§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Croy rose to call attention to the importance to the economy of the United Kingdom of the tourist industry; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord, said: My Lords, 1985 was a record year for the British tourist industry. I suggest that as a country we can build on that success in the future. This is a labour-intensive industry which can produce jobs in areas where they are needed, both urban and rural. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Young is to reply. As Secretary of State for Employment, he has a special interest because of the employment potential in this industry. I am delighted too that other noble Lords who are well qualified to speak on this subject have put down their names for the debate.697
§ Last year, about 15 million visitors from overseas came to this country, an increase of 9 per cent. on the previous year. They spent more than ever, over £5 billion, mostly in foreign exchange coming into this country. That was an increase of 19 per cent. Of course we must remember that there was an advantage for holders of American dollars during much of that year.
§ One statistic is of special interest; that is, that about 35 per cent. of expenditure by those overseas visitors was on shopping compared with 40 per cent. on accommodation and meals. I shall return to that later. Tourism is now the fastest-growing major industry in Britain, with 1.3 million persons directly employed in it. Tourism also helps to produce additional jobs in connected trades and services and more money is spent in the areas concerned. I have been referring to overseas visitors, and that is an important element for our national economy. The other part consists of tourists and sightseers from within the United Kingdom—a larger number—and upon them particular regions of the United kingdom depend, if only seasonally. The economies of certain areas flourish or decline in proportion to the numbers of visitors who go to them.
§ A study commissioned by the British Tourist Authority has estimated that about 70,000 additional jobs were created in the United Kingdom during past years by tourism. The industry need not compete with other industries. They should be complementary.
§ How can we as a country make further progress? What have we to offer which we should seek to make the most of and provide for visitors besides the straightforward holidays by the sea or in the countryside? Our temperate climate favours recreation, field sports and sightseeing in general. There are places of outstanding natural scenery in different parts of the country and also—I believe it is of increasing importance—there is what can be summed up as our heritage. There is a greater interest in this now, both at home and abroad. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the chairman of English Heritage, has put his name down to speak. Whether it is the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle or stately homes and ancient fortresses, more people are wanting to visit them. They should be rewarded with efficient organisation and competent guides. In Scotland in particular, where the clan system exists, many overseas visitors, especially from North America, are keen to trace their ancestors and visit the places where they lived. I am glad to be able to report that more is being done to encourage that and to provide the information needed. But more still, I am sure, can be done in this field and in other parts of the country, too. Then there is another category of visitor and that is the business visitor. This is not only a matter of tempting individuals or groups to stay on and combine their business with a cultural visit or a recreational break. It is also a matter of attracting international conventions, exhibitions, athletic meetings and the like. Edinburgh will be welcoming the Commonwealth Games in July, Edinburgh had the Games also in 1970 when I played a role as the resident ministerial host.
§ These events bring many visitors and much beneficial activity over a wide area. I wish Birmingham all good luck in their bid for the 698 Olympics in 1992. My former colleague in another place, the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Denis Howell, is playing a leading part in that bid. As your Lordships will remember, he was a Minister for Sport in at least one Labour Administration. He was also a Minister for the Weather and had almost too much success in bringing to an end a notable drought. I wish him a revival of his miraculous powers to regulate the weather in the Midlands.
§ I mentioned the surprising amount that overseas visitors spend on shopping. This brings me to the point that Scotland's tourist industry now has two tremendous advantages over the rest of the country. One is that there is no restriction on Sunday trading, a situation which has existed in Scotland for about 40 years; and it seems that we in Scotland will happily continue with that advantage compared with England and Wales after certain events last Monday. We shall also continue, I am sure, to have a higher proportion of our population in Scotland attending churches on Sundays than in England. One reason why there was so much opposition to the Shops Bill is because it was not brought out in the early stages that part of the United Kingdom had already enjoyed the situation which it would have created, and enjoyed if for many years, with no dire effects.
§ Only last Monday morning, I heard on my radio at home in Scotland a Minister say, almost as an afterthought at the end of a discussion, "Let us now look elsewhere; for example, Scotland". Scotland is not "elsewhere". Admittedly, is it beyond the reach of the Church of England but it is part of this country. It was a mistake in my opinion to have carried out such a public debate on a matter affecting England and Wales as if it were the whole country and to have failed to point out that in Scotland shops are already free to open on Sundays and have been for many years. Could I have done more myself? Well, I did something. I wrote a letter some weeks ago which was published in The Times.
§ The second great advantage is that the licensing hours in Scotland are very relaxed. There was a debate about this in your Lordships' House last week in which I took part. I will not repeat what I said then but the relaxation of the licensing hours has operated now in Scotland for nearly 10 years and it has been successful. It has not led to an increase in drunkenness or alcoholism. Drinking has become civilised and the new regime is very helpful to the tourist industry. I followed this with more than usual interest because I initiated the reform in the early 1970s. My noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein is due to speak. I shall be very surprised if he does not make some passing reference to this subject.
§ So Scotland enjoys these two great advantages, and because I am used to the system—both systems, both the licensing and Sunday trading—because I live in Scotland and I see that there are advantages and, so far as I can see, no disadvantages, and it does not have any effect on people going to church on Sundays, I hope that England and Wales will in due course be able to change their systems to help their tourist industries, among other things.
§ An encouraging development in the tourist industry has been, I believe, the team work which has developed in what I call the hotel industry and particu- 699 larly the aim for high standards of service both in large establishments and small ones. There is competition between the major hotel groups and I believe that this has been a factor. The staffs appear to be going out of their way to be helpful and to do what they can for visitors. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Forte has put his name down to speak in this debate. His British group of hotels has made a notable contribution in this field. I commend an annual system of awards made by the Highlands and Islands Development Board in their area for competition among hotels for the ones which have extended the warmest welcome to visitors, with highland hospitality. The judges visit these hotels unrecognised so that it is not possible for anybody to put on a special show for them.
§ I should like to add, in addition to hotels, a few words on the self-catering part of the industry. I urge the Government to give more recognition to that contribution because there is scope for much expansion. The self-catering part provides freedom of flexibility for visitors who may not want to be tied to particular places or to be dependent for meals upon hotels or restaurants, if they even exist in large enough numbers in remoter areas of our country. In this I include chalets, accommodation on permanent sites and caravans. I mention caravans, and I believe that the British public have a love/hate relationship with the caravan. They object to it understandably when they get stuck behind one on a road or if it appears to be intruding upon the scenery. Both these problems can be alleviated with care and imagination, and I have seen it done must successfully.
§ The self-catering side has started a national training scheme offering courses to earn certificates. Training in the industry as a whole is being regarded as vital for its future—and here I am sure that my noble friend when he winds up will have something to say because of his special responsibilities. I hope that local authorities will go out of their way to help over planning permissions; for example, avoiding quite unnecessary delays. The local authorities can also help in other ways. I particularly draw attention to dealing with refuse and rubbish. The whole tourist industry can be affected if the streets and the countryside are littered with old newspapers, particularly after there have been some winds in the area.
§ I would add just one anecdote, if I may. I believe that we should go out of our way to market what we can sell and interest bodies who might come to this country or go elsewhere in what we can offer. I am reminded of an occasion when I was invited to go to speak to what was called an international council which had taken over the Gleneagles Hotel some years ago. The body, which met twice a year in different parts of the world, consisted as far as I could see of the chairmen and senior executives of some of the biggest companies in the Western Hemisphere and their wives.
§ I was asked to speak on a subject which I think had to do with the constitutional history of this country. A bit later, when I had got to know the administrators, I asked why it was that I had been asked to speak on such a dull subject. I had done my best to try to make it interesting but if I had been given more scope I 700 could, I think, have made it more entertaining. The reply that eventually came was "Well, there is a certain percentage of the programme which has to be described as educational and pass the test with our tax authorities in the United States. You were in the educational part."
§ I calculated at that time that the effect of that conference and the amount of dollars spent in central Scotland as a result of it in about a week was absolutely enormous. If we can supply whatever it is they want, even to meet the requirements of their tax authorities, then I suggest that we should go out of our way to do it. We should indeed, as parliamentarians, support the British tourist industry in every way that we can. I beg to move my Motion for Papers.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, it is not merely mandatory but courteous to say that this House owes a debt to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for introducing this debate at this time. It is in fact a favour that he does the House—a favour that the Minister failed to do on the last occasion we debated a Motion in terms similar to that put forward by the noble Lord today. In introducing that debate, I ended by saying I had one question and I looked into the attractive blue eyes of the Minister who was to respond and I asked whether the noble Lord, as soon as he came to the conclusion of his examination towards the end of July, would give us government time so that we could have a sustained debate on this matter of the greatest potential industry in the service sector. I went on to say, (in col. 298 of Hansard) on 22nd May, 1985:I believe that, while the world does not owe us a living, there is one out there waiting for us to pick up.I see that the Secretary of State is with us and that he is going to respond. I am delighted about that. I think it is time that we corrected some of the basic mistakes that exist about what we are trying to do. We have talked about the right honourable gentleman the rainmaker. I was taught in Wales that two Gordons together make good weather, and they have given our debate here a good start.It is often suggested",says this gentleman,that tourism offers salvation. It is equally clear that this cannot be. Those of us who love and enjoy holidays in our small country know there are practical limits. We are also enthusiastic travellers ourselves and spend about the same abroad as tourists do in the United Kingdom. In fact, tourism's contribution to the balance of payments is only slightly positive. ICI alone has a positive contribution to the tune of nearly £2,000 million a year—so you will need to entertain at least another six million tourists each year, that is 40 per cent. more than we now entertain, just to make up for the loss of the Company I work for. In any case, if we imagine the UK can get by with a bunch of people in smocks showing tourists around medieval castles, we are quite frankly out of our tiny minds. What's more, if that's the sort of future we offer our young, we shan't find them staying here to enjoy it.I quote that at the beginning because it is absolutely essential that we realise that if anyone is out of his tiny mind it is an individual, in an otherwise splendid and important lecture, the Dimbleby Lecture—John Harvey-Jones—who is a Welshman and a fellow countryman of mine and who makes the elementary mistake of assuming that there is conflict between tourism and its contribution to the economy and the existing economy of Great Britain. What a pity the 701 man said that and spoilt his lecture by talking about people in smocks! What a pity he thought that what we were offering the younger generation was a third-rate custodial job where they put on a peaked cap and show people some interesting things. The tourism industry at this moment does more for the young people of Great Britain than the rest of the heavy industrial economy. I have asked questions in this House that have received the answer that there are more young people working in Lord Forte's industry, which was once thought to offer limited employment opportunities and limited wages, taking a route to the top, assisted by the education service, taking qualifications and in fact achieving a status which tiring and dying industries could never give them.
What a silly thing it is to pretend that such a thing conflicts with the massive efforts of Harvey-Jones at his best when he is running the great industry, which is of course important. But I want at this time—and I hope we shall have the opportunity of a longer debate when we can come to grips with some of these misunderstandings—to say exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy said at the beginning.
One-quarter of all the shoes produced by the industry in this country that is still clinging on in competition with other countries, because of its traditional values and because of the acceptance by the world of the quality of its production, are sold to tourists in this country. If it were not for their presence in the country, many of the shops would close down.
This has been a bad month for tourism, because items extraneous to it have had their effect upon it. Everyone knows—it is no part of my duty in the debate to refer to what happened in Libya yesterday and the day before—that the Americans (and I had four of them with me here in the House only a short while ago) are beginning to look again at their holiday programmes. It is inevitably going to have an effect on the figures that have been developing gradually over the past few years, because Americans are important to our economy. I do not want to blight this debate by conveying the impression that it is all going to be bad. European tourists, being closer to us, are sometimes under-estimated in regard to their contribution to the tourism economy and to the economy of Great Britain. I was delighted and astounded, for example, to learn that the massive contribution made by the German tourists, individually visiting this country, is nine times more than that of a tourist from the United States: they actually spend nine times more. I do not know whether I am causing consternation among my colleagues on the Front Benches: they are patting each other on the back as though they had achieved it themselves—Front-Benchers act like that, my Lords!
The point is this. We have some hope for the economy of Great Britain and for a resurgence in our overall earnings. It is based in the intelligent use of the facilities that exist for tourists. I shall not repeat the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, but he pointed out that there were certain attractions. I am not speaking here for Wales. Believe me, I am speaking for Great Britain; but it is a fact that the one attraction that brings more visitors year round to it than any other attraction in Wales, is a great big greenhouse in Rhyl called the "Rhyl Sun Centre", because it provides wet-weather tourism. Inside what 702 is really an artificial environment it creates opportunity. It is also the result of massive investment—investment which in part has been borne by the public purse but, in overall terms, has come from the private sector. It is this balance between carefully-selected pump-priming with public money and intelligent entrepreneurial skills and private money that is needed at this time.
I want to leave this particular aspect with the Minister. We need to see public and private co-operation—statutory boards and statutory bodies with private entrepreneurial skills, energy and capital encouraged at least for the foreseeable future, and a very long future. We know that many of the great impulses to develop have come from the minds of the Lord Fortes of this industry. We know that many of the best achievements have come from that sector. Also, more and more of them will say that many of the best efforts of the smaller individuals—those who have not great resources behind them—have been best helped by the statutory bodies.
When we make our appeal in this country, we have to make certain that we are able to offer, because we cannot compete in warm-weather facilities, properly developed all-the-year round facilities. If you check the figures you will find that those places which have roofs over them, like the Blaenau Festiniog caves and the Blaenavon Big Pit, are the ones—those are just two illustrations—which can continue all the year round to offer attractions.
I have believed all along that this House has a real chance of providing leadership. It provided leadership in the matter of Sunday trading. It has provided leadership in the matter of our archaic licensing laws—leadership, if not total success! I think that another place has totally failed to give that leadership and has backed away from decisions that it ought properly to take. We cannot bring tourists into this country and then offer them inferior facilities. We cannot bring them here and expect them to find their own way about on a Sunday when they can be enjoying the great services that we are able to put on, and at the same time spend to entertain themselves in a way they would expect in any modern country.
In this debate, which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has raised, I want to leave this thought with the House. We are able to make a contribution which is out of all proportion to what people once thought tourism could make to the economy. Moreover, we can do it at a time when in the rural areas agriculture's contribution to the economy has staggered because of circumstances outside its control. In west Wales land values and the value of farms have fallen. The removal of milk quotas has left farmers with little hope for the future. With a little careful thought we can apply what has already been learned about farm tourism to provide an alternative income and to give an opportunity to some small farmers to do the only thing that they want to do—to stay on their land, manage it and make it productive.
In 12 minutes there cannot be an effective presentation of the case, but this evening we can perhaps say to the Harvey-Joneses of this world, who totally misunderstand the situation, "We want to help you to make your part of the economy modern, 703 effective and competitive, in national and international terms, why do you not help us?"
§ 5.31 p.m.
My Lords, if there are any noble Lords who have any doubts about the importance of the tourist industry to the United Kingdom economy, those doubts should have been dispelled by the excellent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, when he introduced his Motion, for which we are all deeply grateful. If there were any lingering doubts, I should have thought that the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Parry, would have dealt with them.
Both noble Lords have talked about Mr. Denis Howell. As I worked so closely with him for many years it might be invidious if I left him out. When as chairman of the Countryside Commission I was able to get him to open the South-West Peninsula long distance walk, which the Countryside Commission had pioneered—a long, long-distance walk of about 300 miles from Minehead in Somerset, all round Land's End and into Dorset—the sun shone, the skies were blue and we had a wonderful day. Some weeks later, when I was fortunate enough to persuade the then Archbishop of Canterbury to open the South Downs Way, the skies opened, the rain fell and the wind blew. If there is any lesson to be learned from that, it is perhaps that Mr. Denis Howell might be able to get the Olympic Games to Birmingham. I hope that he manages to do so, because that would be important to the tourist industry.
I am not competent to analyse all the interesting figures which have been supplied to us by the British Tourist Authority about the economics of tourism, save to say that at the moment it seems that we are in credit on tourism. This year we look like earning about £7 billion in foreign currency from overseas visitors, but on the other side of the equation it appears that we spend about £6 billion on travelling overseas. If we are to maximise the economic benefits of tourism, the task before us is to increase the one and reduce the other.
Of those two I should perhaps take the first point, first. In that connection I feel that I can do no better than refer to a splendid article which appeared in The Guardian on Monday 14th April. That was rather before the debate which has been referred to by both noble Lords. The article was by Polly Tonybee. It consisted, as many who have read it will know, mainly of quotations from Mr. Michael Montague, the former chairman of the English Tourist Board. I say that not as a criticism of Polly Tonybee. As a working journalist I know that good articles are mainly scissors and paste. Why should we not have splendid quotations linked together in a splendid article?
If I could have persuaded Hansard to write the article into the record I might have saved your Lordships having to listen to the speech. I hope that some noble Lords will read the article because it summarises and underlines some of the crucial matters with which we shall have to deal. It begins, curiously enough, with references to Sundays and the late lamented Shops Bill, to which reference has been 704 made. All I would say about that is that I am not terribly happy about the recent voting record of some of my honourable friends in another place. I understood and expected that the Labour Party would oppose the Bill. The Labour Party has always been deeply conservative and opposed to change of any kind. I expected a little better from my honourable friends. I accept of course that there are difficulties with regard to staff protection. I share that view with the Labour Party. However, I feel that if we were now to revert to attempts rigidly to enforce the present anomalous and absurd law we should be in grave difficulties. I think we should greatly damage our tourist industry.
What type of places are we talking about? What places should be kept open? I hope that garden centres will continue trading because I know that foreign visitors greatly enjoy them. They have an opportunity to see our horticulture, which is, in many ways, unique. I hope that some of the village antique shops will also stay open. I declare an interest, in that my wife has what she is pleased to describe as an antique business. Sometimes I have to say to her that an antique business is not really a business, it is a disease in which all commercial considerations are flung to the winds while people buy things that they like from one another. Antique shops dotted about the country are honeypots for tourists. They like to visit them and they spend money in them. It would be sad were they all to close on Sundays.
It is interesting to note that Polly Toynbee's article quoting Michael Montague ends with references to the licensing laws. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, referred to them. I agree with him. I do not believe that foreign visitors to the United Kingdom want to drink all day, but they sometimes want to drink at the times they want rather than at the times we tell them they are allowed to. I hope that some day we shall move on that issue.
A number of matters are referred to in the article. It mentions the deplorable state of our lavatories. They have remained terrible throughout the whole of my life. The only improvement that I could see was when we raised the school-leaving age. It seemed that the graffiti went about two inches higher up the walls. I have noticed no other improvements. The article calls for major improvements and I hope that we shall make them some day.
The article also refers to taxi drivers. Polly Toynbee says that they are:rude, unhelpful and interested only in tips.I shall not go into our tipping system, but only recently an American visitor spoke to me at Westminster having just got out of a taxi. She paid £138 to come from Heathrow. She asked me whether that was right. I told her that it was not, but that unless she knew the number of the taxi driver I doubted whether she could do much about it.
I regret the disappearance of some of our consumer protection arrangements, particularly in the metropolitan county areas, where there is still some uncertainty about the role of trading standards officers now that the metropolitan counties have been abolished and they are alleged to have been taken over by the districts.
705 The article refers to service stations. I am referring to service stations in general, not motorway service stations. The article says, and I think rightly, that when people go for petrol:Who wants stamps, gambling games, plastic daffodils and tumblers?We want petrol. As a person who does a great deal of motoring, I object to stopping at a petrol station which says "open" when it is closed. That should be a breach of some kind of trading law. Service stations leave the notice "open" just in case someone happens to be there. When one has come out of a queue of traffic and found that the pumps are shut it is annoying later to pass the same vehicles up the road.
Polly Toynbee also refers to motorway service stations. As something of an expert on them, having travelled widely on our roads for many years, I acknowledge that they have improved remarkably. Some are now excellent. I had a debate on motorway service stations in another place 20 years ago on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Following that debate, I was taken by a popular English daily newspaper, which still exists—that is rather strange and your Lordships may be able to work out which one it is—and driven to every motorway service station in Britain within a period of 24 hours. We bought the same article at each service station. We measured each and compared quantities and qualities. We found wide differences in prices, standards and standards of service. I am delighted to say that the service stations have improved considerably.
I had a recent experience which I found a little alarming. Sometimes service stations have to close one side due to staff problems. They merely open the other side. One parks one's car in the car park and crosses the bridge to obtain a snack. My wife and I crossed the bridge to the restaurant. Shortly after, we found that the service station filled with a coach-load of Glasgow Rangers' supporters There was a rowdy element in the service station. At the next table to me was a delightful young Indian couple who were visitors to this country; They asked whether we were crossing the bridge and said that if we were they would like to come with us because they were afraid to cross on their own. It is said that coloured visitors to this country feel that they cannot cross a motorway bridge on their own because of fears of being attacked—not that I could have defended them, but perhaps they felt that there was some safety in numbers.
It was interesting that on that occasion I found down below a plain clothes officer from Special Branch whom I knew. He was with a colleague dealing with a serious crime. I accept that they have to do that, but at some of those places I should like occasionally to see a uniformed officer on duty, particularly on Saturday nights after football matches, so that visitors to our country might get some protection if they are given reason to be afraid.
On hotels, I was in a hotel the other day in Cheshire. It was not owned by the noble Lord, Lord Forte, but it had excellent stars and I asked for afternoon tea. They said, "We do not serve afternoon tea any more. It is difficult with staff problems and it is not really worth it." It is worth it to me and I do not think that we ought in order to get afternoon tea, to have to go to Reid's in Madera. We ought to be able to get it in an 706 English hotel. I think that foreign visitors like afternoon tea in our English hotels and I mention that point because I consider it valid.
There were many other points raised by that article but I will leave them now. We must make up our minds whether we really want foreign tourists in this country. There is a certain ambivalence about our attitudes, even in your Lordships' House. There are noble Lords with a great interest in and commitment to the tourist industry who come into the House, get on their feet at Question Time and complain bitterly about the coaches full of West Germans, Americans or Japanese tourists which cause difficulties in London. We cannot have it both ways, though we can perhaps do something to get our foreign visitors out of London and to other parts of Britain. That is something on which we should concentrate.
I should like to appeal particularly for an increased number of conference centres in different parts of the country. I know that there are many other attractions. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has mentioned Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Festival has done a great deal to bring people to Edinburgh. I know only too well that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, has brought a great many foreign visitors to his motor museum, down in Beaulieu and to his maritime museum at Buckler's Hard. Those are very valuable. We want more attractions of that kind and we must take more steps to get visitors out of London.
We should also do something about the differential in petrol prices in the rural areas. Why should petrol be so much more expensive in Cornwall than in London? Why should it be so much more expensive in the North Yorkshire Moors than in London? I should like to see something done about that, which would assist in getting some of our visitors out of London and to other parts of the country.
Let me say a brief word about the other side of the equation—holidays for British people here. We have too many inducements to the British to go abroad—duty-free drink and so on. If people going on holiday are to have cheap booze, cigarettes and scent, why should they not get them in Blackpool or in Bournemouth? That would be fair. On the whole, the duty-free shops are a way of inducing our wives to buy things they do not want, at prices far in excess of what they would pay at home in a supermarket. And to describe as duty-free something which manifestly is not is sometimes a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, so I hope that that will be dealt with.
Let me just mention the most important matter of all. If we are to maximise our tourist earnings, we must do something about funding the arts properly in Britain. There is no greater attraction to foreign visitors than the arts, our theatres, our orchestras and so on and until we start funding those properly we shall not have the success for which we hope.
All I have tried to do in this debate is to drop one or two pebbles in the pond, if I may so describe your Lordships' House, in the hope of creating one or two ripples. Finally, let us fund the arts properly, let us get more conference centres dotted about the country and not only in London, let us change our attitudes to foreigners and, for goodness sake, let us teach our own people to learn to know and to love their own country. It is tragic to find the number of British people who do 707 not know that we have in Britain within a very short compass a variety of landscape which is quite unique—look at the villages in Dedham Vale, the Yorkshire Moors and the Cornwall coast—yet British people persist in going to Majorca or the Costa Brava. I wish that more of them would stay at home and enjoy Britain.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for initiating this debate. I am also very pleased that my noble friend the Secretary of State will be summing up. As for the noble Lord, Lord Parry, I find myself in the happy position of being in complete agreement with what he said, for the second time in two days. My speech will be similar to his. It will perhaps be a little shorter, but it will not have that unique Welsh lucidity which the noble Lord, Lord Parry, practises.
I agree particularly with the noble Lord, Lord Parry. Tourism is symptomatic of the change in our society. It is a service industry and it is growing fast. By contrast, the older manufacturing industry is growing quite slowly. Our society is no longer a pyramid with the affluent at the top and the manual workers at the broad base. Rather it is diamond shaped, with the service class occupying the widest part of the diamond and the old manufacturing class now in the ever narrowing base. That shrewd shape of society was first described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool; and I have referred to that rather brilliant definition before, as have other noble Lords. Yet I believe that we have one problem, which is this: we are keener on the abstract concept of tourism than we are on the tourists themselves.
Tourism is exploding, just as the communications industry is exploding. The growth in tourism matches the growth in sunrise industries along the M.4 corridor. Tourism is an industry of information: informing both British and foreigner of the beauties of Fountains Abbey and Stirling Castle; showing them the Norfolk Fens and the Mendip Hills; communicating the wonder of the Cornish gardens and the majesty of Snowdonia. We live in the great age of information and tourism is a part of that.
Strangely, I find that I am a bit too old to understand what is really happening. I am by trade a technician. I grew up in a world of skilled manual labour which was, in my case, film; and that meant celluloid, film cement, the Bell and Howell foot joiner and the Acmade Pic. Sync. Those were difficult machines to work and I mastered them. The trouble was that the mastery of the machine blinded me to what we were really trying to do: we were trying to inform.
Likewise, the mastery of old printing machinery has blinded some SOGAT members in Fleet Street to the new technology and to their purpose, which is to inform, not by moving pictures, as in my case, but by the printed word. SOGAT members tend towards the Luddite, but so do I. I too am a Luddite. Tourism is symptomatic of our revolutionary society, because it is non-Luddite; it is pure information uncluttered by technical barriers. Travel, for instance, is no barrier compared to the problems of 100 years ago. Even the 708 barrier of photography—your happy holiday snaps—becomes less with cheap cameras with automatic exposure and focusing.
Yet the Luddite barrier to tourism is around and it shows itself in our dislike of the tourist and, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, of the tourist coach. But I would single out the tourist hotel and that is symbolised by a new and, for once, useful acronym: NIMBY—not in my back yard. NIMBY means that my council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, say: "Of course there should be more tourist accommodation, but not in our borough". That would be all right if the borough of Westminster next door was not saying exactly the same thing. Thus demand exceeds supply, prices rocket, tourist numbers fall and we lose out in foreign earnings.
Surely NIMBY stems from that same Luddite lack of understanding that I mentioned a moment ago. Jobs nowadays are not what I would call proper jobs. My young cousin, for instance, is director of education for an employment charity. My whiz-kid neighbour nextdoor from Bradford markets video discs and tapes. I tend to wonder "What's it all for? You can't eat a floppy disc". It is simply more information; information for information's sake, and service for service's sake. Who are they servicing?—other servicers; and whom informing?—other informers. But whatever it is, it is real and it is happening.
Let us consider for a moment the hopes of some sixth formers which I picked out of The Times last Saturday. I do not think manufacturing industry featured at all. John Mark Warburton hoped to be a games teacher; that is a service industry. Joanne Parker hoped to be a journalist; Stephen Jones, to work in a bank or building society; and John Green, with computers. Tina Cullen was staying on in sixth form and may then join police or become physical education teacher. For Adrian Bellis it was also the police; for Claire Bentley, drama school; for Adam Roland, a law career, community work or conciliation; Donna Coombe, nursery nursing or catering; Neil Chaudhri, planning a medical career; and Graham Flint was applying to five different colleges for hotel management. Mr. Flint, as your Lordships will gather, is opting for the tourist industry, and all the others are opting for service industries.
I cannot understand it—nor am I quite the oldest member of your Lordships' House! But I hazard a guess; I put two and two together and say that it is the old-fashioned lack of understanding of the service industries that causes tourist hostility, resulting in NIMBY. NIMBY comes to a head in York. The Yorkshire and Humberside tourist authority is at loggerheads with the city council over the number of tourist beds in the area. I believe the council has introduced a ceiling of 36,000 beds. I see the problem, for the walled city is well under a square mile and suffers from the simple sardine effect.
Set against that is the excellence of the tourist board which is epitomised in the Jorvik Centre. There, as many noble Lords know and may even have experienced, one travels through the Viking city of York. The trip is so popular that I saw people happily queuing for two hours to make that journey and get back in time. They were queueing out of doors on a chilly October morning.
709 I wonder how we can reconcile the great information revolution, of which tourism is such a key part, with NIMBY. I ask my noble friend the Secretary of State who is right in York. Is it the city council or the tourist board? Perhaps I can cast a fly over him, to which he may rise, by mentioning Venice. It must be the foremost tourist attraction in the world, yet I have found it cheap and it is easy to get accommodation there. I wonder whether York can learn from Venice. Can Bath learn from Sienna? Can the United Kingdom learn from Italy, indeed? I maintain that our NIMBY attitude is caused by Luddite thinking, myself included; I am a Luddite. But I also maintain that tourism is without doubt one of the most important industries of the future.
§ 5.53 p.m.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for enabling me to say a few words on the subject of the tourist trade. I want to limit myself to the inland waterways, what they are doing to tourism and what they could do if they were further developed.
I first became aware of their tourist potential some years ago. My wife and I were navigating the Oxford canal and we entered a lock at the same time as a canal boat which according to a sign on its side was Swiss. This looked unlikely, but we brought up that evening close to the people, met and had drinks on each other's boats, as is usual. We found out that this was indeed so. It appears that, while in winter we ski on their mountains, the Swiss around their fires study maps of our inland waterways.
Since that time, over the years, we have noticed an enormous increase in foreign visitors handling canal boats, and I should like to quote one example. A few years ago, the River Avon was unnavigable. Then two trusts set about restoring the navigation and they did it mostly with private money. They did it with only such public money as they were able to get from the small sums available through improvements to local facilites, and they did the job. I am glad and proud to say that one time I asked how much per day the operation was costing and I was able to pay for one day's work out of my own pocket.
Those waterways are now fully open and they have become crowded with craft. When I say crowded with craft, I also want to mention the fishermen, because the River Avon is, as everybody knows, one of the finest fishing rivers in Britain. I am happy to say that the steady depth of water now prevailing has meant that the fishing has been improved. The number of boats is enormous. I have asked the organisers of the two trusts, and they say that those two trusts alone are putting into the local economy something in the region of £4 million a year, which is a great deal more than the two waterways took to repair.
Not only that, but there are now major shipbuilding yards along those waterways giving employment. They are building canal craft not only for use there, but one is actually building canal craft for export to the French waterways. What is more, they are building canal craft which they are selling to foreign visitors who are using them as mobile country cottages around the English waterside, and also taking them across to the 710 Continent. On those grounds, we are certainly attracting a great deal of foreign money to the waterways.
There is a further point which was made a day or two ago from the Government Front Bench in this House. A number of people who use our inland waterways are taking holidays here and not abroad. We have heard about import substitution. This is import substitution on a very great scale indeed, and the large numbers of people using our canal boats would be spending their money in other countries if they were not spending it here, including, I may say, my wife and myself.
That is not all. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, talked about spreading the load. One of the happy things about the inland waterways is that they cover the whole face of Britain. There are at this moment over 3,000 navigable miles of linked water inside this country. I know that this is the correct figure because I had a bet on it with an Inland Waterways Association friend of mine. We sat down with a map and measured the lot, and I am happy to say that I won.
Not only that, but these are self-catering holidays, which Lord Campbell of Croy mentioned. There is a further matter; it may not be possible to get a room in an hotel in a major town precisely when you want it. This can be difficult, especially if you have some business purpose which takes you to a town in a hurry. What people do not realise is that in those cases, because of the glorious fact that there are inland waterways through nearly every single old industrial town in this country, you can hire a canal boat a little way outside, take it in there, moor it up and do your business. You can have your family and indeed your family dog and cat and anything else with you. When it comes to entertaining a business friend, "Come up to my hotel and have a drink" has its minor attractions, but, "Come to my canal boat and have a drink and a trip" is a totally different proposition and one which is far more likely to attract business.
I believe that we are considerably neglecting our inland waterways. What we need among other things is publicity. There are far too many otherwise intelligent people who seem to regard our waterways as stinking old mud-filled ditches, useless for anything. That is very far from the fact. I am pleased to say that the British Waterways Board, in conjunction with the tourist authorities, is putting in a very powerful push to advertise particularly in the United States the uses of our inland waterways. That is a very valuable service indeed. That is one thing that we can certainly push on with and should do more of.
We should also consider opening a few more waterways. A waterway makes its own traffic. Open the waterway and the traffic appears. That is what has happened on the Avon, as I have just explained. We are at the moment reopening the Montgomery Canal. The Government have now agreed the matter and it is starting to go ahead. There are 33 miles of it. It passes through lovely countryside; through an area with quite considerable tourist attractions. I am sure that when it is open it will develop the same sort of increase in traffic as has the River Avon. Nor is that the end of the possibilities. There is the River Severn, which flows through a magnificent valley. The valley is full of tourist attractions both scenic and historical. Opening 711 that up would not be expensive because a great deal of money from private pockets would go into the project. The work needed is not enormous. I have myself seen a study and it represents another chance.
There are still more chances. There is a scheme for the High Avon to deal with the River Avon between Stratford and Warwick, two centres both of great tourist and scenic attraction. It is only 11 miles of river and as a matter of fact it is now 80 per cent. navigable. The money is simply waiting for permission for the work to be done. That would be of enormous tourist value and would incidentally link to the Grand Union and make the whole system better.
There are other cases. There is the matter of the Bedford Ouse, which is now navigable but is considerably underused. It would not be technically difficult to connect that upstream simply by putting in a few locks and weirs, which are not expensive especially if done by amateurs in the way we know how to do it. We amateurs now have our own heavy earth-moving machinery, so we could do it. If that was taken upstream it would meet the Grand Union Canal at Wolverton and connect up the system there. Again, the whole system would be improved, and with the High Avon it would give us a broad canal system clean across the centre of England, which we do not now have.
All these things could easily be done. They do not need much government money. What they really need is a little government blessing and a little government push. If we can achieve those, I believe that we can increase the already very large tourist attraction of the inland waterways to an extent which will be truly surprising.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for initiating this debate on tourism, particularly at this juncture in world affairs and in the light of what is going on outside. Perhaps I should say that, while I would gladly answer his comments, I propose to pass on what he said about the late—and by many people unlamented—Shops Bill at this point.
I should like on this occasion very warmly to congratulate the Government on what they are doing on behalf of the tourist industry. My noble friend the Minister has on many occasions emphasised that this is a service industry and a growth industry with an extra 50,000 employees a year coming into it. Nobody has yet mentioned the fact that the Government have increased by 20 per cent. their contribution to the BTA and the English Tourist Board this year. That is a really practical step in encouraging tourism in this country at the present time. I personally warmly congratulate them on that. This may go a long way towards easing the impact of a slightly reduced income for the BTA in the previous year. I feel that this increase is marvellous and I hope that the Government will continue to encourage the BTA in this way in the years to come.
I was not aware quite how much impact what is said in this Chamber actually has on the outside world. I remember that in a debate on tourism in your 712 Lordships' House last year I strongly recommended that the BTA should open another office in Atlanta. I understand that this happened on 14th April this year. It may well be that other people also saw the validity of that recommendation, but I am delighted to know that when things are said here, action flows.
The main point of what I intended to say in this debate has been slightly accentuated by what has happened in the past two days. The point related to the reduction in American tourists coming to this country this year because of their fear of terrorism. As I understand it, many Americans actually look upon Europe very much as they look upon the United States itself—as a single unit. If there are terrorist attacks on one or two airports in mainland Europe they therefore will not come to England because they fear attacks at Heathrow. This sadly was rather accentuated by the photographs of armed soldiers at Heathrow that were published in America. Some of the provincial newspapers were not quite sure whether they were terrorists or soldiers. That, I am informed, damaged the tourist inflow into this country in the present year.
I believe that the impact is much more on groups than on individuals. One enterprise with which I am connected had three American groups booked in this month of April. Two of them have been cancelled directly for fear of terrorism in Europe. I appreciate that many American groups come to England but go on to Europe as well. This means that the whole group is cancelled if they decide not to proceed with the European tour. Perhaps the American attitude can be illustrated by an American I was talking to this morning. He had just come off the telephone to his family in Chicago. He said that the family there were urging him to leave London immediately because of the danger here. I simply want to emphasise what I see as a real fear which is reducing tourism here from America. I hope that the Government will do all that they can to allay such fears. The BTA is still optimistic that there will be an increase in tourism this year, and I hope very much that they are correct. However, I personally am concerned.
There are many thoroughly optimistic features that we have going for us in tourism this year. One is the Royal Wedding this summer. I am certain that many Americans and other nationals will come to this country to enjoy all that will be going on in conjunction with that event. Another excellent innovation for tourism is the emphasis on operation off-peak, in extending tourism activities out of season. That is a valuable exercise. We have a weather problem in this country, of course, but there are many tourism activities that can go on for a much longer period than the summer months. Again, I hope that the Government will continue to give encouragement to extend that activity, as they are doing at the present time.
One last point I should like to make for the Government's consideration is that in the past 48 hours the BTA has produced a report that contains a request to simplify immigration procedures for incoming tourists to this country. I believe that one very unpopular obstacle to people coming into this country who do not have British passports or Common Market passports is the length of the queues at airports where they may have to wait for 713 immigration. Sometimes there are no queues at all but on other occasions the queues are very long.
I hope that the Government will consider that point with a flexible mind, to see whether a scheme cannot be devised that will cut out those queues, in order to give tourists coming into this country a really warm welcome so that they will feel they are wanted, and in order that they will not be made to stand in a queue for two hours. I warmly support this Motion and hope that we may continue to strive to improve conditions in this country for the tourists who come here.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lady Kinloss
My Lords, I happen to live in the largest county in England—North Yorkshire—which is estimated to be second only to the London area in the tourist industry. I was not born there but my husband first visited York as a teenager to stay with an uncle and aunt 50 years ago. It was then a sleepy, old-fashioned cathedral city with no real attractions except architecture.
During the past years, and especially since the war, it has woken up and it now has one of the most remarkable series of attractions, I think I can say, in all Europe. There is the splendid Castle Museum of folklore, crafts and commerce. There is the superb railway museum, which I believe is unique in all the world, certainly in Europe. There is also the very remarkable Jorvik exhibition, where one can visit a recreation of Danish York. There is the Yorkshire Museum, set in the most delightful gardens, which has set up an exhibition of Roman Britain. There are new discoveries as yet unexhibited as well as, of course, the noble and splendid minster. There are many other minor attractions, and not far away are the North Yorkshire moors, to which I shall refer again in a moment.
Those attractions and the seaside resort of Scarborough, as well as others, all bring to the area £200 million a year and employ 35,000 people. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has said, perhaps the most important point to note is the growth rate of that industry, which is almost half as high again over the past three years as inflation has been. Sometimes I wonder whether we take the tourist industry seriously enough. The British Tourist Authority has produced some interesting statistics and states that Britain is expected to earn £7,700 million in foreign currency from tourism in 1986. Less than £10 million was spent nationally on the growing tourist industry last year. If we are to see a continual growth in that industry, then surely money must be invested to make Britain attractive in all sorts of ways.
In York itself, hotel occupancy is now more than 70 per cent. on an annual basis, which is the highest in the United Kingdom outside London. For all that, tourism is still not believed to be a real industry that offers real jobs. It is time that we woke up our ideas. There is no room for complacency. It is thought that there are insufficient hotels in York, as the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, has already said, but there is also, to a certain extent, a lack of country house hotels in the numerous market towns in North Yorkshire.
Both the quantity and quality of catering developments, including self-catering developments 714 with leisure facilities, need to be increased and the facilities improved. A further complaint is insufficiency of private bathrooms in hotels on the coast. At the well-established major tourist attractions in Scarborough and Whitby, and possibly in Harrogate, there is a need to develop leisure tourism and especially wet weather activity.
To refer back to the North Yorkshire moors, the North Yorkshire Moors National Park has published a paper, The Visitor, which indicates areas of interest. I believe that it costs 20p and is easily obtained. There is also a free guide to hotels in the area. The Ryedale District Council has published a free guide to acceptable hotels, boarding houses and restaurants for the tourist trade. That council has also appointed a tourist officer and it hopes to set up an information centre with trained staff possibly in Malton, which is some 20 miles north-east of York. Once that centre is established, the council hopes to be able in future to cater not only for the ordinary tourist but for the unfortunate disabled tourist as well.
I should like especially to direct attention to the lack of facilities provided for disabled people. There are more than 6 million disabled people in this country, many of whom could take a holiday if the facilities were available to make their holiday a practical possibility. That is important not only for them but also for those friends and relations who devote themselves to looking after them. York has gone to great trouble to produce an access guide for the disabled and also to provide facilities for them. All such facilities are very clearly signposted.
I particularly invite attention to the Bonhomie holiday centre for the disabled, which is near Southampton. It started as a registered charity during the 1960s as the enterprise of a Mr. and Mrs. Davies. It has now developed out of a large Victorian house to be a centre that can accommodate up to 48 people at any one time. The Southern Tourist Board has been able to assist with grants to develop self-catering units and bungalows and also terraced self-catering bedsitters. It seems to me that that development could well be imitated in other parts of the country. I hope that the Minister will take an early opportunity of discussing that point with the different tourist boards, to see in what way such schemes could be initiated elsewhere and be extended.
In Warminster, there is a tourist information centre manned by 10 voluntary workers. The main disadvantage of that centre is its siting. There is a desk in the local library that can only be manned during library hours. The main trouble with that arrangement is that when tourists are seeking help in finding accommodation, the centre is closed. The centre provides good information on obvious places of interest but not a great deal of information on points of interest in between.
As a cousin said to me only yesterday, we so often undersell ourselves. He pointed out, for example, the silver vaults in London, which are full of interest but which compratively few people visit. There is so much of interest, scenically and historically, and so much room for development, that I hope the Minister will give a firm lead forward.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, as time is beginning to run short, I shall confine my remarks to one point; and that is a point of caution. I heartily agree with everything that was said by the noble Lord who moved this Motion about our debt to tourism as part of the national economy. However, I believe that there is a risk of overselling. There is a risk of overenthusiastic marketing, and there is a risk of making enemies by going too far and exercising too little tact. I believe that is called counter-production in modern jargon. In plainer English, if one over-eggs the omelette, one may get egg on one's own face.
For 10 years I served as president of the London Tourist Board. I had the honour of following my noble friend Lord Forte and handing over to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. They will remember the pleasure that we had from the many letters that we received saying that one aspect that struck tourists particularly in this country was our friendliness and our honesty. That runs very much counter to the views of Mr. Michael Montagu, which the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, recently produced for us. We called that file of letters "The natives are friendly" file. It gave us great pleasure to see the number of people who went out of their way to say that friendliness is one of the principal tourist attractions in this country. I believe it to be so.
Of course there is the odd taxi driver who charges £138, but I find that, on the whole, our taxi drivers are as efficient and as honest as any that can be found in any other country in the world. The same goes for waiters. There is occasionally a rude waiter and unfortunately he is nearly always English; or, to satisfy my noble friend Lord Campbell, perhaps from elsewhere. Occasionally one also finds that the service asked for at a service station is the one thing that is not available. We are to blame. How many of us standing outside the front of this building have grumbled about the buses that clutter up the place, waiting for the tourists to come back from watching the changing of the guard? That is the tourists' fault, we say, but we ought not to.
There is trouble at Bath at the moment. Your Lordships may have heard about it and certainly the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, has. It is one of the finest cities in the world, with one of the finest streets—the Royal Crescent—which is apparently cluttered up with buses stinking out the place with petrol fumes, drowning conversation with the guides' running commentaries and cracking up the pavements and roads. There is a good old row going on. To make matters worse, when the tourists have finished they hop back into their buses without spending anything in the pubs and shops. Away they go round the circuit to Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and the Cotswolds. The trouble with this country is that it is too small for tourism. There is not enough room. I am not suggesting that we should open picnic areas on a Sunday in Wolverhampton, but I suggest that we could show a great deal more of the country if we really set about trying to find it—and we all know where it is.
Back to the London Tourist Board; my noble friend Lord Forte will remember that 75 per cent. of tourists coming to this country do not leave London. They try to pack as much as they can into their visit here. I remember that we had a letter from a Japanese tourist 716 operator. He wanted his group to do as much as it possibly could in the time at its disposal. They wanted the usual round of Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, the Tower of London, Marks and Spencer, and so on. He nearly added by way of a postscript, "Is St. Paul's open on a Sunday?". We sent the letter to the Dean of St. Paul's, just to annoy him, but he immediately came back and said, "That is nothing. We had an American couple here yesterday who were in a hurry. They agreed that she would do the outside of the Cathedral and he would do the inside". We must spread tourism around a great deal more.
Is there a solution to the problem of keeping the natives friendly? I regard it as essential that people should accept tourism, welcome tourists, be prepared to give them a friendly hand and give them all the assistance they deserve to help them enjoy our heritage once they are here. Yes, my Lords, there is a solution. We are all entitled to play our part. It is not the right moment and there is not time to go into the Shops Bill or the licensing laws. That is for the Government. Local authorities have a great part to play and I am glad to say that they have done so in Bath, where peace is likely to break out at any moment—much helped by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu.
The tourist boards ought to bear in mind that a little more tact, a little less aggressive selling and a little more thought for the natives as well as for the incoming tourists would not come amiss. The same goes for the tourist trade in which I myself was employed for 20 years. I started in an office in a club next door to the Minister who is to reply to the debate today. The heritage and all the other amenities of the people have a part to play. It is no good blaming everybody for the fact that tourists are cluttering up the country. We welcome them. We welcome what they bring. We are delighted to show them what we have to offer with the beauties and history of our country; but it is necessary that the natives should remain friendly. There are no more friendlier natives in the country than the Members of your Lordships' House. I do not wish to sacrifice that friendship, and so I now resume my seat.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Lord Forte
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for initiating this debate. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, for being, as usual, enthusiastic about tourism.
My noble friend Lord Mancroft is a very old friend of mine and he has reminded me of the London Tourist Board. That board was formed many years ago. I gave a lunch—it is easy for me to give a lunch occasionally—to nine of my friends. I tapped them for £1,000 each and with £10,000 (I contributed £1,000 myself) we started the London Tourist Board, of which I was the first president. It was a great title, but people laughed at me. They said "Tourism in this country? But look at the weather!" The weather then was not quite as bad as we have recently experienced, but it was bad enough. People said "With our weather, people will not come here. We have no sunshine and we have no beaches of any note", and so on. I told them that people would come here.
Our arrivals at that time amounted to about 600,000 or 700,000 visitors per annum. I said that 717 people would want to see this country. I said that they would come here in their millions. Last year, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said about high prices reducing the number of tourists, and so on, we have gone from strength to strength and increased the tourist presence every year until last year we had 16 million visitors.
I am inclined to agree with what my noble friend Lord Mancroft said about the size of our country and the necessity, as many noble Lords have said, of distributing our tourist arrivals throughout the country. We have lovely parts which people do not see. We have lovely parts of the country even in Wales which are not seen. There is the north of Scotland, the west coast of Scotland and Edinburgh. Those are places that people must see. Instead of coming here and going across to France and beyond, they should go north and occasionally west. There are many parts of this country which could attract more tourists. However, I agree that this is not a country where we want hordes of tourists. We do not want that. We want good quality tourists because this is a good quality destination.
When they come here there may be the occasional taxi driver, and possibly hotel keeper, who is not as honest as he could be. However, generally I can tell your Lordships that in the course of my career of 50 years in this industry—and in the past 12 months, for example—I have not had a single complaint about prices from anyone, Americans, Continentals, or our own people. I have had complaints about service and about attitudes, but I have never had a complaint about prices.
We are always talking about how expensive are hotels. Of course they are. We want to pay our staff well. We have reduced union membership in my business. This has been done by natural process. There is no need for unions in our business. In my business we have reduced membership from 36 per cent. to 3 per cent. How have we done this? We have done it by paying our people well, by looking after them and by giving them good training. Last year my company alone spent £6 million in training. Therefore, we have satisfied employees. Should we charge less and pay our staff less? Should we charge less and change the sheets three times a week instead of twice a day at times? We are a good quality tourist country.
I have been asked to curtail my few remarks and I shall do so in deference to the House. Do we want people to come here and wander around in thousands but not spend any money? We want people to spend money. British people make up 92½ per cent. of the people employed in our industry. We are not all foreigners. I have said before in this House that perhaps the only tinge of foreignness in my company is myself—maybe; I do not feel foreign, but maybe it is so. We train British chefs; they are English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish chefs. The head chef of Grosvenor House—forgive me if I talk of my own concern but I am really speaking on behalf of 50,000 large, medium and small hoteliers—is called Archer. He is 36 years of age and he is English. Even ten years ago that would have been unheard of.
I am here tonight to plead for your Lordships to focus your attention on this great tourist industry. In this country we speak badly of ourselves and of the 718 hotel and catering industry, but we are as good as anyone else in the world today. The BTA statistics tell us that London takes 32nd place among the cities of the world in price. That is not my figure but that of the BTA. In Europe, London ranks behind Rome, Paris and Frankfurt—we are perhaps fifth or sixth. We are not too expensive and we give good value. Let me plead, therefore, that anyone heard denigrating the people who work in this industry should be contradicted.
This industry works 365 days a year, every day including Sunday. We have Sunday opening. What would this country be like without hotels and restaurants which are open on Sunday? I should like to see the shops open. I am sure the people who work in them would say, "Right, I do not have Sunday off, but I do have Thursday off". People work like that in the hotel and catering industry; they are only too happy to do so. Many people volunteer for weekend work and it is a nonsense to say that staff will be annoyed by Sunday opening. They will not be annoyed; they will co-operate.
As I said before, the people in this industry work at weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, and on holidays such as Christmas Day and Easter Day. Every day there are people who work, sometimes until 3 o'clock in the morning. They are there whenever it is necessary. They rise to the occasion. Why should these people have to read in the papers or see on television or in the media somewhere that they are not efficient and do not know what they are doing, or that the industry is not as good here as it is in other parts of the world? It is as good as any industry of its kind anywhere.
I am sorry I have been a little emphatic but, as I promised that I would take only five minutes, I have had to curtail my remarks and pack as much as I could into the few words I have said. I thank your Lordships.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy not only for initiating this debate in his usual very convincing manner but for the timing of it, because the tourist season is now just about upon us.
The former constituency of my noble friend contains some of the finest scenery in the world. Anyone who has gone from Grantown-on-Spey to Nairn across the Dava Moor, particularly when the weather is fine, will recognise that. Also, it is always a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Forte, whose contribution to the hotel, catering and tourist industry in this country and elsewhere in the world is unique.
I should like to say a word or two about hotels because several members of my family are concerned with the hotel and catering industry in various forms. My brother has now turned the home of my late grandparents in Perthshire into a country house hotel, which three years ago won the Egon Ronay award of the year. I mention this because the staff employed there—managers, chefs, cooks, and those who wait at table (who are mostly youngsters)—are all British. We have that tradition. Race relations or anything of that sort are not in question here. In a time of high unemployment what is wrong with giving 719 opportunities to British people? Youngsters grasp them extremely well.
Last week I opened the Peterborough Trading Association. It is, in fact, part of the Youth Opportunities Scheme, in which I know my noble friend the Minister who is to reply tonight takes an extremely conscientious interest. Some of the youngsters there are studying catering. Probably not many of them will go to hotels; they will rather enter the industrial catering and canteen catering fields, but perhaps some of them will graduate to hotels and boarding houses and will serve tourists. I believe that schemes such as this are extremely valuable for training our own people to serve in such establishments.
It is unfortunate that young people in this country think that it is beneath their dignity to wait at table. A nephew of mine who served a nine-month apprenticeship as a commis waiter at a leading London hotel found that some of the language which was thrown at him was a bit fruity and that he was chased from pillar to post, as they say, but he enjoyed it; it was a marvellous experience for him. As has already been said, there are now more of our young people who are entering the catering industry. Of course it is a hard life. It is a seven-day-a-week job and it can mean working 24 hours a day, particularly in the larger hotels, because public holidays, such as Christmas, bring in quite a number of tourists, as do holiday times during the height of the summer season.
I do not think we need to be too gloomy about our British weather. The weather this year is something of an exception, which is true not only of this country but of other parts of Europe. Certainly in Scotland, where I have spent much of my life, as has my family, they have far better weather there than many people think and the publicists give credit for. I think that somebody, possibly someone from one of the tourist boards, should proclaim that Scotland not only has decent weather but often has weather which is better than in many other parts of these islands, because I believe that tourism in Scotland is most important.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, quoted from Polly Toynbee's article in the Guardian, which I too have read. She raises an important point when she speaks about the public conveniences. Tourists now come over en famille and when there are children and elderly people in the party they have to make more convenience stops. At the present time on over 100 miles of our M25 motorway there is not one refreshment centre or public convenience. I know there are franchises being offered for such places, but this is a deplorable situation and I hope that the Government will take note of it when motorways are built in the future so that priority is given to these matters, because that is the kind of thing which tourists really expect.
Mention has been made of conference centres. We could do a great deal for our balance of payments by having better conference centres. Wembley is fine but it is a long way from the centre of London. Helsinki has a most magnificent conference centre in the Finlandia Halls where the SALT talks took place, only a few miles from the centre of that lovely city. I hope that the Government will take on board the need for 720 something to be done here. I feel that we have much to offer tourists. I would hope, however, that our railway stations could be cleaned up. Victoria station is not a pretty sight for the tourist. This is not necessarily the fault of British Rail; it is often the fault of the consumer. But here, again, is a matter that needs looking into.
This has been a timely debate. We are in debt to my noble friend for having allowed us to discuss the subject.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Auckland that the debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Campbell is indeed timely and apt. I should like to say a few words about what I know the world considers to be Britain's greatest tourist asset. I refer of course to our heritage—our historic buildings, our churches and cathedrals, our museums, our historic towns, our landscapes and our theatres. For nearly 40 years, I have personally been working for, and promoting, both here and overseas, these jewels in Britain's tourist crown. Looking back to 1946, what a remarkable success story it has been! It is the envy of other countries, particularly in Europe. The recent Treasure Houses of Britain exhibition in Washington was recognition of, and tribute to, a success to which successive governments, individuals and organisations like the BTA, the HHA and the National Trust, can claim to have been major contributors.
As past president of the Historic Houses Association and chairman of English Heritage, I cannot emphasise enough the vital importance of our heritage as our principal tourist asset and income earner. It could be said that it is like Spanish sunshine but perhaps rather better because it shines all year round, or at least should do so. There has been a steady increase in the number of secular historic buildings open to the public, partly because public access is a condition of government grant. My only criticism is that we need more buildings open in the off-peak season especially during the winter months. After all, London has, and many parts of Britain should have, a 12-month season. In many historic buildings, however, the opening times are infrequent and inconvenient. It would be helpful to potential visitors if there was greater standardisation of opening times. Of the 145 historic buildings attracting more than 50,000 visitors, nearly one half are closed during the winter. It is the same in respect of the National Trust and private owners. So more could be done to encourage private owners to provide some form of public access in all seasons, perhaps through an employment subsidy.
Access to historic Anglican churches has been sadly declining. Some 30 per cent. of these churches are now kept locked for fear of theft and vandalism. If more volunteers could be recruited or assistance given through the community programme, many more could perhaps be opened. I have no doubt that government investment in our heritage must be one of the best long-term investments. It preserves our historic environment and its treasures for future enjoyment not only by British people but by people from all over the world. This guarantees further increased tourist earnings worldwide.
721 English Heritage would of course like more money but we are also trying to earn it. We are playing our part in forging a partnership between the tourist trade and local authorities to improve visitor facilities, the presentation of our heritage and sometimes even the theatrical interpretation of it. Tourism is, above all, a partnership activity and a task that cannot be undertaken by the state alone. The benefits are widespread. Overseas visitors spent last year £1,600 million in our shops.
What often saddens me, however, is that tourism and the great contribution that it makes to the economy in earnings and employment is not recognised as an industry. This is, after all, Industry Year. I believe that tourism deserves the interest and support of industry as a whole. Like the noble Lord, Lord Parry, I was rather saddened to hear Sir John Harvey-Jones recently denigrating tourism in the remarks to which reference has already been made. It is a pity that people like Sir John look upon those employed in the tourist and service industries as not doing a proper job earning wealth for the United Kingdom and that they are perhaps second-class employees compared to those earning wages by manual labour.
I doubt whether one would hear a head of Swiss industry sneering at the benefits that ski-ing brings to Switzerland or indeed a Spanish industrialist knocking the hotel trade and that country's beaches. I can assure Sir John Harvey-Jones that the managers of our heritage are much more sophisticated and professional than wanting to present the public in bogus smocks. If they did, they would not attract 55 million visitors to their houses every year, many of them, no doubt, employees of ICI needing an enjoyable and enlightening leisure experience from the dreary work that they do there.
Certainly, the tourist industry does not aim to replace manufacturing. But there is clearly room for a better understanding between the service industries and the heavier side of industry. All those concerned with tourism warmly welcomed the transfer of responsibility for tourism in this country from the DTI to the Department of Employment under my noble friend Lord Young. My noble friend's interest in tourism and his excellent report on Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs, in particular, came as a breath of fresh air to all, especially the recommendation for signposting. Let us not forget that in this period of decline, for a wide variety of reasons, in our manufacturing industry it is tourism that has been least affected. It has continued to increase at a time of economic difficulty and has provided employment for more than 1.5 million people in this country.
Of course, we must have better training and more, professionalism, especially in marketing. Naturally, we must also have greater support for the BTA and the English Tourist Board, as only they can act as a catalyst to make sure that the right tourist development happens and that it is viable. If there was more time, I could make a case for tourism to receive priority treatment from Her Majesty's Government. All we ask tonight is for equal treatment and recognition of tourism as an industry that can bring great benefits to the country as a whole.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, this debate, so ably initiated by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, has ranged over a wide variety of different aspects of tourism, and there are many more on which we could touch. I wish to mention one specific aspect of tourism; namely, catering. I shall refer specifically to catering in the restaurant trade. Thirty years ago, food in England was a joke—a rather poor joke, as very few people would think of coming to England, Wales or Scotland to enjoy food. All that has changed. It has changed out of all recognition. Not least among the reasons is the major contribution made by people like my noble friend Lord Forte in this area. The standard of service, to which many noble Lords have referred, is much more respectable. Like other speakers, I was sorry to see service being denigrated in newspaper articles by those who should know better.
I wish to mention two organisations that have contributed to the improvement in standards in our restaurants and to making service respectable. The first is a quango. I recognise that quangos usually come in for a good deal of opprobrium, and not only in your Lordships' House. I wish to refer to the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board, for that has done an enormous amount of work—I am glad to see that several noble Lords agree—in making service respectable and drawing this to the attention of a wide audience and in pointing out the career opportunities that exist in the hotel and restaurant trade. Indeed, it is worth mentioning that there are careers and that they are well remunerated. I am reliably informed that a successful person in this industry can by the age of 25 be earning more than £20,000 per year in both kitchen and waiting positions. There is nothing disreputable about that: it is worth while.
The HCITB has also been encouraging British native talent in an industry which at one time was dominated by foreigners. The noble Lord, Lord Forte, has mentioned that in his own hotels there are British chefs, and that is the situation all over the place. The fact is that there are now British chefs in Paris, which is indubitably the world centre of haute cuisine.
Another organisation—and here I must declare an interest—is the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain of which I have the pleasure and honour of being the honorary president. That organisation has also played an important part in collaboration with the HCITB in raising the standards of catering in the restaurant trade in this country. I wish to give one specific example. Last year the RAGB initiated the Young Chef and Young Waiter of the Year Contest. In fact, 2,000 application forms were completed by young people under 25 and they were narrowed down to the most promising 32 candidates in each sector. Those candidates competed in four regional contests and the winner and runner-up in each regional final came to London and competed in the national final which took place, I am glad to say, at Grosvenor House—once again thanks to the noble Lord. Lord Forte. I am also glad to say that the final was attended by my noble friend Lord Young who I am reliably assured—and unfortunately I was out of the country when it took place—enjoyed himself and thought that it was extremely stimulating.
723 That type of contest must do a great deal for the service industry because the winners in both sections—both the young chef and the young waiter of the year—received not only a cash prize but a trip to Hong Kong and one week's work experience—and I repeat, "work experience"—in the Mandarin Hotel, which is another great hotel. Those types of actions have contributed enormously to raising the standards of catering in this country.
My Lords, what more can we do? I believe that probably not very much government action is required in this case. However, there is one subject—and it has been quite rightly anticipated by my noble friend Lord Campbell—which cannot escape mention, and that is the reform of the licensing laws in England and Wales, which are totally archaic. I hope that my noble friend Lord Young will encourage his right honourable friend the Home Secretary to do something about the situation because reform is long overdue. He will appreciate that not only will the reform of the licensing laws do a great deal for both the consuming public and for the trader, but it will create employment and stimulate tourism. It is calculated that 25,000 new jobs would be created by reform of the licensing laws in England and Wales. It is very easy to produce these figures and very difficult to justify them.
However, the fact of the matter is that there are over 50,000 restaurants in England and Wales employing over 300,000 people and therefore it is not unreasonable to suppose that 25,000 new jobs—fewer than 10 per cent. of the whole—would be created by a breakthrough of that kind. It does not require any finance: all it requires is a very simple Bill which I believe I am right in saying would receive all-party support and no opposition from the right reverend Prelates. That in itself would be a great breakthrough, and I hope that we shall hear more about it later.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for introducing this debate and for giving your Lordships the opportunity again to underline the important contribution which is made to our national life by the tourist industry. All noble Lords have spoken about its contribution and about the relative healthy state of the industry.
I do not wish to repeat the impressive figures which have already been given. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, got the debate off to a very good start by giving us the details of the figures. However, we should not delude ourselves that every aspect of the industry is rosy. We must not forget that tourism is a fickle industry and no one should expect or indeed can guarantee that people will continue to travel in the same numbers in the future as in the past.
Whatever work we do to ensure an adequate welcome to visitors, to accommodate them in comfort, and to provide the interests and attractions for them to experience, all that can be undermined by terrorist action. We know of the effect on the Egyptian tourist scene of last year's hijacking of the "Achille Lauro" and the TWA jet. Tourism went down by 80 per cent. We know how instability in individual West 724 Indian islands can have disastrous effects on that tourist industry. Closer to home, we know the effect which TV pictures of Heathrow, showing armed guards patrolling the airport, had on the number of North American tourists visiting this country during the following months. Fortunately, memories are short and the damage that can be done to the industry can be overcome by a period of relative tranquillity while these problems recede.
I have said before, and I say again, that London is the gateway for overseas visitors to Britain. If London fails in its task of fulfilling that role, it is the rest of the United Kingdom which will suffer and the rest of Europe which will benefit. I should like to take the opportunity again to applaud the role of the noble Lord, Lord Forte, in helping to found the London Tourist Board so many years ago. I recall his reminding me that at that time there were only eight hotels in his empire; now there are 800 hotels.
I have for some years been particularly concerned about the London hotels situation. Criticism has been voiced in this House about the high cost of London hotels. That has been refuted by the noble Lord, Lord Forte, this afternoon. However, the prices in London hotels must seem particularly heavy to North American visitors who, in dollar terms, over the past five or six years enjoyed almost stable prices for hotels in London. In the past few months the rise in the value of the pound against the dollar—the pound now purchases 1.5 dollars as opposed to purchasing 1 dollar not so very long ago—has meant that as regards exchange rates alone there will be something approaching a 50 per cent. increase in price for North American visitors. That will have a sobering effect on the number of visitors this year from the North American continent.
At the other end of the market, there is the problem concerning hotels in the budget accommodation range. A number of hotels at the lower end of the market—two-star accommodation—are being increasingly used by local authorities to house homeless people, with the result that at least 2,000 hotel rooms have been taken out of the tourist accommodation which is available. This means, with the lack of building of new hotels in London, that there is an increasing crisis in this area.
This has primarily arisen, as has been said, through the local authorities in the central area of London adopting, as my noble kinsman Lord Mersey said, a NIMBY attitude towards new hotel developments. One would accept that there may be an argument in some places for restricting the number of visitors, but these arguments cannot apply to London, the world's most popular destination, where a number of new attractions such as Greenwich, the Museum of London, Covent Garden and the Cabinet war rooms have opened in recent years.
My noble kinsman referred to the problem in York. I am informed that more tourist revenue is earned in Bristol than in York, as in Bristol they have built new hotels, people stay the night, and therefore there are more tourist earnings in that city; in York, with such a restriction on tourist accommodation, people have to make a fleeting visit and therefore do not contribute so much to that city.
725 I return for a second to the problem of hotels in London. What I have particularly in mind is that proposals have recently been rejected to convert the British Airports Authority building in Buckingham Gate and the Crown Agents building in Millbank into hotels. These buildings have both had office use previously, and to convert them to hotels would have changed their pattern of use but would not have introduced a great number of extra people into these locations. I know that the noble Lord the Minister has a report being submitted to him on hotel accommodation in London and that that report is to be published on 15th May. I would not expect him to comment this evening, but I hope that when the report is published we shall have a positive response to it fairly shortly thereafter.
Those of us who have been asking for action in this area have warned for a number of years that a crisis would materialise at this point in time. I do not refer only to this Government, but governments for many years past have taken no action, and that crisis is now with us and will be with us for some years. Whatever measures are taken now, it will be some years before the new hotels can be built.
Let me add another point. We have recently seen the splendid refurbishment and upgrading of some London hotels. A side effect has been a reduction in the number of rooms available. All these factors have aggravated the hotel situation in London, which is becoming very serious indeed.
I move on to the question of the funding of the British Tourist Authority. I know that the Government have recently increased the funding for the BTA to promote overseas tourism. We applaud that, but I understand that in dollar terms—a lot of the BTA's money is spent overseas, particularly in North America—the result was to increase the BTA grant in that section to what it was two or three years ago, and it did not provide a real increase in dollar terms compared with what it had some years ago. I have no quarrel with the Minister's decision to tie parts of the BTA grant to specific purposes, but it is important that it should have sufficient funds to market overseas in North America.
I should now like to turn to an area which is important, and that is the question of reception of visitors on arrival. This has been a continuous bone of contention, particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, who has persevered and argued about this. We know that there are problems at Customs and with immigration facilities both at Heathrow and Gatwick. This is a matter which requires constant vigilance. I understand that some of the airlines have even offered to pay for additional immigration officers to be available at peak times if something can be done to reduce the queues.
There is also a question of visitors being able to obtain information once they arrive. They should find this freely available and not have to fight for it. They should know what facilities there are, and should be made to feel welcome.
I have underlined some of the problems which I see the industry facing. I return to the theme of the debate: that tourism is a great national asset. It provides, as we have already said, a massive number of jobs and is 726 capable of providing many more. My noble friend Lord Parry spoke eloquently about this. The English Tourist Board, through its support for tourism ventures by Section 4 grants which are administered by it and the regional tourist boards, has stimulated a great deal of investment in the tourist industry.
This scheme continues to be important, because financial institutions in the City are often reluctant to invest in this sector. The City appears to think that tourism is a lightweight, high-risk, low-return industry, yet tourism projects, supported by the English Tourist Board, have a good record of success. What would be of immense help to the English Tourist Board is if the Government could guarantee its Section 4 money over a five-year period.
I am glad to hear that the regional tourist boards are now to have responsibility in administering the schemes for grants with a capital cost of up to 100,000. I welcome this. The regional boards are one of the most important elements in the tourist board structure. They are the organisations responsible for visitors receiving a warm welcome to this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, spoke of the need for more conference centres outside London. There are already quite a number of purpose-built conference centres outside London—Harrogate, Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Birmingham and so on. There are hotels with facilities there. I give a word of warning here. From the noble Lord's speech he seemed to be almost suggesting plonking them down here and there throughout the country. For a conference centre to succeed there must be an adequate number of hotel beds within the area.
One of the problems that we know Brighton has is that it does not have sufficient hotel beds of the appropriate quality. By this I mean with a bedroom and bathroom en suite, as opposed to a bathroom a mile down the corridor. Such facilities are expected by international visitors, and you have to have the infrastructure there first before building a conference centre. Worldwide I am worried that a great many conference centres are being built, with the effect that a lot of them will tend to be under-used. But in London we benefit from some very good conference centres which tend to be full a great deal of the time.
I have taken, I think, more than my allocation of time. I should finally like to say that tourism is an important industry. It needs to be cosseted and looked after. We must work hard, sell hard, and see that visitors to this country are welcomed and looked after.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Lord Young of Graffham)
My Lords, I join with all in your Lordships' House to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for giving us this opportunity to debate the importance of tourism. In his speech to this House in May 1985 the noble Lord, Lord Parry, drew attention to the fact that up until then, tourism had been debated by your Lordships only three times in 11 years. Now we have had two debates in less than 12 months. This in itself would seem to indicate that significant progress has been made of late in elevating tourism to its rightful place as a topic for serious discussion.
727 The contributions to the debate have already indicated why tourism is worthy of this attention and I do not propose to repeat all the figures which we have already been given. I am, however, happy to see that my prediction in May last year, when we last considered this matter, that we should again be talking about an increase in the figures has indeed come to pass. We had 14.6 million visits to the UK, an increase of 7 per cent. over the previous year, and that made 1985 the second successive record-breaking year. This is an opportunity for us to congratulate ourselves to ensure that in future we shall have a third, a fourth and perhaps a fifth record-breaking year.
My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy drew attention to Scotland's great tourist attractions—two new tourist attractions for those who are prepared to leave England and, who knows, that may be cause in itself: shopping hours and licensing hours on a Sunday. We shall have to see how that develops and whether all the tourists in England go north of the Border on Sundays. The traditional nature of the Scottish Sunday will be very different from the traditional nature of an English Sunday. But it is the great diversity of choice in the United Kingdom that we must really capitalise on—not. I hasten to add, the great choice of weather that we offer our visitors but the enormous choice that we offer in our heritage. My noble friend Lord Campbell referred to the love-hate relationship which we have as a nation with caravans. I suspect that what he is really talking about is that every Briton who has one loves his own and hates everybody else's. It is very much that kind of relationship.
I particularly welcomed the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Parry. All in your Lordships' House will agree that the time has come for us to declare a close season on this year's Dimbleby lecture save to say how much I agreed with many of the remarks made by the noble Lord. We must never forget that still this nation exports per capita more than the United States of America and more per head than Japan. We still are an industrial nation. That is no reason for saying that we should not be a service sector nation and that we still should ensure that the 14.6 million visitors who come to our shores and who contribute less than half of all the money taken on tourism want to come again. Indeed, if we look at what is happening within tourism we find that we are going more and more towards a year-round facility. In pursuance of my duties, as your Lordships would expect, as a zealous Secretary of State I went to Alton Towers last Friday to open the Grand Canyon Rapid Ride.
§ Lord Young of Graffham
My Lords, the fact that I did so in snow was neither here nor there. What was interesting even in that weather, which was cold for any time of the year, was that when I left just after lunch 7,000 visitors had already arrived. Even at outdoor centres of that sort, providing the value that they do, 7,000 visitors at this time of year is extremely good.
Many in your Lordships' House will recall that under Section 4 we have granted a £1½ million facility 728 to Center Parks holiday self-catering development in Sherwood Forest. This will be of immense attraction all the year round and will comprise some 600 holiday bungalows to be completed next year, providing yet another 250 jobs. I referred to Alton Towers. The employment at Alton Towers has gone from 50 to 1,250 in five years and the Grand Canyon Rapid Ride will, I am told, give another 250 jobs. All this is to be welcomed.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, talked much of Sunday trading, but I hope he will not suggest that as a Minister of the Crown I should recommend anyone to break the law by shopping on Sunday. We shall have to see what happens. I join in the contribution made to the debate by my noble friend Lord Mancroft. What is perhaps the British weakness is not over-egging the pudding, but perhaps overemphasising our faults. I do not believe we should be complacent about anything, but many of the remarks in the article in the Guardian that was referred to by many of your Lordships did not accord with the survey taken by the BTA in overseas attitudes. Indeed, only 4 per cent. of all overseas tourists thought that we were unfriendly and two out of three Americans found that we were very friendly. I believe that we should try to see where we can prove ourselves, but not broadcast to the world our faults. Let us keep that in balance.
I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, that duty free is neither free of duty nor cheap. But it represents a different kind of purchase. While we are ambivalent about our desire to have tourists we are not ambivalent about our desire to have jobs. We mut recognise that we must have the right number of tourists to support the right number of jobs; which brings me to my noble friend Lord Mersey with NIMBY. That is an expression which I am glad to see is being propagated: not in my back yard. It is very difficult to bring home to many authorities who are elected by those who do not wish to see any change at all, but would rather like to see change in the next authority, that we must allow a certain amount of change if we are to adapt in our modern society.
The noble Lord asked me who is right in York. I had the privilege of visiting Jorvik museum. I say "privilege" because I enjoyed thoroughly a visit to York. There are many aspects of the work of a minister concerned with tourism that are not all bad. Jorvik is a remarkable example of a Section 4 grant. It received £250,000 some three years ago, added about five or six times that amount in terms of loans, and will have those all paid off by 1989–90. It will be making a substantial profit of about £750,000, I am told, each year for the York Trust, and I am told that for each pound that the museum takes the city of York takes £7. This is a very good way in which tourism is shown to work to the benefit of the economy as a whole and the locality in particular.
Since I came to your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, has made me an enthusiast for inland waterways. I have heard many times from him and I have learnt a great deal from him. I love the concept of mobile country cottages. The fact that we have 3,000 miles of inland waterways is something on which we must capitalise. Within the Manpower Services Commission, the community programme is contributing a considerable amount of work on the 729 Kennet and Avon Canal, and I hope it will continue to do so. I know that the regional tourist boards are also co-operating with the British Waterways Board. The North-West Tourist Board is keen on working with waterways and I hope this is something that will grow.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brentford for his recognition of the increase in grant which was given this year to the BTA. He referred to the office in Atlanta which opened this year. Last December I had the pleasure of opening an office for the BTA in Hong Kong, which shows from how far afield we are now beginning to get tourists coming to this country. He referred, as did other noble Lords, to the Heathrow exercise which had an unfortunate effect in the United States of America. I suspect that, as in all these matters, memories are short. We have a Royal Wedding this summer and I hope that will have a considerable effect on tourism during the course of the year.
Only yesterday the BTA published a booklet called First Impressions, which relates to the reception by overseas visitors of the inquiries it made. I commend it to your Lordships. In referring to publications, perhaps I may say that my own department has published Action for Jobs, where we have a section on training for tourism to show that this is all very much part of the facilities the Government are keen to encourage. Indeed, the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, referred to £200 million a year and 35,000 jobs which came about. That is an immense amount of money. Perhaps I may correct the noble Baroness by saying that it is not £10 million a year that the Government give to tourism; it is £40 million in a year. The importance, I suspect, to this industry, once again and time and again, is not so much money as service. She referred to information centres that should be open when tourists are there. That is something which we could all learn and perhaps help in. Indeed, it is one of the matters dealt with in the publication Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs.
I think that all Members of your Lordships' House were interested when my noble friend Lord Forte confirmed to all of us who may have forgotten it that there is no such thing as a free lunch and told us shortly afterwards that nobody ever complains about the prices in his establishments. We are all grateful to him for the work that he did in establishing the London Tourist Board and perhaps one of the reasons why he has gone from eight hotels to 800 hotels—as I think was referred to in the course of the debate this afternoon—is that he is spending £6 million a year on training and that he recognises, as do his companies, that quality counts; that it is quality for the value of money that people are looking for; that we should be attracting not only overseas visitors but our own. The fact that 92.5 per cent. of employees in his hotels are Britons is something for which we all commend him. Indeed, I hope that we all could find that this industry represents a worthwhile career. If I may say so, it was noble of him to boast of, and to be proud of, as we all are, that in prices we are behind Rome and cheaper than Rome. It is good to see that London prices are now 32nd in the world, which is something that I think we should advertise more widely.
My noble friend Lord Auckland paid tribute to the contribution which YTS will make towards this 730 industry. I believe that the two-years YTS will change attitudes profoundly in this country. The opportunity that so many young people will have to spend two years in work-based training to become professionals, and the contribution which the review of vocational qualifications will, I hope, later on this year make to this industry, will make a profound difference. I should like to assure my noble friend that the M.25 will not be without service stations. There are four planned: one in South Mimms will open later this year and one in Thurrock in 1987. A number of noble Lords referred not only to the need to have conference centres but to have conference centres in London. Since we are talking of tourism and leisure, within a 7-iron shot of your Lordships' House the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre is shortly to open and I think that all noble Lords will find that this is a very worthwhile addition to the conference facilities which we have in London.
My noble friend Lord Montagu—and may I pay tribute to the work he is doing to encourage tourism?—drew attention to the need to put many of our "jewels in our crown" on display in order to lengthen our season. I think that is a very important matter. Tourists come here not for our climate. I think that is self-evident. They come for our culture and for our tradition, and I believe we must find ways of lengthening the season. I listened with interest to the suggestion that we would use the community programme to help in many ways in this matter I shall certainly take that away and pay attention to it.
I am very grateful that my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein paid tribute to the excellent work done by the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board. That certainly is so. I wonder if it is because of the quality of that training that we have seen in the past year the number of people employed by tourism-related industries, including hotels, go up by 5 per cent.; those employed in restaurants and cafés increase by 4 per cent.; those in public houses and bars increase by 3 per cent; those in night-clubs and licensed clubs increase by 3 per cent.; and in libraries, museums and art galleries another 5 per cent. increase.
Throughout, the leisure fields are fast growing and giving real and valued employment. Part of the success of that is the enthusiasm of many people. I think that I have been to few occasions that I have enjoyed more than the "Young Chef and Young Waiter of the Year Award". The enthusiasm of the young people was greatly to be admired and so, of course, was the fact that they were all British. We would not like anyone in your Lordships' House to think that we were being too chauvinist and we welcome the French with enthusiasm—at least their champagne—but the young waiters and young chefs were British and very professional. The award is getting more and more popular. Last year I think there were 2,000 entrants and they are hoping that next year there will be 3,000 or more. I look forward greatly to what happens.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and I can only say that I agree with him enormously that memories are short and that the tourists will return. I do not think that we can in any way restrict London or say that London is too small for tourists. At the moment, London has seven out of the 10 of the tourists who come to this country and only 3 out of 10 731 actually leave London. But London is very large. I had the privilege this morning of going to open a new training scheme in Docklands. The more I looked around Docklands the more I realised that we have within our own city a new area of tourism. When the light railway is opened in a year or two's time, I suspect that we shall find that that will be a great attraction.
I am intrigued by the thought of the battle that is developing in your Lordships' House as to whether Bristol may be a better tourist attraction than York. The more our cities vie with each other to be top of the league in tourist attraction, the more we shall actually do to encourage tourism.
I await the report which is to come to me shortly on the position of hotels in London. I cannot say that I do so with any great feeling of enthusiasm. The attitudes in London are well known but we must do our bit to educate all who live in this city that we must encourage the growth of tourism and the growth of employment in particular.
If I may say so, the overseas tourists' loss as a result of the drop in the dollar/pound exchange rate or the apparent increase in London prices, will be equally matched by the gain going to the BTA when they come to spend dollars in the United States on advertising. I hope that the increased grant to the BTA and the increased purchasing power that they will now have in dollars will help considerably. Perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that we are currently considering the results of an internal evaluation of Section 4 grants for cost-effectiveness which will help in decisions about its scope over the longer term. I hope that announcements about this will be made in due course.
Since we last debated this matter in your Lordships' House, I published the report on Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs. If I may take literally a moment or two, I may briefly bring out one or two of the highlights. Ministers are now sitting down and co-ordinating within government tourism both with the territorial Ministers and with civil servants. The British Travel Centre in Lower Regent Street will be open to the public on 1st May. This will help greatly to increase the number of tourists who go out of London. I hope that we shall be seeing some comments of welcome for the consultative document about coach parking which the Department of Transport published on 20th March. I hope the document will suggest a number of ways forward and I look positively to getting a real response to those ideas.
We have enabled nine national museums and galleries in England to keep extra money earned from receipts, and I hope that that will mean that they will be open when tourists and visitors want to go there. That will be a great step forward. In addition, since we last debated this matter, we have a new voluntary system of hotel classification in England, and I look forward to seeing that that will help to improve standards. Also, the Department of Transport will be introducing major improvements in tourism signposts later for introduction this summer.
Finally, what Pleasure, Leisure and Jobs did more than anything else was to draw attention to education and training in this great industry. All of us who are in this industry know that it has to be professional to 732 succeed and all of us who are involved in this industry are determined that it shall succeed.
§ 7.30 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, in the short time left to me, I should like to thank all the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have taken part in the debate for making their well-informed contributions which, felicitously, covered a very wide range of subjects. Different parts of the country were considered as well as various leisure and recreational pursuits. The speakers drew from their personal experience of positions in or connected with the industry.
I particularly took note of the warnings which were given by my noble friend Lord Mancroft and by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Tact and sensitive attitudes are necessary in an industry with a fickle clientele. I should like particularly to thank my noble friend the Secretary of State for the very full reply that he has given. I am sure he will have noted the suggestions made during the debate for particular improvements. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.