HC Deb 25 October 1993 vol 230 c562
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is the proposed grant in aid to the English tourist board for 1993–94, 1994–95 and 1995–96.

Mr. Sproat

Grant in aid to the English tourist board totals £13.9 million in the current year. The planned figures for the next two financial years are £10.8 million and £9 million respectively.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend accept that the reduction in funding to the ETB that he has just announced, following the withdrawal of section 4 development grants in England, has had a demoralising effect on the English tourist industry, not least in the unassisted areas such as my own? What encouragement can he provide for coastal resorts to resist decline and to compete more effectively against continental rivals with better climates than ours?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend makes a very important point about coastal towns. Some of them have recently received assisted area status. I understand that the tourist industry does not like the fact that the grant to the English tourist board will be cut, but the grant to the British Tourist Authority—which tries to suck foreigners into this country so that they can then be dispersed around the United Kingdom—has remained at about £30 million and will increase in cash terms during the next three years. Although I take my hon. Friend's point, he can be assured that the BTA money is secure.

Mr. Olner

The figures that the Minister has just given are to be regretted. Has he made representations to the Treasury to look at VAT on holidays? Some of my constituents are alarmed that VAT is charged on holidays in this country at a different rate from that charged in continental Europe and that we are not working on a level playing field. With the reduction in grants, will the Minister make representations to ensure that the VAT level is equal?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Member makes an important point. Since I last spoke in the House on the subject, I have visited all the regional tourist boards in England and that argument was very forcefully, and rightly, made at every one. I have as forcefully communicated that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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