HC Deb 14 February 1989 vol 147 cc140-1
9. Mr. Key

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on his assessment of the contribution of tourism to local economies in respect of English cathedrals and cathedral cities.

Mr. Lee

Precise figures are not available. However, English cathedrals and churches are estimated to be attracting a total of 30 million visitors a year, with consequent benefits to local shops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

Mr. Key

My hon. Friend will join me in congratulating Lichfield on receiving £1 million of taxpayers' money from the European Community for employment creation in connection with the cathedral because it happens to be in a development area. Is he aware that that puts a number of other cathedrals, including Salisbury, at a double disadvantage, first because they cannot get European Community money and, secondly, because of the Minister's decision to suspend section 4 grant as priming for tourism? Will he look at both those points?

Mr. Lee

English Heritage is theoretically able to support cathedrals, but it tends to concentrate its resources on parish churches, for which it is more difficult to obtain outside funding. I suspected that the question of section 4 would be raised at Question Time today. Section 4 has undoubtedly helped the tourist industry to develop. But we must now look at it in terms of the present amount of construction work that is under way right across the country. We calculate that there is about £2.5 billion worth of new construction work under way throughout the country in respect of tourism and hospitality. Section 4 amounted to only about £13 million, and until the moratorium was announced by the Secretary of State, tourism was the only industry that had access to grant.

Mrs. Fyfe

Is the Minister aware that a dozen questions about tourism have been tabled today by Conservative Members? Could it be that some of them want to waste time—when we are supposed to be discussing employment matters—by going on about tourism?

Mr. Lee

Tourism is a vital industry to this country. It sustains 1.5 million jobs and is growing at the rate of nearly 1,000 net new jobs a week. It is a subject of considerable interest to my hon. Friends. When, in June of last year, we last debated tourism, only two Members of the official Opposition participated.

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