§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Lightbown.]9.36 am
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)
Twelve months have passed since we last had a major parliamentary debate on tourism, which period coincides with my first year as Minister with responsibility for tourism. I have had an exciting and happy year, having had responsibility for one of our most vibrant and buoyant industries. I believe that, collectively, we have substantially raised the profile of the tourism and hospitality industries, and the fact that I as a Minister in the Department of Employment spend approximately 80 per cent. of my time on tourism is recognition of the importance that the Government attach to it in terms of wealth, job creation and the regeneration of so many of our older towns and cities.
Spending two to three days a week out of London —travelling probably 1,000 miles every week criss-crossing the country—has given me the opportunity to see not only so many pieces of our existing rich tourism jigsaw, but the new exciting developments under way and coming on stream—the Liverpool waterfront, the Swansea maritime quarter, Manchester Granada studios tour, Center Pares in Sherwood forest, and the 2,001) berth Brighton marina, where we launched "Tourism '88", to mention just a few.
The last year has seen the opening of many new hotels. I have opened the Cannizaro at Wimbledon, the Ladbroke Hilton at Portsmouth, the Ramada at Manchester, and, recently, the Caversham at Reading. We can be proud of our high quality country house hotels. But there is still a shortage of budget accommodation, particularly in London. I am pleased to note that the London tourist board has identified 33 potential sites in the Greater London area.
We have seen further expansion of our tourist development action programmes across the country. I launched those for the Forest of Dean and for Lancaster. We have seen a mushrooming of our white-on-brown tourism signs, and a significant growth in our tourism information centres. I was particularly pleased to open one in my Pendle constituency, and yesterday I unveiled a plaque for that in Southport. I am delighted to see that the hon. Member for Southport, (Mr. Fearn) is with us to take part in the debate. Nationally, there are nearly 600 tourist information centres.
Competitions and awards such as the Catey's, Hotelier of the Year, Young Chef and Young Waiter of the Year, Caravan Park of the Year, Resorts 2,000 Competition and blue flag awards for clean beaches all help to raise standards, and the qualitative assessments now coming into hotel classification and introduced for holiday parks and self-catering accommodation can do nothing but good.
All in all, as I am sure the House will agree— particularly those hon. Members who are present. who do so much to promote tourism nationally and in their own constituencies—that standards in British tourism have risen dramatically in recent years and the industry's pride and confidence has never been higher. I pay tribute to the 749 considerable efforts of Duncan Bluck and the tourist boards in promoting and developing United Kingdom tourism.
In introducing the debate last year I highlighted five themes: signposting, spotlessness, service, training and the needs of disabled people. I shall touch on all those today, but it is service and training on which I wish to concentrate. If I have learnt one thing, it is that tourism is a partnership industry and is about and for people.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)
After dealing with the five points, will my hon. Friend make a sixth point —the weather? That is more important than anything else.
§ Mr. Lee
As a Minister at the Ministry of Defence I was responsible for the Meteorological Office. I no longer hold that direct responsibility. No doubt my hon. Friend will make his points about the weather forecasts in the Devon and South-west region.
I want to talk about the opportunities that exist in the industry for young people, for those returning to the labour market and for those who are currently out of work. I also want to discuss some of the opportunities for the industry, such as the Channel tunnel, predicted continuing growth in international travel and tourism, and the single European market.
Tourism is central to the British economy. It is capitalised at over £25 billion on the stock market. It employs 1.5 million people, it includes some of our leading companies and leading figures in the business world and it is a growing industry. Last year, was a record year, with 15.4 million visits to the United Kingdom. Overseas visitors spent a record of £6.2 billion. That is three times more in foreign earnings than our motor vehicle industry and 10 to 12 per cent. more than aerospace.
A higher proportion of those foreign earnings are net earnings. Unlike much manufacturing industry, the raw materials—the service, the food, the drink, the manufacturing input to the accommodation—are largely produced here. Over two thirds of total expenditure by overseas visitors is spent on services such as accommodation, travel, eating, drinking and entertainment.
Tourism also has a key relationship with the rest of British industry. English tourist board estimates show that over £1.2 billion worth of tourism-related construction projects were under way during the last six months of 1987. These are providing major opportunities for our construction industry as well as ensuring a great many jobs. It is the relationship with other industries, particularly manufacturing, however, that is too often not appreciated. We estimate that, on average, 80 per cent. of the construction work of a new hotel in this country is "British". Just think of the opportunities for our manufacturers—beds, curtains, carpets, electrical equipment, kitchen equipment, right down to glass, crockery and uniforms for staff.
We should also be aware of the relationships between new caravan park developments and the caravan manufacturers, as well as between marina developments and boat building. In other words, an expanding tourism industry goes hand in hand with a buoyant and healthy home manufacturing sector. I am delighted with the 750 buoyancy of our home caravan industry and the amount of money that it is spending to promote itself and its image.
If one takes into account fares paid by overseas visitors to British carriers, one finds that a total of nearly £8 billion was spent by overseas visitors. That is equivalent to £145 for every man, woman and child in the country. An additional £10 billion was spent by British residents, on holidays and day trips in this country. It is often forgotten that nearly 80 per cent. of holidays taken by British people are taken here rather than abroad—73 million holidays in total in 1987. That is slightly more than the 71 million in 1986 and is an encouraging sign.
I welcome the fact that the great majority of people have more disposable income and more choice in their leisure activities. I also welcome the fact that the fares paid to United Kingdom carriers by people going abroad, plus travel agents commission, brought an estimated £1–8 billion into our economy last year. I welcome the fact that the tourism industry realises that it has to compete internationally for both domestic visitors and for those from overseas. It is competing successfully. The United Kingdom is fifth in the world league of overseas tourist earnings in dollars. Taking overseas and domestic visitors' expenditure together, tourism is worth £18 billion to the United Kingdom economy. That is about 5 per cent. more than last year. There are now about 1–5 million people working in tourism, and the figure is increasing at the rate of nearly 1,000 net new jobs every week. It is one of the fastest job creating sectors. Recent changes that the Government have made to the licensing laws are estimated to produce perhaps a further 50,000 jobs.
The Government play their full part in that partnership. Ministers meet regularly to discuss tourism issues. I meet my colleagues, my noble Friend the Minister of State, Scottish Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts), the Minister of State, Welsh Office, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to discuss common tourism issues. In that connection, I welcome and endorse the Wales tourist board strategy launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on Tuesday. It shares common goals with "A Vision for England", produced by the English tourist board. It shows the potential that exists for the private sector with the support and co-operation of the Government, which through the board, will be investing some £11 million over the next five years, aiming to create 1,300 jobs.
In Scotland, I welcome the establishment by my noble Friend of the Scottish tourism co-ordinating group, another splendid example of partnership, bringing together the principal agencies responsible for the promotion and development of tourism in Scotland.
I particularly welcome the news that Northern Ireland has had its best tourism season since 1970. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) is here today. Obviously, other tragic events still dominate the news in Northern Ireland, but I hope that that will not deter people from discovering the beauty of the Province and the charm of its people.
The Government, in all parts of the United Kingdom, invest substantially in the partnership with the private sector. Total United Kingdom investment in tourist boards has been increasing steadily and now amounts to over £70 million a year. That has financed the work of the British Tourist Authority, which markets the country 751 overseas, and the English tourist board, which administers our section 4 scheme of assistance to tourism developments. Under that scheme the boards can provide assistance, normally up to a maximum of 20 per cent. towards the capital costs of new developments or the expansion or upgrading of existing facilities, subject to certain criteria. A separate but comparable scheme operates in Northern Ireland. In 1987–88 assistance totalling £14.8 million was offered by the ETB to 609 projects in England. The largest section 4 project assisted to date has been a £1.5 million grant towards the £34 million Center Pares development in Sherwood forest. Recent projects assisted have ranged from £750,000 for the £8 million Granada studios tour in Manchester to £3,150 towards the cost of en-suite facilities at the Shapwich House hotel in Somerset.
One growing part of the industry, and something of a personal crusade of mine, is what I term the development of modern industrial tourism, that is to say, manufacturing and commercial firms opening themselves up to visitors by setting up properly organised and designed visitor facilities, including perhaps reception centres, walkways and viewing points, to see British industry at work. For many years our ceramic, glassware and distillery companies have been doing that. On Wednesday I opened the Dennis Hall visitors centre at Thomas Webb Crystal in Stourbridge, part of the Coloroll group. That is an excellent example of what can be achieved with a purpose-built centre linked to tours of the manufacturing process.
British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. recently opened a £5 million visitor centre at Sellafield hoping to attract 150,000 visitors this year. Local authorities are getting in on the act and realise the potential. Cheshire and Coventry have put together and successfully marketed tours of a wide cross-section of industries in their areas. The public sector also has a role to play in industrial tourism, and that is demonstrated by the way in which the Central Electricity Generating Board is encouraging visits to power stations.
§ Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the grant of some £9 million by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment towards the creation of a new hotel in Birmingham, together with the grants from the Government and Europe for the creation of a city centre convention centre of operating in a European dimension, will put Birmingham firmly on the map and make it one of the most prominent industrial tourism centres in the United Kingdom and Europe.
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend, from his local knowledge, cites a superb example of how a substantial Government contribution, coupled with a substantial private-sector input, can produce something of major regional and national importance. He is absolutely right.
The CBI is supportive of industrial tourism and, in conjunction with this Department and the ETB, will be jointly promoting a conference on Industrial Tourism—the first of its type—to be held at Centre Point on 15 September. In addition, the ETB is currently preparing a publication, designed to encourage and assist firms wishing to exploit their tourism potential, to be launched at the conference. Our section 4 grants are also available in theory for this type of development of industrial tourism.
752 The conference provides a good example of partnership, which is so important to the tourism industry. People in the tourist industry work in an incredible range of jobs, at all skill levels, in the public and private sectors, at attractions, in restaurants and in hotels and other accommodation, in transport and in travel agents.
Not just the Government are involved. There is partnership between local authorities, which are taking an ever-increasing interest in tourism, partnership with the Government and partnership with the tourist boards, whose efforts with the private sector in so many areas deserve the highest praise.
I am particularly pleased to see partnership at regional level, increasing the number of commercial members of tourist boards. In the north-west, for example, there has been about a 100 per cent. increase in commercial members in the past year.
The most important partnership is the partnership of the market place—between a person offering a service and a visitor and, giving a visitor value for money in a skilled and professional way. That is where our tourism industry has to compete now and in future, and that is where I want to focus today's debate.
Tourism is a people industry. To provide the right service, it has to recruit the right people. It has to do so in an employment market where the number of young people leaving school will fall by over 20 per cent. between 1986 and 1994. So the industry will have to fight hard for its share of those entering the labour market. I am glad to say that the industry is making a substantial and growing effort to reach out to young people.
Last year, for the first time, we had a catering and hotels open day, organised by Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine, to which I pay particular tribute. It encourages young people and careers teachers to see over 2,000 hotels and restaurants. I was present at the Manchester launch. It was a great success and we intend to repeat the event in November.
We have careers videos and material being produced by the tourist boards and the industry, and there are 20 technical and vocational education initiative projects in schools around the country. The awareness of careers officers is also increasing. A recent survey showed that they found material on tourism increasingly helpful. YTS is making a major contribution. Some 5,000 places are run by the Hotel and Catering training board, which gave me a presentation on its assessment of the labour market earlier this week. It estimated that about 75 per cent. of those completing the course go into jobs.
A growing industry also needs to look at the skills that those already in the labour market can offer. The industry has already made substantial progress in employing part-time workers and married women returning to the labour market who often wish to have that kind of work. The number of full-time jobs is also growing, and the industry needs to look hard at the skills already on offer in the labour market to fill them.
Employment training, announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment in February, is a major new training initiative which has the potential to help the industry tap those skills. It offers training to 600,000 unemployed people in a full year, and we are providing £1.4 billion to ensure its success. It is an important opportunity for the tourism industry, and we want to see it fully represented.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
All this training is vital, but does my hon. Friend agree that the one area of concern that the Government have not dealt with is the teaching of foreign languages so that people can assist tourists visiting this country? Part and parcel of education and training is learning how to make people feel welcome, and that is not achieved if no one can speak their language. No one is learning Japanese. What will the Government do about that?
§ Mr. Lee
That is a fair point and an interesting one. It is also the first time that it has been raised with me in the context of tourism and I shall certainly think about it. The BTA has recently opened an office in Japan which I am sure will be staffed by Japanese speakers. I take my hon. Friend's point about employing in the tourism industry people with knowledge of a foreign language.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
As my hon. Friend is talking about part-time and full-time workers in this great industry, will he consider the still crying need for more youngsters to be trained in craft skills? We raised this in our last major debate on tourism. Has he had discussions since then with his opposite number in the Department of Education and Science so that we produce rather more indians than chiefs? At present major centres, such as York, Brighton, Hove and Blackpool, are sadly devoid of the craft skills that they need.
§ Mr. Lee
I shall deal with that later in my speech.
I was particularly pleased to see that the Hotel and Catering training board is seeking a substantial number of places in the employment training scheme—some 28,500 places. My Department and the Training Commission will do all that they can to ensure that firms in the industry become involved.
It is particularly important that employment training will offer all entering the scheme who wish it the chance to work towards a vocational qualification. That will be a major step towards maintaining our competitiveness in the level of skill and the standard of service that we offer. It is also particularly important that employment training should offer a flexible programme of training, generally between three to 12 months, with outcomes based on an individually agreed action plan. That is necessary for an industry with such a diversity of skills, skill levels and opportunities.
Lastly, in getting its recruitment right, the industry must look to recruit its managers and future managers. I welcome the increase in the number of college places on offer.
Training does not stop when people are recruited. Training should be for life. Many of our larger companies in the tourism industry already recognise that. Trusthouse Forte which spends £10 million per annum on training, is perhaps the best example. But the industry needs help, because it is so diverse, to focus its training efforts and to ensure that those entering the industry have a clear route towards vocational qualifications.
That is why the Secretary of State and I launched the tourism training initiative in October last year. The initiative is designed to bring together all sectors of the industry so that training needs can be identified and gaps in training provision can be filled. The ultimate objective is to construct a coherent system of qualifications that 754 meets the requirements of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and its Scottish equivalent, SCOTVEC.
It is the aim of the initiative that the industry should play a leading part in identifying its needs, and that the industry and providers should work together to find ways of meeting them. I should emphasise that the initiative does not seek to duplicate or deny the value of the existing good work of employers and providers. The initiative is firmly centred on achieving coherence and improving communications between parts of the industry.
Since the launch of the TTI in October, I have addressed a second national conference, at Wembley on 27 April. It was attended by nearly 100 leading figures from the industry, and gave some useful pointers on training needs and the way forward for the initiative. As well as the national conference, there are plans for a series of regional conferences. I was glad to have the opportunity to address the first, in Durham on 24 March.
The initiative has attracted wide support. The ABTA national training board and the Hotel and Catering training board, which both have in place excellent systems of qualification which meet NCVQ standards, are involved in it. Many leading figures in the industry are involved. We are particularly grateful to have Brian Wolfson, chairman of the British Institute of Management, chairman of the National Economic Development Council sector group on tourism and leisure, and chairman of Wembley Stadium Ltd., as the leader of the steering group. I should like to say a word of appreciation for the work that Don Calder of ABTA and Duncan Rutter of the HCTB are putting in. With commitment like that, we are well on the way towards ensuring that the United Kingdom tourism industry has a profitable and competitive future. The initiative is another example of the partnership between sectors of the industry, and between the Government and the industry.
It goes without saying that pay and conditions, and the opportunities to get on, will play an important part in attracting the people when the industry needs to continue growing. Pay and conditions have often, largely unjustly, been used as a stick with which to beat the industry. The average earnings index currently shows pay in the hotel and catering industry to be 88 per cent. higher than it was in 1980, with an 8.5 per cent. average increase over the past year.
Of course, that does not place hotel and catering workers among the highest paid, but there are many compensations in working in the industry. Perhaps the greatest of those, although unquantifiable, is a job that constantly changes, a job that involves, by and large, meeting the public, and a job that gives satisfaction through ensuring that the public are satisfied.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
To say that workers in the tourism industry are not among the highest paid is a massive piece of understatement. What the Minister should have said is that they are among the lowest paid and among some of the most exploited workers within industry. I hope that the Minister will tell us what he proposes to do to raise standards of employment rights, conditions and wages of those workers.
§ Mr. Lee
With the greatest respect, that is the sort of generalisation that does our growing tourism industry so 755 much harm. Of course there are some bad employers, as there are in any industry, and one accepts that there are a number of low-paid jobs, but there are a tremendous number of jobs that pay a good wage, and increasingly there are significant opportunities for career advancement and development in this huge industry. The tourism industry increasingly recognises that it cannot be in its interest to continue to have the staff turnover rates of the past and that it must make sense to retain staff. Pay levels are improving, and the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and others who are minded to make similar comments should endeavour to keep some sort of balance. It is a huge industry and a range of salaries are on offer.
Many of the 1.5 million people who work in tourism do so in exceptionally pleasant environments. Their work has none of the repetition and regimentation of process work. That means that, as well as a varied job, hours and periods of work can be flexibly adjusted to suit the individual. Some 54 per cent. of those working in tourism-related industries are part-time employees. Self-employment is also growing in the tourism industry, and that is to be welcomed. The labour force survey has shown that in the past four years there has been a 27 per cent. increase in the number of self-employed people in hotels and catering. Most important, opportunities in tourism are also growing regionally. In the two years to December 1987 the number of jobs in hotels and catering in the north-west increased by 14 per cent. and increases of 13 per cent. were recorded in Yorkshire and Humberside, the east midlands and East Anglia.
I hope that that helps to overcome the stereotype of a low-pay, poor-condition industry to which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West alluded. That image will not help the industry to expand. What is equally important is the level of opportunity—of early responsibility—that the industry offers. That is not often recognised. It is possible to get right to the top of the tourism industry in a way that is not possible in many other traditional, less flexible industries, and it is possible to do so at a relatively young age. Some examples of current vacancies on offer include: manager of a country house hotel, aged 30–35, at a salary of £25,000, plus car, plus benefits; and head chef, for a hotel restaurant in Ipswich, aged 28 plus, at a salary of £12.000–£14,000, plus £2,000 bonus, plus living accommodation. I would not claim that such salaries are universal or even the norm, but they show that the opportunities are there. Many of the top jobs in the industry carry substantial salaries.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. Does he agree that it would be helpful to say exactly the same thing to careers officers and those involved in education, so that young people at school will understand that there are great opportunities in tourism waiting to be taken up?
§ Mr. Lee
Certainly I intend to say that increasingly in the coming months. National initiatives such as the catering careers open day are a step in the right direction. The sad thing is that it has taken until this year to produce that major initiative. Given that in the past the industry has prided itself on selling its product to the customer so well, it has not sold itself successfully to young people by highlighting the career opportunities.
756 One of the benefits of the industry offering such a wide and individual range of opportunities is that there are opportunities for women, and, traditionally, there have been excellent opportunities for people from ethnic minorities. Equality of opportunity is one of the great strengths of the industry.
At the beginning of my speech I promised to mention disabled people, and I take particular pride in and responsibility for promoting their employment in the industry. Three tourism employers won the "Fit for work" awards this year; the George hotel at Bromley, part of the Trusthouse Forte group, the Turnberry hotel in Ayrshire and the Station hotel in Dumfries. I am pleased to say that the number of disabled young people in catering and allied YTS stands at 6.3 per cent., compared with the national average of 4.4 per cent. of all trainees. I am also delighted that disabled people are able to benefit from the industry as consumers.
The holiday care service, which receives financial help from the English tourist board, plays a large part in ensuring that people with special needs—not just disabled people, but single parents and the elderly—are adequately catered for. It encourages hotel and travel operators to provide facilities for disabled people. It provides free information and advice to customers. I am also glad that the English tourist board has set up a working party, "Tourism for All", to look at recent developments in holiday provision for disadvantaged and disabled people. I look forward to seeing its report. With the hon. Member for Southport, I visited an impressive example of recent developments. I am referring to Sandpiper centre in Southport, which opens shortly. It will provide specialist accommodation for disabled people and it is an outstanding development of its type.
Last year I mentioned the specific issues of signposting and spotlessness. As any traveller will know, a great achievement has been the spread of our white-on-brown tourism signposting on our major roads and motorways. They are much appreciated by the public, as I know from my postbag. We now have 16,000 approved signs, and that is an increase of no less than 13,500 in the pass year. However, much progress must still be made especially in our cities.
Hygiene and cleanliness are vital parts of the infrastructure of tourism because image contributes substantially to the impression gained by the customer. Hygiene and cleanliness vitally affect the partnership that I have mentioned between the visitor and the industry.
Litter also has a vital effect on visitors' impressions. I welcome support for the Tidy Britain group and the major initiative launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier in the year. Specifically we shall watch the progress of the City of Westminster Act 1988, which allows on-the-spot litter fines. I hope to attend a presentation by London Regional Transport of its major initiative later this month.
So far 1988 is shaping up even better than last year's record year. There were 2.9 million visits to the United Kingdom by overseas residents in the first quarter of this year—10 per cent. more than in the equivalent period last year. Those visitors spent over £1 billion—4 per cent. up on last year—and indications are that the number of visits by domestic tourists, and bookings for longer holidays, are up to or exceeding last year's levels. That shows that 757 investment in all-weather facilities, and in improving the quality of accommodation and other services, is beginning to pay off.
What is also encouraging is the spread of visitors. Contrary to popular belief, only 20 per cent. of our visitors presently come from North America. They are, of course, extremely welcome, but there is a strong growth in the number of visitors from western Europe and from the rest of the world, in particular—as my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) said—from Japan.
§ Mr. Lee
I have a difficult enough job to get the Department of Transport to approve the white-on-brown signs in English, and I believe that it would be a nightmare to try to get it to approve signs in Japanese. However, I take note of my hon. Friend's suggestion.
Although the dollar exchange rates need to be carefully monitored, the wide base of the industry gives us a considerable degree of security. The liberalisation, particularly of transport, that will occur with the advent of the single European market will present both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry. We must ensure that all sectors of it are aware of what will happen in 1992 and are prepared to take advantage of it.
Perhaps the most significant development in the foreseeable future will be the opening of the Channel tunnel in 1993. It is thought that 15 million travellers will use the tunnel in its first year of operation, compared with a total 15.4 million visitors who came to our shores last year. The potential scale of increased movement is obvious and presents a challenge both in terms of road and rail infrastructure and to the industry in producing and marketing a product that will not only attract more people to these shores but will encourage our own people to spend their holiday and leisure time here.
Let us respond boldly—the rewards are immense.
§ 10.9 am
§ Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)
I feel almost guilty about having to be a little critical of the Minister this morning because he has had a lovely half hour, telling us about the glories of the British tourism industry.
We start from a common basis because Opposition Members welcome the growth of our tourism industry, its diversification and the way in which there has been a real response from the private sector to look for change, development and diversification.
The main thrust of—
§ Mr. Sheerman
No, I will not. I have only just started.
I should like to concentrate the Minister's attention on some of the more fundamental problems that Opposition Members recognise as emerging in tourism. The Minister went through a whole catalogue of visits that he has made and things that he has opened. We are privileged to see him 758 in the Chamber this morning as he seems to spend so much time rattling around the country. I, too, visit a number of—
§ Mr. Sheerman
Perhaps we do not have so many consultants on this side of the House—[Hon. Members: "That is cheap."] Perhaps it is cheap, but it is a fact. To get on with my speech—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Sheerman
I do not want to rehearse the arguments and discussions that we have every time that we debate tourism. However, it is important to put on record the fact that the Labour party policy document entitled "Quality, Community and Commitment" has still not been taken fully into consideration by the Government, fundamentally because the Government still believe that the private sector will provide. They still have the laissez-faire belief that the private sector, pursuing its own interest, will do the best possible work and produce the best product for the industry's future. We do not believe that. We believe that there should be proper public and private partnership but, if that is to work, it must be led, planned and encouraged by the Government.
I shall try to show that, unless the Government take their responsibilities seriously, what may sound like a pretty picture when one listens to the Minister is actually a crisis in British tourism of a proportion and size that will be damaging to its long-term future.
First Opposition Members have always argued for growth and diversification in tourism, by which we mean that there is still too much emphasis on London and the south of England and not enough emphasis on opening up the regions to tourism. Although there have been some encouraging signs, many of the pundits of the tourism industry are pessimistic about its long-term future.
Secondly, it is absolutely essential that we have a well-trained and well-paid work force. Whatever the Minister says, I refer him to an excellent publication produced by the Low Pay Unit entitled "Waiting for Change". The title of that booklet means that for a significant number of young people—and older people—working in the hotel and catering industry is a degrading experience of long hours, split shifts and poor pay and conditions. According to the investigations carried out in that research, a high percentage of hotel and catering workers are paid an average of £60 per week less than employees in comparable industries. That is a fact.
The Minister knows that I have never subscribed to the belief that all tourist jobs are bad. That is not the case —the majority of tourist jobs present opportunity and a good career structure and are well paid. However, we must address the fact that 30 per cent. of the jobs in hotel and catering are low paid and exploitative. We need Government direction on that. I shall return later to the benefits of having a well-paid work force, living in good 759 conditions. For too long this country has put up with the idea that many jobs in tourism can be low paid and part time, especially for young people and women. Why cannot we move to the views of our competitor countries which have a quite different attitude and believe that part-time jobs in tourism for young people, and for women who work part-time, should be well paid, with good conditions and pensions? That is a different attitude from the one taken by many employers in this country where the Government have progressively stripped away protections for young people and workers in the industry.
Thirdly, I should like to turn the Minister's attention to effective standards of service and consumer protection. I still believe that this country does not have enough protection for its consumers. I know that many Conservative Members believe that there should be proper mandatory standards for hotels so that consumers can be assured that the hotels will be of a certain standard. Many hotels have not adopted the new crown standard and some of the larger hotel chains have not co-operated with the system. Until they do, it will remain ineffective.
Fourthly, the Minister knows that Opposition Members believe strongly that tourism and leisure should be for all. We mean that in two ways. We mean that the community has an interest in tourism. If tourism is well planned by the Government, and if local councils are encouraged to participate fully in the development of leisure services and facilities to cater both for the incoming tourists and local inhabitants, there will be a much better reception for incoming tourists and much more positive attitudes on the part of all those who live in tourism areas which cater for many visitors. Unless the community as well as the visitor is seen to benefit, tourism will get a bad name, people will resent tourists and the traditional British welcome for tourists will begin to fade. The quality of the welcome that we give visitors to this country is second to none. All the surveys show that, and all hon. Members know the welcome given in their constituencies to visitors from overseas and from other parts of the country.
However, tourism and leisure should be for all in another way also. The Minister did not say anything about the 40 per cent. of our population who, measured by the British Tourist Authority's standard of having more than four nights away from home as a holiday do not have a holiday. For whatever reason—low pay, handicap or retirement—a high percentage of this country's citizens do not enjoy a proper holiday each year.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
What does the hon. Gentleman consider to be a proper holiday? One of my neighbours has never been far from the village but has a long holiday every year. Travelling all over the place with a bunch of children is not everyone's idea of a holiday.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The hon. Gentleman knows that research shows that the sort of people he is describing are not the people who do not have holidays. That research shows that people who do not have holidays cannot afford them—people on low incomes and handicapped people. It also includes single parent families and people on social security benefits. They are the sort of people who need a holiday, a rest from the daily routine.
Any Government should examine the position of citizens who do not get an opportunity for a holiday. Most people believe that a decent holiday is almost a right, and we must encourage that. There is a great deal of 760 under-used capacity in the industry at different times of the year. There is great potential, and hon. Members will know that there is a European initiative for providing holidays for less advantaged groups. It is called social tourism and we should be a the forefront of trying to devise ways of getting to the hidden group of people who do not get a holiday. The Minister did not touch on that, and that was a grave deficiency in his speech.
In these debates we usually talk about better co-ordination of the tourism effort. I should like to use as an example of that a document that most of us interested in tourism will have received. It is called "Tourism 88" and features resorts at work. Conservative Members will know that we continually react to this kind of promotional literature. It is basically a piece of public relations on behalf of the Conservative party. I do not know how any Government can publish promotional literature of this sort at the expense of the taxpayer. It is an absolute disgrace. It is full of pictures and quotations from Ministers, but I shall desist from reading to the House any of the quotations.
This Government publication is a piece of Tory propaganda. [Interruption.] It might be Tory tourist propaganda, but it is still propaganda. It is an insult to any serious understanding of tourism and of where the industry is going. Not only is it propaganda but includes information that is certainly not correct. For example, it exaggerates the growth of the tourist industry. One of the tables in the publication—and I had the figures checked by the Library—shows the growth of the industry. The table shows the employment attributable to tourism from 1979 to 1986. I ask hon. Members to pay attention to these overall figures and to look at the table.
I should like to quote from the Library's interpretation of employment in United Kingdom tourism. In 1979 1,710,000 people were employed in tourism. That is markedly better than the 1982 figure; we must remember that not everything is growing under this Government. There was a steep decline in the tourism industry after the Government came to power in 1979. By 1982 employment in the industry was down to 1,475,000. It increased a little in 1983 to 1,550,000, and by 1984 it was 1,610,000. That was still not up to the 1979 level. The estimate for 1985 is 1,680,000.
§ Mr. Sheerman
No, because I am in the middle of a run of figures. The 1986 estimate is 1,710,000. Those figures were not published by the Government it their propaganda document.
§ Mr. Field
If the hon. Gentleman had bothered to analyse the figures, he would have had to tell the House the full story which shows an increase in self-employment in tourism from 130,000 in 1979 to 195,000 in 1986 Those are the latest figures available, as the Library will tell the hon. Gentleman. This is another example of the Labour party showing its dislike of self-employment.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The self-employed were included in the figures that I gave of the overall total employment in tourism. In this propaganda document, the Government mislead the public—or whoever is unfortunate enough to read it. That is not my only criticism of the document.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Yes; I am saying that there has not been a steady increase. After the Government came to power there was a severe decline, but there is now some growth. If the Minister wants to challenge the figures that I have given, I can pass them to him and he can have them checked by his civil servants. I see a certain flurry between the Minister and his advisers.
This document symbolises very well the Government's attitude to tourism. I should like to mention some of the things that the document does not show. Not only are some of the figures wrong, but some things are omitted. It does not say that we have a crisis in tourism. The Minister looked askance when I used the word crisis. In 1979, in terms of the balance of trade, we were earning from tourism £250 million plus. Last year we were more than £1 billion in the red in terms of the balance of trade, and that is serious for tourism. There is no mention in the document of the fact that Britain is desperately in the red and that people going abroad are spending £1 billion more than we are getting in.
§ Mr. Bevan
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct his malicious comments. He talks about a deficit of £1 billion, but he is not taking into account the amount spent by incoming tourists and natives on domestic tourism. When added together, the figure exceeds £10.75 billion compared to the amount spent by British tourists abroad. This is surplus to the amount spent by our tourists abroad.
§ Mr. Sheerman
I am talking about the balance of payments in an industry, about how much we buy from abroad and how much we earn from products that we sell abroad. It is a simple sum even for the hon. Gentleman. We are spending £1 billion more than we are getting in from tourism.
§ Mr. Barry Field
Under the Labour Government one could not take more than £200 abroad. The Labour Government had such tight restrictions on capital that it was almost impossible to go abroad and a passport had to be stamped every time one wanted £200.
§ Mr. Sheerman
That situation did not exist in 1979. I do not see what the hon. Gentleman is so cross about. We are merely presenting some facts from "Tourism '88", which is supposed to be state of the art in terms of what is happening in British tourism.
If this is a propaganda document from Tory Central Office, we accept that facts will be left out. If it is a Government document presented by civil servants, it is a national scandal. Can one imagine the steel, auto or chemical industry putting out a document which does not say that we are £1 billion in the red?
§ Mr. Lee
I am getting fed up with the hon. Gentleman's miserable speech. He says "we" but means himself and the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who is the only other Labour Member who has turned up to support the debate. "Tourism '88" is the equivalent of the annual report of the British home tourist industry. It is nothing to do with tourism overseas. If the hon. Gentleman wants to quote those figures, we can debate 762 them. He is right in saying that there is a balance of payments deficit, but this document relates to home United Kingdom tourism.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The hon. Gentleman had more than half an hour at the Dispatch Box, but he did not mention that imbalance. We have heard a Minister responsible for tourism who did not mention that there was a deficit in the balance of trade in tourism of £1 billion, and rising. That was a severe deficiency in his speech.
The Minister said that "Tourism '88" was about domestic tourism. That was an interesting statement, because there was no mention of low pay in the document. I scrutinised it for any mention of the problems of the 30 per cent. of people on low pay. There was no mention of the 40 per cent. of the British people who do not get a holiday——
§ Mr. Sheerman
I can see that the Government wish to limit the breadth of the debate to what they think will give them many brownie points. The document does not mention the 40 per cent. of people who do not get a holiday.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is official Labour party policy that everyone should be guaranteed a holiday away from home?
§ Mr. Sheerman
That is an attractive proposition, but it is not Labour party—[Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like this, but the fact is—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Perhaps some of the counter-arguments can be put when hon. Members make their speeches rather than by way of sedentary heckling.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Some Conservative Members do not seem to like it when one takes tourism out of the warm glow of all-party bonhomie and puts some of the facts to them. Of course we do not say that we must guarantee every family in Britain a holiday, but the idea that every family in Britain should have a holiday is a nice aspiration. It is possible if a Government have the guts to say that that is what they would like to secure and if they try to do something about it.
"Tourism '88" does not mention the imbalance between London and the rest of the country. The statistics show that this problem is getting worse. More and more money is spent in London and the south and a fair proportion is not given to the rest of the country. There is some growth but not enough diversification. That is a problem in the long term.
"Tourism '88" rather exaggerates the amount of investment and the number of people employed in tourism. "Tourism related" is a broad category in which the document includes restaurants, cafes, hotels, every pub and bar, libraries, museums, art galleries and other recreational activities. One suspects that the tourism-related element of some of those is a little far-fetched.
763 When we look at other parts of the long-term investment in tourism, we see that some of the things that we should normally put in other categories are included in tourism. The inclusion of libraries, art galleries and every swimming pool as expanding investment in tourism slightly exaggerates the true position.
I intend to show that the real deficiency in the Government's thinking—and of "Tourism '88"—is that they pay little attention to some of the longer-range difficulties that tourism is facing. The Minister has acknowledged that it is an important industry. He touched on the subject of the Channel tunnel. I suggest that the treatment the Minister gave transport and the Channel tunnel was a dereliction of his duty as a Minister. Those who have studied the development of the Channel tunnel know that British Rail will face problems when the Channel tunnel is completed. The Minister said that 15 million people a year will use the Channel tunnel in the first few years. That is an enormous number of people who will be coming to this country. It is, therefore, a disgrace that the Government have no strategy to enable those 15 million people to come from Cheriton in Kent into London in a fast and convenient way. It is ridiculous that the French will provide fast and modern trains to bring people to Calais, yet when people come through the Channel tunnel and arrive at Dover they will find that British Rail provides a very slow service into London.
§ Mr. Sheerman
It is not a different gauge but a lading gauge.
The Government's inability to organise and plan for the influx of 15 million visitors will cause problems if those people want to go anywhere but London. When they get to London, they will be unable to travel under the Thames because the Government are not planning a proper Thames tunnel through which to travel to the north.
The Minister represents a northern constituency not far from mine. People in the provinces and the regions are worried about the impact of the Channel tunnel because it will accentuate the difficulty of getting visitors out of London and the south-east to the rest of the country. It is a serious dereliction of duty for the Minister not to have said that the Government are doing something about that problem.
"Tourism '88" sets out what other Departments are doing about tourism. I am delighted to see that the Department of Transport isto allow parking of coaches in marked on-street parking bays, and to improve marketing of coach cards.If that is the Department of Transport's long-range strategy for tourism, the Government are in deep trouble.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Perhaps the Department of Transport will do something about the tourist coaches that park on Westminster bridge, to the inconvenience of those who travel across it and to the great danger of people getting out of left-hand drive coaches on to the middle of the road.
The Channel tunnel will cause problems at Waterloo, if the terminus is to be there. Clearly there will be even greater problems in that part of London. My hon. Friend should encourage the Department of Transport to locate the Channel tunnel terminus in, for example, Stratford, in the east end. I hope, too, that my hon. Friend will say 764 something about the impact on London as the focus of tourism and the great strain that that puts on the services provided by local authorities in London.
§ Mr. Sheerman
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he anticipates my analysis of the transportation problems and those problems that are facing London due to the Government's inability to think only in the short term.
London and the south-east are faced with a tremendous influx of people because of the opening of the Channel tunnel and with the increasing problem of people moving around our capital city. Hon. Members know that transportation in London is deteriorating at an amazing rate. They can see that transportation by tube, bus, car and bicycle is seizing up. We shall have 15 million visitors as a result of the Channel tunnel, so planning is needed to enable them to travel round this city. If that is not done, London will cease to be the beautiful city that people want to visit and there will then be a reaction to a city that is clogged up, overused and around which people cannot travel conveniently. All the attractions of this great city will be as nothing if our transportation system is allowed to deteriorate.
I warned the Minister a year ago about the deterioration of the tube system in this city, that labour was being cut and that supervision on the tubes was a disgrace. If one stands at Westminster station, one can see numerous graffiti-covered trains. Unhappily, shortly after I warned the Minister, the King's Cross disaster took place and that was not unrelated to the supervision on our tube system and the number of people working on it.
In an analysis of the long-term problems facing our transportation system, I should say a few words about air transport. Hon. Members may have seen a statement issued only this week by Lord King about the problems of people travelling by air to this country. They have occurred because we have introduced a crazy system of banking and holding aircraft wishing to land at our major London airports of Heathrow and Gatwick, which has developed as a result of the lack of investment in the air traffic control system over 40 years. I say "over 4(1 years" because I do not want to be entirely partisan.
Unless we consider carefully the problems of air traffic control at our major airports, the number of visitors that they can handle will be greatly restricted. If we want to extend the long-term capacity of our airports to handle the projected number of people who will want to travel by air over the next five, 10 or 15 years, we must extend our existing airports and plan new airports now. That is not my party's policy, but I believe that those people who live near airports are probably the most cosseted consumer group that I have even come across. The Government must stand up to those people and plan airports and air traffic sensibly.
§ Mr. Holt
I support the hon. Gentleman's comments. No Government in 1928 or 1935 envisaged that almost every household in the land would have a car. No one appears to be working out now what will happen when we all have private helicopters and aeroplanes. That may sound far-fetched, but 60 years ago four-car households sounded far-fetched to our forebears, yet we have such households today. There is almost universally one car per household. I hope that the Minister will comment on that matter.
§ Mr. Sheerman
By agreeing with me on this point, the hon. Gentleman draws attention to the need for a long-term strategy. If tourism is a vital industry, we must think ahead and plan. We are not thinking in the long term about road, rail and air transport. There are no plans to take account of what is happening before our very eyes.
§ Mr. Steen
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a 12 per cent. growth in flights coming into Gatwick over the past year and that, because of that and the stacking and flow arrangements, the charter airlines are unable to get the third roster round and are running into their night flight commitments and allocations? By the end of July, they will have run out of all their night flight allocations, which will mean that they will have to fly to Luton, Hum of Stansted, for example, with the result that tourists will be left in various airports all over the country throughout the night, unless the Government do something about that.
§ Mr. Sheerman
If the hon. Gentleman reads The House Magazine, he will see that the article about British Airways emphasises that very problem. We must do something about it very soon. It is a matter not simply of this summer's confusion and delays, but of the longer term problem of people being unable to travel. Increasingly, people believe that they have a right to travel by air conveniently, whether as charter or scheduled airline passengers.
We should also consider the great opportunities offered by the waterways. The Minister did not make much of the great opportunity of opening up the Thames to tourist traffic, but it is already happening. We can see it as we stand on the Terrace and watch the new Thamesline operating. The Minister should consider the restrictions on water transport in this city. I am told that one cannot obtain a contract to run a service on the Thames for more than a year, which restricts any real investment initiatives on the Thames.
One of the best tourist sites in Britain today is the London docklands. Anyone who has not made the trip from Tower hill on the Docklands light railway to the Isle of Dogs, walked through the tunnel under the Thames to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark and the Armada exhibition and then zoomed into London on the Thamesline has missed a real treat. It is one of the best things that one can do in London today, but we must have a decent high-speed waterway system.
§ Mr. Barry Field
As the only hon. Member who can sail from his back garden to both County hall and this House, may I rely on the hon. Gentleman's party's support in my application to Mr. Speaker to put a pontoon at the bottom of his private steps so that in future I can moor my boat there when I arrive?
§ Mr. Sheerman
I have never believed in privilege, and I believe that Embankment or Westminster pier is quite close enough for the hon. Gentleman—although I wish that he would offer me a lift sometimes.
Even if the Government act now, we shall still have long-term problems with road, rail and tube transport.
§ Mr. Sheerman
My speech is becoming very long. I have had many interventions and have given way on a number of occasions. I have been trying to consider tourism in the 766 long term rather than the short term and bring home to the Minister the fact that he should be considering the long-term problems rather than superficial problems.
§ Mr. Robert Banks
The hon. Gentleman talks about extending tourism in London, but would it not be better to be talking about extending tourism in such places as Newcastle, which has a remarkable river and history? Surely we need to develop tourism in those areas.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point and he anticipates my remarks.
I want to consider how one element of the transportation system in our city affects the rest of the country and tourism in general. I shall deal with regional diversification in a moment, but it is important to take on board the transportation issues to which I have referred this morning; and I thank the House for being tolerant with me. It is all a question of judgment.
The Government state on page 8 of their document that they do not make forecasts. If they do not make forecasts, industry will be in trouble. That is the central, fundamental problem about the Government's strategy in economic terms and with regard to a particular interest in the tourism industry. The Government must make plans. I hope that I have convinced the House that there must be planning with regard to transportation.
The Minister neglected to mention another important area. My hon. Friends and I contributed to an important debate on the subject last year.
§ Mr. Sheerman
That is right. There were many maiden speeches in that debate.
We referred in that debate to hotel accommodation and the lack of it—especially budget accommodation—in London. We referred to the problem created by the Government's housing policy and the restrictions on the ability of local authorities to provide decent accommodation for the homeless. That has caused problems in terms of providing the ordinary traveller rather than the expense account traveller with decent budget accommodation in the capital city. Travellers might come from Huddersfield, Preston or even from the constituency of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt).
Last year I said that London was becoming a forbidden city to many people who cannot afford to stay here. There are many four and five star hotels, but still very little budget accommodation. A horrendous number of people are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. They do not want to be there. It is rotten for them and it stops people going to those hotels. The only people who benefit from the crazy system encouraged by the Government are the landlords. The Government's document on tourism should have addressed that problem.
There are too many people in cheap accommodation. The Minister should talk to some representatives on Conservative-controlled councils in the London area. Some of those councils have a very bad reputation for putting people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and for not granting planning permission for new hotels which might alleviate the hotel shortage in London. The Minister will be aware that the London tourist board predicts a real problem by 1990–92 in terms of the shortage of bed space in London.
767 I wonder whether the Minister is aware that his responsibilities, like mine touch on training. The achievements in training young people and adults in the industry have not been good enough. The Minister has scrutinised the figures and referred to 5,000 places on YTS. Those places are welcomed, but there should be more. The training effort across the industry is far too little and far too late. This is a prime industry. The Minister called it a people industry. One's holiday is made or broken by the quality of the people one meets and the service they give. That does not come naturally. Some people are naturally charming, but most people have to be trained to be good at personal relations. We are not training well enough. The Minister should be looking closely at the way in which training in the industry is funded and delivered.
There is some method in training. However, it is clear that the funding for training represents far too small a percentage of the industry's total bill. The Minister referred to Trusthouse Forte. I believe that the percentage of funding granted to training by THF as a proportion of its turnover or wage bill is far too small—and that is one of the best in the industry. However, the average percentage devoted to training by the poor provider in the industry is very bad.
The Opposition will never be content when poor training, and poor wages are often found in an industry with very high profits. That is a juxtaposition. The tourism industry is very profitable. We need only look at the annual accounts of most of the companies in the industry.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The Minister is aware that I was referring to the crisis in terms of the balance of trade in tourism and the inability to think long.
Companies like THF are making very handsome profits. Those profits go cheek by jowl with very poor efforts on training and poor rewards for many of the staff in the hotel and catering industry. That is nothing short of a national scandal.
Because of the interventions, I have gone over my planned time. However, I am sure that, in relation to the time of the contributions overall from the Opposition Benches, a balance will be struck.
The Government's problem is that they ale not thinking long. They believe that the private sector will provide, and they do not really care about the least advantaged people who do not have holidays and those who work in drudgery for very low pay. We need a Government who want to plan ahead in this vital industry not for next year, but for the next 10 or 20 years. We need a Government who believe in the people working in the industry and the people served by the industry. The Opposition believe that the Government are derelict in their duty to the consumer and the workers in the industry.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
The weekend before last I visited a constituent of mine who is 110 years old. Many hon. Members will recall that last year I made arrangements for the lady to go to America. At 110 year 768 old, she flew in Concorde, stayed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and spent five marvellous days in New York. She is the oldest tourist ever recorded in the "Guinness Book of Records".
When I visited her 10 days ago she was, alas, lying on her bed suffering from an ingrowing toenail. We tried to plan what to do on her birthday this year, on 1 August, when she will be 111. She said, "I had someone in the other day who is 87 to see me. She was very rude. She said that she would not want to live to be as old as me." She was most upset. She said, "Here am I, still enjoying life at 110, nearly 111, looking forward to going to places. Even if I cannot go to them, I am lying here this afternoon thinking that I am visiting the Grand Canyon and the Taj Mahal."
If people still have that will and urge to travel, explore and see things at that great age, clearly tourism has a future as more and more people live longer and healthier lives and can travel all the more as a consequence. All those marvellous people may make the great effort and travel, but it took my constituent longer to get from her home in the north-east of England to London than it took us to cross the Atlantic to travel to New York. The roads from London to the north-east are a national disgrace, and have been so for a long time.
Everyone is aware of the problem, we all wring our hands about it, but no one tackles it. All parties in the north-east are presenting a uniform approach to the Government. In loud and clear voices they are crying, "Stop tinkering around with the existing roadways and trying to improve them, because you are really sticking an elastoplast on when you ought to be carrying out major surgery." They want the arterial motorway to the north-east that tourism demands. It is needed not only for tourism but for the region's commercial interests.
Shortly, as a result of great enterprise by one of my constituents, a new ferry service will operate between Teesside and Hamburg. It will exist primarily to transport tourists from West Germany and the rest of western Europe. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend tell of the need for increased transportation in that area. This new ferry service will start operating soon, and, once it is established, visitors using it who are mad enough to want to visit London will face a horrendous journey. I urge my hon. Friend to speak to someone in the Department of Transport. It would have been as well if a Transport Minister had been present to hear this debate, because much of what we are saying—and there is no one on the Opposition Benches to say anything—relates to different methods of transport.
Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will urge on the initiatives of Humberside county council. It is not necessarily a county council to whose views one would normally subscribe, but there is cross-party interest in a new roadway to the north-east, running through Newcastle and on into Scotland. I regret the fact that no hon. Members representing Scotland are present, because I was told by at least one that he would wish to intervene at this point in my contribution to support the concept of a major roadway through eastern England, from London into Scotland.
When one reaches north-east England, one finds that it is glorious. It has lovely roads, although they could be improved. Improvements need to be made also to our airports, particularly that at Teesside. Many people living in the north-east are compelled to travel to London if they wish to fly to other parts of the world. I cannot understand 769 why we do not make more of the opportunities presented by both Newcastle and Teesside airports. If we do not develop their potential, matters will be made worse for people living near Heathrow and Gatwick.
There is also a need to train people to understand the cultures, natures and languages of overseas visitors. We as a nation have an appalling record in learning to speak or understand the languages of those who visit and tour our country from overseas. Our safety notices are only in English, as are the signposts to places such as Sherwood forest or Bath.
There was recently a survey not only of whether staff knew when to serve at table from the left-hand side or the right, but whether they could speak the customer's language while doing so. In most countries overseas, people have taken the trouble to learn English and make us feel welcome. Something in our character, perhaps deriving from our schooldays, when it seemed much more macho to learn subjects other than languages, discourages us from following that example. That attitude is wrong and we must change it. Perhaps it stems from before, or during, the last war. Today, we must look to the future and teach foreign languages to schoolchildren of four or five years of age, and not wait until they are 11.
In almost 90 per cent. of our schools French is mandatory. Why do we want to teach that number of children French? We ought to envisage, instead, a multi-language teaching opportunity, which would manifestly help our tourism industry. The Japanese language is one that I had in mind, and Chinese and Arabic are others. It may not be too long before the Chinese become wealthier and start visiting this country as tourists, in the same way as the Japanese do now.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
How does my hon. Friend propose to differentiate between the areas in which different languages are taught? Does he expect schools in Newham to teach Chinese, and those in Birmingham to teach Japanese?
§ Mr. Holt
Not even my hon. Friend would suggest that everyone should be like Dr. Doolittle and learn to speak every language of the world. However, a representative selection of languages should be taught to all schoolchildren. When I went to King's Cross station the other day to buy my ticket to the north, I queued behind someone who did not speak good English. None of the ticket sellers there could speak anything except very bad English. As a consequence there was a total impasse, causing great frustration to those anxious to catch their trains. Nor did it do much to enhance the reputation of our country.
While this may be regarded as a glib point, for too long we have thought, "What is the point?" and have not done anything about improving that area of education. Given the way in which tourism will inevitably develop into the next century, as more and more people travel by air and by sea, we must be conscious of the need to make them feel welcome. I believe also that there will be a change of attitudes in the near future, and instead of people chasing the sun abroad, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) seemed to think, they will realise that it is not much of a holiday to pay an exorbitant sum of money to 770 travel somewhere and on arriving there get sunburnt lying on the beach, be uncomfortable, and get beaten up and kicked to death by yobbos.
§ Mr. Holt
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will remember the thoughts of my 110-year-old constituent. The world has developed since that lady was born. That was 10 years before the Wright brothers first took to the air, and now she has flown in Concorde. I do not know what the future holds, any more than she does. We have not yet reached the stage when travel will be a case of saying, "Beam me up, Scottie", and finding ourselves in Sydney, Australia, in 30 seconds flat. Nevertheless, the technical changes and advances that there have been in my elderly constituent's lifetime are nothing compared with those that will come in the next 100 years. We do not know where the computer revolution will take us. Transport and travel will advance, and tourism will become much more important to the future nature of our country. I urge my hon. Friend to try to look that far ahead.
§ 11.8 am
§ Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)
Tourism is a growth industry, in spite of what we have heard from certain hon. Members today. Last year more than 15.6 million visitors came to Britain and spent a record £6.3 billion. In the past five years, an increase from £3.2 billion has been seen—in other words, the cash return has doubled since 1982. That is for overseas visitors only. Total spending on tourism is now at a record figure of £18 billion.
The key to that success is a combination of Government initiatives, local communities and private organisations all joining together to create an attractive environment, alive to the developing needs of today's tourist population. Tourism and community interests also go hand in hand, and I emphasise that local authorities have always been heavily involved in the development of tourism, providing facilities and infrastructure, attracting investment and co-ordinating local interests. Whether preserving Britain's heritage, creating leisure facilities and entertainment, or simply making visitors feel welcome, local councils are at the head of the industry. It is the councils that mastermind a complex operation of supply and demand, putting new attractions on the tourist map and ensuring the popularity of those that are already established.
Over the past decade, forward planning and investment have attracted increasing private enterprise and led to a flourishing partnership, which has had a dramatic effect on the health of local communities. Between 1984 and 1987 local councils injected over £521 million into tourism, creating confidence in the private sector to the tune of over £500 million. As a result, nearly 10,000 new jobs have been created over the same period, both directly and indirectly —jobs that cost less to create than in other more traditional sectors of the community.
A thriving tourist industry also attracts other unrelated business, keen to benefit from its vitality and prosperity. 771 As a result, councils are breathing new life into areas of economic decline. Today the growing list of Britain's tourist attractions includes coal mines, convention facilities, leisure pools and heritage centres, thanks to the work of local authorities. No other agency can match them for scope and range. They provide the stability and continuity necessary for growth and, in a complex network of interests, they are the single element that has the long-term interests of the whole community at heart. Their role cannot be ignored, and I shall suggest ways of helping them later.
Jobs in the holiday business are cheaper to create than in most other industries. It costs the country £35,000 to generate a new job in manufacturing, but only £5,000 in tourism. Those figures are highly significant, given the Government's commitment to spending large sums on job creation schemes. Moreover, each direct job in tourism created by English tourist board grant-aided projects has been shown to lead to two further jobs. Businesses come in all sizes, from huge hotel chains to small cafes, and they are given much encouragement and practical support, again by local councils. They also offer a wide spectrum of jobs for men and women, young and not so young, manual or managerial, skilled or unskilled. The demand for manual labour in tourism is increasing, contrary to the trend in traditional industries.
The status of those jobs has also risen. Most are no longer part-time or seasonal. Less than 4 per cent. of the work force is now laid off in the winter. But the salaries are well below those in industry. Indeed, guidelines on scales of increased pay should be laid down by the Government, in conjunction with the tourist boards, for the 1.4 million people who are involved in the tourist trade.
The influence and sophistication of tourism is growing rapidly. Jobs demanding high competence are being created. Rewards and career structure are highly attractive, which is reflected in a sharp increase in recruitment. Those recruits must be encouraged to stay in the expanding tourism industry. Acceptable salaries and conditions will help.
On Merseyside—which includes on its coastline at the fringe, near Lancashire, my beautiful Victorian resort of Southport, which is also famous for its shops—I am pleased to say that the huge potential of tourism has been actively recognised, with the tourist board working in conjunction with the district council, the development corporation and the North-West tourist board. The action and the results are positive. Indeed, about £110 million worth of development is now going on.
The fruits of all those enterprises are now apparent. Tourism is big business on Merseyside, with 19 million visitors a year yielding revenue of £250 million. Tourism means jobs. The industry is the 11th largest employer on Merseyside, with 14,000 people employed. It is the fastest-growing job creation sector. It is confidently predicted that the number of visitors and leisure industry jobs will double quickly, although some have been put off lately by visiting the Tate in the North, where I and many hundreds of others decided that we were looking at a load of trash.
§ Mr. Fearn
I have never agreed that the tourism industry is in crisis, because I am in the centre of it and I see it as a vibrant industry. I want it to grow. Therefore, I shall not denigrate it.
Southport leads the north in shopping and golf and it has the second largest number of day visitors. Developers are falling over themselves to participate in Britain's largest proposed marina, indoor complexes, hotel and conference developments and more shopping areas, one of which the Minister saw. It is boom time in the north—I put it as high as that—where the scenic beauty far outstrips that in southern England. In the north house prices are reasonable and yuppies are not necessary.
This decade could see a new industrial revolution, with tourism at the forefront. Service industries are taking the place of traditional manufacturing as wealth and job creators. Tourism is now the country's third largest industry and second biggest foreign currency earner, placing Britain fifth in the world league for earnings from international tourism. The new industries are helping to compensate for job losses brought about by new technology and the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many successful tourism projects are now springing up in some of the very areas that have been hardest hit by the decline in heavy manufacturing.
Tourism has helped to bring new life to rural areas, where agriculture has also experienced a downturn. Changes to the milk quota system and other EEC regulations have badly affected regions where farming is often the sole source of income. Farmers are now beginning to see tourism as a way of putting redundant land and buildings to more profitable use, together with rural areas that are subject to agricultural conservation or environmental constraints. For example, in Wales alone more than 3,000 farmers are now actively involved in tourist projects.
It is tourism's ability to bring renewed prosperity to a wide range of locations, coastal and inland, rural or urban, which is so valuable to the health of Britain's economy, yet investment by the Government and private interests has been selective. The problems are becoming obvious and need to be tackled head on.
Earlier I said that some of our solutions were to be found later in my speech. The lack of holiday and hotel accommodation is the major factor inhibiting the future development of tourism. The shortfall is most serious in the budget and medium price ranges. National and regional incentives are needed to attract more private investment in hotel accommodation. District councils should consider sympathetically planning applications for hotel development, and perhaps a Government directive would be helpful. Beds are being lost to other uses. Provision for retirement homes, general accommodation and housing for homeless persons and bed-and-breakfast accommodation are creating major difficulties. An amendment should be made to the Planning Use Classes Order to stop the drift of bed stock away from tourism. Tourist boards must examine closely the classification, designation and inspection of accommodation. I welcome the re-evaluation of the crown classification system.
Historic buildings are in grave danger of disappearing altogether. Each year the architectural masterpieces that are owned by local authorities cost more to maintain. The problems associated with London's national monuments 773 are likely to be repeated in every city and town in the United Kingdom. More resources must be channelled into the preservation of our disappearing national heritage.
Regulations limiting the use of capital receipts are preventing councils from investing more in essential infrastructure and from giving greater assistance to private firms that are keen to invest in tourism. I suggest that councils should be allowed greater freedom in that area. I am advocating controlled use to benefit tourist expansion, not a free-for-all.
The rate support grant penalises areas that have a large influx of day visitors, such as my home town of Southport. No allowance is made for this when spending levels are calculated. I welcome the Government's proposal to review the current and future provision of statistical data on tourism.
The Government's underfunding of key organisations, such as English Heritage and its Welsh counterpart, the Countryside Commission and others, threatens the future of our heritage and countryside. The ability of the British Tourist Authority to promote Britain abroad is severely impaired. Even a small increase in grant aid from the Government would improve matters. The Government should initiate a major independent review of the needs of these public bodies. Recommendations for future funding should be made.
Access to tourist areas is another major problem. Poor roads and traffic congestion are making travel increasingly difficult for tourists in all areas, but especially those that are rural or semi-rural. The roads network outside major cities and major routes should be improved and better maintained. In my area, a bypass at Ormskirk would effectively make Southport more accessible and could greatly increase the numbers of tourists who motor to our 12 miles of beach.
Rail travel may be striving to attract the British tourist population, but unfortunately British Rail is still not delivering the goods for the average visitor. Poor rolling stock and lack of access to many areas still exist. Any initiative to open up closed lines that could be economically and viably set to good use once more should be seized, and the Government should encourage that.
I ask the Minister to take heed of the pleas of legitimate amusement caterers on the subject of amusement-with-prizes machines legislation. We must consider the enormous harm that a total ban would have on the entertainment business, including leisure parks, piers, and other attractions. As I understand it, the lobby's intention is to remove gaming machines from unsupervised sites. It must be nonsense to remove them from supervised parks and attractions where families are entertained.
The state of the environment is of continuing concern in respect of existing and potential tourism. Efforts to improve the quality of the environment and minimise pollution, dereliction and the effects of vandalism should not lapse. EEC, derelict land and inner city grants, and others, may be available. The private sector should also be given the opportunity to participate in clean-up campaigns. Improvements to urban landscapes, such as pedestrianisation schemes, rationalisation of street furniture, the provision of more green spaces and town art are also very important. There is a need to minimise rural dereliction through the implementation of derelict land 774 reclamation schemes and by countryside management. There should be a continuing dialogue with central Government, regional agencies, local authorities and the private sector.
There is a need, too, for improvement in the standards of various public facilities, including reception centres, interpretive facilities, and, most certainly, toilets. Access and facilities for disabled people should be provided. There is a need for additional convenient and secure car and coach parking, especially in seaside resorts and urban centres.
Continued support and encouragement should be given to the extension of measures which seek to protect natural resources—for example, areas of outstanding natural beauty, green belts and tree preservation orders—and the built environment, such as conservation areas and listed buildings. Natural resources include the paths and rights of way which have almost been forgotten in previous years. They are now being returned to use. Cycleways also need to be established.
I have been speaking of the expansion of tourism to make it available to those with means, but there are families that can never afford a holiday. As many as 10 million people in Britain have never taken a holiday, and many of these are deprived families who are most in need of a break. This was highlighted by the chairman of the Family Holiday Association at the launch of its "Give Them A Break Campaign '88." The FHA is the only national charity providing holiday grants for deprived families. It aims to help at least 1,000 families in 1988 by raising £200,000. The travel trade media have agreed to donate £50,000 worth of advertising space. The charity urgently needs cash and the trade is urged to help by offering discounts on holidays, fund raising, gifts, promotions and sponsorship. I make a plea to the holiday giants in the travel world to help in any way that they can.
It is 12 months almost to the day since I made my maiden speech in this place. The subject that I chose for it was tourism. To my knowledge, this is the only debate on tourism that we have had since then. Given that it is such an important subject, that may be a reflection on the House. In my speech 12 months ago I invited the Minister to visit Southport, and I am pleased to say that that visit took place yesterday. I am grateful for the Minister's interest in all aspects of Southport's holiday promotion. Not only that, we much enjoyed the day.
In the latest edition of Tourism News I noticed a large article on the recent tourism training initiative conference. The key address, which showed a great interest in training, was delivered by the Minister. What took my eye was a large and "cool" photograph of the hon. Gentleman in his shirt sleeves. That is the approach that is needed for the great tourism industry. We need people who can roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the task of helping a great industry. It is an industry that should be expanded, but currently the Minister appears to be fighting a lone battle, with little of no co-operation from those Departments that deal with road, rail and air traffic matters. I hope that the Minister can sort this one out.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)
I shall make an uncharacteristically short speech. I shall concentrate on the weather, which is one aspect of tourism. I represent a major tourism constituency in the south-west of England, 775 and I am sure the House will appreciate that the weather is of the utmost importance to the success of the industry in that area.
Last January I arranged a conference at the well known Thurleston hotel, at which my hon. Friend the Minister was the key speaker. As well as the Minister, we managed to persuade the principal meteorological officer of the London weather centre to attend. His speech revealed a number of matters about which we did not know but which might have persuaded tourists from all over Britain and Europe to come to South Hams. Last summer, there were more sunshine hours there than anywhere else in Britain. For example, in July there were 220 hours of sunshine, which is equivalent to over seven hours' sunshine every day. In August there were 204.1 hours of sunshine, again about seven hours of sunshine a day. There was not only more sunshine, but less rain. In August there were only 13.2 mm of rain, when the national average was 77. In September there were only 55.9 mm of rain, whereas the national average was 86. Furthermore, South Hams had the highest temperatures in Britain.
With such a scenario, one would expect the national weather forecast to identify south Devon as a place to which everybody should flock, but not at all. The BBC and the ITV companies tend to pass over the south-west, and their forecasting is concentrated mostly on Dartmoor, also in my constituency, which has the least sunshine, the most rain and the lowest temperatures. Instead of presenting an accurate picture that would persuade tourists to come to one of the most beautiful parts of Britain for their holidays, they put out a forecast that makes most people choose to go abroad.
I am sure that the House will not have missed the point. What we need is a national tourist weather forecast on television or radio, so that somebody in Yorkshire, rather than listening to the Yorkshire forecast, or someone in Scotland, rather than listening to the local Scottish forecast, can dial a number or listen to a radio or televison station that gives a picture of the tourist weather. The only forecast that is correct is the Plymouth forecast, but people in the north cannot listen to the Plymouth forecast.
§ Mr. Barry Field
My hon. Friend may be aware of the fact that the Isle of Wight holds the sunshine record for the United Kingdom, but whenever there is a weather forecast on televison there is a wretched little raincloud situated right over the Isle of Wight. According to the BBC weather forecast it is always raining on the Isle of Wight, yet we hold the United Kingdom record for sunshine.
§ Mr. Steen
I should not have given way, because now we shall have a competition on the number of hours of sunshine in each area. I have here the figures and the diagrams. It may be that the Isle of Wight falls into the category of being sunny and rain-free, but I see a little raincloud on one of these maps, so the record may not be as good as my hon. Friend thinks.
My only request is that, bearing in mind the importance of weather to tourism, particularly on the south coast, my hon. Friend will consider whether the BBC and the ITV companies could do a trial run on a tourist weather forecast, so that people can see where the finest weather is. At the moment, forecasts give a blanket picture of the weather, rather than a detailed picture of where the finest weather will be.
776 I promised an uncharactistically short speech, and that I have delivered.
§ Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the excellent and diligent work that he has put into supervising the continuing progress of tourism. I have the honour to chair the Conservative party tourism committee and the all-party leisure and recreation industries committee. I am proud to disclose an interest as a consultant to the world's largest hotel chain, Best Western Hotels, which operates across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, in Europe and in many other parts of the world.
Various factors have allowed my committees to support the Minister on visits, one of which was to Amsterdam to open the exhibition "Taste of Britain", which is whetting the appetites of millions of Dutchmen for their visit to this country to celebrate the tercentenary of the accession of William and Mary to the throne.
We were also able to visit the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), who claims for his constituency the sunshine record of Great Britain. We saw my hon. Friend the Minister's intention to support the extension of the tourist season in yachting, which is to be built up and developed as a sector interest on that fair island. We noted with great interest the way in which the funding of this excellent intention is being supported by section 4 grants.
Over the next few years the tourism industry will have numerous events to celebrate. We are already celebrating the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Armada, and in 1989 we shall celebrate the publishing of the most repeatedly published book in English, "The Natural History of Selborne". The year 1990 will be the year of European travel, which will give us an opportunity to welcome millions of Europeans.
§ Mr. Bevan
No, my hon. Friend has had an opportunity to speak already.
The year 1990 will give us the opportunity to redress the balance of the millions of English people who go to the continent by welcoming millions of Europeans here. The year 1992 will bring the single European market of 330 million people, and shortly afterwards the Channel tunnel will be completed, which will give us another opportunity to redress the balance of visitors. It is an exciting age in which to live, to be British and to see our share of the world market in tourism continue to develop.
The spin-offs of the success story are reflected in every form of shopping, and there is a premium on the supply of British goods, which is shown in every form of our marketing, retailing, wholesaling and manufacturing economy. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that our shopping position and the contribution that it makes to tourism is retained and that we are established as the premier retail shopping centre of the world, so that the world comes to our counter.
It is scandalous that, at a time when natives and tourists alike are spending more and more on soft drinks, and are being exhorted to do so by the responsible Ministers on health and safety grounds, our soft drinks firms, which have been reduced from five companies to two—Britvic Corona Soft Drinks Ltd., and Schweppes Ltd.—have 777 restricted their brand names supplies and overseen an acceleration of costs from between 12 and 28 per cent. for mixers and from 16 to 35 per cent. for other products generally. That is well above the rate of inflation. It does no service to tourism. In fact, it drives up prices. Therefore, I hope that the Office of Fair Trading will look at that and that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will investigate whether that is a cartel that will damage the further development of tourism and whether it is against the public interest.
As I said earlier, we benefit from tourism by over £10.725 billion a year. Of the 15 million overseas visitors to Britain, over 60 per cent. come from Europe and 22 per cent. come from North America. I should like to see the trend of visitors from North America encouraged further. I hope that Britain will continue to be regarded by the Americans as a GI bride of attractive proportions in a monogamous marriage. The number of Americans visiting the United Kingdom is twice those visiting France and Italy together. We are fifth in the league table of world tourism—we have moved up from sixth position—but we still have to catch up on the rate of growth shown by Italy. Nevertheless, we are in the forefront of the tourism industry, and this industry is of tremendous importance to Britain's economic success and development.
The moneys that we earn have been estimated to contribute some 6 per cent. of the total $130 million global sum that is produced by tourism. That figure is from the World Tourist Organisation. It amounts to about 4 per cent. of our gross domestic product. It is a success story of substantial dimensions and has occurred under this Government.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The hon. Gentleman has now had time to reflect on his intervention in my speech. I hope he will accept that I was quoting from the Employment Gazette. I shall pass the document to the hon. Gentleman if it will help him. It shows that in 1980 we had a net balance in overseas travel and tourism earnings and expenditure of £223 million. I shall not give all the figures, but it shows that there was a predicted deficit for 1987 of £1,018,000.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman is again playing fast and loose with his rather dubious and dirty statistics. He is ignoring the fact that the figures for 1986–87 reflect the terrorist attacks in Rome and Athens, which had a marked effect on the input of tourists to Britain and the fact that Britain ensured, by a report on aircraft safety, that the tourist figures remain improved. Away with the statistics. I urge the hon. Gentleman to increase the number of tourists coming to Britain and the House. He and his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) are the only two representatives of the official Opposition. His excellent Friend the hon. Member for Newham, North-West has done a great service by bringing two tourists from North America into the Chamber today. I thank him for that.
There are so many things that must be said. A vast increase in employment has been achieved by this 778 Government. That has occurred not only in the tourism industry, but in the self-employed sector and has been of great benefit to millions of people. We are celebrating the 22nd month of reductions in the unemployment figures, and we are celebrating the exciting and continuing development of our economic story.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newham, North-West might not appreciate that, but the rest of Britain does.
Tourism needs to be co-ordinated. The Government might consider a joint portfolio between tourism and transport. Many enlightened and sophisticated countries already have such arrangements. As has been pointed out, it is important to ensure the dispersal of tourists around the United Kingdom so that 85 per cent. of them do not remain in London. That can be encouraged only by the development of transport links.
We have one of the finest canal systems in the world. In the west midlands some excellent work has already been done and there is great potential for developing a network of canals and making that sector of tourism one of the most attractive. The dirty and derelict Grand Union canal, which is 8 ft wide, runs through the centre of my constituency. I should like to see that developed as part of the canal network, and I should like to see the provision of boatels and amenities for the visiting boatmen.
We have the ability to push ahead with the dispersal of tourists by the development of railway lines by private initiative. That might involve a new look at privatisation and a return to sector railways such as the Great Western railway and the London Midland and Scottish. That would provide the incentives for the traveller to visit other parts of the country.
We can look, as has been suggested, at the dualling of the M 1, to a motorway that runs up the eastern part of England and extensively on into Scotland. That is a necessity. The infrastructure could be provided by private money and enterprise, rather than be left to the public purse, which might not be able to do it with the same efficiency. Other countries do that with great success and they enjoy the infrastructure that we should have and need.
While I commend the excellence of the work of the BTA, particularly in representing us overseas, and the ETB and regional boards, I have two criticisms to make. First, the "crown" classification system has now become a joke and does nothing to encourage tourism. It confuses tourists and natives alike. They are used to the "star" system and they cannot understand why some hotels, such as the one I had the privilege to stay in the night before last in Falmouth, where we witnessed the excellence of co-ordination of the rescue services, should be awarded three stars by the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club, and five stars by the crown rating system. There is no justification for that; nor is there any sanity in it. I note that hoteliers groups such as Trusthouse Forte and Crest will not operate the crown rating system. My group, Best Western, wishes to see a return to a proper qualitative merit star system such as that which operates throughout the United Kingdom. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that in the next few months.
Secondly, although there has been a £30 million increase in the tourist boards' funding for the amenities that we require through section 4 grants, which is all to the good, it is amoral that the same body should act as a 779 consultant advising on the provision of money and also be the body making the money available, or that a subsidiary of that body should do so.
§ Mr. Gregory
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Does the House understand that professional ladies and gentlemen working on behalf of tourist boards, and effectively funded by the taxpayer, are advising bodies on their applications for section 4 grants, while their opposite numbers, perhaps at the next desk, are ticking or crossing those applications? Is that not a form of collusion that should be ruled out?
§ Mr. Bevan
As I suggested, that is precisely what is happening and it is amoral. Furthermore, we need action to ensure that the private sector acts as the consultant if the statutory body under the Development of Tourism Act 1969 acts as the distributor of that funding. I hope that something will be done about that as soon as possible.
Other matters bring themselves into view. Recently, on a trip to the far east, I discovered the totalitarian ways of other countries, in this case Japan, on whose behalf we are urged to he multi-linguistic, and China. The Japanese are putting into circulation no fewer than 10 million of their people as tourists in the next five years, using a purpose-built fleet of ships. I suppose that such single-mindedness must be appreciated, but we must make certain that our peoples are given the chance to tour in a similar way and that we are no less single-minded, although I hope without the totalitarianism part of it, in ensuring that we provide the competition that will allow scope to develop.
After the excellence of negotiations with China on Hong Kong, over which the Prime Minister presided, and with the new rapproachement and glasnost that is being evinced on the Russian front, we have opportunities in tourism as never before to encourage the wholesale reception of peoples to our shores. We welcome this development with the Chinese and Russians, and with the Koreans, who are about to establish a direct air link from Seoul to London. We would welcome an opportunity to reciprocate. Let us build up the tourism trade between these countries.
Some of the ferocity of our tourists has resulted in an extraordinarily bad press—for example, during the recent football season—and this has been replicated in other forms of tourism. We have our areas of notoriety in many countries, for example in Spain, and in Benitsis on Corfu, where the behaviour of some British tourists is so belligerent and pugilistic that the local residents are discouraged from coming over here as tourists. We have a job to do there.
§ Mr. Bevan
My hon. Friend mentions Frankfurt. We have a job to do there, too. Perhaps the retention of passports could be extended beyond football hooliganism to behaviour elsewhere, and identity cards could be introduced.
We have problems to overcome. We are not a tidy nation, what with our litter and graffiti. Our graffiti is scandalous and we must find a way of dealing with it, if necessary by Act of Parliament or by intense community action to ensure that those who write it also remove it, which takes much more time, and face a fine so heavy that they will not repeat it. We must encourage the provision of 780 beautiful buildings in our city centres, such as exist throughout the rest of the world. Britain will be visited for heritage as well as for other reasons. We must do everything possible to ensure that our proportion of the international tourist cake increases.
Air traffic control must commend itself to us and we must encourage the immediate replacement of the CAA's IBM computers with their modern counterparts so that proper and necessary air traffic flows ensure that tourism momentum is maintained. Moreover the report being produced by the Select Committee on Transport must be studied as there will be no profit if we allow air or even land congestion such that the waiting tourist faces long delays.
The computerised reservation system could alter the whole balance of tourism bookings. Computer reservation systems are a form of booking that have grown in America. It is predominantly controlled by the Sabre system of American Airlines, and to a lesser extent by the Apollo system which is controlled by United Airlines. A bias has been built into those systems so that mainly the products of those companies, namely, the aerial timetables, turn up on the screens. Our airlines are now retaliating by developing such systems as Galileo and Amadeus to protect their market share. Another system Holiday Designers, we are told, is without bias. Such systems can completely distort the traditional pat terns of booking, the availability of services offered by the airlines with whom the booking is made, and the destinations to which the tourists are delivered.
In conjunction with our European partners, we must ensure that such booking developments proceed in a properly regulated manner and that obvious bias is avoided and market share is not distorted. When my hon. Friend the Minister makes certain that our share of world tourism grows to an even greater extent and benefits all sections of the United Kingdom, I am sure that he will take into consideration the importance of developing such a properly regulated computerised reservation system. I also believe that he will understand that, whatever progress is made, the British people wish to retain their own duty-free arrangements, which help to subsidise airport landing fees and keep those fees low. The duty-free facilities also give incoming and outgoing tourists the chance to spend their money how they like.
§ 12.1 pm
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
I warmly welcome this debate on tourism, which is Britain's fastest growth industry. I declare an interest as parliamentary consultant to Consort Hotels, Britain's largest independent consortium of hoteliers. I praise the most energetic activities of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has responsibility for tourism. It was a pleasure to work with his predecessor, but I have not known anyone who has succeeded with such fast skates as my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee).
We have a good record for incoming tourists, although the number of American visitors this year is disappointing. We must not panic, however, about exchange rates. Last year's tourism figures showed that 15.6 million visitors came to the United Kingdom, which was 8 per cent. up on the previous record for the best year, 1985. So many fail to notice the tremendous overseas earnings from United Kingdom tourism. How many teachers recognise that 781 when giving careers guidance to pupils? Do they tell them that tourism earns 25 per cent. more than the aerospace industry and four times as much as the motor vehicle industry? At the same time, it is important that we break into new areas and new markets. The British Tourist Authority must address itself to the middle east and the far east—a number of my hon. Friends have already referred to Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
There should be a dialogue between the work of the BTA and our tourist information centres. Tourist information centres should provide local literature in a variety of languages. During the year I regularly visit such centres and I am amazed at how few provide any information in a foreign language. To be fair, such information may be provided at the overseas destination desk at the BTA office. It is also important that staff can communicate in the visitor's own language. In that connection, I should praise the newly created York visitor and conference bureau, whose five staff speak a wide selection of languages including Japanese. Who knows, perhaps Arabic will be next.
One of the main themes of my speech is a call for better co-ordination on Government policy. In political terms, we have a separate Minister with specific responsibility for tourism for each part of the United Kingdom. Although I understand that there is an interdepartmental committee, wide and costly divergence of policy occurs. Classification is an outstanding example of such divergence to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) has already alluded. Northern Ireland has one well-established system. Scotland has developed another that is based upon qualitative assessment, and England and Wales are in the vanguard. That means that, for our citizens and for overseas visitors, the official United Kingdom accommodation system is in a muddle. That may produce confusion for tourists as it already has done for the trade. Surely the time is overdue for the appointment of a supremo for United Kingdom tourist policy.
The BTA promotes Britain overseas, but there is no one to co-ordinate policies within the United Kingdom. We need such a lead in the Civil Service—perhaps with the establishment of a quango—as well as in the Cabinet.
Tourism is extremely important to York and the region. Yorkshire and Humberside has witnessed a 16 per cent. increase in the jobs created by tourism. It is often not appreciated that such jobs are obtained at a third of the cost of fresh employment in other industries. Such jobs cost £3,000 per job to be created compared to £10,000 plus in other sectors.
York is blessed with an exceptional wealth of visitor attractions. We have York minster, the medieval halls of the livery companies, the Georgian splendour of Fairfax house, lovingly restored by York civic trust, the Castle museum, effectively the nation's museum of everyday life, and, in the modern age, the National Railway museum. York beckons the tourist to all these attractions.
The city has gone further and given marketing appeal to its discoveries. The internationally acclaimed Jorvik Viking centre started life as a response to those seeking information about an archaeological dig. It has spawned other centres, notably at Oxford and Canterbury, which interpret local history in an attractive and informative 782 way. Plans are now afoot for an underground Roman museum, a 10-screen cinema and a medieval museum set in some of the streets of the city.
Such investment is splendid for York and its citizens. With a Socialist council, however, to obtain such an investment has been an uphill struggle. That council denies the importance of tourism to the economy. It will not acknowledge that most visitors come by car and plan accordingly and has even failed to fill establishment posts. Whenever possible, those gaps have been plugged by the private sector in the interests of higher employment.
Few subjects have raised such heat within the industry as the national tourist boards' crown classification scheme, which was introduced following the Government's tourism review of 1983. I am sure that at a number of levels —farmhouses, bed-and-breakfast hotels, inns and guest houses—the serviced accommodation has improved as the operators—usually the residential owners—recognise the potential business derived from a higher classification.
The hotel schemes operated by the motoring organisations are well understood by the trade and public, and they run on lines similar to those operating in the rest of Europe. The crown scheme, however, was introduced on a different basis and it concentrates on the facilities provided. That is an inadequate element upon which to make a decision on accommodation—the full range of services offered should be considered.
As a result distortions are appearing at the upper end of hotel classification. The filter above the three-crown stage has proved ineffective. In preparation for today's debate I have been doing my sums and I have discovered that there are now nine times as many four-crown and five-crown hotels in the United Kingdom as there are four-star and five-star hotels. Furthermore, more than 30 per cent. of five-crown hotels carry a three-star RAC or AA sign. That presumes that the visitor can distinguish between the plethora on the board when one adds Egon Ronay, Michelin and all the other signs. From the Isle of Wight we remember the days of the seahorse and the hearts of the heart of England. Many guests book accommodation expecting a standard of hospitality, comfort and service which frankly does not materialise.
To signify excellence, the English tourist board has devised the five crown category. I am surprised that to date only six properties in the whole of England fit the criteria for that, of which a single hotel, Chewton Glen, in Hampshire, is the only one outside London. At the other end of the spectrum, there has been little support for the one-crown awards. The English tourist board has confirmed only 30 hotels in that category out of a total of 3,020.
I am pleased that the English and Welsh tourist boards are to revise the criteria and introduce qualitative assessments. The launch of the crown scheme clearly dented the English tourist board's marketing budget. question whether we are giving our main tourist board for the United Kingdom the support expected. Last year, domestic tourism was valued at £5.5 billion, 82 per cent. of which is earned in England. The English tourist board has a marketing budget of just £2.5 million. If expenditure on net working, classification and grading is deducted, a bare £1.9 million is left.
We should compare the sum for England with that of the Welsh board which has almost £2 million, and Scotland, which has slightly over that sum. Even the Highlands and Islands Development Board has a domestic 783 marketing budget for tourism of £1.8 million—and that is for a region which accounts for no more than 6 per cent. of domestic tourism. The hoard justifies that on regional economic grounds. However, the area's population of 360,000 is smaller than, say, Bristol, which is the eighth largest English city. The different sponsoring departments cannot justify that glaring disparity between England and the rest of the United Kingdom. If we are to have a dynamic tourist board for England, it must be given adequate resources to promote our resorts.
§ Mr. Sheerman
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not like Wales and Scotland to receive less of the budget. Does he agree that we want more money for all the boards, with a bigger proportion of the money going to the English region?
§ Mr. Gregory
I agree completely. There should be a partnership between private and public, but it must be led by Government sponsorship. There should be not a reduction but an increase in the marketing budget of the English tourist board if it is to do its work, not only in relation to resorts, which have declined so much in recent years and to which I have already alluded, but in the inner cities and the countryside, which need marketing expertise.
The English tourist board must be able to compete effectively with other destinations. Jersey, with less than 3 per cent. of the British market, has a United Kingdom marketing budget of more than £1.3 million. If the marketing strategy, which is entitled "A Vision for England" and is endorsed by the Department of Employment, is to become a reality, additional funding must be provided. I hope that that funding will be used partly for more effective sales literature, booked through the travel trade, to extend the season and to develop the tourist information centre network, which, at the moment, is missing from Liverpool Street, Paddington and Waterloo stations. It should introduce a grading scheme for holiday parks and self-catering holiday homes and should build up the already successful programme known as the "Great English City Breaks", which covers 14 cities.
This spring we have seen the usual closed doors on the major bank holidays, with a confused public outside, and the ice cream vendors doing a roaring trade. Similar scenes are repeated every Sunday morning outside our major museums and galleries in London. Commercially run museums such as the Royal Academy and the London Transport museum, and tourist attractions such as Madame Tussauds find it perfectly feasible to open on bank holidays and Sunday mornings. Even on weekdays, Madame Tussauds opens earlier during the summer. Is it simply a question of money? Certainly not. There is a tradition among museum employees and an in-built resistance in their trade unions against any change in work patterns.
However, when new museums, such as the Theatre museum in London, are established, it seems possible to negotiate new working patterns, opening in that case at 11 in the morning and on Sundays. Recently, the Natural History museum and the Geological museum have been able to be open from 1 o'clock. The National gallery has also been successful in reintroducing its summer opening on Wednesday evenings from July with musical concerts. I notice that Hampton Court palace is leading the way among our historic attractions by opening on Sunday mornings during the summer. Will the Tower of London 784 follow? At the Science museum, the introduction of museum charges this autumn is likely to be accompanied by earlier opening on Sundays, possibly at II o'clock in the morning. That is a positive way to link the unpopular notion of charging for previously free museums with a direct benefit.
A quick look at our top 10 London attractions confirms that our best loved institutions such as the British museum, the National gallery, the Natural History museum and the Science museum are major tourist draws. Therefore, it is essential that their funding allows them to maintain and improve their collections, and that any money collected from entrance charges is used to extend opening hours and public facilities. I hope that my hon. Friend will look carefully at the question of opening hours for museums and persuade his colleagues in other Departments that the extra funding that now comes in should go to the direct benefit of those museums.
I should like to say a word or two about several other vital subjects relating to tourism. First, in 1992, what are the Government's plans to ensure that United Kingdom tourism maximises the benefits of the single European market? There are still too many restrictive barriers to trade. Can we encourage more hotels to quote in European currency units? Within 10 years tourism will be the largest employer in Europe and the most important money-earner—taking over from oil. We must aim to secure lower air fares, spread the benefits of tourism and encourage the development of the off peak.
The Minister rightly referred to the importance of the Channel tunnel. I know that he recently addressed the South East England tourist board—and I enjoyed his remarks—and wonder whether the troubles that he had the following day with the road network have encouraged him to talk to his hon. Friends at the Department of Transport, because if more tourists enter this country through the Channel tunnel, for which I am a great enthusiast, we must improve our road network. Will my hon. Friend consider increasing the funding of section 4 grants under the Development of Tourism Act 1969, especially for the south-east of England?
As a little aside, I must make a jibe about the problems encountered at Britain's busiest port, Dover. The tourist information centre there appears to be sited to work for the French and Belgian Governments. On entering Dover, one might expect to see the tourist information centre, but one cannot see it unless one turns one's car round and tries to leave England. One finds the tourist information centre on the route out of Kent and England. It is not on the road into Britain. The site of our tourist information centres, especially the one covering our busiest port, must be reconsidered.
Budget accommodation, especially in London, Manchester and one or two other cities, causes great anxiety. The need for tourist-class beds is evident and will become even more crucial with the Waterloo-Channel tunnel terminal. Only one third of two star London hotels in the AA list of 1981 still operate as hotels. The rest have become DHSS accommodation. The British Incoming Tour Operators Association has been studying the problem and is extremely worried about the shortage of budget accommodation.
In my remaining moments, I should like to mention bank holidays and career opportunities. What is the Government's current thinking about changing the May day bank holiday? It would be of real benefit to the tourist 785 industry if we scrapped that bank holiday. I would replace it with a bank holiday in the late autumn, perhaps linked to the half-term holidays, or would add it to the Whit bank holiday to make a two-day break. That would eliminate the cost of additional closure in many factories and offices.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and am sure that he would expect me to intervene at that point. The whole idea of having a May day holiday is not for the convenience of tourists, but to commemorate and to pay tribute to the contribution of labour to the creation of wealth in this country. The hon. Gentleman might just as well suggest that we change Christmas to Easter and run all the holidays together.
§ Mr. Gregory
I should certainly like to commend a day for our great patriot Winston Churchill. That would be more appropriate than looking to the marks of Marxism.
§ Mr. Gregory
That is a most helpful comment, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider it. An autumn bank holiday would give a welcome boost to British tourism.
I was pleased to see greater emphasis being given to publicising the career opportunities and training that is available at all levels in the industry. In that context good work has been undertaken by the Hotel Catering Training Board, by the HCIMA and by the British Hotels Restaurants and Caterers Association. A series of career seminars organised by the association on a road show basis were held in four major cities, and two CRAC sponsored seminars in Cambridge and Nottingham in February brought the message home to careers advisers, teachers, parents and children.
It is splendid that about 800 community programme tourism approved projects provide places for almost 17,000 people. However, the industry still has a shortage of craft trained staff. Colleges are still turning out too many chiefs and not enough Indians. These youngsters are the seedcorn of the tourist industry. Let us nurture them and ensure that British people benefit from the growth of our fastest developing industry.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate, not only because it is almost a year since tourism was last debated, but because it is always exciting to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing one of Britain's fastest growing industries. That is precisely what tourism has become in the 1980s, even though the excitement about that has not pervaded the Opposition.
I welcome the chance to record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister, whose travels around the country promoting tourism have taken him to my constituency, where his encouragement was much appreciated. I also welcome the chance to express my admiration for the work 786 carried out by Duncan Bluck and Michael Medlicott, the chairman and chief executive of the British Tourist Authority.
I should perhaps declare my own abiding interest in tourism, not merely as an occasional traveller and holidaymaker, but because, like countless other people, I found my first jobs in tourist activities. If my memory is correct, by my mid-twenties I had worked in five tourist jobs in Britain and all over the world. All that "DOD's Paliamentary Companion" will reveal is that subsequently I went to work for the president of American Express for three years in New York. The excitement and interest that tourism creates has never departed from my mind.
The growth of tourism in Britain over the past eight or nine years has been remarkable. Because the industry cannot easily be defined it is sometimes difficult—as the debate has shown—to grasp the fact that the gross domestic product generated by tourism is substantially greater than that of the entire automotive industry. That covers the industry from component manufacture through assembly to the sale showrooms, and applies to that industry not just in 1988 but in the 1970s.
Tourist spending is now about £18 billion a year. There is employment for 1.4 million people and 41,000 new jobs were created last year alone. Foreign currency earnings have reached about £6 billion from 14 million visitors, and that is on the back of flagship promotion schemes that enhance our image overseas. There is £1 billion of fresh capital investment in activities that are now developing throughout the country, well beyond the traditional golden triangle of English tourism of London, Windsor and Oxford. Those statistics are key indicators of tourism's contribution to the economy and they reflect a joint achievement by the Government, the official tourist bodies, local authorities and private enterprise.
On top of that success there is huge potential for future growth in a market in which tourism can compete for a greater share of the increase in leisure time and the higher disposable incomes that are rapidly becoming the norm. Both those factors have special significance in the retirement sector of the market, in which pensioners are more willing to travel than ever before. Many now have the added spending power of occupational pensions.
Demand for United Kingdom tourist facilities by overseas visitors is bound to gain some stimulus from the downward trend in real terms of air fares, and in the short term they will benefit from the renewed strength of the dollar. That will undoubtedly be an incentive to American tourists, who account for over 20 per cent. of the foreign revenue earned by the industry. However, none of that begins to compare with the enormous impact that is likely to result from the opening of the Channel tunnel.
We now have a travel trade deficit with our EC partners. For example, more than 8 million Britons travelled to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in 1986 but fewer than 5 million visitors travelled to Britain from those countries in that year. The balance could be redressed to a large extent by the tunnel. In its first year of operation about 13 million vehicle passengers are likely to be shuttled through the tunnel, and many more will make rail journeys on through trains. That means that all the projections for an industry that has already expanded impressively and has created so many new jobs in the enterprise climate of the 1980s point to yet more investment and job creation well into the next decade.
787 As recently as February, spending by overseas visitors was 8 per cent. up on the same month last year, and 1987 was a record year for British tourism. Even if further growth is a safe assumption, or perhaps because it is so, it is imperative that everyone in the industry recognises that there are many challenges, as well as opportunities, ahead. Even though the market is growing worldwide, it is bound to become increasingly competitive. Our EC partners will want their share of the growth in demand and will be streamlining services, improving quality and augmenting facilities to meet the competition.
By 1992, conformity to EC standards for the industry will be essential if we are not to be placed at a disadvantage, particularly in the light of the qualifications highlighted in the sixth directive. When we look at that competition. we see that our transport infrastructure is clearly a vital challenge, and nowhere is that of greater importance than where it relates to the Channel tunnel. As well as the rail links that have been mentioned in the debate the completion of the south coast road from Dover to Honiton is vital if the tourist traffic coming through the tunnel is to be able to disperse throughout the country and not just to head for London and the golden triangle of tourism about which I spoke earlier.
While we are developing those transport facilities, we must expand the amount of budget, as opposed to luxury, accommodation. My hon. Friend the Minister has repeatedly promoted such budget accommodation.
Another challenge facing the industry is the process of change, and that needs to be highlighted. The market place for tourism will be changing constantly, and so will the labour market that provides the work force. Within the next decade the number of young people in their late teens will have dropped by about I million, and that is a pool of talent from which the industry often draws. It will mean that young people will have to be told about the attractions of work in tourism if they are to be drawn into it and are to be attracted to the training schemes available. There must also be greater emphasis on recruiting and training older workers. Employers will have to be flexible in their working arrangements so that customer demand can be met in an appropriately professional manner.
A few weeks ago, the suggestion that the United Kingdom travel trade—which focuses so much on the past, on heritage and on historic sites—would be subject to constant change would have met with scepticism, but change is universal. Customers face change at home and in the workplace, and they will look for it in travel, in accommodation, in the technology of bookings and payments systems, in promotion, and even in the presentation of the sites that they visit. It is not enough to be content with a glossy, stereotyped image of Anne Hathaway's cottage as the be-all and end-all of British tourism. I am pleased that so many people in the industry have put that behind them.
It is not enough for the National Trust to repaint its interiors in a standard Germolene pink and assume that the visiting public will be grateful for a glimpse of past grandeurs as the Trust chooses to present them. History must be brought alive in an authentic and stimulating fashion if market growth is to be maintained and competition from other countries met.
In my constituency, which is rich in historical sites, the National Trust is successful with Bodiam castle and with Kipling's home, Bateman's, but it is English Heritage that is at last making great strides with its developments of 788 Battle abbey and with that most historic of sites where, in 1066, the Duke of Normandy won his encounter with King Harold. Private enterprise has already developed the Roman site of Beauport park and has done much work of value with fine houses which attract paying visitors.
The greatest prize in tourism to be won in East Sussex this year is Herstmonceux castle, which is up for sale. I have spoken in the House before about the withdrawal of the Royal Greenwich Observatory to Cambridge from Herstmonceux and wish simply to reassert the enormous importance to the castle's future of the right purchaser. I mean a buyer whose plans should include job creation opportunities locally and the proper custodianship of a wonderful example of 15th century architecture, with enormous potential as a tourist attraction, including the castle, the astronomy exhibition centre—which is to stay there—and the beautiful park of some 350 acres. Any suggestion by my hon. Friend the Minister about possible purchasers would be welcome.
There are many other challenges throughout the market place, whether in the form of the need of traditional coastal resorts to forge new identities by which to compete for visitors, or in the form of the need for industry to open its gates to young sightseers in particular, or for farmers to be suitably enterprising in farmland diversification schemes, which the Government have so sensibly encouraged. Perhaps the greatest remaining challenge is the need to attract more British businesses to invest in the modernisation and extension of tourism. The £1 billion investment already under way in marinas, hotels, timeshare apartments and better pubs and catering outlets still needs to be augmented. We need to convince institutional investors in the City, to persuade top management in our major companies and to convince young venture capital entrepreneurs that tourism is an exciting growth market in which they can participate.
Any success in tourism is based on people. When customers leave a site, they carry in their minds a dual impression, of the site and of the service that they have received. If we are to continue to compete effectively and to enjoy a growth market in tourism well into the 1990s, we need professionalism and the highest training and standards of service throughout the industry.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) spoke of the crisis in the tourist industry. I do not know what his interpretation of "crisis" is. It certainly does not seem to engender much interest within the membership of the Opposition parties to attend this debate.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I am grateful to my namesake for giving way. It seems to me from consulting the Register of Members' Interests that the majority of Conservative Members are here in some paid capacity on behalf of the tourist industry, so they are all earning their fees. Let us get that straight.
§ Mr. Robert Banks
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should check his facts. I have no interest to declare in the tourist industry, and that applies to others of my colleagues.
It is quite ridiculous to refer to the crisis in the tourist industry. Perhaps the Opposition have used the word "crisis" too often because it has become a devalued word. 789 I can well recall the Leader of the Opposition, six months before the last general election, referring to the impending crisis in the economy, which never happened, much to the chagrin of Opposition Members, but to the gratification of the electorate. That proved the point about how to win elections.
I believe that tourism in this country is in an extremely good condition. After all, it is the largest industry and employer in this country. In the past five years, it has expanded at a phenomenal rate and has provided many jobs. It is unfair to talk about the low pay of people involved in tourism. There is another way of looking at that. It provides many part-time and short-term jobs that people want. That is what is important. Employment opportunities have been provided by our successes in tourism. People are filling those jobs and are glad to have them.
§ Mr. Sheerman
The hon. Gentleman and I disagree about what constitutes a crisis. There is a £1 billion imbalance in our tourism trade. We may disagree about whether that constitutes a crisis but surely we cannot disagree about the fact that 30 per cent. of people who work in tourism do so for very poor pay. Why does the hon. Gentleman believe that, if a person is a part-time worker, he or she will work for a pittance? There are many part-time workers on the Conservative Benches who are well paid for that work. Why cannot that apply to the bottom level of the tourist industry?
§ Mr. Banks
Many people are pleased to have those jobs and they fulfil a need. If people were not willing to take those jobs, the jobs would go begging and the wages would go up. Wages have increased in the past few years, facilitated by the profitability of the industry.
I do not attach any importance to the figures concerning the number of tourists and the amount of money that comes into this country through tourism because it is a diverse industry from which we cannot accurately calculate the spin-off effects. When one starts to hoist up statistics, one invariably goes wrong because one cannot state precisely the number of jobs that come from the vast range of small firms and individuals involved in tourism.
We must bring more tourism to the north of the United Kingdom. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is not here because I very much agree with him about the proposal to construct a new spinal motorway which will run up through Lincolnshire, Northumberland and even beyond to Scotland. There is great merit in considering a radical proposal to relieve the congestion on the M I and the A 1 and to build a new motorway system which could harness private enterprise and money by introducing tolls on some of the stretches. If the communications are right, we can start to introduce much larger schemes for the benefit both of tourists and others.
The industry as a whole has a great deal on which to be commended. Our standards have risen, particularly those of catering and service. The fact that local authorities now consider carefully how they can improve the environment to encourage tourists and make their areas more attractive has brought enormous benefits for the residents themselves. It is always important to remember that the 790 residents must be considered. We must not simply create tourist attractions that will stifle the way in which people can live happily in an area.
All those people involved in the industry deserve great praise for what they have done and the opportunities that they have grabbed, but there are great opportunities outside London in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Scotland and Wales. If the communications are right, we can further encourage local authorities to gestate ideas and market projects and bring in capital to improve derelict areas. That applies to the inner cities. We must build in projects relating to tourism which should intermesh in the development of our inner cities. We will then disperse tourism and bring greater wealth to the areas where, in many cases, it is needed.
I welcome the debate because it gives us an opportunity to give recognition and status to all those working in this vital industry. Four or five years ago the phrase "Mickey Mouse jobs" was used to describe jobs in the industry. Conservative Members hotly contested that description. If this debate does one thing, it will lay that description to rest forever. A job in the catering and service sector of tourism is a long-term, sophisticated career opportunity. There is nothing "Mickey Mouse" about jobs in tourism.
§ Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. I want to refer to the conference market, which is an important component of tourism. In doing so, I have no hesitation in declaring an interest as the director of a conference organising company.
The conference business is said to be worth £400 million to £500 million a year. That figure is based on direct expenditure without taking account of the very-hard-tocalculate consequential expenditure.
This country was very late to recognise the potential of the conference market. In the late 1960s and early 1970s we had not woken up to the tremendous opportunities offered by conferences. At that time, some countries in western Europe, particularly West Germany, recognised that conferences could bring in considerable amounts of revenue and put places on the map. Most middle-sized towns and cities in West Germany had a very well-established conference and exhibition facility at least a decade before we had such facilities in this country. We must therefore now consider the growth for the next decade of the conferences sector.
The greatest potential for growth lies not in the conference that seeks to attract 1,000 or more people but in the much more specialised and limited conference addressing a market of 200 to 300 people on a highly selective theme which will bring specialists from all over the world. Such an event does not require specially built conference centres which are so often like mausoleums with a great deal of space, but without the standard of facilities that one might find elsewhere. It requires facilities attached to good quality hotels where all the other attendant services one would normally require and expect may be on tap and not specially brought in.
It is astonishing that in London there are fewer than a dozen hotels capable of hosting to a top international standard—I emphasise "top international standard"—a conference of 250 to 300 people. There are many hotels in London which claim to be able to do that, and, if we look 791 at the figures, many hotels are said to be able to do so. However, if one wishes to arrange such an event, only a very few hotels can meet those requirements. As a consequence, hotels accept bookings three or four years in advance.
I identify that problem as the first of one or two pressure points which we must address unless we are to lose tourists and conference business in future. The events of 1992 and 1993 lend emphasis to the importance of addressing that requirement.
The pressure on budget hotel accommodation has been mentioned several times, but there is also a shortage of luxury accommodation in London, which is why the Carlton Tower hotel, which seeks to provide luxury accommodation, charges at particular times of the year more than £200 for a single room for one night. The high price may be justified in that particular case, where the standard of accommodation is commensurate with the price being charged. The danger is that mediocre accommodation may be offered to tourists and conference delegates, who will quickly discover that the high prices commanded are out of line with the hotel's services and facilities. That is the quickest route to discouraging tourists from visiting this country.
There are other pressures on hotel accommodation, and I shall mention briefly my own city of Gloucester. If one wishes to hold there an event such as a dinner for 150 people, one will be unlucky in finding a suitable hotel, for there is none in Gloucester capable of hosting an occasion of that kind. That presents a wonderful opportunity to hotel developers, who will find in Gloucester a ready market not currently being satisfied. I welcome the plans recently announced for a new hotel there; it is long overdue and will be greatly in demand. It could easily and appropriately be followed by other hotels before very long.
I wish to mention also promotional literature in the context of United Kingdom operators' package holidays to foreign destinations. However, the lessons to be drawn from my remarks apply equally to foreign tour operators offering holidays in the United Kingdom.
We are all familiar with glossy holiday brochures and with how the impression given of a particular hotel or resort may not reflect reality. Descriptions of resorts and hotels should always be carefully composed. Sometimes promotional literature falls short of a reasonable standard, and proves to be factually wrong in promising facilities which do not exist or are less attractive than described.
Such inaccuracies cause considerable disappointment and annoyance, overshadowing the good facilities that a hotel or resort may offer. It is far worse to hold out the prospect of a facility that does not exist than not to mention it. Tourists judge the facilities available against those promised for their money rather than against those actually provided.
Often, the fault may lie not with the hotel but with the tour operator. Sometimes operators make extravagant claims to justify extravagant prices, or they are over-enthusiastic in their attempts to attract people to a specific destination. Such a practice is not helpful to the reputation either of the hotel or of the tour operator.
We have all heard stories of the sea view that may be glimpsed only by those having a neck the length of a giraffe's.
§ Mr. French
No, fortunately not in Gloucester, but everybody has experienced that in one way or another.
Last year an overseas hotel was offered as a live-star deluxe establishment. It had some good features, but many shortcomings. There was a children's pool, which was more reminiscent of the conditions prevailing in "Hi-de-Hi", with broken and battered furniture, cracked tiles, dirty water——
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a remedy in law through the vigilance of the trading standards officers and the Trade Descriptions Act? It is counterproductive for misleading literature to be circulated and promoted in this country from abroad because there is a remedy.
§ Mr. French
I entirely agree. I shall comment on the remedy that is available, if my hon. Friend will bear with me.
I was referring to the children's pool with battered furniture, cracked tiles, dirty water and one shower for several hundred guests. That was not an appropriate range of facilities for a hotel that the tour operator said was a five-star deluxe establishment. It was disappointing for the holidaymakers who had decided to reserve rooms in the hotel. It is even more surprising when, in that example, the tour operator was an otherwise respectable company, Thomson Holidays, which has subsequently refused to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with the hotel or its description.
My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) mentioned the tribunal system and other remedies that are available. I agree that in many respects those remedies will be found to be highly effective, and they are available to those who have grievances. But the very existence of such remedies encourages tour operators to allow individual holidaymakers to resort to the remedies that are available rather than to seek to satisfy the customer or client by acknowledging that they may have overdescribed the hotel or facility.
Therefore, it is vital for hotel operators in this country to ensure that promotional literature that is distributed by tour operators abroad about their establishment in the UK is written realistically and describes the facilities on offer exactly as they are. Whatever the standards offered, to claim that they are more than they prove to be will have only one consequence—disappointment for the holidaymaker and a reluctance to come back to the same resort or hotel.
That happens in respect not only of individual hotels but of resorts, cities and regions in the United Kingdom. It is difficult for individual cities to sell themselves directly on international markets in isolation. The need to be part of a larger promotional package, so that the efforts of this country's tourist industry are directed at promoting not only the United Kingdom as an attractive country to visit, but also the merits of individual regions and individual towns and cities.
Some towns and cities have an identity that is fairly readily appreciated. For example, most people have an idea of what Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton, Bristol or Torquay are like. Most people have a clear picture in their mind. The identity of my city of Gloucester is slightly more ambiguous and less clear.
I find in asking a number of people what their impression of Gloucester is that they have no clear idea, 793 other than to believe that it is a pleasant place to visit. They are unable to provide further information about the city. They may be aware that Gloucester has a fine cathedral. They may not be aware that it is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Europe. They are probably aware that Gloucester is a Roman town. They are probably not aware that it was where the Domesday book was commissioned, where Henry II was crowned king and where Parliament has sat. Most would be astonished to learn, thinking that Gloucester is rather inland, that it has an inland Victorian port which has been preserved virtually as it was, with 22 listed buildings within a conservation area that is designated as one of outstanding national importance.
The redevelopment of Gloucester docks is well under way. I predict that within the next five years it will become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the western part of England. Tourists who visit the site will see converted Victorian warehouses containing, among other things, the British Waterways Board museum, the Robert Opie museum of advertising and packaging, new restaurants, speciality shops, a marina and open-air live entertainment. They will find it to be a place thoroughly worth visiting.
The redevelopment is a classic example of the co-ordination between the public and private sectors which was mentioned earlier. It is the partnership approach that will achieve this remarkable result. Gloucester city council set the lead by moving its own offices into one of the first converted warehouses, the north warehouse. The British Waterways Board, as the owner of the overall site, and Pearce Developments, as the developers, have co-operated in planning and executing the rest of the site. The principle of public and private co-operation is being displayed in a most productive way. The docks will become a centre of thriving activity for tourists when they choose to visit them, as indeed they will.
Our approach to tourism as a whole, and especially our approach to attracting overseas visitors to the United Kingdom needs to be based on a strategy of offering quality. Above all, we must strive for an image of quality. I was about to say that we should adopt an image of exclusivity. We must not fall into the trap in which United Kingdom commercial and industrial life found itself in the post-war period, when every attempt was made to sell on price without placing adequate emphasis on quality. The same applies to tourism. It is too easy to emphasise how many people we attract from overseas to these shores. If the number increases year after year, it is too easy to claim that that represents a measure of success. That is a misguided yardstick that does not necessarily represent success. It may mean that an extremely large number of tourists come here, suffer maximum inconvenience and impose discomfort on those who live here and on other tourists.
We should be concentrating on attracting overseas tourists with high spending power. I would describe them as quality tourists. These are people who will come here and spend a lot of money. That is the type of tourist whom we should be trying to attract, and that is the way in which we shall derive the maximum benefit from those who decide to visit the United Kingdom. A visit here should be regarded as a prized opportunity, as a special occasion. We shall not derive the best from our strategy if we measure its 794 success solely on the number of tourists who come. Our strategy must be based on what they spend when they arrive.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) declared his interest and has a right to speak on behalf of the industry he represents. However, tourism is not just about well-heeled tourists coming here with their wallets stuffed full of money. It is also about showing our contry to lots of young people from other countries who come here to enjoy, to learn and to look, and will not necessarily have those wallets stuffed full of money. The hon. Gentleman must be aware of a wider dimension in tourism than the rather limited one that he was serving, although he was doing so in a capable fashion.
A number of Conservative Members have declared interests and are here to serve those interests, and I make that point not as a disparagement but to show that the good turnout of Conservatives is linked to that factor rather than to an impartial and objective interest in tourism per se.
§ Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)
That is an unfair remark and quite disgraceful. My hon. Friends and I are here to serve the interests of our constituents. Whether, in our private capacities, we have connections with businesses that are involved in tourism is wholly irrelevant, and we do not need the House to promote those interests. We are here for our constituents. By making such allegations the hon. Gentleman does his own cause more harm, and makes his life unhappier than he will ever inflict by the shafts that he directs at Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Banks
I somehow feel that I shall live with that burden both today and at other times. I shall let hon. Members decide, in their own hearts, whether, if they were not serving a particular interest declared in the Register of Members' Interests, they would be here or on the motorway on their way back home. I shall let them decide that, but I do not want any lectures from Conservative Members, including the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who I see is about to try to intervene, but to whom I shall not give way. I shall get into my speech.
I have sat here and listened to an awful lot of speeches and have done so to encourage some semblance of debate rather than witness a mind-numbing exercise in Government self-congratulation about what they have done for the tourist industry. I cannot see what they have done that would enable the Minister to come here and make such claims for the success of the industry. If putting out booklets like "Tourism 88" is all that he has done, I am surprised that there are so many to take part in the debate. I should be put off if I were confronted by an ugly mugshot of the Secretary of State for Employment. However, that is neither here nor there.
I welcome the debate, and I welcome the tourists who come to our country because tourism is not only an important industry, but plays a vital role in our cultural relations with other countries. For most people, particularly the young, travel is a mind-expanding experience, although the ability to travel is still denied to the great majority of people, both here and abroad.
The Government have done little to encourage tourism in the way that would enable the Minister to come here 795 and rightly expect the House to be grateful to the Government for their policies. They are riding on the success of tourism. This is a success story, and we are pleased to be associated with it, but it is not right for the Minister to claim that it is part of a great Government success story. People do not come here either to worship the Prime Minister or to see the impact of Conservative party policies. If they do, they need only go down to the Embankment or some other parts of London or other cities and towns to see the real social and economic casualties of the Government's policies. However, people do not come to see that. They come to enjoy the sights and to visit our museums, art galleries and theatres. They come to learn English and to savour the nation's history and cultural inheritance.
London is very much the heart of the tourism industry. I should like to confine my remarks to the impact on London services and on Londoners of being the heart of the British tourism industry. I shall voice a few criticisms, but any of the criticisms I make about tourists in Britain pale into insignificance when one sees the behaviour of some of the tourists we send to Europe and other countries. One can only shudder when one sees or becomes caught up with the drunken, foul-mouthed, semi-literate yobs who infest Spain and who are currently infesting parts of West Germany.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be right to confiscate the passports of those causing trouble abroad?
§ Mr. Banks
That is essentially for a law and order debate, which I am sure we will have at some stage.
The House should apologise for the image of the drunken yobs clutching a can of lager in one hand and a copy of The Sun in the other, staggering round Europe and being offensive to as many people as they can. We should apologise for the way they besmirch the reputation of Britain and then start looking at ways in which we can deal with that blot on our reputation.
"The Tourism Strategy for London" published by the London tourist board in 1987, said:London is one of the most successful tourist destinations in the world. In 1985, over 23 million people—foreign and domestic—stayed overnight in the city contributing £4,700 million to its economy, representing 4 per cent. of its gross domestic product.It should be noted thatNearly 60 per cent. of overseas visitors visit London and it is widely acknowledged that London has a key role as a `gateway' to the United Kingdom and is an important destination for visitors from the rest of the United Kingdom. It should also be noted that London may attract as many as 27 million visitors by the early 1990s.One welcomes the contribution to the London economy made by that enormous influx of overseas and domestic tourists. However, one must also recognise that such an influx places enormous pressures on the everyday life of Londoners. I have said that we welcome visitors to our country, but the House needs to be aware of the pressures that that creates in London. We as Londoners, and they as tourists, deserve much better than we currently receive.
There is great pressure on the transport system in London. Anyone who visits Victoria, Waterloo, Liverpool Street or Paddington stations will see the impact of large numbers of tourists travelling around, particularly those who try to travel during the London rush hours. It gives rise to a great deal of bad feeling between the traveling 796 Londoner and the travelling tourist. The answer to that is not an upsurge of xenophobia, which one tends to detect from time to time, but far more investment in London's public transport system, which, as we always say in transport debates, is grossly under-funded. We estimate that about £4 billion is needed to achieve a modern and efficient transport system in London.
Parts of certain London boroughs such as Westminster, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Kensington, the City, Islington, Brent, Camden and others have enormous pressures put on them by the sheer weight of numbers of people crowding in to see the sights. We should encourage visitors to come to the outer London boroughs. I should like more tourists to see the joys and delights of the London borough of Newham, of which there are many, not least the fact that we have a good Labour-controlled council and three Labour Members of Parliament. However, I expect that that is not the reason why people would want to come to Newham. We have the Theatre Royal and some exciting developments in docklands, particularly if the London Docklands Development Corporation listens to the wishes of the local people and uses the facilities of docklands to provide much needed sports amenities in the east end, which could be of international standard. That will draw some of the pressure away from central London. The pressure tends to be on a fairly small number of our London boroughs, and their taxpayers need much greater assistance than they receive from the Government to deal with tourism-related problems.
What are those problems? Litter has been mentioned, although I would not blame the state of London's streets on tourists. We tend to be one of the filthiest nations on earth, particularly around the area where I live in east London. It is no good blaming tourists or local councils. Litter is deposited by people who live in the area. 'The Prime Minister with her black plastic bag and litter stick, and with the Secretary of State for the Environment in tow, does not begin to address the enormity of the litter problem. Anyone who makes the journey by road from Heathrow airport to central London will realise what a depressing picture it gives of our capital city. We need to address that problem.
Traffic congestion is another problem. It is a London pastime wholly to ignore parking regulations. It is part of our sport. Labour Members have been pressing the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport: to enforce parking regulations. The parking chaos and growing traffic chaos is greatly exacerbated by tourist coaches. Inadequate coach parks are provided. One has only to look from the Terrace to Westminster bridge, or go over Westminster bridge, to see young tourists spilling out of left-hand drive coaches into the middle of the road. That is dangerous to drivers, pedestrians and tourists. We need more strategically-sited coach parks in London.
The pressure on accommodation is a third problem. Large numbers of homes in central London have been lost by being turned into small and often sub-standard hotels. Bed-and-breakfast accommodation is reaching a crisis level, with between 30,000 and 40,000 people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, much of which is concentrated in Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea. Unfortunately, they are being forced out of it as 797 the owners of the hotels want to encourage more tourists to take the accommodation, and that exacerbates our housing problem.
Tourists are probably unaware that about 50,000 people, many of whom are young and unemployed, sleep rough in London. They are the casualties of Thatcherism today. If visitors go the Victoria embankment, Spitalfields or the south bank they will see appalling sights that make a mockery of us claiming to be a civilised, caring nation, when we inflict degradation on so many people. It is a scandal that in 1988 we cannot provide a roof over the head of everyone who needs one.
The police are harassing those who sleep rough on the streets, especially in Westminster, because, they say, Westminster city council is saying that it is affecting tourism and it does not want tourists to see the problem. The council wants to sweep them away. It is pushing them around because they are an embarrassment and a shame which we do not want tourists to see. That is an appalling indictment of Government policies.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
My intervention is somewhat unusual, as I have just entered the Chamber. I was listening to the 1 pm news on Radio 4, when I heard the dulcet tones of the Secretary of State for the Environment, at the Institute of Housing conference at Harrogate, making an announcement about the homeless. While I was listening to the news, I looked up at the screen and saw that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was on his feet. As he and I had taken part in the proceedings on the Housing Bill earlier this week—indeed, there was a two-hour debate on housing—I thought it right to inform——
§ Mr. Barry Field
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is a debate on tourism. Surely this is not a debate on the Housing Bill.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) is correct. I believe that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is making not a point of order, but an intervention. If that is the case, we are debating tourism and I must ask him to relate his intervention to that subject.
§ Mr. Spearing
You will observe, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I was about to conclude my intervention. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West made a passing allusion to what happens close to this House and it is related to tourism. I believe that my intervention was related to that matter, but no doubt my hon. Friend will make his own case.
§ Mr. Banks
My hon. Friend is a close colleague in the London borough of Newham. As I said before he entered the Chamber, we are trying to encourage more tourism in the borough. If we had had our way we would still be debating housing, because if the Government had not got frightened and pulled up the stumps —
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. We are on another debate and the hon. Gentleman must relate his comments to it.
§ Mr. Barry Field
Quite right. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is a very provoking Member.
§ Mr. Banks
Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is a provocative fellow. I must remind hon. Members that there is a relationship between housing and the pressure for accommodation in London. There is also a direct link between that and tourism. My hon. Friend was right to emphasise that link.
The Minister has spoken about the wonderful job opportunities that exist within the tourism industry. I would not dispute that. He quoted two such job opportunities and one of them sounded considerably better than my present job—perhaps he would like to give me some details about it afterwards.
For the major part, however, the tourism industry is sustained by a great pool of cheap labour. We are talking not, about people at the top, but about those at the bottom who have to do the menial tasks. Many hotels and restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants—I especially single out McDonalds—function on the basis of sweated labour. There is little, if any, protection available to the employees, and the Government have done their best to take away what little protection there was. The rates of pay are exceedingly low, and a large number of people who work in such restaurants should not be doing so because they do not have work permits. Such things must be discussed in a debate on tourism and its impact on London.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Does my hon. Friend agree that the tragedy of young people working in London and elsewhere in the tourism industry is that the youth training scheme is collapsing within that industry? Far too many people between the ages of 16 and 19 years are now being brought into jobs and given no training. If it is right to compel young people to join a training scheme, it should be right to make all employers train young people between the ages of 16 and 19.
§ Mr. Banks
I entirely agree. My hon. Friend is well aware that if one goes around in the early hours of the morning and visits the back kitchen doors of some of our hotels, one sees people who have been sleeping rough queuing up to do a bit of washing up to earn money for the day. That is the reality of tourism in London.
§ Mr. Allason
It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of job training schemes, because a couple of weeks ago I visited a JTS and spoke to the people who ran the scheme as well as to people from the jobcentres. Apart from the enthusiasm of people on the scheme, the one message that came across was the fact that the trade unions had put every possible obstacle in the way.
§ Mr. Allason
I am merely repeating the views of the people on those schemes who are trying to make them work. They spoke of opposition from trade unions. If the hon. Gentleman comes to my constituency I can introduce the hon. Gentleman to an important tourism-related scheme where the organisers are constantly having to do battle with the trade unions.
§ Mr. Banks
I shall certainly accept that invitation to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I am sure that he 799 will guarantee me a jolly good time there. Although this is not an employment debate, these factors emerge in any debate on tourism and we cannot ignore them. Much of the trade union opposition to many of the so-called training schemes that are operating at the moment is that they are nothing more than cosmetic exercises to manipulate the unemployment figures. The trade unions are interested in real jobs, not only for the young, but for those who have passed beyond the training years as currently laid down in Government regulations. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is not, and will never be, trade union opposition to training. We need a far better skilled work force than we have at the moment. In fact, we spend less of our national wealth on training and retraining than do many of our western European industrial competitors. The hon. Gentleman must know that that is a fact. I should like to visit his constituency, but I shall be happy to bring with me a broader perspective of trade union matters than he has had up to now.
I am conscious of the fact that many Conservative Members are waiting to speak, but they must be aware that I have listened to their hon. Friends. There is no great massed rank of Labour Members waiting to speak in this debate and, "More's the pity"—I say——
§ Mr. Banks
Well, at least it gives me the chance of clocking up yet another speech, so it is double-edged.
Many tourists get a raw deal in London. That is the other side of the coin. I said earlier that Londoners want a fair deal from tourism, and outlined some of the problems associated with tourism in London. However, tourists need a fair deal when they come to our capital city. London is probably the highest cost city in the world, especially for accommodation, and much of that accommodation is sub-standard. I should like far more inspections of hotels and restaurants to ensure the decent minimum standards that one sees maintained in other countries. I have suggested in the past, and will continue to suggest, that we have a tourist police force, or a tourist inspectorate, specifically to deal with the enforcement of standards that will enable our visitors to have a decent time here in terms of both the food and accommodation that they can enjoy.
When one sees some of the kitchens of restaurants in London, one realises how rotten they are. If Government cuts were not putting so much pressure on the environmental health services of local authorities more of the necessary inspections could take place. I am sick, for example, of tourists lining up outside those disgusting greasy little hamburger stands where they buy hot dogs with botulin sauce, or queue up for horrid icecreams that are more like whipped terylene. Those are small matters, but they create an overall impression about life in London and the way in which we welcome our tourists. On many counts, we do not welcome them as we should.
We need good-standard, low-priced accommodation, especially hostels for the young. As has been said, we must encourage the young, as well as the well-heeled conference attenders with their expense acccounts to come to London. We need camping sites in London. We have one at Crystal Palace, but we need more. We also need at those sites the sorts of facilities that are found on camping sites in the south of France, where they know how to organise camp sites.
800 I am also concerned about the appalling tat that is sold as London souvenirs around the Palace of Westminster and in Oxford street. I refer to policemen's plastic helmets, which one finds are made in Hong Kong, and the T-shirts that say, "Souvenir from London" which are made in Macao. There is much plastic junk that seems to come from all over the world. It is a sad comment, not only on our attitude to tourism, but on our manufacturing industry, that we have to import so much junk. Surely we could make it ourselves. I am sure that we are as capable as any other country of manufacturing junk.
The Government should encourage the tourism industry to produce a range of high-standard souvenirs that would be fitting for a tourist to take home after a visit to the capital city. They could do that by giving much greater encouragement to the arts and crafts industries in London. They could provide more craft markets and implement the sorts of. initiatives that the late lamented Greater London council was taking up in the days before abolition.
In his usual gruff fashion, the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) made some interesting points. The one that interested me was about sign posting. If illegal parking is a pastime in London, bad signposting is a national pastime. We seem to set out with the single intention of getting tourists lost in our cities. The hon. Member for Langbaurgh was quite right to draw attention to the need for better signs and for signs in other languages. Throughout London we need signs of the standard size and in standard locations. That would he of great assistance not only to tourists but to Londoners.
I have said that tourists come here to enjoy our theatres, museums and art galleries. Much was made of that in another Friday debate some weeks ago on the arts. When we hear that again in this debate, we realise what nonsense it makes of the ridiculous argument that somehow we subsidise the arts and they are therefore a charge on the public purse. They are an integral part of this very important industry and, far from complaining about the money that is invested in the arts, we need to make sure that they get far more money, because they are central to our tourist industry.
The question of charges for museums and art galleries usually arises in the context of visitors being admitted free, while we are charged abroad. I do not want to see us going down that road, because I am anxious to see Londoners retaining free access to those facilities. Perhaps we ought to think about a bed tax or a surcharge on hotels and restaurants. That would provide the additional funds for the tourist inspectorate that I mentioned and would generate enough income for us to pass some of the money to the art galleries, museums and theatres enjoyed by the tourists.
We do not need from the Government a self-congratulatory exercise, a sort of collective pat on the back, because they have not done enough to deserve that. We need a recognition that the tourism industry vital, central, important and growing, and that it is the future. We need a proper strategy for tourism, but until we get a good Socialist Government we are not likely to see that.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members are as aware as I am of the pressure to speak in the debate. I am anxious to call every hon. Member who wishes to speak. The matter is in the hands of hon. Members and I rely on them to make short speeches.
§ Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)
My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) crossed swords with me about which part of the United Kingdom has the best sunshine record. I pray in aid the House of Commons Library, which tells me that outside the Channel Islands the Isle of Wight definitely holds the current record.
My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) called for signs in other languages. If he were here now, I should tell him that the Isle of Wight would like signs in any language—even in English. We have failed miserably to convince Hampshire county council or the Department of Transport that the Isle of Wight exists. A motorist driving along the motorway corridor will not see a sign pointing specifically to the Isle of Wight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) mentioned the forthcoming celebrations of the defeat of the armada. I am delighted to tell the House that the Post Office is to publish a stamp featuring the Isle of Wight in the armada series. Of course, the armada was originally defeated off the Isle of Wight, not off Plymouth as so many contemporary historians believe.
We had a number of contributions by the Opposition, and I particularly welcome the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn), whose party is singularly absent from all-party committees dealing with leisure, recreation and tourism. The hon. Gentleman said that tourism was on the increase, and so it is—unlike the membership of his party.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has contributed to the debate. That is a 100 per cent. increase on our last debate on 22 July 1987 when, as shown in column 458 of Hansard, we referred to the fact that there were no Opposition Members present for the tourism debate.
§ Mr. Sheerman
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is misleading the House. At one stage, I was the only Labour Member in the Chamber, but several Labour Members contributed to the debate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not mislead the House.
§ Mr. Field
There has been a 100 per cent. increase with the contribution of the hon. Member from Newham, North-West. On that basis, I suppose that it will take only another 200 years before the entire Labour party takes part in a tourism debate. In the turgid world of Socialism, that is pretty fast progress.
This Government, more than any other, have put tourism in the United Kingdom on the map. For too long, our history, natural beauty and heritage outside London and Edinburgh were the best kept secrets in tourism. My hon. Friend the Minister has changed all that. He is the most widely travelled of Her Majesty's Ministers—at least within the United Kingdom. His portfolio was created by a Conservative Government in 1981. The results have flowed into Britain, our banks and our resorts ever since.
802 I want to examine what I have called the three As of tourism—access, appearance and attitude. No other Government have done more to improve the ease of access for our tourists, whether United Kingdom citizens or people from overseas. We have privatised British Airways, allowing it to be competitive in price and service. We have improved our airports, both national and, through our local government policies, provincial.
On the ground, we have more motorway miles than ever before. We have encouraged the building of better rail access and new rolling stock, such as the Weymouth-Southampton-Waterloo line, which serves Cowes, Lymington and Yarmouth. We have more electrified lines than ever before. We even have privately sponsored stations. There is a brand new British Rail station on the Isle of Wight at Lake. We have a modernisation programme for existing stations and booking halls. An outstanding example is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin), with the Portsmouth harbour station. That gateway to the Isle of Wight, soon to be opened, is delightful. A number of private railways are increasingly being joined to take traffic from the existing British Rail network. There has been an interesting study into the possibility, with the Havens street railway on the Isle of Wight.
On the sea, we have privatised British Rail's ferries and, instead of scruffy ships selling crusty sandwiches, there are smart roll-on/roll-off ferries, such as those that serve the Isle of Wight, which are clean and carpeted and have smiling staff and good value, good quality food. Access has never been better to allow the record 15.6 million visitors who came to the United Kingdom in 1987 to move around and see Britain at its best.
No mention of access would be complete without a mention of our licensing laws. For too long, pubs shutting in the face of French, German and other international visitors at closing time has been taken as unwillingness to serve rather than the legal inability to do so. The Licensing Act 1988 changes that. Visitors now attend international events, such as the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes boat race, which starts from the Isle of Wight; the international Town Cryers festival in Shanklin; and the largest yacht race in the world, the Round the Island race. All our visitors, holidaymakers and spectators will be able to get a drink throughout the day at any time they choose.
I cannot leave the Licensing Bill without blowing my own trumpet just a little. Only three hon. Members lobbied the Home Office to relax the rules for the sale of wine during a vineyard visit, and I was one of them. As a result, there is a new provision relating to vineyards. Our excellent vineyards, such as those on the Isle of Wight, can now sell samples of their products during the normal day, which is both agreeable to the visitors and profitable to the proprietors.
I shall now turn to appearance, the second A. There is no point in having improved access and flexibility of travel if we have poor appearance. For too long, we have had scruffy, run-down, dirty, dingy and moth-eaten resorts. Too many of our traditional resorts have traded on past memories and traditions. All that is changing fast. Through the regional tourist boards, and with the backing of the English tourist board, tourist development action plans are being set up all over the country. The TDAP on the Isle of Wight is called "Island Pride". We planted over 120,000 daffodils last year, one for each resident of the Isle 803 of Wight. In Sandown, a few weeks ago, we assembled, with the south Wight borough mayor, councillor John Hunter, the Sandown town mayor, and Councillor Miss Heather Humby to clean up the town. We all donned white boiler suits. The mayor wore his chain outside his boiler suit and we walked about on the beach clearing up litter. It was a delight to see the young people involved in that.
Pride is not enough. We also need commitment. I am playing my part in that because I have agreed to present two trophies to the tourism development action plan team —one for the Isle of Wight resort that improves itself the most and the other for the most welcoming smile of any personality involved in tourism on the Isle of Wight.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
The hon. Gentleman should take his right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) with him.
§ Mr. Field
I did. He came last Saturday and we had a most excellent celebration of a remarkable election victory with a 6,500 majority.
Appearance is more than just a question of being free of litter. It is more a question of facilities, such as all-weather attractions, including hotel indoor swimming pools—island hotels, which have recently installed them, are now fully booked—and, above all, en suite bathrooms and colour television in every bedroom. That is why section 4 funding under the Development of Tourism Act 1969 is so important. Expenditure on tourism has risen by over 20 per cent. in real terms between 1978–79 and 1986–87. That is another statistic that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) could have obtained from the Library, as he did the employment statistics that he so misused earlier.
I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity of welcoming my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment to the Isle of Wight when he presented no less than £189,000 to island tourism projects. Under the island's tourist development action plan, the English tourist hoard will provide £50,000 over the next few years for the action programme, the Manpower Services Commission will provide £20,000 for local development projects to identify opportunities for trading and the Development Commission will give £50,000 to provide, among other things, advice for business, particularly on tourism initiatives, and to finance, support and advise the marketing initiatives.
I shall now deal with my final A—attitude. Here I believe that the Government can claim their greatest achievement. Having cut the apron strings of the nanny state in so many areas of daily life, the increased profile and awareness of job opportunities and earning potential from tourism are among the Conservative party's greatest success stories. You will not find the "We must be nice to tourists and visitors Act 1988" anywhere, Madam Deputy Speaker, but that is the effect that the Government's policies have had. People have realised that tourism equals real jobs. In 1986, 1,710 million people depended directly on tourism for their jobs. In my constituency, 25 per cent. of the working population depend on tourism for their jobs, but there is still room for improvement. With better training, emphasising the quality of service, the customer will be better received, feel more welcome and, above all, will want to return again and again.
The Isle of Wight is the United Kingdom's biggest tourist attraction, receiving more than 1 million visitors 804 every year. We hold the country's sunshine record. In 1987 we recorded more bright sunshine than anywhere else, excluding the Channel Islands. We have more tourist attractions than any other area in Great Britain. One of the borough councils, since it became Tory-controlled, has even purchased a very successful Dotto train.
The Isle of Wight was one of the first holiday destinations in the United Kingdom to receive EEC approval for its clean beaches, as my hon. Friend the Minister has discovered for himself, when visiting Ryde, Cowes, Yarmouth, Sandown, Shanklin or Ventnor, one will be offered a warm smile, a friendly welcome, value for money second to none, beautiful scenery and an island community that has finally realised that future prosperity lies not with heavy engineering, but with tourism.
§ Mr. Ken Hargreaves (Hyndburn)
This is the first time that I have spoken in a Tory party conference; and I welcome the presence of three tourists on the Opposition Benches who have come to observe our deliberations!
When I see crowds of overseas tourists wandering around the streets of London, I view them with mixed feelings of gladness and sadness. I am glad that they have come to visit our country, and I welcome them; but I am sad that they believe that London is everything. The majority will go no further north than London. It is regrettable that they will return home without seeing some of the finest attractions that the country has to offer.
They will judge us by the high prices and the all-too-often dirty and litter-strewn streets which characterise so much of our capital city. If only they would judge us by the standards of places like York, Scarborough and Southport or areas like the Ribble valley, Pendle and Hyndburn. The latter areas may not automatically spring to mind as tourist areas, and they are not. However, they have a great potential for tourism. They need local and national campaigns to exploit that potential.
They need a national campaign to publicise the attractions and a local campaign by local authorities, individuals and companies to develop and market the attractions. That could give a major boost to the economy of north-east Lancashire. It would also relieve some of the pressure on the services in London.
A working group of officers of the local authorities in north-east Lancashire and the North West tourist board has recently drawn up a tourism action programme. and I welcome that initiative. It seeks to consolidate the area's existing share of the visitor market and develop new opportunities which offer the potential for growth.
The tourism action programme aims to develop an effective marketing strategy to secure the active participation of the private sector, develop new attractions, improve standards of visitor management, information and infrastructure and improve and expand training opportunities to meet the needs of tourism now and in future. In short, at last we have a coherent strategy for tourism in north-east Lancashire, something we have lacked for a long time.
The area has much to offer. it has a wide variety of scenery, including the rugged and beautiful moorlands of the Rossendale hills and the forest of Bowland. It also has attractive countryside around Hyndburn, Ribble valley, Pendle and Burnley. The older towns have industrial heritage attractions that are becoming more popular with 805 visitors. Oswaldtwistle has such attractions and surely, with a name like that, it is easily marketable for tourists. That town was the home of James Hargreaves. I share the Hargreaves name, but I regret that I have nothing in common with him, except perhaps that I expect that I will die in poverty as he did. That will happen despite Opposition jibes that Conservative Members are here today to earn fat fees as consultants to the tourism industry. I am here today to represent the interests of my constituents.
Oswaldtwistle was also the home of Robert "Parsley" Peel, who is famous for early experiments in mechanical printing. It boasts a Victorian pottery, the only pottery in the north of England with its own source of clay. The Howarth art gallery in Accrington two miles away contains Europe's largest collection of tinted glass. If we add to the beautiful countryside and the attractions of historical and industrial importance the welcoming attitude of the friendly people, a good communications network, a wealth of country pubs and restaurants where good food is available at a quarter of the price in London, I believe that the area has much potential for further development in tourism.
With the new initiative which I have commended, east Lancashire is well placed to capitalise on growth markets such as day visits, business tourism and short holidays. Wigan pier, Oswaldtwistle and Accrington Stanley used to be music hall jokes. Wigan has exploited that joke to the full, and Wigan pier is now one of the north-west's most popular attractions. With enthusiasm and initiative the same could be achieved by Oswaldtwistle and Accrington Stanley. Any town that can export cocktail cherries to the Amazon, as Oswaldtwistle does, must have some initiative.
We must use that same initiative and enthusiasm in making people aware of what the area has to offer, and overcome the lack of confidence we sometimes display. We must publicise ourselves, and make more resources available for tourism development and promotion. We need to press ahead with planned key developments—the winter sports theme park in Accrington, the major footwear museum at Rawtenstall, the open air farming museum in Pendle, and the heritage centre at Stonebridge Mill, Oswaldtwistle. They are important because, although we can guarantee that visitors to east Lancashire will receive a warm welcome, we cannot always guarantee warm weather of the kind that seems to characterise south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
Those centres will provide ideal indoor tourist attractions, and I commend Oswaldtwistle civic society for the energy it has put in to establishing the heritage centre, although it still needs financial help.
Tourism and leisure offer ways of increasing investment and employment. I am not suggesting that Hyndburn or east Lancashire will ever rival Blackpool or Southport, but, if vigorously exploited, the Hyndburn area is one of tourist potential which could, even on a limited scale, increase investment and the range and scale of employment opportunities.
Many forms of financial assistance are available for tourism projects, but the majority of them are restricted to narrowly defined geographical or subject areas. In 806 practice, east Lancashire is often disadvantaged by comparison with the aid available to other areas. Consequently, there is a need for changes in, or clarification of, the Government's and EC's guidelines. Particular difficulty is caused by the exclusion of tourism projects from the European regional development fund's non-quota textile assistance.
While welcoming the fact that many tourism development projects qualify for an average discretionary grant of only 20 per cent., developers in east Lancashire find it difficult to generate the remaining 80 per cent. of a scheme's cost. A review of the ETB's current level of grant aid would be helpful. Any increase that will help to attract tourists away from London would surely be well spent.
We must not only welcome tourists but also provide them with proper facilities. We set a poor example in the House. Visitors to the Palace of Westminster are usually constituents, who have to queue outside the Norman porch, sometimes in the pouring rain and unprotected. From replies given to my parliamentary questions, I understand that the situation is under review. I would prefer my constituents and other visitors to be under cover. I hope that a way will soon be found to help our visitors to enjoy better one of the country's major tourist attractions.
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
In the interests of brevity I shall shorten my remarks and exclude my comments about the need for continuity of signposting throughout the south and south-west. I shall also dispense with my congratulatory and craven remarks about the great improvement to our licensing laws. I briefly suggest that there should be a review of section 4 funding grants and the way in which they are implemented, and I shall curtail my remarks about British summer time.
I make it absolutely clear to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that I have no interest to declare in tourism other than representing my constituency. I extend to him a warm invitation to visit Torbay, and in particular a new job training scheme that has been the subject of several problems created by trade unions. The scheme, sponsored by Grand Metropolitan, has placed a large number of young people in jobs in local tourism industries. It has been hugely successful, but it could have been even more successful had there not been opposition.
There is considerable concern among those taking up places on job training schemes about the £10 given to them recently, £5 of which was immediately clawed back in transport expenses, which seems to be unfair.
I confirm the remarks that were made earlier in the debate that it would be counter-productive to have any sort of compulsion to go on job training schemes because it would inhibit the enthusiasm of the organisers and of those on the schemes. For many of those on the schemes, education requirements seem to be a great stumbling block. Up to 30 per cent. of the people going on some of the schemes seem to have considerable learning difficulties.
I commend three future possibilities to English Heritage. Some opportunities for tourism appear to have been ignored. I have recently visited several sites that might be exploited. There are London Regional Transport's disused stations. Some in London are of enormous historical importance, particularly beneath 807 Down street, which would make a marvellous tourist attraction. LRT would like a little encouragement for that. There is also another war room. The one that is now open under Great George street is enormously successful. There is a lesser known, more secret one lying derelict up on Dollis hill. It would be a tremendous tourist attraction, and I warmly recommend it. Finally, there is Bletchley park, where so much code breaking went on during the war. One of the most important huts there was destroyed recently, although British Telecom, which owns the site, offered one of those famous huts to the Imperial War museum.
I am grateful for your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)
I welcome many of the initiatives by my hon. Friend the Minister, his hard work and his commitment to the interests of tourism in so many constituencies. He visited Portsmouth by train, and now we have a new station to prove it at the Southsea end. The improvements at Harbour Station were also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field).
There is a sign in the station that my hon. Friend the Minister visited before it was renovated, which I hope is in the new station, and which gave good advice not only to the traveller but to the politician. It says in the smallest print imaginable on the railway timetable:
Before alighting passengers are asked to ensure that a platform is immediately adjacent.That is not in Japanese or in any other language. I hope that it has been retained in the new generation of station which we now see and which my hon. Friend the Minister did so much to promote.
The major factor of tourism—communications—has been mentioned often in the debate, so I shall not belabour it any more. When my hon. Friend the Minister visited Portsmouth, he saw a fine example of what can be done with serious concentration on developing tourism. It is an object lesson of national significance that one must have a theme if one wants to attract people to one's city. Portsmouth's theme at present is being the flagship of maritime England. It has built up a reputation in that respect over many centuries.
During the 1970s the city council understood that the contraction of the dockyard and the needs of our peacetime Royal Navy in the longest period of peace that we have had since the 19th century meant that there must be a more diverse economy and job base. There was not much moaning about what was happening, but there was action to make sure that, in the absence of more land for manufacturing—land is at a premium in Portsmouth—and with limited office space, the importance of tourism projects was marked. There has been co-operation with the private sector which has resulted in the creation of real jobs that are valued by those who undertake them. There is no scorning of tourist jobs for being part-time or not as well paid as some other jobs. They are jobs none the less, and they are created at little cost to the public purse. An interesting survey that was undertaken by the Portsmouth polytechnic resulted in an estimate that in 1986 tourism activity accounted for £150 million, nearly 10 per cent., of local incomes and jobs. It is forecast that further development of the naval heritage project and other schemes will generate over 3,000 permanent jobs at a cost 808 of less than £2,000 in public money per job. The city council has established a tourist development action programme, which is co-ordinating the various initiatives.
We have heard about the prime duty of any Minister with responsibilities for tourism to arrange good weather for us. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French), who caused me to recall the nursery rhyme:
That is something that Gloucester will have to overcome, whereas we in sunny Southsea have a slighly easier task. The arranging of the right weather, for which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) was once responsible, but when requirements were different back in the days of drought in the 1970s, cannot be guaranteed. This means that we must have wet-weather facilities. We hope that our restaurants will whet appetites, but if the body is to be wet it must be wet inside.
- "Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
- In a shower of rain.
- He stepped in a puddle, right up to his middle,
- And never went there again."
One facility that is being built in my constituency includes something called the Pyramids. It will be an inside water experience of the first order. It is a project that modern mummies will welcome, as well as some daddies. It will offer fine facilities and it will be opened by the Princess Royal when she visits Portsmouth in July.
We have heard about rail and road communications, but I wish to refer to the sea. In my constituency, and on the borders of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths), who is my parliamentary neighbour, there is a thriving ferry port. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have travelled through it and have sometimes given me the benefit of their experiences. They have told me that improvements could be made. There are three separate companies offering roll-on/roll-off facilities, and Portsmouth is the second largest port after Dover. It has a much better labour relations reputation. That became clear during the recent troubles, when Portsmouth never stopped its ferry operations. It offers more routes than any other port. There are links to Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, St. Malo, Santander, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight.
The standards on board the ferries must be high. I think that it was Dr. Johnson who once said that being in a ship was like being in a gaol, with the chance of being drowned. We must ensure that the reputation of ships does not go the same way as that of aircraft. The public feel that they are treated like cattle when they arrive at any airport or leave from it. There is the feeling that passengers are fodder for aircraft.
We must ensure in Portsmouth that we do not become the subject of the complaints that we sometimes hear about Her Majesty's Customs at other ports. I direct that remark to Treasury Ministers, and I hope that it will be taken up by my hon. Friend the Minister. When travellers arrive at a port, they must be able to go through the green channel without being challenged. They should be stopped only if there are tip-offs, along with occasional random stops.
We must ensure that when travellers arrive they do not have to wait on board, sometimes in the hold. There are exhaust fumes, and long waits are unpleasant, especially if there are young children in the car. I have four young children, and I know what it is like to be cooped up for half 809 an hour in a car in the hold of a ship. One tries to keep children happy, while trying to ensure that they have enough air. This is a difficult experience, especially when it comes at the end of a trying journey. I hope that there will be co-operation from Her Majesty's Customs to ensure that ferry ports, and especially the Portsmouth port, are better served. There is a need sometimes for more staff at peak periods, but it is important that there is good management.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I give every encouragement to my hon. Friend the Minister to improve on the initiative, enthusiasm and energy that he has shown, so as to benefit all of us and the nation in future.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
In introducing this debate my hon. Friend the Minister referred to a number of initiatives that the Government have taken and are taking to encourage tourism. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, when I checked through my Adjournment debate on the tourism industry six years ago, I was encouraged to find that so many of the demands that I suggested the tourism industry had been making on the Government have been met by the Government.
The Government have responded to demands that section 4 tourism development grants be available nationwide and not just in assisted areas. They have greatly increased the available funding, which is going to smaller hotels and guest houses as well as to larger projects. The Government have made more helpful arrangements for rate support grant funding to be spent on tourism. They are abolishing the rating system, which is something that the industry has long demanded. The establishment of a single European market in 1992 will presumably harmonise VAT on hotels and holidays throughout the industry—again something that the industry has long wanted. The Government have reformed the licensing laws in response to the industry's demand. I welcome that, although I shall later refer to the trend on drink-related disorder in the tourism industry.
I asked the Government to reform the gaming laws to bring them more in line with those on the Continent. My hon. Friend the Minister will know that the casino industry is small in comparison with that of most other tourist countries, but it generates over £1.5 billion worth of business a year, a great deal of which goes to the Exchequer in taxes. One petty restriction in particular prevents casinos from attracting business from visitors from both home and abroad. That is section 12 of the Gaming Act 1968, which imposes a 48-hour rule, which prevents members of casino clubs from enjoying the same facilities in other casinos in areas such as my constituency of Bournemouth and other tourist and conference towns, which they may be visiting for a limited period.
As hon. Members will know, bona fide members of Conservative and Labour clubs have no such restriction preventing them from drinking in clubs elsewhere, provided that they abide by local club rules and show their affiliation card. The same should apply to casino club members, as it does in Europe, to which we must be losing an increasing amount of such business from visiting 810 Americans, Japanese and other business men and tourists—the quality tourist to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. French) referred.
I shall refer now to some of the practical problems facing our traditional seaside resorts, of which my constituency, Bournemouth, is one of the best, as hon. Members know from attending their party conferences there. Later this year we shall welcome the Trades Union Congress to its first conference there for 45 years. For many years, our resorts have been facing formidable competition from those abroad with better climates than our own, and our rising prosperity will no doubt encourage that trend. Several resorts have given up the challenge. They have neglected their seafronts and piers, failed to invest in the future and have gone for the soft option of servicing havens for the retired, with inevitable stagnation for the local economy and loss of job opportunities. Others are attempting to realise the true potential of their seafronts. They have revitalised their piers and, in attempting to escape from being seasonal, are attempting to provide all-weather aquatic and leisure facilities, and have diversified into such markets as conferences, exhibitions and language schools.
Unfortunately, because of the irresponsibility of some inner city authorities, the Government have a certain mistrust of tourist authorities. This threatens to restrict these developments by an amendment in the Local Government Finance Bill to make partnership and barter schemes subject to the public expenditure audit. This has a devastating effect on boroughs such as my own, which seek to use operational assets—in our case the pavilion and its car park—to redevelop prime sites for the benefit of visitors and residents alike, with major investment from the private sector.
Such investment does not involve the council in mortgaging its future. It is designed to promote the economy of the town and its tourism industry in particular. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to make the same representations to his colleagues in the Department of the Environment as are being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) and myself. We want to ensure that such new investment is neither affected by that amendment nor by a return to capital controls for individual schemes.
Will my hon. Friend the Minister accept my borough's concern, shared no doubt by other resorts and referred to by the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn), about the increasing trend of hotels and guest houses being converted to rest and retirement homes? That is being encouraged by rocketing values of property, and the attraction of early retirement from a labour-intensive business on a capital gain is understandable. However, it is resulting in the permanent loss of beds for visitors and must lead, in due course, to the permanent loss of visitors. That would threaten the viability of every tourist attraction. Because no change of use is involved, local authorities are powerless to discourage that vicious cycle unless they can determine that hotels remain as hotels. I hope that my hon. Friend will take note of those fears and discuss them with the resort authorities and his colleagues at the Department of the Environment.
I want to use this opportunity to express my continuing concern and that of all hon. Members representing constituencies whose police authorities accept the responsibility of the policing and security of party conferences at the fact that they must bear that cost 811 without special support from the Exchequer. In the past, we were all content to bear that cost. However, the Brighton bombing in 1984 changed everything. In Dorset, police costs in connection with the Conservative party conference in 1986 amounted to more than £1 million. Bournemouth borough council undertook additional expenditure of £39,000 on security measures. I have no doubt that Lancashire and Blackpool paid similar amounts last year and that Sussex and Brighton will do so this year, and so it will go on.
It is no longer reasonable to expect local ratepayers to bear such costs. It is not good enough to say that the towns have opted to attract conferences and so must accept the rough with the smooth. The cost of maintaining an effective security system to protect our national leaders must be a national responsibility and must be borne by the Exchequer. I hope that my hon. Friend will support the representations being made to the Home Secretary by some of our right hon. and hon. Friends who represent conference-town constituencies.
During the week that has seen the worst of the young British male abroad, we must not ignore the recent warning of the Association of Chief Constables about the trends towards public disorder in areas outside our inner cities, including seaside resorts and the countryside. Once a resort's reputation has been eroded by a few weekends of violence, it can take years to restore the confidence of elderly visitors or those with families.
As we all know, 90 per cent. of the problem is drink-related. We may need to consider following the lead of every state in the United States of America and raise the drinking age to 21. I cannot understand why the common sense of using identity cards is not more widely appreciated. I welcome the revised guidelines for dealing with young offenders with higher profile manual labour community service. The police must have sufficient manpower to deal with the problem, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's new initiatives will find a means to combat the problem that threatens all our communities.
§ 2.9 pm
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
More than 500 years ago a famous English tourist landed at Pembroke in Wales and made his way to my constituency of Bosworth. He was Henry Tudor, and there in 1485 he fought Richard III, smashed his forces and ended the Wars of the Roses—the 30-year feud which had divided England. He was crowned Henry VII and now, partly because of that big battle, we have a tremendous resurgence of tourist activity in Bosworth. It is of great credit to all the organisations in the county that that has come about.
It is important to encourage tourists to move away from London. More than half the expenditure of tourists occurs in London or in the so-called golden triangle—and by that I do not mean somewhere in Burma or Thailand, but Oxford, Windsor and London. In 1987, when a survey was conducted on tourists' habits, it was found that the reason why tourists do not travel away from London is principally the lack of time. If time is the key factor, we must address ourselves, as many hon. Members have done today, to transport problems. That is why I have been fighting to electrify the main line from St. Pancras to Leicester. It will be a key factor in our increasing tourist industry.
812 The Channel tunnel will also affect that line because if we are to have a further 15 million tourists a year we must get them through London and away. Therefore, not only the east and west coast main lines, but the midlands main line must be connected into the new St. Pancras-King's Cross terminal, which the British Railways (No.2) Bill has given authority to be built. That will be a key aspect of future tourism in the midlands.
There has already been a shift from London. Tourism in the regions—in East Anglia, the east midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, and parts of the north-west —has increased by 7 per cent. in the past two years. That is double the rate in other parts. There must be good reasons for that, and I shall look into them in a moment.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) commented on the so-called low-paid jobs in the tourist industry. Surely it is better that people have work. In my constituency we have the Ashby canal. Through the community programme people who were unemployed have been put to work renovating the canal. It has been a tremendous success, not just because the canal has been cleaned out, but because it has brought people off the streets to do a useful and rewarding job.
In the east midlands, particularly in Leicestershire, we have seen a complete transformation in attitudes to tourism in the past two or three years. The county has begun to recognise the tremendous potential, not just of its great houses, such as Belvoir castle and Belton, but of other attractions, such as Rutland Water. It is the second largest man-made lake in England and one can go yachting and wind surfing on it or cycle round it. It does great credit to Leicestershire county council that it now has a professional tourism officer and that it is promoting the county, correctly, as the "heart of the shires," because we are the heart of the shires and we offer a tremendous amount.
Unfortunately most of the constituencies of Leicester city are on temporary loan to the Labour party from the Conservative party. I hope that the hon. Members now representing that city will forgive me if I praise the work of that city council. It is promoting the 700-year-old market, which is one of the biggest in Europe, and has a museum of technology and other attractions, such as the 14th century gatehouse, which are pulling in many overseas tourists.
The district councils are also pulling their weight. Bradgate park, within the district of Charnwood, is a tremendously popular local attraction. Hinckley and Bosworth district council, which serves most of my constituency, has taken tremendous strides to develop tourism.
Why is my beautiful constituency such a wonderful area to visit? Why is it such a wonderful area in which to holiday? Why is it such a wonderful place to take children?
§ Mr. Tredinnick
My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) and the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) make some kind remarks. My constituency is a wonderful place to take children. It is a wonderful place in which to learn and in which to relax 813 in peace. Such peace may not be available to the local Member of Parliament, but it is available to my constituents.
Although I have been somewhat flippant, my constituency is unique because of the diversity of activity that is available to those who want to visit the area and enjoy themselves. Twycross zoo had 446,000 visitors last year, and I believe it is so successful because the council has given it rate relief to get going. It has become a major tourist attraction.
The battlefield at Bosworth has been transformed from being merely an area of farmland into a principal attraction. Last year 150,000 people visited the battlefield and enjoyed the history of the Wars of the Roses because of the vivid way in which those wars are brought to life. My constituency also boasts Mallory park motor and motor cycle racing circuit. A new hotel is being developed there.
It is interesting to note that Hinckley and Bosworth district council has bought and developed Burbage woods that abut the town as a leisure park. That park has brought untold pleasure to the citizens of Hinckley. During the election campaign I found light relief by getting up early in the morning and running around that beautiful area. in that way I escaped the barbs and jibes of people such as the hon. Member for Huddersfield, although of course I am not as senior as him. Those hon. Members who wish to take a break off the A5 should visit Hinckley because that town now has an attractive pedestrian centre with its own market. It is a pleasant way in which to break a journey north.
The constituency also has not one but two steam railways—the Shackerstone railway, and the charming railway at Cadeby. The latter railway was built by a vicar who, beside his natural instincts to promote the gospel, also enjoyed steam engines. It is possible to travel round the vicarage garden under steam and not by hot air as some might suggest; and, as I have already mentioned, the Ashby canal has been made safe and clean as a result of work carried out under the community programme.
It is important to consider the plight of farmers and the impact of tourism on them. I have many farmers in my constituency and they are worried about what they should do. This week we had a debate on set-aside. I believe that there is a tremendous scope for farmers to take in lodgers. They could take in older tourists—we are all aware that life expectancy is improving and that there are more older people than before—and could show them the farming way of life. That is one way in which farmers could offset the problems with which they are currently faced. I would certainly commend that to some of the farmers in my constituency.
I am proud to represent a stunningly beautiful part of England which, over the past two to three years—perhaps more—has started to realise the genuine and important potential of tourism. We have trains, motor racing, canals, history and battlefields. I advise those hon. Members who may be thinking of going to seaside resorts for their holidays—I mean no disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), that rather than sitting on a beach and becoming lobsters, they would do better to tour around Bosworth, participating in all our activities, learning and having a tremendous time——
§ Mr. Allason
I do not wish to indulge in a history lesson, but my hon. Friend mentioned a particular tourist who trekked across to Bosworth. He should be aware that in Torbay we are about to celebrate the landing of King William of Orange who trekked across England from my constituency. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear0 in mind that his constituency is not unique in that respect.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
I thought for a moment that my hon. Friend was going to say that he is a voortrekker—as a William of Orange fan. His constituency also has strong historical connections, so we have something in common because we are here promoting them.
There is a trend in Britain away from the bucket and spade and towards looking at the heart of the country, which is fascinating, interesting and ideal for a long and pleasant family holiday.
§ Mr. David Amess (Basildon)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) on his contribution. I hope to demonstrate in my short speech how Basildon can vie as an equal tourist attraction. I should like to draw three main points to the attention of the House. The first two relate specifically to London. I am sure that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will be interested in them.
My first point relates to the Palace of Westminster. It is a magnificent building. All the constituents whom we bring here greatly enjoy its beauty and mystery. However, I am concerned that access to the building stops when we break for our summer recess. In the previous Parliament I suggested—I shall probably be greeted with howls of protest—that we allow the Palace to be opened to tourists during August and September and that we charge them a modest fee for being taken around.
I make it quite clear that I do not, under any circumstances, wish to place any further burdens on the magnificent staff who serve us so well. I am not suggesting that their holiday arrangements or duties should be altered in such a manner as to put pressure on them if the facility were granted. However, I am sure that it is well within the wit of the House to make arrangements to enable tourists to enjoy the mysteries and delights of this place. I hope that on future occasions in this Parliament, hon. Members will support me in proposing that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and his Committee should consider that suggestion.
§ Mr. Allason
Does my hon. Friend propose extending his suggestion to the restaurant and refreshment facilities?
§ Mr. David Amess
My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) has made an excellent suggestion. It seems crazy that our facilities should gather dust during the summer when they could be used. I am reluctant to put any extra burden on the staff, who work incredibly long hours and no doubt receive poor pay, but this would be a great opportunity to entertain tourists.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
Perhaps we could meet on this point and serve all the interests that the hon. Gentleman mentions by having a much shorter summer recess and getting on with the job of holding the Government to account.
§ Mr. Amess
That sounds like an elephant trap. There is something in what the hon. Member for Newham, 815 North-West says, but, as hon. Members know, the idea that we all sun ourselves for 11 weeks on some desert island is very far from the truth.
My second point is also about London, and it deals with the Thames. I was born in the east end of London in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. It is a matter of great concern to me that the Thames is not used to its full potential. During my relatively short lifetime I have seen a decline in the use of the river. The Rhine and the Seine are wonderful examples of how rivers can be used, and I am sure that we could do a great deal more with the Thames. Two and a half years ago the House held a regatta which we all enjoyed. I hope that some enthusiastic new hon. Member will turn his attention to organising a similar festival on the river in which we can all join.
As hon. Members may know, the London tourist board has this year identified the Thames as a major asset and suggested that it should be developed for the benefit of visitors, but especially of Londoners. Since 1986 the management of the river has not been entirely clear. The Thames water authority and the Port of London Authority have specific duties, but the boroughs bordering the Thames have assumed additional functions. the unfortunate result is that development on the river has reached an impasse.
I wonder how many hon. Members know that 3.5 million passengers take trips on the river each year? The London tourist board thinks that rather inadequate boats are used. I do not know whether it is a coincidence, but on a recent trip I heard disparaging remarks as the boat floated past this place. The river authority, the Thames water authority, grants licences for only one year. The London tourist board would like to see that extended to five years.
816 The Thames should be seen not only as a tourist attraction but as part of the transport infrastructure. Thamesline, a private company, is already operating commuter services. Those and other services can only be successful in attracting passengers away from the roads and on to the river if comfortable piers and other services are provided. It is a great shame that the skyline is somewhat blocked by a development that leaves a great deal wanting. I hope that children in London schools can be encouraged to make more use of the river.
I shall conclude by speaking about my constituency. A few weeks ago we launched a campaign called "I love Basildon." The purpose of that ongoing campaign is to demonstrate what a wonderful town Basildon is. I think that it is the finest new town in the country. I go further and say that it is the finest town in the country. Much as I approve of tourists travelling to Hampton court and the Tower of London, I should like them to see part of the new Britain; and that is why I want them to flock to my constituency.
Basildon has the largest covered shopping centre in Europe and magnificent medieval churches, such as Saint Mary's, Holy Cross and the church of Saint Nicholas. We even have a marina, a zoo, all types of wildlife, an attractive theatre, wonderful walks and marvellous leisure facilities. We have three hotels: the Crest, the Watermill, and the Campagnille, which has opened recently. Basildon is only 30 miles from London. We have access to the M25, the A13 and the Al27 and are strategically placed for the new Channel tunnel. A great deal has been written about Basildon. I am interested only in the positive aspects of it. I hope that tourists will flock to Basildon.
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion. for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.