HL Deb 09 July 2002 vol 637 cc555-7
Lord Luke

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to ensure that London is an effective gateway for tourism into the United Kingdom.

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

My Lords, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport promotes London as a gateway both via our sponsorship of the British Tourist Authority and via the grant that we give to the Greater London Authority. The Government require the BTA to attempt to increase the amount that overseas tourists spend outside London. Our agreement with the Greater London Authority stipulates that it must promote London as a gateway to the rest of the UK. The work is carried out on behalf of the GLA by the London Tourist Board.

Lord Luke

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will she encourage the agencies, including the ETC in its proposed new marketing role, to direct a much greater proportion of their available resources towards selling Britain as a package tour, with London as its focal point—bearing in mind that, as of 2000, some 80 per cent of overseas visitors to London never leave London except to go home?

Baroness Blackstone

Yes, my Lords, I will. It is vital that we encourage visitors to London to take a trip outside the city as well. Recent surveys suggest that many visitors who decide not to travel to the rest of the UK do so merely through lack of time. Many say that on a second visit to the UK they will set aside time to visit places outside London. The BTA is trying to encourage people to take packages involving particular types of trips: for example, a royal heritage trail all over the country, and even a "Harry Potter: discovering the magic of Britain" initiative.

Lord Harrison

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the quickest ways to help the London tourism industry is to restore to the English Tourism Council, when it is reformed, the marketing function enjoyed by the three other home country tourist boards?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I entirely accept what my noble friend says. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for Tourism have been meeting with the industry to examine the whole issue of how to restore to the ETC its marketing role, not just in terms of London but throughout the UK.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, does the Minister agree that England is the natural place where people who come to London go—not necessarily Scotland? Scotland has its own gateways. London's brand image is very strong. Everyone in the world knows about London—and visitors come to London in vast numbers—but they do not necessarily know about England. Following on the previous question, how is the brand image of England to be improved and increased, so that people will be encouraged as a matter of course to travel from London to the rest of the English countryside and to English towns?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the noble Viscount is right. Work must be done to make sure that people understand about the amazing, wonderful and rich sights to be found outside London. As I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Luke, the BTA is doing all that it can abroad to encourage visitors to come not merely to London but to other parts of the country through the kinds of packages I have described. Its target is to bring UK expenditure from incoming tourists outside London to at least 45 per cent of the total.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the current traffic gridlock in central London is a major negative factor in the promotion of London as the tourism gateway to the rest of the United Kingdom? Is the Minister aware of the growing suspicion that the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, is deliberately allowing massive and unco-ordinated roadworks in central London so as to justify the introduction of congestion charges next year?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, that is slightly wide of the Question. But having suffered this morning as a result of massive gridlock in London, I am sympathetic to much of what the noble Lord has said. I cannot speak for the GLA or for the Mayor. Tourists, like everyone else, want to move about within London and all over the country. Therefore, it is important to have a co-ordinated response and to attempt to improve public transport in the city as well as the movement of private cars.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, recognising the importance of tourism to our economy and the crucial importance of London, and the vital need for full ministerial attention to be given to the challenging situation at the present time, how much time does the Minister expect to be spending on the affairs of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary, for which I understand she is now responsible?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am not responsible for the Avon arid Somerset Constabulary. I think that the noble Lord has been seriously misled by articles in the newspapers that do not represent reality. I am one of 10 Ministers responsible for supporting Home Office Ministers in relation to the Prime Minister's street crime initiative. The reason I am one of those 10 Ministers is that an important part of this initiative is to organise diversionary activities for young people in the area of the arts and sport, in order to keep them off the streets in the summer holidays. The evidence suggests that less crime is committed as a result.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that every year Westminster City Council carries out a survey of tourism in Westminster? The survey shows that 41 per cent of people spend only one day in London. One of their great complaints is about the beggars and the lack of personal safety in the city. Does she think it important that those issues should be addressed if London is to become a gateway? The city must attract people if they are to come to London and then go on from there.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, of course I agree. It is for those reasons as well as many others that the Prime Minister is determined that we should reduce the amount of street crime, not just in London, but across the country.

Lord Fearn

My Lords, will the Minister join me in congratulating the BTA, which, through its Britain Visitor Centre, now deals with 450,000 visitors a year? Most of those are shelved off to other areas of Britain. Many of them come to Southport for golf, because we have seven golf courses.

Baroness Blackstone

Yes, my Lords. The Britain Visitor Centre in Regent Street, which is run by the BTA, has been enormously successful in getting visitors to come in and find out what is available around the country, including in Southport.

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