§ Mr. Ward
asked the Minister for Trade if he will make a further statement regarding the way in which his new policy on section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act grants will be made.
§ Mr. Sproat
On 28 June 1982 my right hon. and noble Friend announced that the Government had decided that 787W from 1 August support for tourism projects under section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 would no longer be confined to assisted areas and that suitable projects throughout the country would become eligible for this selective aid. In considering the detailed arrangements my main concern has been to ensure that the limited funds available can be used in the most effective way to help generate additional tourism wherever the best prospects for this exist. Tourism, already a major industry in this country, is also one of our most promising growth sectors. While most of the investment required to develop that potential fully will naturally continue to be provided by the private sector, this assistance scheme will now be able to play a valuable pump priming role over a wider area, and the necessary selectivity involved will be directly related to tourism needs.
With these considerations in mind, although all types of tourism project throughout England will be eligible for assistance, preference in the first instance will be given to certain types of project as follows. For hotel and guest house accommodation the emphasis will be on encouraging projects involving the upgrading of existing accommodation, rather than on new developments or expansion of bedroom capacity. In some resorts, for example, there is a pressing need to bring standards up to the level expected by tourists in the 1980s. Priority will also be given to projects designed to extend the tourism season; and to projects to improve visitor facilities at important tourist attractions. I stress that guidelines do not rule out assistance to good projects of other types and I will keep under review the way these new arrangements operate.
The selective nature of the scheme naturally means that not all eligible applications can be successful. As before, applicants will need to demonstrate that their projects are viable and that there is a need for help from public funds. Where assistance is given it will be limited to the minimum amount considered necessary to enable the project to proceed, thus ensuring that the maximum number of projects can be helped from the available funds.
The scheme will be operated by the English Tourist Board with the assistance of the 12 regional tourist boards.
I believe that these new arrangements for the wider application of this tourism assistance scheme represent a major step forward in relating Government aid to the needs of this very important service industry.