Tourism plays a key role in the local economy in many parts of the country. Successful tourist development is a powerful engine of economic regeneration.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that tourism provides an opportunity for real growth and that major tourist attractions can apply for funds under the single regeneration budget in conjunction with their local authorities? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that that information is made known as widely as possible, as it is a major embarrassment to the citizens of the Isle of Wight that the Liberal Democrat council did not apply for funds in the first round? That is quite extraordinary.
Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that tourism offers the opportunity of real jobs in the United Kingdom, although the Luddites on the Opposition Benches have still not cottoned on to that fact?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on both counts. It is extraordinary that the Liberal Democrat-controlled county council on the Isle of Wight is unaware of the opportunities that the single regeneration budget presents—particularly, as my hon. Friend said, the opportunities that it presents for the tourist sector. My hon. Friend is correct: the tourist sector creates real jobs. In the past 10 years, tourism in Britain has created 25 per cent. more real jobs. That underlines the extent to which the tourist sector is one of the areas of growth in the British economy which holds out future wealth-creation opportunities.
I agree with the Secretary of State's last statement. Bearing in mind the contribution that the tourist and travel industry makes to the regeneration of Britain, what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that unfair taxation is not imposed on that industry, which far too often the Government regard as a milch cow for taxation?
That is an interesting question for the hon. Gentleman to raise. If one compares the taxation imposed on a hotel operator in southern Britain with that of a French competitor, the most striking contrast that one will observe is the increased non-wage labour costs that French taxation and the social chapter impose upon the French competitor. If the hon. Gentleman were really interested in comparing the taxes imposed on British operators with those imposed on continental operators, he would make it clear to his Front-Bench team that he opposed the imposition of such an obligation on British operators.
While it is undeniably true that tourism can economically regenerate many parts of the country, is it not also true that it can environmentally degenerate them unless it is properly controlled? For example, has my right hon. Friend any proposals to put to the Secretary of State for Transport and others about controlling the plethora of tourist buses in central London, which cause serious congestion and air pollution problems?
My hon. Friend raises a serious issue: the tourist industry's impact on the centres of heritage interest that attract tourists. It is obviously a short-sighted policy to promote tourism if that damages exactly the attractions that bring people to Britain in the first place. That is why the Government set up a review of exactly those issues at the beginning of the 1990s, and why my Department has followed, through the English tourist board, a programme of sustainable tourism projects, which we are in the process of assessing. The results of that will be published in the autumn of this year.