HL Deb 30 April 2003 vol 647 cc739-73

5.32 p.m.

Lord Pendry rose to call attention to the place of tourism in the United Kingdom economy; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am pleased to have secured this debate as I believe that the tourism and hospitality industries are not given enough prominence in either this House or another place. I immediately declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Tourism Group and, for five years, shadow Minister for Sport and Tourism.

Those of us who take an interest in tourism are well aware of its importance to the UK economy. Tourism in Britain is not often acknowledged as a huge contributor to the economy—to paraphrase a Select Committee report in another place it is a "sleeping giant"—but tourism is our fifth largest industry. In fact, tourism ranks fifth in every English region in the country and is much higher in Scotland and Wales. Worth £76 billion in 2002, tourism affects the lives, as we know, of every citizen. Over 2 million men and women work in tourism—more than 7 per cent of the working population—and the Treasury receives nearly £8 billion in tax every year from the sector. So it is clear that tourism plays a huge role in our national prosperity.

The past three years have seen a series of crises hit the sector. Foot and mouth and September 11th led to a massive loss to the sector of about £8 billion in 2001. Many businesses collapsed, despite the assistance provided by the Government. The first half of 2002 saw the beginnings of a recovery, but tourism is once again in trouble. I want to draw the attention of the House to the current situation—which is affected by the consumer-led economic slowdown and the situation in Iraq—and what should be done about it.

The British Chamber of Commerce quarterly economic survey showed a significant decline across the whole economy, particularly among small businesses—tourism is of course disproportionately made up of small businesses, more than 125,000 of them, from cafes to B&Bs and small attractions—and all this in the context of a slowdown in UK consumer expenditure and the Chancellor's lower economic growth estimate for this year, down to between 2 and 2.5 per cent.

This bad news has been reinforced by a sharp loss of confidence among tourism businesses. Surveys have shown that in the first quarter of 2002, 66 per cent of businesses were "more optimistic" about the future for the sector against only 5 per cent which were "less optimistic". By the last quarter, only 28 per cent were "more optimistic" and 44 per cent were "less optimistic". There are also some worrying signs of a decline in employment levels.

The build-up to the war in Iraq has of course been a major concern, affecting the willingness of people to travel generally and, in particular, to countries involved in the conflict. Together with the outbreak of the SARS virus and the advent of the ever-present global threat of terrorism we are seeing a decline in the willingness of people to travel across the world, which mitigates against growing inbound tourism—a vital contributor to wealth and jobs.

The latest visitor numbers for 2003 are robust for international visitors from Europe but potential travellers from long-haul markets were more subdued by the approach of war and visitor numbers are down. It is visitors from the US and other long-haul destinations who spend the most when they come here.

For UK residents holidaying within Britain, the fragility of consumer confidence has also seen a deterioration in tourism. The number of trips and overnight stays taken in England were up by only 2 per cent on 2001, the "low tide" year of foot and mouth and September 11th.

After the events of 2001, it was clear that the Government should review the public structures in place to support the tourism industry. Last year the Treasury contributed £20 million towards the extremely successful "Only in Britain, Only in 2002" campaign in key overseas markets. This was matched by £20 million from the industry. Longer term, the Government decided to merge the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council into VisitBritain, a single lead national agency for tourism, which now has a domestic marketing responsibility for England. Campaigns within the UK, Europe and other key overseas markets are already in the pipeline.

The Government's moves are admirable. In Dr Kim Howells tourism has a real champion, as was his predecessor Janet Anderson, but we shall have to wait to see the long-term success in the future as the structures bed down. But the short-term situation caused by the Iraqi situation and a drop in consumer confidence demands action now. I am confident that the Government are monitoring the situation and are considering what assistance they can give to struggling tourism businesses. I look forward to hearing from the Government Front Bench what is the Government's current view.

I believe that there is a need to consider resurrecting the Government's policy towards PAYE and VAT holidays for tourism businesses. Flexibility in the payment of business rates, tax and national insurance contributions proved a lifeline during the foot and mouth outbreak. It could prevent the need to lay-off staff and thereby save many businesses at this tough time. Another taxation measure could be to make trips to Britain instantly cheaper by reducing or suspending air passenger duty for a specified length of time.

Secondly, DCMS Ministers should consult with the Treasury over whether to put extra one-off resources from the reserves behind another large campaign this year along the lines of "Only in Britain, Only in 2002", together with industry match-funding.

Thirdly, the British Tourist Authority has faced a standstill budget for many years. Costs and wages have risen in line with inflation but not its grant-in-aid. Even worse, the budget for the English Tourism Council has been in severe decline. Both bodies performed successfully against their briefs. Now that the Government have merged them into VisitBritain it is surely time to update the grant-in-aid for the long term and correct this shortfall.

We all know that money alone does not necessarily deliver the right results without the necessary reforms, but the Government have now made the necessary reforms and we should see the investment that goes hand-in-hand with those reforms to achieve the results the country needs.

While appreciating the recent structure changes, marketing on its own is not enough. We need to ensure the industry has enough people with the right skills to deliver a quality product. We need better co-ordination between the various agencies and to establish a properly funded sector skills council for tourism, hospitality and leisure.

I believe the Labour Party has a good tourism record. After all, it was Labour that introduced the original Development of Tourism Act 1969, creating our national tourist boards. I was proud, as shadow Minister for Tourism, to draft Labour's first ever policy on tourism and hospitality, Breaking New Ground, before the 1997 election. Surely it is now time to revisit the 1969 Act. Devolution to Scotland and Wales and further tourism responsibilities moving to the English regional development agencies and possibly regional assemblies will mean that the realities of devolution, the existence of VisitBritain and the formation of an England marketing advisory board within VisitBritain are not reflected currently in legislation. The Government have pledged to update the legislation, parliamentary time permitting. My argument is that tourism should be high on the government agenda and the time should be found now. If the Government have belief in their reforms, they should put them on a statutory footing.

Our heritage, coastline, countryside and cities already attract much tourism activity but we should enable innovative local changes so that tourism links in with local community needs as well as those of the visitor. In my own area, the traditional fell-walking activities and Great Parks at the foot of the Pennines are supplemented by events such as the Tameside brass band festival, which includes the route of the revamped, cleaned, regenerated canalside in Stalybridge. As the local MP at the time, I was proud to play a part in bringing the local authority and the Millennium Commission together to provide the necessary funding for that development. As a result of the canal being restored, the inward investment into Stalybridge is to the tune of some £80 million. At the end of the Stalybridge town centre project, it is estimated that that will double within five years to approximately £160 million.

Synergies between tourism and the fields of sport, arts and culture surely make up a major key to success. I am on record in your Lordships' House encouraging the Government to back the Olympic bid for London for 2012, as the potential rewards for the whole economy are huge and the benefits will spread across the country. I look towards Barcelona and Sydney as shining examples of what could be achieved here.

The Government's introduction of free entry to national museums and galleries is a fundamental step towards improving access, although we should look at steps to assist other independent museums, galleries and attractions, especially those in the regions. Could the Government consider extending the VAT recovery scheme to all museums and galleries? Could the National Lottery Commission be encouraged to target funding towards tourism-related projects? I look forward to hearing the Government's view on that.

I now wish to turn to the need for government support for our seaside resorts. Speaking as one who was brought up in the seaside resorts of Broadstairs and Ramsgate, I have a certain affinity with those who argue the case for the restoration of our resorts. I would like the Minister to promise to convey to the Secretary of State the need to read a report about to be published by Sheffield Hallam University which smashes many of the myths surrounding the state of many of our resorts.

For instance, the study examined 43 principal resorts. Combined, these resorts have an adult population of working age of 2.9 million, which compares with a figure of 3.2 million for the whole of Wales. Between 1917 and 2001, the number of people employed within these resorts actually increased by some 217,000.

So where does this leave the traditional seaside resort? Well, it still leaves them with many difficult social and economic issues to face, often of a similar nature to those experienced in inner-city areas. On the positive side, it leaves them with a new understanding that tourism is not the root cause of their difficulty, but actually a major part of the potential solution. It leaves the Government with a better reason and a much stronger justification for their continued keen interest in seaside resort tourism. It also gives much greater incentive to encourage RDAs and other key bodies to invest in resorts' general infrastructure and now, critically, directly into tourism-related projects.

Previously, it has been very difficult to justify an enthusiasm for resort tourism when the perceived wisdom suggested that it was a failing industry. If, as I understand to be the case, the Sheffield Hallam report shows clear evidence that resort tourism is alive and well and capable of more growth, it should be much easier to identify specific methods of tackling the social and economic problems, while in parallel working to stimulate more tourism growth to improve the economy for the benefit of all residents and visitors alike.

Britain has some of the greatest tourism assets in the world. Through regeneration, an improved transport infrastructure, and working in partnership across a range of fields, we can ensure that UK residents visit and enjoy more of their own country, and that international visitors want to return. Only when government can draw together industry, regional agencies and local authorities can we ensure that Britain gets its fair share of the economic benefits of a successful, sustainable tourism sector that can compete with the rest of the world. I beg to move for Papers.

5.46 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, first I must declare my interest and involvement in tourism. Since I made my first speech on tourism some 50 years ago, it is more or less a question of confirming it.

The whole House will be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for raising this important subject this afternoon. Before he was elevated to this House, he was very active in another place and has always been a great friend and supporter of tourism.

What is rather depressing in re-reading these old debates over the years is finding the same old problems being brought to the attention of successive governments by speakers from all parties in the House. It is very easy for us to say, "We told you so", as, over the years, there has been a complete failure by successive governments to invest in tourism. Instead, they have—mistakenly, I think—concentrated on altering and interfering with structures. For instance, as far as England is concerned, first we had the English Tourist Board, with its relevant powers, then we had the English Tourism Council, with no powers, and now we have another body called VisitBritain, which apparently has some resources to market England. What was wrong in recent years was the presumption, which was quite wrong, that the regions would together be able to market England competently, even though they are all in competition with each other, leading to a fragmentation of efforts.

It took an apparently unrelated crisis, foot and mouth disease, to reveal the true value of tourism to Britain and the inability of the then tourist agencies to react positively as they had neither the staff, the experience nor the resources to carry out the necessary marketing, so money had to be rushed from the Treasury for these purposes.

The benefits of tourism are felt at all levels of the economy. Tourism is worth four times as much as agriculture and sustains four times as many jobs. It generates more than 15 times as much tax to the Exchequer, yet successive governments' recognition of tourism has been limited and very short lived.

While the creation of the new marketing body for England is generally welcomed, the additional funds made available of £10 million over three years are just not enough. The RDAs are indeed providing some additional funds at the regional level, but at the same time, resources to the centre have been cut, and England no longer has a fully competent national tourism body. Successive Select Committees have identified governments' substantial under-investment in tourism.

Now we are in a period when the financial outlook for Britain is worsening. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has reduced all his expectations. Authoritative and independent analysis expects that the position could become very much worse in the future. Britain needs to make use of every opportunity to invest more and help boost the economy. Tourism is one of the few industries capable of making a massive contribution, but for the past decade we have been losing out, with the net positive balance of payment on the tourism account declining in 2002 to a negative balance of £15 billion. The situation could even get worse, but that is not inevitable; the deterioration could be reversed.

The BTA has proved the value of investing in the ability and experience of attracting tourists to Britain against the ever-strengthening competition of other countries. For every £1 that the BTA is able to spend promoting Britain, an additional return of £28 is earned. How can that opportunity be repeatedly ignored?

After foot and mouth disease and the impact of September 11th, the Government responded with additional funding. Now, with the Iraq war and SARS impacting on our tourist industry, typically it has been announced that no additional funding from Government is planned. Tourism has always been vulnerable to major disruptions, and the cost to our industry and to jobs can be enormous. We need an early commitment from the Government to be prepared to provide a long-term investment to help Britain to improve the tourism infrastructure and win its share of demand against ever-growing competition from other nations. More than ever before, we cannot afford to neglect our tourism potential. We do so at our peril.

5.51 p.m.

Lord McNally

My Lords, when I joined this House seven years ago, one of the earliest debates in which I participated was on tourism. In that debate, I also followed the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with some sense of awe, since his name is associated with one of our most successful tourist enterprises. Indeed, I pointed out at that time that he and I occupy almost diametric opposites of the tourist experience in that he was one of the pioneers of saving our stately homes heritage through tourism. My experience was of selling coffee on top of Blackpool Tower. The highlight of that experience was an article in the local newspaper with the headline "Tower Top Tommy"— one of the more favourable pieces ever written about me.

My Blackpool background meant that I never treated tourism as a second-rate industry. I was brought up with the knowledge and appreciation of the jobs and the wealth that tourism created. It also left me with the conviction that there is a difference between service and servility. Being in service industries is in no way demeaning; indeed, one of the great satisfactions, as any good chef will say, is being able to provide good high-quality service to a satisfied customer. That is one of the things we need to encourage. We must get rid of for ever the concept of "rip-off Britain". It will take the efforts of everyone involved to ensure that what people get when they come to Britain for their holidays is of the highest value and quality.

The problem is that tourism has been something of a Whitehall orphan. It has been bounced around various Whitehall departments and has always been a subsection of a junior Minister's responsibility. Although the approval expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, is, I am sure, appreciated, I remain unsure whether Kim Howells wants to be tourist Minister or art critic. That is part of the difficulty.

When one listens to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, one is always tempted to say that he was the best tourist Minister we never had. Certainly, the work he did in opposition on tourism and hospitality was a document that cut across party dogmas in giving a blueprint and a way forward for the tourist industry. In his opening remarks, he rightly highlighted the trials and tribulations that the tourist industry has gone through in the past few years. It is not treating the situation frivolously to suggest that it is almost like watching "The Perils of Pauline" in that there has been 9/11, foot and mouth, various acts of international terrorism and recent wars. The industry has been buffeted, buffeted and buffeted again. Now there is the possibility of an economic slowdown influencing it further.

But there is an opportunity in this challenge. We may see, perhaps only for a short time, a change in tourist patterns. The exotic holidays, which were becoming increasingly attractive to British tourists, may seem less so in a rather more dangerous world. This represents a real opportunity for the British tourism industry to sell its benefits to the British people. The more exotic holidays may also be less tempting to some of the foreign tourist markets, and we may also attract them. Most importantly, the British tourist industry and the relevant agencies should use this year to attract British tourists back to holidaying in Britain.

I have done some pioneering myself. I have a young family: a 7 year-old, a 9 year-old and a 12 year-old. Without being too pious, I decided some time ago that part of their education should be to discover their own country as well as having the opportunity for foreign travel. In recent times we have been to Torquay, Weymouth, the Gower, Blackpool and the Lakes. Going to Blackpool was of course an essential part of their cultural development. They enjoyed the Tower Circus and the Pleasure Beach, as I did 40 years ago.

In those visits, as the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, said about the Sheffield Hallam study, I found that the state of British tourism—especially of our seaside resorts—is nowhere near as decrepit as some of the publicity suggests. There are really good family holidays, with good entertainment, at our leading resorts. To visit the Gower or the Lakes, or to do, as we did, and take the road from the Lakes to Leeds through the Yorkshire Dales National Park to join the M1 gives one a breathtaking realisation of our national heritage.

I pay tribute to the management of our national parks. I was extremely impressed by the signage and facilities, which make a visit to a national park such an added pleasure for a townie like me. One can judge which directions to take. There is plenty of help available; there are many facilities. So that side of tourism is there and waiting for the British people. However, leadership is required if people are to take advantage of the opportunities. As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, indicated, funding will also be necessary. We need a sense of urgency if we are to capture that opportunity.

Not only the holiday areas can benefit; opportunities exist also for the larger cities. The message is coming home to cities that tourism is important, and they are responding. Just over 10 years ago, I did a study for the Mersey Enterprise Board about the type of things that attracted people to Merseyside. It was amazing to learn what a strong selling point Merseyside's artistic, cultural and sporting assets were in attracting tourists. As anyone who has gone to Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham will know, the combination of cultural and other assets makes a city visit extremely worthwhile. The competition for designation as City of Culture has demonstrated how one asset can be balanced against another and the sense of community that is delivered. As for sports tourism, the Manchester Commonwealth Games have left a lasting legacy which will boost that city's tourism. I therefore strongly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, said about going with vigour for the Olympics.

I realise that tourism has some severe problems. However, from my recent visits to tourist areas around England and Wales I know what those areas have to offer and the quality of which British tourism is capable. That potential really does deserve a response from government and government agencies. During these times of international uncertainty, we should grasp that potential gap in the market. Having attracted Britons back to Britain this year, the tourist industry at every level should also ensure that, because of the quality of what they experienced, people are determined to come back again and again.

6.3 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I, too, wish to address that issue of quality. I welcome this debate on the place of tourism in the British economy and am grateful for the opportunity. I should, however, declare an interest as chairman of the Cathedrals and Churches division of the Church of England.

Noble Lords will be aware that, in the beginning, mass tourism and religion were partners. Thomas Cook was, of course, a notable Baptist temperance campaigner. The very first package tour that he organised was an 11-mile rail journey from Leicester to attend a sober rally in Loughborough. An inclusive price was charged for both food and transport, and so mass package tourism was born.

The partnership between religion and tourism is not only an historic theme; it is a very contemporary theme as well. Religious buildings of all kinds in our country are not only magnets which draw tourists and their money to major heritage sites such as neighbouring Westminster Abbey or York Minster; they also divert tourists into the depth of the countryside, perhaps with Mr Simon Jenkins' guide to the Thousand Best Churches in hand. Religious buildings can even draw people to very unfashionable parts indeed. There is a trickle of tourists to the church of St John's Hoxton—which, with English Heritage, we have recently restored, including a marvellous painted and rather genteel Church of England Apocalypse overhead. It has attracted quite a stream of tourists to Hoxton, which is not the usual sort of venue that comes to mind.

So religious buildings such as the spectacular Hindu temple in Neasden attract millions of visits each year. I wonder how many tourists would miss the pleasures of visiting Wells, for example, if the cathedral there did not act as a magnet. As we heard, such attractions bring great economic advantages to the areas in which they are set. They also contribute powerfully, and incidentally, to a deeper sense of local identity, not least for the newer British communities.

However, that comes at a cost to those responsible for the upkeep of tourist magnets and attractions. The steep rise in visitor numbers which we have experienced in the past 30 years has also seen an increase, quite rightly, in the legislation covering the care of visitors, especially the care of children and—remembering the previous debate—the care of those afflicted by disabilities, and the accessibility of attractions to them. At the same time, stricter regulation aimed at conserving our tourist attractions has resulted in an increase in the cost of maintaining them.

Of the million or so visitors who come to Canterbury each year, many are French or German. They assume, of course, that the Government bear the cost of maintaining such an important and attractive part of the heritage of the whole community and not just one faith community. Such visitors are often astonished to discover that what they take for granted in their own country is not true in Britain, where thousands of volunteers—and we are not whingeing about this; we are proud of it—connected to all the faith communities of the country do the work and raise the money that is a charge on public funds in nearly every other European country.

Canterbury Cathedral, for example, has never received an English Heritage grant. However, if you have a million visitors a year, the building needs to be presented and preserved—we have heard the accent on quality and a memorable experience—in a way that offers the tourist a welcome, an experience and, if required, an education. Even visitors from Great Britain—currently increasing in numbers for the reasons we have heard—assume that the £3.50 charge to visitors at Canterbury is just netting a little money on the side for the cathedral over and above what it receives from a generous public purse. That is how they perceive it. Such charges are in consequence often resented and comparisons are drawn with the free entry policy at museums and galleries.

Yet—and this is the crucial point for this debate—the money from visitors at such a place is not used to keep the services going or even to keep the building standing. In Canterbury's case, it is used chiefly to provide the facilities to cope with the demands of mass tourism, to care for the visitors and keep them secure and to make good the wear and tear of a million pairs of feet.

In a country such as ours of voluntary religious communities, it is the business of each faith community to finance the religious purposes of its shrines. In the case of the Church of England cathedrals, their primary purpose is defined by legislation as being centres of worship and mission. No one is asking for any kind of state subsidy for such activities. However, it is important to all those who care for quality in our provision for the tourists at home and abroad, and extremely important for all those involved in tourism—we have heard again and again the statistics which illustrate the sector's importance to the economy and the employment it provides—that heritage sites should be properly resourced to offer a memorable experience to very numerous and very diverse visitors.

English Heritage has a modest annual budget of £2 million for its Cathedral Repairs Grants Scheme. It seems to me that the larger sums available to promote tourism and sustain attractions must be viewed with a strong assumption that there must be an argument for considering the eligibility of clearly defined aspects of visitor welcome and presentation. Those aspects of spiritual heritage attractions should be considered on a similar footing to some museums and galleries as beneficiaries of those programmes.

So, while welcoming the debate, I hope very much that it can help us to see certain aspects of the challenge of maintaining such a significant part of our communities' inheritance in a new and possibly constructive way.

6.10 p.m.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on initiating the debate. I congratulate him especially on calling attention to the importance of tourism to the United Kingdom economy.

Tourism certainly makes an important contribution to the United Kingdom economy. It fosters growth in the building industry, the motor industry and the aircraft industry. Many industries get a spin-off from tourism. But putting that on one side, as has been said, our tourist industry was worth over £70 billion in 2002. However, the figure will be less this year. Some 2.1 million people are directly employed in tourism and 127,000 businesses are involved in it, 80 per cent of which have an income not exceeding a quarter of a million pounds a year. The latter point is probably one reason that tourism and the economy do not necessarily go hand in hand in the public's perception.

Britain is good at tourism. We have the fifth largest tourist industry in the world. Yet it does not have the high profile that many of our other industries have. Perhaps the onset of foot and mouth started to make the public realise the impact that such events have on the lives of people in rural communities who are involved in tourism. Certainly, those who were not convinced that the foot and mouth epidemic had a negative impact on the tourist industry must have been convinced that the tragic events of 11th September had a negative impact. Then the war with Iraq broke out and now there is the problem of SARS. I cannot think of any other industry that has suffered four such consecutive crises. The tourist industry must be reeling and wondering what is coming next.

The tourist industry is going through a tough period. We can see that in this great capital city of ours. Last night I went to a West End theatre that was half full. The other day I got into a taxi and the driver told me that I was the first fare he had had for an hour. I said that I thought my fare would be only about £3.50 but the driver said that it was better than nothing. Those involved in the tourist industry are under economic pressure. Hotel occupancy rates are well down.

The campaign to encourage people to visit Britain is certainly very important. A fall of 15 per cent in visitor numbers is anticipated compared with last year. ABTA says that bookings are down by 16 per cent. Although ABTA tour operators deal mainly with outbound tourism, they employ 133,000 people here in Britain. Certainly, the decline that they face may well result in job losses in a sector where I gather the average net profit is just over 1 per cent. So they do not have much of a margin to play with.

Some 2 million people work in the tourist industry and, as I said, last year the tourist industry was worth over £70 billion. I compare that sector with the industrial sector. Yesterday headlines in the press announced the 1,100 redundancies—that is an approximate figure—at Corus. The media gave that matter huge coverage. The tourism industry is four times the size of the agriculture and farming sector in the UK with four times the number of employees. About a third of a million people work in the farming industry. Yet at no time during the foot and mouth crisis did the media give much coverage to the impact of the crisis on the tourist industry and on people's jobs in that industry. As my noble friend Lord Pendry said, the VAT and pay-as-you-earn holiday that was granted at that time was a lifeline. As he said, perhaps we should consider doing that again.

It is generally recognised that the tourist industry is having a tough time. It is one of our new industries. It has grown and has to some extent taken the place of our former great manufacturing industries in terms of the number of people it employs. I refer in that regard to the shipbuilding industry, the steel industry and the coal mining industry. Tourism is an industry with a large economic involvement in our communities. Although it appears glamorous, it is a terribly important part of our economy.

The industry will bounce back; I do not think that there is any doubt about that. After the Gulf War the industry recovered very quickly. It was starting to make a strong recovery after the foot and mouth epidemic when the events of September 11th occurred. It seems that each time the industry recovers, something else has come along in the past two years to knock it back.

The industry needs nurturing. I do not think that it is whingeing or pleading poverty. However, it is an important sector of the UK economy. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, was right to refer to ABTA. At the moment 10 per cent of its work is within the domestic holiday market. Some 61 per cent of its members have said that they will invest more in the domestic holiday market. In Germany, for example, domestic holidays account for half of travel agents' business. Their overseas business probably mainly involves holidays in Spain.

Should an industry that is so important to our economy have its own Minister? My noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham will say that tourism has its own Minister, Kim Howells. The industry considers that he is a very good Minister. However, when the tourist industry—which employs 2 million people—is in crisis, it is not helpful for Kim Howells to devote day after day to the Ofcom Bill. As I say, Kim Howells is a very good Minister but this very important industry would gain a higher priority in his portfolio if he was able to devote more time to it.

There is a strong case for bringing the tourist industry under the remit of the DTI. I should be surprised to hear my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham agree with that point. However, one could argue that tourism is an economic rather than a heritage matter. That point should be considered.

I hope that the industry will enjoy a period of stability to enable it to recover. My noble friend Lord Pendry mentioned the sum of £20 million that was allocated last year to promote the tourist industry. That was very helpful indeed. Last year the Prime Minister appeared in an advertisement to promote Britain. After the events in Iraq he probably has Beckham cult status in the United States! I hope that the Prime Minister will take a lead in promoting this country in advertising. We need to get back international visitors.

The infrastructure of the industry is also important. I declare an interest in that I chair the Freedom to Fly Coalition. That body tries to ensure that we have the aviation and infrastructure capacity to meet customer needs in the UK over the next 30 years. Two thirds of our visitors arrive by air. On the Continent air travel is recognised as an important part of the economy. Amsterdam Airport has expanded and has the potential to have six runways, although it does not have six at the moment. Charles de Gaulle Airport has expanded its capacity, as has Frankfurt Airport. Heathrow is no longer the No. 1 airport in Europe. It serves fewer destinations now than some of our European competitors. Our competitors are investing in new infrastructure as they want to attract this important industry. Our rail infrastructure is also very important in this regard.

Like anything else, the industry is terribly competitive. It is also price-sensitive. It has recently carried out some work comparing itself with Europe on taxation. One example that it took was an American family of four coming to Britain. Tax accounted in the UK for 18 per cent of their spend, whereas in Europe the average was 12 per cent. One could say that, in the UK, the tax taken from the spend was 50 per cent more than the average taken in Europe. That could be looked at, certainly so that no more tax is put on an already heavily burdened industry.

The debate is important to our economy and to jobs. At the moment the industry is seriously challenged, but it will come back. If we look at all the statistics, we can see that it will be buoyant. We have to do what we can to nurse it along, to make sure that it is ready to face its challenges and to take the opportunities raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in trying to develop the domestic holiday industry.

6.21 p.m.

Lord Patten

My Lords, I listened with interest and respect to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, this afternoon, as I did over the years on many afternoons and evenings and, once or twice, during the now-vanished all-night sittings in those more heroic days when men were men down the corridor in another place and before we all became politically correct. Alas, I cannot wholeheartedly agree with his optimism of "A little more tourism, with a little more government help and intervention, will cure most economic ills", even though I greatly welcome the chance that he has given us in an excellent speech to debate the issues. I wish to concentrate on tourism in rural areas.

I do not believe—I am so far the only dissenting voice—that tourism is some universal good. Sometimes at worst it encourages the "theme-parking" of Britain, and even the de facto destruction of that which tourists travel so far to go and see. Most of us enjoy going to look at something. However, sometimes the urge to become a tourist seems to be found in our growing national condition of rootlessness—the sense that the only way to enjoy the earth and the United Kingdom truly is to travel to places where one is not.

Much of that rootlessness and dissatisfaction with where we are is because of the prior destruction of so many of our towns and cities, and their social, economic and built fabric, in post-war years. I applaud very much the thoughtful approach of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, and other noble Lords who wish to make urban life more desirable again—to make people wish to root themselves and recreate more at home, as people lucky enough to live in the country often do.

After all, visitors to homes and houses, whether in town and city or the country, are often struck not only by the beauty of the architecture or the interior, but by the lingering sense to be found inside some such places of a calm that radiates from the making of a home by families and people who stayed put in the town and the countryside. One side of the coin of the generation of tourism is the fact that that cannot always easily be found by those who live in crowded urban conditions whom we have not served well since 1945.

I intend to concentrate on rural areas, however, where local people do not think all the time that tourism is some blessing. Tourism can bring pollution, traffic congestion, overcrowding, and sometimes downright environmental damage. The income generated by tourists all too often does not stay in the local area but is siphoned off to other areas, so local people are not benefited.

The countryside and those interested in rural tourism do not need more quangos, statist intervention, policies, campaigns, subsidies, or the invaluable ministerial time of Dr Kim Howells. I listened with great interest to the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, that the responsibility might be moved to the Department of Trade and Industry with its seven Ministers; that department is itself a sort of job-creation industry for Ministers. One of those Ministers could take on the responsibility if she feels that ministerial responsibility is not being exercised properly.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, nothing that I said or implied gave any indication that I felt that ministerial responsibility was not being expressed properly.

Lord Patten

My Lords, I accept that. I was not suggesting that it was the case. However, the noble Baroness was saying in the spirit of open debate that she felt that tourism might benefit from having a Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry—that that might be more appropriate, perhaps because Ministers there have more time. I welcome the chance to repeat that point.

The countryside needs freedom, lightness of regulation, lack of interference, and the ability of a free market to develop genuinely local and sustainable tourist businesses. We need a bit more sensitivity and common sense from some of those involved in tourism already. I intend to concentrate on the National Farmers Union, the planners, the National Trust and, if time allows, national parks.

First, I sometimes think that the great ones in the NFU privately believe we are seeing the beginning of the slow death of UK agriculture, following the end of much old-style manufacturing industry over the past 100 years. Those are exactly the points that the noble Baroness made in her excellent speech just now. Of course we see, even in lowland England close to the capital, plenty of stretches of unlovely countryside emerging, whether set aside or not, with the scattered remains of deserted sheds and stored machinery that are mute testimony to failed agri-businesses. We hear from the NFU, increasingly and bizarrely, that more tourism is the answer to the "crisis" in agriculture. What part of our national life does not have a crisis these days?

Of course a bit more tourism will help in rural areas, and will help those involved in diversifying from agriculture. However, it is certainly not a solution to the problems. The line that the countryside will be revived by more and more tourism is complete tosh. What tourists in their right mind would wish to spend time, let alone money, visiting countryside that is running down because of failing agriculture? Only thriving upland and lowland agriculture can sustain and improve the beauties of our largely man-made and farming-sustained landscapes, which people wish to go and see.

Secondly, I think that our planners in rural areas are so often bent on encouraging theme-park tourism, while getting in the way of truly local and organic attractions. I would like to give an example. If any noble Lords drive past Stonehenge on the A303, they will find it littered with what to me seem naff little brown signs, properly authorised by planners, suggesting that travellers might want to turn off and visit—I am not making this up—something called "Farmer Giles farmstead", a concept more at home in Las Vegas than rural Wiltshire.

The same planners recently prevented the erection of a sign to turn off the same road and visit a wine merchant in a pretty little Wiltshire town. It is located in a beautiful ex-brewery building, and its owners have tried very hard to make it a visitor attraction growing organically out of the local community, with the possibility of picnicking in its pretty courtyard among the flowers and with a fountain. The planners decided that that is not to be—that it is not the sort of tourism that they want to encourage. They want to encourage Farmer Giles farmstead, with its plastic surroundings. I believe in the freedom of choice. If people want to visit Fanner Giles farmstead, that is fine by me. However, they should not be denied the chance to visit other, more local visitor attractions, such as the wine merchant to which I referred.

Thirdly, the National Trust has been going through a very serious crisis over its corporate governance in recent years. Lord Blakenham's committee has come up with ideas on how to deal with the crisis, and his report lands in the lap of Sir William Proby, the new chairman, whom I wish well. The council needs to act very quickly on that, and must not delay for another year while the organisation continues to fight and fracture within itself.

At the same time, an urgent look is needed at policy on the National Trust's own visitor attractions. Sometimes, they themselves are becoming alarmingly theme-parked. Sometimes houses in National Trust ownership have been sterilised and dehumanised, and that very sense of the house having been a home that visitors delight in has been progressively rubbed out. Elsewhere, new, politically correct interpretations by management have been overlaid on the literature and displays of the history of a place that does not deserve it. Visitors are then channelled out through the obligatory National Trust gift shop, which peddles goods that are sourced sometimes from hundreds of miles away and sometimes from abroad. Where is the local honey? Is that a silly point? No. It is a symbol of the total lack of understanding by the senior management of the National Trust. One of the best things that its top executives could do would be to have a policy to help local tourism in areas surrounding National Trust properties. The National Trust should have a "buy local first" policy, with nothing sold in its shops that is made more than 50 miles away. Let the money stay where it is spent.

Why pick on the National Trust? It is the biggest landowner in England and Wales—I cannot speak with authority for Scotland. It owns more historic houses and landscapes than any medieval monarch would have dared dream of, let alone what any Whig magnate might have hoped for after a decent night around the table. It is in a mess. It desperately needs better, more understanding and sensitive executive management and leadership right at the top to deal with those issues, to stop it losing its way and behaving like the worst of the old nationalised industries.

The national parks will have to wait until another day for my observations. While thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing the debate, I conclude that tourism in rural areas will benefit from sensible light-touch measures, not from more government initiatives, more campaigns, more taxpayers' money and more statism. I hope that I am not alone in saying that.

6.32 p.m.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for initiating this important debate. As I live in Scotland and own a tourist attraction, I intend to limit my few remarks to Scottish tourism, albeit that tourism is devolved. However, as the Motion is worded, we are concerned with the role that tourism plays within "the United Kingdom economy".

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, was right to say that so many of the tourist attractions in the United Kingdom are in the small business league. Many of them are owner-operated, the owners working long hours for little reward. I believe that the Government and all their tourism agencies must acknowledge that.

I sincerely hope that somebody will send my old school friend, Sir William Proby, a copy of tonight's Hansard, so that he might read what the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said about his challenging new role.

Tourism is one of Scotland's most important industries and arguably its most important indigenous industry, worth £340 billion worldwide. It is a growing industry, with forecasts of annual growth of 4.1 per cent until 2020. Tourism in Scotland injects almost £4 billion annually into the Scottish economy—that is, 5 per cent of GDP—and employs almost 200,000 people. Those 200,000 are employed right the way across Scotland, thus helping to try to maintain a sustainable rural infrastructure. For instance, in the Highlands and Islands region, 15 per cent of the working population are involved in tourism, which is nearly double the Scottish national average. In fact, tourism in Scotland employs more than the oil, gas and whisky industries combined and four times the number of people employed in agriculture and fisheries. It must not be forgotten that both of those industries are suffering from terrible trading conditions, which are totally outwith their control. Tourism might, in a small number of cases, be their vital lifeline for survival.

VisitScotland, which is a non-departmental public body, funded by the Scottish Executive and fully accountable to the Scottish Parliament, has a strategic role in all of this. VisitScotland is the leading public sector tourism agency in Scotland whose role is to promote Scottish tourism in the UK and overseas and to provide leadership and direction for the development of Scottish tourism to help maximise economic benefit throughout Scotland. VisitScotland is doing its best to make Scotland a "must see" destination by marketing and promoting Scotland's many historical, natural, cultural and sporting assets. Seventy per cent of its funding is spent directly on marketing and promotion. It provides partial funding to area tourist boards and supports a range of niche market schemes. I must declare an interest as a member of the Scottish Borders Tourist Board.

VisitScotland has played a key role in drawing up Tourism Framework for Action, which was published in March 2002 and which sets out opportunities and challenges facing the tourism industry. The TFFA is unique within the UK and I hope that, as a result, this will not be yet another national and costly layer of bureaucracy.

In 2002, VisitScotland launched its new brand for Scotland, reflecting its built heritage, its traditions, its history, its culture, its fantastic scenery, its light, and—dare I say it—its weather and, last but not least, the friendliness of its people. Ninety per cent of visitors to Scotland come from the UK domestic market and VisitScotland therefore carries out a range of marketing activities across the whole of the UK. Particularly in these troubled times of terrorism and war, Scotland is less dependent on overseas markets, although it is trying hard to increase its share of international business. The USA, not surprisingly, is Scotland's largest overseas market, with an annual spend during the year ending 2001 of £201 million.

There have been various attempts to introduce quality assurance schemes and now in Scotland more than 80 per cent of accommodation providers are members of a quality assurance scheme. That compares with only 50 per cent in England and 40 per cent in Wales. However, I am still doubtful about a grading scheme for visitor attractions, particularly for those such as the one that I own: a stately home set in beautiful gardens. Every stately home in the United Kingdom is obviously completely different. A few years ago, my home, Manderston, won the AA's bronze award. That award covered the whole of the UK. My family and staff were justifiably proud of this honour. Yet we were awarded only three stars under the VisitScotland quality assurance scheme against a possible maximum of five. I feel sure that that may in part be because we did not have a public convenience located around every corner.

As I have already mentioned, funding for VisitScotland comes directly from the Scottish Executive. However, a proportion of VisitBritain's funding is spent on marketing Scotland overseas and VisitBritain is, of course, accountable to Westminster. Since the merger of the former BTA and the former ETC, there could now well be advantages to Scottish tourism, for example, and benefits from the overseas infrastructure of VisitBritain and its expertise in emerging markets.

Many of us who live in Scotland and are involved in the tourism industry are concerned about the possibility of attention being focused on the marketing of England to the detriment of Scotland. I do hope that the Minister will be able to give his assurance to us today that Scotland will not be disadvantaged by the merger of the former BTA and ETC into VisitBritain and that Her Majesty's Government will continue actively to support the important activities of VisitBritain, which I believe, in turn, must do all it can to help to promote the UK as a number-one tourist attraction.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Harrison

My Lords, as Hamlet himself might have said, contemplating the current plight of the tourism industry, When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions": BSE, 9/11, FMD, WMD in Iraq and SARS—a veritable arsenal of acronyms which would blow up any industry other than tourism.

I give just one example of the industry's travails. ABTA tells us that the annual pace of business failures among its membership has risen by 109 per cent, with a further 17 travel agents and four tour operators having gone under since last September. But they and the tourism industry as a whole are a resilient lot and will bounce back.

One of the four lessons for the Government in their aim to help the industry to recover at a macroeconomic level is this: they must put in place contingency plans for tourism, much in the same way as they do now for farming and civil defence. Tourism is too important to be left to the vagaries of its next threat. Will my noble friend undertake to consider such emergency planning for tourism? I believe that we should contemplate it.

Secondly, government must recognise that tourism is now a much more important industry than agriculture for the British Exchequer and that it reflects better the British way of life. Even the CLA concedes that rural tourism alone is worth £16 billion to the Treasury. It is time that British farmers conformed to the same demands of the market place as fall on tourism entrepreneurs in our towns and countryside. Better still, the two industries should work together for the benefit of all.

Thirdly, the Government should embed the needs of the tourism industry in all their policy development and strategic objectives. Let us take the example of employment. Not only does tourism currently represent 7 per cent of Britain's workforce but it will provide even more jobs in the future, especially for women, ethnic minorities and school-leavers. Let us think about it, my Lords. Most of us took our first job as youngsters in the tourism or hospitality industry. We should count ourselves lucky that tourism provided the first footing on the employment ladder for so many of us.

Fourthly, we should join the euro. Tourism is the industry that most stands to benefit from such a move. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Patten, should be reminded that the NFU also supports euro entry.

But, lest I give the impression that hitherto the Government have treated tourism as if it were a foreign country, perhaps I may congratulate them on recent positive microeconomic measures and suggest some more. Incidentally, the restyling of the BTA/ETC as VisitBritain, with its additional powers to market England, is both rational and welcome.

The Government's £20 million grant, matched by the private sector, for a recovery campaign in overseas markets, post-FMD and 9/11, is very sensible, as is the £10 million for the Enjoy England and European cities short break campaigns. I also commend the campaign in the USA to revitalise that market. After Iraq, we may hope for good support from our American allies. We want them, as visitors to Europe, to overstay in Britain and to be, indeed, overpaid and over here.

But we can do more. The Government helped the industry through bad times by granting PAYE and VAT payment holidays for tourist firms in trouble. I ask the Minister whether those could be extended? Of all the industries, surely tourism is the one that deserves tax breaks and payment holidays. In the last Budget, the Government quelled the fears of the tourism industry that the air passenger duty tax might be increased. It was not. But how much better if it were abolished altogether. The £1 billion it raises for the Exchequer is, in effect, a tax on tourists coming to—yes—visit Britain. Moreover, by reducing VAT on accommodation nearer to the EU average of 8.5 per cent, we could provide real value for money for such visitors to Britain.

Could the Government recognise more athletically not only the importance of sports tourism, so beloved of my colleague, my noble friend Lord Pendry, whom we congratulate on tabling this important debate tonight, but also the demands of business tourism? Help with the establishment, for example, of additional major international conference facilities in London and Cardiff would be a good start, but help for market towns such as Chester would also strengthen our ability to capture the valuable business market. In Chester we have an amphitheatre but not one large enough to entertain the legions of business tourists who would otherwise beat a path to Britain's best Roman and mediaeval city.

And, à propos Britain's historic market towns—sequins in the tapestry of Britain's countryside—will the Minister support the excellent English Heritage campaign which seeks to equate VAT on all new build and repairs and maintenance to older buildings? Pevsner would turn in his grave now to discover that current VAT rules provide a perverse incentive to neglect the maintenance of such buildings and make otherwise unnecessary alterations to our built heritage.

Britain's churches rightly enjoy a temporary exemption from these mad economics, while the sixth VAT directive is being remodelled in Brussels. But, in the meantime, can the Government help the others? In the presence of the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of London and Truro, perhaps I may also suggest that tourism and the churches have a common cause in increasing visitor numbers. Carefully done, might our churches seek to develop their potential, doubling up as tourist information centres? After all, those who pay to stay may also then stay to pray.

But the tourism industry must also help itself. On a recent family holiday in England, staying at a sizeable modern hotel which had been built without a lift for hotel customers, we were appalled to see a disabled tourist having to be carried up and down the stairs by staff and friends alike. We badly need to encourage initiatives such as my own Cheshire County Council's "Tourism for All", which allows prospective visitors to gain on-line information about disabled-friendly hotels and attractions, thereby avoiding the indignities offered to the less physically able to which we were sad witnesses.

On the other hand, I give an example of a good initiative which we discovered at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Norwich. There, management had had the gumption to allow an enlightened manageress to purchase oil paintings and watercolours commissioned from local artists to bedeck the hotel's public rooms and bedrooms. This second school of Norwich painting, successors to Crome and Cotman, stood in marked contrast to the dull prints which all too often adorn even the most expensive hotels' corridors. That was a local initiative which added local colour and made it a memorable holiday for me and my family.

In conclusion, I should be grateful if the Minister could respond at the end of the debate or in writing to the several economic suggestions that I have made to help—I hope—tourism to bounce back to full and rude health.

6.50 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Truro

My Lords, I have the privilege and pleasure to work in what is without doubt one of the most beautiful parts of this country, and among the most visited by tourists. With the opening of the new National Maritime Museum in Falmouth as well as the Tate St Ives and of course the extraordinary Eden Project, which last year brought £111 million into Cornwall and, we are assured in a decade will bring in £2 billion, there is now an enormous growth in tourism in Cornwall, not only numerically but in the variety of attractions and interests offered. There is no doubt either that Cornwall has benefited from the changing patterns in the taking of holidays and that we have holidaymakers all year round rather than just in the summer months.

All that is welcome, but there are real difficulties. Here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patten. The first is the future pattern of agriculture and its place in Cornish life. Seventy-seven per cent of the Cornish landmass is agricultural land and, as most Members of this House will know, the pattern of agriculture there is very particular; indeed, unique. The fields are almost all small—sixteen acres is the average size—and they are surrounded by what are called euphemistically "Cornish hedges" which are made from a mixture of stone walls and earth. The roads that wind between them are almost all narrow, so much so that when I was recently taking round a Swedish bishop he asked in bewilderment whether we always drive in ditches in Cornwall.

All this adds to the Cornish experience and no doubt is one of the reasons that people come to Cornwall. But the whole point is that Cornish agriculture is becoming more and more threatened. Small farms are being swallowed up and very often surplus farmhouses are quickly snapped up as second homes. Needless to say, local people do not get a look in because, despite the flourishing and diversifying tourist industry, Cornwall remains, we need to remember, the poorest county in England with significantly the lowest pay in the South West. Indeed, North Cornwall has recently been shown to be the most poorly paid part of England receiving £100 per week less than the national average.

One of the problems about being a tourist area is that many of the jobs are poorly paid and despite the changing patterns of tourism, people feel that they are left out and being neglected. It remains the case that changing patterns have meant that the traditional Cornish industries of farming, fishing and mining, three ways-of-life industries which for many people are the reason they visit Cornwall, are fast disappearing.

Tourism is a vital industry for all of us but there are important questions about the way it has affected Cornish life and how we can protect Cornish life and strengthen it so that tourists can continue to come and be refreshed by an experience of Cornwall which is both different and distinctive. Here, I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Patten. We stand a real risk of being overwhelmed and losing the most precious thing we have to offer in the field of tourism. I hope very much that the Minister can help us to see how we can deal with the particular problem with which we are faced. Finally, I ask that noble Lords on their next holiday come to Cornwall. Forget Devon and join us.

6.55 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. I am particularly pleased to speak in tonight's debate. Over the past six years I have spoken in three or four debates on tourism and have become somewhat paranoid because I have presented views which have left me feeling rather alone. I am now on the side of the angels because a number of the points I made in those past debates, which made my contribution seem contentious, have been supported by no other than the Minister for Tourism, Dr Kim Howells.

When thinking about this debate during the Recess I was interested to read in the Independent a very full coverage of the views of Dr Howells. Having disagreed almost entirely with all his views on the Licensing Bill, they were a great relief to me. I find it hard to reconcile what I thought would be his views towards tourism as a result of his views on the Licensing Bill with some of the things he has now said.

I have always said that in this country we have an unparalleled range of attractions to offer our visitors. The only problem is that we have never sold them properly. I avoid the word "marketing". The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, mentioned marketing. In a way, we have over-marketed tourism in this country and relied too much on it. I compare it with something about which I do know, which is the preparation of feature films, their marketing and their sale. With feature films you have to develop the product until you have something which you decide is right for the market at which you are aiming. You then market it and sell it. The important part is getting the product right. Too often we have marketed tourism in a way which has been very good but has become separated from the nature of the product and the value of that product to customers as the customers changes. That is one of the problems in tourism today.

Dr Howells asks, "Why can't we be more like the Germans?". There seems to be a curious pro-German sentiment going through the Department of Trade—a Freudian slip—the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, entirely due to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean. Indeed, Tessa Jowell praised the Germans for the way in which they treat the arts. We now have Dr Howells praising the Germans for the way they operate as tourists, with which I agree. The Germans spend much time travelling in Germany as well as travelling abroad, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, but so do the French, the Italians and the Spanish. That is quite normal. However, most of those countries have six weeks or more of holiday per year, which makes a difference. The average holiday in this country, particularly among people who tend to go on package tours, is very seldom more than four weeks and often less. That makes it very difficult. Most people want to go to the sun; I do not know why. After all, we have global warming. The sun is very bad for us. The English countryside and the English weather go very well together and form a perfect backdrop to the excellent heritage sites that we have on offer.

The untouched beauties of the British countryside are there for all to see. During the Easter Recess I travelled not far from London along the South Downs because I am keen on racing, though not as keen as I used to be. I tend to go by motor transport through the lanes and byways. Taking a line from Cheltenham to Bath, Salisbury and Newbury down to Brighton, you will pass through some of the most beautiful country in England, although people are somewhat sniffy about the Home Counties. You will still find the most beautiful villages, towns and countryside almost untouched by tourism.

I was amazed, during that fine weather, at the beautiful little villages between Farnham and Guildford, beautifully kept, which seemed to be completely unvisited by tourists. What is happening is that our own people are not visiting these places. Foreign visitors visit these places only if they are adventurous and go under their own steam and, as it were, go on a kind of adventure holiday to find out the hidden secrets.

The Minister, Dr Howells, quite rightly says that we must tempt more Britons to stay at home and visit their own country rather than go abroad. That is more easily said than done. Apart from the weather, which I have just mentioned, it is a curious characteristic—and I noticed it again on my visits during the Easter period—that our own compatriots tend not to go, unless there is a very good reason, off the major roads and byways. One often sees people in England eating sandwiches in their cars close to a major road or motorway. In France or Italy, one sees people in the depth of a forest with a small table and camp chairs and a delicious meal which they have prepared and taken with them. This is a cultural difference. It is not something which Dr Howells, or anyone else, will change very quickly; although, I admire his sentiments in desiring that to happen.

I understand that Dr Howells has already put £4 million into an effort to persuade people to visit our own countryside and our attractions. A great deal more than that will be needed to change those cultural habits, but I praise him for that effort. It is important to develop our home tourism so that we can find out what is wrong with it in order to attract foreign tourists here, not only to visit our attractions once but to return again and again. Currently, that does not happen. We know the reasons why. I do not have the time, nor do I wish to go into the obvious reasons; the difficulties of travel, the high prices in restaurants and the high prices of hotels, which I have mentioned in previous debates. We have not got to grips with these problems.

Apart from the Michelin Guide, there is not a decent reliable guide in this country that I can find. There are various guides with reliable parts. But we have nothing to compare with guides that are available in other European countries, which tell people where to find good value, how to get to these places and what to look for. We have already had a debate in this House about websites in Britain. They are ludicrous. I drew your Lordships' attention to one website. Its first remarks were, "Don't come to this place. The traffic is so awful. Go somewhere else". Unless we change our mentality regarding attracting customers and selling what we have, we shall be in difficulty for some time.

I keep wanting to call Dr Howells "the noble Lord" — perhaps he will end up here. He talks about "gateway packages". I think that is a great idea. He has been accused by some in the travel industry of having crazy ideas about the issues to which I have referred. However, what could be crazier than the Budd committee's idea that the seaside resorts of this country will be resuscitated and restored by putting in casinos. That is madness. We all know what casinos at the lower level do. They are not charming places. They are turning full circle to where in the old entertainment arcades the fruit machine had its birth. If the proposal is carried through, I predict that we shall witness an unattractive and tacky attempt to restore seaside resorts, which—and this is a personal view—will end in disaster. The Departure for Culture, Media and Sport now has about 18 civil servants working on how the Budd report will translate itself into gambling deregulation, attracting tourists and so on. I hope that this proposal will rot on the vine.

Various interesting points have been made and I hope that other debates will follow. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, introduced the important point of the arts. Yesterday I was at the National Gallery where I had a luncheon appointment. I went an hour early. I am one of those people whom, for some reason—perhaps it is because I look English or that I will not knock them over—people tend to ask for directions or for guidance. I get into conversations with people. I am absolutely convinced that there is a large group of people from abroad who come to London expressly to visit the major galleries and museums—the Tate, the National Gallery and so on.

I saw large numbers of people. I talked to a Danish tourist yesterday. It was his second visit. He has come here for a week expressly to visit these major galleries. The National Gallery is a wonder, as is the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate. Today's Evening Standard states that even in New York we are now recognised as being the centre of the arts. So we must recognise that in London we have not only Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards, but we have an unequalled attraction. We must get people over here to visit the cities and to go out into the countryside, as Dr Howells suggests.

My time is running short and I shall not run over it, but I end the debate on a low note. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, mentioned public conveniences. There are none in the places where they are needed. We are an ageing population and we have many ageing tourists. I read in the Independent that in London 24 Portaloos have to be brought in at weekends to satisfy demand in Westminster. I do not know why we have not restored those fine old Victorian public conveniences. It is no wonder that everyone uses the streets, the monuments, the railings and the pavements, with all the distress and problems that that causes. That is just one issue that should be targeted in the cities. We should bring back public conveniences. They are a natural facility that should exist.

This has been an interesting debate. Now that a new tone has been set by the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, I hope that we shall have many more debates so that we can explore many of the ideas that have been raised.

7.6 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, for introducing this important and timely debate.

Tourism is the fifth largest industry in England and the largest industry in Scotland and Wales. It generates about 4.5 per cent of total United Kingdom GDP and ranks seventh in the international tourism league. Furthermore, the multiplier effect indicates that it is not just the industry itself that benefits from tourists visiting the UK; many other service industries, such as shops, restaurants and taxis, rely on the income generated. For every £100 spent in tourism, another £50 goes to other industries. The significance of this industry to our economy can therefore not be ignored. Tourism within this country must be encouraged to grow and prosper.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, said, tourism should be high on the Government's agenda. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to tourism as being a "Whitehall orphan". I must say that when I took on the brief for culture, media and sport, of course first there was no mention of tourism; and, secondly, I thought to myself, why is such a major industry not under the umbrella of the DTI? It certainly is not necessarily Conservative policy that it should be moved to the DTI, but I think that questions should be asked. I know that many people in the tourism industry feel that they are in many ways the poor relation.

I must point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, that it is not the Minister, Kim Howells, but we in this House who are busy on the Bill dealing with Ofcom. He is busy in the Commons turning over all the many good changes that we achieved on the Licensing Bill. An important point that should be made is that it is tough that Ministers—and may I say Shadow Ministers—spend so much time dealing with legislation when there is so much that concerns our various briefs. We should be out there more. How we reconcile the two is hard to achieve.

Regulation of the tourism industry has undergone considerable change in the past five years. In 1999 the Government abolished the English Tourist Board and replaced it with the English Tourism Council, consequently devolving the marketing function to individual regions. We believe that removing the marketing function from the English Tourism Council has been detrimental to the industry's prolonged prosperity. I agree with my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu who said that this led to a fragmentation of efforts. He should know with his in-depth practical experience of the industry. I think we should applaud the noble Lord for having made his first speech on this subject 50 years ago.

The Government announced last year that the English Tourism Council and the British Tourist Authority were to merge to form VisitBritain. That new body is responsible for marketing both England and the UK as tourist destinations. We fear that that merger will result in an internal conflict of interest within the new body, which is charged with the marketing functions of both England and the UK. Approximately 15 percent of British tourism benefits from the activities of specific organisations which promote parts of the UK outside England. Will the Minister clarify what measures the Government have adopted to ensure that the potential internal conflicts of interest faced by VisitBritain will be prevented?

In January this year, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport published a report entitled The Structure and Strategy for Supporting Tourism. The report raised serious concerns about the sustainability and funding of the tourism industry. The primary concern raised was that of recovery following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and September 11th. The committee reiterated our concerns that tourism should be placed high on the agenda and repeated our conclusion that the support structure provided in response to that crisis was grossly inadequate.

In August last year, an article in the Independent claimed that the decision to show a photo of Tony Blair in a yellow protective suit cost Britain approximately £1 billion in lost revenue. The industry cannot afford to tolerate such an unnecessary oversight.

Furthermore, as has already been said, the effects of September 11th continue to impact adversely on the tourism industry. Iraq, and now the SARS virus, bringing additional fears of flying, thereby affecting inbound tourists, have compounded that challenge.

In agreeing with the Select Committee report, we believe that the Government's response to this crisis has been to adopt a laissez faire approach. For such a fragmented industry to survive, a strong and supportive infrastructure is imperative. The Government have systematically failed to provide a sustained increase in investment for tourism for Britain as a whole and, in particular, England.

Scotland and Wales have been granted massive increases in funding from the devolved administrations, while England's grant-in-aid was cut repeatedly prior to the ETC being folded into the BTA. The British Tourist Authority's grant-in-aid has remained static for years with the exception of the "Only in Britain, Only in 2002" campaign last year, which generated an extra 1 million visitors. That kind of extra investment should be placed on a stable footing.

Furthermore, the alarming disparities in the funding of the three tourist boards prior to the establishment of VisitBritain cannot be justified. The Scottish Tourist Board received £19.4 million, the Welsh Tourist Board received £15.4 million but the English Tourism Council received only £11.7 million. Indeed the Select Committee recognised that inconsistency and in comparing the figures stated: These figures leave no doubt that there has been a sustained problem of under-investment by the public sector in tourism that has affected English Tourism in particular. It has long been recognised—in principle—that the special characteristics of tourism and its revenue generating potential justified specific public sector support". The Government have repeatedly talked about sustained, increased investment across the board in the public sector. In the tourism industry, there have been repeated Government reforms without sustained investment and without a successful solution. It is time for the Government to make a commitment to long-term and sustainable growth.

The new body, VisitBritain, on behalf of English tourism, will continue to receive the same level of funding this year as the English Tourism Council. However, £3.6 million will be channelled to regional tourist boards via the regional development agencies. The Government's move to shift the funding for tourism at the regional level through the RDAs is, at best, a mixed blessing. Success now depends on a close working relationship between VisitBritain and the regional tourist boards. At present, that is not always the case.

Now that the new organisation is in place, we must do all we can to support and encourage its development. Although we welcome the aim behind the Government's new structural changes, we have reservations about whether the measures proposed will deliver the improvements for tourism that the Government seek. Key issues will affect the success or otherwise of that new move. Effective distribution of information is essential—that is equally applicable to domestic visitors as to international tourists.

The English Tourism Council and now VisitBritain have ensured that the key tourist information centres have a better support network than ever before. Those information centres are effectively the front line of UK tourism. For example, last year the Britain and London Visitor Centre on Regent's Street dealt with enquiries from more than 500,000 people.

That said, I think that many would agree that it often remains difficult to book a hotel or a package holiday at home. We urge VisitBritain to make an online booking site a priority. Such a resource is urgently needed to boost our domestic industry and encourage the British to holiday in this country.

VisitBritain has arranged a "Royal Tourism Day" on 10th June. The Royal Family will spend the day visiting different parts of the UK to highlight excellence in British tourism. However, I can already hear cries of confusion with people asking: "Why is the website entitled visitengland.com when the new body is called VisitBritain?" We must make it as straightforward as possible for both the domestic market and overseas visitors to enjoy so many of our worthwhile attractions.

The Bradford Industrial Museum provides an excellent example. The museum is based at Moorside Mills in Bradford, which used to process raw wool into best cloth. It is now a flourishing attraction where visitors can experience the sounds and smells of engines that once powered the mills throughout Yorkshire. At the attraction, one can see all the old processes at work, including shire horses. It has also joined with the local authority, the Science Museum, the Heritage Lottery Fund and others to purchase working vintage buses from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s for free vintage bus rides.

Nearby attractions include the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television—its current excellent exhibition, "Fabula", brings together a group of young and emerging artists from the UK, France, Germany, Israel and the United States, and has received great reviews. Both attractions show the potential benefit of having a diverse, original tourism product to regenerate an area that has passed its industrial prime. On the arts, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that the major galleries in London, such as the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, and our museums, such as the British Museum, are definitely attracting visitors.

Visitors to Britain come here for different reasons. I was especially interested in the perspective offered by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London—that our religious buildings act as a magnet, bringing great economic advantage. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, referred to our stately homes. Our historic houses are an enormously important attraction to Britain and focused marketing is therefore key.

Promotion of the many attractions that we offer is key, alongside the provision of tourist information. Our rural communities contain a wealth of attractions, and promotion of them can be achieved in different ways. For example, Britain once had a terrible reputation for food. We now have every reason to proclaim Britain as a nation of food lovers and producers of wonderful, varied food. That translates into promotion for our rural communities, with their wealth of restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Padstow in Cornwall has in recent years been transformed—first by one dynamic and enthusiastic foodie, Rick Stein, and then by others who have taken advantage of his success and opened more restaurants, retail outlets and visitor attractions.

I listened with care to what my noble friend Lord Patten and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro said. Tourism can be a mixed blessing, especially for those who live in the area all the time—the locals. As the right reverend Prelate suggested, there is a risk of being overwhelmed and losing the very thing that we need: tourism. Yes, theme parks can be a turn-off, but in contrast, projects such as the Eden Project in Cornwall should be applauded.

In conclusion, I agree with my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: tourism is one of our few industries capable of making a massive contribution to Britain in so many ways. I am glad that we have had this debate, which has given your Lordships the chance to put pressure on the Government to support this vital resource for our economy.

7.19 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the House is grateful for the opportunity provided by my noble friend Lord Pendry to draw attention to the vital importance of tourism for Britain's economy. I congratulate him on his speech, which raised most of the issues that we must consider, and also on his work on tourism over many years in both Houses, which enables him to bring real insights to the issues from which we have benefited today.

The centrality of a vibrant tourism industry to our national life is something to which my noble friend first drew attention in Breaking New Ground, a document that formed the Government's view on tourism and led to the publication of our first ever tourism strategy, Tomorrow's Tourism, in February 1999. The House will recognise that his commitment to the industry is matched by that of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, who exceeds him in longevity in the field. We recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, has had expertise of these topics for a long time. We are extremely grateful to two powerful speakers for launching the debate.

There is no doubting the huge role that tourism plays, not only in the economic life of this country, but also in its social and cultural life. Britain is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world. In 2001, tourism contributed £74 billion to the national economy. There are 2.1 million people directly employed in tourism—around 7 per cent of employees in Great Britain. Since 1992, tourism has been responsible for one in six new jobs. That subject formed the burden of the remarks of my noble friend Lady Dean, who indicated how crucial the industry was to the economy.

I note the noble Baroness's suggestion that it might be beneficial and more accurate to locate responsibility for tourism in the Department of Trade and Industry. On this occasion, I shall resist that suggestion and stay loyal to the department that I represent today. We believe that we are meeting the challenges of tourism. I recognise that the challenges are acute—not just that tourism is a significant part of the economy, but that it is predominantly arranged in small components and small industrial enterprises mostly thought to be given effective government support. That is why some issues of tourism support are perhaps more difficult than those in any other industry that runs into crisis.

The tourism sector is most prone to crises that are difficult to forecast or to respond to in the short term. Several noble Lords reflected on the devastating year of 2001 when foot and mouth disease caused enormous damage to our agriculture. But we all recognised when those points were made that the outbreak had a similarly devastating effect on our tourism industry. Much of our attractive countryside was out of bounds to visitors during that period.

September 11th matched and outweighed the previous crisis affecting travel from the United States—the Lockerbie bombing. The travelling public in the United States are unusually sensitive to the threat of outrageous acts causing death and destruction. Although such acts may dominate the media for a relatively short period, unfortunately their reverberations in the tourism industry can continue for years afterwards. It took us many years to recover our trade from the United States after Lockerbie.

We are still sustaining the effect of the devastating anxieties produced in American society as a result of September 11th. Inevitably, the war in Iraq contributes to that aspect. Although the medical profession will identify that the present threat of SARS in this country looks very muted, and although the outbreak of that frightening disease will probably cause limited numbers of deaths across the globe, the uncertainty of the situation and its impact will mostly affect tourism. We pay the price, even though objectively the risk involved may be limited. That is the nature of the tourism industry.

I say to my noble friend Lord Harrison that we have sought to learn lessons from such disasters. They are not easily overcome. It is not easy to rebuild confidence after it has been shattered through events over which none of us has any control. I assure him and the House that the tourism industry emergency response group set up after the September 11th horror has made detailed contingency arrangements to respond quickly to any challenges that the industry might face in future. That does not mean that the response can always be dramatically and immediately successful. But I assure the House that we recognise the importance of having machinery to try to absorb the shocks of such unforeseen events.

It is vital that we market England to the domestic audience, which, after all, is our largest and most robust market. Secondly, it is important to establish a single voice for the industry, which we have now created. It is important that the industry can respond quickly to such events and make the most of new opportunities as they arise.

Following the creation of the tourism alliance in September 2002, the Government and industry developed the million visitor marketing campaign. That unprecedented partnership contributed to recovery compared to the same period in the difficult year of 2001. An additional 1.64 million visits to the UK were made in 2002. It also provided a model for the long-term future of Britain's tourism industry.

We have built on that model with an ambitious plan for a new framework for tourism. The main elements are the launch on 1st April of VisitBritain, as several noble Lords recognised, which is a lead body combining the strength and skills of the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council. Its remit is to promote inbound tourism and to market English tourism to a domestic audience. There will be an increased role for regional development agencies in England in providing strategic leadership for tourism. In addition, there will be a closer engagement of private industry in partnerships at all levels and proactive industry sponsorship by the DCMS.

We are concerned that initiatives to improve skills and training should continue. There should also be a fresh look at accommodation quality assurance schemes. I accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that we might also consider the creation of a web site to market effective accommodation. There is no doubt that, in the more distant past, British tourism suffered from a general reputation of having a less-than-successful strategy for ensuring that accommodation was up to standard. Improvements, which are appreciated in many parts, have taken place in recent years. But we must communicate that effectively and improve our marketing in that regard.

The benefits of the new structures of VisitBritain will ensure that England receives an excellent marketing service, co-ordinated at national and regional level to remove duplication and to make the most of the collective effort of all sectors promoting tourism here. The tourism industry in England will now have a single point of contact at national level for the promotion of England at home and overseas, and for information about tourism in England and the rest of Britain. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, advocated powerfully the case for Scotland. I emphasise that Scotland's case is duly recognised. VisitBritain's role in promoting the whole of Britain overseas is not affected by its new remit to market England domestically. VisitBritain will, of course, be the focal point for ensuring that we tap into and continue to expand the market for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland for visitors from overseas. It will ensure that strong and separate brand identities for England, Scotland and Wales are retained and developed, while encouraging a more coherent marketing agenda throughout Britain.

A good deal of support, spending and promotion for the development of the tourism industry has always been done at regional level. In the regions of England, DCMS has devolved responsibility for the delivery of tourism strategies to the regional development agencies, with the aim of embedding tourism deeply into regional economic development strategy and to ensure that policy and product development is relevant and deliverable. That is essential because, as several speakers emphasised, different parts of the country have different selling points, different attractions and different support needs.

I recognise the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro, which was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that tourism may not be an unalloyed boon to a particular area. There should always be a balance between, on the one hand, the needs of local communities and the people who live there and, on the other, the needs of the tourists. It is important that we recognise that particular parts of the country can suffer dreadful privations from the onslaught of tourists in certain months of the year. Cornwall stands out as an example of that, although it is also true that the economy of Cornwall is crucially dependent on successful tourism, given the limited economic opportunities in the county. A balance must be struck, and the marketing must be effective.

The Government are aware that approximately 70 per cent of in-bound visitors to the UK come through London. The value of tourism must be spread throughout the regions, and that is one of the Government's key priorities. We recognise and take pride in the enormous range of attractions with which London presents the visitor. We are well aware that, when we market the delights of Britain abroad, London is bound to feature hugely. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for emphasising that fact this evening. It is also the case, of course, that we want London to be the gateway for tourists to enjoy other parts of Britain, rather than being the sole port of call before they move on to another capital offering similar but lesser delights. The country of Britain can offer a different experience to that offered by London, and it can be greatly rewarding.

The private sector will play a key role in the new arrangements, helping to set the marketing agenda. It will work in co-ordination with Visit. Britain to promote a coherent message about what the nations and regions of Britain have to offer. There will be campaigns funded jointly by industry, regional and local government and VisitBritain. We see so much duplication of effort and so many mixed messages. The trick is to get industry, regional government and VisitBritain to make a concerted effort to get the most for Britain, the tourism industry and the wider economy.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, mentioned the level of direct government funding to the industry. He was slightly more generous than his Front Bench colleague in recognising the contribution made by government funding. To the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, who put her comments about government funding in a more astringent and critical form, I say that, of course, we would like to see more money spent. The noble Baroness will recognise that we are committed to spending £10 million more on tourism. DCMS provides £50 million of direct government funding a year, and, on top of that, the Government pledge hundreds of millions of pounds in support of the arts, sports and galleries, which, as noble Lords recognised, are of benefit to tourism. I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, who was most emphatic about the importance of our national museums and art galleries to our appeal to tourists.

I take the noble Baroness's criticism in the spirit in which it is intended—as an attempt to increase the budget for my department. I look forward to its being reflected in the Chancellor's distribution next year. However, I counsel the House to recognise that, although it is easy for the Opposition to call for more money to be spent, it is more difficult for them to square that with their commitment to a 20 per cent reduction in overall public support for all aspects of British national life. I leave the noble Baroness to wrestle with that issue on another occasion.

As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London stressed, churches and cathedrals are a vital part of our cultural heritage. A Force for Our Future, published in December 2001, recognised the important links between tourism and heritage sites. Westminster Abbey is one of London's premier attractions as well as being a UNESCO world heritage site. I recognise the point that the right reverend Prelate made about the costs borne by the Church authorities that are not related to the purpose for which the churches are there but are occasioned by the use to which tourists put the buildings. I assure the right reverend Prelate that the department intends to meet the Church Commissioners and members of the Archbishops' Council this summer to discuss a broad sweep of issues relating to ecclesiastical heritage. I have not the slightest doubt that, at those meetings, the right reverend Prelate's voice will be appropriately and significantly heard.

We must increase the productivity and competitiveness of the tourism industry. We are aware of the success of some aspects of the German tourism industry, to which reference has been made. There is room for improvement in the way in which we organise some of our facilities in the United Kingdom. That is why we are concerned to have a proactive tourism industry sponsorship agenda, aimed at improving the effectiveness of the industry. The aim is to develop a competitive and sustainable tourism industry. We must enhance the skills of our people in that respect, but we should not sell ourselves short. For instance, we should recognise that, although the French are good at emphasising that they are the culinary leaders of the world, lists of top restaurants show that the greatest concentration is in the United Kingdom. We should not get caught up in age-old stereotypes about success, and we should pay due regard to what we have in this country. We should enhance our skill levels, our performance and what we offer tourists. We should blow our own trumpet more vigorously than in the recent past.

Reference has been made to Lord Kim and Mr Kim: Dr Kim Howells is the Minister for Tourism in the Commons. Of course he is busy with legislation; all Ministers lead a busy life. However, Ministers are aware that legislation is one dimension of the job and that the work they do outside Parliament is another. Dr Howells is extremely vigorous in promoting tourism. Only last week, he launched the campaign to market England—"Enjoy England"—with the help of television advertisements. It is the first time for a long time that there have been advertisements on television specifically directed towards marketing England. I have no doubt that they will have a beneficial effect. The campaign that my honourable friend has launched is a unique partnership with a value of approximately £4 million and brings together, for the first time, regional development agencies, VisitBritain and the private sector. I have not the slightest doubt that that campaign will bring considerable benefits.

In this respect, I emphasise that there are a whole range of issues on which we focused today in a somewhat critical vein. But there are areas on which we should congratulate ourselves for making progress. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, emphasised that there are areas of Britain, in terms of attractiveness, to which we have not paid significant regard in the past. I welcome his contribution and that of my noble friend, Lord Pendry, that we need to look at the issue of resorts and the way in which we can enhance their attractiveness so that more people stay at home to enjoy the benefits of Britain.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, raised his concerns about the issue of casinos and whether they would bring benefits to seaside resorts. I am not sure that he would say that if he were in Monaco now, nor am I suggesting that we could—or would even want to—replicate that level of casino industry here. But there are a number of our seaside resorts which would not mind just a tiny fraction of the resources which come within that framework, which is almost totally based on casinos. Therefore, I am not prepared to accept that criticism too fully.

In conclusion, I want to emphasise that we live in a country which is uniquely well placed to attract tourists and we attract them in very large numbers. Of course, we could do better. But we all recognise that we have historic cities, beautiful countryside, great stately homes, a wonderful coastline, internationally renowned sporting events and facilities, world-class museums and galleries. They all need to be marketed to people who would benefit enormously from visiting this country and taking advantage of what it has to offer. Very few countries can compare with the range which we have to offer.

I recognise that there are areas in which we can do better. However, I have not the slightest doubt that the VisitBritain campaign, which is setting out in a co-ordinated way to market the glories of this country for the benefit of potential visitors—of course, in the long term to the benefit of ourselves too—will be successful. It is on that basis that I conclude this debate on an optimistic note.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Pendry

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who took part in this debate and made a real contribution by advancing positive ways to improve the position of tourism and hospitality in the United Kingdom. I enjoyed the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. However, I must chide him that, as president of the Broadstairs Society, it took me, a lay member of that society, to praise the seaside resort of Broadstairs, where I was born. Perhaps it was right that I should do that and not necessarily the noble Lord.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, always makes a powerful speech on tourism and he did so again today. I thank him for his recognition of the importance of the document that I wrote entitled Breaking New Ground and, in particular, his comment that it was not heavily party political. I am sure that he says that with real conviction because the Liberal Democrats pinched much of it.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London raised an interesting aspect of the link between religion and tourism. It is one that I have not heard in parliamentary debates in the past, but I hope that it will not be the last time. My noble friend Lady Dean made a very thoughtful speech, as one always expects of her. I would argue with her on one aspect, although I agree with her that tourism is too lowly down the Whitehall chain. I disagree that it should be with the Department of Trade and Industry. I shall not go into it now but my noble friend knows that I believe that there should be a new department for sport and tourism which would link together well.

I do not know about the noble Lord, Lord Patten, but I am not so sure that I have completely recovered from those late-night sittings in another place in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, he seems to be fit and well. Some of the points he made about the rural economy and the National Trust are interesting. Many of his comments were controversial and I would not entirely agree. But he made his speech with his usual charisma and style—and that is as far as I shall go.

The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, made a powerful plea for Scottish tourism, too, praise the role of VisitScotland and I concur with what is being done. I am sure that it will hear what he said. I have listened to my noble friend Lord Harrison on many occasions—for example, when he was an MEP—battling away for tourism. Tonight is no exception and I am sure that the House will hear him on many occasions.

I shall pass on the kind words of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, to the Minister for Tourism. I am sure that he will appreciate the rather preferable remarks from that direction than came from the noble Lord, Lord McNally. However, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was just having a little "Lord McNally". It is true that I mentioned marketing, but when the noble Lord reads the Official Report tomorrow he will find that I said that it was not the complete answer. I think that he implied that I thought that it was rather more important than I said.

What can I say about the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe? I am a great admirer of her on the Front Bench. She does a tremendous job and I shall not go into the issues with which I disagree. But there was so much that she said which agreed with my speech that I could hardly have a real go at her. Therefore, I shall not be over-critical. Many of her comments were thoughtful and helpful. As chairman of the all-party sports group, one of its great achievements is that we find we have much more in common than not. Some of that has come though in this debate.

Finally, I thank the Minister for his helpful speech. I am confident that he will ensure that his department takes note of the issues raised in this debate. It is to be hoped that the department will consider and act upon those matters which have been made in such a constructive way. Although there was not a packed Chamber to listen to the words of wisdom from noble Lords, I believe that those in the tourism world will know that there are a number of people in this House who are their friends and are prepared to fight their corner from time to time.

With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.