HL Deb 28 January 1992 vol 534 cc1245-59

7.50 p.m.

Lord Belstead

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th December be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in June 1989 the Government produced a report, Tourism in Northern Ireland - A View to the Future. It was intended less as a blueprint for the future than as a pointer to the basic strengths of the industry and how they might be developed. It also identified the main obstacles to growth which would have to be overcome.

The report incorporated many constructive proposals and suggestions put forward by the industry in the course of consultation. The approach proposed involves repackaging of the tourist product and its effective marketing at home and abroad; the development of key centres of excellence to provide a platform for growth; encouraging community-led tourism projects; and continued joint marketing initiatives between the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the tourist board in the South.

The key to the success of the approach was seen to lie in the active involvement of the whole tourist sector, public and private, through partnership between the Government, the tourist board and the industry, the top priority being to make the industry more competitive and better prepared for the challenges which lie ahead. That is very important to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland in terms of increased earnings from overseas, much-needed job opportunities and vital secondary economic activity.

After nearly two decades of difficulty resulting from terrorism there is nonetheless clear and encouraging evidence that people from outside Northern Ireland see Northern Ireland as an attractive place to visit. That is not entirely surprising. After all, Northern Ireland has some of the most beautiful and varied scenery to be found and, wherever they go in Northern Ireland, visitors will find a genuinely warm and generous welcome from people who resolutely stick to their work and their duty in the face of acts of criminal terrorism. Visitor figures for 1990 were an all-time record—some 1,153,000 visitors in total. Particularly significant is the fact that one in five visitors came to Northern Ireland in that year exclusively for a holiday, compared with a figure of one in nine 10 years ago. Estimated figures for 1991 remain encouraging, despite the fact that it was a year of international recession and conflict in the Gulf.

Much of that success results from the excellent work now being done by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. I warmly congratulate the chairman and the board on the enterprise it has shown.

Growth can, however, be sustained and expanded only by sticking to the development strategy, which places a higher priority on the development of a desirable tourism infrastructure and emphasises the importance of high standards of presentation and service. The order places the board in a central role in tourism development, increasing its powers in ways which will enable it to discharge the vitally important task of building substantially on the present competitiveness of the tourism industry.

Part I of the order, comprising Articles 1 and 2, is introductory and covers technical matters. Part II deals with the arrangements for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. The board, as a legal entity, will continue to exist, under Article 3, already restructured and strengthened by new expertise in order to meet the challenges ahead. The maximum membership of the board is reduced from 14 to nine by Schedule 1. That reflects a general movement towards smaller, more cohesive bodies. A smaller board will allow for the inclusion of the necessary range of skills and experience and yet will be compact enough to ensure effective decision-making.

Overall responsibility for policy on tourism will remain with the Government as a component of our economic strategy for Northern Ireland. Responsibility for certain tourism functions presently carried out by the Department of Economic Development will, however, be transferred to the board, including direct operational responsibility for the tourism programmes sponsored by the European Community and the International Fund for Ireland.

Another key function of the board will be to work closely with all other tourism interests in Northern Ireland so that a common and sensible working framework can be developed. That is reflected in the new statutory requirement in Article 4 for the board to set up and maintain consultative arrangements with public and private sector tourist interests. In anticipation of that provision the board has already initiated new arrangements for consultation with district councils.

Other changes will enable the board to operate on a more commercial basis while at the same time ensuring that it retains the necessary accountability. For example it may become directly involved in merchandising Northern Ireland products, accept commissions for booking overnight accommodation and charge for non-statutory services such as that provided by the board to the courts in liquor licensing matters.

All those changes represent a considerable and very real strengthening of the board's powers. The board is firmly and rightly placed in the lead role in the development of the Province's tourism industry.

Part III of the order introduces a power to devise a scheme of selective financial assistance. A preliminary scheme, involving flexibility and selectiveness, is already in operation and has attracted a range of very promising projects.

In a recent survey commissioned by the Government and the tourist board, anxiety was expressed about the quality of some of Northern Ireland's existing hotels and guesthouses. It was concluded that, if the industry is to compete effectively in the tourism market-place and the board to meet its ambitious visitor targets, there must be improvements in the quality and value for money of the accommodation sector. Today's international visitors expect that.

The problems identified by the study are directly addressed in Part IV of the order. There are, first, new regulatory provisions. Those are confined, unlike the previous legislation, to overnight tourist accommodation provided by way of trade or business, and are directed at ensuring that only those establishments which meet minimum standards are certified by the tourist board. Secondly, the order allows the board to introduce a voluntary system of classification and grading which classifies establishments according to the range of facilities available and grades them against quality of product and consumer care yardsticks. I am confident that that combination of regulatory and voluntary arrangements will enable the board to raise the quality of the present and future stock of tourist accommodation.

Part V of the order—Articles 30–32—deals with the tourism powers of district councils. Although there are no major changes to the existing powers of the councils, provision is made for greater co-operation and partnership between the councils and the board in the development and marketing of tourism across the country.

Part VI of the order is technical. It provides for the repeal of the 1948 Act.

I am confident that the order provides the sound basis that is needed to ensure a competitive tourist industry that will make a major contribution to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and will attract people to that most beautiful of countries. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th December be approved.—[Lord Belstead.]

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, before I deal with the draft order which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has introduced, I should like to take this opportunity of associating all my colleagues on these Benches with the sense of outrage which was expressed in the Secretary of State's Statement in the House of Commons a week ago yesterday following the murder of the seven construction workers on their way home in the County of Tyrone. We should like it to be clearly understood that we stand squarely behind the Secretary of State's Statement and his commitment to strengthen the security forces in the Province while also striving for a political solution.

I turn now to the draft order. With his characteristic clarity, the noble Lord explained its background and detailed provisions. We agree with the main purpose of the legislation. We believe that there is an overwhelming case for enhancing investment in the tourist industry in order to make Northern Ireland even more attractive to tourists, though no doubt the single most important contribution to that industry would be the restoration of peace and normality in that singularly beautiful Province.

Fortunately, I had the benefit of reading the debate on this order when it passed through another place. Many questions and issues of detail were then addressed to the Minister. I believe that we on these Benches can best help by repeating this evening one or two of the questions which were addressed to the Minister and by asking a few additional ones. I shall do so in a friendly way.

Article 4 proposes that the new tourist board shall have wide-ranging functions. Indeed, there is quite a list of functions. However, there is no specific reference to a right for the board to conduct research for the tourist industry, which most of us think the board should be developing. I appreciate that the Minister may well say that that is provided for in paragraph (2) (i). But it seems to me that much is to be said for putting that point beyond dispute.

Again, it is not clear to me whether the board will have the power to undertake activities outside the United Kingdom; neither is it clear to me what will be the relationship between it and the British Tourist Board. Perhaps the Minister can also clarify the role of the Department of Economic Development. We should like to know what residual tourism functions will be exercised by the department.

Turning to Part III of the order, I am sure that the Minister will know that anxiety was expressed in another place about a penal rate of interest which may be charged under Article 11(4) when an instalment of a loan repayment is overdue. Any words of comfort that the Minister can give about that power, which by virtue of the article can overrule any statutory provision or rule of law to the contrary, will be welcome.

On the other hand, I should have expected that the board would have the power to call upon a borrower to produce accounts and records relating to a loan project and also to have the right to inspect the relevant accounts and records. Perhaps the Minister will confirm whether under this order or any other legislation the board will have the right of access to the relevant documents and records. Having asked that question, I have a feeling that that point has probably not been overlooked.

In Part IV, Article 12 contains a list of tourist establishments for the purposes of the order. Given the importance of caravan parks for the modern tourist, why is that not referred to specifically in Article 12? I wonder whether we are correct in assuming that a caravan park is included in the term "self-catering establishment" or any other term.

Article 14 is very important; but does it mean that every tourist establishment in Northern Ireland henceforth will have to obtain a certificate of registration under Article 13 unless they have been exempted from registration under Article 25? If that is the position—that they have to be registered unless they are exempted—can the Minister indicate the scope of the exemptions? Can he forecast how they will apply?

I am a little bothered about the possible operation of Article 13(12). As I read that subsection, where a proprietor has sold a tourist establishment, it will be necessary for him to inform the board of the change of ownership. I understand that and it is fine. But on receipt of the notification of change of ownership, as I understand the article, the board may then proceed to attach new conditions to the certificate. Those conditions may not be acceptable to the purchaser, who may not have foreseen that such conditions would be imposed. Nevertheless, the purchaser cannot go back to the vendor to renegotiate the terms of the purchase. The question therefore is whether there will be a procedure whereby a proposed purchaser of a tourist establishment can ascertain before he signs a contract of purchase what new conditions, if any, the board proposes to attach to his certificate.

There is another point which causes me concern. Where a proprietor appeals to the county court against a notice of revocation of the certificate, he will nevertheless have to comply with the notice and close his establishment pending hearing of the appeal. That is how I read Article 13. If my understanding is correct, I must ask whether that is fair.

There are two possible drafting points that I should like to mention to the Minister. A drafting point may arise in respect of Article 29—the interpretation article —which defines the meaning of the word "premises" when used in Part IV of the order. I have been unable to spot the word "premises" on a single occasion in that part of the order. I am sure it must be there. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that point.

The second possible drafting point arises out of Article 30(3) (b). I should like to know whether the district councils will have the power to construct and lay down a supply of drinking water to a tourist amenity. Unless there are special regulations in force in Northern Ireland, I should have thought that the district council would have such a power. If that is the position, I suggest that it should be spelt out in the article.

I come now to the schedule and therefore to my final point, which relates to the membership of the new board. As the noble Lord has explained, it will consist of a reduced membership of nine. The members will be appointed by the head of the department. What bothers me is that a board member may be removed at any time merely by the head of the department giving the member notice in writing, without stating the reason for the termination of his board membership. I am a little surprised that the department has gone as far as that.

I have checked the television legislation. I note that the Secretaries of State for England, Wales and Scotland have not been given that sweeping power and they have managed perfectly well without it. Therefore, I find it difficult to accept that this power to terminate membership of the board without stating reasons, and reasons which are prescribed by Parliament, is absolutely necessary in Northern Ireland.

It is clear from what I have said that I believe that the grounds for removal should be set out in the order and approved by Parliament. I wonder whether the Minister can give any reassurance on that point. I hope that I have said enough to suggest that the order would ordinarily deserve a Committee stage. Nevertheless, we shall gladly support it without a Committee stage.

8.12 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I welcome the order in that it will reorganise the tourist board in the longer run. I thank my noble friend for his explanation as to how it will work. At this stage I must declare an interest since I run a guest house in County Fermanagh with shooting and fishing. I hope to be one of the people who will apply to the tourist board for a grant which it may be able to give after this order is enacted.

The tourist industry of Northern Ireland was worth £153 million in 1990 and employed approximately 9,000 people. That means that it is a major success story as an industry within the Province. If one compares it to the sea fishing industry, which was worth £30 million and employed 2,500 people, one will see that the tourist industry is of significance within the Province. Therefore it is important that we get matters right with this order or any other legislation.

At the moment tourism is growing rapidly. The interesting fact is that it is not over-dependent on the visitor from Great Britain. I do not mean that as any reflection on people this side of the water, but merely that the tourist industry is fully international. When one compares the figures between 1989 and 1990, the numbers of visitors from Great Britain did not change. From the Irish Republic they increased by 4 per cent., from North America by 21 per cent. and from Europe by 53 per cent. I believe that that last figure is significant. It not only shows how the tourist industry has tackled the European question of the open market but it shows that it has had a major success in that market. I am sure that it will continue to do so.

It is also important—because there are those who will question it—that the tourist industry runs throughout both communities in Northern Ireland. There is no circumstance under which a notable difference would appear. Both communities work closely together in the industry.

In as much as this order is most welcome, it is also rather sad. A number of points have been brought up by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and in a very good debate in another place. They are all good points, but because this is an order it is sad that we cannot change or improve it in any way.

There is no point going into great detail on what was said in another place. However, I endorse a great many of the reservations which have been expressed both there and in this House. There are a couple of points which I wish to emphasise. The first concerns the board that is appointed under the order. It is surprising that there are no county representatives. I know that my noble friend has said that provision is being made for them to be brought in at some stage for discussion or that the means to do so will be there. For example, in Fermanagh, where I live, the county council is in some respects ahead of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. We have heard about the recent report of the board pointing out certain matters which are not as good as they might be in Northern Ireland. County Fermanagh Council made a report two years ago and has produced a strategic study well ahead of the board.

Fermanagh is already the centre for international tourists who come to Northern Ireland. They come to Fermanagh as a destination and stay there. That situation will improve in the next few years with the various projects that are coming forward at the moment. I refer to the opening of Ballyconnell Canal linking the Erne and Shannon systems, a new boating centre in the Upper Lough Erne and the multimillion pound country activity and equitation centre at Irvinestown. It is unlikely, knowing Northern Ireland and the north coast and how it is used by local people, that it will lose its foremost place in the international market.

Those who saw "The Antiques Roadshow" from Enniskillen on Sunday may have heard the commentary that it was the most beautiful and unspoilt location that the programme had ever been to. That is undoubtedly true. Taking all that into account, how is it that the leading council in tourism in Northern Ireland has no councillor on the board or even the very able chief executive who has been the brains behind a great deal of what has gone on there in the past few years? We have a large unspoilt area. We must not allow it to be destroyed. It must be developed carefully.

Tourism is Fermanagh's future and main industry. There is little enough democracy in the Province. The people of Fermanagh feel very strongly that they are being ignored through having no representation of their choice on the board. The Northern Ireland Office must understand that and recognise that every resident of the county, especially the farmers, are partners in the tourist industry by keeping the county attractive as an international tourist destination. Their advice and help are important. Who knows better how to keep Fermanagh afloat in the kind of weather that we have.

The other concern I wish to voice is this. We are pleased with the new powers that the tourist board will have. But how accountable will it be and to whom? How will it be assessed, how frequently and by whom? I do not wish to go into detail about that, but these are questions which we have every right to ask, reading through the order as it is.

There is one other factor which affects all industries but tourism in particular. It is very definitely the current security situation. However, I wish to mention the activities of the security forces and how they affect tourism in Northern Ireland. It is unfortunate that in some ways the security forces are run in a manner similar to the running of the MOD by government in this country and that department tends to be separate from much of normal life.

What service personnel do daily does not really affect many people and because they are non-profit-making they do not come up for discussion in those terms. However, as regards Northern Ireland, everything changes. Everything that the security forces do in the Province affects daily business life, social life and all too frequently religious activity. The security side of the NIO seems to be in a world of its own. It is all too secret or things have to be done, as it says, all too quickly. There is little or no discussion about factors which are very often not very secret ultimately, and neither should they be.

For example, it is extraordinary when I last inquired, that Mr. Needham who looks after our industry interests, had met the GOC only once. That shows a severe lack of communication. On the security side no doubt the GOC is quite capable of informing him of what he requires to carry out his security. But it is sad that Mr. Needham is unable to have an input into matters which would not compromise security but which would help industry and tourism in particular. Will my noble friend endeavour to speak to his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office about the issue, and perhaps we can have further discussions?

I welcome the order and I hope that the future of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board will be as good as it appears.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I wish to compliment my noble friend on his presentation of the order. I am one of many who appreciates everything that he says about Northern Ireland. I also concur with everything that my noble friend Lord Brookeborough said about Northern Ireland and in particular about County Fermanagh.

My noble friend Lord Belstead pointed out the need for the board. I heard on the media the acting chairman of the board explaining how the standards set out in the order need to be achieved. If that person remains in the framework and will act as part of the establishment, Northern Ireland will be well led.

Part IV of the order was of some interest to me. Will my noble friend explain the existing system perhaps at a later stage? Will the system as set out in Part IV be different in any major way from the existing system? The system may already be organised county by county. If it is starting from scratch, if there is a cold start, it might take a year or two to establish. It is essential that the standards are set at a high level and that improvements are sought annually.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked about a caravan park. I looked at the definition of tourist accommodation on page 3, Article 2, and of tourist establishments on page 18, Article 29. It appears that as a result of a combination of both definitions there is a lacuna in Article 12. No doubt my noble friend will have an excellent explanation for that.

I have one other impudent query. The section dealing with interpretation at the bottom of page 3 states: 'tourist amenity, means an amenity, facility or service provided primarily for tourists, but does not include tourist accommodation"'. Within that definition could be included something that might go with overnight accommodation; it is the wicked four-letter word "food". My noble friend and I qualify as tourists because in many cases we travel in Northern Ireland purely for pleasure to appreciate the people, the scenery and everything else. Will the excellent high standard of Northern Ireland breakfasts—that is Ulster fry, soda bread and the rest—be classified and checked under the certification in Part IV? If not, why not? It appears to me that "amenity" covers food.

I commend the order. I believe that it will go a long way towards keeping tourism pre-eminent in Northern Ireland.

8.25 p.m.

Lord Blease

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his full and clear explanation of the order. I warmly welcome the tribute that he paid to workers in all levels of the tourist industry. They carry on with smiling faces to provide an excellent service, in spite of all the troubles with which they are confronted. I agree that the tourist industry is important to the employment situation in Northern Ireland. It is also a vital aspect of our Northern Ireland cross-community and social interchange. Tourism assists in strengthening and promoting the necessary worldwide communications network. It helps in positive terms to provide a genuine picture of the Province and in building an active international understanding of the Province in diplomatic terms.

We in Northern Ireland are proud of our great wealth of natural heritage; our glens of Antrim, our mountains of Mourne and the Giants' Causeway. In addition, the golf courses, lakes and rivers provide so much enjoyment to sportsmen. Tourism means visitors from Britain, the Irish Republic, America and Europe. It is vital that the Province should be attractive, made readily available to and regularly used by all Northern Ireland citizens for recreation, weekends and for family holiday enjoyment. The intermingling between local inhabitants and visitors is a help and encouragement to the promotion of the Province in a worldwide sense. It is important that no cleavage appears in the facilities; what is available to tourists and visitors should not be excluded from those who live in the Province.

The order replaces the Development of Tourist Traffic Act (Northern Ireland) 1948 and is the result of a review group on tourism set up in 1988. During the three years of its preparation the order was greatly influenced by the comments and suggestions made to the review group as a result of wide consultations with interested individuals and organisations. I understand that there was the widest possible involvement of all interested parties throughout the Province in the compilation of the review and in the preparation of the new legislation.

In merely logistic terms the consultations must have been difficult for the review group. Tourism in Northern Ireland involves a wider spectrum of industry and commercial life in the Northern Ireland economy. There are the hotels, catering, food supplies, transport, the local farming community, local government and the amenities which they provide such as sports and recreation facilities, culture and community interests. All those have an important input into the tourist industry

I support the points made by my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies, the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell. The noble Viscount resides in Northern Ireland and the noble Lord was a Minister for Northern Ireland. Therefore both are aware of the interests involved and of the importance of this legislation.

I wish to raise three issues with the Minister. I have not given him notice and therefore I do not expect a reply tonight. He will understand that before I give my unqualified support to the order I must point out that the Northern Ireland Orders in Council in matters of constitutional procedure are a great handicap to legislation of this kind. The manner in which it has been discussed and debated in this House and in another place has been limited and has impeded the practical way in which the legislation should be implemented. Public debate has been diminished by the fact that there is not an elected Northern Ireland Assembly. There has been a loss in Northern Ireland of public debate and awareness of this important legislation; the decisions that were taken after debate; the accountability and the necessary commitment to that legislation.

The second point concerns the functions of the district councils in relation to tourism. I shall not go into a lot of detail. I should have thought that the provisions in the order should define the procedural consultative arrangements with district councils which would have been helpful in enabling them to promote positive co-ordination, standards of practice and co-operation. That is desirable in the important new role which district councils are to play in respect of this legislation. That should have been more clearly defined in the order.

Finally, I close on a point which has been brought to my attention by corporate organisations and many other people. The Minister will be well aware of it as it has been the subject of comment by the public and the press. It concerns the resignation of the chief executive, Mr. Eddie Freel, after only a few weeks. I ask the Minister whether he will seek a speedy resolution of that matter and the appointment of a new chief executive.

With those remarks, I strongly report this piece of legislation in the interests of northern Ireland.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful for your Lordships' reception of the order. The views of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, about the order-making power are shared by all Members of your Lordships' House and by the Government. It would be acceptable to the Government if we could move towards a better form of procedure. That is being thought about and discussed in another place. Behind all that lies the hope that in future it may be possible to deal differently with these matters within the Province and not necessarily here, in this way. I fully understand the criticisms of the noble Lord.

In his remarks the noble Lord, Lord Blease, spoke also of the attractions of Northern Ireland. Last summer I spent a happy day on the North coast of Northern Ireland seeing all the obvious tourist attractions. I noticed that a large number of people had come from outside Northern Ireland. They were speaking different languages and were there as visitors. That is now being reflected in the statistics.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for his words of outrage and support for the Statement made by my right honourable friend in another place about the murder of the construction workers. In making that Statement my right honourable friend also delivered words of condemnation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, in his repetition of that condemnation.

The noble Lord asked me a whole string of questions of which I was given notice. He asked me whether Article 12(1) (d) included caravan parks. Under the tourism order, the board will not regulate caravan parks of themselves but it will regulate caravans in caravan parks or elsewhere, which are let by way of trade or business to provide overnight tourist accommodation. Such caravans are to be a class of accommodation falling within the category of self-catering establishments in Article 12(1) (d) and the minimum standards for all categories will be set in subordinate legislation to be made under Article 12(5).

The noble Lord asked whether under Article 30 district councils will have power to construct and lay down drinking water mains. He said that should be explicit. As part of the tourist amenity constructed by or for a district council under Article 30 the council may provide piped drinking water to connect to tourist amenity drinking water outlets, to wash hand basins, toilets, drinking fountains, and so on, to the water authority's supply main. That does not mean that a council can become a water supply authority. The council would pay for those water services out of its income from rates. That does not wholly answer the noble Lord's wish that it should be explicit on the face of the Bill, but I hope that my answer will give him confidence that this matter is not overlooked or precluded by the order.

Article 30 contains a definition of premises, but the noble Lord was unable to spot the word in Part IV. The definition of premises is in Article 29. That is not an error. The word "premises" is used in the definition of tourist establishments, which is also defined in Article 29 in order to place beyond any doubt the full scope of what is meant by tourist establishment. It is necessary to define premises as meaning a caravan or any other moveable structure.

The noble Lord asked what functions would be retained by the Department of Economic Development. It will remain responsible for the wider implications of tourism policy and its role in the economic regeneration and legislative functions of Northern Ireland. The department will be the Government's interface with the board on all policy issues and all executive tourism functions previously with the Department of Economic Investment will be vested by the order in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

The noble Lord asked whether the board will carry out any activities outside the United Kingdom. Since 1948 the board has been empowered to promote Northern Ireland as a tourist destination anywhere in the world without restriction. It has exercised that power continuously since 1948. In 1969 the Great Britain territorial tourist boards were established as well as the British Tourist Authority. Since 1969 the Northern Ireland board, while continuing to do its own marketing overseas, has co-operated with the BTA in marketing Northern Ireland overseas in all areas where the BTA has offices, including those in which the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has offices or representation.

There is no statutory relationship between the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and those in Great Britain, a matter to which the noble Lord also referred. However the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the boards for England, Scotland and Wales maintain close contacts and co-operate in tourism matters of mutual benefit.

When a tourist establishment is sold, the board may, after completion of the sale and purchase, attach new conditions to the registration certificate. The noble Lord was extremely anxious about that matter. I believe that that part of the order has been misunderstood. The purpose of the paragraph to which the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred aimed to ensure that an automatic statutory condition attaches to all the inspection certificates when they are issued. The condition which the noble Lord is anxious about requires the proprietor to notify the board immediately if there is a subsequent change of proprietor. It does not require the issue of a new certificate. That is all that paragraph (a) is intended to accomplish. Article 12(b) ensures that in addition to the conditions to notify any change of proprietor, the board may also issue a certificate with such other conditions as the board wishes either at the time of issue or within 14 days of the issue of a new certificate. The conditions attaching to any certificate are not affected by the change in proprietor or alterable because of the change under the provisions in this article.

The noble Lord asked me about the penal rate of interest which it appeared the board would have a right to under Article 11(4). The tourism sector is to have access to the selective financial provisions available to those in the manufacturing and services sector. By that I mean, grants, loans and interest relief which can be received from the IDB or LEDU. The power to levy additional interest is in comparable legislation where selective financial assistance is available to other sectors of the kind to which I have referred. What the noble Lord is anxious about is already an integral part of the loan assistance scheme for tourist projects in Northern Ireland. It has proved a useful device to obtain repayment from borrowers in cases where the only other action would be expensive court proceedings to cover public funds. I assure the noble Lord that it is used in a sensitive and sensible manner against borrowers who are capable of paying their debts but who appear to be disinclined to do so.

I can assure the noble Lord that the board, by the contract which selective financial assistance has provided, has access to the records and accounts of the person to whom the assistance is given—another matter to which the noble Lord referred. There is no statutory need for such access.

The noble Lord asked whether it was fair that the department should have the right to remove a board member without giving a reason prescribed by legislation. The power in the order to appoint and remove members of the board is a re-enactment of the Northern Ireland Act 1948. While it is true that the provision differs from that of the Great Britain Act 1969, it is the fact that it is the form normally used in Northern Ireland and stems from the almost impossible task of seeking to anticipate every eventuality which may necessitate the removal of a member from the board. There is no reason to assume that the power will be exercised in any different manner in Northern Ireland under the order than under the 1948 Act. I assure the noble Lord that it has not given trouble.

The noble Lord asked two other questions. The first was in regard to Article 4 where the board, as a body corporate which it is by statute, does not require a specific power to collect data and compile statistics and carry out research. That troubled the noble Lord. The board can only function properly if its decisions are made from properly researched information. Therefore, as a body corporate, the power which the noble Lord felt should be explicit on the face of the Bill is implicitly there. Secondly, in Article 14 all establishments which, by way of trade or business, offer or provide overnight accommodation to tourists must be inspected and certificated if they are to operate within the law. That is not different from the present position.

My noble friend Lord Brookeborough welcomed the order and mentioned the success which Northern Ireland has had in attracting visitors from the European Community. He specifically asked about what input those from his own county of Fermanagh would have into tourism matters of the future. The order recognises that many organisations and representative groupings, both public and private, have an important contribution to make in tourism development. With the new Ballyconnell Canal, and all the other attractions that exist in Fermanagh, my noble friend was right to say that Fermanagh must have an input. That is why a duty was placed on the board to set up formal consultative arrangements involving public and private sector interests, so that the partners are responsive to each other's needs and all can work together in developing tourism in Northern Ireland.

My noble friend Lord Brookeborough asked how the board would be assessed. The board will have to produce a corporate plan and, in line with the new tourism strategy, an annual operational plan. Built into both plans will be targets against which the board's progress will be assessed. The board will also produce accounts and an annual report which will be submitted to the Minister and elected representatives. At the end of the day, coming back to an answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, there is the right to terminate a member's appointment. However, we are thinking rather differently to that. Perhaps I may say that the board was recently restructured and we are fortunate to have well-qualified people at the present time, and I believe that that will certainly continue.

The noble Lord, Lord Blease, made the point that district councils need to have an input. The position is that all district councils work closely with the board in developing individual marketing plans. The board provides assistance towards such plans. Therefore, the district councils already consult with the board. The provisions should not cause practical difficulties for those councils working with the board in developing an integrated approach to tourism development.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Lyell asked about minimum standards and whether a sharp eye would be kept on the quality of food, which my noble friend enjoyed during his time in Northern Ireland. We are not getting off to a cold start in moving the order, but a sensible adaptation of the existing standards which can gradually be raised as progress in raising quality is made. Food and tourist accommodation will be assessed as part of the certification process.

If there are any questions your Lordships have asked which I have not answered, I shall write to noble Lords. With that reply, I commend the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.