HC Deb 18 December 1995 vol 268 cc1207-8
3. Mr. Robert Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what analysis she has made of the latest figures on spending by tourists. [4634]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Overseas tourists spent almost £9 billion in the UK up to October—a 13 per cent. increase. Tourism is worth about £36 billion a year—5 per cent. of gross domestic product. There are 88,000 new jobs related to tourism in the year to June.

Mr. Banks

I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply. Does she agree, however, that the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe face a challenge to regain a higher share of the world tourism market? While proposals by the European Commission to raise the profile of tourism are to be applauded, does my right hon. Friend agree that any amendment to the treaty should be scrutinised with great care to ensure that a ceiling is placed on any new department and that regulatory powers are excluded? Does she further agree that regulations such as the social chapter threaten to price the rest of Europe out of the market?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend speaks strongly, particularly on behalf of his own constituency, on a subject about which he has great knowledge and he is absolutely right that it is an increasingly competitive world market. We are determined to fight for a greater share of that market because of the potential for wealth creation and job creation. I entirely share my hon. Friend's deep concern that spreading Brussels bureaucracy and European control over such an important industry could do it untold damage. The introduction of the social chapter and the minimum wage would destroy jobs and opportunity in that vital industry.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

Is the Secretary of State aware that one of the most popular forms of tourism in my constituency is that promoted by language schools? Many of them are unregulated and take children as young as 10 and 11 during the summer months, who cause great problems in the city of Cambridge. What is the Minister's attitude to that problem, and what does she intend to do about it?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am well aware that the response of the Labour party to every problem is to tie organisations up in regulation, bureaucracy and licences. I am also aware that the hon. Lady's constituency is a tremendous centre of arts and cultural heritage, and thus has great tourist potential. I am also aware of the huge number of lottery awards that her constituency has been given, which has made it an even greater tourist attraction.

I will look into the issue raised by the hon. Lady in an open-minded way to see whether any sensible approach can properly be taken. I would, however, be extremely reluctant to inhibit the opportunities of language schools, which create a great number of jobs and other opportunities not only in the hon. Lady's constituency but elsewhere.