§ Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)
I beg to move,That this House congratulates the Department of National Heritage on its first two years; recognises its contribution to the development of leisure in the United Kingdom; calls for a continuing debate on the purposes for which the proceeds of the National Lottery should be used; and expresses the hope that, in future, encouragement will thereby be given to the promotion of more active leisure pursuits.This is the first time for a number of years that the House has had the opportunity to discuss the leisure industry in this country. I do not have to point out the importance of leisure to all of us. It is a major industry, employing some 1.5 million people-7.4 per cent. of the work force—with annual consumer expenditure running to £85 billion.
The Department of National Heritage spends just under £1 billion on promoting and supporting a variety of leisure-related activities but it is essentially a consumer-led private sector industry. All of us make decisions on leisure most days of our lives, and we spend on average £41 per household each week on leisure goods and services, or 15 per cent. of total household expenditure. I want to explore a number of issues that concern the leisure industry and, at 456 the same time, review the role and activities of the Department of National Heritage, which has now been in existence for a little over two years.
It will also be appropriate to consider the likely impact of the national lottery, the proceeds from which will go largely into leisure-related activities and which could dramatically improve the quality of sporting, artistic and other facilities throughout the country. Lottery proceeds will significantly alter the balance between consumers and providers when decisions on spending are to be made and we shall have to be careful not to tip the balance too far towards provision which is of no interest to the general public, who are the ultimate consumers.
Having said that, however, I hope that the debate will focus also on the pursuit of excellence and on the encouragement of success. The nature of leisure and, therefore, of the leisure industry, is always changing. Spending on leisure is, of course, a function of disposable income. As that rises, there is more money for leisure.
Not surprisingly, low-income families typically spend only one tenth of their income on leisure, but that rises to more than a quarter for those on high incomes. Another significant trend is towards home entertainment of different kinds, brought on by the growth of television and video, with the result that leisure has become far more passive than it was. That has also led to the individualisation of leisure—towards what might be called the earplug society. We may have different views on the desirability of those trends, but they are largely technology-driven, and they would be extremely hard to reverse in a free society.
It is, therefore, appropriate to begin this review of leisure by considering the increasingly important area of television and video, which are the dominant features of home entertainment. Last year, a Gallup survey revealed that 53 per cent. of respondents regarded watching a good film on television as a good way to spend an evening at home, while 29 per cent. said the same about hiring a video.
In contrast, 42 per cent. endorsed listening to music at home, and 40 per cent. reading a good book. Of those surveyed, 41 per cent. of males were attracted by the notion of a romantic evening at home, while only 38 per cent. of females felt the same. Similarly, 28 per cent. of males opted for cooking and eating in, whereas only 23 per cent. of females wished to join them.
It is estimated that the average television viewer spends three hours 45 minutes every day watching television—viewing figures are lower in the summer and higher in the winter. On average, people aged over 55 and housewives watch more than four hours of television each day. Television audiences are regularly estimated to account for between a third and a half of the population. Choice is steadily expanding for them.
The number of homes able to receive either cable or satellite television is rapidly increasing, especially as the £6 billion cable-laying programme reaches most major towns and cities, bringing 30 channels of television to each home.
In my constituency, more than 30 per cent. of homes are already connected to cable and, therefore, have access to satellite television. I have no quarrel with the principle of expanding choice. It is right that viewers should have access to a variety of programming, but quality is important, too. The number of hours that we spend watching television should also come under scrutiny 457 Quality comes from adequate funding and soon the Government will have to decide how that funding should be provided. It is hard to see how the BBC can survive in its present form without the licence fee, yet its inevitable decline in market share, coupled with the growth of subscription and pay-per-view television makes the BBC's position look increasingly anachronistic.
§ Ms Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
I do not dissent from a word that the hon. Gentleman has said and I greatly respect his opinion. It would be within the rules of the House, however, if, at this point, he declared his interest as parliamentary consultant to British Telecom and Blick International (Communications).
§ Mr. Coombs
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for reminding the House of what I suspect most hon. Members already knew, because it is in the Register of Members' Interests. I was unaware that it was necessary to declare such an interest, but if the hon. Lady feels better for having got that off her chest, I am happy to put it on the record.
§ Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)
I should like to make a more constructive intervention. Is my hon. Friend aware that the point he made about the licence fee was the very conclusion reached by the Select Committee on National Heritage in its recent report?
§ Mr. Coombs
I was, of course, aware of that. I always study the work of the Select Committee, even though from time to time I find it necessary to disagree with it. In a few moments, I shall mention another matter and it will be clear to my hon. Friend that I disagree totally with the Select Committee about it.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the advantages of the expansion of the medium of television is that it has given people in different parts of the country the opportunity to see programmes about our leading resorts? Given that my constituency of Blackpool is one of the leading resorts of Britain, and the world, does my hon. Friend agree that there are now greater opportunities for people to see the beauties of Blackpool through the medium of television and that it offers unrivalled opportunities for low and high-income families to enjoy leisure and tourism?
§ Mr. Coombs
I am not sure what I admire more—my hon. Friend's ready and excellent support for his constituents, who live in half of our premier seaside resort, or his ingenuity in turning my speech back to front. He has got to the last topic in my speech, while I am still trying to deal with the first one. I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend said.
I have no doubt that one of the contributions of television in the past 50 years has been to draw the population's attention to all the delights of Blackpool and, dare I say, those of other seaside resorts, although I hesitate to mention them since my hon. Friend is sitting close behind me. Now that I have dealt with all the pent-up feelings of hon. Members, perhaps I can continue where I left off.
In the end, general taxation may be needed to support the BBC's continuance in its areas of excellence, such as news and current affairs. It is, however, facing increasing challenges to such coverage from its rivals, both terrestrial 458 and satellite, just as Independent Television can match the BBC in drama and cultural programming. Pressure on advertising revenue from commercial radio and television and regional newspapers probably guarantees the survival of the licence fee in the short term. I hope that the Government will want to spell out a long-term vision, which is designed to ensure choice and quality.
It would be wrong to leave the vexed question of the future of television without paying warm tribute to the historic role of the BBC as a purveyor and supporter of arts and sport. For 68 years, the BBC has supported the Henry Wood promenade concerts. BBC Radio 3, now in healthy competition with Classic FM, continues to offer a classic music station unmatched elsewhere in the world.
The BBC's television and radio programmes win countless awards and its sports coverage of popular and minority sport is of uniformly high calibre. As we move towards the era of the information super-highway, when the interactive consumer will be all powerful, that commitment to excellence will be challenged increasingly.
The growth of video recorders adds another dimension to the debate about home leisure. After less than 20 years, the video recorder is pervasive. Surveys reveal that 60 per cent. of the homes of the lowest 10 per cent. of income earners have video recorders. Video cassettes, whether bought, hired or previously recorded from television, have significantly altered the viewing pattern of those households that have worked out how to operate the recorders.
The personal freedom that videos offer makes them an obvious target for the purveyors of pornography and violence. In the interests of children in particular, the Government will have to find a way in which to prevent exploitation and corruption from becoming endemic. It is in the nature of today's technology that freedom and licence are so nearly entwined.
The growth of videos should represent a wonderful opportunity for the British film industry, about which I shall say more later. Although Britons spent £9 billion in 1992 on television and radio, they spent nearly £5 billion on newspapers, books and magazines.
The growth of television news, with its ability to provide rapid coverage of events, has imperceptibly altered the role of newspapers, almost to the point of making that description inaccurate. Newspapers now provide as much opinion and views as hard fact, with plenty of prediction thrown in. The aim seems to be as much entertainment as information, if not more, so gossip and speculation about the famous and not-so-famous compete for space in the endless circulation war.
Freedom of the press is taken as read in this country, but there is also a role for responsibility. That is not a concept which comes readily to mind when one reads the pages of some national newspapers. Once again, the Government will have a tightrope to walk if they seek to balance freedom and responsibility. I suspect that some courage will be needed.
There has been a steady decline in the quality and quantity of reading matter in the home, particularly as a function of the rise of other forms of entertainment. The bestseller lists tell a tale of easy reading in preference to more stimulating material. The answer must lie with the promotion of the classics of literature in schools. Recent anecdotal evidence has not been encouraging and, among the young, the video game is king.
459 Music in the home has become more and more the province of the compact disc. CD sales are rising every year, by 17 per cent. in 1993 and 27.3 per cent. in 1994 —those are first quarter figures in each year—to 95.6 million in the first quarter of 1994, despite occasional ill-informed complaints about their price. I welcome the fact that record companies, both large ones such as EMI and smaller ones like Chandos and Conifer, have been able to expand their repertoire dramatically through more obscure areas of classic music to the encouragement of new, young composers and artistes in both popular and classic music.
The British music recording industry, which leads the world in its technical and artistic achievements, deserves our strong support, not the constant sniping based on ignorance which sometimes seems to be its lot. I, therefore, welcome the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the industry published yesterday, which clears it completely of the charge of acting against the public interest. The reverse is true.
I have mentioned the great popularity of eating at home. I only wish that the Department for Education would listen to the wise advice of the National Association of Teachers of Home Economics and give the teaching of safe, nutritious cooking a more secure place in the national curriculum, thus helping to reduce the incidence of food poisoning in the home. But I am, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in danger of straying some distance from my subject.
Staying in during the hours of leisure has become increasingly passive. We listen and we watch, but we hardly create. Few families do without television and radio, and even fewer make their own music or other entertainment, which I regret. Although chess has become increasingly popular in the past 20 years, culminating in Nigel Short bravely challenging for the world championship last year, families generally do less together than in the past. The Victorian stereotype of singing round the piano has long since gone in the vast majority of homes, which leads me to question whether this nation puts enough resources into teaching music in schools.
Even the noble art of conversation is now imperilled by the individualisation of leisure. Articulate speech is becoming harder to find, with phrases like, "you know", "I mean", and "sort of' used as substitutes for punctuation, and the redundant "actually" the favourite means by which infinitives are now split. Perhaps we need to reinvent the family. We certainly need to reinvent the art of communication.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Is my hon. Friend as horrified as I was to read in yesterday's newspapers that more than 44 per cent. of pregnancies in the United Kingdom are of single mothers?
§ Mr. Coombs
I wish that I felt happier about the link between split infinitives and unwanted pregnancies. But, as I said to a number of hon. Members before the debate, this is an opportunity for people to talk about most subjects, provided that they are fun. I suppose that, on that basis, I must accept that intervention as being as helpful as it was clearly intended to be.
An honourable exception to the trend towards inactivity is gardening, which remains hugely popular, with more than £2 billion spent on it every year. I am obviously not alone in finding weeding therapeutic.
460 The Department of National Heritage, together with other Departments of state, can and does influence a number of home-based leisure activities. Forthcoming pronouncements on the media will be of particular importance. However, in the wider world, the Department of National Heritage is a vital catalyst in the effort to provide better facilities and preserve our heritage. Ministers, however, have been content to hand over much of their power to influence events through the well-established policy of the arm's-length relationship with such bodies as the Arts Council.
While that arrangement has the considerable advantage that Ministers can deny responsibility when things go wrong, it is unsatisfactory for Ministers and, therefore, Parliament to be denied a say when mistakes are made. The recent fiasco of the so-called "beauty contest" for the London orchestras made the Arts Council look philistine and Ministers impotent.
The idea that London should be forced to surrender its position as the music capital of the world by the destruction of two of its world-class orchestras was appalling. I should like to think that the new Arts Council for England has completely abandoned such a notion, but can we be sure? Can Ministers be sure? One has only to look at the employment and earnings generated by each of those orchestras to judge the excellence of the return on the grants that they receive. Other European music capitals were aghast at what was proposed, and wait to see whether common sense and pride have now been restored.
I hope that we shall not hear too much talk in this debate about cuts in arts funding. It is worth reminding ourselves that the Arts Council's budget increased from £152.4 million in 1988–89 to £225.6 million in 1993–94. In that context, the recent small reduction in funding should occasion careful thought, perhaps some tough decisions, but not the widespread hysteria which we have witnessed. I wonder whether it is sensible for Ministers to run the risk that others might implement reductions in ways designed to generate maximum distress.
The funding scenario is about to change dramatically. As we celebrate 10 successful years of the business sponsorship incentive scheme, which has produced £64 million in new money and 3,000 first-time business sponsors for the arts, all eyes are now turning to the potential of the national lottery.
A new advisory board will make far-reaching decisions on arts spending up to and beyond the next century. Glittering prospects are already opening up. Naturally, the House would expect me to say that the new concert hall for which many of my constituents in Swindon have long been waiting must be a strong candidate for funding.
In the meantime, guidelines on funding have emphasised the need for matching funding and for longer-term viability. At one extreme of interpretation, one can see a time when every town will have its own arts facilities but insufficient funds to sustain them. At the other extreme, we shall see applications turned down amid general disappointment, because revenue funding cannot be satisfactorily identified and because the Arts Council's existing budget cannot be stretched far enough.
There must be a happy medium, based on the recognition that the Arts Council's budget should never be substituted for lottery funds. I suspect that it lies in recognising that, over time, the emphasis on lottery funds' disposal will gradually shift towards revenue support and 461 away from capital formation. That may mean a slower rate of infrastructure creation, but there should be fewer funding crises at a later date.
§ Ms Mowlam
I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about revenue costs being a problem for many capital projects sponsored by the lottery, and none of us wants white elephants to continue until the turn of the century with money that has come from the lottery, but can he explain my worry that, if we accept some revenue costs, additionality battles with the Treasury, whoever is in Government, would be a problem?
§ Mr. Coombs
Yes, I accept that there is always that risk. We have to live in the real world, and in the real world the Treasury is there, whether we like it or not. However, we have to look to the Department of National Heritage to ring-fence lottery funding and to look at the totality of the problem with regard to capital costs and revenue implications in the longer term. I am suggesting that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State should address himself to that.
There needs to be a happy medium, which may mean a slower rate of infrastructure creation. A new generation of fine public buildings is all very well, but we need the quality of artistic performance to fill them with distinction. Similarly, I hope that the desirability of matching funding will not be too rigidly enforced. If it is, lottery funds will never reach some parts of the country, thus defeating what should be one of our objectives—to bring the arts within reach of all the people.
I need say little about the west end theatre, which remains a jewel in the crown of Britain's culture, but we should not forget the degree to which foreign visitors support it financially. Our actors, designers, writers and directors lead the way in musical theatre and drama, but we must remember how important it is to sustain the flow of overseas visitors to London by a positive attitude to tourism marketing. I shall discuss that later.
The position of the British film industry is perhaps slightly less satisfactory, but there are good grounds for optimism. We await the Government's review of the industry with the greatest interest. So soon after the 60th anniversary of Charles Laughton's first acting Oscar for Britain in 1933, it is appropriate to ask whether it is possible to revitalise the British film industry—after all, we should remember that cinema admissions in 1946 were 1.6 billion, and are now 113 million, albeit increasing by 15 per cent. in 1993. The answer must surely be yes.
It would require only a limited proportion of the lottery proceeds destined for the arts, channelled through the British Film Commission, to act as seedcorn for a revival of film-making in this country. We have the talent in acting, directing, and technical aspects to maintain a challenge for the Academy awards that is genuinely home based. Matching funding can be achieved with a more benign tax regime, and the seedcorn can then produce a harvest to match the palmy days of Alexander Korda and Ealing Studios. The recent success of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" should be enough to convince even the doubters what can be achieved.
Before discussing the prospects for British sport, I must mention the millennium fund, guidelines for the operation of which the Secretary of State set out in his speech this 462 week, and draw to the House's attention the fact that London needs a new modern concert hall, preferably on the west side of the capital, to complement the Barbican in the east and the Royal Festival hall to the south. A building of suitable size, quality and accessibility would be an appropriate way to commemorate the millennium. I hope that such a proposal will emerge, just as the Royal Festival hall was a crowning achievement of the Festival of Britain in 1951. The new hall might even have a good acoustic.
Attendance at sporting events has been in general decline since the war, largely because television coverage of sport has become so pervasive and so good. New spectator sports have been created by television. Snooker and darts are two that come readily to mind, but the development of the instant replay camera has made armchair viewing and criticism of major sports such as football and cricket a far more attractive pastime.
In spite of that, stadiums in this country, especially in our cities, have been modernised, and new facilities to enhance growth sports such as athletics have been created in Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and other cities. The football levy is helping to improve football grounds in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy and the Taylor report, but there will be scope for further improving regional and local sporting facilities with the proceeds of the national lottery. It should be our aim to seek an overall improvement in British sporting achievement, and I hope that the Sports Council will think carefully about how that is to be done.
I especially hope that the general presumption in favour of capital schemes will not militate against investment in human capital. This country produces many fine sportsmen and sportswomen, whose talent cannot be nurtured to the fullest extent because of lack of funds. I propose the establishment of a scholarship fund from lottery proceeds to help develop those talents on which the next generation of sporting success will be based. As a nation, we need to win more gold medals, more world championships, than we do. The Christies, Gunnells and Jacksons are too few and far between, outstanding as their contribution to athletics has been.
It is also a tragedy that there is no British participation in this year's football world cup. Other countries invest heavily in their sporting future. Why not Britain?
The growing interest in keep fit classes, jogging and personal physical development, not to mention running and walking, is encouraging. Who could fail to be inspired by the sight of the annual London marathon getting under way? Yet I wonder whether we should be worried about the fact that, for many people, such a race is more about personal times than about winning or beating other people. The move away from competitive sport in some schools is deeply regrettable and I fully support the efforts of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in that respect.
I mention to my hon. Friend, in passing, the possibility of inflation-indexing the Sports Council's financial memorandum guideline that requires Government approval for expenditure of more than £200,000 on capital works or £50,000 on policy research or monitoring. Those figures have not been increased since 1972 and now represent a restrictive curb on the council's activity.
The House should know that the Sports Council is extremely keen to foster excellence in UK sport. Through its £1.5 million grants to the National Coaching Foundation and through its support for sports science and sports medicine, it has done much to help sportspeople. Its 463 national junior sports programme will, if properly integrated in the national curriculum, help to improve the prospects of British success in many sports. I know that the House would wish me to add that the grant aid given to the Sports Council should in no way be affected by the future availability of lottery funds.
There was great disappointment that Manchester's Olympic bid was unsuccessful, in spite of the efforts of Sir Bob Scott and the Prime Minister. Even so, Britain continues to be regarded as a leading sporting nation, full of good ideas and programmes.
I have spoken about the need to match funds with the proceeds of the national lottery. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will now clarify the position of the private sector. Is the private sector to be allowed to contribute to partnership schemes that might, in time, offer a return on investment to the national lottery fund?
In the sport of tennis, for example, an organisation such as David Lloyd Leisure is keen to develop facilities, not just for profit, but because its founder hopes to find a future Wimbledon winner for Britain. Does the Minister want such a partnership to work in future? Can he assure me that he is committed to the principle that the participation of young people in active sport, both in and out of school, is high on his agenda?
We now have the means to provide the right facilities and we need the will to set them up. The figures suggest that more than half the population participate in some form of physical activity, but in organised participative sport the figures are much lower. That is the challenge which the House and the country should seek to meet.
In the debate on sport that I initiated last year, I talked about the huge potential for tourism offered by the Manchester Olympic bid. I have already referred to the importance of overseas visitors to the success of London theatres, and the same is true of many other sporting and artistic facilities in this country, as well as the nation's built and national heritage.
In 1993, tourists made 19.3 million visits to Britain, during the course of which a record £9.1 billion was spent. That makes Britain the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world, after the United States of America, France, Spain, Italy and Austria. Other countries are constantly amazed at the relatively small amount of money we spend on the promotion of Britain as a tourist destination.
The countries that I have mentioned spend far more than we do, as do many other countries that are far less attractive than ours. Germany outspends this country by five to one on overseas tourism promotion. Our limited commitment of public funds is justified on the ground that the tourism industry is so successful, but surely the question is whether public resources spent on advertising Britain in lucrative overseas markets would bring a return to the taxpayer.
The answer in other countries is a resounding yes, and we should not rest on our reputation when there are jobs to be created and revenue to be earned in return for a modest additional outlay. I propose that the Department of National Heritage, in conjunction with independent organisations such as the Institute of Travel and Tourism or the Tourism Society, should conduct an urgent study of other countries' rates of return on overseas promotional advertising.
Tourism stands to gain from four of the five elements of the national lottery's proceeds. I have already spoken about the arts and sport. The Millennium Commission will 464 undoubtedly want to reflect on the international impact of the schemes that it will endorse. Similarly, the contribution of the lottery to the maintenance of our national heritage will be crucial to tourism.
The work of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England—the headquarters of which, I am pleased to say, is now in my constituency—and of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which is known as English Heritage, does much to preserve and enhance the sort of Britain that visitors from the world come to see. The lottery can significantly enhance our ability to restore and preserve the built heritage of Britain, as well as its museums and galleries.
But what about those parts of the heritage that are still in private hands and are so excellently represented by the Historic Houses Association? Is the Minister willing to see funds made available to the owners of the great houses, castles and palaces of Britain on appropriate terms? If not, we may find ourselves contributing to a form of creeping nationalisation, which would be wrong.
I know that the Treasury has been reluctant to alter the tax regime to enable the owners of historic houses to maintain their properties more readily, but lottery proceeds could do much to overcome that handicap by adding to the £200 million per annum that the Department of National Heritage already spends.
I offer my congratulations to David Beaton and the staff of the Historic Royal Palaces Agency for the great progress that they have made in the past five years, when there have been steadily increasing visitor numbers and profitability. I hope that other visitor attractions will follow the excellent example of the Victoria and Albert museum and open for longer hours on Sundays. It is sad that an important national treasure house such as the national gallery does not open on bank holidays.
The contribution of tourism to our national heritage, arts and sport is enormous. The British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board are constantly engaged in the task of promoting events in Britain to potential overseas visitors. The London arts season in February and March of this year was marketed in Germany, Spain, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Ireland, the Nordic countries and Switzerland at an overall cost of £1.25 million.
Visitor inquiries and numbers were dramatically influenced by that expenditure and the latest estimate, which can as yet be merely anecdotal, is that many millions of pounds of extra business came to London as a result of the outlay of £1.25 million.
With more resources, much more could have been achieved, but I pay tribute to the fact that the British Tourist Authority has been able to recycle money—as much as £1 million—to overseas promotions in the past year. That has made an enormous difference to the number of inquiries coming to BTA offices in North America, where the increase in inquiries has been as much as one third—from 750,000 to 1 million in the past year.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, especially as his speech has been such a thoughtful tour d'horizon of the tourist industry. Will he consider the total resources that we spend, via the British Tourist Association and individual tourist boards?
Will he consider the fact that the BTA promotes British industry in, for example, Boston in the United States, while 465 the Wales tourist board promotes Wales? Would it not be better for the British Tourist Association to promote the United Kingdom? It is important that visitors come to the United Kingdom—it does not matter where within it. Will my hon. Friend consider whether our resources are being spent as wisely as possible?
§ Mr. Coombs
I have the greatest sympathy with what my hon. Friend sayhs. He is right; we should be in the business of promoting the United Kingdom plc in any way that we can. I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is keenly aware of that, as we have debated it more than once. I was proposing to spare him another onslaught on that issue this morning, partly in the interests of allowing one or two other hon. Members to participate in the debate before 2.30 pm.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) will forgive me, I shall not go into that subject in detail. If he has the chance to make his own speech, he can press the Minister on how best to promote all the United Kingdom, not just England —or, indeed, London—to those lucrative overseas markets that I mentioned, in the far east, America and some of the emerging nations elsewhere.
The London arts season has been a tremendous success as a result of the extra finance provided by the BTA and the ETB. The opening of the channel tunnel offers the prospect of a huge increase in visitor numbers. We can make a parallel with the case of Austria, where the recent changes in eastern Europe have resulted in the opening of the borders with the east—the former Czechoslovakia and Hungary. That led Austria to leap up the international visitors' table from seventh to fifth place in four years. I have no doubt that the opening of the channel tunnel gives this country the best opportunity in a century to increase the numbers of visitors to these shores.
We need to encourage visitors to travel beyond London, to discover the other England which has so much to offer: a friendly welcome and, possibly, less congestion. Tourism in Britain will benefit from continuing improvements in road and rail links, from more budget-priced hotels and from a greater willingness by those in the industry to learn and speak the languages of our visitors—especially French, German and Japanese.
A well-trained work force must be the central focus of Government policy in the next few years if Britain is to sustain its share of world tourism. The "welcome host" customer service training scheme, developed by the national tourist boards, should be supported by every training and enterprise council in the land.
The Minister will not be surprised to hear me say that there remains a strong case for giving more help to the private sector in the form of grant aid. Almost all the resources disbursed by the Department of National Heritage go to public sector bodies; the private sector benefits only indirectly.
Grants given under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 offered useful assistance to the private sector, but have now been discontinued. Small hotels and boarding houses benefited from extra bathrooms and renovations in a way that is no longer possible, yet the need still exists. If one or two of my hon. Friends who represent 466 seaside resorts manage to catch the Chair's eye later today, I am sure that they will want to emphasise that point strongly.
The whole industry would welcome any sign from the Minister that he is sympathetic to this point. After all, such small establishments continue to bear the brunt of the excessive regulation which the Minister is pledged to reduce and of the anti-competitive effect of VAT at 17.5 per cent., which hoteliers and others feel puts them at a disadvantage vis-a-vis their rivals in other European countries, where the tax is as low as 5 per cent.
The vast potential of the British tourist industry needs to be more effectively recognised by the Government. The industry repeatedly calls for a designated Minister for tourism, but a clearer sign of the Government's understanding would be a commitment to additional funding for overseas promotion, stimulation of more holiday taking by the British in Britain and more help for the widely fragmented private sector—the small, self-employing businesses on which the industry significantly depends. There is no more exciting challenge for the Department.
During the short lifetime of the Department of National Heritage, the many different bodies under its aegis have been drawn together. Links between regional tourist boards and regional Sports Council offices have been encouraged. In the west country, the tourist board has produced joint strategy policy statements with the Sports Council south-west, South-west Arts and the area museums council. Other regional bodies have followed that lead. Similarly, the access initiative has been developing ways in which more people can gain access to sports and leisure facilities.
I have heard criticism of the mere fact of the existence of the Department of National Heritage, but the evidence is clear: it is beginning to make a worthwhile impact in a number of areas by acting as a catalyst and by making the sum greater than its parts. The advent of the lottery proceeds will be the greatest shot in the arm that United Kingdom leisure has had in 100 years—if we use them wisely.
I should like to think that a major policy objective for the future will be the promotion of active sport, and of participation in sport and the arts by a much larger proportion of the population. I hope that the Minister will feel able to respond positively to the suggestions that I have made on this and other matters, and that, ultimately, the whole nation will benefit from this Department's important work.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me so early in this important debate. Unfortunately, I have important engagements later in my constituency. As my hon. Friends know, I am punctilious about ensuring that I look after my constituents' interests. I, therefore, apologise to the House for the fact that I shall have to leave in a couple of hours' time.
§ Mr. Banks
I shall try to leave my hon. Friend a little time in which to make his own speech.
467 My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), in an excellent and thorough speech, rightly referred to the statistics that show that 19.3 million visitors spent about £9.1 billion in Britain and that Britain is the sixth most visited country in the world. All too often, our leisure and tourism industries are not given the credit that they deserve, but they are a vital source of employment for many people and they are important to our balance of payments. Those industries rank high among the top 10 employers in the British Isles.
I wish to refer to several of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon. I agree with what he said about section 4 grants and I hope that the Minister will feel able to express some sympathy with my hon. Friend's comments. I certainly think it unfair that the leisure industries of Scotland and Wales have been able to take advantage of those grants for quite some time now, whereas hoteliers south of the border have not. I understand the reasons behind the decision to discontinue the grants some time ago; nevertheless, I think that no area of the United Kingdom should be disadvantaged in the way that England is.
My hon. Friend referred to the importance of transport links with the tourism areas and resorts of this country and I agreed with what he said about them. Recently, the Secretary of State for Transport made an announcement about the roads programme. I was pleased to note that some of the road schemes might have dropped off the Department's list, but did not, were links with tourist resorts. I was especially pleased that the Scarisbrick and Pinfold bypass linking my constituency with the national motorway network remains in the programme.
I welcomed my hon. Friend's comments about reappointing a Minister with specific responsibility for tourism. I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State, who has had to look after a long list of responsibilities since arriving at the Department. I am convinced that it would be possible to remove a Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry and send him or her to the Department of National Heritage. Two Ministers are not enough to look after the diverse portfolios at the Department of National Heritage.
I know that the Minister had a useful meeting recently in Aberdeen with the British Resorts Association. Hon. Members will know that the BRA's headquarters is in my constituency of Southport. I should like to touch on some of the issues raised at the BRA's last meeting because that important body helps to engender greater co-operation between the Government, local authorities and the private sector. Such co-operation is becoming paramount and I hope to give one or two examples of how it is promoting tourism and will lead to further important developments in tourism infrastructure throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Does my hon. Friend welcome the fact that, for the first time in the distribution to local authorities via the standard spending assessment system, specific reference has been made to the number of day visitors and that that is helping areas such as his and mine which receive large numbers of tourists?
§ Mr. Banks
That is my first substantive point and I am about to deal with it. My hon. Friend is entirely right and I welcome the introduction of an allowance for day visitors in the standard spending assessment for local authorities. That is long overdue and Conservative Members welcome 468 it. It is time to lay down a marker for the SSA because it is not a case of thus far and no more. We need to look at the definition of a day visitor; that is crucial to the issue that my hon. Friend mentions. I support a formula increase from one sixth to one third of a resident for 1995. I also want to see a tighter definition of the term "day visitor", because that will aid British resorts.
The BRA lobbied the Minister on that issue on 17 June, when it made it clear that it would be prepared to provide supporting statistics, costs and information. I have every confidence that the information that it provides will not fall on deaf ears and I look forward in the not-too-distant future to an increase from one sixth towards one third for which local authority representatives and others have been asking.
One of the greatest concerns of some of my hon. Friends who are in the Chamber relates to hotels changing to hostels. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) has expressed concern about the issues of Department of Social Security money being limited, the number of people who stay in our resorts and the changing nature of our resorts. I am reminded that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), who is in his place, and some of my other hon. Friends take a similar view.
We need a clearer definition of the word "hostel" and hostels must have a proper licensing scheme to ensure that standards of management, safety and insurance are improved. I do not propose to develop that theme now, because to do so would take us wide of the matter under discussion. However, I have put down a marker to the effect that it is vital not to allow, by default, the nature of our tourist resorts to change.
§ Mr. Banks
It is difficult to refuse such an invitation and I know that if I stray wide of the mark you will bring me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend will shortly have an opportunity to make his own speech and deal with the issues that are important to him. I shall tackle those that I wish to deal with. I hope that the Minister will support the marker that I have laid down, although I dare say that there will be some resistance, especially from the Department of Employment, to my suggestions on planning and licensing.
Two areas of concern are the single regeneration budget and European reconstruction and development funding. It is right to express concern about the failure to recognise the economic value and impact of tourism projects. The evaluation process for those funds has been too heavily weighted in favour of industrial rather than tourism projects. I hope that the Minister will exert pressure, as I do, on his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment to adjust the selection criteria to give tourism projects a better chance of success. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said, tourism and leisure provide a considerable number of jobs and, hitherto, the industry has not been given the credit that it deserves as a major employer.
§ Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)
Would my hon. Friend care to suggest to the hon. Member for Redcar 469 (Ms Mowlam) that she should talk to the Labour group in the European Parliament, which has consistently opposed tourism being classified for objective 5b status? Is that not disgraceful?
§ Mr. Banks
I agree with my hon. Friend. The hon. Lady, who is in her place on the Opposition Front Bench, will have heard his comments and I hope that she will act positively on them. We recently had European elections. The Labour MEP who has represented Merseyside, West for some years, managed to drop into my seaside resort constituency, which is in his constituency, for the first time in about a couple of years when no elections were taking place. I regret the total lack of interest in tourism of some socialists in the European Parliament. Tourism is undervalued and it is time that they did something about that.
I hope that the Minister will agree that the industry bias should be changed slightly so that tourism and tourist projects will have a better chance of success. I hope that, as I have suggested, he will press other Departments to change the evaluation process for tourism bids and recognise that such projects have a significant impact not just on my resort, but on others throughout the United Kingdom.
For different reasons, the quality of bathing water is an important and sensitive subject. My hon. Friends and colleagues in the leisure industry will stress the importance of there being no delay in the private water companies pressing ahead with their programmes with the utmost vigour so as to satisfy the requirements of the European Union directive. I know that the Minister also wishes to see that happen.
It is significant that, since the advent of privatisation, North West Water plc in my part of the world, in the north-west, has been able to find the necessary £85 million to reinvest in a new sewerage system which will prevent sewage drifting out into the Irish sea on days when there is heavy rain. That investment work is almost complete and will mean a significant improvement in bathing water quality in Southport and surrounding beaches. It is important to stress that many beaches, especially in my area of the north-west, are particularly clean and the Ainsdale beach received a Tidy Britain award last year. I know that Ministers have agreed with the British Resorts Association that we should continue to be active in that respect and I welcome the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Minister that there should be regular, possibly thrice-yearly, meetings with representatives of the BRA in future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned the national lottery. I agree very much with his comments about the advisory board and I especially liked his idea of a scholarship fund. We want to see more of the Christies, the Gunnells and the Coes, as he suggested. Did I say Coes? Perhaps I should have said Jacksons, but my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) certainly deserves mention, too. The Minister has stated in the past that tourism projects would not be eligible for money from the national lottery. However, I hope that when he replies to the debate he will take the opportunity to make it clear, as I believe that he should, that it will be possible for projects such as those in the arts, for cultural or sporting matters, or for built environment projects such as the renovation of historic piers such as the one in my 470 constituency of Southport, to benefit from money from the national lottery. It is important that my hon. Friend the Minister should draw up advice and guidance for the national lottery to encourage applications that would have an important tourism impact.
I should also like to comment on compulsory competitive tendering for entertainment services in local authorities. While I can see advantages in compulsory competitive tendering—certainly in a number of areas on which the Government have embarked in recent years, which has led to greater efficiency and services being provided at less cost to the council tax payer—it is now time that my hon. Friend and other Ministers made clear their intentions as to whether there is a timetable. If there is a timetable, what is it and how do the Government intend to proceed on the matter? What is the latest position? Shall we be legislating on the issue? That is important and local authority representatives would welcome advice on it.
My hon. Friends have already mentioned the question of tax. I am very much aware that, right across the board, Britain's hoteliers are subjected to a 17.5 per cent. tax regime. In other countries in the European Union, there are varying taxes affecting different parts of the industry. While I recognise that we are unlikely to be able to reduce particular taxes, if only because of European law, I hope that it will be possible for my hon. Friend the Minister to join me in expressing the view that we should not add to the existing tax burden on the tourism and leisure industry and that we especially do not want a tourism or bed tax.
I know that a number of my hon. Friends wish to catch your eye this morning, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall draw my remarks to a close. In so doing, I shall highlight what I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks: the importance of partnership between Government, the private sector and local authorities. My constituency of Southport is a classic example of what can be achieved if there is a positive framework of co-operation. I am delighted that during the time I have been a Member of Parliament the Southport sea front redevelopment proposals have pressed ahead with the utmost vigour. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, some £310,000 of pump-priming money got that multi-million pound project off the ground. That shows what can be done, and I know that some of my hon. Friends also bat very hard for their constituencies. We received the £310,000 for Southport from the urban partnership fund. Although my constituency is part of an authority in the inner area, the constituency itself is not and, as my hon. Friend the Minister knows, a considerable amount of arm-twisting went on behind the scenes and I am especially grateful for his support and the support of Ministers in other Departments.
I hope that we shall be able to see further Government support for the development of the much-needed sea wall defences in Southport, because without it we shall not be able to see the important public-private sector initiative of the Redelco plc development, which is vital to the future of Southport. I pay tribute to Mr. Phil King, who was chairman of the officers advisory group of the BRA and is manager of the tourism and attractions department of the metropolitan borough of Sefton; he is based in my constituency and has done sterling work, as have his colleagues in the BRA.
The debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon is a vital opportunity to which we should all contribute. I regret that, with the exception of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), there are no other 471 Labour Members and no Liberal Democrats in the Chamber to contribute to the debate. However, looking around the Conservative side, I am delighted to see that British resorts and the city of Chester are represented and that my hon. Friends the Members for Basildon (Mr. Amess) and for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) are also here to bat for the British leisure industry.
§ Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks): Opposition Members are all in Wimbledon enjoying the sunshine.
I am grateful to be called in this important debate and especially to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), who gave a well-versed and well-thought-out speech, and my wise hon. Friend the Member for Southport. My constituency is well known to hon. Members. When I first became the Member for Scarborough in 1992, I was pleased to note how many hon. Members knew that Scarborough was England's first resort. In a host of ways, our town remains so, although our local economy has diversified. Apart from its craggy 45-mile coastline, we may all also boast some of England's finest countryside—the wild, rugged North Yorkshire moors and the valleys forged millions of years ago by ice-age glaciers, which left in their wake the notoriously unstable boulder clay on which the unfortunate Holbeck Hall hotel foundered a year ago.
Scarborough and Whitby are thriving towns and world-class resorts and the leisure industry forms a major component of our livelihood. People choose particular holiday destinations partly according to whether they are easy to reach. That is exactly how it has always been. Our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors knew that the considerable charms of Scarborough and Whitby were within easy reach by virtue of the most up-to-date communication system that human ingenuity had devised —the railway. With royal patronage, too, my constituency prospered and continues to prosper to this day because of the railway.
I attach the greatest importance to the railways. The Esk valley railway is not only a link to Whitby for surrounding villages, but a link for Teessiders and Tynesiders intent on having a good holiday. I am vice-president of the North Yorkshire Moors railway and I yearn for the day when, instead of stopping altogether at Grosmont, the trains continue into Whitby and bring with them an extra 300,000 visitors a year. I acknowledge, too, the importance to Scarborough of the service to York, to West Riding and to Manchester airport and beyond. There are 17 trains a day during the season—except, of course, when it suits the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. One can only guess at the precise effect that the two strikes so far have had on the leisure industry, those whose holidays were disgracefully disrupted and the nation at large. We can only wonder at the posturing of Opposition Members caught with their trousers down, so to speak, in the midst of probably the most boring leadership election in parliamentary history. Perhaps they are in need of counselling, like many of their febrile colleagues in the BBC—or perhaps not.
Perhaps one should refer instead to last Friday's Hansard to obtain a clue. By chance, I have a copy with 472 me. An important debate on competitiveness was in full spate—a subject as vital to the leisure industry as any other. I questioned Labour's Front-Bench spokesman—who, incidentally, prefers to be known as a spokesperson —on the rail strike, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler). The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) made a brilliant response. I pay tribute to him. He told the House in one sentence Labour's new industrial and leisure policy.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is beginning to stray. I shall be grateful if he will stick to the subject of the debate.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) says that she is female. Does she now wish to be referred to as "a spoke"—like "a chair?"
§ Mr. Sykes
Fortunately, these days the railway' is not the only means of transport. The A64 is one of the principal routes to Scarborough and Whitby, along which the majority of our visitors travel. It is a bad road, being busy and dangerous. For much of its length past York, it is single carriageway. I will share with the House the experience of holidaymakers during the Whitsun bank holiday. The Scarborough Evening News reported:About 6.30 pm yesterday, Radio 5 Live singled out just two roads to avoid—the A64 and the A1 in North Yorkshire.AA Roadwatch said cars were stacked up all morning from York to Scarborough, and then again for more than four hours in the opposite direction last night.Among the worst-hit areas was Whitwell-on-the-Hill, where traffic was reduced to a virtual standstill during much of the evening.Since the 1930s, the authorities have planned to upgrade that road to a modern dual carriageway. It was believed that a scheme was imminent and a preferred route in place, until the Department of Transport put it on the back burner.
I want that road, and I want it as soon as possible, not just because I am the constituency's Member of Parliament but because I am a manufacturer in the area; I declare my interest in that regard. I discovered that the Department has three possible reasons for delaying the scheme—environmental, economic and strategic. My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic is also the Member of Parliament for Salisbury, so I was able to reassure him on environmental grounds—that no Stonehenge straddles the preferred route and that no colony of lesser-crested newts or of Greenham common women nests there to prostrate themselves before the excavators and halt progress.
473 Having satisfied myself on environmental grounds, I looked for economic reasons for delaying the scheme, but in vain. The preferred route is efficient. Much of it travels through the Vale of Pickering, which is level ground—a construction engineer's idea of heaven throughout the ages. It shadows the 19th-century railway that gave Scarborough its present-day prosperity.
The cost to the community of accidents—quite apart from the immeasurable loss of human life itself—is huge and would pay for two of the major schemes in one section alone in two years. The construction of that road would improve and sustain the wealth-creating and, by implication, tax-paying manufacturing, service and leisure sectors, which are already a considerable source of employment on the east coast.
That has already been recognised by the European Community, through our objective 5b status, thanks to Edward McMillan-Scott, our newly re-elected MEP. A number of my hon. Friends have also played their part. The dualling of the two sections would represent good value for money.
Having ruled out environmental and economic objections, I was left with strategic objections. Scarborough and Whitby are world-class resorts with their own economies which depend not only on tourism but on manufacturing, service industries, fishing, farming and people who wish to enjoy their retirement. We must compete for our customers with the best of the rest. We do not mind that—in fact, we thrive on it.
I decided to consider how Scarborough and Whitby compared strategically with other resorts. I took an up-to-date road map and made a survey of all major resorts in England and Wales, comparing their proximity to a dual carriageway or motorway. I tabulated them, starting with the nearest and ending with the resort farthest away. I was astonished and upset by the result.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) will be pleased to hear that Blackpool was at the top of the list. It is nil miles from the nearest dual carriageway, as are Brighton, Bournemouth, Colwyn Bay, Conwy and Margate. Cleethorpes is only two miles from a dual carriageway. Ramsgate, Bognor Regis, Morecambe, Clacton-on-Sea, Southport and Eastbourne are all within easy reach of one. Last night, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) told me that Eastbourne has just been given £25 million by the Department of Transport to upgrade the main road right to his back door. Imagine how upset I was to read that Scarborough shared joint bottom place with Minehead and Ilfracombe in its proximity to a major motorway network-40 miles away from the nearest continuous dual carriageway. England's fourth most important resort shares joint bottom place with Ilfracombe, which has a population of 9,000.
§ Mr. Fabricant
As my hon. Friend knows, I have experienced the road from York to Scarborough a number of times. Its status is most unfortunate, as Scarborough is a beautiful area to visit. Does my hon. Friend agree that Yorkshire in general is disadvantaged in its roads system? Perhaps that is the reason why fewer visitors come to Yorkshire and why tourism is centred more on the south of England.
§ Mr. Sykes
People will visit Yorkshire for many reasons, not least for the welcome and hospitality that greet them when they arrive. Many people think that we have a good road system, and we do—I just wish that that particular scheme could be brought forward. My constituents can knock spots off the competition. As we approach the 21st century, road usage is bound to leap, regardless of what the "antis" say, so time is not on our side. Even if the Government gave it the green light today, the new road could not be used until 2005. I do not begrudge any hon. Member a road scheme, but it has been galling to hear a number of hon. Members complain about schemes proposed for their constituencies. I beg my hon. Friend the Minister to persuade the Government to reconsider the case for an early start on the dualling of the A64.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks
While I am deeply envious that Scarborough has considerable rail links to Manchester airport, which Southport does not, I feel that I must point out that my hon. Friend's genuine modesty forbids him from telling us that, as a result of considerable lobbying on his part, the scheme to which he referred has not completely dropped off the Department of Transport's programme. The dual carriageway will be constructed as a result of my hon. Friend's pressure, if not as quickly as he would like.
§ Mr. Sykes
At the same time that parts of my constituency are disappearing, I am glad to agree with my hon. Friend that the scheme itself has not entirely disappeared but has perhaps been put off. As a Member of Parliament, I regard it as important to do my best to ensure that road is built sooner rather than later.
One reason for one's choice of holiday destination is whether or not it is easy to reach. Another reason why visitors come to Scarborough and Whitby is quite simply that my constituency is a nice place to visit. The hoteliers and landladies are renowned for their hospitality and the warmth of their welcome—even for Lancastrians. They work long hours in the service of their guests and are always cheerful. There is plenty to do and much family fun to be had, along with the best possible value for money.
Incomparable scenery and a remarkable heritage combine to povide a holiday to suit all tastes. It is possible to sail from Whitby and see little that one's 19th-century counterpart would not have seen. Captain Cook set sail from Whitby in the 18th century to discover Australia; if the health and safety people had been around then, he would still be in Whitby harbour today.
The Yorkshire Television series "Heartbeat"—a wonderful programme—is set in the glorious North Yorkshire moors. As the Yorkshire Post reported only yesterday, the area is achieving world fame among tourists and film crews alike. Let me make a special plea for the authorities to try their best to preserve the village of Goathland—known as Aidensfield in the programme—by ensuring that the best parking facilities for our visitors, and the quality of life for those who live there, are preserved.
Another issue that has caused us some concern for the future is the gradual emergence of badly run DSS hostels.
§ Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)
My hon. Friend sang the praises of Scarborough without mentioning the Stephen Joseph theatre and the contribution of Alan Ayckbourn. That is a marvellous example of a regional theatre's contributing not only to local culture but to 475 national culture, and to the international reputation of this country. Although that is true of many of our theatres, the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough is a prime example.
§ Mr. Sykes
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Early one fine February morning, I was privileged to be able to take the Select Committee on National Heritage —of which I am a member—to Scarborough. We went to the top of Olivers Mount and, on that cold February day, we had a magnificent view of the town and all its beauties. I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate that I cannot possibly list all the beauties of my constituency today: our business is due to finish at about 2.30 pm and I do not wish to detain the House.
I was talking about DSS hostels, which have already been mentioned—badly run DSS hostels, that is; many are well run. My constituency contains few such hostels, but the behaviour of some tenants in the badly run ones has put tourists off. Neighbouring hotels have then had to consider whether to convert themselves to that type of accommodation, and a vicious circle was in the making.
Along with my good and hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North, I did my best to bring the problem to the attention of the powers that be. I pay special tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, and for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), the Minister for Local Government and Planning, for the considerable efforts that they put into gaining a satisfactory response to our representations.
Planning permission is now required. For my part, I must say that the level of complaints has subsided; we must ensure that the current sensible regulation stays in place. In order to deal with existing hostels, the Government announced that they would consider a licensing scheme to give tenants the same standard of safe accommodation that is available elsewhere. That is indeed welcome news. One of the requirements is fire safety—as we know to our cost in Scarborough.
I understand that the owner of that particular hostel had no public liability insurance. Such insurance is a legal requirement for a hotel, but not for a hostel. I suggest that owners who appear to be contriving tenancies to give themselves a relatively easy income from housing benefit should be required to insure themselves and their tenants in a similar way to hoteliers.
The action taken by the Government so far has helped to ensure that England's greatest resorts have a prosperous future. As Member of Parliament for two of England's greatest jewels, I am grateful for that. I do not accept the trendy, untenable notion that seaside resorts are done for in England. Next year, my constituency will celebrate having returned Members of Parliament to Westminster for 700 years. When I am no longer Member of Parliament for Scarborough—by the people's choice or my own—I hope to leave it as the holidaymaker's first choice: a place where the elderly can retire in peace and enjoyment, where business continues to succeed and, above all, where young school leavers find opportunities and are able to prosper like the generations who have gone before them.
§ 11.3 am
§ Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)
I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes). I congratulate him on his thorough speech and the points that he raised about tourism 476 and coastal resorts. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on managing to secure a debate on this important subject. He dealt with it in a detailed and comprehensive way, demonstrating the importance of the leisure industry to the United Kingdom's economy as a whole.
I must add—I know that my hon. Friends will agree with me—that I find it extraordinary that, apart from the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), no Opposition Members are present. The hon. Lady sits in splendid isolation, but in isolation none the less. She was joined briefly by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks); I did not know whether to feel pleased for the hon. Lady, or sorry that he had had to come and help. A grey-bearded old Liberal came in for a short time, but he has now disappeared—heaven knows where.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon pointed out, the leisure industry accounts for £80 billion a year —the entire social security budget. It is shocking that no Opposition Member except the hon. Member for Redcar should be present to take part in the debate. People living in major tourist resorts that depend substantially on the leisure industry—such as Scarborough, Southport and Blackpool—will note that, and will particularly note the hypocrisy of the Liberal party. Its Members, who so often pretend to be the friends of the tourism and leisure industries, now cannot even be bothered to turn up.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks
May I clarify a point of detail ? Presumably my hon. Friend is referring to the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal party is a separate party, whose national headquarters are in my constituency and which was far too sensible to merge with the Social Democratic party.
§ Mr. Elletson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is quite right: I was, of course, referring to the Liberal Democrats, not to the Literal Democrats or any other flavour of Liberalism. I apologise for using shorthand of that kind. No doubt it is an example of the abuse of language to which my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon referred so convincingly, and which we should all try to avoid.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon demonstrated, the leisure industry emcompasses an enormous variety of sectors: music, including opera, sport and, of course, tourism. My hon. Friend examined some of them in detail, particularly sport. He mentioned the Manchester Olympic bid. I hope that all hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Minister, join me in hoping that although Manchester lost on this occasion, it will persist in its attempt to become the world's Olympic city and will receive the full, unqualified backing of the British Government next time. Let us hope that it will be third time lucky for Manchester.
I do not want to cover the ground covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon as comprehensively as he did. I wish to deal specifically with one aspect of the leisure industry: tourism, which was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon explained how important the industry is to the economy. Tourism alone accounts for 4 per cent. of gross domestic product. It employs about 1.5 million people, accounting for 10 per cent. of the national work force. It is now the second 477 biggest industry in the United Kingdom: £25 billion a year is spent on tourism and there were 18 million foreign visitors in 1992.
Over the past 10 years, employment in the tourism industry has grown by 28 per cent., compared with employment growth of just 1 per cent. in the country generally. Around the world, one person in 15 is involved in the industry, and it accounts for 6 per cent. of world GDP. It is, therefore, a massive and very important industry, which is growing year by year and which offers tremendous opportunity for job creation in this country and worldwide. Its importance is fully recognised by the Minister. My hon. Friends and I recognise that he is truly a friend of tourism and that, in the past year, he has fought some major and important battles on behalf of the industry. I thank him for the work that he has done on behalf of my constituents.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) discussed Department of Social Security hostels, an issue of particular concern to his and my constituents and to people living in coastal resorts throughout the country. It may be difficult for people from other areas to understand the scale of the decay that has developed in the United Kingdom's major tourist resorts in the past 10 years as a result of the unregulated and uncontrolled influx of DSS benefit claimants into coastal resorts. That has had a shocking effect on the tourist industry and on people's quality of life in those areas.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough, I have received hundreds of letters of complaint about the sudden overnight establishment of DSS hostels in tourist and residential areas. We have heard a constantly repeated range of complaints about people urinating in the streets, swearing, drinking and taking drugs. The problem appears to be almost universally swamping people in coastal areas, which is shocking. It has greatly contributed to the decline of the quality of our resorts.
I am delighted that the Minister has taken the problem seriously and that he has done his best to fight a battle within Government to ensure that the Department of the Environment took up the case and agreed to introduce legislation.
§ Mr. Sykes
Does my hon. Friend consider it important that we had thought that the problem might have been confined to relatively few resorts, including Scarborough and Whitby, but that, as a result of conducting a survey of England's major resorts, which included the advice of my hon. Friends representing those resorts, we found out the true extent and nature of the dreadful problem?
§ Mr. Elletson
That is right. Like my hon. Friend, I was grateful to our hon. Friends and colleagues who contributed to that survey, which showed the scale of the problem across the country. The Department of Environment has sought to tackle it temporarily by changing the use classes order, which will mean that planning permission will be required for hostels. That will, however, deal only with problems arising in the future, not with the problem that exists now.
My hon. Friend is right to say that a licensing system is the long-term answer to the problem. I know that we shall be able to count on the Minister's support in pushing for 478 the establishment of that system as quickly as possible. He does not underestimate the scale of the problem and the damage that it is doing to tourist resorts.
Like some of my hon. Friends, I have been slightly critical of the role of the Department of National Heritage in the tourism and leisure industry. It has seemed slightly unfocused and not fully aware of the extent to which it is an industrial Ministry. The Minister understands that, and regards his role primarily as that of an industrial Minister who is running a Department responsible for one of the largest industries in this country. He has an important role in co-ordinating attempts to assist the industry to develop in the best way that it can and to recognise the opportunities available across the spectrum of Government responsibility. That is a massive task.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) mentioned transport and its effects on tourism. Day by day, we see environment problems that affect the tourism industry. The quality of life is bound up with people's enjoyment of their leisure time and the leisure industry.
We have had a problem in Blackpool and other tourist resorts with the quality of our bathing waters. I am delighted that the Minister has taken that issue seriously and that he has sought to ensure that the European Community and European Commissioners were not able to ban bathing off British beaches, which would have been entirely unnecessary and done a great deal of damage to the British tourist industry.
The local Labour party in Lancashire behaved in a grossly irresponsible manner in that matter. I was delighted that the ban has not been imposed and that we shall be able to move peacefully and successfully towards ensuring that our bathing waters meet European standards by 1996, which has been made possible by the amount of money that North West Water has invested in a new sewage treatment plant based at Fleetwood, which would not have been possible under the old regime.
§ Mr. Sykes
Does my hon. Friend agree that England's bathing waters are among the finest in the world and that some of our European partners—or so-called partners—apart from not obeying their own laws, do not obey the European directives and are well known for cheating on tests, for which we are so castigated in this country?
§ Mr. Elletson
I agree with my hon. Friend. I know that we can count on the Minister to ensure that the Department of the Environment monitors thoroughly the appalling abuses that take place in countries such as Italy and Greece, which are so quick and ready to criticise British resorts and the quality of British waters, without paying attention to the shocking state of affairs that exists in their resorts.
The tourist industry offers huge opportunities for job creation and economic growth. We must examine ways in which we can assist that potential. I am sure that all Conservative Members believe in backing genuine winners. We believe not in propping up lame duck industries but in assisting profitable, successful industries to become even more profitable and successful, and to employ even more people.
Tourism in Britain is a growing, winning industry. It recorded an average growth of 7 per cent. between 1980 and 1990. Unfortunately, that compares with 15 per cent. growth in the United States of America, 9 per cent. growth 479 in Italy and 10 per cent. growth in Spain. We have to ask ourselves what they are doing to support tourism that we are not but could be doing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon touched on some of the issues that we should deal with. He was right to suggest that we should reinstate section 4 tourism development grants, which no longer exist. Although he did not mention it, I know that he is fully aware of the fact that it is only in England that they no longer exist. That is an iniquitous and unjust feature of the present system: they exist in Scotland and in Wales, but not in England.
§ Mr. Brandreth
I have always been reasonably persuaded by the argument that there are different states of maturity in the different parts of the United Kingdom, in terms of tourism, which justify the imbalance in investment between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and England. I know that some people—my hon. Friend is obviously one—take a different view.
I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would elaborate a little more on why he thinks that there is no justification in the argument that there is a maturity in the English tourist industry. It has been there longer, and it is self-evidently more thriving, than the industry in other parts of the country, such as those that are slightly more remote from the major airports. Will my hon. Friend explore that point a little more?
§ Mr. Elletson
I shall be delighted to do that, because my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) is himself a very mature and distinguished Member of Parliament. As a Parliamentary Private Secretary, he is a member of the Treasury team. It is delightful that he can join us this morning and hear something of the importance of the tourist industry to the Treasury.
Of course there are differences in the maturity of the tourist industry throughout the United Kingdom. However, the present system does not take account of the relative maturity of different sectors of the tourist industry within Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England; for example, we do not take account of the relative lack of provision for disabled tourists. We can do nothing for them here. No grants are available in England for projects that might assist the development of tourism by disabled people. That problem could be addressed, however, because funds are available, in Scotland and Wales.
We must look at the question seriously. I do not think that it is a reasonable argument to say that Scotland and Wales are less mature or to say that because a particular project lies 10 miles across the Solway firth, it should find that massive funding is available from central Government. In a united kingdom, that argument does not work.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks
Is my hon. Friend saying—if so, I very much agree—that there is no difference of maturity between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? It seems to be just a matter of the Welsh Office, the Scottish Office and the Northern Ireland Office having taken a decision that has not been taken in England.
§ Mr. Elletson
Yes, that is right. Those are the advantages that the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish have —and which they are extremely lucky to have. We in England do not have those advantages. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester, a member of the Treasury team, will 480 consider that point seriously, and will consider the return of section 4 development grants in the next Budget. I assure them that that would be one of the most popular moves that they could make in tourist resorts, including my hon. Friend's own very distinguished, very important and popular tourist resort of Chester.
§ Mr. Brandreth
Of course every tourist resort would welcome any support that it can get. What is interesting is that, although the city of Chester, which borders Wales, does not get the additional help given to north Wales to promote itself, its attractions are so great that, even without that support, it flourishes. The tourist industry in Chester is mature and is helping itself. It thrives, flourishes and grows at an even greater pace than the areas that are getting help.
§ Mr. Elletson
I take my hon. Friend's point, but I believe that Chester has so much to offer, that there is so much more that Chester could do and that there are so many ways in which Chester could continue to grow. I would hesitate to say that it was fully mature.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the great treasures of Chester is its Member of Parliament?
§ Mr. Elletson
I certainly agree. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester is little short of a national institution.
§ Mr. Elletson
I am sure that, if my hon. Friend were in an institution, he would join many Opposition Members.
As my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester is here this morning, and as he is a member of the Treasury team, I want to draw another issue to his attention, which many of my hon. Friends also wish to emphasise. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon raised the question of VAT rates on some of our tourist attractions. My hon. Friend the Minister will be well aware of this issue, which tourist attractions and leisure parks have taken up with him.
It is clearly ludicrous that we have such a wide range of different rates of VAT on the various tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants throughout the European Community. It may be difficult to remove VAT, or to lower the rate of VAT once it has been levied, without totally changing the system at European level, and without a new European directive. However, I hope that the Minister will take the matter seriously and that he will ensure that we continue to fight this battle on Europe.
The variations in VAT levels throughout the European Community are astonishing. VAT on hotel accommodation is levied at 6 per cent. in Belgium, 5.5 per cent. in France and 3 per cent. in Luxembourg, but at 17.5 per cent. in the United Kingdom, 15 per cent. in Germany and 25 per cent. in Denmark.
VAT on hotel and restaurant meals is levied at 20.5 per cent. in Belgium, 18 per cent. in France, 16 per cent. in Portugal and 17.5 per cent. in the UK, but at only 8 per cent. in Greece, 3 per cent. in Luxembourg and 6 per cent. in the Netherlands.
VAT on leisure and tourism admissions is 6 per cent. in Belgium, 5.5 per cent. in France and 3 per cent. in Luxembourg, but 17.5 per cent. in the UK, 17.5 per cent. in the Netherlands and 25 per cent. in Denmark.
481 That is an extraordinary range of VAT rates and it clearly helps to ensure that our tourist attractions, are not competitive. When one considers the effect of that on major attractions such as Blackpool pleasure beach, which every year attract 6 million visitors, and when one considers the effect on their ability to compete with the likes of Euro Disney, one realises that they are placed at a significant competitive disadvantage.
§ Mr. Sykes
Quintupled, then. Will my hon. Friend comment for a moment on duty on beer, which is a serious threat to our brewing industry and, therefore, indirectly to the leisure industry? The difference between duty in France and in the United Kingdom is a sore point at the moment. It could lead to a reduction in the number of pubs and a reduction in brewing prosperity. Will my hon. Friend comment on that?
§ Mr. Elletson
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is clearly a serious problem, not so much for us in the north of England, as for the south of England, where it is having an appalling effect on coastal resorts and towns. Many of our hon. Friends who represent those areas are very concerned.
Since I began to speak, more Opposition Members have decided to come into the Chamber. Obviously, the message has gone out that the empty Opposition Benches were a disgrace.
People in coastal resorts and people in our historic towns, who are concerned about tourism and about the leisure industry, will continue to regard those empty Benches as disgraceful. They will see how little the Labour party cares about this major industry. I hope that such people will remember that and that they will remember that, although a few Labour Members have now crawled in, the Liberal Democrats continue to be absent. What lesson can we draw from that?
I urge the Minister, who, unlike Opposition Members, is a genuine friend of tourism and the leisure industry, to continue his good work in fighting the battle for tourism and the battle for the leisure industry. I urge my hon. Friend to continue to ensure that this vital British industry continues to grow, as it can.
§ Ms Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
In response to the final comment by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), I am very pleased to be joined by my hon. Friends the Members for Newport (Mr. Flynn), for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).
Yes, the turnout has been bad this morning, but I think that the issue is poorly supported on both sides of the House. Even though there may be a poor turnout from Opposition Members, the complacency of some of the speeches from Government Members matches that lack of interest. It is a problem which we must deal with, and we readily acknowledge that it is an important industry.
I shall briefly respond to a point on hostels made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North at the end of his speech. 482 The problems that he outlined are in his view created as result of having particular hostels occupied by people on benefit. I understand that difficulties are created when people are living on benefit in hostels on very little money. They do not have jobs and can be seen sitting about the front at seaside resorts. They are not perceived as positive for many resorts and they are not a sight—if one can talk about human beings in that way—that many of hoteliers in his constituency like to see.
The hon. Gentleman talked about dealing with the difficulties of people who are living on benefit, about changing class orders and about long-term structural changes. The hon. Gentleman and his local authority know the real answer very well. If we could build more houses and get people back to work, we would not have to hear the way in which he talked about human beings.
§ Ms Mowlam
I shall not take interventions, on the simple ground that we may go off the point, and that would be unfair for the debate.
May I just apologise on behalf of my colleague the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) who, as hon. Members from both sides of the House know, speaks for the Opposition on tourism? My hon. Friend has done a lot of excellent work on tourism and is a valuable member of the team. Unfortunately, he drew the short straw and had to go to the world cup finals this week, so he is not able to be with us. He is obviously sad to have missed the debate.
I shall pick up on the speech by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs). I welcome the fact that he managed to get this debate today. The hon. Gentleman's commitment to the leisure industry and to tourism over the years has been solid. He has participated in every debate that I have read that the House had throughout the 1980s.
The sad thing is that the hon. Gentleman has to keep saying the same thing. The House heard him today talk about vital catalysts that can be provided by the Department of National Heritage. That was similar to what he said two years ago, when he said:my hon. Friend the Minister speaks up for the industry, but words are not always enough;"—[Official Report, 19 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 562.]
§ Mr. Elletson
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Lady simply to brush the important issue of DSS hostels—
§ Ms Mowlam
I shall answer the hon. Member for Blackpool, North—as is my right—and I shall then talk about the priorities which I want for the leisure industry.
The hon. Member for Swindon has given admirable support to the industry and has tried by various means in the past couple of years to get a greater response from the Government on tourism and the leisure industry. I would say that he had a chance of being the Minister for Tourism after the upcoming reshuffle, but I presume that if I say that from the Opposition Dispatch Box, it will harm his chances.
Speakers today have shown how many issues could be covered in a debate on leisure and tourism. I thought that the quickest way of covering some of them would be to respond to two or three points made by the hon. Member 483 for Swindon. I shall not take up too much time and stop other hon. Members who have sat through the whole debate getting in.
The hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to say that the film industry should receive money from the lottery. "Four Weddings and a Funeral" proves that it can be done, but how much longer do we have to wait for an initiative on film? We are waiting for a White Paper on the BBC and for statements on privacy and on cross-media ownership.
The film industry is so crucial: I agree whole-heartedly with the hon. Gentleman. Let us have some action and statements from the Department of National Heritage on the industry. Let us hope that those are not blocked again by the Department of Trade and Industry or by No. 10 and that we do not have to wait many more months before valuable partnership work is done with the British film industry.
On the BBC, I support the licence fee a little more strongly than the hon. Gentleman. He talks about the necessity in future for taxation in addition to the licence fee. The BBC is undertaking joint venturing, which it is doing internationally. If it remains international, and does not infringe on the licence fee as a part of the national public service that the BBC offers, some of the financial questions raised by the hon. Gentleman will not be a problem for the BBC in next 10 to 15 years.
There are two difficult questions that the BBC is facing immediately ; the hon. Gentleman highlighted them and then skirted around them. The first is sport.
Sport is an important part of the leisure industry and the difficulty now is that, if sport remains on cable and satellite, large numbers of people will not be able to see it without paying: it is not a part of the public service as terrestrial television is. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) has been doing a lot of work on the subject and he says that there is a way in which sport should remain in the national domain until cable and satellite penetrate the market to such an extent that there is a genuine choice for people.
The other difficult question relates to pornography in relation to cable and satellite television. The hon. Member for Swindon talked about the importance of freedom of choice for individuals, and he is absolutely right. But with cable and satellite, and some other changes that will come with interactives through fibre-optics and the development of e-mail that we see with Internet, there are problems there for a Government of any hue. Those will be difficult and we ought look at them a little harder.
The hon. Member for Swindon referred to excellence and gave the teaching of music as a good example. We could not agree more. The difficulty is that constraints have been placed on local authorities in terms of the few discretionary awards which are available. Those grants are now so rare that many of the music places at our colleges are taken by students from overseas, because our students cannot afford to go. We should love to see more excellence in music and in art. The problem is that the chance for students is not there, because discretionary awards, regardless of any political points, are a thing of the past.
I emphasise again our support for some of the points made by other hon. Members during the debate. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) talked about divisions between the English, Welsh and other tourist boards, and emphasised the importance of 484 section 4 and pump-priming. The Opposition support all that and we hope that the Minister will listen to his colleagues, if he does not listen to us.
The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) asked us to talk to our Labour colleagues—all 62 of them, who make up a major group in the European Parliament—about objective 5. I am sure that we will do what we can in partnership with them to get a shift to a greater emphasis on tourism at a European level. If there is anything else that we can do to help the hon. Gentleman with bits of assistance from our MEPs, all he has to do is ask. They are a strong group and we will work with them.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks
The hon. Lady has taken seriously the point that I made. So far as my own Euro-constituency of Merseyside West is concerned, perhaps she could encourage her colleague Mr. Stewart to come and visit my constituency a little more regularly. The years go by, and we do not see him.
§ Ms Mowlam
We all know the problems faced by MEPs, many of whom have eight parliamentary constituencies in their area. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, one can visit one's constituency every weekend and someone is sure to come up and say, "I haven't seen you for years, and I cannot contact you." We all know of those problems, however hard we work. Many of us work very hard.
I will not dwell on some of the other points made by hon. Members, but I shall ask the Minister—if he is awake —[Interruption.] His eyes were closed and I was worried that he was no longer with us. There were points raised by other hon. Members which the Opposition would also have emphasised.
I do not think that I need to emphasise the importance of the leisure industry. Hon. Members talked about "4 per cent. of GDP", "1.5 million workers", "every two jobs in the tourist industry means one extra job created", "the fourth largest growth area in the EEC". We all know the statistics and how important tourism is to the economy. The problem is getting it on to the political agenda and avoiding the drift in policy that, sadly, has been apparent even in the two years since the Department was created. The Department needs to be far more proactive in providing a lead for which the industry is desperate. The Department has, sadly, failed to do that. It should also be possible to foster greater co-operation between Departments.
About nine months ago, when I became shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage, the very next day I appeared on "Any Questions" in Chesterfield. I was put up in the Abbeydale hotel owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bramhill. They were delighted that the shadow Secretary of State was staying with them. In common with all hon. Members, when I left I said that, if there was ever anything I could do to help, they should contact me. Sadly, they contacted me two months later because of difficulties they were experiencing. The problem was caused by a minor issue, but it highlights the lack of Government activity.
The English tourist board used to publish a guide called, "Let's Go", which advertised small hotels such as the Abbeydale. Mr. Bramhill wrote to me to say:We were dismayed to learn that the ETB is not publishing 'Let's Go' this year. Business arising from 'Let's Go' is a significant factor for us.He said that it was one of the major factors that attracted business to the hotel, and noted: 485Small businesses like ours rely heavily on ETB publications".The ETB responded that it had ceased to publish the guide partly because of Government cuts in finance and because it intended to publish regional leaflets instead. When looking for somewhere to stay, no one wants to look at seven regional leaflets: one wants to look through a proper publication. It is fair to say, therefore, that I was made aware of the difficulties that the tourist industry faces soon after I became shadow Secretary of State.
In the past nine months, I have travelled extensively, and have visited every seaside resort that has been mentioned today. I have gone from Aberdeen and the Lemon Tree right down through Yorkshire to Scarborough, where I will be tomorrow.
§ Ms Mowlam
I am telling the hon. Member now. I have also visited resorts in the south.
The sad thing is that, whether one speaks to people who work in the hotel industry, leisure parks or whatever, the message is the same. All they want is decent leadership and a clear strategy. I agree with the hon. Member for Swindon that it is partly a matter of investment. I also agree with the hon. Member for Blackpool, North, who hinted that is also partly a matter of funding. The difficulty with such funding is that one has to dip into so many different pots to put the money together.
As the hon. Member for Southport said, money is available through the European regional development fund to aid regeneration, but the capping of local authorities means that they have less to spend on such projects. If those local authorities received a decent sum of money to enable them to repair local infrastructure, the problem facing certain resorts could be overcome. All that is needed is a bit of direction and strategic thinking. The difficulty is that, in the past two years, we have not been given such a lead.
I do not want to dwell on my constituency, but it is a classic example of what happens when the necessary funds are unavailable. Redcar, which is further up the coast from Scarborough, used to be a seaside resort. People would go there from Scarborough during Whit week, and then go on to Seahouses and elsewhere.
If we are honest with one another, we will admit that the difficulty is that decay and lack of regeneration and growth have happened quicker in some seaside resorts than in others. The hon. Member for Scarborough is bullish and vibrant about its future, and my local authority and local industries want to behave in the same manner. They are fighting very hard, just like you, to win grants for joint ventures and to target areas for development.
The honest answer is that the number of visitors has declined. The state of the infrastructure in various resorts is a serious problem whether it is your pier at Southport, the front at Scarborough or the decline in Redcar—
§ Ms Mowlam
I apologise: I meant the pier in the constituency of the hon. Member for Southport.
The problems caused by lack of investment and difficulties in raising new investment to combat infrastructure problems are common to all of us, but some 486 resorts are feeling it harder than others. We are all struggling because we all have to dip into different pots of money to get better assistance, whether from the European Community or through local initiatives and urban programmes. If we had some Government lead, those problems would not be so severe.
§ Mr. Matthew Banks
I accept some of the points that the hon. Lady has made, but I hope that you will accept, as I said earlier, that my constituency is a classic example of the kind of partnership that we should all promote. The Government, through the urban partnership fund, pump-primed with £310,000 the multi-million sea front redevelopment strategy in my constituency. That is the way forward and that is what the Government are now doing.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have been accused of all sorts of things this morning; it has been "you", "you", "you". Hon. Members should bear that in mind.
§ Ms Mowlam
Yes, I will.
I am pleased by that intervention from the hon. Member for Southport, because it reinforces the argument that the Labour party has made for the past 15 years—one cannot depend on the market alone to deliver. The market is important, but, as we both know, it cannot deliver the developments that we need to regenerate seaside resorts.
I accept that joint partnerships can be entered into to cover the large expenditure that is needed from the private sector, but we need the public-private mix for pump priming, future development and proactive strategic thinking. It is sad that it has taken the Government so long to understand that. We have argued for such a mix for the past 15 years, we remain consistent, but the Government have body-swerved and shifted.
I have highlighted the common problems that are caused by the lack of leadership from the Department. That is not only appreciated by the Opposition and recognised by some hon. Members who have spoken today, but supported in a recent document from the Confederation of British Industry, entitled " A Wealth of Attraction", which was published a couple of months ago. It notes that the Government have not given tourism a sufficiently central position in their thinking:The Government must demonstrate its commitment to the industry as a source of growth and jobs. It is not sufficient for the Government to delegate responsibility for the industry to the tourist boards, valuable though the work of these boards is.That very point was made by one Conservative Member today.
I will not bother the House with the views of the British Tourist Authority and the ETB, but they, too, want specific steps to be taken by the Government, because they would make a difference to the well-being of the tourist industry.
There are four things that the Government could do which would make a difference to the future of the leisure and tourist industry. First, the Government should provide basic information. That is a basic task, and it is depressing that the Government have not already performed it. As I listened to the facts cited this morning, I was interested to note that we all churn out the same ones. We have got them from the same reports, which are a couple of years old. The CBI used those same reports.
When one asks what is the multiplier in terms of jobs in tourism or in terms of rebuilding infrastructure, the facts are not in the public domain. The odd City report is published, the London Arts Board report is about to be 487 published and other odd reports are published about various towns, but we do not have the kind of detailed statistics that should be available. They would make a difference, because they would enable us to argue for the industry and achieve a better understanding of it. We would then be able to demonstrate how crucial it is to the economy.
I believe that the figures we have quoted are lower than the real ones. We could put a much stronger case about the importance of tourism if the Government provided the proper factual base.
Secondly, the Government must become more proactive about tourism. I am quite ready to acknowledge that the current Minister was better than the previous one, and that the next one may be better than this one.
§ Ms Mowlam
Perhaps that is not possible. Low calibre and lack of quality are probably common to all of them.
The difficulty is that no Minister is prepared to put tourism at the centre of his or her agenda and to be as proactive as necessary.
D-day was a classic example. One has only to look at how other countries used D-day as a tourist opportunity. The French airlines and public and private sectors worked out packages for anyone with a D-day veteran in the family going from the United States to France in August.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Does the hon. Lady accept that the French airline to which she refers, Air France, which is owned by the French Government, made a thumping great loss last year compared to British Airways, which is not owned by the British Government?
§ Ms Mowlam
We can discuss the advantages of one company over another at another time. We could then quote British companies that have done better than French companies. The point that I am making is the importance of tourism and its knock-on effect on other industries. D-day was a good example of how the French used an occasion to make a difference to people visiting the country.
When I ask the Government to be more proactive, I mean that their role is to act in partnership with the private sector to deal with the problems of regional imbalance, for example. We are sometimes told that Cambridge is full of tourists and can take no more, whereas other parts of the country are desperately looking for more tourists.
§ Ms Mowlam
Durham is a good example. If the Government had some kind of proactive strategy, it would make a difference not only to tourism but to the quality of life of people who live in tourist areas.
If the Government were more proactive, they could also look at some of the changes taking place in tourism. Tourists who visit England now do not have the kind of holidays that they had before. The hon. Member for Swindon was absolutely right to talk about a "quality service". That is why it was wrong to abolish the wages councils and why we need a minimum wage, but I shall not go into that matter now.
Quality holidays must be offered. Yesterday, I spoke to two Americans who came here to cycle between castles. Different types of holiday are developing, and the 488 Department must have a strategy by which it can work with the private sector to see where the industry can go. I am simply asking it to do some thinking to assist the BTB and ETB in seeing what the future holds.
If the Government had such a proactive policy, it would make a difference in terms of a coherent strategy for the important relationship between tourism and the environment. Conservative Members who have spoken so far did not mention the Council for the Protection of Rural England study published earlier this year. In "Leisure Landscapes", Jonathan Dimbleby said:There are growing conflicts between the needs of tourism and leisure in the English countryside and the protection of our precious environment. The inadequacies of public policy and failures in practice mean these conflicts are going virtually unrecognised. We must wake up and put things right.One is not saying that the environment or tourism should predominate, but if we had a proactive Government who were thinking about the issues, we could have a strategy between the demands of the environment and those of the tourist industry.
The Department of National Heritage is trying to co-ordinate between regional sports councils and regional tourist boards. That is fine, but unless we have better co-operation between Departments on issues that affect the leisure industry and tourism, we shall not achieve the changes that will make a difference. The privatisation of British Rail is a classic example. The loss of the rover pass and the travelcard will make a big difference to tourists. If Departments had better relationships, our tourist and leisure industry would be much better. The whole question of deregulation comes into that.
Some simple measures could be taken speedily to make a difference to the leisure industry. Hotel insurance was mentioned by the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes). Holiday insurance is a continuing problem. As every hon. Member who deals with his or her constituency mail knows, there is a lack of adequate insurance for holidaymakers, who often take out the wrong kind.
If the Jopling report is discussed by the end of July, it may mean that we shall work more sensible hours, which will be a plus for everybody. Given the low standing in which most members of the public hold us, it will not help if we work even fewer hours than they think we already work. I have compared the public holidays of other EU countries and, yet again, we are bottom of the list. Germany has 15 days; Luxembourg has 14 days; Portugal has 13 days; and, as with so many other European tables, we are bottom of the list with nine. I throw that fact into the debate as a suggestion. It is being debated elsewhere, but it could be considered.
Although the national lottery could make a great difference to leisure and tourism in the coming year, it will be merely a secondary source of funding. The hon. Member for Southport said that the Minister should draw up proposals, but he is meant to be independent, so he cannot do so.
The problem is that big organisations such as Covent Garden, Albertropolis and the Tate have whole departments working on the national lottery, whereas smaller projects around the country have no such backup. I support the lottery, which, potentially could make a great difference to arts and leisure, but, if we are not careful, it will become metropolis-based. There will be problems with the partnership between public funding and private funding, which is less available outside London.
489 I hope to goodness that the Government are not daft enough to indulge in the political short-termism in which they have indulged elsewhere. I am not scoring cheap points: I genuinely believe that. They have appointed political placepeople to the five bodies that give out the money, which is incredible short sightedness for the country's future. We could have worked on that for the good of the country as we approach the next century. If the Government indulge in political short-termism, people will say, "What a surprise—another millennium project in a Tory marginal constituency in the run-up to the next election." That will be appalling.
Let us hope that that does not happen, because it will destroy another potential opportunity held by the tourist and leisure industries. They have a great future. It is sad that the Government do not believe it.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I am glad to have an opportunity to catch your eye this morning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a wide-ranging debate which, given the furtive imagination of some hon. Members in their books recently, could take us down some interesting alleys. I wish to concentrate on the tourism industry, about which much has already been said this morning.
The tourist industry forms the fourth biggest employer in my constituency, the Cotswolds. I commend any hon. Members listening to or reading my speech to visit the Cotswolds. The choice of hotels is excellent, from the luxury end of the market to the good-value end. We have the highest number of listed buildings of any local authority in the country. The Cotswold stone market towns and villages are an excellent architectural feature and well worth visiting. The countryside in the Cotswolds forms one of the most important areas of outstanding natural beauty in the country. Following the commercial break, I move on.
Tourism is an important industry in the Cotswolds. It has managed to employ an additional 5,000 people in the past decade. That is important to employment in Gloucestershire because that industry now employs about 17,000 jobs directly and about 25,000 jobs on the basis of the Heart of England tourist board's estimate of one tourism job creating another half a job elsewhere in the economy. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) said that there were no published statistics. That report is one source of published statistics. It is interesting that in the past decade in manufacturing, which still forms the largest single sector of industry in my constituency, the number of jobs has declined by 6 per cent. while in tourism the number has increased by 2 per cent., providing a further 5,000 jobs.
The Department of National Heritage has been formed for only two years and combines many different functions, which were portrayed in our last election manifesto. Incidentally, that manifesto had a far more ambitious target for the cultural and built heritage of this country than either of the two Opposition parties pledged in theirs. The Department encompasses broadcasting, arts, sports, the film industry, national heritage, national lottery and tourism.
490 All those functions of the Department of National Heritage are basically tax consuming, with the exception of the lottery and tourism, which contributes so much to decrease our balance of payments deficit. It would, therefore, be encouraging if, instead of specifying tourism last in its list of priorities, the Department would alter the list in its next annual report and place tourism first. As chapter 9 of the Department's report says, that huge industry earned almost £9 billion this year in foreign earnings. Spending on tourism in this country amounts to about £20 billion, or 4 per cent. of our gross domestic product, and employs more than 1.5 million people. The important aspect of that employment is that those people are employed in thousands of diverse small and medium-sized businesses. I hope that when the next annual report is produced, tourism will be moved up the list of priorities.
I commend to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State the format of the Department of the Environment's report, whereby achievements are laid out in one column and targets to be met are laid out in a different column. That is a good format and I commend it, not only to the Department of National Heritage, but to all Government Departments as a useful format for their annual reports.
Given the size of the industry, more attention could be paid to tourism. Although we are doing well in this country, we could do much better in the tourist industry. The British Tourist Authority and the National Trust provided me with useful information. As has already been mentioned, Britain is the sixth most popular destination after the United States of America, France, Spain, Italy and Austria. Where do the visitors come from? Almost two thirds come from western Europe and 18 per cent. come from North America. What do they do? A high percentage of those visitors are return visitors, which is extremely encouraging for the future health of our tourist industry, and 48 per cent. of visitors say that they use a hotel as their main or major residence while staying here.
Why do those visitors come here? By far the largest advantage that we have in this country is that English is the most universally used language in the world. Not only is it the number one language in the old Commonwealth countries, but it is the second language in many other countries. The British Tourist Authority's overseas visitors survey discovered that most people were happy with the linguistic reception that they received in this country. The most notable exception was, of course, the French, who complained that they were not met often enough with their mother tongue.
What do visitors do when they come to this country? The survey confirmed that they come here mainly for our culture. They come here particularly for our stately homes and art galleries, and especially our museums, with up to 62 per cent. relating the latter as being quite or very important to them.
What are the future trends? How can we improve the deficit in the balance of trade and tourism? Obviously, some tourist organisations, such as the National Trust, do an excellent job in encouraging visitors to come to this country. Between 1975 and 1988, the number of visitors to its properties increased by 60 per cent. and it now has more than 10 million visitors to its properties. That is a remarkable achievement and brings considerable problems. The sheer numbers of feet trampling through some of the National Trust properties and some of our national 491 parks means that the trust has a considerable task in preventing deterioration of those properties and carrying out refurbishment works to public rights of way in the national parks. However, that is surely a small price to pay when one considers the number of visitors, domestic and foreign, that the National Trust encourages to visit those excellent properties and parks, and the amount of tourism that it brings to this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) made an excellent, wide-ranging speech. I congratulate him on bringing about today's debate and I am glad to be able to support my near neighbour in making a contribution today. As I said in an intervention on his speech, when one considers the amounts spent by the regional tourist boards —the English tourist board, the Welsh tourist board, the Scottish tourist board and the Irish tourist board—one finds that in the past year the English tourist board has had a cut of about £2.5 million, while the Scottish tourist board has had an increase of about £3.5 billion, and both the Irish and Welsh tourist boards spend more than the English tourist board. However, the number of visitors are about 83 per cent. for England, about 10 per cent. for Scotland, 3.5 per cent. for Wales and a mere 0.5 per cent. for Northern Ireland. It therefore seems to me that we have got the balance of our spending on tourism wrong.
As I mentioned earlier, if one goes to Boston in the USA, for example, one finds that, from two separate offices, the Welsh tourist board is promoting Wales and the British tourist board is promoting other parts of the kingdom. It is surely much more important to encourage visitors to come to anywhere in the United Kingdom rather than go to France, Italy, Austria or any of the other destinations. I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State seriously to consider co-ordinating with his hon. Friends and with the Welsh, Scottish and Irish tourist boards to discover whether the resources that we spend on tourism could be spent more effectively on promoting Britain.
After all, the British Tourist Authority, in the survey to which I referred earlier, has found that a quarter of all intending visitors to this country contact one or other of the tourist boards before they come here. More important, when they contact that tourist board they have probably already made up their minds where they want to visit in this country. If we could encourage more general knowledge about the diversity of culture and built heritage in this country, before visitors make up their minds to go to other destinations they might consider choosing Britain as their destination for this year's foreign holiday. I believe that we could do even better and create yet more jobs in our tourist industry if we co-ordinated the money that we spend, which becomes increasingly precious as Government expenditure becomes tighter.
Provided that we continue to improve our facilities, the future for inward tourism is excellent. As has already been said this morning, the channel tunnel, with a potential market of 350 million citizens of the European Union by the end of this year after the accession of Austria, Sweden, Norway and Finland, gives us additional and increased opportunities in tourism. It is interesting to note that the European Travel Commission report forecast that demographic changes across Europe will mean that by the year 2000 one in three Europeans will be aged more than 55. The visitors to this country will thus be an increasingly aging bunch, which will also provide the tourist industry with a considerable challenge. We must cater for that trend. 492 Members of that group are likely to have more spending power. As the prosperity of western Europe has increased, they will have built up greater occupational pensions. They will require more personal attention from the tourist industries, more hospitality in their reception and higher standards of comfort in hotels. They will require hotels that provide increasingly higher standards, are cleaner and offer a wider diversity of health facilities and facilities such as swimming pools. That demographic trend presents a huge challenge to our industry.
The aim must be to promote greater tourism in this country. We must compare our tourist facilities with those of other places. I have come back from a visit with the Select Committee on the Environment to look at shopping centres in France and Germany. It was interesting to look at the tourist facilities in Paris, in the charming town of Freiburg in west Germany and in the industrial city of Leipzig. I found that the standard of hotels in Paris was not particularly good—or at any rate, the standard was not that high in the hotel in which the taxpayer was prepared to put up the members of the Select Committee—but when I visited the tourist attractions in France, such as the Louvre with its new glass pyramid, I found that facilities were excellent. The directional signs were superb, and the quality of shops and information below the galleries was first class. Institutions in this country have something to learn from that.
Some of our major institutions, such as the Tate, have had major facelifts. Without wishing to cast aspersions, however, I must say that many of our other national institutions present, on the face of it, an unattractive image to tourists. They have wonderful cultural aspects, antiquities and pictures inside, but on the face of it they appear unappealing. My hon. Friend the Minister could encourage our institutions to see whether they can become more appealing to visitors. Some of the facilities seem to be there merely for the benefit of the curators rather than the visitors.
It is excellent that the Victoria and Albert museum now opens for longer hours on Sundays. I wish that other attractions would take into account the wishes of tourists and stay open for longer hours. In my market town of Tewkesbury, we have one of the finest stone work carvings of any abbey in Europe. Visitors flock to see the abbey which is open all hours, but at 5 pm the tearooms and shops close and one sees tourists milling around with nothing to do until they are able to return to their bed and breakfast or other accommodation. Surely the top shops, many of which complain that they are finding it hard to make a living, could be a little more innovative and inventive and stay open a little longer. When I mentioned that possibility, however, the employers shrug their shoulders and say that it would be hard on those who have to work in the shops. If more of the unemployed people in Gloucestershire were employed on a part-time basis, that would allow shops to stay open longer and make the businesses more viable.
I conclude by quoting from the report of the Department of National Heritage. I can sum up the debate no better than by quoting from paragraph 1.4 of that excellent report, which states:Each of the sectors for which the Department has responsibility in Government makes an important contribution to the quality of life. They provide enjoyment, relaxation and stimulation. They help to create a well-educated and well-informed society with a rich and varied cultural life, a society which places value on the mental and physical well-being of the individual. They contribute to a sense of national identity 493 and national pride.If we strive to create excellence in this country in everything that we do in our cultural and tourist life, surely the lives of our citizens will be enriched, both culturally and commercially via the tourist industry. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to take every possible action that he and the Government can take to promote this country abroad and help our citizens with a varied cultural life in this country.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I wish to make a brief contribution to the debate as I have the second motion on the Order Paper and I understand that I might be lucky enough to reach it today. I do not want to test the patience of Conservative Members who are still waiting to speak.
I offer some friendly advice to the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson). One should never criticise the absence of hon. Members from this place if one is going to do a bunk soon afterwards—the hon. Gentleman has gone already. It is a silly hon. Member who criticises others for not being present as it means that those here have a much better chance of speaking. The hon. Gentleman made a fairly foolish contribution.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on choosing this subject for debate and on being lucky enough to have won the ballot. It is strange that so much business in this place is still based on the fortunes of the wheel or raffle ticket—the ballot box. I am sure that we could find more sensible ways of selecting our business. I am not complaining because I am speaking in this debate.
Most of today's debate has been about tourism. I understand the points that Conservative Members have made about their constituencies. Newham, North-West might not sound the ideal tourist location, but it has many tourist attractions to offer, not least the northern sewer outfall walk. That may not sound pretty, but I can assure Conservative Members that it is delightful. In a couple of weeks, in conjunction with Thames Water, we shall be opening a green trail across the borough which will provide an attractive addition to its recreational facilities.
I acknowledge the support that the Government have given in terms of funds for city challenge and the restoration of old and historic buildings in Newham. I also acknowledge the ministerial visits that have been made, when Ministers have clearly been impressed by the opportunities that east London has to offer for the promotion of tourism in London as a whole. When one talks about tourism in London, one often speaks as though it were concentrated around the tower, Tower Hamlets and Westminster. But there are many other parts of our great capital city where there are sights for tourists to visit and we want to encourage them to do just that.
I wish to raise two specific points as I have the opportunity of getting a reply from the Minister. We have talked about tourism and leisure—one of the important ingredients of which is hotels. I want to talk about the incipient hotel that is being constructed on the other side of the river at County hall. There are heritage responsibilities in respect of County hall and I want to ask the Minister some questions. I will not re-run the abolition battle, but it seems scandalous to me and to many Londoners that 494 County hall should have been designated a hotel to be run by a Japanese leisure group called the Shirayama group. The London School of Economics put in a bid and it would have been appropriate if that wonderful public building had been used by a great institution of learning, rather than being turned into the circus that is now being played out on the other side of the river.
I do not know whether the Minister has seen the large banner that has gone up on the roof of County hall. On the river elevation it says, "Ten years" and, I understand, on the other side says, "on top"; it relates to Virgin Atlantic. One of the reasons why the GLC got up Mrs. Thatcher's nose so much was the banner that we put on the roof of County hall showing the unemployment figures for London. Incidentally, the number of unemployed people in London has continued to rise ever since the GLC was abolished—the banner would show 500,000 by now. It certainly upset the Government of the day, though, and many attempts were made to do something about it. I notice, however, that no Minister seems upset by the defacing of County hall by an enormous advertisement for Virgin Atlantic.
Some hon. Members have signed early-day motion 1382, which urges the planning authority to investigate whether planning permission has been granted for the site. I must tell them that planning permission was not granted. Instead of tabling an early-day motion, I approached the planning department of Lambeth borough council. It appears that Virgin Atlantic and the Shirayama group are in contravention of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992.
On the riverside elevation of County hall there is a banner advertising a "family fun place" and the name of a demolition contractor. That was not what planning permission was given for when Shirayama put in its original application. The advertisements contravene planning law. What does the Minister propose to do about enforcing planning regulations? These advertisements affect Londoners—they offend our vision. They may not offend the Minister, but they certainly upset many Londoners and Opposition Members of Parliament.
This cowboy organisation, Shirayama, and its chairman, Mr. Toyota are making fools of us and of Londoners in general. It is sad that County hall is being taken away from Londoners and will no longer be the home of the sort of London-wide local government which the Opposition intend to set up again once we are back in office. It also worries me that the building might end up like Battersea power station. That, too, has become a disgrace. Tourists look at it and wonder what we have done to that wonderful building. There is some controversy about whether to restore it and what to use it for. The GLC wanted to turn it into an indoor athletics stadium, which London needs, but unfortunately we were abolished and were thus unable to complete the project. So along came another cowboy with big ideas and small pockets, wanting to open another Disneyworld. Now the roof is off the building and the structure is becoming dangerous.
English Heritage is one of the Minister's areas of responsibility: it reports to him. I hope, therefore, that he will take a close interest in what is happening at Battersea power station. Sooner or later, someone will approach him or his colleague, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to say that it is now a dangerous structure which must be removed. Then someone will come along 495 and cream off the remains for another property development. I believe that the power station is now in the hands of a Hong Kong or Chinese group. That group will be able to claim that the structure is dangerous and then build whatever offices it wants on the site—and yet another important building will have been lost to Londoners.
As the Minister knows, County hall has a grade II listed facade. The principal floor is also grade II listed and has a war memorial and many other valuable architectural features that relate to London's history and local government. I find it disgraceful that a Japanese cowboy company should be trying to circumvent planning permission, altering its original proposals for County hall by stealth.
I have with me a letter from Lambeth borough council to the lawyers of the Shirayama group. It arose out of a question that was tabled in the House; the Department of the Environment has asked Lambeth borough council what is happening at County hall so as to be able to reply to that question. The letter says:The question has been prompted by a large banner fixed to the riverside elevation and reading 'family fun place'. There is also a further banner advertising a demolition contractor and three flags (the Union Jack, Japanese and Virgin Group) on the flag pole. At the recent South Bank Exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall, Shirayama displayed drawings showing two floors of commercial office floor space and a large virtual reality centre on the ground floor. Neither use falls within the terms of the Council's conditional permission for development of 25 March 1993. You will recall the various press items last November reporting Mr. Toyota as saying his proposals included a Disneyworld and a family funfair.The letter continues by warning the solicitor:I appreciate that you may not be fully aware of your client's intentions, but given the above I would reiterate my request to you to remind Shirayama of the terms of the existing planning permission.I want the Government to take action; if they do not, County hall may become the same sort of decrepit and derelict shell as Battersea power station has become—and the responsibility will rest entirely with Ministers'. It is incumbent on the Government to act now.
There is an old saying in politics: "Don't get mad, get even". I am doing both; I am angry, but I am also determined to get even. If anything keeps me in politics it is my desire to live to see a Labour Government. I only hope I will not die before there is one—I assume that I will not die in the next two years. When the Labour Government come to power, I want them to stamp all over the people who have stamped on Londoners, including the Tory politicians, the quangos and the Shirayamas of this world. I am angry now, but I hope soon to be even.
The Minister is also responsible for football. The hon. Member for Swindon rightly said that it would be great to have a British team in the World cup. At least we can all cheer on the Irish—I hope that all hon. Members will be doing that tonight, when the Irish play Mexico, although damn me if I have not noticed that it coincides with my advice surgery. Perhaps my advice will have to be a little more abrupt than usual this evening. I hope that my constituents will sympathise, and I shall tell them why.
It would indeed be nice to have a United Kingdom team; perhaps the Minister could promote that idea. We have so much talent in the United Kingdom that it seems a pity not to combine it in one football team. I know that that is a rather controversial point of view, but, given our failure to send a team to the World cup, perhaps we should think about it carefully.
496 Today I want to discuss cup final ticket allocations. I am still in mourning for the fact that my team, Chelsea, lost the cup final. If it had not been for some strutting little pedantic public schoolmaster purporting to be a referee and awarding that second penalty, the result would have been quite different. I want to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to all the people around me who were scandalised by my obscene language, in which I described the sort of things I would do to that referee if I ever bumped into him. I have cooled down since then and I apologise to all concerned for my rather picturesque language. I do feel a little ashamed of it now, but I was emotionally involved in the fact that my team had reached a cup final. It is no small thing to have victory snatched away by crass refereeing —that only added insult to injury.
To get to the cup final is one thing; to get access to the final is another matter altogether. I was—again—scandalised by the way the Football Association allocated its tickets. I do not know all the details, but Chelsea ended up with 18,000 and Manchester United with 26,000, and about 30,000 tickets went to other people. To try to find out who the other people were, I co-operated with the BBC on a programme that is due to come out some time later next month and we bought some tickets. We bought one through an advertisement in the Evening Standard for which we paid £375. Stamped on the back of that ticket was the name of the county association, Sussex county football association. We paid another £250 to a tout outside Wembley who claimed that the ticket came from a Manchester United player.
Those tickets have been sent to Mr. Kelly at the Football Association and I await his response because, clearly, there is a flourishing black market. It is outrageous that supporters who follow their teams cannot get in because others have been given tickets that they do not want and sell them on; something should be done about it. Given the national significance of the cup final I hope that the Government will take some interest in that. I am waiting to hear exactly what will happen in relation to the questions that I have put to the Minister.
It is annoying to the many genuine supporters who are effectively barred from getting to the game because of the unavailability of tickets to the competing clubs that, along with the great majority of people in the place, who I am sure do some work, are hangers-on, freeloaders, royalty of no fixed abode and MPs who write in. I hope that the Minister will speak about that because it is becoming a scandal.
Football has many problems over issues such as under-cover payments and financial irregularities. I asked the Minister whether he would instigate an inquiry into the rules governing the financial arrangements of FA premier league clubs, but he just said no, he did not even offer. I can tell the Minister that many people outside are far more interested in what goes on in their football clubs than in what happens in this place. That might be their mistake, but it is a fact and we should address some of the felt needs of those people, especially in the context of the organisation of their football clubs because that is important to them.
I also asked the Minister whether he would make it his policy to set up an independent regulator of FA Premier League and Football League clubs in England, but, again, he refused and said that it was a matter for the football authorities. These matters are perhaps too important to be left to the ossified Football Association which still lives in 497 the 19th century in the way that it runs this great national game of ours. I hope that the Minister will show some interest in that.
It was grossly unfair for the Football Association to move in on Tottenham Hotspur and ban it from the FA cup and deduct 12 points. That deduction probably means that Tottenham Hotspur will be relegated next year. I am all for getting wrongdoers and I am glad that the Inland Revenue is investigating Tottenham Hotspur and a number of other clubs, but it is wrong to penalise the fans. They were not responsible for those irregularities and it is most unfair on them that their club will probably be relegated next season and they will not have the opportunity to see it in the FA cup. The Minister should recognise that the Government should at least have an opinion on that unfairness, that infringement of natural justice. I hope that in his reply the Minister will give the House the benefit of such an opinion.
§ Mr. David Amess (Basildon)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on his excellent and wide-ranging speech. I agreed with practically all that he said, but I disagree with him on cable television, and I shall deal with that later.
The House will know that my constituency has become a tourist centre for journalists, who visit it to describe events after they have happened. It has also become a tourist centre for socialist Members. I caution both sets of people not to be unwise by writing off my victory or that of Basildon just yet.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon and I entered the House on the same day. We agree on many issues, but one matter certainly divides us—football. My hon. Friend supports Swindon, and I support the team in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), which is West Ham. I much regret, but I do not fully regret, that we beat Swindon in both matches this year. I am sorry that my hon. Friend's team was relegated from the Premier league, and I hope that the House will join me in hoping that the team gains promotion to the Premier league next year.
I could not possibly not comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. It would be stretching the imagination to say that he and I could agree on anything, other than perhaps animal welfare. I did not agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the GLC. I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said about football. But one thing on which I undoubtedly agree with him is his anger. He is angry about the Conservative party. I and many of my hon. Friends are very angry with the behaviour of socialism at the moment.
Of course, the hon. Gentleman is not in any sense guilty, because, if he had his way—he clearly articulates what he believes socialism stands for—I am sure that the Labour party would clearly tell us what its policies were, and would have a leader articulate them.
Under the motion on leisure, if Opposition Members believe that, over the next two years, Conservative Members will sit back and allow the general public somehow to swallow this designer socialism, they are very wrong, and they would be foolish to think that they can get away with the same plea as that used by the President of the United States, that it is time for a change.
498 Moving on to the motion before the House, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon that leisure—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. I understood that the hon. Gentleman was already referring to the motion before the House. The admission from him that he was not, is not something that the Chair welcomes.
§ Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak)
Is it not the case that my hon. Friend was directly referring to the motion? He was talking about socialism and socialism is so un-serious these days that it has become a leisure industry.
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) is quite right to describe socialism as part of the leisure industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon was right when he said that leisure for some people is watching television. It may be eating or sleeping, or, for us politicians, it may be talking. I praise the leisure industry in the country, especially the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), a fellow Essex Member. As the House knows, Essex is the finest county in the country.
I do not believe that we are doing a good job of promoting ourselves at the moment. I blame the Opposition in particular for, at every opportunity, talking the country down, which is doing great damage, especially to leisure.
When one visits Disneyworld in Orlando or if one goes to the Epcot centre, all countries have a display for visitors and an enjoyable ride is provided on which visitors may go. Little countries, medium-sized countries and large countries all offer a good facility for people. Yet the British effort is ye olde pub and ye olde thatched cottage. We cannot even run to giving people a decent ride.
I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) were in their places earlier. It seems extraordinary that a wonderful ride—although I have no desire to go on it myself—has been opened recently in Blackpool on which one can drop at practically 90 deg. If we can do that in Blackpool, why, for goodness' sake, cannot those people who promote this country abroad concentrate for once on doing that very thing?
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I am intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's desire for a good ride; many of his colleagues could no doubt give him some acute advice in that respect. But what has that got to do with the Opposition? He started off, before he went on to the ride, by saying that the Opposition were failing to bolster British tourism and that they were talking the country down. I do not see the connection. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will enlighten me.
§ Mr. Amess
I have much to say about the Opposition talking the country down. I have no doubt that they would not agree with me that an issue such as the way in which our industry is displayed abroad is something on which we should concentrate. I shall explain precisely the sort of points that I am talking about.
§ Mr. Amess
The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) shakes her head, but it will become clear why I 499 believe that the Opposition have much to answer for. There are many ways in which, at no cost, we could talk the country up and direct our resources far better.
Ours is the finest country in the world, but the Opposition continually run it down, which affects the leisure industry. The Opposition keep telling people that the trains are better in France. They are not. The Opposition keep telling people that the streets are cleaner in Germany. They are not. The Opposition keep telling people that everyone in Japan works harder, but they do not —that is another lot of nonsense. Opposition Members are guilty of talking the country down, and that is damaging.
One of my hon. Friends said that Britain was the world's sixth greatest tourist attraction. Britain has had a huge influence on many countries, and I want it to be the world's No. 1 tourist attraction.
§ Ms Mowlam
Britain may be the world's sixth biggest attraction in terms of overseas visitors, whose numbers have increased in the past couple of years—but its percentage share of tourists has declined.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that we do not talk down this country. We do not say that the trains are better in France, only that we want a channel tunnel link between the coast and London. We do not say that the streets are dirtier in Britain, only that local authorities should have the same rights as local authorities in Germany to make certain decisions. We do not say that the people of Japan work harder, only that British workers should enjoy the same health, safety and wage protection as Japanese workers.
§ Mr. Amess
I could not disagree more. I have never known a more irresponsible Opposition. They have no policy initiatives. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West castigated one of my colleagues for commenting on the lack of attendance at this debate. My hon. Friend was less than charitable. We know that Opposition Members are working hard in their constituencies. It is more likely that they are having a policy review to explain yet again where they stand on this issue. Much damage is done by Opposition Members criticising this country and destroying morale.
Whenever I get into a taxi, I ask the driver, "How's business?" We always discuss tourism and leisure. It is interesting that claims that have no basis in fact are perpetuated and repeated, which is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
What does the average taxi driver say about the Prime Minister? Will the hon. Gentleman be honest?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would withdraw her sedentary remark.
§ Mr. Amess
No—I can tell the hon. Member for Newham, North-West that the average taxi driver tells me that he never, ever wants a Labour Government—he does not want socialism.
I much wanted Britain to be chosen as the venue for the Olympic games in the year 2000. Opposition Members congratulated Manchester on its bid, and I share in that. It was a marvellous effort, and I congratulate also my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on he way that he argued his case. We clearly saw the depth of patriotism aroused at the last Olympic games in Barcelona. This is not a frivolous point. Every time that a Spanish competitor looked likely to win, the king and queen of Spain could be seen jumping up and down in their seats in encouragement.
§ Mr. Elletson
Does my hon. Friend agree that many taxi drivers in Manchester immensely appreciated the way in which the Prime Minister had argued his case? Should we not continue to support Manchester, and ensure that it is the "Olympic bid" city next time as well?
§ Mr. Amess
It might be at the back of my mind. But it is no good our waiting until 1996 or 2000 to decide on the venue for the games; we must decide now, as a country, that we want to hold them here at the next opportunity.
We must be determined and talk the country up. It would be a wonderful boost if the next Olympic games took place here. I am disappointed that they will not take place here in the year 2000, but at least they will take place in one of our former colonies, and it is a great comfort that Her Majesty the Queen will be there to open the games.
§ Mr. Fabricant
I agree whole-heartedly that Manchester put in a very good bid, with enthusiasm. Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the many reasons why Manchester was not selected—and why it gained so few votes—is that it is not recognised internationally as a capital city? It is not a capital city, but, although Ankara is the capital of Turkey, Istanbul was recognised as the commercial capital.
Sydney is the commercial capital of Australia, and Beijing is both the commercial and the constitutional capital of the People's Republic of China. I hate the idea of basing everything in the south-east, but if we are to bid for the Olympic games in 2004, as I hope that we will—and if we are to have a realistic chance of success—surely we shall have to base them in London.
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend tempts me to speak against part of the United Kingdom, which I am not prepared to do. I want to make positive suggestions. I hope that my hon. Friends will not take offence, but I believe that London and Scotland have very strong cases. I hope that Manchester will hold the Commonwealth games—it has a strong case in that regard—but I think that London would be the ideal centre for the Olympics.
Earlier this week, I visited docklands with some of my hon. Friends. Here is another example of Opposition Members' talking the country down. Docklands could not be reproduced anywhere else in the world: it is a wonderful creation. Baroness Thatcher was entirely responsible for driving the docklands initiative.
501 All the houses there have now been sold or let, and Canary Wharf is 50 per cent. occupied. The Daily Mirror, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, Sears and one of the big advertising companies are there. It is looking very good, and we should be proud. I come from the area, and know what a dump docklands used, sadly, to be; I am certainly proud that the new infrastructure is of such high quality.
If we succeeded in our bid to hold the Olympic games in London, docklands would be an ideal centre because of its attractive use of water. Scotland would also be an attractive site. I sometimes get a bit fed up with Scottish Members—who seem to have a down on the rest of the United Kingdom—but Scotland is a beautiful region, although it rains a lot.
§ Mr. Fabricant
The Olympic games in the year 2000 will be held in the beautiful city of Sydney. Is my hon. Friend aware that the amount of rainfall in Sydney during the Australian winter is substantially higher than that in Manchester in summer? I wonder whether the International Olympic Committee realises that the Olympic games will be held in Sydney during its winter.
§ Mr. Amess
I had not realised that. It is probably a bit late for the committee to reverse its decision, but I shall write immediately to my Australian friends and ask them to explain the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon discussed the national lottery. Conservative Members are guilty of allowing the Opposition to get away with murder on the issue. It was the Conservative party's idea to have a national lottery. The Johnny-come-latelies in the Opposition are adopting a lottery-praising attitude, but the Conservative Government were responsible for it, and it will be a great success.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Is my hon. Friend aware that, after the Third Reading debate on the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, both the Opposition parties voted against it?
§ Mr. Amess
I am aware of that. One reason why I spent a fair bit of time in that debate was that I wanted the national lottery headquarters to be located in my constituency of Basildon. I am delighted that Camelot has been awarded the national lottery franchise. I have already corresponded with it to find out how it intends to run it.
I have not given up hope that Basildon will be entitled to some of the work that will be generated. First Data Resources is a wonderful company in my constituency, although its headquarters is in Omaha, Nebraska. It produces credit cards and has the expertise necessary for the production of, and the machinery behind, a national lottery.
The national lottery will produce £2 billion. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon discussed the ways in which the money could be spent. I do not want to go for the glamorous ways that have been mentioned. I am very involved with the National Association of Boys' Clubs in my constituency and proud to be the president of Basildon boys' club, Vange boys' club and other such organisations, which are run by wonderful people who give their time and turn out good citizens. It is an unglamorous form of leisure activity, but a valuable one.
502 It would be wrong if all the money from the national lottery were to find its way to high-profile leisure activities. I warn my hon. Friend the Minister that I shall seek to ensure that some of the resources from the lottery go to boys' clubs.
In his magnificent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned cable television, the one issue on which I disagreed with him. I am not an overly keen television fan. Most of us who have small children know that, by and large, they watch too much television. Turning it off continually does not stop them switching it on again when parents are out of the room. So much of what we see on television is rubbish.
That said, I was delighted when United Artists announced that it would locate its headquarters in my constituency, which could create about 800 jobs, an issue of concern to all hon. Members. However, I caution hon. Members whose constituencies do not have not cable. United Artists did not warn me—my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon has had a private word with me about cable—that every person's pavement would be dug up. That is all well and good if it is put back in good order, but not all pavements are grey or black. The modern style is sometimes to have a maroon pavement.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Is my hon. Friend also aware that, although some cable trenchers repair the pavements well, there can be serious damage to the roots of established trees? After four or five years, the trees decay. There are now guidelines—sadly, far too few cable operators adhere to them—on how to lay a trench without damaging trees and roads.
§ Mr. Amess
My hon. Friend is on to a good point. When it all started, I thought that there would be isolated incidents. However, people's water mains have been broken by drilling that has not been done properly. Power cables have been spoilt and there have been terrible rows about the resurfacing.
Perhaps I did not listen carefully at the time, because I did not realise that there would be channelling outside everyone's house. We have just gone through two election campaigns—the local and the European. When I knocked on people's doors, I found that they wanted to talk not about the social chapter, but about their roads being dug up.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon that, as a Conservative, I believe in choice. Although I understand the benefits of cable, I believe that there is a serious duty on the contractors to repair the roads properly. If my constituency is anything to go by, the contractors have not discharged their obligations to the high level that I should have expected.
Yes, I will continue to support private enterprise, but I do not think that it is fair for many of my constituents to wake up in the morning and find that they cannot get out of their drive because a digger has been dumped. There are many such examples; I am sad to say that they are not isolated examples.
§ Mr. Simon Coombs
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I can give him one or two pieces of consolation. My constituency went through this business 10 years ago; it was one of the first to be substantially cabled. Many of the problems that my hon. Friend has 503 described so vividly were visited on us at that time. Experience usually teaches contractors how to avoid some of the mistakes.
On behalf of his constituents, my hon. Friend must take up vigorously with the cable company concerned the problems that are being experienced. There is a difficulty in management. The cable companies themselves are anxious to get on with the business of providing a service, and the contractors, who are often brought from other parts of the country, do not have quite the right attitude some of the time, I am afraid to say.
The problems have been addressed in other areas. There is an excellent organisation, the Cable Television Association, to which my hon. Friend should address his complaints, so that they can then be referred to the local cable company, with a little pressure to ensure that things are done properly. The nice thing is that, although there is a blemish on the pavement, the value of properties increases when people realise that they have access to cable.
§ Mr. Amess
I am encouraged and reassured by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon, and I shall take his advice. I do not mean my next remark unkindly; I have been trying to sort out people's problems with cabling for more than four months. The matter has gone on for a lot longer than I would have hoped.
In a debate such as this one, it is wrong for us not to mention the disabled. In their competitive sports in my constituency, the disabled are not only the equals of able-bodied people, but excel themselves. I am proud that, in my constituency, we have a young fellow called Andrew Blake, who won a number of Olympic golds In the Paraplegic Olympics. We also have a wonderful lady, Betty Jefferies, who also achieved a great deal. I pay a warm tribute to all the disabled groups in my constituency.
I do not know whether the Department of National Heritage has pushed vigorously the benefits of Sport Aid. My hon. Friend the Minister probably does not entirely welcome my raising the matter now; I do not know how much money is left. However, I thank him and his officials personally for the way in which my constituency has benefited from that money. I am delighted to say that Bowers United, a local football team, as a result of assistance from the Department of National Heritage, now has floodlights. As a result, the club will be in the FA cup this year for the first time in its history. It was always of a very high standard, but it was not eligible because it did not have floodlights. The grant of what I believe was £45,000 made available through Sports Aid has made many of my constituents very happy.
Of course, no constituency Member is always entirely satisfied. That is why I make no apology for my plea now for an organisation in my constituency which is intent on building the Essex international table tennis centre. I know that table tennis is not quite as popular as it was some years ago—I remember that Desmond Douglas was a champion, and one or two other people. It is the intention of a number of my constituents to build that centre of excellence in Basildon.
We have been told by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts that it is considering a grant application from the organisers for £150,000. The Eastern region sports council —headed by a wonderful footballer from West Ham, Trevor Brooking—will be supplying a further £100,000. But to make the project happen, we really are dependent on 504 the foundation advancing the money. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister if, through his Department, he would do everything that he possibly can to assist us with our application.
Moving on quickly, I take this opportunity to join the hon. Member Newham, North-West in his remarks on the world cup and football generally. It is terrible that we are watching a world cup with no England team involved. I am not going to talk about the previous manager, because I want to be positive about the way forward.
Last November, I tried to introduce in this House a ten-minute rule Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North had a go yesterday with a Bill on the subject of identity cards. I support them, although my ten-minute rule Bill was for a voluntary scheme. I wanted to amend the Football Spectators Act 1989. We make a great mistake in the House if we think that hooliganism has gone away. I do not believe that it has. We must not forget the disgraceful scenes at Millwall a few weeks ago, when fans rioted after an eliminator.
Never mind what the Europeans do in their countries. It is up to them through the European Community to put their own houses in order. We should lead the way in this country, and we must look at the passport situation very carefully.
Conservative-controlled Basildon district council runs wonderful sports and leisure facilities in my constituency. There is an example of a good council working with the private sector. There is the Eversley leisure centre which was opened in 87, the Markham Chase leisure centre opened in 1989, and the Pitsea welcome centre, which was opened in 1981. We have a number of wonderful swimming pools, and never let anyone forget the magnificent sportswomen and men in my constituency.
Fatima Whitbread lives just outside the constituency and supports all our local leisure activities. Basildon produced last year's winner of the London marathon—Eammon Martin. He is a wonderful example of all that is good in British sport today. He did not win this year, but he ran extremely well. He visited the House of Commons on Friday, and we were pleased to have him here with us.
There are marvellous golf courses in Basildon, and the Kingswood squash centre—the finest squash centre in Europe—which is run by the Guppy family. Another golf course that has just opened is called Stockbrook Manor, which very generously made me vice-president. All I have to do now is learn to play golf. It is a wonderful facility, and I know that many of my constituents will appreciate it.
A wonderful event took place yesterday in Pitsea hall park in Basildon, attended by 4,000 constituents, the Henry Bear teddy bears' picnic. That event may not, sadly, have been reported in the national newspapers today, because we know that they are not too interested in the good news. That picnic was a wonderful example of a group of organisations working together, in particular PPA, which recently held a tea party in the House, Home Start and the district council. The event was attended by mums and dads, who brought along their children aged between two and five. They all enjoyed the leisure facilities on offer.
I am particularly proud of what will happen in Basildon on Saturday and Sunday, when a huge rally of young people will be held. The event, known as Positive Youth, was the idea of Mr. Jackaman, of Kathleen Ferrier crescent, Basildon. He came along to my surgery two years ago and said, "David, I am fed up with all the bad publicity that 505 young people in this country get. I want to have a celebration over a weekend of all the marvellous activities in which they are involved."
We will have to wait to see whether that event makes the headlines in our national newspapers, but it is good news about young people. It will offer a range of activities including running, jumping and swimming. The Guides, the Brownies and the Red Cross will be there. I am delighted to note that MK Electrics is among the sponsors together with First Data Resources. We have now decided to twin Basildon with Omaha, Nebraska, because of First Data Resources. It has generously donated three prizes for three young people to visit Omaha for three weeks to learn about its leisure facilities.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon on allowing us to debate leisure activities. It is a tragedy that at the moment we are so adept at talking ourselves down rather than talking ourselves up. We have much to be proud of. This is a very great country. I hope that the entire nation will unite behind the efforts of our leisure industry to promote this country not only to our good citizens but to the rest of the world.
§ 1.7 pm
§ Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak)
I could not possibly begin my speech without paying tribute to the wonderful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess). Before today, I had not naturally thought of Basildon as the next venue for the Olympic games. The more I thought about it, however, the more evident that possibility became. My hon. Friend has run a marathon performance there for many years. Every hurdle he has met he has leapt across and he has shown that no hurdle is too high for him. He goes on vaulting to new heights every time he speaks on behalf of his constituents.
One thing we know for certain is that, added to that list of formidable stadiums in Basildon will shortly by the Amess stadium, in honour of the man who has shown a level of energy, enthusiasm and commitment to his constituency that has been matched by few other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Hendry
I heard that sedentary intervention and I can understand why the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is angry, because the greatest tourist attraction in his constituency is the northern sewage outlet. That is scarcely in competition with even the most meagre tower block in Basildon or any of the beautiful sights in my constituency.
§ Mr. Hendry
I am immensely grateful for that invitation. When the hon. Gentleman described it as a "green" walk, I wanted to know why it was green, and whether something coming out of the sewer outlet causes it to be that colour. I should be delighted to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency and make his constituents realise that they should follow the Conservative approach to tourism. When they compare what is on offer in their 506 constituency with what is on offer in Conservative constituencies, they will realise that there is no comparison between the two.
My constituency is just outside Manchester and I was desperately saddened that we did not win the Olympic bid for the year 2000. One reason why those games went to Sydney was that many of those who would have backed Manchester felt that they had to stop Peking winning at all costs, and so opted for the city which they felt stood the best chance of doing that. Manchester's case was much more strongly put than the end result gave it credit for. Had the media attention paid as much attention, before the decision was made, to explaining and pushing Manchester's case as they paid afterwards to explaining why Manchester had lost, we would have had a better chance of winning votes.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on initiating this important debate. It is appropriate that we should have it now, as we are in the middle of the British leisure season, the most famous in the entire world. This week and next, we have Wimbledon —it may not last until the end of next week, given the way it is going; next week, we shall have Henley; Ascot was held recently; and Glyndebourne will go on through the summer. Those events give us the most famous leisure season in the world. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) is scoffing. Those events are not just wonderful for the people who attend them; they are watched by millions, not just in this country but throughout the world. The Wimbledon final will be the most widely watched sporting event in the world on that day. Those events do a tremendous amount of credit to Britain and its image overseas.
§ Ms Mowlam
May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I was not scoffing at the events but thinking how those events change in national importance. As the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) said, we must consider the difficult question of national coverage—when a national event should remain national and how to keep it on our national terrestrial television so that it is the cement that keeps our society together. I must admit that I had a little snigger at Glyndebourne, wonderful place though it is, because people in Redcar get little opportunity to see opera. That is not good for people.
§ Mr. Hendry
I agree with the hon. Lady but just down the road from her is Opera North, and the number of facilities is increasing. Emphasis has been put on touring opera to ensure that her constituents have a chance to see some of the wonderful opera that is available.
I was intrigued by the hon. Lady's speech, although I picked up few policy points from it. She mentioned the number of bank holidays in this country, but it was not clear whether she was promising more under a Labour Government as a carrot, implying that if people voted Labour they could have every day off or saying that businesses would suffer as a result of more bank holidays. Or perhaps she was saying that, because we have fewer bank holidays than other countries in Europe, we have a greater commitment to our work and the success of our country. She simply raised the matter as an interesting subject. I agree that it is interesting, but it would be nice to know whether the Opposition have a policy on it.
§ Ms Mowlam
With a Government whose policies are drifting, we have learnt not to be specific about our policies 507 two years from an election because if we are, the Government will simply nick them. I was trying to highlight four or five important points that need to be dealt with for the good of our tourist industry and to give pointers in the hope that things will be done, because the industry is crucial for our growth and development. On many of the points that I made, I was agreeing with the hon. Member for Swindon, who introduced the debate.
§ Mr. Hendry
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. It is helpful to know that the reason why the Opposition do not dare to have any policies is that somebody might agree with them. I am sure that, when the Labour party comes to put forward policies, if Conservative Members find that there is any element in them that is favourable, the Opposition will not simply stick to their gut reaction of opposing everything at every opportunity, which happens too often.
§ Mr. Fabricant
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for letting me intervene. Before the intervention of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), he was mentioning the coverage of Wimbledon and the final. The hon. Gentleman might be interested to learn that during the two weeks of Wimbledon, the BBC is providing five simultaneous channels of continuous coverage from the different courts to 18 different countries, with all the technology that that involves. I had the opportunity to see, as recently as two or three days ago, the way that Spanish Television, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and M-Net in Johannesburg are covering, not only the finals, but the two weeks of Wimbledon, day by day, ball by ball. Is not that one of the things that promote Britain throughout the world?
§ Mr. Hendry
My hon. Friend is right. That will be an immensely popular service in every country that I can think of apart from Germany, which probably would not wish to watch Wimbledon.
The motion correctly points out the great role that has been played by the Department of National Heritage. My constituency has more to be grateful for on that front than almost any other constituency in the country. The predecessor of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State stepped in with a compulsory repairs order to save the grade 1-listed Crescent in Buxton —the pivotal centre of Buxton. A £1 million pound grant has now been made available through English Heritage. Thanks to the Government's intervention and the money that they have made available through English Heritage and the national heritage memorial fund, a building which was falling apart—which had decayed almost to the point at which it could not have been saved—has had its future secured.
Money has also been put in to restore the Slopes, which are the wonderful slopes that come down from the top of the town to the front of the Crescent. Those two restorations combined will do more than anything to make Buxton one of the most appealing tourist attractions in the country.
I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) occasionally engage in a little bit of rivalry about which constituency attracts the most tourists and which is falling into the sea most rapidly. But both their constituencies combined have fewer visitors a year than does High Peak: 22 million visitors a year visit the national 508 park—more than are received by any national park in the world outside Mount Fuji in Japan. People flock not only from the surrounding cities of Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Derby and Birmingham but from places throughout the world to look at its stunning beauty.
Although the Department for National Heritage deserves tremendous credit, the greatest credit goes to the individual people who have made that success. It goes to the hoteliers and people who run bed and breakfasts, who have made the national park a welcoming place to come and who ensure that people return time after time to our award-winning hotels. It goes to the people who run the sporting activities, the people who harnessed the natural beauty of the Peak district with man's talent and man's ability to take part in sport. It goes to the way in which the reservoirs are used for sailing, windsurfing and other water sports. It goes to the way in which we put money into sports clubs, rugby clubs and cricket—into the range of sports that make English life what it is.
I give tremendous credit and gratitude to the support that we have had from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. The sporting clubs in my constituency have had many tens of thousands of pounds' worth of support from the FSA. That support has enabled them to expand, to bring in new people, to provide a worthwhile activity in which young people can become involved. That support is tremendously welcome and we are grateful.
We have in the area some of the finest treasures in the country. At Chatsworth house, just outside my constituency, the Duchess of Devonshire has shown other stately home owners how to run their houses—not only in the best interests of those home owners, who want to secure their heritage in their homes, but for the benefit of people who want to enjoy them and who like a good day out. I believe that the Duchess of Devonshire was invited by Her Majesty to give her advice on how to open Buckingham palace to the public. I hope that Her Majesty will not have the same trouble as the duchess. A man came up to the duchess in the grounds of Chatsworth and said, "Here, lady—you're not allowed dogs in here." He did not realise that she owned the place and could probably take her dogs where she wished. I trust that Her Majesty will not have a similar problem in her own garden.
Chatsworth house is a wonderful jewel, and next door, is Haddon hall, owned by the Duke of Rutland. Those two wonderful, historic families have preserved a jewel of this country's treasure, which can be enjoyed by millions of people over the years.
§ Mr. Hendry
In Buxton there is a marvellous opera house. No doubt the hon. Member for Newham, North-West thinks that that is stuffed with bourgeois layabouts. It is not case; it is a small jewel of an opera house—a 900 seater. I invite the hon. Gentleman to come. After I have walked along his sewage outfall with him, I hope that he will come with me to enjoy the Buxton opera house—
§ Mr. Hendry
The champagne will most certainly be on me because I realise that when the hon. Gentleman comes 509 to my constituency the scales will fall from his eyes and a vision will open before him of how much more beautiful life could be if he lived in my constituency.
Tremendous effort is put in by people who, weekend after weekend, give of their own time. The Victorian weekend in Glossop brings the town together—residents celebrate its unique facilities and delightful assets. Young girls from all over the area participate in the May queen festival in Hayfield, and I am given the joyful role of judging the competition.
We also have the wonderful and historic well-dressing events in Derbyshire. Our wells are the source of our water and the source of our prosperity, so we give great thanks for that supply. We also give thanks to North West Water and Severn Trent Water for purifying the water and delivering it to us. There are great celebrations of village life in my constituency and such events ensure that, year after year, people return to see what we have to offer.
We must beware that we do not kill the golden goose. We could do so either through over-bureaucracy or by putting too much pressure on people through organisations such as the Peak national park. We could damage our assets. Of course, there is a case to be made for managing better the 22 million people who visit my constituency and for ensuring that the traffic flow is kept down so that we do not have traffic queues in the constituency that are worse than those in the city centres from which people have moved away.
We must ensure that we carry the people with us. The Peak national park and the Peak tourism partnership must not impose their way of life on the people who live and work in those constituencies, at their expense. When we make districts conservation areas, it should be a selling exercise. People should not be told that their district is to be a conservation area whether they like it or not. People should want their district to be a conservation area because they perceive the benefits. Sadly, that is not the case now and there is a greater need for organisations such as the Peak national park to carry the people with them.
If the district is to be successful, we must strike a balance between the interests of the visitors and the interests of those who live and work there. We must balance the interests of the hang gliders against those of people who live round about. I tried hang gliding, but I was not very successful. I hovered about three inches off the ground and did not make any progress. At least I missed the overhead pylons. Residents in Castleton are fed up with people jumping off the top of Mam Tor, a mountain in the middle of the constituency, and landing in the middle of the village, disrupting the traffic, frightening the sheep and bouncing off the power cables in between. If we participate in sports in rural areas, we must ensure that we respect the interests of those who live there.
Last year, I introduced a Bill in the House to enable footpaths to be closed in the national park during times of particularly high fire risk. The previous year, hundreds of acres of moorland were devastated by fire. Under existing law, we cannot close footpaths even when we know that one bit of glass dropped, one careless match or one cigarette end can cause carnage—damaging the heather for years to come and setting back the wildlife for generations.
Hundreds of people in my constituency earn their living by quarrying. Certainly, we need to be concerned about the 510 natural beauty of the area, but Buxton Lime Industries, for instance, has the biggest quarry in Europe. If we tell such companies that they have no right to be there because we have changed our environmental approach, the very reason for the existence of the villages in the area—the reason why people moved there in the first place—will be taken away from them. So the right balance must be struck.
Deregulation also remains an issue. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, on the sterling work that he has done towards tackling excessive bureaucracy—those rules that we all knew were rubbish but which were forced on people who run bed-and-breakfast accommodation, hotels and tourist attractions. Much is being done, but I urge the Minister—I do not imagine that he needs much urging—to nerve himself to continue the fight against regulation with unrelenting vigour, so that we can tackle all this gobbledegook and sweep away ridiculous rules.
There has been progress. When we last debated this matter, significant attention was devoted to the silly signs denoting animal attractions, which all had to show an elephant. For the sake of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, I am wearing my elephant tie today, in recognition of his and my great interest in elephants, but I do not want to see them on every signpost for flamingo parks, whale sanctuaries and so on. There has been sensible progress in this area, but if we want a truly dynamic tourist industry we must sweep away the regulations that hinder it.
My final point relates to farmers—in an area such as High Peak, the guardians of the countryside. They conserve it and they ensure that we can enjoy all that beauty in perpetuity. Perhaps we do not get the system quite right, however. We give grants to farmers who put up stone walls, but if a farmer has maintained his dry stone walls year in, year out, he will not get a penny in grant. A farmer who allows his walls to fall down will get a grant from the Government to put them up again. If, as we must, we give grants for conservation purposes, the focus should be changed to reward farmers who maintain their walls and barns in good condition. We want the countryside to be maintained in a way that keeps it beautiful and shows that mankind can improve on nature, harnessing natural resources for the benefit of those who live in an area or want to visit it.
In many ways, High Peak is a beacon for the leisure and tourist industries. I am always glad to invite my colleagues to visit it; I hope that they will always feel free to do so. I am grateful for having had the chance to make a small contribution to this important debate.
§ Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)
It is a great privilege to take part in this debate and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), whose brave initiative it was to initiate it. It is also a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), a near neighbour of mine. He mentioned Castleton; I have not hang-glided off Mam Tor, but I have climbed it and afterwards enjoyed sustenance at Ye Olde Nag's Head, an excellent restaurant and hostelry in Castleton—which, of course, is not far from Buxton. Although I have not recently visited the opera house there, I have been to the pub next door to it. In its own special 511 way, it, too, has a great deal of style which reflects the general character of Buxton and of the hon. Member who represents that great town.
I shall speak only briefly, on four topics. I should like to discuss broadcasting, to touch on investment in tourism, to talk about the different sorts of holidays we can enjoy in the United Kingdom, and to discuss the great city of Lichfield, which occupies a small part of my 34-mile long constituency but whose population accounts for 35 or 40 per cent. of the total.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon was absolutely right to talk at some length about broadcasting, although some might have said that it was not the sort of subject to be mentioned in a debate on leisure. As my hon. Friend said, on average United Kingdom citizens watch television for three hours and 45 minutes each day. That is far too long when there are other things that they could be doing, but it is a smidgen compared with the time that US citizens spend watching television—about seven hours a day. That shows the lack of imagination of some American citizens, or a lack of alternative interesting activities to draw them away from television. It is certainly not a reflection on the quality of television there. I was a student in the United States and I later worked there, and I know that it is not a patch on the television that is available in the United Kingdom.
The Select Committee on National Heritage is currently looking not only at broadcasting but at sport and its broadcast coverage. I do not wish to pre-empt the Committee's conclusions because final decisions have yet to be made. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) spoke about listings—the sports that are confined to terrestrial broadcasters. The Wimbledon finals are an example. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak spoke of the importance of Wimbledon in promoting Britain abroad. While at Wimbledon two or three days ago, I noted that about 20 per cent. of the people walking around seemed to be speaking foreign languages. That demonstrates that not only does Wimbledon promote Britain abroad among people who watch the games in their own countries, but it attracts people to the United Kingdom. Initially Wimbledon may have drawn German visitors but, sadly, many of them will have left by now.
The BBC is broadcasting on five channels simultaneously to broadcasters in different parts of the world, and that is a great credit to the BBC. Very few broadcasting organisations would be capable of doing that. For much of the time, we in the United Kingdom see only one of those channels, although sometimes BBC1 and BBC2 simultaneously cover different aspects of Wimbledon. Three additional feeds go to various parts of the world.
We shall find out in the next week or two, when the Select Committee on National Heritage makes its recommendations, whether the listings will be abolished or expanded or whether subscription services will come under the purview of the listings. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Minister will read that report in detail, as will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, because I know that they both read Select Committee reports with great interest. No doubt they act on them.
It is unfortunate that people get cheap laughs at party conferences by referring to the BBC as the bolshevik broadcasting corporation. That is not the case: many people who work at the BBC are not socialists but 512 Conservatives. The BBC does an excellent job, as do Independent Television and other United Kingdom broadcasters.
I agree with the hon. Member for Redcar when she says that not enough research is being done in investment in tourism. It would make an excellent subject for a doctoral thesis and I invite universities in various parts of the United Kingdom to encourage students to undertake a doctoral thesis in the cost benefit of investing in tourism. I believe that there is a multiplier effect and if the state—the taxpayer—were to invest more in the promotion of British tourism abroad, alongside the private sector, it would not be investment down the drain. I believe, but I do not know because the facts are not available, that it would generate a huge return in money raised through the Exchequer, from corporation tax on our hotel groups, from income tax from those people employed in the leisure industry and also from VAT as people pay for their hotel bills and go on rides, such as the biggest helter-skelter in the United Kingdom, if not the biggest in Europe, which happens to be in the domain of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson). I must point out, however, that the most exciting, even if not the tallest, helter-skelter in the United Kingdom is the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers, which is not far at all from my own patch of Mid-Staffordshire.
I therefore invite universities, other places of higher learning and institutions that conduct such research to try to perform an analysis. We need hard data. What is the percentage return that we can expect from promoting Britain abroad? How much money is raised by tourists coming to the United Kingdom? Guesses are made and the guesses may well be informed. On the other hand, they may not be. I agree with the hon. Member for Redcar when she says that she suspects that we may well be underestimating the amount of money that enters the country—directly and indirectly—from tourism. That area needs to be explored in much more detail.
There are many different sorts of holidays available in the United Kingdom. It saddens me when I meet American friends who say, "We've visited the United Kingdom. We've seen the UK." I ask them where they have been. They say, "We've been to London and we've been to Stratford-on-Avon." Sometimes they say that they have been to Blackpool, but rarely. Sometimes they say that they have been to our great university towns. What do they mean by that? They mean Oxford or Cambridge, but what about Durham? Durham has one of our oldest universities. I did not go there, I have no axe to grind there, but Durham is a beautiful city and yet, it saddens me when so few people visit it. It saddens me, too, when one walks around the Cotswolds. Stratford-on-Avon is almost sinking under the weight of American tourists. Yet when one visits beautiful villages such as Broadway, they are virtually empty of tourists from abroad. They are filled with tourists from the UK, but I rarely see tourists from abroad in such villages.
It is tremendously important to promote other parts of the United Kingdom. Whenever I go to the United States, I make a point of touring around various parts that even American friends say they have never visited. It is also regrettable that too many Brits fail to visit other parts of the British Isles. Two Christmases ago, I went to Scotland to tour the area. At the tender age of 42, I visited Scotland for the first time. That is a shame, but I am trying hard to 513 rectify the situation. At present, my knowledge and geography of the United States of America is far better than that of the United Kingdom.
Different types of holidays are being promoted in the UK. People undertake cycling holidays. Britain boasts one of the largest canal systems in Europe. I went for the first time on a canal boat holiday for a long weekend a few weeks ago. I travelled from Fiore in Northamptonshire to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and back. What a marvellous experience that was. At one point, looking at the map, I could tell that I was within 150 yards of the M1 motorway. Yet I could have been in a totally different world. In fact, in many ways, I was in a completely different world and living at a completely different pace of life. Such holidays should be promoted more. It was a great pleasure to discover that many of the other people travelling on narrow boats were not from the United Kingdom. Many of them were American. I do not want hon. Members to think that I am criticising Americans—far from it. I simply pick on them as the archetypal visitor to the United Kingdom. We not only export canal boat holidays, in the sense that they attract overseas visitors, but the largest canal boat cruise company in France is British owned. I like to think that British people occasionally go to France—after all, it is a fellow member of the European Union—and that many of them are taking their holidays with a British company, so that the money comes back to the UK one way or the other.
There are other unusual holidays. One involves visiting different castles by bicycle or canal boat. Warwick is one of the best castles to visit, and it is in the private sector. It has been imaginatively and tastefully developed. One can also take holidays in hotels in the form of mystery weekends, at which one has to determine who is the murderer in a scenario in which Hercule Poirot appears. That is uniquely British.
My own patch is the city of Lichfield. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) said that he was a successor to the first Member of Parliament for Scarborough, who was elected in 1295. When my hon. Friend said that, I rushed off to the Library and discovered that I pre-date my hon. Friend not just in my birthday but in the sense that the first Member of Parliament for Lichfield attended at Oxford on 15 November 1213 to meet there in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Library was unable to tell me his name. However, the first recorded Members of Parliament for Lichfield sat in the Parliament of 1304. They were Vincentius de Hulton and Nicholaus Clericus. I suppose that with a name like Fabricant, which I never pronounce with a French accent, I follow that Norman style. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough follows Robertus le Covoner and Johannes Hamund, who are linked in many ways with the name Sykes.
Lichfield cathedral is 800 years old and attracts many visitors. In the near vicinity there are Alton Towers and The Belfry, where the Ryder Cup was recently staged. Lichfield also recently held folk and jazz festivals and will shortly stage the Lichfield arts festival. It is interesting that many able people were born in Lichfield but subsequently left. I live in the home of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, and the actor David Garrick was born in Lichfield. Ashmol, founder of the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, was also born in Lichfield, and Dr. Johnson was 514 born and educated there. Even you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, visited Lichfield to chair or address a mock Parliament in our ancient Guildhall, for which I thank you. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage will visit Lichfield tomorrow and I look forward to that event, as do the people of Lichfield, with great interest and excitement. The annual Bower festival in Lichfield dates back to the 13th century. Morris dancers and the Member of Parliament, sheriff and mayor of Lichfield all take part. Interesting people come along: I hope that some day the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will take part in this exciting event.
Britain offers overseas visitors a gamut of activities and places. It is sad that while certain parts of the United Kingdom are sinking under the weight of those visitors, others are not often visited. It is also sad that certain unusual holidays do not attract overseas visitors; they need to be promoted more. I believe that investment by the United Kingdom in overseas promotion of British activities—together with private investment—is well worth while. I hope that universities will take up the challenge that I have offered and research further into the moneys that investment in tourism could return to our economy.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. lain Sproat)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on securing the debate and choosing its subject: the House is in his debt. He gave us a marvellously sweeping and comprehensive view of many of the activities for which the Department of National Heritage is responsible and, in doing so, made an extremely important point about the Department as a whole.
Most of the debate has concerned tourism, quite rightly. I believe that, before the Department was set up after the last general election, we had had no debates on tourism for four or five years; yet, within the time of the current Parliament, I have taken part in two major tourism debates. The other day, we had an important debate on the arts in which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) took part, and my predecessor participated in another debate on tourism. I think that the establishment of the Department of National Heritage has focused the minds of hon. Members and Governments, and I hope that it has had the same effect on the leisure industry, particularly tourism. For that alone, I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon.
The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) properly conveyed the apologies of her hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) for his absence. I should put on record that I appreciated his courtesy in telling me that he would not be here. We value his contributions to tourism and sport debates very much, not least in his capacity as a former boxing champion; we miss the advice that he would have given today, although we greatly envy his being in the United States to watch the world cup. I know that he wanted to attend an Adjournment debate the other night and normally he attends such debates assiduously. I should add that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks)—also an assiduous attender of tourism debates—is abroad on parliamentary business. We miss the contribution that he, too, would have made.
515 Near the beginning of his speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon used a very good phrase: he said that we had become "an earplug society". I took him to mean that we listen too much to Sony Walkman personal stereos, as well as watching too much television and too many videos. Far be it from any Government to say how much time people should spend watching television and videos, but it is extremely important that our children should not spend so much time watching television and videos and playing computer games that they do not take proper physical exercise or play enough sport. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said, one of the things that I am most keen to do is to ensure that children have proper opportunities to play sport, especially team games in school. My Department and the Department for Education are in the process of producing a joint report on what we should do to increase sport in schools. Sir Ron Dearing has produced his report and we are looking forward to hearing people's comments on it by the end of next month.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation and paid it some well-deserved compliments. The hon. Member for Redcar also mentioned the BBC. All hon. Members will know that a White Paper on the BBC will be produced shortly and until that moment comes I shall let the matter rest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon launched a gentle attack—as attacks go in this place—on the arm's-length principle as it applies to the Arts Council. Of course, I take his point that Ministers often get the blame for decisions that are taken by the Arts Council. My hon. Friend mentioned the case of the London orchestras last year. Although there may be occasions when, had I been taking the decision, it would have been different from that of the Arts Council, it is common ground among hon. Members of all parties that, on balance, we should continue to adhere to the arm's-length principle and that, although from time to time the Arts Council, the regional arts boards, the sports councils and others make decisions with which we do not agree, the principle is worth sticking by.
My hon. Friend then moved on to the national lottery. As he rightly said, it will revolutionise the way in which we consider many projects that will be funded by the lottery. A number of hon. Members said that tourism will not be directly eligible for lottery funds, but tourism receives a substantial indirect benefit from the five areas that will directly benefit from the national lottery—sport, the arts, charities, the built heritage and the millennium fund. I hope that those involved in tourism will get together with others and apply for lottery funds. Clearly, the built heritage is at the heart of what is attractive about this country. I hope that those involved in the tourist industry will get together with others and come up with projects that will improve our built heritage, which will in turn attract more tourists to any given area.
It is worth making another point about the lottery. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said that he was concerned about the relationship between capital spending and revenue spending from lottery funding. He was right to make that point. In the past few months, I have gone round every sports region in this country. At every meeting, the issue that people were most concerned about was the relationship between capital and revenue funding. Although sports projects would, rightly, be eligible for lottery funding, the people to whom I talked were afraid that, because it was all capital spending, we would find 516 ourselves building, let us say, a load of new leisure centres with no money to pay people to run them or for maintenance and repairs. One statistic that I picked up somewhere along the regional sports trail was that it cost £200 an hour to keep an ice rink frozen. That is serious money. It is no use putting up the capital spending to build the ice rink and then not having the revenue cash to deal with it.
I am glad that as a result of many of the representations to me and to other Ministers, we have now issued directions whereby it is possible, when a capital project is to be funded by the lottery, to make arrangements whereby revenue funding will follow it. There cannot be revenue funding for a project if there is no capital funding. In the case of the leisure centre, which I gave an instance of a moment ago, there can be revenue funding either by way of an endowment trust or by way of direct funding from, let us say, the Sports Council. That is a very happy compromise and I am glad that we have reached it. It may turn out that that is wrong; it could be wrong either way. We may find that the lottery money is silting up too much and that we shall wish to go back to more capital funding. I do not think so, but it may happen. In one, two or three years' time, we will look at the matter. We will keep an open mind on the subject. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon feels that the important central point that he raised has been dealt with satisfactorily, as appears to be the case for the moment—at least until we have more experience to look at.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon also mentioned the film industry. Nobody could have done more over the past months than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take advice on what should be done about the film industry. My right hon. Friend has seen representatives from almost every possible branch of the industry. He is considering what to do—whether there is more Government help that could be given or not. He will make his announcement shortly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned sporting scholarships; that is a very important point. Sporting scholarships would not, of course, be eligible for lottery funding directly, for the reasons that I have just given. However, I undertake to look carefully at what my hon. Friend has said. It may be that before the summer recess, I shall have the chance to make an announcement about what we intend to do about the Sports Councils. I certainly very much hope that we shall be able to do that by the summer recess. My hon. Friend may then be able to put his question to me in that context.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon also made the point about the inflation-linking of the level above which the Sports Councils have to come to my Department to ask permission to spend money. I will look at that point; I am not entirely convinced. The recent reports by the National Audit Office and others have made me look extremely cautiously at the way in which the Sports Councils and other bodies spend money. I undertake to look at that point. As I said, I hope that the Sports Councils announcement will be made before the summer recess.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon then passed on to an important section of his speech—the section on tourism. I do not think that any hon. Member these days needs to be reminded of the importance of that industry. I was very struck by the fact that the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) said that she would not run through all the statistics again about the industry involving 1.5 517 million people and having a turnover of £30 billion. We all understand why. It is significant that only two or three years ago, she would not have said that. It is because, quite rightly, we have had so much concentration on tourism that people know the statistics. Certainly five or 10 years ago, those statistics would not have been at the top of everyone's mind. That is a tribute, I hope, to what the Department of National Heritage, among others, has done to explain the importance of tourism as a major industry in this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) referred to my being an industry Minister and he was absolutely right. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) suggested that we might put the section on tourism at the front of our annual report in future. That is a very good idea and I see no reason why it should not be done. It is certainly true that for the first time ever we have a Department—the Department of National Heritage—in which tourism is the single most important economic element. I am acutely conscious of that. The fact that tourism has played such an important part in today's debate shows that the House is very conscious of that fact. I am also acutely conscious of the fact that the hon. Member for Newham North-West (Mr. Banks) has an important motion on which he would like to speak. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but this has been such a wide-ranging and valuable debate that I could certainly take up all of the time available.
§ Mr. Simon Coombs
My hon. Friend has covered my points in great detail. He has missed only one, and I should like to give him the chance to respond to it. I raised the matter of the private sector and its relationship with the various funding bodies under the lottery in relation to sport and heritage. Will he clarify the position of the private sector in respect of its entitlement to lottery proceeds for joint funding?
§ Mr. Sproat
I shall do my best to clarify it. I say "do my best" not out of false modesty, but because it is a grey area. As I understand it, the National Heritage Memorial Fund is prevented by primary legislation from giving money to private sector organisations. For instance, if one owned a stately home or a pier—Hastings pier was an example which I looked at the other day have—one would have to turn oneself into a charity before being eligible for certain sectors of money. That is certainly true of any funds that somebody applied for from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
In other areas, such as sport, it is a question of what the royal charter of the Sports Council allows it to do. As I understand it, the Sports Council is of the opinion that its charter may allow it to give money to partnerships that include private sector profit-making bodies. That will be something for the Sports Council to go over again with its lawyers, no doubt before the first applications come forward. That is also the case for the Arts Council, and so on.
It is a very important point. We want a proper partnership with bodies that have applied for the national lottery funds, and those may be local authorities, organisations with private sector involvement, charities or whatever. The key question is—is the lottery money going 518 to be used for the "public good"? Clearly those are words which can be defined in a number of ways, but basically that is the key element. I very much hope that, certainly as far as sport is concerned, it will prove that we can look at private sector bids as part of a partnership. My hon. Friend mentioned the David Lloyd tennis centre, but I cannot not tell him off the top of my head whether that body is eligible or not.
My hon. Friend has makes an important point, and it is a grey area which the bodies will be looking at in the coming months. If we find that they are prevented from involving the private sector bodies in partnership, we will look again at the legislation and see whether it ought to be changed. I am not saying that it should be changed, but we will look at it.
Had I more time, I would have spoken more on the position of the English tourist board and the British Tourist Authority. As we do not have as much time as we would have liked, I shall just say that it has made a terrific difference having Adele Biss as chairman of the English tourist board. The managing directors, as it were, are John East and, at the BTA, Anthony Sell. I feel that they are injecting a new sense of dynamism into those organisations. They have been looking at everything. For instance, Anthony Sell has just completed a tour of all of the BTA stations around the world. He is getting the bureaucracy squeezed out of the centre and directing it to the outposts for promoting this country abroad, and I congratulate him on that.
At this stage, I shall pick up on what the hon. Member for Redcar and one or two other hon. Members said about D-day. Of course, the tourism aspect of the D-day memorial was extremely important and the hon. Lady will be pleased to know that it was not only important, but successful. We gave more money to the BTA office in New York, which is now run by its dynamic new chief, Mr. Jeff Hamblin, and he was specifically set the task of getting as many visitors as possible from North America over here to participate in our joint activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-day. According to the initial information from the BTA, its efforts were extremely successful. I cannot give full weight to the figure given, but it is estimated that more than 100,000 extra visitors from North America came over to share in our commemoration of D-day. That is what we wanted to achieve.
We look forward to next year's commemoration of the end of the second world war and we should be grateful to receive any advice about that which hon. Members may wish to give us. I should also pay tribute to Lowe Bell for its efforts in getting those extra tourists over here. It did a marvellous job in raising public awareness of D-day and increased the number of events for tourists from just a couple of hundred to more than a thousand. It was marvellously professional and I congratulate it and thank it for the role that it played.
I am aware, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) said, that the headquarters of the British Resorts Association is in his constituency, because I had the pleasure of meeting its representatives in Aberdeen on Friday. I am extremely impressed with its work. I hope that it will be possible to hold regular meetings with it and other organisations, because one of the problems of being a Minister is that people only come to the Department when they have a problem. One does not know about the genuine, normal background work. It is just the same for us as hon. Members, often we only see 519 people at our surgeries when they have some terrible problem. I should be glad to fix up regular meetings between the British Resorts Association and myself so that it can update me on how things are going in its part of the industry. That will give me a context within which to make my judgments as to what more should be done to encourage tourism in this country.
I noted what my hon. Friend said about the allowance for day visitors in the standard spending assessment. My Department was extremely keen to pursue that issue and I am grateful to my ministerial colleagues for doing so. That demonstrates how tourism is only just beginning to be taken more seriously than it used to be in Government. It is another example of the benefits of having a Department such as the Department of National Heritage.
My hon. Friend also mentioned DSS hostels and hotels. I should like to pay great tribute to the work done by my hon. Friends the Members for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) and for Blackpool, North. Without their detailed research, it would have been difficult to convince my ministerial colleagues of the seriousness of the problem.
On the question of the European regional development fund, assisted area status and similar funding, it is true that tourism has not always benefited from those funds. The idea still exists that unless a job is in the manufacturing sector it is not a proper job. That is rubbish, because jobs in tourism are as important as those in any other sector. We must be absolutely sure that those who make decisions on how to deploy moneys from the ERDF, assisted area status funds or single regeneration budgets understand the importance of tourism, as well as that of manufacturing industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough made a powerful contribution to the debate. He mentioned the difficulties that he has encountered about the dualling of the A64. I will draw that matter to the attention to my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister was travelling on the A64 over Whitsun, so perhaps he will not need too much persuading. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough is tight to emphasise the great importance of proper communications.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North emphasised the importance of tourism, which is important not just in this country; it is estimated that it will be the largest industry in the world by the year 2000. He also mentioned the vexed question of VAT on hotel accommodation. I know from my travels round the tourist regions of the strength of feeling on that matter. We and the British Tourist Authority take seriously the points that have been raised about VAT on hotel accommodation. The association has, therefore, hired the consultants Touche Ross to look into the matter and make comparisons, because the matter is not as simple as it looks. The French charge 6 per cent. VAT on hotel accommodation while the Danes charge 25 per cent. and we charge 17.5 per cent. While we do not pay VAT on food, other countries do. It is a complex balance to make, but it should and will be made. I look forward to receiving the advice of Touche Ross in due course.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West talked about the sewage outfall walk in his constituency. I take that seriously. Tourism is not just the Tower of London and the Victoria and Albert museum, or even the Lake district or highlands of Scotland. I welcome anything that adds to the variety of this country's tourism product. I, too, noticed the sign on the GLC building. Indeed, a policeman in the 520 House sharply pointed it out to me and said what a disgrace it was. I cannot say that it is a disgrace because I do not know who is responsible for it, but I will find out whether I have a locus to say that it is an unsightly addition to an important listed building.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have no locus to say how the Football Association should deal with the allocation of world cup tickets, so long as it keeps within the law. If members of the FA have not heard the hon. Gentleman's speech, I am sure that he will draw it to their attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) made some important points. I heard what he said about the Foundation for Sport and the Arts' contribution to table tennis in Basildon and I shall draw it to the attention of the excellent secretary-general of the FSA, Mr. Grattan-Endicott.
A number of hon. Members mentioned listed sporting events. That is one of the most important points which the Select Committee on National Heritage made to me the other day. It is a difficult balance to strike. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Redcar about the cement that keeps society together. I look forward to considering that point when the Select Committee on National Heritage report is placed before me.
With those few words, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon once again for giving us the chance to discuss this important subject.
§ Mr. Simon Coombs
With the leave of the House, I shall briefly summarise the debate.
I am grateful for the support that I have received from a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Although the debate was supposed to be on leisure, it has concentrated increasingly on tourism. That is right and good. I have long been an advocate of the House's showing more interest in tourism. That interest has been amply demonstrated by today's debate. I particularly agreed with those hon. Members who said that as the importance of tourism grows, it becomes much more important that we consider its management in terms of protecting the environment—both the countryside and our historic towns and cities. The Department's predecessor commissioned a report on the environment and tourism a few years ago, which I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister.
The debate has touched on problems with cable. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) had no sooner made his speech than he rushed off to Basildon to deal with more of his constituents' problems. I can tell him, however, that help is at hand and efforts will be made to overcome the problem that he described.
In an excellent contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) pointed out that people in the United States watch more television than we do. The answer to that riddle is simple: their football games last three times longer than ours.
I question whether the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) has read the annual report of the Department of National Heritage.
§ Mr. Coombs
When reading that report, as I have, one is amazed by the sheer volume of activity that a mere two Ministers of the Crown, with one spokesman in the House 521 of Lords, are able to get through. I commend my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the tremendous energy that he and the Secretary of State have shown in the past two years in covering that complex and important subject. There are signs not so much of drift but of tremendous activity in all directions.
I am delighted that so many of my hon. Friends have spoken up on behalf of their constituencies; that is what these debates tend to degenerate into, and they do it so well that it would be a shame to stop them. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the fact that he concentrated on the arguments that I made in the debate and was very helpful about several issues. However, I commend to him the importance of considering the heritage and the way that private owners within heritage can be helped in the future.
I want England, Britain and the United Kingdom to be successful in sport and in other respects. I want us to win cricket matches. I want us to win football matches. I want us to win athletics gold medals. I want Jeremy Bates to win Wimbledon. I want a great deal. I am hungry for more success for the United Kingdom in sport and other aspects of leisure. I want the British to be an active, healthy and happy nation, and I hope that, in a small way, this debate has helped to make that dream a reality.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House congratulates the Department of National Heritage on its first two years; recognises its contribution to the development of leisure in the United Kingdom; calls for a continuing debate on the purposes for which the proceeds of the National Lottery should be used; and expresses the hope that, in future, encouragement will thereby be given to the promotion of more active leisure pursuits.