HL Deb 14 February 2002 vol 631 cc1182-4

11.23 a.m.

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

What they are planning to do to help the tourism industry in Great Britain, given the 16 per cent reduction in foreign tourists visiting Great Britain in 2001.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, the Government are investing £65 million in tourism this year—more than ever before. This is justified because the number of overseas visitors arriving on holiday in the UK in 2001 was down by 14 per cent on the figure for 2000. In January, the British Tourist Authority launched its new £5 million campaign to help tourism recover from the events of 2001. The campaign will promote special offers provided by over 1,000 tourism businesses.

Lord Harrison

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Will she consider boosting the £5 million now allocated to the "UK is OK" campaign in order to encourage tourists from several of the world's wealthiest countries to return to this country? considerable government support has gone to the farming industry, and rightly so. Will my noble friend recognise that the tourism and hospitality industries have an equal claim to attention and finance?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the British Tourist Authority along with the industry has made a bid to the Government for a contribution to its plans for a major tourism recovery programme this year. The Government are currently considering their response. We are, however, encouraging the BTA and its partners to attempt to maximise the industry contribution.

In reply to my noble friend's second question, the Government committed an extra £14.5 million to the recovery campaign. Any extra funding will depend on genuinely additional contributions from the industry.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, when will the Government give some long-term help to the tourism industry by doing something about their two year-old promise to reform our licensing laws? Is the Minister aware that her honourable friend the Minister for Tourism in the other place revealed this month that every year of delay on this matter is costing the hospitality industry £1.9 billion?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am aware of the extra cost to the industry. To reform the licensing industry it is necessary to introduce new legislation and the Government are considering that. I cannot at this stage give an indication as to when it is likely to be brought in.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Question on the Order Paper draws attention to a problem not far removed from that affecting the film industry; namely, that American companies are not now coming to Britain to film, as we would expect, but are going to places such as Prague? One of the main reasons is that it is increasingly expensive to maintain large groups of people here because of the cost of hotels and restaurants. The same applies to tourists. Overall, the costs in this country are exorbitant. Can the Government do something about it?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the Government cannot run the private sector. It is a matter for hotels and restaurants to price the services that they offer competitively. The Government can encourage the hotel industry, restaurants and other parts of the tourism industry to do just that. But in the end it is up to them to compete successfully with similar parts of the industry in other countries.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, is the noble Baroness in a position to say what percentage of the figure she quoted will go to towards those of us involved in tourism in Scotland?

Baroness Blackstone

No, my Lords, I cannot give that answer. I shall see whether one of my colleagues from the Scotland Office is able to provide it.

Lord Paul

My Lords, although I commend what the Government are doing for the tourism industry, manufacturing industry is in much deeper trouble and has been for a much longer period. I declare an interest as someone who is in the manufacturing industry. Why are the Government neglecting this industry?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I have to say to my noble friend that his question really does fall outside the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, what are the Government doing to improve the ability of disabled visitors to travel to the United Kingdom easily? I understand that some of the arrangements at airports and ports are particularly difficult.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, again, this is a matter for the industry—both for the airlines and for the British Airports Authority. They have to be responsive to the legislation relating to disability in the same way as every other area of our national life has to be responsive to it.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, following the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, does my noble friend consider that prices and charges in London deter people from visiting not only London but the rest of the country? In view of that, would it be possible for regional and provincial tourist boards to be engaged in more aggressive and positive advertising in order to persuade people that, if they will not come to London, they can enjoy themselves in other parts of the country such as the Yorkshire Dales?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, it is a matter for the industry, not only in London but throughout the country, to try to market its products aggressively and to price its services competitively, as I said earlier. The British Tourist Authority is trying to overcome strong price resistance in its latest campaign, featuring a range of new offers, which the Government very much hope will be successful in bringing more people to the UK.