Northern Ireland (Tourism)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th December 1972.

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10.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I beg to move, That the Development of Tourist Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved. The order before the House tonight seeks to provide constructively for the build-up of Northern Ireland's tourist industry. As in most countries, tourism is an industry which has developed steadily since the war, and dramatically in the last decade or so. Substantial progress had been made in Northern Ireland until 1969 when a downturn began to appear reflecting the emerging troubles. At the time of the prorogation of Stormont a Bill had been prepared and was about to be published to extend the duration of an existing system of hotel grants and to extend and define the powers of local authorities, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, and the Ministry of Commerce in order to match the increasing pace of tourist activity and organisational change such as the reorganisation of local government.

Most people are agreed that Ireland has great potential as a major holiday centre, and once normal conditions return the industry will undoubtedly find its customers returning, both old and new. Although the timing of this piece of legislation may strike the casual observer oddly if he allows his attention to be monopolised by the present strife, I believe it is right and responsible for the Government now to come forward with these constructive proposals for an industry which has made a large contribution in the past, and which will undoubtedly make an even larger one in the future.

The order principally does three things: first it extends, with some alteration, a scheme of hotel grants which has operated since 1963. The final date for applications under the former scheme was the 4th October 1971. In fact, as I shall come to later, the order would allow the retrospective granting of applications for grants following that date. Second, the order before the House gives the Minis- try of Commerce powers to promote and manage tourist amenities and to give grants to local authorities for the maintenance of tourist amenities. Finally, it extends the powers and duties of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and local authorities, in relation to their promotion and general encouragement of tourism in Northern Ireland.

The original scheme of capital grants for hotels was introduced under the Development of Tourist Traffic (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 1963. This provided for the Ministry of Commerce to make grants of up to 25 per cent. of the cost of improvements to existing hotels, guest houses and boarding houses or of capital expenditure incurred in the provision of new hotels and accommodation. In 1966 this scheme was extended without amendment for a further two years; in 1968 it was continued for a further three-year period and the maximum rate of grant was raised from 25 per cent. to 33⅓ per cent.

The continuing aim of the scheme has been to raise both the number of beds available and the general standard of the industry's accommodation throughout Northern Ireland. Grants have therefore been confined to premises which are registered with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and which provide overnight accommodation. Non-residential restaurants, cafés and public houses have not been eligible for grant assistance.

Since the introduction of the first scheme in 1963 applications have been received from 600 establishments; offers of grant totalling £3,800,000 have been made and the remaining schemes which are still under consideration would attract grant of £3,200,000 if all were approved. In total these projects include the provision of an additional 4,000 bedrooms, 540 bathrooms and 2,600 additional private bathrooms. Much has therefore been accomplished, but there still remains a lot to be done.

Obviously—and it would be surprising if it were otherwise—ground has been lost as a result of the troubles and accommodation has been destroyed or damaged as a result, as we have all sadly seen. Hotels have in the past been a target for the bomber, but it would be wrong to exaggerate the success of this particular terror campaign. As someone who spends a large part of his life in hotels in Northern Ireland, I can assure the House that very many fine hotels are still in business.

The order provides for a flexible scheme of grants related to the capital works of construction, extension, modernisation or improvements of hotels, guest houses and boarding houses registered by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. As before, non-residential premises will be excluded from the scope of the scheme. The Ministry will set out full details of the precise types of works which will be considered for grant in an explanatory leaflet for the information of applicants. The details will not differ materially from the conditions under the 1963 regulations, but it is not thought desirable to describe them in the order. This ensures the necessary flexibility.

Rates of grant are also not stated in the order but the intention is to provide a three-tier system of grants with rates of 20 per cent. in the Belfast urban area, 25 per cent. in the Belfast region—that is the area within easy reach of Belfast—and 35 per cent. in the rest of Northern Ireland. This is a departure from the previous grant schemes, where a uniform rate of grant, latterly at 33⅓ per cent., applied throughout Northern Ireland.

While there is still a need for further development in the Belfast area which should attract grant assistance, we have nevertheless thought it right that the highest rate should be allocated to the country districts and areas outside the centre, where inevitably it is difficult to attract development and employment-generating enterprises. It is intended that grants will be available in respect of approved capital expenditure incurred since 4th October 1971, which was the closing date for applications under the old scheme.

Those are the most important provisions of the order but there are other aspects to which I should like to refer. The order will also permit the Ministry of Commerce itself to carry out tourist-orientated projects or to provide tourist amenities. In this sense, it is taking new powers, which largely lay with local authorities, and therefore it has also been considered right for the new district councils, which will succeed the old local authorities when the reorganisation becomes a fact, to retain the existing powers of local authorities.

The order also deals with the aspect of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the board, which had been increasingly successful in popularising Northern Ire-land until the troubles began to work against its efforts. The board will now be able to develop sites and to construct premises which have a contribution to make to the tourist facilities on offer to visitors. It is not the intention of the board to enter into the operation of developments of this kind, but it will have power to act as a trail blazer where appropriate in the development of the kind of facilities which market surveys have demonstrated to be needed. That is one aspect that I thought I should touch on.

There is a further provision in the order which will enable the Ministry of Commerce or a local authority to transfer a tourist amenity or land acquired for tourist development purposes to the National Trust. Every transfer of this kind will be subject to the consent of the Ministry of Finance for Northern Ireland, and I should make that clear. The power will enable the Ministry of Commerce or a local authority to cooperate in what I believe will be a practical manner with the National Trust in the occasional provision by the Trust of a project with a worthwhile tourist content. This also is an important provision.

My purpose in introducing the order is not to be lengthy, because I expect hon. Members with interests in the tourism potential of Northern Ireland will wish to raise issues. But I emphasise that we are here concerned with the means for continuing the development of an industry which even now currently employs about 20,000 people and which earned over £28 million from visitors to Northern Ireland in 1968. So this is not small stuff.

One is well aware of the apparent incongruity of talking now about increasing tourism in Northern Ireland. The man in the street is sadly aware of the destructive elements that have been at work and which have to some extent, but not totally, succeeded in blighting Ireland's image and tourist potential. I am convinced that there will be rapid recovery of the lost ground, and that there will be new achievements in tourist activities in Ireland once a peaceful settlement is reached. Government at all levels, the Tourist Board, and the industry itself must be ready to respond to future progress. The opportunity now exists to take stock and to prepare for future plans. It would be foolish to let that opportunity to slip by. It is for these reasons that I commend the order to the House.

10.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

It would appear that the Northern Ireland syndrome is meeting once again this evening—the small selective group who meet to discuss the important orders affecting Northern Ireland. This is the eighteenth order to be made under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, and the twenty-first piece of legislation to be considered by the House since direct rule. That is a considerable amount of legislation and it illustrates the speedy consideration of political solutions to return to Northern Ireland some of the facilities which it has had in the past. The order is non-controversial; nevertheless, we cannot amend it in any way. We have to accept it as it is introduced to the House.

As the Minister said, this may be a bizarre subject to discuss with the present political and military situation in Northern Ireland. It would be easy to make sick jokes about it. But we are all aware that when conditions return to normal tourism will be a vital factor in Northern Ireland's economy.

It is not only Northern Ireland that has suffered from the reduction in tourism since 1969. The Republic has suffered a 46 per cent. reduction in tourism during the last 12 months. It is therefore in the interests of all the people of Ireland that normal conditions return as quickly as possible.

The order has been welcomed by the Tourist Board and the Opposition have no hesitation in welcoming it. The measures are modest but costly, and are in the general interests of the tourist industry.

During 1968, the peak year, it is estimated that visitors from all sources brought about £28 million into the revenue and over 1 million people visited Northern Ireland, spending about £35 million. Those figures have been dramatically reduced in recent times. For instance, the number of beds available has been reduced by about 30 per cent. because of the bombing activities.

Article 3(1) is the key article. The new hotels grant scheme will be on a three-tier basis. I welcome this, because it will help a number of areas. For example, the area of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will be assisted considerably, as will the areas west of the River Bann, where there will be need for fresh development in the very near future.

There is not a large increase in the differentials, but they are important. I notice that it is intended that there should be a possibility of a 5 per cent. grant above the top rate for particularly worthwhile projects. We should welcome clarification of the type of project that might attract that level of assistance.

Article 3(1) provides that there may be repayment of the grant in specified circumstances". Perhaps the Minister will tell us in what sort of circumstances that provision will apply.

Article 11 provides that money will be appropriated to meet the expenditure provided for by Articles 3 and 8. What sum is it estimated will be spent under those provisions in the financial year 1972–73? Has it been provided for in one of the three appropriation orders previously brought before the House?

We know from experience that there has been co-operation between the Republic and Northern Ireland in regard to tourism, particularly at a senior level. Anybody who has talked to the tourist people in the Republic and in Northern Ireland knows their anxiety to co-operate. The very way in which maps are printed and published in Ireland shows that there is no attempt to create difficulties where they could easily be created. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Tourist Board in the Republic? Has his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State considered an all-Ireland institution which could be established to co-ordinate and develop such functions as tourism? We shall be looking in the White Paper for positive proposals. This is only one aspect. There are others where co-operation could be sought.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board in some of its excellent publications has produced a five-year plan designed to come into operation in the first year when things return to normal in the Province. The plan envisages an increase in the number of high-standard bedrooms of about 3,000 at a cost between £17 million and £18 million. The projected expansion in the industry would mean that in the fifth and final year of the plan revenue would be up by 40 per cent. and employment in the industry would be increased by 50 per cent.

The tourist industry is labour-intensive, and vital for employment. I have figures on employment. In Northern Ireland, the industry still employs about 20,000 people. If that figure were increased by 50 per cent. it would mean a considerable increase in employment. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) is not here, because the figure of 20,000 is twice the number employed in the shipbuilding industry in Northern Ireland, which we have spent a good deal of time considering, and the importance of which has been emphasised. The tourist industry is labour-intensive, and every encouragement is needed.

We welcome the order. We recognise the difficulties. We cannot put them out of our mind, but we are trying to examine what expansion will mean. Having witnessed and tasted what tourism can offer in Ireland, I believe that there is a great opportunity for a tremendous expansion in tourism in the near future. Allowing for the political and military difficulties, I consider that the order in its limited way is to be welcomed.

On the political side, we re-emphasise to the Minister that urgent need to press ahead with the political reforms, of which I am sure he is fully aware, and which we await in a White Paper in the very near future.

10.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I apologise for the condition of my voice, which has almost gone. That is one of the occupational risks that politicians in all parts of the United Kingdom suffer.

I warmly welcome the order. As the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said, Northern Ireland tourism has an enormous potential. But, as he and the Minister emphasised, it is substantially under-developed.

I spent my family holidays in the constituency of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and on Lough Erne. Both are first-class areas, but I feel that the area of Lough Erne particularly—I say this with no offence to the hon. Gentleman—has the potential to become one of the great tourist areas of the United Kingdom. Valiant steps have been taken to get it off the ground, but it has been knocked back by the IRA bombing campaign. It is sad to see the number of hotels in the area that have been obliterated by mindless terrorists. But I am sure that it has great potential.

To appreciate the background of the order we must consider the two areas of competition that Northern Ireland tourism must face. The first is Southern Ireland. Since the early 1960s it has been spending a big budget, of which about half goes towards providing superior hotels, eating houses, tourist amenities and entertainment. Because of that, it has been able to leap ahead. The other competition is from the cheap package holidays which bring Western Europe within easy and cheap reach of the English and Scottish tourist.

Both Front Benches have emphasised the importance of tourism to Northern Ireland, with 20,000 people employed and a £20 million income even today. It was £28 million in 1968. What would it be now if we had peace in Northern Ireland? The potential is there, and I am convinced that it is very great. I believe that within six to 12 months of the end of our troubles we shall see a massive flood of tourists coming to Northern Ireland.

I know that the situation in Israel is different, but I was struck by the fact that immediately after the Six-Day War a vast number of people went to Israel because it was in the news. I am convinced that when we can convince people that there is peace in Northern Ireland there will be a big influx of tourists.

But beautiful countryside and beautiful loughs and shores are not enough. That is why the provision of what the Northern Ireland Tourist Board calls tourist hardware is essential. The term includes hotels, eating places, entertainment for tourists and general amenities. That is why I particularly welcome the order.

The order is especially necessary, as 35 hotels have been bombed and between a quarter and a third of tourist rooms have been destroyed by mindless bombers. In addition, many of our hotels are out of date, and there has been a fairly low investment over the years in tourism by private investors. It is to assist a tourist industry which is in need of re-equipment and to give a boost because of the problems faced by those concerned in it from terrorists that the order is to be welcomed. It will help restore the shattered tourist trade and get it prepared for the forthcoming tourist advance.

If we do not make these powers available now, so that people can get on with their planning and preparation, when the flood of tourists comes there will not be enough rooms and amenities for them and we shall have missed a very important opportunity.

I was glad that both Front Benches paid tribute to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board—to its members, its staff, and its chief executive, Bob Hall, and his team. It is now very professional. It has been radically re-organised in recent years and can now compete effectively. It is working to prepare the ground for better times so that it can expand rapidly when they come.

I end by again warmly welcoming the order.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Bristol North East

I must first apologise for intervening in a debate on Northern Ireland, but I could not help being struck by the fact that in the 2½ years that I have been a Member of this House this is the first opportunity that the Government have provided for a discussion on tourism.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has produced an excellent order. I would remind that in a conversation that he and I had over dinner a year ago, before he was involved in Northern Ireland affairs, I asked him what he thought we should be discussing 10 years hence, and he said, by no means flippantly, "The growth of tourism to China." It is significant that in the absence of legislation of this kind for England, Scotland and Wales, his Department has produced a first-class order which, when the troubles are over, should have the effect of developing tourist traffic to Northern Ireland.

I commend to the House the fact that the order is using tourism as an instrument of regional policy. My hon. Friend pointed out the different regional balances and levels of grants available to various areas. I was glad to hear him stress the importance of the additional advantages to some rural areas and areas away from main centres of population. I should like to see the same extended to other parts of the United Kingdom.

Two questions relating specifically to the order occur to me. Article 5 appears to give very wide powers to the Ministry. It says: The Ministry may, with the approval of the Ministry of Finance, provide or secure the provision of, and maintain, any tourist amenity…". May we be assured that there is no intention that any United Kingdom Government should go into the hotel business?

Article 11 also seems to provide very wide and sweeping powers. It says: …any increase in the expenses of the Ministry attributable to this Order may be paid out of moneys hereafter appropriated…. We all recognise the difficulties through which Northern Ireland is passing, but I ask my hon. Friend whether he is satisfied that there is no possibility of any of the powers in the order being abused.

Perhaps I should declare an interest in tourism in England but not, unfortunately, in Northern Ireland. I see opportunities for anyone with an adventurous spirit to take advantage of what is on offer here.

Will the Fire Precautions Act be applied in Northern Ireland, and is it the intention to link the assistance being provided under this order with the restrictions to which hotelkeepers in Britain are subject under that Act?

I speak with the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett), Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) and Exeter (Mr. John Hannan). I hope that my hon. Friend will take the opportunity to commend to his hon. Friends in the Department of Trade and Industry the great advantages which this order offers to Northern Ireland—opportunities which are totally lacking throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. Is my hon. Friend aware that the Development of Tourism Act 1969 becomes ineffective in March of next year? Is he further aware that the Government, by ending the assistance available under the local employment Acts in the rest of Britain, have removed from the British tourist industry much of the advantage which this order seeks to give to the industry in Ulster?

My hon. Friend said that 28,000 jobs were involved in the tourist industry in Northern Ireland. Is he aware that the number employed in the hotel and catering industry in England, Wales and Scotland is well over 1·2 million? I ask my hon. Friend to do whatever he can to commend this piece of legislation to his British colleagues.

10.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

Like those hon. Members who have preceded me, I give a warm welcome to this order, and I should like to concentrate my remarks basically on Article 5 which deals with tourist amenities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) rightly spoke about the charms of Lough Erne. I am convinced that fishing, golfing. sailing, mountaineering and all manner of tourist activities can be developed and assisted by Government action without having the undesirable effect of creating a monstrosity that ruins the whole countryside.

One of the publications issued by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board—the one that the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has—describes Northern Ireland as a thousand-hole golf course with farms and villages scattered through it. That is the sort of punch-line that one very much welcomes in tourist literature. For far too long, because of the small budget given to the board, publicity has not been given sufficient emphasis or attention.

I presume that one of the main purposes of granting financial assistance to what the board calls the hardware of beds and accommodation is to emphasise the need for hotel accommodation of international standard, rather than to provide assistance to unlicensed guest and boarding houses. Although they fulfil an important role in Northern Ireland's tourist trade by providing accommodation, the English pattern shows that the popularity of these establishments is falling off, and presumably the same will happen in Northern Ireland.

I welcome my hon. Friend's statement the flexibility that will run through the provision of the hotel grant. This is tremendously important, and perhaps in winding up the debate my hon. Friend will give some indication of the kind of projects that will be at the top end of the assistance scale.

One thing that I find very interesting—I had not realised this until I started doing my homework in connection with the order—is that Northern Ireland requires virtually to double its present hotel bedroom capacity between now and 1976, and that apparently the cost will be between £17 million and £18 million on current prices. Hotels cannot be built and tourism developed overnight, and even though it is at present incongruous to think in terms of re-attracting tourists to Northern Ireland, nevertheless, now is the time when we should be concentrating all our thoughts and attention towards doing so. For some curious reason manufacturing industry is always regarded favourably and service industries are somehow second-class industries. I have never been able fully to understand that.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Bristol North East

Is my hon. Friend aware that in the last 2½ years we have spent 48½ hours on the floor of the House discussing coalmining and 2 hours discussing tourism, mostly on the adjournment.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

I was not aware of those facts. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for providing them.

When one has spoken in terms of the number of people employed in the tourist trade in Northern Ireland and the income it has brought it is clear that another point has to be borne in mind. It costs roughly £4,000 to create every job in manufacturing industry but considerably less than half that for the provision of employment in the tourist trade. I understand that the figure is about £1,450. This is of the utmost importance.

In Northern Ireland we have the basic raw material, the scenery. It is up to local developers, guided and assisted by the Government, to make the industry the flourishing entity which I am firmly convinced it shortly can become.

The mobile tourist doing one-night stands in attractive areas will not wish to stay in a rather unsightly boarding house, or in a place which is a long way from the scenery he came to see. We must start again, in a sense, and build accommodation and amenities in the places visited by the tourist. This order will enable that to be done.

I wonder whether, during his winding-up speech, my hon. Friend can give the House any indication of the extent to which private enterprise money is coming into Northern Ireland tourist development? For a long time it was very sluggish. In the light of the present political situation I assume that it is the same, but I should he grateful for any advice and guidance that my hon. Friend can give on this point.

We have a tremendous tourist potential. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is doing a very good job. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North, in paying tribute to its members and their work.

I support the order, and wish the Northern Ireland tourist trade the good fortune that it deserves.

10.53 p.m.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I re-echo the words of the spokesman on the Opposition Front Bench about the way in which legislation for Northern Ireland is brought before the House of Commons.

Today we are discussing a very important piece of legislation, and yet it is not possible for us to put forward amendments or alter it in any way. I do not think any Government would claim that their legislation is of such a nature that it does not need the scrutiny of the parliamentary institution, and cannot be amended for the betterment of the people whom it is intended to cover. I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman claims the infallibility of another person in a different field altogether.

This evening we have to deal with matters as they are. Many strange voices are being heard in Northern Ireland today. Last night the Northern Ireland people received a lecture from a Professor Lindsay, who told his audience that the House of Commons was an illegal regime so far as Northern Ireland is concerned; that the Government of Northern Ireland is illegal, and that the people could take what steps they liked to establish their own way of living. On behalf of the people whom I represent I say that we utterly repudiate such a thesis. We believe that this Parliament is the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom and that in this Chamber there is registered the right and the power to legislate for Northern Ireland. We are not like other people who come to this House only to speak on various aspects of life in Northern Ireland; we want to take part in those debates which will help the ordinary men, women and children of Northern Ireland to a better way of life.

The subject with which we are dealing tonight is of great importance for my constituency. I represent one of the most beautiful parts not just of Northern Ireland but of the whole of Ireland. The Antrim coast road is one of the most beautiful in the whole of the United Kingdom. But in North Antrim we have suffered from the sorry tale of the IRA campaign of violence and terrorism, and the effect that it has had on the tourist trade.

I warmly welcome the order because it is a piece of legislation which expresses hope for Northern Ireland. We must not forget the terrible circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland today, but none of us must think that they will endure for ever. We hope that a better day is coming, and in this order we are looking to the future. The people of Northern Ireland should recognise that fact, and realise that the Government and the House of Commons are looking to better days, when the tourist trade must be so equipped and geared as to be able to cater for all those who want to come to Northern Ireland to enjoy its scenery and the society that it can offer.

How far out of Belfast does urban Belfast extend? The Minister told us that there would be a 20 per cent. grant for Belfast, a 25 per cent. grant for urban Belfast, and a 35 per cent. grant for the rest of Northern Ireland. Will he assure me that the whole of my constituency is outside urban Belfast? I remind him that North Antrim starts at Larne and runs up to Portrush, and, on the other side, starts at the borders of Randalstown, running up the Bann almost to the mouth of the river, and then going over into Portrush. If the hon. Gentleman assures me that my constituency is outside urban Belfast it will be an encouragement to the people of my area, whose tourist trade has suffered from the campaign of terrorism.

I draw attention to Article 3(7) of the order which refers to any hotel registered in the register of hotels maintained under section 10 of the principal Act;(b) any guest house… I emphasise the reference to guest houses. Will that cover farm houses which go in for catering in the summer? Many farmers in these areas have been cashing in on the tourist trade—and rightly so; they have improved their accommodation and have been taking overnight visitors in addition to people staying for longer periods. As the Minister knows, there are many smallholdings in Northern Ireland, and it is valuable to their owners if, in the summer, they can augment their income in that way. What grant will be available for those people?

It may seem strange to some, but many people in Northern Ireland do not wish to stay in licensed premises. This is one of the facts of life in Northern Ireland. Certain owners of hotels that are not licensed have told me that because their premises are not licensed they do not receive the same grant as would come to them if they went into the licensed business.

There is a large section of people in Northern Ireland who, when they choose a place to stay for their holiday—this may not apply to those who come into the country, but a good many Northern Ireland people stay in Northern Ireland for their holidays—deliberately choose non-licensed premises. Will there be any difference between a licensed hotel and a non-licensed hotel for the purpose of grant?

I also point out to the Minister that there is a great scarcity of staff for hotels and guest houses in Northern Ireland. I think particularly of those on the coast of my constituency, running from Larne and including Glenarm, Waterfoot, Carnlough, Cushendun and Cushendall. They find great difficulty in getting staff. What training courses are available for catering staff in Northern Ireland? This is important, because if we are to extend bed accommodation we must have staff available to give proper service in those hotels and guest houses.

If the tourist industry is to be extended, for instance, in Portrush—an important tourist and seaside resort—other tourist amenities must be available. In Port-rush a tremendous controversy exists at present about the down-grading of the crown post office to a sub-post office. This means that the people of Portrush will not have the same facilities, and when the town is crowded with visitors, as we hope it will be in the summer, the desired post office facilities will not be available.

I know that this is not the Minister's department, but it is part and parcel of the matter. I draw his attention to the fact that the council, the post office staff and the whole town have signed a memorial about the matter. I have made representation, but a deaf ear has been turned to it, and we are told that we can have only a sub-post office. I make a plea to the Minister to look into this and see that Portrush has all the necessary post office facilities.

There is another part of Northern Ireland about which I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). I do not say that the coast road is more beautiful than Lough Erne. Facilities at Lough Erne are being developed, but not as speedily as they should be.

There is great potential in Lough Neagh. What action is to be taken on the report of the working party of Lough Neagh, about developing the tourist facilities there? I ask the Minister whether the Government are giving serious consideration to this. When can we have a statement on this matter? It is of the utmost importance.

I welcome the order, and I hope that the Government will continue to bear in mind the needs of the future. I pay my tribute to the tourist board and its work, but the Northern Ireland board could take a leaf from the book of the South of Ireland board in respect of advertising, especially in the United States of America, where the Southern Irish board—I cannot pronounce its Gaelic name—is doing tremendous work in advertising the attractions of the South of Ireland.

Our board should advertise the attractions of the North of Ireland. If people go to the South, let them realise that the north is also worth visiting, and that they should see it. It is not the "black" North at all. The people there are most hospitable, as hon. Members have found—even those with differing political views. The people are prepared to receive them socially.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has an advertising job to take in hand. I trust that the Minister will keep that matter in mind.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in the past there has been a degree of co-operation in tourism between the Republic and the Six Counties, and that this is at least one subject on which both bodies should get together to exploit the value and beauty of Ireland as a whole?

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

As long as they exploit it fairly and not to the detriment of Northern Ireland, certainly; but that proviso is very important. At certain airports in the United States the only pictures of Ireland that one sees are of the lakes of Killarney. If the Americans saw pictures of the Giant's Causeway they might wish to visit that area as well.

Paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 refers to: The power to make bye-laws for the purpose of regulating the use of the tourist amenity and preserving order within the area of the tourist amenity. Will the Minister enlarge a little on that, and say what powers the local council will have in regard to the preservation of order? It is a very important matter. Law and order must be preserved in the places to which people resort in the summer.

11.6 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I am grateful to hon. Members for their comments on the order and for the welcome they have given to it. I should like to answer as many of their questions as I can.

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) spoke of the general tourist potential for the future, and rightly emphasised the possibilities, particularly for employment. He asked specifically about the 5 per cent. additional grant that would be allocated in certain cases. The Ministry will rely on advice from the Tourist Board on what might be regarded as top priority tourist development. The sort of things generally, in mind which will attract the additional 5 per cent. boost are major hotel developments in remote areas.

The potential of the upper and lower Lough Erne area was mentioned. There is no doubt that if we can get major hotel development going in this remote area, these are the kind of things to which we should expect the Tourist Board to give priority, and the kind of things which will attract the 5 per cent. additional grant.

The hon. Member for Salford, West referred to the specified circumstances for repayment, mentioned at the end of Article 3, subsection (1). This refers to situations in which grant is given for certain specified plans and designs and there is a failure to meet those specified plans and designs and something is built other than that for which grant was given. In that case, powers are taken to foreclose and to retrieve the public money concerned.

Provision for the sums involved has been made in the appropriations for the current financial year. Obviously the amount involved depends to some extent on take-up. On past experience, however—this must of necessity be a rather rough guide—we would expect the take-up of grants for capital investment in hotel expansion to be about £750,000 in the current year, and we would expect the expenditure involved in amenity development by the Ministry of Commerce and by local authorities—but probably mainly by the Ministry of Commerce—to be about £500,000.

The hon. Member for Salford, West, and several other hon. Members mentioned the question of co-operation with the Republic on the development of tourism. This obviously makes a lot of sense. There is already a lot of cross-border co-operation in tourism, and we see no reason why this should not increase vigorously in the future.

Hon. Members may be interested to have on the record some examples of the co-operation which goes on now. They include hotel grading, tourist research projects for the future, joint reception of overseas travel agents, the development of package holidays featuring hotels in the North and the South, co-operative literature production—particularly for the Continental and North American markets—and joint film production. I recognise the force of the points made by hon. Members that there is clearly room for further co-operation in the development of tourism by both North and South.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) for overcoming his sore throat and giving a welcome to the order. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) also intervened in our debate. We welcome fresh comment from outside on these matters, which tend to attract comment only from those immediately concerned with the development of Ulster or those who follow the affairs of Northern Ireland with close interest and sympathy. My hon. Friend will not be surprised that the broader matters he raised on tourist development in England, Wales and Scotland are matters for my right hon. Friends and it would be improper for me to go into them tonight. He referred to Article 5 (1) which provides that the Ministry of Commerce may, with the approval of the Ministry of Finance, provide, or secure the provision of, and maintain, any tourist amenity". He asked if that meant that the Government would go into the hotel business. I presume that he was referring to the ownership of hotels. The term "amenity" does not include hotels. My hon. Friend also asked about the Fire Precautions Act. The provisions which apply in Northern Ireland also apply in Great Britain, and similar requirements are made before grant can be given for hotel developments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) rightly empha- sired a theme which we shall no doubt hear more of—the increasing importance of the service sector in the economy. It was in that spirit that he welcomed the support that will be given by the order, if it is approved, for one of the major service industries. Help given will be mainly in the form of capital investment in hotels and tourist amenities or parks, and special provision for tourist attractions, and so on.

In addition, a number of schemes of general assistance to the service sector should not be forgotten. They include the refund—in the second half of 1972—of selective employment tax and the special grants for security costs, which may be a difficult burden in the troubled circumstances in Northern Ireland. They include rate relief and the new employment grants recently announced for city centre traders to maintain services and the life of the city centre—a matter which we regard as of great importance. So the city centre is getting attention. It may not be as much as the hon. Member would like, or in precisely the way that the hon. Member would like, but we recognise the importance of the city centre as a part of a lively and modern economy.

My hon. Friend asked about private enterprise money going into Northern Ireland tourist development. There is a little, but clearly the only answer that I can give with my present responsibilities, is to say that I would welcome more. I believe that in future—and, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, we are looking into the future with the order—the possibilities for private investment and enterprise in the tourist development areas, working in partnership with the kind of schemes the Ministry of Commerce will be able to operate, promise greatly for the future of tourism.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North raised a number of specific points. He will be half glad and half sorry with my answer on the question of rates of grants for areas within his constituency. I am advised that Larne would get only the 25 per cent. grant, being within easy reach of Belfast—the middle belt—but the very beautiful areas in the rest of his constituency, including the Antrim coast, which I have visited many times, will attract the full 35 per cent. grant.

The hon. Gentleman asked about farm boarding houses. Unless they become registered hotels, they will not necessarily come under the scheme. A different scheme is run by the tourist board for assistance for farm houses and boarding houses of this kind which are not on the register. It provides assistance of certain kinds. I will be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman and give him full details of the assistance available to farms which offer board and lodging for tourists who like that kind of holiday, as many people do.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether there would be different rates as between licensed and unlicensed hotels. There is no such provision and there has been no request for one on whether a hotel should be licensed or unlicensed before receiving grant. The hon. Gentleman also referred to staffing. This is always a problem in the organisation of any hotel. We recognise the difficulty in Northern Ireland. Obviously, we want to help. The remission of selective employment tax to hotels will help. That is one move in the right direction. Anything else we can do to help hotels overcome their staffing problems we shall be glad to do, and we are happy to listen to ideas. My hon. Friend, who has responsibility for training and that kind of thing in Northern Ireland, will be happy to consider proposals for overcoming this problem.

I will gladly look into the problem of the Portrush post office, and will write to the hon. Gentleman when I have done so. The report on the development of Lough Neagh has been completed and presented to the Government, and is being studied. I agree that there are great possibilities here, and we are anxious to see the possible conclusions that can be drawn from the study. This great natural lake is a very important part of tourist development in the heart of Northern Ireland. Having flown over it and walked round part of the area, I realise that the possibilities are enormous.

The truth of the matter is that the tourist possibilities throughout Northern Ireland—that beautiful country—are very great indeed. The provisions in the order will help reinforce them and help to build a better future for Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the Development of Tourist Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved.