HC Deb 12 July 1993 vol 228 cc659-60
12. Mr. William O'Brien

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on the promotion of tourism in West Yorkshire.

Mr. Sproat

That is a matter for the English tourist board through its strategy for support to the regions, and for the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board through its strategy for meeting local needs and priorities.

Mr. O'Brien

I accept the Minister's reply, but does he accept that there are problems with the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board and the English tourist board over financing? West Yorkshire, with its loss of jobs both in traditional industries such as mining, textiles and engineering and in other sectors, is looking for Government help towards tourism. Is the Minister prepared to meet the leaders of West Yorkshire council to discuss tourism and allow them to put to him their concerns over lack of resources to promote tourism throughout West Yorkshire?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I will glady meet a delegation if the hon. Gentleman wishes to bring it along. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate his region on the fact that the latest figures show 7.2 million overnight visitors in his area. Other areas in the United Kingdom have been more badly hit during the recession, but the excellence of the tourist facilities in his area ensured that the number of visitors there were kept up.

Mr. Robert Banks

Does my hon. Friend agree that the project to house the royal armouries in a brand new museum in Leeds will be, when completed, one of the largest and most important international tourist attractions in this country? Does he also agree that all political parties should come together to get the project built as soon as possible?

Mr. Sproat

I agree with my hon. Friend. The armouries in Leeds would be a tremendous addition to the city's tourist attractions. I hope that the project will go ahead as my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Pendry

The Minister is to receive a copy of the Coopers and Lybrand report that has been commissioned by the English tourist board steering committee, on which sits one of his representatives. If that report condemns the cuts in funding to the English tourist board that were made by the Minister's predecessor, will he take the best initiative to encourage tourists to Normanton, Bradford, Halifax and elsewhere in West Yorkshire by being bold, brave and sensible enough to restore the funding?

Mr. Sproat

So far as West Yorkshire is concerned, I note that two applications for tourism renewal grants have been received from Wakefield and Dewsbury. No doubt both those applications will be considered properly by the tourist boards.

Although it is true that overall funding to the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board has been cut, the British Tourist Authority's grant will be maintained. We believe that, within the cuts that have been made necessary by the economic climate, there should be a slight shift away from centralised English tourist boards to those run by the regions.

Lady Olga Maitland

While continuing to promote tourism in West Yorkshire, will my hon. Friend also continue the campaign against deregulation? Does he agree that unnecessary regulation in the hotel and entertainment industries has been crippling, and has resulted in increased costs to the customer?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend makes a good point. In West Yorkshire, and elsewhere in the country, there is no doubt that the competitive edge of our tourist industry—when compared with other countries—has been worsened by the heavy regulatory burden. I am determined to remove as much of that unnecessary burden as possible and to make our industry more competitive when compared with other countries.