HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 cc9-10
8. Mr. Peter Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is her policy on deregulation; and if she will make a statement. [11765]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The Department of National Heritage fully supports the Government's initiative on deregulation. We attach great importance to the drive to reduce burdens on business in the UK. Over-regulation is particularly burdensome for small businesses, of which there are many in tourism. Progress has been made with deregulation in this sector, and we will continue to work constructively with other Departments to remove obstacles to greater competitiveness.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the industries most vulnerable to regulation is the tourism industry, which employs many people in my constituency? It is particularly vulnerable to excessive health and safety regulation; it would be especially vulnerable if the European social chapter were extended to the United Kingdom and, above all, it would be vulnerable to Labour's idea of a national minimum wage, which would destroy many young people's opportunity to start a career in that dynamic and growing industry.

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend precisely identifies the greatest threat to tourism in our generation. Employment is growing in tourism; it is of great economic significance to the country. The Government are committed to minimising regulation. The real killer of jobs would be Labour's European jobs tax—the social chapter, the minimum wage and, of course, the training levy. Once again, although Labour Members say that they support tourism, their behaviour suggests otherwise. They say one thing, but they do another.

Mr. Grocott

Rather than giving us a lecture on the social chapter and regulation, will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the Government have failed to exercise any democratic regulation in one key area—their failure to act is massively unpopular—which is resulting in the loss of major sporting events from the main terrestrial channels? Such events are increasingly available only on satellite channels. When will she understand that, if young people in particular cannot see our major national sports at their best, performed by the best, the chances of the long-term continuation of those sports and of young people becoming involved in them will be seriously jeopardised? Even though she seems to have just woken up to the problem by issuing a consultation document, will she at least ensure that she consults not only sporting authorities and broadcasters but viewers and listeners among the public, who are overwhelmingly on Labour's side on the issue?

Mrs. Bottomley

I certainly will give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. Indeed, it is important to consult not only viewers and listeners but sportsmen and women and children. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that investment in, for example, football, rugby and tennis has increased beyond all recognition because of the resources available. Many sport rights bodies have not chosen the highest bid. They have traded money against the maximum possible audience. The hon. Gentleman does not give the sporting bodies sufficient credit for the thought that they have given to the issue. It is, however, a complex matter, the issues are set out in the consultation document, and I shall be interested in all views, including the hon. Gentleman's.