HL Deb 03 March 1983 vol 439 cc1210-3

3.11 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the British Tourist Board would consider giving an annual award to the British railway station with the best amenities.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, while the Government welcome steps to improve the amenities at British Rail stations, it would be reluctant to ask the board of the British Tourist Authority to allocate any of its limited resources to provide for an annual award of this kind. The primary role of the British Tourist Authority is to promote Britain overseas.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware that Dover Priory Station, which is regarded as the gateway to England, is totally inadequate with regard to facilities for the many tourists and also holidaymakers who use that station?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I am sure that the House will accept the great expertise in tourism of my noble friend. She has taken part in conferences before now. I am able to advise her and your Lordships that I have it from the officials at the Department of Transport that British Rail have recently completed work at Dover Priory Station. This includes the repainting of the whole station, providing new toilets—of which my noble friend will be able to examine just half while I might examine the other half—refurbishing the waiting room, tiling the booking hall and demolishing unwanted buildings. In addition, resignalling work has meant that international travellers will no longer have to cross platforms with their luggage in order to connect with the services for the Eastern Docks, and at the Western Docks at Dover minor roofing repairs have been put in hand.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for all the trouble he has obviously taken to find out about Dover Priory Station, may I ask him whether he realises that I regard many of those answers as being total rubbish? While I can reply as to only one side of the lavatories, I can say that there are not enough of them. The buffet is a ridiculous size, totally inadequate and very poor in quality. As to the comfort of travellers, I think that fresh paint is the last thing they need when they are standing on that draughty platform.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, my noble friend will at least accept that I do not wear my kilt at Dover Priory Station. I shall certainly bring her comments to the notice of the chairman of British Rail. I am sure that they will be accepted with alacrity, knowing my noble friend's expertise in such matters.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, will the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, ensure that if there is an improvement in these amenities there will also be a railway system to make use of them?

Lord Lyell

We had a lengthy debate last night, my Lords, about the railway system and the finance needed to provide not just travellers' amenities but all kinds of other amenities. I shall certainly pass on the remark of the noble and learned Lord to British Rail.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether a quota of marks can be given in this competition, particularly at ports of entry such as Dover, where members of the staff, customs officers and even policemen can speak a language other than English, and whether, having reached a certain standard, they should not then be entitled to wear a badge indicating to visitors that those members of the staff speak their language, which will assist in the quick passage of travellers through the station?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I was not aware of any competition as yet. I understand that any such competition would be under the aegis of the British Tourist Board. But my noble friend has raised some serious points about the arrival of foreign visitors to our country at stations such as Dover and other ports of entry, and I shall see that his points are passed on to British Rail.

My noble friend may have been interested to notice from a report in the press recently that some confusion had been caused at one of the major London termini by members of British Rail staff wearing, I think it was, a green star in their caps. I understand that a green star indicates that the wearer is a speaker of Esperanto. This has caused some confusion. However, I will pass on my noble friend's serious points to British Rail because I believe they are worthwhile.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, if I may revert to the original Answer that the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, gave to his noble friend, will he be prepared to put her suggestion to the English Tourist Board? It need not be a cost to the English Tourist Board's funds if the award was in the shape of a plaque to be erected at the station concerned.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I shall certainly be glad to pass on the noble Lord's comments to the English Tourist Board, although I am sure the House will accept that possibly this plaque might have to be movable—in the form of a prize, perhaps—because we might look forward to Stranraer or other ports of entry competing with Dover for being the most excellent port in the United Kingdom. But I will pass on the noble Lord's comments to the English Tourist Board.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, if the British Tourist Board is to play a part in improving amenities, will the Government pass on to the board the thought that it should not neglect amenities in our provincial civil airports, where there is much room for improvement?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I believe that, with amenities, we are going a little wide of the original Question. I will certainly pass on my noble friend's remarks to the English Tourist Board, which, I am sure my noble friend will accept, is responsible for facilities at ports in England. I would reiterate to my noble friend that the British Tourist Authority has as its main responsibility the promotion of British tourism overseas.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, to stick firmly to the original Question, might not the quickest, cheapest and possibly most effective means of improving our stations be to award quarterly a large label to be affixed to the worst station?

Lord Lyell

I shall certainly take the noble Viscount's comment to British Rail, my Lords. It may well be accepted, but I shall have to see.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, is it necessary to bribe British Rail with awards to provide necessary amenities?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I do not think that it is necessary in the provision of basic amenities. Clearly, it is done to see who provides the best amenities. I believe that was the main thrust of my noble friend's Question.