HL Deb 07 December 1989 vol 513 cc998-9

3.13 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to promote job opportunities in the tourism industry, and to what extent tourism is significant to the economy of the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, the Employment Department works with other government departments and the tourist boards to promote the many and varied job opportunities in the United Kingdom. The tourism industry generates about £19 billion for the economy, which represents over 4 per cent. of the total United Kingdom gross domestic product.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that optimistic answer. However, does he agree that more could be done by the tourism industry to make available positive and current information to young people when they receive careers advice in schools and colleges?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, yes, my noble friend is correct. The tourism industry is well aware of its responsibilities in this area and is working on a variety of programmes in schools and colleges in order to raise the profile of the industry as providing a good and permanent career.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the demands of the tourism industry and the need to protect the countryside are not always in harmony and may conflict? Can he assure the House that environmental interests will always be carefully borne in mind when planning to develop tourism?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Lord is most sensible. I recognise that often there is a problem in the development of tourism in areas of particular attractiveness. Often it is that particular environment which attracts visitors to the area. However, having recognised that concern, it is the Government's policy to develop new markets so that visitors can spread to areas which hitherto have not had tourist potential, to develop action programmes for a variety of areas throughout the country and to help to extend the season so that fewer visitors will bunch in the summer months.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, has my noble friend noticed that there is a tendency within the tourist industry to clump together certain areas such as London and Stratford? Does he know of any method to encourage a more even spread of visitors over the rest of the country?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the Government recently announced almost a doubling of the amount of taxpayers' money given to regional tourist boards. That will help to a great extent to diversify places that tourists visit.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, the Minister has stressed the importance of tourism to the economy. Is he aware that one of the aspects which tourists find most disagreeable about our cities is their dirtiness? What are the Government doing about that other than restricting the ability of local authorities to spend sufficient money to clean up our cities?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, that is precisely one of the areas where tourists have a beneficial effect on our cities. In the near future the Government will introduce a new anti-litter campaign because we need to present a better image to foreign visitors.

Lord Rugby

My Lords, can the Minister say to what extent we are encouraging the learning of foreign languages among our young people so that they can act as interpreters for foreign visitors?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, it is most important that all our schoolchildren, particularly those who go to work in industries where they meet foreigners, have the ability to converse to a certain extent with those foreigners.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the Minister suggest to his noble friend that the Government should reverse their attitude towards the Lingua programme in order to speed up the learning of foreign languages?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, we believe in a combined approach. As regards the tourism industry, there are many commercial organisations which understand the need for their employees to learn foreign languages. They have instituted a variety of courses.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is not governments which clean up cities but people, and that more self-discipline and education is required of people to make our cities and countryside cleaner and litter free? It is not simply a question of leaving the Government doing something about litter in our cities.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. It is the responsibility of us all to make sure that we clean up litter.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, in view of the Minister's reply to my noble friend's question, does he know what the Lingua programme is?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, of course.