HC Deb 25 October 1993 vol 230 cc559-60
2. Mr. Jenkin

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what briefing he has received from the English tourist board on the regulations which might be removed from tourist businesses.

8. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received from the English tourist board on the regulations which could suitably be removed from tourism businesses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)

The English tourist board has contributed information suggestions to my inquiry into the effects of regulation on tourism and to the retail tourism and other services task force established by the Department of Trade and Industry. In addition, I have had many representations from trade associations and individuals in the tourism and leisure sectors. I am taking up with ministerial colleagues a number of the concerns that they have raised.

Mr. Jenkin

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on that response and remind him that he was chairman of a committee of Conservative Back-Bench Members who considered matters of deregulation? The tourist industry is the biggest foreign exchange earner in the country and therefore looks to him to make its job easier. Will he undertake to pursue that task with all vigour?

Mr. Sproat

Certainly, I will pursue it with all vigour. My hon. Friend makes an important point. There are about 18 million foreign visitors to Britain every year who spend £7.8 billion. That is a vast industry, which in the past has been severely underrated.

Mrs. Lait

Is my hon. Friend aware that in one noisy disco in Birmingham an environmental health officer instructed the barman to wear ear muffs? Is he further aware that when it was pointed out that the barman would not be able to hear customers, the officer said that it was not his problem? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is time for regulations that produce such daft decisions to go and does he further agree that all environmental officers should be well trained in the understanding of the bottom line in business?

Mr. Sproat

I certainly agree, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on how well informed she is on those matters. One of the main problems with all regulations is that they are not applied in the same way in different parts of the country. It is often extremely difficult for people running tourism-related businesses to know how environmental and fire regulations officers and others will apply regulations. That is one of the problems that we are seeking to address in the current campaign.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that one of the tourist attractions in the mining areas are the miners' brass bands and that where Government decisions have closed pits, many brass bands are placed in jeopardy, which affects the tourism trade in places such as Bolsover and elsewhere? If privatisation of the coal industry takes place, will he, as he suggested to me previously, consider the position of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation to ensure that those who have the capacity to finance the brass bands in the pit areas will be able to do so and function as before?

Mr. Sproat

I take extremely seriously the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. I remember that he also raised it on the announcement of the abolition of the United Kingdom Sports Commission. I hope that when the national lottery is up and running and the Sports Council is attributing funds, such areas as the old sports grounds run by the miners' welfare associations will be eligible for help. I shall gladly discuss that further with him. The brass bands are an extremely important part of our artistic and cultural heritage and I will do everything that I can to see that they, too, are supported.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that he has a reputation in the tourist industry as someone who wishes to deregulate anything and everything? Will he recognise that some regulations, especially in the areas of health and safety, are necessary in the industry? Therefore, before rushing headlong into a spate of deregulation measures, will he take time to differentiate the good from the bad? The package travel directive certainly comes in the latter category. As the Minister hinted earlier, the industry needs clarification of existing regulations and consistency in their implementation.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. Some regulations are unnecessary and over-bureaucratic; some are extremely important. We seek to distinguish between the two.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the package travel directive. That is a good example of the original directive not being directed at so many of the people whom it catches. I am currently in discussion on that matter with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry. I had a meeting with them last week and we shall raise the matter with our European colleagues to try to cut it off at source.

Mr. Waterson

Did my hon. Friend benefit from his recent meeting with the Eastbourne Hotels Association? Will he do everything that he can to try to remove unnecessary burdens from hoteliers and guest house owners, especially on matters such as electricity at work, and the regulations relating to the preparation of food and to the disposal of waste?

Mr. Sproat

I well remember my meeting with the Eastbourne group and an especially valuable meeting it was. I give my hon. Friend the assurances that he seeks.