HC Deb 23 July 1987 vol 120 cc476-7
7. Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on initiatives being taken to promote tourism in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Viggers

We have encouraged the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in its promotional and marketing activities, and the grant-in-aid to the board has been increased for 1987–88 by 18 per cent. to over £3 million in order to assist it in these tasks. In addition, the Department of Economic Development is encouraging the extension and improvement of tourist accommodation by the private sector and the development of new tourist amenities by the public sector with grant-aid of almost £3 million.

Mr. Baldry

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Did he hear the BBC Radio 4 programme "Breakaway" on Saturday, which paid attention to the idyllic attractions of Lough Erne, which seems to be an area of miles of still water and wooded islands where one can sail for days, tying up at different jetties, at each of which there is a different pub? Is it not time that we paid some regard to the beauties and attractions of Northern Ireland and the jobs that tourism can create for the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Viggers

I regret that I missed that programme last week, but I have visited Lough Erne. The last occasion on which I did so was for the Sealink fishing festival—the fishing festival with the largest prize money in Europe—where I met a number of the 300 competitors from continental Europe and enjoyed with them the delightful tranquility of Lough Erne, which I encourage all hon. Members to see for themselves.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most useful thing that the Government could do to promote tourism in Northern Ireland would be to win the war against terrorism and violence in the Province? In that regard, will he make representations to the Government of the Republic to the effect that our support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement is not unconditional and that we expect the apprehension and extradition to Northern Ireland of wanted terrorist suspects?

Mr. Viggers

My hon. Friend is leading me along paths which are not my direct responsibility as Minister with responsibility for tourism. Those who come to Northern Ireland can enjoy golf, angling and the scenery, without really knowing that it has a problem of sectarian violence and I encourage people to take advantage of the tourist attractions immediately.

Mr. Kilfedder

The Dublin Government use their embassies throughout the world to promote tourism in the Irish Republic. Will the Government urge their embassies to do a similar job to show the attractions of Northern Ireland to people in different parts of the world and to tell them the truth about Northern Ireland?

Mr. Viggers

Our embassies overseas work hard to promote tourism in Northern Ireland, and I shall be delighted to give the hon. Gentleman more information about the efforts that have been made in that respect.