§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St. Johns rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their strategy for tourism.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have indicated their wish to speak in the debate. I tabled this Unstarred Question in order to give the House the opportunity to examine the Government's tourism strategy for England, an opportunity denied by the Government who chose to announce the strategy outside Parliament with a photo-call for the Secretary of State and Minister for Tourism in the Dome while the chairman of the BTA was left to speak about the content of the strategy in Glaziers' Hall in the City.
§ First, the arts strategy was announced in the Tate. And now this. It is not good practice. It is not even good publicity for the industry because the launch attracted so little attention.
§ What do we have? Is it an English DCMS strategy masquerading as joined-up thinking across departments? For the sake of the tourism industry I hope that the Minister can persuade us that it is more than that.
§ The tourism industry's biggest challenge, yet its great strength, is its fragmentation and complexity. It is the fifth largest industry in the United Kingdom, worth more than £53 billion a year. Tourism directly accounts for about 5 per cent. of Britain's GDP and 8 per cent. of all consumer spending. Tourism employs 1.75 million people—7 per cent. of the UK's workforce—and in recent years it has created one in six of all new jobs. Last year it brought 25.5 million overseas visitors to Britain. Yet the industry has the potential to create even more jobs, to generate more wealth and to help rejuvenate rundown areas at a time when the profile of tourism is changing.
§ I recognise and value the contribution made to Tomorrow's Tourism by members of the tourism industry and I welcome their commitment to try to make 694 the DCMS strategy work. My questions are based upon the following concerns. First, I am concerned that the Government's attempt at joined-up thinking is flawed; secondly, that changes have been made to the English Tourist Board which damage the tourist industry; thirdly, that coastal resorts may not benefit from regeneration funds; and finally, that the paper does not address some of the most important issues facing the industry today and tomorrow.
The consultation process was welcomed by the industry. But, as the Tourism Society pointed out, it focused on specific matters that had a political imperative, with,
heavy orientation towards regionality … emphasis on structure with almost nothing on strategy, quality, competitiveness or marketing … As a result, the topics contained in the document are in most cases hardly priority areas".
The strategy speaks of a joined-up approach between departments headed up by Mr. Chris Smith. That is a laudable objective in itself. How will it be achieved in practice? How will the Secretary of State fulfil the burden placed upon him to be a puppeteer, deftly operating the strings of the tourist industry marionette in order to promote the interests of tourism throughout government when the spectre of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, tweaking the odd string here and there, is never far from sight?
We are told that there will be a tourism summit next year. Can the Minister say what else will be done to persuade departments to act in a co-ordinated way now and subsequently? How often will the tourism summit meet? The action list on page 15 refers to an annual summit, but the main body of the report steps back from that commitment and merely refers to,
intervals agreed by Summit members".
What should we expect? I hope it will he more than a millennium photo-call for Ministers.
§ The English Tourist Board is regarded around the globe as the world's best, and rightly so. I welcome the Government's U-turn on their initial proposal to abolish it entirely. I was interested to see the public response to that proposal and the many press campaigns, such as that of the News of the World to save it.
§ However, I am appalled that the ETB will have its marketing powers removed to the regions. How can the ETB of the future be little more than a think tank? It will have neither the resources nor the remit to promote England, unlike its Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland counterparts which actively promote their own areas. The ETB is left in place without establishing structures which are a prerequisite for its success. As yet, it does not even have a name. Can the Minister say whether it will continue to be called a national body or will the "England" marque be lost?
§ The current political developments of devolution and regionalisation in England focus growing attention on the need for increased co-ordination. It is vital to prevent the fragmentation of strategy, making industry fragmentation even worse.695
The Tourism Society advised the Government:
The problem is that tourism … does not follow the pattern of other sectors. Indeed the absolute reverse is true—whereas greater regional focus might well be appropriate for the majority of UK interests, not only within the DCMS portfolio, the future prosperity of England's tourism requires a move away from regional focus".
§ Why did the Government ignore that expert advice?
§ We are told that fewer than four out of every 10 holidays are taken at our seaside resorts and less than 5 per cent. of tourists from abroad go to the seaside. The strategy talks about the decline in profitability of businesses in seaside resorts and the need for their regeneration. Against that background, why did the Government increase the amusement machine licence duty last year and thereby depress economic activity at the seaside even further?
Many resorts have taken innovative measures to help themselves by diversifying and developing niche markets. Tomorrow's Tourism gives several good examples, one of which is farm tourism. I am looking forward to my own summer holiday in Devon when I shall take advantage of renting a converted farm building. There are severe problems in many resorts where diversification simply is not an option open to them. The strategy promises help in the shape of regional regeneration programmes administered via the RDAs. I quote from page 18:
£160 million additional money will be available from the Single Regeneration budget for areas where there is severe deprivation, for example coastal resorts".
Can the Minister tell the House how much of that £160 million will go to seaside resorts? Who will decide how the money is apportioned and which resorts may receive it? On behalf of seaside resorts, I ask whether the Minister can guarantee that service industries, the hospitality industries—the mainstay of seaside resorts—will qualify for payments and that they will not be limited merely to manufacturing industries? Of course, I appreciate that manufacturing rock may fall within that division.
§ Tourism matters to all of us but at the moment the tourism industry is paying a high price for the Government's policies. Our party's "Listening to Britain" exercise identified that key concerns for British tourist operators are burdensome, new regulations arising from matters such as the works council, the working time directive, the parental leave directive and the part-time workers directive, among many others.
§ The paper talks about reducing regulation but the reality is very different. If this is joined-up thinking, why are there vital gaps in the strategy, gaps of great concern to the tourist industry? Where is the section on transport? A five-minute speech on video by the Transport Minister at the launch and a fleeting reference in Annexe 4 of the strategy are no substitute.
§ What about planning? Planning law remains an area of real upset and contention for the tourism industry. Can the Minister confirm that the DETR's report on planning policy guidance and tourism will not be published until July at the earliest? I understand that to be the case from a Written Answer earlier this year.696
§ What of licensing? The industry argues that the present licensing regulations hamper business and employment opportunities and greatly puzzle visitors, especially, I am told, in Scotland. As a former magistrate on a licensing bench, I recognise the conflicting issues and the difficulty in resolving them. What action do the Government propose to take?
§ I hope that the millennium celebrations and the opening of the Dome will attract millions of extra visitors from abroad and within the United Kingdom. It is important that we continue to develop a healthy tourist industry that gives the traveller reliability and quality. The Government have presented us with a strategy which, I believe, may be flawed, although I hope that that proves not to be the case. No doubt we shall return to this issue again to measure the results against the objectives.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Lord Gordon of Strathblane
My Lords, I shall be the first, I suspect, of many this evening to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St. Johns, for choosing the very important subject of tourism for this debate. However, I must disagree with her slightly. The noble Baroness gave only modest praise to the Government for introducing a very comprehensive document. I concede that, inevitably, much of it is aspirational rather than prescriptive, but that is very much the nature of tourism. Tourism is not delivered by governments, but by hoteliers, restaurateurs and transport providers, among others.
If I may take just the three words which the noble Baroness quoted from those of the Tourism Society and refer to "quality", "competitiveness" and "marketing", your Lordships will realise that there are specific proposals on each. The new grading scheme puts heavy emphasis on quality—not as much, I regret to say, as the Scottish grading scheme, but I am sure that that will come in time. On competitiveness, I should have thought that setting the British tourist industry the target of matching global growth by 2010 will demand a fairly high degree of competitiveness. On marketing, I can assure the House—I speak as a member of the British Tourist Board because I am chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board—that the extra £5 million is most welcome.
The really encouraging thing about the Government's document Tomorrow's Tourism is that it puts tourism high on the agenda. This is not a party political matter; the problem has not been Westminster, but Whitehall. It has been difficult for successive tourism Ministers to convince the Treasury that tourism should be taken seriously. However, I believe that there are several ways of convincing the Treasury of that. First, over the next few years no other single industry in this country will deliver jobs on anything like the scale of tourism. More importantly, as tourism uniquely has the customer coming to the product, those are jobs which, if we do our job properly, will remain secure in Britain.
The next argument that should appeal to the Treasury is that any investment that it makes in the marketing of tourism through funds for the BTA, the Scottish Tourist 697 Board or the Welsh Tourist Board, will be repaid many times over simply by the increase in VAT receipts from the tourists who are encouraged to come here. I also welcome the stark recognition that, despite the fact that our annual revenues from tourism are increasing simply because the size of the market is growing so fast, Britain's share of world tourism is declining. That is an important recognition. The demand that action be taken augurs well for the development of tourism in this country.
The Government are right to address several aspects of this matter. First, we must get the product right. The new grading scheme will certainly help. I sympathise in part with what the noble Baroness said about the regions and the English Tourist Board because there will always be tension between the national tourist boards, which think that they know what the country wants, and the regional tourist boards which are very close to the industry there and believe that they know a bit better. We must harmonise those and get the best of both while avoiding duplication and waste.
As I have already said, on marketing I welcome the extra money for the BTA. In marketing terms, it is also important to avoid waste resulting from each regional tourist board promoting itself abroad. We must harmonise that. I am sure that that will happen.
As regards the infrastructure, it is vitally important—I concede that this lies outwith the remit of the DCMS—that we get the transport infrastructure right for tourism. I commend to your Lordships our very good debate of exactly a week ago on airline competition, which was initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. I recognise that we must go with the grain of the market and not try to introduce services which will not be viable. Equally, we must be ruthless in rooting out restrictive practices. As somebody from Scotland, I find it galling that we are on the equivalent of the M.1 as regards long-haul air routes yet not nearly enough flights touch down in Scotland. One reason is that we do not have the fifth freedom and are not allowed to pick up passengers or freight in Scotland and move them on elsewhere. Frankly, that is ridiculous.
I hope that the high priority that the Government have given to tourism in the document will seep through to the Chancellor when considering any taxation modifications. Having had the privilege last November of initiating a debate on VAT and hotels, I shall not weary the House tonight with that. I simply suggest that if VAT in Paris is 5.5 per cent. and in London it is 17.5 per cent., we might just possibly be at a slight disadvantage.
Likewise, I echo the words of my noble friend Lord Montague of Oxford in last week's debate. The current air passenger duty impinges especially hard on the low-cost airlines and their passengers. That point needs to be considered. We must also be careful that petrol does not become too easy a hit for successive Chancellors. We must remember that a car is absolutely vital in rural areas.
The most important feature of the document is that it attempts to restore pride in tourism. For too long people have regarded jobs in tourism as second-class jobs, to 698 be taken by students on their summer vacations. We must all work—not only the Government, but also the industry—through a combination of training and conquering the seasonality problem in many areas to ensure that people regard tourism as a worthwhile career.
Finally, tourism is important because it can help to restore pride in our country. Frankly, I was staggered by the statistic that 40 per cent. of the British population have not taken a holiday of longer than three days in Britain in the past year. If we can encourage more people to take their holidays in Britain., not only will we boost the indigenous tourist trade, but they will return home with the zeal of the convert and preach the gospel of what a wonderful country we have. That will make everyone all the more glad that we have the great pleasure of living here all the year round.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Lord Jopling
My Lords, I begin by joining the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, in thanking my noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns for raising this matter. I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute. I do so principally because for 33 years I had the honour of representing a large part of the Lake District. Tourism is a massive and vitally important part of the economy of that rural area, and of many other rural areas where there are tourist honeypots.
When I travel round and talk to residents of the United Kingdom I am always surprised to find how relatively few of them are familiar with the Lake District. Conversely, I am always equally surprised when travelling abroad and I meet foreigners who have been to this country and have included the Lake District in their tours. The Lake District is a hidden area for many of our fellow citizens, which is a great pity.
There have been huge changes in the Lake District. The first relates to rearranging the affairs of the area since the habit of taking long holidays in one place in Britain has declined. At the same time, there are now many more day and weekend visits. Such visits are a very important part of the tourist scene in rural areas.
The quality of the food available is hugely important. When I was first elected to the other place about 40 years ago, it was very difficult indeed to find something plain to eat, like a steak, because the facilities were oriented to over-cooked meat and two veg. All that has changed.
The facilities of the Lake District have been totally transformed as it builds on its local heritage. I think especially of those visitors who are particularly concerned about the literary heritage. Whether their interest is Wordsworth, Ruskin, Beatrix Potter or Arthur Ransome, visitors can find many fascinating exhibitions to demonstrate that great heritage.
I am not sure whether the recent television programme on Sunday evening, "The Lakes", will bring more or fewer tourists to the Lake District. Certainly, I did not recognise for one second the behaviour of those characters in that rather deplorable series and I could not relate it to the people I had the honour of 699 representing for so many years. I suppose that, given the BBC and their lamentable standards, we have to put up with it.
What I wish to do tonight is to draw attention to some of the highlights and the problems which face the tourist industry as the Government decide on their strategy. I shall just mention the highlights. First, there is the very strong pound, which makes it very difficult for those from overseas to afford to come here. Secondly, the higher rate of VAT and interest rates, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, mean that our interest rates are almost 50 per cent. higher than French interest rates. Thirdly, there is the very high fuel tax in the United Kingdom which very much deters tourists from visiting rural areas where a car is almost essential. Fourthly, there are the food scares that we have had over the last few years, which tend to cause particular hardships for people seeking farm accommodation. Fifthly, we have the minimum wage and working time directive. I know of one group in the Lake District whose payroll has been increased by 2; per cent. as a result of the directive. Sixthly and finally, there has been the increase in non-domestic rates. Again I know of a hotel in the Lake District—I can give the noble Lord details if he wishes—which has had an increase of almost 30 per cent. in two years in non-domestic rates. However, the hotel has not increased its tariff over the same period.
Having pointed out all those difficulties, I wish to make one final point. Far too many hotels in the United Kingdom respond to difficulties by overcharging their guests. The cost of rooms in many instances is far too high when compared with similar hotels on the Continent. Mercifully, not everyone charges such high prices. Last weekend, my wife and I had the good fortune to attend a wedding in Scotland and stayed at an admirable hotel between Glasgow and Stirling. I will name it: the Castle Carey Hotel. It produced outstanding facilities and comfort for a very reasonable price, with a thumping breakfast thrown in. I wish that many more of our hoteliers would follow the example of that hotel. I am sure that the tourist industry would then expand very considerably.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, I share the regret of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Minister had to be "smoked out" for this debate rather than our having a Government-initiated debate on their strategy when the White Paper was published.
In her introduction the noble Baroness toured the horizon, as was her right. I want to concentrate on one particular area, because we have only a short time available and because it is an area which I know a little about. There is a reference in the White Paper to the specific problems of our seaside towns. I grew up in the Blackpool of the 1950s, and still retain a great pride in the town and its achievements. Certainly I was never in any doubt that tourism was a real industry that created real jobs, and so I welcome the attention paid to seaside resorts in Tomorrow's Tourism.
700 I also welcome the belated recognition of the special problems faced by those towns. In the case of Blackpool, the town needs an infrastructure, in both physical and social terms, to cater for a population of 152,000 and 17 million visitors annually. There is the disruptive effect of having a large transient element within the resident population, which has to be dealt with in terms of housing, levels of health, quality of life, community cohesion and educational standards. The lack of a year-round economy offering stable employment is causing severe social problems.
The statistics of the town are in many ways breathtaking. The service sector employs 87 per cent. of the people living in Blackpool. Like other seaside towns, it has had to come to terms with the "double whammy" of a decline in demand for the traditional holiday week or fortnight and an increased use of its accommodation—because it is cheap—by the socially vulnerable. Add to that a narrow economic base, and one sees why towns like Blackpool have areas of social deprivation as high as any in our inner cities.
Indeed, the Director of Strategic Services for Blackpool sent me information on 10 key points relating to various deprivations in the town. However, for reasons of time and also of presentation I shall not put them on the record tonight. Ministers and government departments will be well aware of the statistics and, if they are not, I will gladly provide them to the Minister.
However, that is not the whole story, because our seaside towns represent a success story. Each year more than 20 million people spend their holidays in United Kingdom seaside towns. That generates over £4.2 billion in earnings. By any standards, that is a large and successful industry. Towns like Blackpool are fighting back. Unlike our football team, we have always stayed in the premier division in terms of resort attractions.
I am pleased to say that, even in advance of the White Paper, Blackpool launched a "challenge partnership", bringing together the public and private sectors, supported by all parties: by the Blackpool Tower and the Pleasure Beach coming together, which means that it has few parallels in terms of co-operation; the Hotel and Guest House Association; the churches; the local media; education and business. All these are attempting to bring together a strategy of regeneration for the town. We all have ideas about how that could be done, and I certainly would like to see the rapid improvement of the notorious West Coast main line, and regular direct links into Blackpool. It is not only Labour Cabinet Ministers on their way to conference who find the changeover at Preston very difficult indeed.
I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon. Blackpool has a very fine airport, and I see that airport and its expansion as a point of regeneration. I also see education as a basis for expansion. The Blackpool and Fylde College could, if we are to see an expansion in student numbers, be the basis for a university of the Fylde. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, pointed out, there is a need for the seaside resorts to be beneficiaries of regional and European funds. It is up to government to make sure that those are received. However, I should 701 like to emphasise that Blackpool is not looking for a handout but for a helping hand. If I had more expertise on the subject I could refer to Torquay and other resorts.
Most people have a Blackpool story, as I realise every time a cabbie recognises my accent, because this either produces memories of a childhood visit to the illuminations, that first trip up the Tower or on the Pleasure Beach's Big Dipper, a holiday romance or a family holiday. Blackpool has always been part of our family life. Its motto is "Progress", and ever since Alderman Bickerstaff went to the Paris Exhibition, saw the Eiffel Tower and said, "We'll have one of them!" it has been a town of initiative. It is a national asset, among the many national assets that we have in our seaside resorts. The Government have said that they need to get their act together and we are now asking, if we get our act together, will we get a positive response from government?
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Lord Selkirk of Douglas
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is to be warmly congratulated on raising this issue tonight in this debate. I support the theme adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, in his speech on 1st March when he said that tourism is enormously important in the North, particularly in Scotland. It probably provides more jobs overall than any other single subject; numbering no less than 177,000 that certainly helps local communities. It provides transport services through demand and reinvigorates local culture. The world tourist market overall is extending and it is very important that we get our share of that market. Tourists will come here because they like the environment and the people, as well as history, art and culture.
I am the first to recognise how sensitive tourists can be to adverse publicity. I recall when I was tourist Minister the "Braer" disaster and the consequent oil spillage in Shetland. No less than 800 journalists descended upon the island. In vain I argued that it was only 3 per cent. of the coastline and that it was one of the healthiest environments in the world. Temporary, over-the-top reporting did enormous harm, though I am glad to say that it did not last for more than a short period of time.
I have three points to make tonight. The first is that the Scottish Tourist Board should not only work closely with the British Tourist Authority in attracting visitors, but it should also work closely with the area tourist boards which should remain as key drivers of local tourist strategies. The area tourist boards represent the best partnership locally between the public and the private sector.
Secondly, I contend that the quality assurance scheme of the Scottish Tourist Board has proved to be an outstanding success. Some 90 per cent. of those with available accommodation in Scotland have joined the scheme as members compared to 40 per cent. in England. The Scottish Parliament should recognise the success of the quality assurance scheme, as that subject will come under its responsibility on 6th May.
702 In addition, I mention my deeply held conviction, derived from my days as a tourist Minister, that many will come to Britain and to Scotland for holidays if they can get access to a golf course and a good hotel. I should point out that Scotland has been the home of golf, but there are many countries in the world where golf is not the game of the people as it is in Scotland, but is an exclusive and extremely expensive occupation. Ft is difficult for some people to obtain access to golf courses on reasonable terms. I believe that that is an area in which we can genuinely excel.
My third point is that the Scottish Tourist Board and area tourist boards should be equipped with the very best information technology. The last Secretary of State, Michael Forsyth, greatly increased resources for the Scottish Tourist Board. In the future, the Scottish Parliament should allocate resources to the tourist board and its agencies commensurate with the need to present Scotland as a quality destination internationally. Local enterprise companies, the area tourist: boards and the private sector should invest in the Scottish Tourist Board's new information technology project called Ossian.
I shall conclude by responding to a question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, in his speech on 6th May. He asked if agreement could be obtained on the top 20 visitor attractions in the Highlands. Perhaps I may suggest to him five for Scotland. First, there is one which is dear to his heart; namely, the Burrell Collection, which enhanced Glasgow's role as European City of Culture. Secondly, there is the Forth Railway Bridge in the constituency for which I am a prospective candidate. It is every bit as impressive as the Eiffel Tower but, if I may say so frankly, far more useful.
Thirdly, there are the Callanish Stones. The best way to describe them is by saying that Stonehenge is the English equivalent. Fourthly, there is Edinburgh Castle, which attracts about 1 million visitors a year. Some of us are well aware of the apocryphal story of the tattered skeleton with a medallion, which was found between the outer and inner walls of the castle. When the skeleton was dusted down and the medallion was cleaned up, all it revealed were the words:Scotland's Hide and Seek Champion 1825".Thinking of such stories, I would mention as the final visitor attraction, Loch Ness, the locality of the Loch Ness Monster and its sightings. When I was asked as a Minister by foreign journalists point blank, "Does the Loch Ness Monster really exist?", I always gave the same reply: "The facts cannot be conclusively established, except at disproportionate expense to the taxpayer".
I conclude by saying that a strategy for tourism in all its manifestations is vital to Scotland and to Britain. In particular, Scotland must be kept competitive and unburdened by extra taxes. The comments of the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, about VAT are especially relevant. I particularly contend that there must be no tourist tax. Tourism must be worthy of the Scottish Parliament's strongest support.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for initiating this important debate. I also welcome the publication of Tomorrow's Tourism and last December's publication of A Cultural Framework. I am particularly happy to see that in both documents the Government appear to recognise the enormous influence of the arts and heritage on tourism. However, I am worried that though they are keen to develop an improved strategy to promote Britain's cultural attractions, the Government are failing to build on some schemes that present the best of British arts, which instead are being allowed to fall by the wayside. That is short-sighted, although I am sure that it is not deliberate.
The economic impact of arts tourism is considerable. Indeed, the British Tourist Authority has quantified its value to Britain as £5 billion a year and furthermore states that it is one of the fastest growing areas of tourism demand. As surveys published over the past few years show, culture in Britain plays a major part in helping people decide to come here for their holidays, as it does for UK tourists to stay in their own country. Once here, more than 50 per cent. of overseas tourists enjoy arts activities.
The tourism industry has become extremely important to the UK's economy; indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, mentioned, it represents some 4 or 5 per cent. of UK GDP and is still growing, while 7 per cent. of the working population is employed in tourism and one in six of all new jobs in Britain in the past 10 years is connected to the tourist trade.
The Government state that they are keen to realise the full potential of the tourism industry. To that end they have introduced a 15-point action plan. They have also, among other suggestions, called for a "joined-up" approach by which different government bodies in Whitehall and the regions will work closely together to promote Britain as a major tourism destination. That approach strikes me as sensible.
However, its results are more complicated. To take one example, the British Council and the BTA signed a memorandum of understanding in July 1998 seeking to co-operate where their objectives overlapped. The two organisations have quite separate basic aims: the British Council seeks to promote the English language and Britain's culture abroad while the BTA is more interested in attracting people to the UK on purely commercial grounds. Nonetheless, while naturally wary of each other's functions, it is within both their remits to participate in marketing Britain as an attractive venue. The British Council has already taken over from the BTA as a public tourist information service in 11 countries, including Mexico, Korea, Poland and the Czech Republic.
While the BTA pays for the cost of that service, it does not contribute towards those activities of the British Council, which is one of the most effective showcases of Britain's lively arts scene abroad, thus providing exactly what the Government are looking for: effective, though not overt, advertisements for Britain. The Government promise, 704more money for a more focused and aggressive overseas promotion programme to bring in more overseas visitors".Yet there have been substantial cuts to the British Council's budget. These have led—unwisely, in my view—to a disproportionate downsizing of its broad and very focused visual arts programme, which covers everything from architecture to design to photography. The effect on British tourism can only be negative, quite apart from diminishing the role of the British Council.
Clearly the joined-up approach has to be financially as well as departmentally meaningful. I therefore ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider the provision of additional and possibly ring-fenced funding in order to encourage and assist the arts section of the British Council to address its dual role as a promoter of British culture and of British cultural tourism. That would fulfil the Government's promise to,act as tourism's champion through the DCMS, to increase awareness of tourism's potential and represent its interests".In other words, if the DCMS's cultural tourism strategy is to be really effective and have any meaning, it must recognise the role of cultural promotion within other government departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and give specific—if not additional—funding to important tourism shop windows. The Government are right to see British culture past and present as an important and desirable tourist attraction. But it is only by aiding its promotion that it will make sense of the strategy of joined-up government.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, Tomorrow's Tourism makes little or no reference to restaurants, which are an important segment of the whole tourist industry. Restaurants generate over £4 billion annually and employ many hundreds of thousands of people. Here I must declare an interest as the honorary patron of the Restaurant Association.
I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lady Anelay not only for bringing up the subject of tourism this evening but also for mentioning licensing, on which I have spoken many times in your Lordships' House. The Restaurant Association has long campaigned for generalised licensing reform, but unfortunately as things stand at present the Home Office will publish a White Paper sometime in the middle of next year. This means that, after wide consultation on generalised licensing reform, legislation could not be introduced until the Queen's Speech in 2001 at the earliest, and that would be implemented hopefully sometime in 2002, by which time there will probably have been a general election. That is a long timescale indeed.
In the meantime there seem to me to be several minor matters which could be dealt with quite simply by deregulation orders. I have in mind Extended Hours Orders. To obtain an EHO, restaurants face two obstacles. First, they must obtain a supper hour certificate to serve drinks with meals until 1 a.m. In addition they must provide some form of live entertainment. Most restaurants, many of which are small businesses, find this both impractical and an unnecessarily costly activity. In addition many diners 705 prefer convivial conversation to entertainment. Surely a factor of tourism—as everyone has brought out in this debate—is that there should be a plethora of choice.
In an exchange on this subject last July, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, speaking for the Government, stated that they would,be willing to consider the use of deregulation orders if they seem appropriate".—[official Report, 14/7/98; col. 102.]I followed this up with a letter subsequently but so far nothing has happened, despite pressure on the Home Office by various interested groups.
I regret to say that I have not given adequate notice to the noble Lord. Lord McIntosh, of this specific matter and do not expect him to comment on it tonight. However, I would be most grateful if he could investigate why nothing has happened and when something might happen. If he could write to me later, that would be agreeable and most helpful. It would indeed be progress if we can move forward on this simple matter in the near future.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ The Earl of Stair
My Lords, I must start by declaring an interest in that I run a small tourism business. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has addressed an extremely important question tonight. At a time when devolution is almost upon us, and agriculture and rural business as a whole is undergoing some of the darkest moments for several years, tourism and leisure are highlighted as the industries of the future.
In Britain we have some of the most spectacular countryside certainly in Europe, but I would say on a global scale as well. We have a rich heritage and environment, much of which we owe to the way in which the countryside has been managed throughout history. There is, however, still a vast tourist potential to be developed, to encourage people to visit these often isolated areas, which will not only provide employment but will also contribute to the gross domestic product of a region.
The pattern of the tourist—or perhaps the "short-term visitor" is a better description—is changing. Due to improved availability, particularly of air transport, many people are able to enjoy short break holidays within the United Kingdom, and perhaps a longer holiday overseas. The Internet provides information for planning from home. And Project Ossian, which is currently under development by the Scottish Tourist Board, will enable the entire resources of an area to be available to those wishing to plan a break from their home or work areas.
There is already a co-ordinated approach to organising tourism development on a national and regional level in Scotland, with the formation of the strategic tourism groups. These are a mixture of both public and private sector organisations, and aim to co-ordinate tourism development in areas where there may be an overlap of interests between councils, enterprise boards, and tourist boards. The main mission of the strategy is to create benefit through the development of successful tourism businesses.
706 I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments on the government's strategic plan for the tourist industry, and would like to raise three points before doing so. First, the regional tourist boards in Scotland receive a small proportion of their funds from the Scottish Office through the main Scottish Tourist Board. I assume the same applies in the remainder of the United Kingdom as regards the relevant Government Offices. However, they are expected to generate the remainder of their funds from sales in tourist information centres, from subscriptions, and from advertising. Thus a considerable proportion of the boards' income is taken up in their own administration when these funds could far better be used in the marketing of the area, to generate more visitors, and to support the small businesses in the tourism and associated sectors. Funding should perhaps be based on the establishment of the board, or on the number of businesses marketed. This funding should be centrally provided, which would reduce the annual subscription costs for the often seasonal small businesses.
Secondly, I referred earlier to the potential for development in the regions of the country. I do not wish to create an excess of caravan parks or bed and breakfast establishments. They tend to be self-regulating in any case. There is a tremendous opportunity offered by undeveloped heritage visitor centres, historical attractions, and, as Forest Enterprise has proved, even commercial forestry can create jobs by attracting visitors. However, much of this potential is in the private sector, and although public sector funding is available, it is often not enough to enable this potential to come within the financial reach of a small business. Historic buildings and historic sites are the natural core for the development of heritage visitor centres, enabling the visitor not only to enjoy the architecture and workmanship of previous eras, but also to]earn from the experience. Sadly, many of these buildings are in a state of decay, and in Scotland the public sector body which could boost this opportunity has no funds available until at least 2004.
Rural diversification programmes are much used sources of European funding for diversification into tourism related business, and, under Objective 5b status, tourism is identified as a key sector of the rural economy for funding. However, following the recent negotiations in Europe, all this is subject to review, and Objective 5b will be replaced by Objective 2, which may not be so far-reaching.
My third point is on marketing. I referred earlier to Project Ossian currently being researched by the Scottish Tourist Board. However unless the information technology is available throughout and allows all the regional tourist boards to make use of the facility, its value is lost. Once again this all comes down to the strategic funding of the tourist industry. The Government should remember that the success of the tourist strategy will depend on the success of the small, mostly private sector businesses providing a service to the visitor.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord Rowallan
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns for introducing this debate. I declare an interest as the director of a company which at present is developing a hotel and is also involved in the leisure industry. The 26th February tourism strategy which the Government announced must be welcomed with its 15 core points for recovery, especially in the development of the film and sports niche market and the regeneration of traditional resorts. That must be good for tourism.
As my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas said, it is essential, now that devolution is coming about, that the Scottish Tourist Board and the Welsh Tourist Board work very closely after devolution with the British Tourist Authority as 86 per cent. of all tourists coming into the UK start in London and work outward. The BTA's primary role is to encourage regional dispersal of tourists and their spending, so it is essential that we continue to market Britain as a whole rather than its composite parts separately. Obviously the STB and the WTB must exist to promote tourism within their own countries. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, has taken that on in his role as head of the Scottish Tourist Board.
As we are all aware, there are two kinds of tourist. There are the foreigners who come to Britain to see the sights and to play sports, such as golf, and there are the British themselves who want to holiday within the United Kingdom. Both groups have the same problems to a very large extent. Hotels are expensive in this country, as we have heard, and with VAT at 17.5 per cent. that is guaranteed to be so. But, as has been said, we discussed that in November and we do not need to discuss it again. The Government are fully aware of that.
Bed and breakfast is becoming better and better value, but in Britain, and especially in Scotland, the tourist industry is dominated by the large number of small businesses where all too often there has been inadequate investment in knowledge and skills. That has had a strong impact on the quality of the product available. The Scottish Parliament must address this matter by encouraging the industry to help itself. It must also review all aspects of commercial taxation in Scotland. Costs, government-led especially, lead to uncompetitiveness in the market place. If they are found in only one part of the United Kingdom they will have a great adverse effect. The suggested bed tax will certainly do that. There is strong evidence that 500,000 tourists could be deterred by that cost alone. An imaginative and attractive tax regime would bring significant inward investment.
My noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns said that there are strong hopes that EEC funds will be available for the regeneration of Scotland's beaches and tourist resorts such as Ayr and Aviemore. And, my goodness, both towns need it! Will the Minister please remember to remind those who make the decisions that it will be the service industries rather than the manufacturing industries that will provide the impetus to regenerate tourism in Scotland, clean up our beaches, tidy up our hotels, improve our pubs and encourage all tourists to spend their holidays in Britain.
708 The Government must also review the licensing laws, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. We must clear away the present over-regulation of framework and go back to first principles. The law must recognise social changes and bring itself into line with modern consumer needs. Too much paperwork discourages businesses from changing bad working practices. We surely need one set of agreed countrywide computer-generated forms to save time and administration.
Planning authorities, too, must accept tourist developments much more readily. We need more tourist route signs on roads—the "white-on-brown" ones—to show where venues of interest are. We must have a better integrated transport system, a subject very dear to our Deputy Prime Minister. Of all Scottish airports, only Prestwick has a railway station; not Edinburgh or Glasgow. In England, except for Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, I think the story is the same.
The Government can make or break the tourist industry. Their policy of highly priced petrol and diesel is stifling tourism in Scotland. Goods are expensive because of carriage costs. It is now 12 times more expensive to license a lorry in this country than in France and diesel costs £300 more every time the lorry is filled up. The car is still the best, and very often the only, way to see Scotland and some of the more remote parts of England and Wales. There is no other mode of transport there. Costs are now so high. Petrol costs more than £3 a gallon whereas in the United States it costs 38 pence. We must wonder what the Chancellor is up to.
We have in Britain so much of what the tourists of today want to see. We must make it more readily available to all of our tourists—whether they are rich or poor, British or foreign—at an attractive price with affordable, comfortable accommodation.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, I always feel at a slight disadvantage when declaring my interests in a tourism debate because at the last count there were more than 12 companies of which I am a director and I am either patron or president of half a dozen industry associations. So, with the leave of your Lordships, perhaps I may declare those interests en bloc bar two. I declare those separately because on pages 46 and 47 of the strategy there is reference to Hospitality Assured and I am the chairman of the governing council of that body; and because the noble Baroness in her opening remarks spoke of the Tourism Society, I point out that it very kindly made me a fellow last month.
I should like to welcome the noble Baroness to what the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, once described as "this happy band of old lags who come to discuss tourism". The noble Baroness is a welcome and refreshing new face. I should like to thank her for bringing the subject to our attention though, as she pointed out, it is an extremely big subject and six minutes is not long enough to do anything but canter through.
709 I welcome the Government's paper Tomorrow's Tourism, not least because it follows many of the points which I raised in a paper published last July called Tourism Tomorrow. I wonder if perhaps the name had anything to do with it. But that was the Liberal Democrat tourism policy which I co-authored and published last July. I sent the document to the DCMS. It appears to agree with a great deal of what we put in the document and has taken it on board. That is a very good reason for welcoming the strategy.
I also welcome it because there is much in the strategy that is clearly good. I will mention that briefly. Equally. I have to say that there is also a good deal of dross in it, although there are some lovely gems hidden away within that dross. Perhaps I may quickly mention what I think is good. First, the best of the lot is that we have a strategy—the document has been published—and we should not under-estimate the importance of the document. Even if the document was awful all the way through, having a document and a strategy means that one can have another document and improve the strategy.
The second point that I think is good is that the Government have genuinely recognised many of the issues which those of us practising in the tourist industry have been trying to bring before government for a great many years. For example, in paragraph 2.3 on page 14, there is a very good analysis of the role of government in marketing support. I like the concept that is used. I believe it is called "market failure". There is an understanding of what needs to be done in licensing, a point to which the noble Viscount referred. My noble friend referred to seaside resorts. At least the issues have been recognised in the document. Agricultural tourism, to which the noble Baroness referred and to which I referred in the debate on the countryside last Wednesday, is also mentioned. So there is much in the document that I welcome. I certainly welcome the fact that we have a strategy at all.
I have one question and three criticisms. The question regards money. A long paragraph on page 15 states that,the Government will provide an extra £5 million to the BTA over the next three years".The following paragraph states that the BTA,will focus its activity on 27 priority markets, releasing a further £5 million".Is that the same £5 million or is it a total of £10 million? Equally, the London Tourist Board is said (on page 24) to be getting £1.5 million over three years. Does that mean that the total is up to £14.5 million of new money; or is it old money that has been switched around? I should welcome the Minister's comment.
I now turn to my three criticisms. My major criticism relates to what is omitted from the strategy. Any strategy not only needs to analyse the problems and set out the course that is to be travelled, but also needs an action plan stating how it is to be done. In relation to a great many of the bullet points in the document I was able to ask: "How will this happen?". The strategy seemed to be very much a diagnosis without a prescription. That is its main weakness.
710 My second criticism relates to the new ETB, whatever it will be. I welcome the fact that there will be a strategic body for England. At the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review it was certainly under threat. I am delighted that a body has been chosen. I am worried about the relationship with the regions and with local areas. I am not sure that it has been thought through. However, I shall defer further comment until the implementation group has reported, when we shall know what is going on.
My third major criticism is an old chestnut for which the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, has been waiting. It relates to devolution. I believe that the Government have got the matter comprehensively wrong. It is a complex subject. I have been in correspondence with the Scottish Office, and have sent copies of the correspondence to the noble Lord, Lord Gordon. I do not have time now to go into it. I believe that making the BTA a cross-Border authority is a recipe for disaster. I shall happily expand on that to anyone outside the Chamber when I have more time.
I wrote an article which appeared on 11th March in the Caterer&Hotelkeeper. It was headlined by the magazine's editors, not by me:Tourism paper fails to satisfy—so farIn that article I said that I very much wished that I could have given three cheers to the Government—I wanted to do that, but felt that I could give only one. Having re-read the document now that I have had more time, I can certainly go to one-and-a-half cheers. I may, with a little persuasion, raise that figure. I congratulate the Government on having produced a strategy. However, I hope that we shall now go on to complete the job with an action plan.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Lord Luke
My Lords, if the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, went at a canter, I shall go at a gallop.
I thank my noble friend Lady Anelay for introducing this excellent debate on a subject that we often discuss in this House. We do so because tourism is a vitally important part of our economy. Also, it is exceedingly diverse and complex, as my noble friend said.
It seems a pity that the Government find it necessary to tinker with the various bodies administering the industry. The English Tourist Board was abolished (nearly) and now it is being resuscitated—but what for? All its power to publicise England has been taken away and given to a new tourist authority with no name, no remit, no agreed budget, and no chairman. This flagship for English tourism will not be able to advise customers or the press on its own subject. Who or what will be responsible for these extremely important matters? No doubt the Minister will tell us.
With regard to the ETB, is it not bizarre that England is the only developed country whose own tourist board does not promote its own country?
The Government are spending between £9.7 million and £10 million on promoting tourism to England through the BTA—less than the amount that was spent on refurbishing the House of Commons kitchens last 711 year! However, there are new strings attached to the government funding of BTA. And what services do the Government expect the BTA to provide in the various British Council and British Embassy offices to which it is having to move in certain countries? Who will be accountable for that? What will be the role of the Foreign Office?
Why is so little mention made of transport in Tomorrow's Tourism? Only on pages 76 and 77 of Annexe 4 is an attempt made to discuss the matter. The tone is that he or she who drives a car is hardly acceptable. I quote:Make public transport part of the cultural experience—Publicise broadly the negative impacts of the car".Surely many, many tourists visit this country by car, or hire a car. Many of those living in these islands like to go on holiday by car. Are they to be discouraged from going unless they travel by bus, train or bicycle? How absurd!
However, I welcome the proposed combined hotel and restaurant grading scheme. It has long been needed and I wish it well.
The British Tourist Authority is doing an excellent job in promoting Britain abroad. I am delighted to see that this is highlighted thus on page 15 of Tomorrow's Tourism:BTA has rightly won much praise for its work over recent years to improve the overseas marketing of Britain".My noble friend Lady Anelay and I were able to see at first hand its fruitful and increasing co-operation with the British Council in Paris on our visit there last week.
BTA achieves a return of £27 for every £1 of public money spent on marketing Britain abroad and will shortly top £30 for every £1. One reason that BTA is so successful in promoting Britain is its concentration on our island's history, tradition and culture. I am not one who thinks that the so-called modern culture activities inspire visitors. Our history is unique; let us be as proud of it as we should be.
Then there is the Dome. Love it or hate it, it is fast becoming an icon known round the world. It must be an integral part of the marketing strategy to promote London, England and Britain as the tourist destination for the year 2000. I am delighted that BTA will be liaising closely with NMEC on this subject.
Nothing is said in Tomorrow's Tourism about the River Thames and how it fits in with next year's activities. New vessels are being launched, which will provide one way of getting from Westminster to the Dome. Sadly, other great ideas about the use of the Dome have become rather small-scale. However, I hope that these new boats will attract many tourists to spend at least part of their time in London on our splendid river.
I have spent part of today in Greenwich learning about some of the new developments which it is hoped will make that an even more attractive part of the world. There is not only the Dome; the National Maritime Museum is having some new extensions, which are nearly complete, and Woolwich Arsenal is scheduled to 712 be developed in a few years' time as a "cultural village", and I believe that that will make a great deal of difference.
It has been an excellent debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply. Perhaps I may make one comment about the speech of my noble friend Lord Rowallan to back up what he said about the brown signs on motorways. I would ask that those who are responsible for designing these signs should take a trip from Calais to Rheims on the new motorway. There the brown signs actually represent what one can see if one looks at the particular town or item which is advertised. In England the signs are very graphic but bear no resemblance to what they are drawing attention to.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, before I forget, I must respond to the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. These graphic signs are all over France. My favourite one, which is in Burgundy, says, "Buses rapaces". It was a long time before I got to a dictionary to discover that buses referred to vultures. For years I could not understand what the sign was about.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for making this debate possible and for doing it at such an appropriate time when we have just published our tourism strategy. I am sorry that she did not like the launch and that she and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, would have wished it to be a parliamentary launch. It was not that kind of occasion, because it was not an occasion when government were talking to Parliament about what government were going to do. This was a collaborative effort between government—all government, not just the Department for Culture, but other departments, too—and the whole of the tourist industry. It sounds as though the noble Baroness was not invited to the launch at Glaziers' Hall. If that is the case, I am deeply sorry. Perhaps she would have felt compromised if she had been invited. She should have been invited, I think. If she had attended that occasion she would have found that, apart from a speech by Chris Smith and another by Janet Anderson, there were many 10-minute speeches, almost all of them from the tourist industry itself. That was the significance of the launch: it was the whole of the tourist industry presenting this strategy, not just the Government. I believe that such an occasion is better than the rushed kind of debate that we have on a Statement to Parliament, with merely 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions. However, we have learnt a lesson from what the noble Baroness said.
Our production of Tomorrow's Tourism was, though everybody hates the phrase, an example of joined-up government. It was across all government departments, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport taking the lead in promoting tourism's interests within government and maximising the involvement of the industry in policy initiatives across government. It contains a very substantial list of initiatives: to promote and improve career opportunities in the tourism industry, to which my noble friend Lord Gordon referred; to increase access to tourism for those on low incomes, families, the elderly and the disabled; and to open up new markets as a whole. I appreciate the 713 surprise of my noble friend Lord Gordon that 40 per cent. of people in this country have not taken a holiday of more than three days.
Clearly, we must open up new markets both for those who need holidays and those who could afford to pay for holidays in Britain but do not do so at the moment. That means that another part of the strategy is to provide better information about tourism. Another element is the provision of sustainable development of tourism; in other words, not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; namely, our art and culture, which were spoken to by the noble Lords, Lord Selkirk and Lord Freyberg, and our history, which was spoken to quite rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. Another initiative is to develop and promote quality tourism experiences—I shall return to the grading of accommodation in a minute—and provide a new and improved support structure for tourism in England.
A number of contributors, beginning with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, complained that there were gaps in the strategy. I must say that she is wrong about that. There is a substantial section from pages 56 to 58 on transport. It is not just about transport information but is concerned with transport improvements. There is also a substantial section on planning from pages 58 to 59, to which I shall return in a moment. There is also coverage of licensing to which the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, referred. I shall also return to that matter. Before I leave the coverage of the strategy I should point out to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that the £5 million additional funding of BTA is in addition to the £5 million that is to be expected from the refocusing of its activities.
I said at the outset that this is the most comprehensive, far-reaching tourism strategy ever produced by government. But it is not just produced by government. We expanded the Tourism Forum so that with 57 members it would be truly representative of all sectors of tourism, not just the industry itself but those representing the interests of consumers, people with disabilities and special needs and the environment. We had two quite elaborate formal public consultation exercises on sustainable tourism and future support structures. The working groups of the Tourism Forum were those who reported back at the launch at Glaziers' Hall on 26th February.
Many noble Lords have quite properly been interested in support structures and funding. One of the implications of having a strategy is that all government departments must take account of tourism and the tourism industry when formulating their policies and programmes. We intend to maximise the return from increased government funding for the overseas promotion of tourism. The British Tourist Authority will now focus its activity on key markets to release extra money for pro-active marketing and investment. I say to the noble Lords, Lord Freyberg and Lord Luke, that as to joint premises for BTA and the British Council there are a number of countries involved but the separate premises for BTA cover countries that provide 88 per cent. of tourists who come to this country. There is a memorandum of understanding between the BTA and 714 the British Council. Foreign Office funding for the British Council is intended specifically to include funding for the promotion of British culture abroad.
As regards the structures in this country, we intend to create a more effective, leaner national body for tourism in England to focus on the national strategic framework rather than the provision of direct services.
I disagree with those noble Lords who expressed disagreement with the new division of responsibilities between the national body for England and the regional tourist boards. Regional tourist boards are different: they are largely run by the tourist industry itself with the collaboration of local authorities, which are responsible on the ground. Those are independent companies; they are companies limited by guarantee. They know what is happening in their own areas; and that part of the responsibilities of the English Tourist Board is properly on a regional basis, with people who know what they are talking about on a regional basis.
The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, referred to the Lake District. Although the location of the Cumbria Tourist Board in relation to regional development agencies is not resolved, it is determined to maintain its independence. As I said, those boards include the important participation of local authorities, which between them contribute £75 million a year to promote tourism.
It is regrettable that we have not been able to announce the full details of the national body for tourism in England. However, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that it will have what she calls an England mark. It will be a national body. It will have the strategic responsibilities which we have described; and it will be an effective resource complementary to the regional tourist boards. I can assure the noble Lords, Lord Selkirk and Lord Rowallan, that arrangements for the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board to work with the BTA are well established.
I wish to say a word about improving quality. Very properly, there has been reference to the grading system to be introduced by the end of this year. Let me acknowledge to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, that Scotland is ahead of us in that respect. However, the fact that the AA, the RAC and the English Tourist Board have been able to join together in a common grading system for England is a considerable advance and one which I think will be widely welcomed in the tourist industry.
Throughout our strategy document, Tomorrow's Tourism, there are many examples with case studies showing how businesses and destinations have prospered by diversifying or developing into niche markets. There is much to be learned from those examples.
Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, that there is no intention to have a tourist tax. There is no intention to have a bed tax in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, referred to taxation of tourism. We have taxation, VAT, on accommodation. But, on the other hand, we do not have many of the tourist taxes, the bed 715 taxes, which exist in other countries. I think that our debate on a previous occasion demonstrated that we are still competitive.
On the points which noble Lords said were omitted from the document, let me first refer to transport. The most conspicuous item in the transport pages relates to an integrated public transport information system. It may sound trivial but I do not think that it is. In the document, we talk about guidance on best practice to help tourist and leisure site managers to produce green transport plans. We talk about the necessity for the upgrading of transport infrastructure, park-and-ride schemes and integrated ticketing schemes. There is a great deal of valuable thinking on the transport element of tourism.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said that planning had been omitted. In June last year, we published guidance for planning officers and developers called Planning for Tourism and we are now working on planning policy guidance to facilitate leisure and tourism development.
As regards liquor licensing laws, again, I must write to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. I appreciate his passion for a simplification, even an abolition, of our licensing laws, and many people share his view. However, the issue is complicated and many vested 716 interests are involved. He and I will have to be patient a little longer, and I know that neither of us is happy about that.
I turn to seaside resorts. It is true that the duty was raised on amusement machine arcades, but it was the first increase for four years. It is not that much compared with the benefits from deregulation on the number of machines allowed, the maximum price per play and the maximum jackpot prize. Perhaps more significant is the fact that within the single regeneration budget round there were 44 bids from seaside towns this year. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will make a decision in June based on social exclusion generally rather than on manufacturing, as had been suggested. From what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said about Blackpool. it sounds as though there could be a considerable degree of social exclusion there as well as in other seaside towns.
Many noble Lords referred to Scotland. I have difficulty in answering the questions, bearing in mind the fact that later this year the matter will be devolved. However, I can assure noble Lords that there is a proper relationship between the BTA and the Scottish Tourist Board. For example, the Ossian website will be available on the BTA website.
This is not the end of the process; it is the beginning of a continuing process. An annual tourism summit will be in operation and Tomorrow's Tourism will remain the basis of our agenda for years to come.
§ House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes before ten o'clock.