HC Deb 29 January 1991 vol 184 cc776-7
3. Mr. Speller

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he will take to encourage the growth of employment in the tourism industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Jackson)

In 1990, the tourism industry employed 1.4 million people—25 per cent. more than in 1981. The numbers of self-employed people in the industry grew by 17 per cent. between 1981 and 1989. The Government will continue their substantial financial support for tourism and the industry must also play its part by negotiating realistic pay settlements.

Mr. Speller

Given curent international events, does my hon. Friend agree that this will probably be the last year ever for the British tourist, hotel and catering industries to promote an increase in the number of holidays taken in this country and to seek to attract back to Britain the many holidaymakers who, for many reasons, good or bad, have chosen in the past to holiday overseas? Does my hon. Friend further agree that there must be more investment if Britain is to offer holidaymakers the best value for money anywhere in Europe?

Mr. Jackson

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important to take advantage of the situation, even though it is rather grave on the tourism front because of the impact of the Gulf war. The promotional efforts to which he referred are important and there is a real challenge to encourage home tourists to make more use of facilities here. The timing of the promotion is of the essence, but it is for the industry, in conjunction with the British tourist authorities, to decide how to do it.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Is the Minister aware that many small independent travel agents are expressing deep concern about employment prospects for their employees as a result of the crisis to which he referred? Will the Government be taking any steps to reassure them that their jobs will not be lost as a result of the problem, perhaps through increased advertising to encourage people to visit this country in the coming year?

Mr. Jackson

The position is serious, but it affects us all. The Government are well aware of the terrorist threat to this country. Excellent security arrangements are in place and we are intensifying them. I pay tribute to the people involved in enforcing those arrangements. However, we must try to sustain a spirit of business as usual and it is for the industry to look after itself.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Will my hon. Friend examine ways in which the Government can help to spread tourism so as to increase the possibility of employment in the industry in parts of the country other than those currently benefiting from it? Does he recognise that there is some concern in towns such as Bath, Cambridge and Oxford, which already attract a substantial number of tourists? Does he recognise the case for trying to promote tourism in other parts of the country which do not have as many tourists?

Mr. Jackson

I agree with my hon. Friend, but, as he knows, recently there was a review of such matters and various institutional changes were made. It is Government policy to encourage diversification and the spread of the opportunities represented by tourism.