HC Deb 16 March 1998 vol 308 cc935-7
5. Mr. Bradshaw

What plans he has to support the efforts of seaside towns to promote tourism. [32901]

9. Mr. Barry Jones

What plans he has to support the efforts of seaside towns to promote tourism. [32905]

Mr. Tom Clarke

Seaside towns are important for the domestic tourism market. The Government's strategy for tourism will benefit all areas, including seaside towns. One of the forum working groups on tourism is helping us to develop the strategy, and is considering these issues in particular.

Mr. Bradshaw

The Minister will be aware of the great importance of tourism to the south-west's economy, which has lately been taking a few knocks. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will do what he can to ensure that a representative of the tourist industry is appointed to the board of the south-west regional development agency? That would do a great deal to further the cause of tourism in the region.

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend always makes his point eloquently, and I was very happy recently to visit the south-west. As he said, resorts are key regional assets on which regional development agencies and local authorities can build. Moreover, they contain theatres, museums and other cultural attractions that attract lottery funding. I welcome my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are countless high-quality seaside resorts in Wales—for example, Llandudno and Rhyl? Does he accept that the prosperity of those towns would be greater if the marine environment—the Irish sea—were better? How can Ministers help? Can they provide any financial help to give those towns a better chance?

Mr. Clarke

My hon. Friend always does a splendid job in addressing problems in a constituency that straddles an area covered by the Welsh and the English tourist boards. I assure him that his comments are very constructive. Seaside resorts can benefit from various grant schemes—including sector challenge, local challenge, the national lottery, the single regeneration budget and the European regional development fund—which I hope will be used fully by resorts, including those where my hon. Friend has an influence.

Mr. Fraser

How many jobs does the right hon. Gentleman estimate will be lost in the tourism industry as a result of the minimum wage?

Mr. Clarke

In common with the overwhelming majority of people in the tourism industry, I think that people who are properly paid, properly motivated and properly trained will contribute to the creation of new jobs. The independent commission—to which the Labour party was pledged, and in which the industry was represented—has made its findings, which we shall soon publish. I am delighted that employers and employees in tourism take a much more enlightened than the hon. Gentleman—thank heavens for that!

Mr. Hancock

I hoped that the Minister would say that tourism funds would in future be directed through regional development agencies. If that is the case—I hope that it is—will he deal with the problem of the changing roles of tourist boards? I know that, last week, the Minister was a guest of the Southern tourist board. I believe that that board has long passed its sell-by date—it needs to change from being predominantly a members' club into being a proactive promoter of tourism. How does he see the future of tourist boards in relation to regional development agencies?

Mr. Clarke

I was pleased, only last week, to be in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, where I saw good examples of best practice. He has raised two points. First, the introduction of regional development agencies will add a more regional focus to development, and that should benefit tourism. Moreover, the English Tourist Board and regional tourist boards have reacted quickly and positively to the Government's RDA proposals, which we are looking forward to implementing in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Secondly, the forum established by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—which is dealing with the matter of new blood, new input and new ideas in tourism—will soon be making its findings. My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to publish his reaction to those findings in September. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that there is great excitement about new ideas in tourism, which is a very positive industry. Those are the views of my right hon. Friend and the Government.