Small Businesses

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 15th May 1987.

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Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield 10:35 am, 15th May 1987

I was not aware of that, but in the early days there were some difficulties, which happily have been resolved, and it is now a thriving and dynamic area. Hon. Members should pay homage to the cradle of the industrial revolution.

I must take up the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) made that Stafford is in the forefront of attracting tourists to its area. Birmingham and the west midlands are doing exactly the same. We have a tremendous amount to offer the tourist and we are going about it in a businesslike manner. It may interest the House to know that I was recently in Singapore and looking at, among other things, its tourism potential. There are parallels between Singapore, Birmingham and the west midlands in that neither area immediately leaps to mind as being a tourist trap. Both have a reputation of being industrial areas where one goes to do business, but not to spend time as a tourist. In Singapore, it has been calculated that if it could get the average businessman to stay one extra day, it could almost double its tourist ecenomy with a great deal more hotel occupancy than it has had hitherto. The way that is is attracting new businesses and tourist potential by recourse to the private sector and the entrepreneur lends lessons, if we need to learn that much, to similar areas of our country which are taking the first substantial but hesitant steps along the tourist trail.

My hon. Friend the Minister will know that our hon. Friend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) is chairman of the Conservative back-bench tourism committee, and he does superb work in that sector. I have the honour of being one of its joint secretaries. What the Minister may not know is that my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley is contesting his seat at the election with the chairman of the West Midlands enterprise board, which is an august body that has sought to invest in local industry and has done much successful work. However, we take exception to that gentleman when he says that tourism is an ice cream and candy floss industry which has little relevance to Birmingham and the west midlands. We deplore that attitude because tourism is relevant and will result in a substantial number of new jobs.

We deplore the fact that someone in that position says that the National Exhibition Centre and the proposed convention centre in Birmingham, which is being built, will not mean much to the area's economy. I assure the House that people in my constituency are seeking actively to capitalise on the opportunities that the convention centre will bring, with minibus tours throughout the area, small hotels and other accommodation and retail outlets. These will be needed to satisfy the demands of the substantial number of people who will come from all over the world to what will be the largest convention centre in this country. That centre will have all the benefits of being located in the centre of Britain's second city.