HC Deb 25 March 2002 vol 382 cc545-6
1. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

If she will make a statement on her policies to promote tourism to England. [43142]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

I am sure that the House will join me in recognising that the achievement of the British film industry at last night's oscar award ceremony is a great shot in the arm for tourism. Our congratulations therefore go to Julian Fellowes, for best original screenplay for "Gosford Park"; to Jim Broadbent for his supporting role in "Iris"; and to Peter Owen for the best make-up award for "The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring".

On the substance of the hon. Gentleman's question, we recognise the importance of tourism to the economy and the problems that it faced in 2001, so we are working closely with the industry on a programme to accelerate its recovery, which focuses in particular on raising quality, improving training and skills, strengthening data and marketing England's many wonderful tourism attractions.

Mr. Luff

Notwithstanding Jim Broadbent's splendid performance in "Iris", I suspect that the oscars will be a rather bigger shot in the arm for the New Zealand tourism industry, bearing in mind the location of "The Lord of the Rings".

The Heart of England tourist board represents my constituency. From a rather arbitrary glance at a group of other counties, it seems that it does not do a bad job representing that really difficult brand against the very stiff competition of Scotland and Wales, which are much more powerful brands. When will the Government give England equal footing in tourism promotion with Scotland and Wales?

Tessa Jowell

There are two points to make. First, although England spends less than Wales or Scotland on marketing, the fact is that we do better in terms of the amount of money that visitors spend than they do, so what we spend represents good value for money. However, I take the hon. Gentleman's point that we need to do more beyond the short-term focus on marketing, and my Department is currently in discussion with the English Tourism Council to establish how that will be achieved.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Will my right hon. Friend take on the plight of inland tourism for those constituencies, such as mine, that have had to deal with the problems of foot and mouth disease? The local authority is dependent on the millions of people who visit Chorley, so I wonder whether extra resources are available so that we can ensure that there is not a decrease in tourism this year, but a peak.

Tessa Jowell

I thank my hon. Friend. Obviously, the million visitor campaign that I announced to the House last month, which is worth £40 million, will provide an enormous boost to help the United Kingdom tourism industry to get back the high numbers of visitors from abroad—particularly, from America—that have fallen sharply in the wake of the events of 11 September. However, the industry is optimistic, and we are working with it to deliver on that optimism.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I am sure that the right hon. Lady would want to join me in expressing the hope that our tourism industry has a very successful Easter season over the weekend and the few days ahead, but is she aware of the widespread concern, in rural and urban areas alike, about the impact of any recurrence of foot and mouth disease? Can she tell us what strategy the Government have to deal with any new outbreak? Is she aware that it is strongly rumoured that the Government plan to merge the regional tourist boards into the regional development agencies? Will she take this opportunity to confirm that that is not the case and say when, at long last, she will announce a market function for the English Tourism Council?

Tessa Jowell

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is yes. The answer to his second question is that we are liaising very closely on the issue with our colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The answer to the third question is no.