HC Deb 26 March 1991 vol 188 cc751-2
5. Mr. Butterfill

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps are being made by his Department to stimulate tourism.

Mr. Howard

In recognition of the present difficulties facing the industry, £800,000 has been made available to the English tourist board for a major marketing campaign starting this month, and the British Tourist Authority will receive an extra £800,000 in 1991–92 to promote Britain overseas. I am visiting north America in the week commencing 7 April to help boost interest there in Britain as a place to visit.

Mr. Butterfill

My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that, the last time we had problems with terrorism and people in the United States were deterred from visiting this country, a number of initiatives were taken in the United States, including meetings with my right hon. and learned Friend's counterpart in the United States. Will he meet his counterpart when he visits the United States and assure us that everything will be done to return Brawn to a healthy state of tourism, particularly from that country?

Mr. Howard

1 can certainly give my hon. Friend those assurances. I shall do all I can to remind Americans that they will be very welcome here. We expect many of them to visit in the months ahead.

Mr. Ashton

While the Government are proud to give £800,000 to tourism how much has been taken out of tourism with the increase in VAT to 17½ per cent., which was announced last week'? Surely that step will encourage many thousands more people to take their holidays in Benidorm instead of Bournemouth and will be a devastating blow to the tourist industry in Britain.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman cannot seriously expect different rules to apply to the tourist industry and to other industries. If he or any other Opposition Member suggests that local government contributions to local government services should be reduced—as we think they should be—but not financed through VAT, perhaps they will say how they would finance them.

Mr. Hill

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of how fast Southampton is advancing in the tourist market? What help is his Department giving us and what facilities will be available for new areas of tourism such as the port of Southampton, the ocean village, marinas and many other facilities in the area?

Mr. Howard

I am aware of the many attractions of Southampton. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Southern tourist board is doing what it can to draw Southampton's tourist attractions to the attention of potential visitors.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Will the Secretary of State admit to the House that the £800,000 that he announced is not new money, but money that was already destined to go to tourism? As he was invited to do by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), will the Secretary of State accept that the industry reckons that the £800,000 that he claims to be making available bears scant comparison with the £300 million that the industry will lose due to the VAT change? The industry makes that comparison because it knows that the Government are not prepared to do anything for it.

Mr. Howard

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's figures for one moment. I note that he repeats the question asked by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) without dealing with the essential point underlying that question, which I put to him and invited him and his colleagues to answer.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the new money that he has made available will be widely welcomed in the industry? Has he heard the news that £1 billion is the current estimate of the loss to airlines alone around the world as a result of the Gulf war and the recession? Therefore, will he give the House an assurance that he will continue to monitor carefully the effect of those events on tourism in Britain, and the benefit to it of the money that he has made available, to ensure that the industry survives for the next few months?

Mr. Howard

I can certainly give that assurance. I am working closely with the British Tourist Authority so that we do all that we can to encourage the industry and to encourage more people to come to Britain to enjoy all the attractions that we have to offer.