HC Deb 26 November 1992 vol 214 cc970-1
1. Mr. Duncan

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures he is taking to encourage co-operation on tourism with the Republic of Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Robert Atkins)

There is close co-operation between the Northern Ireland tourist board and its counterpart in the Republic in areas of mutual benefit to tourism on the island of Ireland. Recent initiatives include a joint travel desk at the British travel centre in London, a reservation system for hotels throughout the island of Ireland, accessible worldwide, and joint marketing in North America and Europe. I am keen to see this co-operation grow.

Mr. Duncan

Does my hon. Friend agree that co-operation with the Republic on a range of matters, including tourism, makes sense politically and economically, and should be welcomed by all communities?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend has put his finger on an extremely important point: if we can co-operate in this area we can do so in many other areas, with the consequent good effects that it might have. I can do no better than draw the House's attention to an example of co-operation in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State was involved yesterday, when he launched the north-west passage tourism route. As a north-west Member, I am conscious of the importance to Northern Ireland of the north-west. Such co-operation will prove useful in years to come.

Mr. Madden

Is the Minister aware, however, that the prospects for increasing tourism between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland will be greatly damaged if the rampaging Home Secretary has his way at a meeting of immigration Ministers on Monday, because tourists will have to carry passports, and citizens of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark will be regarded as aliens when they travel to other member states of the European Community?

Mr. Atkins

No more alien than a Member of Parliament from Yorkshire is in Lancashire. The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, which I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Sir James Kilfedder

Is the Minister aware that the Republic's tourist office in New York deters—or at least seeks to deter—Americans from extending their visit in the Republic into Northern Ireland, and will he make strong representations to ensure that this practice is brought to an end?

Mr. Atkins

Yes, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Mallon

Far from the Republic of Ireland office deterring tourists from moving on to the north of Ireland, surely one of the strongest deterrents to tourists from the Republic visiting the north is the type of security installations that can be seen at almost every point along the border. Does the Minister accept that those who operate in border areas, especially in Newry and South Armagh, face an uphill fight because of these military installations, not least the latest one at Cloughoge, which is a blight on the community and the entire environment?

Mr. Atkins

The hon. Gentleman should address his point to those who cause trouble—terrorists and others involved in paramilitary activity, who make such installations necessary. My task as Minister with responsibilities for tourism is to ensure that we attract as many tourists as possible, but my hon. Friend the Minister of State and the Secretary of State will have heard the hon. Gentleman's comments. They have made great efforts to ensure that the installation to which the hon. Gentleman referred is sited most carefully; unfortunately, it is necessary because we have terrorists and we must stop them.

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