HC Deb 15 May 1996 vol 277 cc932-3
2. Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the effect of adherence to the social chapter on the hotel and guesthouse sector. [28356]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. John M. Taylor)

Embracing the social chapter would seriously damage competitiveness and employment in all sectors of industry because it would allow the United Kingdom to be out-voted on measures imposing unnecessary burdens and costs on businesses.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware of the representations that I have recently received from a major hotel chain in my constituency warning me that a national minimum wage would reduce jobs and training, encourage hotels to get out of tourism altogether in favour of residential redevelopment, and have an altogether devastating effect on the ability of Britain's tourism industry to compete successfully against cheap holidays abroad? Between now and the general election, will my hon. Friend and his colleagues warn against the dire consequences of the Labour and Liberal parties' national minimum wage on one of Britain's most successful industries—tourism?

Mr. Taylor

The two greatest threats to the tourist industry and the hotel trade generally are the social chapter and the minimum wage. They will get neither from the Conservatives; they will get both from the Opposition. The more that we tell people that, the better.

Mr. Barnes

Why, after 17 years of Conservative Government, cannot we have some basic decent standards in the hotel industry? The Minister's answer is a disgrace. If the Government think that the policies coming from the European Union and the Opposition's minimum wage are incorrect, what is their answer to the problem?

Mr. Taylor

The British tourist industry has some of the highest standards in the world, not least in London, and in the provinces too. The question is what would happen to that excellent tourist industry if Brussels interfered. That would be unnecessary and dangerous. It would upset the successful job-creating balance that we now have in the industry.

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