HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc519-20
3. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the voluntary schemes for standards in hotels and other tourist accommodation. [85570]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells)

The English Tourism Council research shows clear benefits in terms of higher occupancy levels for those establishments that participate in the national quality assurance schemes. We want to improve their impact further and will shortly commission a review of accommodation quality as part of our tourism reform programme.

Lawrie Quinn

Does my hon. Friend agree that the work that Scarborough borough council has done to establish its own scheme, which feeds into the national scheme, should be regarded as an exemplar by many people around the country? If they met the high standards that exist on the Yorkshire coast, it would do the UK's tourism and hospitality industry an awful lot of good and would put us where we should be as a world leader.

Dr. Howells

My hon. Friend can justifiably be proud of Scarborough's achievement. It won the 2002 England for Excellence award as the most improved resort. It has faced great difficulties over the past 30 years and has succeeded to a significant degree in reinventing itself as a first-class resort and as a great tourist attraction.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South)

Does my hon. Friend accept that booking hotel accommodation can be a bit of a lottery, as I found to my cost in Blackpool at the recent Labour party conference? Does he also accept that that lottery is made even more difficult when it comes to booking accommodation for people with a disability? Will he look into that specific aspect of regulation to ensure that guidance to hotels makes it clear that their advertisements should state whether they are wheelchair or disabled friendly?

Dr. Howells

I have been very concerned that hotels and bed and breakfasts that advertise themselves as being disabled friendly or wheelchair compatible turn out not to be so or to be only partially so. That often means that people who have spent very good money on holidays are greatly disappointed when they do not get the facilities that they require. I know that the English Tourism Council has also been very concerned about that and we will take it forward as an important theme in the review of our support for tourism in this country.