HC Deb 15 May 1991 vol 191 cc271-2
7. Sir Russell Johnston

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimates he has made of the effect of the increased tax on petrol on the tourist industry in Scotland.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The increase in petrol duty introduced by the Budget is not likely to have a significant effect on the Scottish tourist industry.

Sir Russell Johnston

It is self-evident that St. Andrew's house is hardly a hotbed of innovative thinking if that is the best that the Minister can come up with. Is he aware that 64 per cent. of all tourists who visited Scotland in 1989 from within the United Kingdom and half of the foreign tourists came by car? Is he seriously telling me that an increase of 13p per gallon will have no effect at all on tourism? Surely St. Andrew's house ought to be considering differential pricing to aid the tourist industry. Some means of mitigating the effect of the increase ought to be found, or does the Minister regard the Chancellor as a blind axeman and feel that he can do nothing about it?

Mr. Stewart

St. Andrew's house is the source of some figures that will reassure the hon. Gentleman. In the United Kingdom, excise duty on unleaded petrol—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, like me, uses unleaded petrol—is 22.41p per litre, whereas in Spain it is 23.76, in France 29.70 and in Italy 36.07. If overseas visitors were to decide to take their holidays on the basis of the amount of excise duty they would have to pay they would obviously choose the United Kingdom.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will my hon. Friend invite the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) to reflect on the fact that if there were a Scottish assembly with tax-raising powers, the cost of petrol, hotels and shopping in Scotland would be so appalling that nobody would come to Scotland at all?

Mr. Stewart

As always, my hon. and learned Friend has made an extremely good point. It is very fortunate for tourists and potential tourists in Scotland that there is no Scottish assembly; nor is there going to be one.

Mr. McAllion

What will be the effect on the tourist industry of last week's decision to turn down flat the management-employee bid at Strathtay Scottish bus company in Tayside and instead to accept the bid of a Yorkshire-based private concern that will guarantee the loss of employment and services in the Tayside area? Does the Minister not understand that the more he goes on selling out Scottish-based companies to the highest bidder, the greater will be the determination of the Scottish people to get rid of him and the Tory Government?

Mr. Stewart

What a load of nonsense the hon. Gentleman talks, and not for the first time. He ought to know that many of the management-employee buy-out proposals have been accepted in Scotland and that, under the system, management-employee buy-outs were given preference. That particular buy-out did not succeed, but others have.

Mr. Gregory

Does my hon. Friend agree that while the price of petrol will have an effect on tourism in Scotland, the fact that Scotland will not participate with the rest of the United Kingdom in a national tourism trade show must be the greatest disadvantage to the potential for tourism in Scotland? Will he put pressure on the director and board members of the Scottish tourist board to participate with the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Stewart

I can reassure my hon. Friend and the House that both the Scottish tourist board and Highlands and Islands Enterprise continue to promote Scotland both at home and overseas. The campaigns are targeted at all key markets overseas, while at home the Scottish tourist board has joined the other national tourist boards in mounting a special tourist campaign to encourage more British tourists to have holidays at home. I can also reassure my hon. Friend that both the Scottish tourist board and Highlands and Islands Enterprise continue to devote considerable resources to the improvement of visitor facilities and amenities.

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