HC Deb 27 March 1995 vol 257 cc676-7
3. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what percentage of holidays by British people are taken (a) in Britain and (b) abroad; and what were the figures for 1970. [14179]

Mr. Dorrell

In 1994, 54 per cent. of holidays of four nights or more by British people were taken in Britain and 46 per cent. abroad. In 1970, 86 per cent. of such holidays were taken in Britain and 14 per cent. abroad.

Mr. Coombs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Department's report on tourism, "Competing with the Best", has been warmly welcomed throughout the industry and almost everywhere? Does he agree that that is evidence that the Department of National Heritage takes the tourism industry very seriously, and is now in a good position to ensure that English and British tourism are made attractive to British people so as to persuade them to take more of their long and short-term holidays in this country?

Mr. Dorrell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of the tourist sector. It is only right that the DNH should accord substantial importance to the sector. It accounts for 5 per cent. of national income; it employs 1.5 million people in Britain. It is part of the answer to the question, "Where do the jobs of the future come from?" A 25 per cent. increase in employment in tourism in the past 10 years is reason enough for us to take real interest in the future success of that sector.

Sir Peter Emery

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the south-west provides the greatest stimulus to the increase in the encouraging figures that he gives? Will he therefore bear in mind the fact that some of us are fed up with the fact that Wales and Scotland receive very much larger amounts of money to spend on their tourist boards than we do in England? We would like him to rectify that.

Mr. Dorrell

My right hon. Friend will know what I mean when I say that I am not responsible for the budgets of the Welsh and Scottish boards. I am responsible for the success of the industry in England and for the promotion overseas of the British industry as a whole. That is why we have increased the budget for promoting Britain as a tourist destination overseas, and it is why we attach real importance to improving the quality of the tourist product in England.

I do not believe that public funding is the key to improving the English tourist product. It is a huge wealth-creating sector, and the key is to ensure that the structure within which it works allows it to continue to expand and, indeed, allows the rate of expansion to increase.