HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc9-10
9. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the contribution of section 4 grants to tourism in Wales. [14165]

Mr. Gwilym Jones

In 1994–95, the Wales tourist board approved grants of £3.6 million, which secures capital investment of £20.7 million, and that should save or maintain more than 400 jobs.

Mr. Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that section 4 grants in Wales represent extremely good value for money, particularly as they create jobs? Can he confirm the figure that was recently quoted to me by the Wales tourist board—that as little as £6,000 in public money is required to create a new job in the tourism industry in Wales? What does my hon. Friend think would have a greater impact on Welsh tourism: the rugby World cup or a national minimum wage?

Mr. Jones

I agree with my hon. Friend that the grants available through the Wales tourist board are a very effective use of taxpayers' money in taking forward an important segment of the Welsh economy. Tourism contributes about £1.3 billion a year to the Welsh economy. As to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, I rush to agree with his premise that the rugby World cup will prove a great advantage to Wales—not least because of the excellent way in which the Welsh team played on Saturday. They did not deserve to lose by two points. The rugby World cup will provide very positive opportunities for Wales—unlike the job-destroying measures that the Labour party would impose.

Mr. Ainger

Does the Under-Secretary accept that the Sea Empress incident has caused great concern to the tourism industry in Pembrokeshire and that several serious questions need to be asked about large vessels' propulsion systems, steering systems and hull design and about port activities at Milford Haven, and that those serious questions can be answered only by a full public inquiry, along the same lines as the Donaldson inquiry into the Braer incident?

Mr. Jones

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern but, as I said to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), it is at best premature to suggest a public inquiry. The Department of Transport's marine accident investigation branch will inquire into the incident and report.

We must concentrate on ensuring that all necessary action is taken—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is to make a statement about the matter later this afternoon—but it is premature to call for a public inquiry now.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Given his tremendous enthusiasm for section 4 grants in Wales and the tremendous benefits that we all agree that they have achieved, can the Minister give the House a categoric assurance that the Government will not abolish section 4 grants?

Mr. Gwilym Jones

There is no intention of abolishing section 4 grants, but we must continue to pay attention to the amounts of money that are provided to the Wales tourist board and how they are spent. We want to ensure that they are spent more and more effectively and that Wales continues to develop its tourist industry—and not, as Opposition Members would probably want, separate Wales and make it less attractive, especially to tourists, who represent inward investment.