HC Deb 22 November 1999 vol 339 cc327-8
3. Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

What calculations his Department has made of the impact on the tourism and leisure industry of Government regulations introduced since May 1997. [98969]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

No new regulations affecting business are introduced without first being subjected to a regulatory impact assessment. This assessment examines the costs and benefits of proposed regulations across the piece, not just on individual economic sectors. Tourism and leisure are key growth industries and my Department works closely with others to see that new regulation does not impose excessive administrative and financial burdens on tourism and leisure-related businesses.

Mr. Jack

That reply is a travesty. Is it not a cruel irony that my constituency of Fylde receives some £3,000 of help for its tourism business, which is worth £40 million, but that benefit is immediately washed out by the regulatory burden of the working time directive alone? Is not it time that the Secretary of State undertook to object to any more regulatory burdens on tourism if they exceed the value of the help that his Department gives to tourism in this country?

Mr. Smith

I can do better than that, because I can point to a host of regulatory burdens on the tourism and hospitality industries—about which the previous Government did nothing—that we are actively considering lifting. They include the better regulation task force case study of hotels and catering, the wide-ranging review of the liquor licensing system, Government proposals to simplify the regulation of late night restaurants, Government proposals to remove the ban on admission charging for Sunday dancing and research into the impact of land-use planning systems on leisure-related development. The Conservatives did nothing about those when in government: we are doing something.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

What estimate has my right hon. Friend made of the consequences to tourism of returning to the Elgin marbles to Greece? If it were possible to return them to the Parthenon itself, the case for that would be strong, but not for transferring them from one museum to another. They were effectively saved by bringing them to this country, so will my right hon. Friend ensure that any such proposal is firmly opposed?

Mr. Smith

I do, indeed, agree with my right hon. Friend. The Elgin Parthenon marbles in the British museum are visited by some 6 million people a year for free. People come from all over the world to see those treasures, among many others. I believe that it should stay that way.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)

Government regulation has established the regional development boards, with a special remit for tourism. So far, I do not see many people connected with tourism on the boards that have been established. Little seems to have been done in the traditional seaside resorts, where money is required but help is not forthcoming.

Mr. Smith

Several representatives from the tourism and leisure industry sit on regional development agencies, although they do not all have such a representative. The development of the regional cultural consortiums that we have put in place will draw together representatives from the range of cultural, sporting and tourism interests in each region and will have a direct input into the work of the RDAs and will ensure that the voice of tourism is not lost.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey)

While I endorse the Secretary of State's policy towards the Elgin marbles, I must say that the Opposition do not think much of his regulatory impact assessment. Can it be a surprise that we have the worst tourism balance of payments in history, when so many in the tourist industry have been hit by an avalanche of costly deregulations? Is he aware that the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors have shown that more than 2,500 new regulations now affect their businesses that cost them £5 billion a year? No sector is worse hit than the leisure and tourism sector.

Mr. Smith

One of those regulations is the national minimum wage, which I actively support, as do the great majority in the hotel and catering industry. They know that good remuneration and treatment of employees means a well-motivated work force and a better service to the customer. That was borne out in research conducted by Caterer&Hotelkeeper, which showed that 84 per cent. of hospitality staff and 65 per cent. of their employers supported the introduction of a statutory minimum wage. It is only the Opposition who want to get rid of it.

Back to
Forward to