HC Deb 17 January 1989 vol 145 cc138-9
2. Mr. Tracey

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what contribution the tourism industry made to United Kingdom invisible earnings in 1988; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)

Estimates published last week show that overseas residents spent more than £5.4 billion in the first 10 months of 1988.

Mr. Tracey

My hon. Friend has provided excellent figures, but how do they compare with other factors in the invisible earnings sector of our economy? Will he consult our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on how much better they could be if London's traffic and transport were sorted out?

Mr. Lee

I take the point that my hon. Friend has made about London traffic and transport. That is an issue that we discuss with transport colleagues in the tourism ministerial co-ordinating group.

In the invisible earnings sector, overseas earnings from tourism amount to about 40 per cent. of the size of the separate financial services sector. In the first nine months of 1988, other overseas earnings were slightly larger than exports of road vehicles and aircraft combined.

Mr. Key

Does my hon. Friend agree that our cathedrals and cathedral cities have a central role to play in the development of the tourist industry? Will he speak to his ministerial colleagues to see whether there are ways in which the Government could take a positive role in helping the deans and chapters?

Mr. Lee

I know of the continuing interest that my hon. Friend takes in cathedrals. Of course, our cathedrals and churches are major national tourism assets. Indeed, I recently visited Winchester cathedral and saw what has been achieved there and its potential. Once again I make the point that that is just the sort of issue that I can consider with ministerial colleagues in our tourism ministerial co-ordinating group.

Mr. Kilfedder

The Minister will agree that, despite terrorism, tourism in Northern Ireland is doing reasonably well, but will he use his influence and ask tourist agencies to persuade people perhaps, to extend their visit to England and visit Northern Ireland, too?

Mr. Lee

That is an interesting point. I shall put that proposition forward to my ministerial colleague in charge of tourism in Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), to see if something can be worked out.