HC Deb 14 June 1993 vol 226 cc621-2
5. Mr. Coe

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he is taking to introduce more deregulation measures to help the tourist industry.

Mr. Sproat

I am deeply concerned about the reports of unnecessary and seemingly counter-productive regulatory burdens under which large sections of the tourism industry believe that they currently operate. I am therefore now inviting those involved in the tourism industry to write to me and/or to come and speak to me directly in the next month about problems arising from over-regulation. I shall be writing later today to all the regional tourist boards and other appropriate tourist bodies, inviting their views. I have already asked my officials to undertake an urgent and detailed' inquiry into burdensome regulations specifically in tourism. My Department will then produce a report on this important subject and make the results known before the House rises.

Mr. Coe

I welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box and wish him particular luck with the part of his portfolio relating to sport—he will certainly need it.

I thank my hon. Friend for his specific and helpful reply. He should be aware that the tourism industry will be pleased and encouraged by his words. May I immediately take him up on his offer to consult directly with hoteliers and other branches of the industry, and ask him whether he will see a delegation from my constituency which will put to him at first hand the deeply damaging regulations which beset many hoteliers and most branches of the industry?

Mr. Sproat

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I should be extremely pleased to see a delegation from his constituency, because I know only too well that the south-west of England is one of the areas in which tourism is suffering particularly dramatically.

Mr. Raynsford

Does not the Minister recognise that, without proper and effective regulation on many aspects of our national heritage, we should not have much of a tourist industry, because historic buildings would have been demolished, our beauty spots destroyed by insensitive road development and works of art exported because of a lack of controls? Will he put aside the absurd ideological fetish of deregulation and recognise that there is a need to preserve what is best in Britain's heritage?

Mr. Sproat

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that of course there are many spheres in which regulation is extremely important. I have already mentioned fire regulation, and I agree that regulation to preserve and conserve that which is best in our heritage is another. However, it does not mean that, while preserving good regulations, we should not consider the barmy ones, which is precisely what my Department is going to do— distinguish sharply and clearly between the two different types.

Mr. Gorst

Can my hon. Friend estimate what regulation is costing at the moment? If he is not able, at this stage, to give an estimate, will he ensure that, when the survey has been carried out, we are given figures as well as general facts?

Mr. Sproat

I will gladly do my very best to produce figures on the burdens that the tourist industry is suffering from regulation. It will not be easy, but we shall ask the industry for its best estimates, and we will certainly publish them.

Mr. Pendry

In welcoming the Minister to his new post and recognising his zealous approach to most regulations, may I remind him that the tourist retail task force initiative is well under way, and that many new measures of good deregulation could flow from its deliberations? Will he assure us that his initiative will not in any way hinder or duplicate its efforts? Will he accept it from me that what the industry wants from him is a clear commitment to restore the damaging cuts made by his predecessor to the English tourist board? As the chief executive of the board said, unless the Government make such an effort, there will be no meaningful services beyond 1994.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman, perfectly fairly, asks two quite separate questions. I give him the guarantee that he seeks on regulations: we will not hinder any work that anybody else is doing. We shall draw on work that other bodies are doing on deregulation and use it. On cuts in the ETB, it is quite impossible at a time of severe economic restraint for anybody to be wholly immune from economic restraint. The ETB must bear its burden. Tourism increased by 8 per cent. in the first quarter of this year. We have low interest rates and low inflation. Tourism is doing very well, and it is my intention to make it do even better.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Does my hon. Friend agree that we need a cost benefit analysis of rules and regulations as they affect tourism and other departments and that, where costs are disproportionate to the benefit that they would bring, the rules and regulations should be scrapped?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I assure him that we shall seek to make not only a compliance cost assessment of every regulation but a risk assessment to see whether it is worth the risk that it is trying to obviate. I give my hon. Friend the assurances that he seeks.