HC Deb 29 June 1998 vol 315 cc2-3
2. Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

What plans he has to encourage the growth of employment in the tourism industry. [46312]

The Minister for Film and Tourism (Mr. Tom Clarke)

The new tourism strategy which we are developing with the tourism forum will seek to ensure that tourism fulfils its enormous job-generation potential, while the new deal will help to solve the industry's skill shortages and recruitment problems. The tourism and hospitality industry already supports 1.7 million jobs, and it is forecast to need many more people in future.

Mr. Fraser

I am interested in the Minister's professed interest in the tourism industry. Why has his Department consistently subordinated tourism to more glamorous and trivial matters?

Mr. Clarke

The plain and simple fact is that we have not. When I gave evidence to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, it was unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman appeared only for the last two minutes of it. I am not, therefore, surprised by his total ignorance of the Government's absolute commitment to a vital industry.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

Has the tourism strategy examined the valuable, but neglected, British resource of historic buildings associated with the birth and development of the Labour movement? The Minister will be aware that the sole surviving Clarion house, which dates from the days of the old Independent Labour party, is in my constituency. It would encourage the people of Pendle if I could tell them that the Minister will take on board the development of a resource of which we have much in the north of England.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend makes an extremely relevant point. That part of our country's heritage is important in attracting tourists. I am delighted that my hon. Friend mentioned his constituency, which I look forward to visiting. I know that, when he returns to Scotland, he will pay a visit to Robert Owen at Lanark and to the Summerlee heritage park in my constituency, which meets my hon. Friend's excellent point.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion)

What representations has the Minister received about the effect of the strength of the pound on the tourism industry? May I draw his attention to the profound gloom in the industry in Wales, which is combining with the collapse of livestock prices to lead to a crisis in the rural economy of Wales? Does the Minister accept that the combination of Government policies that are leading to the strength of the pound is having a serious effect on large parts of the country, and that the Government may have to pay a severe political price in the 1999 elections?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point which was last discussed with me in Cardiff last Wednesday. The problems are transient, but I am happy to report that new figures show that expenditure by overseas tourists has declined by less than 1 per cent. on last year, which was a record year. Given the self-evident problems of the Asian market, the House will welcome the fact that expenditure from, for example, north America is up by 6 per cent. The Government are determined to build on those figures.