HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 c12
11. Mr. Robert Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what progress she has made in reducing excessive regulation in the tourism industry. [11768]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Good progress has been made. Measures such as the reforms of the liquor licensing law, Sunday trading law and food hygiene regulations have all benefited tourism. My Department has recently worked closely with the Department of Transport on the relaxation of rules governing white-on-brown road signs. This will help a wide range of tourism-related businesses.

Mr. Banks

Will my right hon. Friend continue her determination to dispose of all unnecessary regulations that affect the tourism industry? Will she keep a particularly sharp eye on proposals from the European Commission to enhance the role of tourism in the EU? If a large and bureaucratic organisation were to be set up, would it not have regulatory powers? Should not the European Parliament and the European Commission embark on a course of deregulation? Will she ensure that our Members of the European Parliament are fully briefed before the debate on the subject next Monday?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend has great knowledge in this area, and I know that about 104,000 of his constituents are employed in jobs involving tourism. The key need of those in the tourism and leisure industry is for the Government to lighten the load and reduce red tape. As Ramon Pasarez, managing director of the Savoy Group, says: What I want from the Government is the freedom to run my business. The meddling, interference and socialist controls proposed by the Labour party are the greatest danger to our flourishing tourism industry.

Mr. Skinner

Is not one of the biggest dangers to tourism-related small businesses the fact that some people will not pay their debts on time? Is it not even worse when the Deputy Prime Minister brags about not paying his debts and putting other businesses into bankruptcy? Will the Secretary of State now admonish the Deputy Prime Minister for the Gerald Ratner-type bombshell that he has landed on the Government?

Mrs. Bottomley

The tourism industry needs to hear from people who know how to run small business, not windy rhetoric such as that from the hon. Gentleman. Some 90,000 new jobs were created in the tourism industry last year, which is a phenomenal success. There has been a one-fifth increase in the number of people working in tourism in the past 10 years. During those 10 years, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has played a crucial role in making this country more competitive and fought industry's corner in government.