HL Deb 22 May 1985 vol 464 cc293-324

2.56 p.m.

Lord Parry rose to call attention to the significance to the changing economy of Britain of the support given to the British Tourist Authority and to the national tourist boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my father, who was a Baptist minister in West Wales, used to tell the story of one Member of your Lordships' House—Lord Kilsant—causing consternation in a little inn, The Boar's Head, at Templeton when he asked to stay the night. There was no service of any kind inside the hotel and the stablelad was pressed into service. He was rehearsed in what he had to do in the morning. He had to go up the stairs carrying the boiling water for his Lordship's shave, tap on the door and say, "It's the boy with your water, my Lord". In fact through his nervousness and lack of training he arrived at the door, hammered on it and announced, "Tis the Lord with your water, my boy"! It was, I think, a turning point in the economy of Wales—a small milestone when, in the rural areas, one skill became at least partly another!

The Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper gives me the opportunity: To call attention to the significance to the changing economy of Britain of the support given to the British Tourist Authority and to the National Tourist Boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and to move for Papers". In retrospect, the Motion should have read: To call attention to the significance of tourism to the changing economy of Britain", and then: and to the support given to the British Tourist Authority and to the National Tourist Boards". Perhaps those noble Lords who are to speak in the debate, with their very real expertise, may feel Free to treat the Motion in that manner. I thank them very much for putting their names forward. I wish to thank them and I also wish to refer to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, would have been among the speakers this afternoon were it not for the fact that Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester is opening an extension to Britain's tourism at Beaulieu—another "act of faith" in the changing economy of Great Britain and the importance of tourism to it.

Nineteen eighty-four was Orwell's year. It is the year to which some of us in our youth were taught to look forward to misery and mayhem and to the loss of our freedom. In fact there were moments during 1984 when we all felt from our respective points of view that very real things that we very much cherished were at stake. During 1984 we had the creeping paralysis of unemployment and the awful palsy of the coal strike. However it was during that very difficult year of 1984 that this country earned £15 million a day from the tremendous industry of tourism about which we are to speak. I wish to read some figures into the debate so that people will understand why it is that some of us feel that not sufficient attention is paid to the achievements of the tourism industry in Britain and to the work that is done by people involved in the trade.

In 1984 13.8 million overseas visitors came to Britain. They spent £4,194 million in this country. They spent nearly £1,125 million with British air and shipping lines on fares for travel to and from Britain. Britain's total foreign currency earnings from tourism in 1984 were more than £5,300 million, and that of course adds up to the fact that I have already given that the equivalent of all but £15 million a day from tourism was reaped for this country during the past year. Every day, my Lords! Overseas visitors are estimated to have spent some £1,150 million on accommodation alone in Britain in 1984, and to have spent another £620 million on eating out. That brings a smile to those involved in the business. Another £190 million was on entertainment, and yet another £480 million on transport within this country.

There is, furthermore, little doubt that in 1985 the earnings will top £16 million a day. I want to compare that briefly and in passing with North Sea oil revenue. Our much vaunted and much mortgaged North Sea oil brings in a similar amount of money to that raised by tourism. But much of it is already earmarked for export abroad, when so much of the product of the indigenous tourist industry recycles within the economy and is totally at home here.

If we look in real terms—and it is time for one of the institutions to do the sums—at the money raised by tourism against the money raised from North Sea oil, with all the benefits reaped by other countries from that investment, then we shall find that in real terms tourism is beginning to overhaul North Sea oil as a revenue producer for this nation.

The money spent by overseas visitors spreads throughout the whole country. I want to pick this up as my noble friend—although he sits on the other side of the Aisle—Lord Mackie of Benshie might wish to refer to it because we laid the trail for this in an earlier discussion on the rural areas. I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Gibson-Watt, might have been in his place—he was a moment earlier—so that I could say that there was no conflict between us when we were talking about the development of the rural economy.

More than £1,500 million annually is spent directly in the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and the region, the province, of Northern Ireland. What is more, a large proportion of the money spent by overseas visitors in London goes on making arrangements for travel and accommodation in other parts of Britain. More than one third of all the money spent in Britain by overseas visitors each year goes on shopping for manufactured goods.

Where is the dichotomy between the redevelopment of the manufacturing industry of Britain and the impact upon it of tourism revenue? Of course there is no conflict. I hope that no one will believe that anyone arguing for the development of tourism and support for the service sector of the economy in this House or elsewhere is simultaneously arguing for the decline of the heavy industrial base or the manufacturing product. They are complementary.

One of the biggest beneficiaries from tourism—and I am sad about that—is the national exchequer. In 1984 overseas visitors are estimated to have paid more than £600 million in value added tax—and we had an amusing intervention earlier on VAT—and in taxes on such things as liquor, tobacco, and petrol. That is nearly as much as the Government receive from the road tax fund each year. That is the contribution which tourism is making to Britain's economy at this immensely difficult time.

Last year the Government gave the British Tourist Authority approximately £16.8 million to promote travel to Britain from abroad. How does that compare, one wonders, with the vast amounts of money which are taken out of the real economy in support of industries which perhaps are not able to bring home the bacon, or the egg, in quite precisely the same way. The British Tourist Authority raised over £10 million from its own publishing and promotional enterprises to promote Great Britain overseas.

Some 1.3 million people throughout the whole of Britain depend directly, or indirectly, upon tourism for their livelihoods. And each year tourism creates some 50,000 new jobs. Its role as a job creator is one of the most important aspects about it, and those jobs spread throughout the length and breadth of Britain. Not only does tourism currently employ four times as many people as the motor car industry in Britain, it earns four times as much in foreign currency. Tourism earns more than twice as much foreign currency each year as the export of new British civil and military aircraft. I am sure that that is a surprise. It earns more than three times as much as the export value of British iron and steel.

In fact, tourism earns as much for Britain each year as the combined overseas sales of Britain's passenger cars, her aircraft, her beverages, her tobacco products, and her textiles. Within Britain one overseas visitor spends as much as five British holiday makers. That is no comment on the British holiday maker, but it is a fact. The average foreign visitor spends over 50 per cent. more in Britain than the average Britain spends abroad.

Britain's biggest single market for overseas visitors is Western Europe. Over seven million European visitors came here in 1983. They spent £1,271 million in Britain. The largest single contingent of European visitors in 1983 came from France. They were 1,516,000, and they spent £170 million here. It is not my habit as a rule to read figures of this nature into a debate, but I believe that the figures I am reading are so impressive that they should be understood not simply by your Lordships but by every man, woman and child who is worried about the future of the economy of Great Britain. After Europe, the United States of America provides the most visitors to Britain each year. In 1983, 2,317,000 American visitors spent £784 million here.

The following remarks may give your Lordships a little relief from all that pounding of heavy statistics. Visitors list these main reasons for coming to Britain. They come to meet the people; they come to see the countryside; they come to enjoy historic associations; they come to see colourful pageantry—and your Lordships' House has stood well this afternoon in colourful pageantry. They come for business conferences; they come to see old buildings; they come to study the English language; they come to go to the theatre, and to see the arts.

How many times have we debated in this House grants to the theatre and to the arts? How many times have we debated tourism? In the whole of my nearly 11 years in this House, my Lords, it is three times. We have debated the sustenance of the arts over and over again; and there would probably be no theatre in London today if it were not for the tourists who come and patronise it, and the captive loads of visitors who are deposited outside the theatres in their coaches night by night.

They come to visit historic houses; they come for rural functions; and—cheering again for our manufacturing industry—shopping for world-famous British products. They like British courtesy and hospitality. We may be selling ourselves short, my Lords. They like British courtesy and hospitality; they love the pubs and the countryside, the greenness of the grass. They do not mind the weather and although it may surprise you, my Lords, they like the food.

I want to draw attention quickly—I have three minutes left so I can do little more than wave some things about—to these matters. First, if your Lordships want to follow up those facts, if you want to use them the British Tourist Authority—I nearly said British "Tory" Authority, forgive me, my Lords—will be glad to let you have the details. The paper was published in April 1985.

I have here a short paper on tourism in Wales. I shall just read one quotation from it. It is the Welsh Office's own memorandum on the importance of tourism. It says: Tourism is a major provider of jobs and contributes significantly to the economy of Wales. It is the Secretary of State's strategy that tourism opportunities should be actively developed in co-ordination with those in other sectors of the economy and that the efforts of interested bodies and the resources available are harnessed to the best advantage taking account of the need to preserve and enhance the natural and historic attractions of Wales".

Your Lordships would not expect me to put Wales down in one go. I am going to quote from the Welsh Tourist Board regarding touring in' Wales. They estimate conservatively that employment in the tourist industry is now of the order of 90,000. They say that to give some idea of relative scale, this is double—and it is more than double—the combined employment in the coal and steel industries (some 23,000 jobs, as I remember) with which Wales is traditionally mainly associated in popular perception. They continue: Income generated by tourism in Wales in 1983 was in the order of E510 million. This includes an estimated £450 million spent by the 12 million British residents who spent a holiday, took an overnight business trip or came on a visit to friends or relatives during the year".

If your Lordships want to liven the evening, read Croeso i Gymru, Welcome to Wales

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, clywch, clywch!

Lord Elwyn-Jones

Clywch, clywch, my Lords!

Lord Parry

I am delighted with the way that the Welsh language is spreading along the Front Bench! I read here, my Lords (I nearly said "my friends": I am sure your Lordships are): Blaenavon is a bedpan of the world".

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Tut, tut, my Lords!

Lord Parry

This was said by a Welshman. It is a print off from The Economist. It says: It stands on the eastern rim of the South Wales coalfield. The landscape is rainswept and windswept and scarred. Yet 120,000 visitors come there each year to put on helmets and lamps for a tour of the Big Pit. Their guide is one of the redeployed former miners at the pit, which was closed in 1980. Underground, the tourists are asked to douse their lamps to appreciate how fearfully dark and lonely it is in the bowels of the earth. Above ground, they visit the pithead baths… Yet when the Wales Tourist Board in 1978 put together a posse of statutory agencies and local authorities to establish an independent charitable trust to develop and manage the Big Pit museum, hoots of laughter filled the valleys. Turning it and other industrial 'eyesores' into tourist traps was seen as a waste of public money. The sceptics stand confounded. It is only by such bold initiatives that Wales will protect and increase its share of tourist spending". I could quote from The British Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers Association saying similar things about the need for a Tourism Act-style development for the areas of Britain that are in difficulty. I should prefer to turn quickly in my last seconds to the words of Duncan Bluck, the current chairman of the British Tourist Authority. He was speaking to the British Tourism Society on 29th April, almost anticipating this debate.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, the Tourism Society.

Lord Parry

The Tourism Society, my Lords. What did I say?

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

The British Tourism Society.

Lord Parry

My Lords, the words of the president guide me. Duncan Bluck forecast 17 million overseas visitors by 1988 and a revenue of more than £8 billion annually. He went on: By the end of the century we shall certainly be welcoming more than 25 million overseas visitors a year". He had some guiding words, too, for friends in high places: Whilst Government acknowledge the importance of this great tourism industry, this acknowledgment certainly is not always so obvious in their funding policies, particularly of the statutory tourist boards. We are talking about an enormous industry with an overseas visitors spend, as I have mentioned, of the order of £6 billion per annum in 1985 and probably a similar figure in domestic tourist spend". He also had a personal word for the noble Lord the Minister without Portfolio, Lord Young of Graffham, who is to reply to the debate. He said: We particularly welcome Government's recent decision to form a ministerial committee chaired by Lord Young which will look at the barriers to the growth of the industry and hopefully come up with fresh proposals. The fact that this influential group is due to report in July also shows the degree of urgency and priority which would have been highly unlikely a year or so ago. The setting up of the group recognises a reality. The reality is, as I have mentioned, that we are talking about an enormous and successful industry which can continue to create wealth and jobs throughout Britain provided it is properly supported. We must not allow this opportunity to pass us by without fully exploiting the opportunities that it will create". I have one question. Will the noble Lord, as soon as he comes to the conclusion of his examination towards the end of July, give us Government time so that we can have a sustained debate on this matter of the greatest potential industry in the service sector? I believe that, while the world does not owe us a living, there is one out there waiting for us to pick up. I beg to move for Papers.

3.16 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, Lord Parry deserves great credit for initiating this debate, but he deserves greater credit for the way in which he has expounded the case. Figures are not normally very amusing, but he has battered the Front Bench with very effective figures one after another, all proving an excellent case. He diverged a little towards the end, when he started to speak about Wales, but as I shall talk particularly about Scotland perhaps he had a right to spend a few minutes so doing.

The case of the colliery as a tourist attraction was particularly interesting to me because for many years I was chairman of a small glass factory in Scotland. We quickly found that the tourist was the most important customer we had. We eventually found that a third of our whole income was coming from tourists. As they came to the factory and bought direct, it was probably the most profitable of all the income we received in that factory. Originally, this factory was up in Wick—a long way away. One of the things we have to do for tourism is to try to spread it away from the main centres, or make it in addition to the main centres.

It is interesting that the Scottish figures show that we take about £1,000 million a year, and, of that, £250 million comes from overseas visitors. This is not nearly our share of the total if the total is £5,000 million, as the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said. There is a large job to do to make people realise that there is not only London: there is a vast stretch of very attractive hinterland to which tourists can go and to which people increasingly want to go to enjoy the peace of the countryside, to take part in the life of the countryside and not merely to enjoy the attractions of lying on a beach in the sun. More and more this has become important. It certainly is important to Scotland, and will be even more important when we consider the decline in agricultural income, which is inevitable in view of the surpluses we have in Europe today. With this decline there has to be some substitute. Without doubt all the agricultural policy-makers are looking at a countryside which must be supported, or, rather, which must support itself, in some way other than simply by agriculture.

Tourism is enormously important in this respect. Already in Scotland the farmhouse scheme has had a certain amount of success and a large number of people in remote estates derive much of their income from the letting of empty cottages. This could be extended enormously—again, it needs Government help and the scheme needs education—for in Scotland there are large numbers of farm cottages which are empty and which could provide excellent holiday homes and bring in much needed income to those farms.

The tourist boards have much to do throughout the whole country making our areas really attractive to tourists. On odd occasions we still have the attitude which the noble Lord, Lord Parry, illustrated by what he said about the boy bringing up the hot water. In that respect I do not understand why, in Scotland, we do not have an official inspection scheme and a standard mark which says that not only the hotel accommodation but the bed and breakfast holiday accommodation is up to a certain standard. It is absolutely essential that we have a national inspection scheme before anybody receives the mark of approval. I know many areas which have excellent services, but there are others which can give a generally attractive area with good tourist services an extremely bad name. That is an essential part of the work of the tourist boards.

I come back to the question of extending the area to which tourists go, particularly to the hinterland. It was a good thing that the Government eventually saw the common sense of allowing the Scottish Tourist Board to promote Scotland overseas itself. But I think that more money needs to be spent on particular promotion. I do not think that one can ever "blanket promote" for Britain and attract the whole of the business that is there to be had. I think that one has to allow the specialists, whether in Wales or Scotland, to spend and to promote overseas themselves. We have always had in Scotland the anomaly of the Highland Development Board being able to do so while the Scottish Tourist Board has not.

Now the anomaly has been put right and, as always, the cry, I suppose, is that the Government should spend more money. But in this case the Government should spend more money because it is absolute nonsense not to invest in something which is going to bring in money. In this case we are not giving a handout; we are actually doing something which has already created a very large industry and an industry which can be a great deal bigger. With our appalling record in the export of manufactured goods and our dependence on oil I think that the case has been made very strongly that this is not a handout, that this is money well spent and that without putting some money out, we will not take any in.

The budget for the Scottish Tourist Board, I think, is about £5 million, to which I suppose must be added the grants that it pays out; but if that is bringing in £250 million of foreign business, let alone the £1,000 million of total turnover, it is a very small sum to pay for that amount of extra business.

I think that the arguments put forward by the noble Lord have been extraordinarily well made. I hope that the Minister is not going to give the usual answer that, of course, we have got to save money; because in this case we have got to spend, and we will get it back. Already the figures show that it is coming back and the case appears to me to be totally logical. I feel that the noble Lord the Minister cannot possibly give any other answer than that the case has been made and that the money will be forthcoming to promote this excellent industry.

3.22 p.m.

Lord Forte

My Lords, personally I welcome the purpose of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Parry, in drawing attention to the significance to the changing economy of this country of the various tourist boards and I thank him for giving us an opportunity to consider this important subject. I thank him also for his very entertaining speech.

I have worked in this industry for over 50 years. I believe I can now claim that I know something about it. My message to your Lordships today is simple. It is this. The tourism and leisure industry, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Parry, has become vitally important to the economy of the country. I am not here in your Lordships' House today to advocate indiscriminate expenditure—in fact, it would be very much against my principles—but to say that to miss the opportunities that tourism presents, either by financial constraints or unnecessary control, would be absolute folly. Apart from the wealth that tourism creates within itself it, in turn, generates wealth in many other areas of the economy. Tourism must now be recognised, as we have heard, as one of Britain's finest investments. We could well be welcoming overseas visitors here long after the oil wells of the North Sea are dry and forgotten

I wish to emphasise the case for encouraging enterprise, renewed effort and greater initiative by all those concerned in the tourist business as well as ensuring that the tourist boards are enabled to perform their proper function in this connection. Some might accuse me of having a vested interest; indeed, I have. But I could say, so, too, has the country: it is in everybody's interest for Britain to have a prosperous and healthy tourist industry. Everybody is now climbing on the bandwagon; it is becoming fashionable. But it was not so long ago that the industry's role was regarded with some scepticism.

It is a good and healthy industry. Its record in recent years is a wonderful story of success. Investment, private investment, has been massive. The result, as your Lordships may know and as you have heard—the noble Lord, Lord Parry, unfortunately has stolen all my figures, for I think they come from the same source—is that 13.8 million overseas visitors were given hospitality here last year, and in 1985 we can expect, I am told, a record 14.5 million. If you will allow me to say so, I believe that over the years the industry has risen well to the challenge.

What does this mean for the country? Last year tourism contributed—and these are figures that your Lordships have heard many times already—over £5,000 million in foreign currency earnings, and, apart from this, the even greater sum of £6,000 million from domestic sources. This again demonstrates the efficiency and capability of the industry. It is over £11 billion.

Now I turn to jobs. Some 1.4 million people are directly employed in tourism, and they are among the finest working population of this country. I say so without fear of contradiction, though with due respect to other industries. They are working 365 days of the year, day in and day out, from early morning till late at night, to serve the needs of the industry. Without them, there would be no tourist industry; it would not exist. I would also add that it has been said that, for every one person employed in the industry, five more are employed indirectly outside it and because of it. New jobs are being created at the level of about 50,000 per annum. And it is not just new jobs, either. There are first-time jobs for youngsters leaving school and college; and I am very proud to say that my own company provides training and career opportunities for up to 2,000 young people every year.

I ask your Lordships' indulgence to dwell for a moment on the beneficial effects of a successful tourist industry on other areas; and I am not including some of the more obvious professional services, such as those of the solicitor, the banker, the accountant, the architect and many others. This industry, in fact, generates employment and wealth in virtually every other area of service and manufacture.

Our shopping list is vast. We need everything from coffee pots to computers, fittings and furnishings of every conceivable kind, kitchen equipment, cutlery and crockery and vehicles. We buy and use almost everything produced, supplied and grown in this country. We use every form of power and we must be the largest retailer of newspapers.

Just as an example, what would the dairy industry do without us? My company alone, a fraction of the industry, a mere fraction, reckons to use 41 million pints of milk and 90 million eggs annually—a lot of milk and a lot of eggs. Imagine then, my Lords, the total requirements of 39,600 hotels, motels and boarding houses, 76,000 licensed premises and the tens of thousands of restaurants.

Ours is a national industry, working in the national interest, largely within the framework of free enterprise. The dividends to the country are enormous and cannot be overstated. Moreover, the industry, in a relatively short time, has become a great national asset. The tourist boards referred to in the Motion are central to the successful marketing of our national product. They have done a very good job, and are doing a very good job; and if they are to perform their function properly, they need all the support that we can give them. That means, of course, financial support; they must be adequately funded.

At present the British Tourist Authority's grant in aid, as your Lordships have heard, amounts to £16.96 million, which is virtually £17 million; that is only £160,000 higher than last year. The English Tourist Board receives £8.8 million, which is only £40,000 higher than last year. It may sound a lot of money perhaps, but, as I have indicated, the investment gives an excellent return. In real terms the allocation of funds to the boards has dropped over recent years, due of course to our usual enemy—inflation.

I would assure your Lordships that the industry generally believes that the case for more is justified; that is, the case for more money for the boards, and of course I would support the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Parry, to that effect. Who pays? It seems that the Government always pay, and in many cases they do; but in this case the industry itself pays out very heavily in all kinds of rates and taxes. It is a major contributor to the Exchequer. My company alone last year—and I repeat that we are a fraction of the industry—paid in levies for rates, taxes and duties a total of over £140 million. That is not an inconsiderable sum. Therefore, the industry helps to pay.

Members of the industry in many ways support the various tourist boards, and will continue to do so, even moneywise. We feel that we get a return for our money, but we would not wish to see the boards grow into unwieldy bureaucracies. What we must have are tourist boards which will adopt a positive and active approach and react quickly when necessary.

Finally, it is easy for me to talk about what others should do without acknowledging the responsibility of those engaged in the industry itself. We do have a responsibility to give value for money to our visitors, and I believe we do give value for money. At a time when the market was clearly in our favour and we could have taken advantage of the situation we did not do so.

How else does our tourist traffic keep increasing? Currency fluctuations have indeed helped, but such advantages have also been enjoyed by our European competitors or partners—call them what you will—and in the main we have done better than they have; in many cases much better.

Therefore, we can look at the prospects for the future with confidence. We are talking about millions of airline seats in British carriers, millions of shoppers in British shops, millions of theatregoers in British theatres, millions of visitors to our museums, our art galleries and our stately homes, and, of course, millions of meals in British establishments and millions of bed nights in British hotels. Therefore I hope we shall see enhanced currency earnings, more and more jobs, and substantial profits, too, for the industry and the country. Travel is one of the great freedoms of our world today. Let us enjoy it and, as a country, take full advantage of its opportunities.

3.34 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Parry, for introducing this Motion today. I feel rather like a minnow following a whale, if I may say so, speaking immediately after my noble friend Lord Forte, who has made an enormous contribution to the tourist industry. My own contribution is absolutely minute in that we open our home to foreign paying guests and therefore have a very small trickle of tourists, unlike the thousands and thousands he has. But I have this involvement and we have had experience of the British Tourist Authority. We believe that they do a fantastically good job and they have first-class people who work hard. They have proved to be extremely helpful in the setting up of our very small business.

The Government have been emphasising the growth of service industries over the past months. We have all heard and read about this, and I believe it is very important. Surely, tourism is one of the service industries that is growing very fast indeed. Whether or not this is the age of the train I would not comment upon, but it is certainly the age of the tourist, in my experience. We have heard not only how financially advantageous is this for the country, but also that it is so very positive for the growth of employment. I am amazed, in running our home, just how many regular employees we have who are being paid for by tourists. Some of them, certainly, are seasonal, but others are employed for 12 months of the year, and they would not have the jobs if it were not for the tourists. If that is true of us, in our very small way, how much more true is it of the bigger and far more effective agents of tourism? For these reasons I believe that this debate is very apposite, particularly now when the tourist season is just getting under way. It is very labour intensive and therefore very important.

I should like to refer to the United States, which is where my wife and I have had most experience of the BTA. There are there four offices, the largest of which is in New York. My wife walked into the Chicago office of the BTA on one occasion and there was a man in charge and one young lady manning the whole office. So while the young lady was talking to visitors the man in charge had to be the telephonist because there was nobody else to do it. But they were doing a first-class job, though people sometimes had to wait a long time.

The New York office has working in it some 20 people and it is far and away the largest. But even there there are times when everybody is engaged on the telephone or in talking to people and so new inquirers ringing up cannot get through on the telephone and new callers just have to sit in a queue and wait. I am sure, from my experiences in the States, that more American tourists would come to this country if it was easier for them to get the information they require from the BTA in the United States.

Everybody so far has asked the Government to provide a little more hand-out. I should like to emphasise what the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said: that we are not asking the Government to give money away; we are suggesting that they should invest it, because they would get a very good rate of return on that investment. They have been receiving money from the sale of other investments recently and will be receiving other capital sums in the same way. Just a very small extra investment would produce a very good return for the Government accounts.

As I have said, there are four offices of the BTA in the United States, in New York, Chicago, going round Los Angeles on the West Coast, and Dallas. I should like to recommend that there should be another office between New York and Dallas; somewhere such as Atlanta. There is an enormous area there where Americans are a long way from any BTA office. Just a few more staff in the United States, I believe, would produce a very good return for this country.

It is sometimes said that American tourists will come here because of the weak pound. In my experience that is only a partial truth, because other currencies are also weak against the dollar. We have a lot to sell, but we need to market ourselves, and I am talking particularly about the United States, which is the one place where I have experience of marketing. I believe we need to do that.

I should also like to say that I must apologise for the fact—which I regret—that I shall not be able to be present to listen to my noble friend the Minister's reply at the end, because I have to depart in order to open a block of flats for old people. But I shall read with great interest afterwards what he has to say.

I should like to make a point about Wales—and I say this with great fear and trepidation in view of the Welsh experience of the noble Lord, Lord Parry. In my conversations with the foreign tourists with whom I have contact, they seem to me to go first and foremost to London; and then to Scotland or the West Country. I live in the South-East and I am trying to do battle to show them that—although it is impossible to drive down to it—the South-East is still not a forgotten area. I have asked why they do not go to somewhere like Wales where there is a great need for increasing employment and financial input. It is not the distance, because I do not believe that Wales is very much further away from London than Scotland.

But I should like to recommend that there be an increasing measure of co-operation in trying to promote that fabulous Principality of Wales to foreign tourists. It would also help, I am sure, the intervening area of the West Midlands through which tourists would go, and there are wonderful sights like Caernarvon Castle. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Forte has a hotel nearby where American tourists could stay, but they want places of interest to visit and they want to meet the people. I believe that there could be much more done to sell an area like that to foreign tourists. It needs the opening up of hotels. It needs the opening up of people's homes—because we find that Americans and others enjoy meeting the people in the area where they are and staying in their homes, not sitting by themselves at dining room tables in hotels all the time.

I believe that there could be improvements made in roads. I regret that that would undoubtedly cost money. But I should like to see more co-operation between the BTA, hotel industries, road authorities, and other people in order to sell those areas of this marvellous island which are not so well frequented by tourists as others are.

We are today discussing a success story; and what fun it is to do that. I hope to see tourism continue to expand in this country and the BTA continue to provide the first-class service that it is now giving to this industry.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

My Lords, I should like first to join with others who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Parry, not only for initiating this debate but for giving us those extremely impressive figures which were fortified by my noble friend Lord Forte. It occurred to me when he told us of the consumption of milk—I did a rapid calculation—how fortunate he was that he had not decided that his hotel industry should be self supporting and keep a sufficient herd of cows to supply this milk, because, if he had come up against the quota which has been imposed, he would have been in dead trouble.

It is perhaps not insignificant that of those taking part in this debate one-third of the number are from Scotland. That may be necessary in order to compete with the eloquence of Wales. Indeed, it has alas!, on occasions been true, I fear that it has taken three Scotsmen to every Welshman at Cardiff Arms Park, if not at Murrayfield. But we shall do our best.

It is true that tourism is enjoying—and will enjoy, I suppose, due to the exchange rate—its best ever season. From what I and others have read it is even better than last year's record. How very encouraging it is, as my noble friend Lord Brentford has remarked, when things really are going with a swing. I felt some of the enthusiasm within the office of the Scottish Tourist Board when I looked in this morning. They seemed to be busy; they are radiating enthusiasm; and the industry has without doubt really taken off.

I suppose that my interest in Scottish tourism stems from 1960 when I took part in a tour that was organised—and the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, will remember these names—by Mr. William Nicholson and the late Lord Fraser of Allander. In those days there was no statutory Scottish Tourist Board. The tourist board was, if I remember the noble Lord's description of it, self-perpetuating. There was no Highlands and Islands Development Board in those days. Mr. Nicholson laid the foundations for the tourist industry in Scotland as it exists today; and I pay tribute to him now, if it be needed. He kindled Lord Fraser's interest and as a result of that Aviemore now exists as a conference centre and ski resort.

I clearly remember on that tour going to hotels that are now given praise in international guides and which were quite literally then only being built or, if they had got past the building stage, people were putting up the wallpaper. Even then there was an air of enthusiasm. The noble Lord will probably remember that the enthusiasm went to the heads of Scottish Ministers, who fell for the idea of what was known as a Kur-tax; a tax on staying at a hotel every night, as happens, and I think has happened for a long time, in Switzerland. So far did Scottish Ministers fall for this that a Bill was introduced, and it was only after the Bill had been introduced and had had a Second Reading, I think in the Scottish Grand Committee, that the indignation of the hotel industry exploded. As far as I remember, though I have not looked this up, it was the only Bill which ever had a Second Reading and was withdrawn—I do not know if it even went to Committee stage—because of the total opposition to it.

In Scotland we have always had beautiful scenery. That is not to disparage Wales, because, when I was a Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, one of my pleasures every year was to spend two days in Wales. They were the two days I looked forward to most because the scenery there is unparalleled. In addition, in Scotland now we have a very good railway system bringing people from South to North, with their cars if they want them, or, if they do not bring their cars, there are cars parked beside the platform or at the airports to take them on to a marvellous road system. Everything now seems to be knitting together in a way that I find absolutely splendid. How wise it is of the two boards—the Scottish Tourist Board and the Highlands and Islands Development Board—to have organised their network around the lower tier of local government and to have, over and above that, insisted on the trade interests holding a majority stake in the area tourist boards.

For example, the size of Strathclyde would have made it totally impossible to do for the City of Glasgow in the tourist field what the district council of Glasgow has done for itself. I am bound to say, although I represented a constituency of the City of Edinburgh for 15 years—and the City of Edinburgh has undoubtedly been a very big tourist draw—that Edinburgh has to look to its laurels, because Glasgow has put itself on the map touristically in a very big way in the last two or three years.

Another point about the wisdom of having the tourist network down within the lower tier is that within the regions—Lothian region is an example—there are different districts where the tourist potential is totally different. Therefore, it is difficult for the region to do the job nearly as well as if it is down closer to the ground.

As I said, I visited the Scottish Tourist Board office this morning and the whole organisation seems to me to be first-class. The brochures put out for the different districts in—what one would hardly have imagined 20 years ago—not only good English, but in French and German as well, struck me as being absolutely excellent.

There are two things still to be done, one of which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. I think that hotel classification is essential. I believe, from what I heard this morning, that it is on the way. The other point is that direct flights into Scotland would help the tourist trade immensely. I believe that at the moment only two airlines cross the Atlantic to Prestwick. I dare say that it is a question of economics, but I have never been convinced.

It has been said to us that Scotland is virtually a spin-off from London. People come first to London and then perhaps after that they can be persuaded to go to Scotland. I am not at all so sure that, once one has been through what I do not think are the greatest pleasures of landing at Heathrow, one wants to go back to Heathrow again in order to get to Scotland, but I may be wrong. I think that if we had more flights into Prestwick there would develop a market for people who really want to go to Scotland in the first place.

I started by saying, as others have done, that this is likely to be a record year. I think we have to be careful. I always remember the words of a friend who opened a small hotel which turned out to be extremely successful—and still is. I remember her saying: One bad meal takes 50 good ones to recover your reputation". So let us not rest on our laurels.

3.54 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, we are all very grateful indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, for introducing this debate and for that welter of impressive figures that he gave us. When I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, suggest that they needed more tourists in Wales, I began to wonder, after having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, where they were going to put them. I hope that his arithmetic was better than that of the noble Lord, Lord Stodart. He said that a quarter of the people speaking in this debate were Scots—

Lord Stodart of Leaston

A third.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I have it written down. But if the noble Lord says it is a third, let him have a third. However, there are 10 speakers and five of them are Scots. I hope he does not forget that the noble Lord, Lord Forte, is a Scotsman. He, like many another Scotsman, delved his field very successfully in England.

We have a very big stake so far as tourism is concerned, and when we talk about the changing economic climate it seems to be all bad news. There are the railway workshops in Glasgow and all the other places that have closed down or are closing down. We pride ourselves that we had a pulp mill in the Highlands, the aluminium smelter was there and all of this we felt would add up to a new prosperity. The importance of tourism is that it can bring jobs, and can bring people who spend money to areas where it is so much needed. If we have one hotel opening and employing 50 people, that is a great industry in certain parts of Scotland. I do not think that the Scots can complain.

We had a debate on the Highlands and Islands Development Board itself and another one just under two years ago on tourism in Scotland, because we had a Bill before us. The Scottish Tourist Board was given new powers—I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, will be interested in this—for direct representation and spreading the word of tourism in Scotland overseas for the first time. I think that the sum involved was £200,000.

I look at what Scotland is to get next year. By the way, it is not £5 million. They are getting £9.2 million this year, excluding the Section 4 factor. But next year they are to get only £8.8 million, which is a 5 per cent. decrease. Almost the same is true of England. I think that they are virtually standing still. So the need for that support which has been urged here, and which seems to be taken up and accepted here, has not yet got through to the Government.

The places that need it most are, unfortunately, the places that are furthest away. That has implications for Scotland, for Wales and for the North of England. It has implications for the railways, for road passenger transport and for all sorts of other things which are outside the tourist board's immediate concern. So there has to be co-operation between the whole lot of them if we are to get the best out of tourism. I do not think we always do.

I was in Arran just a week ago. They were not talking about the high-faluting things that we talk about. They were talking about the cost of the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick. They were talking about the timetable and how one ferry was to be taken out at the start of the summer. I am glad to say that that decision was changed as a result of the objections of local people. But there has to be far more concern shown by those who are not consciously dependent on the tourist industry, about getting together with the local people to see how they can help.

People used to go down from Glasgow to Arran for the day. I am a member of the Brodick Country Park, representing the National Trust of Scotland, and I sent my wife to get the tickets. When she came back she said, "I was standing beside a husband and wife and the husband said 'We will not be coming many times to Arran for a day now' ", and he told her the cost for a husband, wife and two children. We want a little more imagination shown by those who run the ferries, to make it possible for people still to go off for a day to some of the islands without it costing almost as much as a month's holiday.

As regards the Highlands and Islands, the noble Lord, Lord Stodart, will remember that he was very pleased with their organisation of tourism. They got about 15 area tourist organisations, with their local offices, in touch with the trades and with the local authorities and everything was going well. He said, "This is the pattern for the whole of Scotland". We had a Bill and we made that the pattern for the whole of Scotland. I think it started early in 1983. I was appalled to read a report on the Highlands and Islands by the Scottish Select Committee in which the Scottish Tourist Board actually argued with the Government and with the Higlands and Islands Board because it wanted to take over all those authorities which really pioneered the work that it is now doing. I thought it was impossible.

The Government are greatly to blame for this because the Government suggested it. The words are quoted in that report of December 1982. The Minister of State and Mr. Martin of the Scottish Economic Planning Department suggested that it was the Government's way forward for the Scottish Tourist Board to take over this part of the Highlands and Islands Board's work. I am glad to say that in evidence to the Select Committee the noble Lord, Lord Gray, modified that view and said that this would not be done—I want the Government to stress that this is their position—unless the local people wanted it done, unless the local area boards in the Highlands wanted it done, unless the local authorities wanted it done and unless the Highlands and Islands Board thought that the time was right. It is nonsense that at a time like this, when there is a chance to do so much in Scotland, one can have this type of argument with time being wasted by people who should know better. That is the one sad point that I wanted to mention.

I want to emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stodart, that Edinburgh must look to its laurels. Glasgow, with the courage that came from the generosity of a private individual and help from the Government, put up a new museum, the Burrell. It is incredible but it is true that more people have gone to that museum in one year than to all the museums and national galleries in Edinburgh put together. People are coming to a wonderful building architecturally to see the Burrell Collection, which is displayed in the building. It shows what, with some imagination, can be done.

I hope that we in Scotland will appreciate the money spent on tourism and on attractive buildings. If you have to build something, make it attractive and not something that sickens you when you see it twice. I am not going to mention any buildings in Edinburgh of recent times—even those occupied by Ministers—which let us down from an architectural point of view. There are buildings that are worth visiting for themselves. I am glad to say that we are beginning to see the Victorian architecture of Glasgow cleaned up, just as we have cleaned the Houses of Parliament.

What a difference it makes! The money spent by the local authorities in that way is giving a new look to Glasgow. It is part of Glasgow's tourism. I do not believe that people realise that they can be in the centre of Glasgow one minute and half an hour later they can be at the Loch Lomond side. It is a tourist centre. People are now beginning to appreciate it. Apart from that we have not only the Burrell Collection but the Kelvingrove. I do not know about other people who are interested in art but I remember going to Vienna to see just one picture. It was the only place I could go to see it. The same is true of Glasgow. It has probably the finest collection of impressionist paintings in Britain. If you want to see Salvador Dali's picture, The Crucifixion of St. John, it is in Glasgow and you will not need to pay a penny to see it. All these things are worth while.

Sectional interests are also catered for. I am glad to say that they are getting down to it in Scotland. Golfing holidays are available, and the Highlands and Islands Board is working hard in respect of marine holidays. Winter sports holidays in Scotland are also being promoted. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, mentioned these aspects because it did spring from Lord Fraser of Allander, Sir Hugh Fraser as he then was.

I want to echo something that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Forte. It is not enough to get people to visit Scotland or any part of England; you have to persuade them to visit again. In other words, they have to be impressed during their first visit by the hospitality and by the friendship. We cannot do very much about the weather; but even rain in Scotland is a blessed thing at times. There is the scenery in Islay and in Skye, and the changing weather and the changes of scene. That is part of the beauty of the whole thing. We have all these potential magnets for the tourists but we have to sell them to the tourists. I hope that the Scottish Tourist Board and the Highlands and Islands Board will stop jockeying for position, and that the Scottish Tourist Board will stop empire building and get down to the job properly to sell Scotland and increase the tourist value to the country.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he not agree that the beauties of Scotland must be protected because if you get hundreds of thousands of tourists straying all over the hills they spoil what they come to see? There have been many instances of that.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, the number of people we have in the Highlands area is 24 to the square mile. I think that we are able to absorb quite a few tourists without them spoiling it. I have heard the noble Viscount on this subject not only in relation to Scotland but to a village in England that is nearer to his heart.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, for the characteristically erudite speech with which he opened this very important debate. I have had lying fallow on the Order Paper for about three years a debate on the hotel and tourist industry, but I think the noble Lord, Lord Parry, has presented the case with rather more conviction with his own experience than I would have done.

I think that we are in danger of playing the nationality game because for my own part I was born in London and christened in Scotland, but my mother and grandparents were all Scots. I declare a family interest in which I am completely non-financially involved in that I have relatives on my side and on my wife's side in both the hotel and catering industry in England and in Scotland.

I should like to devote my few remarks mainly to the hotel industry. I should first of all like to pay tribute to one person in particular, the chairman of the London Tourist Board, Sir Christopher Lever, whom I have known for some years being a Livery man myself. I knew him particularly during his year of office as Lord Mayor of London when he spoke so expertly on the very important subject of tourism.

One very important aspect of this is communications in the hotel industry. Of course tourists have to stay somewhere. It is usually in hotels or in boarding houses or, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said, in cottages which do a thriving trade, do it very reasonably, and do it particularly well in Scotland with its characteristically splendid cooking. It is the reasonableness of cost that needs to be emphasised.

The manager or proprietor of a hotel is more than a front man or front woman. Very frequently overseas tourists, particularly Americans, who are very friendly people, want to meet the manager or proprietor. Visitors like to meet the owner or manager of the premises in which they are staying, and that is understandable. Obviously it is not always possible to do this, particularly in a big hotel. But we were enriched by the speech of my noble friend Lord Forte, with his lifelong experience in hotels. It is the friendliness which one experiences in the hotels he and his family run which makes them so inherently successful.

The other point I should like to dwell on for a moment concerns catering. In this country we have in hotels Spanish weeks, Italian weeks, French and German weeks, and so on. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister, if he is willing and if it is within the purport of his reply, to say whether British weeks are sufficiently sponsored overseas. After all, British tourists go to France, Germany and America. Sometimes they would like to sample the way in which British food is offered in those countries. In Denmark, there is, or there was 12 years ago, when I was last there, in Copenhagen one restaurant which served British food, and it was extremely well patronised. That kind of two-way traffic is all-important.

Another matter which has not been touched upon but which is very important is safety. I declare an interest as honorary vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. More and more tourists, particularly Americans, visit our country, bringing with them young families and old people. Much has to be done in British hotels, compulsorily, of course, as regards safety precautions. For example, fire doors have to be installed. This places a large cost on the owners or proprietors of hotels.

I have a question to ask my noble friend. I have not given him notice of it and so he may not be able to reply this afternoon. I should like to know whether any grants or loans are available for people setting up new hotels, in particular people who are doing so privately as opposed to hotel chains, such as those owned by the Rank Organisation. Hotel chains, too, are put to great expense when they are required to fit safety devices. It is absolutely right that they should be required to do so, but if no help is given to them, so often the cost is passed on to the consumer and all the benefits tend to be lost. This is an important point to consider when we are discussing hotels overall.

In conclusion, I should like to pay tribute to those people who have produced the reports of the various tourist boards. These are concise and to the point. This is particularly so of the small leaflet Plain Facts of Tourism, which should be taken as an example of how facts and figures can be presented concisely instead of in large volumes. This debate is to be welcomed and I hope that the subject will be discussed again before too long; tourism is universally regarded as being one of our growth industries.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee

My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on introducing this debate. As he was recently chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board, the House is particularly fortunate in being able to have the benefit of his advice and experience today.

Sometimes it is contended that regardless of how the British economy may change, the role of tourism remains fairly static and limited; thus good results and increased revenues from tourism are explained away as simply reflecting the present disparity between the pound and the dollar. And it is argued that current favourable trends, which are claimed to be cyclical, do not show that British tourism is moving forward but instead that the industry is only regaining the position it held in the early 1970s.

It is further alleged that since United Kingdom travel expenditure abroad still exceeds income from abroad—and the travel account balance of payments deficit for 1984 was still about £0.2 billion—then tourism cannot as yet have made a significant impact on the Btritish economy. However, these observations, although quite useful in themselves and when taken separately, when taken together do not amount to a case which undermines at all the present significance of British tourism.

Regarding tourist income from the United States, the lion's share is coming to Britain. As my noble friends Lord Forte and Lord Brentford both observed, this is despite the fact that the dollar is hardly any weaker against the European currencies. And in each successive year over the past 10 years Britain has retained 60 per cent. of the number of visitors from the United States for the previous year. More to the point, when considered against other sectors of the economy, as noble Lords have already illustrated, tourism emerges better than almost all the rest, accounting for more than 1 million employees and showing a 1984 cost of job creation per capita in the region of just under £5,000.

Nor is it anything but desirable that United Kingdom travel expenditure abroad should continue to grow. This does not work against the interests of tourism expenditure in Britain. And it is not inconsistent that the BTA's minimum forecast of successive annual increases of 50,000 jobs per year and of 17 million visitors to Britain by 1988, representing £8 billion in annual revenue.

If it is agreed that tourism is a major growth industry, it should be asked what part the Government can now play to stimulate that growth, and hence also, as this Motion implies, how far the present level and nature of support received by the statutory bodies should be altered, if at all. It is to be welcomed very much that the Government have launched an interdepartmental tourism policy review, chaired by my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham, and that this review is designed to remove obstacles to the industry's rapid expansion. However, this year has seen a drop in real terms in the financial support given to the BTA and the ETB. Can my noble friend the Minister indicate whether, arising out of his current review, this drop in financial support might be corrected? In the absence of a ministry for tourism, can my noble friend further indicate what system of arbitration may be able to operate in this and in future years to protect financial levels for the industry?

The main purpose of the review itself is to identify new methods of encouraging the industry. Regarding the need to assist the development of hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in towns and inner city areas, can my noble friend reveal what measures the Government are prepared to adopt to ease excessive town planning regulations which conflict with that aim?

More obvious restrictions confronting tourism reflect the case for extending the opening hours of national museums and galleries and improving the speed and efficiency of immigration and Customs controls at ports of entry. In regard to liquor licensing restrictions, there is now plenty of evidence to suggest that flexible drinking hours do not lead to bad behaviour. This is so whether one finds oneself in Scotland, on the continent of Europe, or even in the refreshment areas of your Lordships' House. However, in considering the question of drinking—and as my noble friends Lord Forte and Lord Stodart of Leaston have reminded us—we should take into account also the consumption of milk.

Turning to the question of good communications within the tourist industry, there is of course the priority that the trade should become fully aware of the quality and standards demanded by the consumer. The Scottish Tourist Board has already embarked on a scheme of voluntary registration. This enables the verification of accommodation and more detailed grading, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston have referred. That in turn can assist a larger turnover of business and hence also lead to lower prices for the consumer. Can my noble friend the Minister affirm that the adoption of similar schemes to the one initiated by the Scottish Tourist Board will be encouraged as soon as possible for the rest of Britain?

The Highlands and Islands Development Board also has an excellent record in relation to tourism, and it is in no small way owing to the efforts both of that agency and the STB that Scottish tourism is in the healthy state that it is. However, there is always the danger of too much complacency within the trade. One of the main objectives should be to raise the percentage of occupancy over the different types of accommodation that are offered both in and out of season. Another should be to give more guidance to small tourist-related businesses in Scotland on what facilities they should try to develop.

Then there is the importance of training and education in tourism. The ETB is now taking steps to improve publications and information on career opportunities. Does my noble friend agree that the Government should take some direct initiatives? What plans do the Government have to promote to a greater extent education and training in tourism in schools and in centres of further education?

If we consider the part which the Government and the statutory bodies can both play to help British tourism, there are many areas for action and co-operation, which include maintaining financial support, removing unnecessary restrictions, raising quality and standards and improving training and education. Provided that those matters are tackled, the British tourist industry will continue to make a major contribution to the economy, to the creation of jobs and to the opportunities for leisure and recreation.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I am a little reluctant to intervene in this debate, especially as my name is not mentioned on the list of speakers, because I am neither a Scot nor directly involved in the tourist industry. However, I am very interested in our balance of payments, and I happen to be a member of your Lordships' Select Committee on Overseas Trade. We had the benefit of the evidence from the British Tourist Board on the great contribution that the tourist industry is making to our balance of payments. I am also keen to intervene because the noble Lord, Lord Parry, who so eloquently introduced the debate, is a colleague of mine on the "Keep Britain Tidy" group; and the noble Lord, Lord Forte, who made such an important contribution, is a great supporter of that campaign, the objective of which is to improve the quality of the land in which we live for those who live here and to make it more attractive for those who visit us.

I have one point that I should like to put to the Minister, and it is this. I believe that the encouragement of tourism can be linked with the encouragement of our trade in manufactured goods. Are we satisfied that we have a sufficient supply of adequate exhibition centres in this country? We have the important exhibition centre in Birmingham, we have the old established exhibition centres in London, and there are a number of others. But I believe that if we were to improve the quality and quantity of our exhibition centres to vie with a number of such centres on the Continent, we could as part of our tourist operation attract people here not only for their holidays but also for business reasons: to come to see our products displayed in the best conditions.

We could provide them with a good holiday in the process and show them some of the wonderful sights in Wales, Scotland and elsewhere which have been so lauded today in our debate. I believe, therefore, that the promotion of tourism can be given an additional dimension if we take a close look at how it can be linked with the promotion of our trade in manufactured goods.

I thank your Lordships for allowing me to intervene although my name was not on the list of speakers and to make the additional point of how we can add to the benefits already provided by tourism.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, as other noble Lords have done, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Parry for introducing the debate today. His experience as chairman of the Wales Tourist Board has contributed much to our discussion, and his contribution to its work has done much to improve the tourist attraction of the Principality. His forceful presentation of the industry's progress, I feel, was just the right tone to set for our debate today. This is the first debate specifically on tourism since I was fortunate, like my noble friend today, to secure a place in the ballot some seven years ago. The problem then was the same as it is now: the Government do not sufficiently recognise the size of the contribution that tourism has made and is making, not only to our overseas earnings but also to employment within the United Kingdom.

The question which must, with some starkness, face the present Government, with the political philosophy that they hold, is why they should give any money to the tourist industry. Why should not the private sector fund the national effort to promote tourism? I would answer the question in this way. The tourist industry is widely fragmented, involving thousands of operators, many of whom are very small and who cannot come together in a meaningful way to promote the industry. Secondly, it is a national industry—a national asset that we cannot do without. The Government have a duty to see that the economic climate is one in which the industry can flourish. It is an economic climate which, I would say, is fiercely competitive in an international field.

That not only involves the Government in giving grant-in-aid to the national boards, but also in encouraging the industry in the country. For example—and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, quoted this—the Government need to take action on hotel building, particularly in central London. As the Minister will well know, all three central London boroughs have had a ban on new hotel building for some years—in the very areas where we need more reasonably-priced hotel beds to be available. I wonder whether it is possible for the Minister to ease the path of such planning consents in the central area; or, indeed, if the hotels cannot be built in the central area, to see whether money can be made available for local authorities outside the central area, whose spending is inevitably capped at the present time, so that they have the wherewithal to attract hotels to their areas. I particularly have in mind the infrastructure necessary if we are to encourage hotel building in areas where hoteliers do not immediately want to build.

I should like to say a word about the Government's grant-in-aid to the British Tourist Authority. Many noble Lords have already mentioned the fact that it has increased by roughly 5 per cent. in cash terms over the past four years to £17 million in the current financial year, 1985–86. But, of course, in real terms that amounts to a substantial decrease. The figures conceal the fact that there has been a decline in the value of the pound in this period. The British Tourist Authority now has to spend 44 per cent. of its grant-in-aid, as opposed to 28 per cent. four years ago, on its overseas offices. Even with that increased share of its budget being devoted to overseas marketing, the amount in fact available to maintain its operation overseas, and particularly in the United States of America, is considerably down. The effect of this has been that the number of staff in its overseas offices has had to be cut and, for example, it has had to cut its overseas advertising campaign by some £600,000.

Perhaps I may put the amount of Government support to industry in some kind of context. The noble Lord, Lord Parry, commented that overseas visitors were expected to contribute some £600 million to the Treasury in VAT receipts in 1985. The Government pay only about 10 per cent. of that to the tourist industry. The noble Lord, Lord Forte, commented that his company contributed some £110 million in rates and taxes last year. The Government contribute only about half of that to the tourist industry at the present time. Lack of money within the industry means that a number of jobs are not being done. Inspections of smaller hotels, as has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords, are not being adequately carried out for these reasons. Policies of telling people about new attractions, which have again been spoken about by a number of noble Lords, are not being carried out.

In this particular debate, I am in a minority, not being a Scotsman or a Welshman, but being a Londoner. What concerns me particularly is the image of London, which I regard as being very important since it determines the choice which visitors make for their holidays. Suggestions that London has dirty hotels, is overpriced and does not care, are not good for tourism. The Government must be concerned that London has the ability to maintain standards and to maintain its image.

Those people who complain about crowds should remember that without tourists London would not be the same place. Tourism is a part of our infrastructure. If the tourists' support of many aspects of London life were withdrawn, London would be that much poorer. In London 380,000 jobs directly depend on tourism. Forty per cent. of theatre tickets are bought by tourists. Twenty per cent. of taxi rides are paid for by tourists. If these particular sales were not being made, there is a danger that those services would not be available to Londoners as a whole. As has been said, nationally 1.3 million jobs depend on tourism. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, this will increase each year by 50,000 if tourist spending increases by three per cent. Of course, this includes jobs only in hotels, restaurants, public houses, nightclubs, tourist attractions, and so on, but not in related services like manufacturing goods which are bought by tourists.

The structure of the national tourist boards is as was laid down in 1969 by the Development of Tourism Act. It has created a number of problems, some of which the present Government have tried to overcome by the amalgamation of the roles of the chairman of the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board. It is certainly to be hoped, although the two organisations continue with separate chief executives, that this will lead to a lesser amount of duplication of their work. It does not underestimate the feeling that I understand is being felt by the other national boards towards the combined BTA/ETB network, that these two boards working so closely together will mean that the English Tourist Board is likely to benefit disproportionately by the amount of grant money available to it.

However, the figures do not bear out this particular fear. The proportion of grant-in-aid, including Section 4 money, allotted to the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board has gradually increased over the years, while that allotted to the English Tourist Board, and for that matter to the BTA, has decreased. I understand that part of the reason for this is that the Scottish and Welsh offices are responsible for the funding of the STB and the WTB, whereas the Department of Trade and Industry, where funds are more scarce, are responsible for the funding of the ETB and the BTA.

There has been a very competitive situation among the national boards for some time. Each board has tried to prove itself better and more forceful than the other with the result that the same job was being done more than once. During my time as chairman of both the London Tourist Board and the London Convention Bureau, my experience taught me that there was a danger in more than one organisation trying to do the preliminary work which was necessary before a conference or convention could be arranged and handed over to the private sector for processing. It led to a considerable degree of confusion within the industry. This is something that has to be dealt with. The new arrangements have already led to a cutting of duplication. Work is being done more effectively within the BTA and the ETB. This needs to be extended to the regional boards.

The present Government have adopted, as one of their themes, the theme of taking services nearer to the people. This is not a view with which I disagree, although I disagree with the extent to which I believe the Government have achieved anything in this area. I see as important the need to put more emphasis on the work of the regional boards.

Almost every year, since I first became involved with the work of the London Tourist Board in 1970, the amount of grant-in-aid paid to the board as a proportion of the amount of grant paid to the English Tourist Board has decreased. This is the case with the work of the other regional boards. The English Tourist Board in the past has given priority to its own work over and above that due to the regional boards. I am glad to see that there is some reversal of the trend now and that money is to be diverted to the regional boards for hotel registration and verification. The English Tourist Board is hard at work on this aspect and it is hoped that a strong scheme will emerge.

I hesitate to mention this on what would appear to be a holiday from discussing the Local Government Bill, but another factor which faces the work of the regional hoards is the effect of the loss of local government funding and the problem of local government support in the future arising from the abolition of both the GLC and the metropolitan authorities. If funding in London is left to the individual boroughs on a voluntary basis, there will be little funding available to the tourist board (which of course has been recently renamed the London Visitor and Convention Bureau).

This is because the inner London boroughs feel that they have enough tourists, and that the London Visitor and Convention Bureau should be encouraging tourists to go into the outer London areas and not encourage them to come into central London, or servicing them in central London. However, the outer London boroughs are, in many cases, doubtful about the advantages which they themselves would reap from having more tourists in their particular areas. As we have said, there are a great number of jobs at stake in London and it is important that this should be put on a proper basis in the future and should not be neglected during the passage of the Local Government Bill.

In the past, I have spoken about the need for a Minister of Tourism. I have not changed my mind on this. I feel that the main reason for having a Minister of Tourism is so that the Government of the day can show that they regard tourism as a serious contributor to our national well-being, and also the fact that the Government of the day regard tourism as something important and not as an ephemeral contributor to our national welfare.

Perhaps I may take what may appear to be a trivial example in relation to London. One of the sights which tourists flock to see in London every day is the changing of the Guard. This happens every 24 hours during the summer schedule, but during the winter schedule it happens only once every 48 hours. I am told that the Ministry of Defence has decided that this year the winter schedule should start in early August. I am sure that if the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply had the responsibility of being the Minister of tourism, he would promptly and politely have made it clear to the Secretary of State for Defence that such a decision was not in the general tourist interest. I should add that every other year the winter schedule has started very much later than it is proposed this year.

I apologise for focusing these remarks on London, but London is, of course, the part of the country that I know best. It is the focal point for the tourist industry. Over 85 per cent. of our overseas visitors use London and the immediate area around it as their point of entry into the United Kingdom. Over two-thirds of them stay in London for some part of their visit. It is true now, as always, that for the rest of the country to benefit adequately from the tourist industry, the position of London is crucial. It is therefore, I think, regrettable that the only British tourist information centre in St. James's should have been closed at the instigation of the present Government. We have in London an England centre at Victoria Station. We have separate Wales and Scotland information centres in London, but no centre where information can be obtained about all of Britain. Proposals were put forward for an all-Britain centre near Piccadilly. Those have fallen through for lack of funds. Should not this be reviewed in the interests of spreading tourism throughout the United Kingdom?

I have reread the contribution that I made to the debate in 1978. I see that I then said: Because we have just experienced a bumper inflow of tourists, we must not be lulled into a false sense of security about the future health of the tourist industry. We must remember that constant efforts are needed if we are to remain an attractive venue for overseas visitors". [Official Report. 25/1/78; col. 401.] That is as true today as it was then. In fact, the number of overseas visits declined in 1979, partially owing to the strength of the pound at the time, partially owing to bad publicity and partially as a reaction to 1977 and 1978. Thankfully, our foreign currency earnings are now, in cash terms, about twice what they were in 1977. However, in real terms they have hardly recovered in London to that figure. We must be vigilant on behalf of the industry. We must remember that tourism is a fickle industry. Nothing should be taken for granted. Noble Lords will recall that three or four years ago tourists were flocking into Miami. Now very few British tourists go there.

Noble Lords will also be aware that the drop in the number of tourists expected to go to Spain this year is about 20 per cent. So we do not need reminding that we cannot automatically expect to see an increase in the number of visitors each year. I hope that the debate today will have been helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, who is to reply, in his inquiry to determine the statutory or other obstacles that hinder enterprise and employment development in the tourist and leisure industries.

4.44 p.m.

The Minister Without Portfolio (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, for his enthusiasm and his restraint in introducing the Motion. His enthusiasm was infectious. Indeed, I do not think that I should burden your Lordships' House with any more figures. The noble Lord has given all that are required to show the enormous growth in tourism. His restraint was even more commendable. For fully 12 minutes of his 15-minute speech he spoke of the United Kingdom and fell into temptation only in the last three minutes to talk about Wales. He fell finally from grace utterly, in my book, in talking in the last few seconds about money. I am grateful that we have had such a useful and timely debate, in the view of my colleagues and myself on the committee that I chair, to look at the progress and the course of possible future development of tourism within the United Kingdom.

Tourism on the scale that we know it today is a comparatively new phenomenon. The development of air travel in the 1960s and the 1970s has opened up the international market in a way perhaps paralleled only by the manner in which the introduction of the railways in this country opened up domestic travel. I recall occasionally, I must confess with a little nostalgia, those days 25 years' ago when London in August was deserted. Most of the restaurants were shut. We could certainly park our cars. London was almost a desert. Indeed, in those days the Oxford Street shops used to see their sales decline sharply in the middle of July and recover only in September. It is only the enormous growth of tourism that has brought about such a tremendous change.

The fact that strikes me most vividly is that since those days in the mid-1950s the number of tourists coming to the United Kingdom has increased by 14 times. United States citizens holding passports number barely 8 per cent. What will this country be like if and when 16 per cent. of Americans hold passports and then 24 per cent? Will they come to this country, or will they pass us by on the way to Europe? This is a matter to which we should give considerable thought. I am not sure that this has anything to do with the amount of financial support that the Government give to tourism. We have heard of enormous figures. We have heard of the comparatively small scale of Government spending that has generated those figures.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, said that Scotland had not had its fair share. I have looked up the figures. I find that in 1984–85 the Scottish Tourist Board and the Highlands and Islands Development Board had in excess of £15 million. We, the poor English board, had £17.5 million. So, in proportion, Scotland has, I think, had rather more than its fair share.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I said that Scotland did not get its fair share of overseas business and that it must attract such business. I did not say that we did not get a fair share of Government money.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I do not wish to debate individual points. I wonder even then about this. It seems to me that Scotland has enormous advantages that are now being used. I am aware that the River Thames now contains salmon. I do not believe, however, that we would choose to go fishing in the Thames. Many of the evident attractions of Scotland have led, for example, to the growth of the electronics industry there. But that is another story. If, however, we are talking about the money that the Government spend, we should not simply be concentrating our attention on the amount spent through Section 4 grants or through the various tourist boards.

I had the privilege, while at the Manpower Services Commission, of introducing the Community Programme. It spends £600 million a year. This will be up shortly to about £1 billion. Many outdoor museums today owe their existence to the Community Programme. They are becoming substantial tourist attractions in their own right. Ironbridge Gorge industrial museum has contributed enormously as a result of the Community Programme and the Youth Training Programme. Ellesmere Port boat museum and the Manchester museum of science and technology and railway preservation societies around the country are other examples. During my time with the commission I visited innumerable industrial museums which are now becoming tourist activities in their own right. This shows once again that tourist attractions are not confined to any particular part of the United Kingdom. They are not confined to any part of the United Kingdom with supposed benefits of climate. They can be seen to be spread universally.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Forte and I pay tribute to his 50 years in the industry. I am looking forward to being 50 years a customer of the industry. I greatly appreciated my noble friend's description. I thought at one time that he said "a land flowing with milk and eggs". My noble friend Lord Forte demonstrated beyond any doubt the way ahead in tourism. He told us that he had introduced training for young people and that some 2,000 young people a year are benefiting. I hope very much that the two-year youth training scheme will enable that situation to be accelerated.

However, I suspect that the real difficulty that we shall have in tourism, and, indeed, the real opportunity that will be presented to us by tourism, will lie in the ways in which we are able to develop the education and training systems. We must once and for all lay to the ghost that service is somehow equivalent to servile. We must recognise for all time that the profession of a waiter is an honourable profession, that giving good service in a restaurant or hotel is an honourable way in which to earn a living. We must recognise, just as we do with exports overseas, that if we are to win and build up a real tourist industry in this country, we must earn it, and we must earn it through service.

My noble friend Lord Brentford talked of the United States and of the activities of the British Tourist Authority in that country. Of course it is a marketing organisation and not a direct selling organisation as such. It is through the travel agents that the various packages and information about this country are delivered. However, all the advertising, all the packaging and all the marketing will be wasted if visitors who come over here have bad experiences and go home and tell their friends. It is service and quality of service which restored the fortunes of the Jaguar Motor Company by ensuring that they had a product of good quality. It is service and the quality of people's stay in this country which will cause the word to be spread back in the United States, in Europe, in the lands overseas, and that will bring people to this country far more than will any amount of advertising.

We have heard much of figures. The exact number of those employed in tourism and the leisure industries is difficult to measure because the estimates vary. However, when looking at tourism I hope that we shall also look at and take into account leisure itself and the internal tourism of those of us who go away for one day, two days or even on day trips. That type of tourism is an enormous job generator.

Much was said during the course of the debate about the future of industry in this country. I suspect, hope and anticipate that industry will be a great wealth producer in this country. However, neither I nor many of us foresee that it will be a great employer. It is the wealth which will be generated and which will be spread, I hope, through the service sectors, through restaurants and through hotels which will benefit not only tourism but also our own native people as well as employment.

My noble friend Lord Stodart drew attention to the dangers of a hotel tax. Part of my job is to look at the burdens that are placed on, and the obstacles that are put in the way of tourism. I hope that we shall never be tempted to consider placing too many obstacles in the way of attracting people to come here. My noble friend also drew attention to the growth and development of Glasgow and said words which have been repeated as a theme many times throughout the debate: namely, let us not rest on our laurels. We have seen a great growth in tourism. Whether that growth continues, as I know it can, depends upon all of us and not—and this is the theme to which I should like to return—necessarily upon the amount of money which the Government will give to the tourist boards to help the industry to do it.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross, drew attention to the great importance of jobs in rural areas and particularly in those areas which the wave of industry has now passed by. The noble Lord is absolutely right. A hotel employing 50 people in an area of great scenic beauty is a permanent source of employment not only to those 50 who live in the hotel, but also to the many others who work on estates, in shops and in restaurants around that area. I suspect that such places are much more likely to be an enduring source of employment than those industries which have their time and then go. I hope that we shall see throughout the length and breadth of the land the continuation of the enormous growth in country hotels and tourist projects. We have the great advantage of having not only a beautiful country and a well developed countryside but also probably one of the world's great commercial languages which is of as much help in attracting tourism and foreigners to this country as it is of help to our businessmen overseas. I hope that we can put the two together and see them develop.

My noble friend Lord Auckland asked whether we have "British weeks" abroad. I have seen British weeks abroad. Indeed, they are still continuing. I very much hope that they will play a part. However, as I have said time and time again, it is a small part of the task of actually marketing tourism in this country. The noble Lord drew attention to the cost and difficulties of regulation. Every regulation has a price. The price may be worth paying. However, excessive regulations certainly have a price and the price probably lies in someone else's job. Part of my task is to look at the obstacles which are placed in front of those who are engaged in the hotel and tourist industries and to see whether they are truly needed. In another place only this week the restriction on shops' hours was debated. I hope that in the course of time that will be seen to be not only a great job generator but also an attraction for the tourist industry.

The question of fire precautions has been mentioned. I do not think that this is an appropriate time to debate the essential nature of fire precautions, save to say that we must ensure that we have suitable and adequate precautions for the protection of our tourists. However, we must also ensure that there is not so much bureaucracy that we slow down the working of the system and lay too much cost on those new industries and new businesses which are starting. I hope that when I and my colleagues consider the situation we shall be able to have a good look not necessarily at fire regulations, but at the many regulations that actually exist and see whether or not there are some which can, with safety, be relaxed. It is a question, time and time again, of getting the correct balance between licence and the liberty of the individual—not allowing the licence to abuse our fellow man. I suspect that if we look more and more at the opportunities which are offered in this country, we shall find that they are developing fast.

I have already made reference to the number of country hotels which have expanded and grown in the last few years. I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for mentioning another aspect; namely, conference and exhibition centres. We already have a great new exhibition centre in Birmingham—though I suspect that it is not now quite so new—which is going very well. I recently read that some of the London centres were talking of expanding. I hope very much that perhaps the Docklands 'could even have an opportunity to expand. I know that the market for conference and exhibition centres is growing fast and I suspect that they will become available before much longer. We have a valuable opportunity.

However, I slightly regret that no one this afternoon has mentioned that other activity which has been so much a source of not only tourism but also leisure activities generally. I am referring to the many large amusement centres that now exist throughout the country. This area has grown immensely and is achieving standards of professionalism comparable with any country in the world. I know that there have been plans for some of these centres in the London area and if they go ahead, there will be great employment opportunities. I hope very much that they proceed.

I now come to one of the problems which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that of planning. Incidentally, perhaps I may say how grateful I was for the remarks of the noble Lord opposite, for at least I felt that we two were holding the Standard of England among so many speakers from Wales and Scotland. Planning is a difficulty and a problem. There are some authorities which still perhaps, and alas, do not recognise the real employment potential of tourism in hotels. I suspect that there will be a shortage of hotels before too long; but let us remember that the last time the Government interfered with the market and encouraged hotels there was considerable over-provision for a period. I suspect that it would be as well to see that we have slow but steady growth in the provision of hotels.

I hope that the great growth of tourism in the past few years has shown that there is a demand for hotels. Many small ones have been built in London, and I hope many more will be. We must ensure that where there is a demand for hotels but the planning system causes delays we do our best to ensure that within the system planning permissions are granted where appropriate as quickly as possible.

This has been an interesting debate. It has brought forward many messages which I shall certainly pass to my colleagues—messages from which I hope we shall learn. I hope that we shall see a growth in income and employment in tourism which is an honourable industry in which to work, and I hope too, that the nation will see it as a real activity.

If I am to make a forecast—and it is silly for someone standing at a Dispatch Box to make a forecast—it is that when your Lordships' House again looks at this matter, either this year or next year, we shall again be talking about an increase in figures. The figures will continue to increase for as long, and only as long, as we remember that it is service and only service, which brings back tourists, provided that they have an enjoyable time when they are here.

I hope that the training and employment measures on which the Government have embarked, together with the great encouragement which your Lordships' House has today given to tourism, as well as the Government's review will be seen and noticed, and that tourism will continue to grow.

Lord Parry

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Young, who has just sat down, has described this debate as useful and timely. I think it has certainly been a pleasant and well-informed one. There has been no contribution this afternoon which has fallen in any sense below the standard of the challenge to us to get the funding and the preservation of this industry, and its expansion, correctly in balance.

I was perhaps being a little too reluctant to mention Wales, or I should have mentioned the Sun Centre in Rhyl. I accept the noble Lord's rebuke. That great institution there is the largest attracter of visitors in the whole of Wales, and it is vastly important. I also fell, in pure monetarist terms, slightly below the noble Lord's level in mentioning money at all. I only do it because it is a necessary dimension when one is talking to Governments. We have to talk money, and to talk about good government and the good use of money, because investment in redevelopment is as important as controlling the money supply to cure historical ills. I think we need not go any further into that.

I would not want to go down the whole list of people speaking in the debate; that would be no use to us at this stage. I say "Thank you" to everyone for the quality of the contributions. Nor am I going to neglect the fact that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, intervened to ask: are we going to go on counting heads, and, when we substitute feet for heads, are we not going to do damage to the environment? It was absolutely right and important that that intervention should have been made.

We have to see that the tourists' contribution to the economy and the presence of the paying guests in the country do not disturb the quality of life for those who live here, nor detract from the culture which has been built up over the generations. That is absolutely right, and the history of the industry proves that it has that message as much to heart as anyone in the country, and works with the grain of conservation and preservation.

In thanking your Lordships for a splendid debate I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn,

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