HC Deb 12 December 1989 vol 163 cc842-4
Q3. Mr. Gregory

To ask the Prime Minister if she has any plans to appoint a Minister for United Kingdom tourism.

The Prime Minister

I am satisfied with the present arrangements. I know that my hon. Friend has long been a strong champion of tourism, which is one of Britain's fastest growing industryies. Last year alone it brought in over £6 billion from overseas tourists to this country. I congratulate my hon. Friend on being fortunate in representing a constituency that is, deservedly, one of Britain's leading tourist attractions.

Mr. Gregory

In view of the importance of tourism to the United Kingdom economy, as it is the fastest growth industry in Britain and brings in some £19 billion—although it is always derided by the Labour party as a candyfloss industry in a Mickey Mouse world—will my right hon. Friend confirm that responsibility for tourism is at present split between Ministries in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? As tourists from abroad look on us as Great Britain, will my right hon. Friend re-examine the possibility of appointing a Minister with overall responsibility for that important industry?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, those who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland prefer the responsibilities to be with the territorial Ministers, but I must point out that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is the Minister who is responsible for tourism for Great Britain as a whole, as well as for England in particular. That arrangement best suits most people in these islands.

Dr. Godman

Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the Scottish tourist industry and the Scottish tourist bodies will retain their autonomy, given the importance of the industry to many areas and islands of Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the responsibilities are set out in the Development of Tourism Act 1969 and we have no plans to change it.

Mrs. Roe

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the agreement in principle by Transport Ministers to liberalise European air transport will bring tremendous benefit to tourists and all consumers? Is not that the sort of measure with which the Community should be involving itself, rather than trying to impose on its members such contentious proposals as the social charter?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend is quite right. It was very good news when last week the European Community agreed to deregulate air fares, which means that we shall get very much cheaper air fares to Europe. Hitherto, it has cost much more per mile to travel by air to Europe than to the United States. We have been working for several years to try to secure deregulation. In the past we had to do it by bilateral arrangement—it was Britain and the Netherlands that were keen on deregulation—but now the principle has been extended and will apply much more widely. That will help tourism and bring pleasure to many people who will now be able to fly more cheaply to European countries.

Q4. Ms. Short

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 December.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Lady to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Ms. Short

Is the Prime Minister aware that most people in Britain think that our country is now too unequal and too divided? Does she know that the combined effect of all her tax and benefit changes is that the bottom 50 per cent. of families have lost £8.50 per week whereas the top 10 per cent. have gained nearly £40 per week? Will she now, as many families look forward to a bleak Christmas, promise to increase pensions and child benefit and introduce a national minimum wage so that everyone who lives in this country can share in its wealth?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not agree with the hon. Lady's figures. She is well aware that people of all income groups—whether on social security benefits or earnings and those receiving treatment from the Health Service or in education—have benefited under this Government. All the benefits have gone up. In the last part of the hon. Lady's question she referred to increases for pensioners at Christmas. A Labour Government cancelled the Christmas bonus for two years in succession. Under Conservative Governments pensioners continue to receive their Christmas bonus.