show more guts in taking the Prime Minister's approach, the British approach.

I was in the United States in April after the Libyan bombing had occurred, and I and my colleagues went to great efforts to stress that Britain was the safest country in Europe for tourism. We said that our airports were the safest. The same claim could not be made for the airports of Greece or of other countries in the EEC. If the EEC wishes to take action on tourism, it should concentrate on the features that I have mentioned and leave free enterprise to get on with providing quality and the standards that tourists want. As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives said, tourists come to Britain for our quality and standards. If the EEC wishes to extend its dead hand into some great programme of Socialist planning and control, with the direction of tourism, it will kill off an industry which is experiencing record growth because it is a private enterprise industry.

12.45 am
Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Much of what I intended to say has already been said. The tourist industry is the largest employer, with 4.5 million employees. It is the fastest growing industry. Employment in the industry is increasing by about 50,000 people a year. The private enterprise system is responsible.

Although I applaud some of the Commission's recommendations in the document, some are beyond belief. They are examples of Socialist planning.

I agree that we should be considering reductions in air fares. It is suggested that we might do something about the EIII form by improving the administration of medical facilities for tourists. Why improve the administration? Why not get rid of it altogether and establish that any European citizen has the same right to medical facilities in any Community country?

People talk about establishing the ecu as a popular currency. Who outside Brussels has even heard of the ecu? Certainly the tourists who come to my constituency have not.

It is suggested that we should have a detailed study of integrated passenger flows so that investment planning can be worked out. Investment planning by whom? Are we talking about the bureaucrats in Brussels? That would be better done by the industry which has proved already that it can do it. There is talk about saturation area studies, inventories of pleasure parks, and the establishment of social tourism. Will that create jobs for anyone other than the bureaucrats in Brussels?

There is talk about rural tourism. That is a good idea. It is to be publicised, but will it really be publicised? Apparently, we are to have standardised accommodation for rural tourism. Perhaps we are to have the standardised Euro-cottage throughout Europe, not French gites or little Greek tavernas, but the standard Euro-cottage with signs in three languages. All this is bureaucratic nonsense.

There is talk about getting rid of visas. We should all be delighted at that. But we can do that only if Europe can be persuaded to adopt a common policy on foreign affairs. We have not yet achieved that.

Let us examine the Greek Government's attitude to terrorism. Can we envisage that those who would be acceptable to the Greek Government for a visa, would also be acceptable to the British Government? There was a sad vote recently in the United Nations about the Falkland Islands. Can we imagine that visas might be given by certain European countries to Argentine nationals who might not—at present at least—be acceptable in Britain?

All this is Euro pie in the sky. If the bureaucrats in Brussels really want to do something for British tourism, they should follow the Secretary of State's example and examine how to reduce regulations. They should encourage other European countries to follow our example and get rid of all the regulations. Then they could, like Britain, achieve a massive increase in tourism. The European increase in tourism has been sixfold over the last 40 years; ours has been sevenfold. That is the example that the Commission should follow.

12.49 am
Mr. Tony Speller (Devon, North)

I am the only qualified caterer in the House, but my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) has qualifications connected with wine, which may not go down well with many Methodist voters.

Colleagues have spoken exclusively about domestic problems without realising that we are talking about "Platitudes Incorporated." We are asked to accept a document, but it is hard at 12.50 am to raise any passion about it in the Chamber. I suspect it might be better elsewhere. It is strange that the House is asked to approve in principle platitudinous matters. If any hon. Members query that point, I should ask them to refer to the pages before us. We are told that we should entrust our tourist organisations to national tourist bodies. We have the English Tourist Board, the AA and the RAC. We have therefore done that already. It is said that we should have standardised symbols. We have standardised symbols—they are coming out of our ears. In essence, this is a vast amount of paper. It is not as vast as usual. It weighs less than 1 kg, which is good business for the EC paper makers.

As the only qualified, ex-professional caterer in the House—I stopped working for a living upon being elected to the House—I suggest that we should do certain basic things. Let us first ensure that we have plenty of high quality, properly trained and properly equipped students. One of the daftest things in the world is that the staff—excellent or otherwise—of any hotel in this city are not from this country. The reason is simple. Our young people do not have the required qualifications. They are not properly trained or properly equipped. That is not the result of any Government's policies. It has been happening for many years.

I am happy to say that the national advisory body on staffing and higher education will find us more young people to train in higher levels of catering. But we have not applied the capital, the area or the equipment. We must go begging to industry, saying, "Please give us some cookers, fridges and freezers so that we can train our young people." How illogical we are. We will quite happily accept the documents tonight without willing, let alone paying for, the necessary equipment.

Standards and signing are mentioned in these papers. But what standards? Frankly, in this country, it is difficult to know what standard to follow. There are certain standards in the area of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris).

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) spoke about the New Forest. Nothing will extend the New Forest tourist season into November, December, January or February. If we think that we can extend the tourist season by pouring money into the New Forest, we are wrong. We have to make the best of our natural attributes. Frankly, those attributes are the young people coming into the catering industry.

I pay credit to my hon. Friend the Minister who is responsible for small business. He has tried to get youngsters into various training schemes. Let us train and properly equip young people, then we can compete with the rest of the world. Let us not have acres of paper saying, "Let us have a common standard." Some of the pictures are fun, and some are daft. None of them is worth a penny compared with training.

We offer all the things that the rest of the world wants to see. We have the antiquity, the good things of nature, and the excellence. Our problem is a lack of confidence and the tremendous slating of the people who provide the service. We talk down our catering ability. The Americans talk up their catering ability. The French are naturally proud. The Dutch are naturally good caterers. The British always talk themselves down. If we gave our youngsters the chance, the equipment, and the training—to paraphrase the late Sir Winston Churchill—we can do the job in catering. It is the biggest employer in the country. Tourism is part of catering. There is nothing wrong with being a service industry. If one turns raw material into food, one is as much part of an industry as if one turned paper and ink into printing, or turned pig iron into machinery. Until we realise that catering is a profession—just as counselling, surveying or architecture are professions—we shall always hide behind bits of paper such as this.

Many of us are perhaps less than enchanted with the EEC, but it is largely our own fault that, when we discuss documents of this sort in the dead of night, we talk of local matters and then go on our way, happily, to bed. We should realise that we have the best raw material in the world. We have some of the best trainers in the world. We are lamentably weak in putting the two together and making our tourist industry the best in the world.

12.53 am
Mr. Trippier

We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) for making the point that he did in his concluding remarks. It is perhaps the most fundamental and important point. We are talking about investment in our young people who are coming from school and entering what we all agree to be an important, dynamic sector. Without that investment, we are wasting our time.

I particularly welcomed the speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman). This is the second time that I have had to say that, and I hope that it does not get him into trouble with selection in his constituency. On two occasions he has paid a warm tribute to the sector and recognised that it is growing and dynamic and that the jobs in it are responsible and serious. My only argument with him is that he should exert some influence on the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), and we know that he has considerable influence on his hon. Friend.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's speech because I am happy to stand at the Dispatch Box and pay credit to Labour, Liberal, SDP as well as Conservative councillors who are playing a significant part on many regional tourist boards and are completley dedicated to the task in hand. What is upsetting is that my only difficulty on the subject is in this House. That is relfected, as it has been in this debate, by the attendance of so many of my hon. Friends and so few Opposition Members. [Interruption.] It is not only that. It is a clear recognition——

Mr. Maclean

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. An allegation has come from the Labour Front Bench that all Conservative Members present have a pecuniary interest in tourism. I cannot speak for other hon. Members, but I certainly do not, and I should like that allegation to be withdrawn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

First, I did not hear any allegation and, secondly, if it was made, I am not sure whether it was out of order. I think that we should return to the Minister's reply.

Mr. Trippier

Now I have only four minutes left in which to reply and I am afraid that I shall have to write to hon. Members to answer their points. Many good points were made.

Some hon. Members made a number of political points to get them off their chests, but we all agree that in many areas of tourism there is a need for partnership. I agree with that, but I cannot stomach Opposition Members saying that pump priming by the Government is needed. We have substantially increased the specific section 4 grant under the tourism legislation and it is used in many different places as a pump priming mechanism. I accept that it is needed. It has certainly been used in Portsmouth, as the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mr. Hancock) knows, and it has been used on many occasions in York.

It is important that Opposition Members remember that the contribution from the private sector is so high that I have never found it so high in any other sector of British industry. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean). I say that from my experience at both the Department of Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry. As the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South suggested, on the question of pump priming there can he a multiplier effect and the contribution from the private sector can be greater than in any other sector.

I must agree with the vast majority of my hon. Friends, but, sadly, perhaps not with my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory), on the standards of hotel classification. We are all getting a bit carried away, and some people are misunderstanding the fact that we are talking about standardised symbols for hotels only, not about the classification of standards of hotels. It is a pity that the House is not televised so that I could hold this document up and let everyone see it. I have here a number of pictures which do not require any writing beneath them. It would be a good test to see if hon. Members could understand them. The vast majority of people in the United Kingdom and abroad may be able to understand them. They are so simple that it might be an idea to run a competition in The House Magazine.

Mr. Speller

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Trippier

I am sorry, but no. We are simply encouraging the insertion of these symbols at this stage and going no further. Nor should we. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) of that and I agree with everything that he said.

All that we are suggesting tonight, as I said in my opening speech, is that there has to be a balance. We have to balance the fact that we are trying to deregulate wherever necessary, so that we do not act as a brake on people's enterprise, with the fact that at the same time we should do all that we can to strenthen and develop this important sector. The most important thing to come out of the debate tonight is that the European commission and the Community overall should do everything possible to promote Europe as a major tourist destination for the rest of the world.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 4761/86 of 6th February 1986, a proposal for Community action in the field of tourism, and the supplementary explanatory memorandum from the Department of Employment dated 24th November 1986; welcomes tourism's contribution to economic growth in the Community; and endorses the Government's efforts to ensure that Community instruments on tourism accord with that objective.