Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
It is pleasing to note that this is the seventh debate on tourism in the House in the present Parliament. On Tuesday of this week, I received the National Heritage Select Committee's first report on tourism. These are welcome signs of the seriousness with which tourism is regarded by honourable Members. The Select Committee report contains some far-reaching recommendations, which I shall consider with great care.
Tourism has been a great success story under this Government. In 1995 this country welcomed more overseas visitors, spending more money, than ever before. Tourism is high on the Government's agenda and has a vital economic role. With the creation of the Department of National Heritage in 1992, tourism became a major part of the responsibilities of a Cabinet Minister. I have made championing the industry one of my Department's top priorities. To consolidate our success, the Government, the tourist boards and the industry must continue to work together. Last year, our tourism industry grew faster than that of any of our European rivals.
A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the first ever tourism debate at the Confederation of British Industry's national conference. Next month, the Deputy Prime Minister and I will be speaking at another CBI conference on the future for Britain's tourism industry. The business world is waking up to the economic importance of tourism.
The director general of the CBI said at our recent conference on planning and tourism that, while 10 years ago people might have been surprised at his speaking at a tourism conference, the importance of the industry is much more widely recognised today. He acknowledged the role that my Department has played in that, but added—and I agree with him—that we must continue to work to
get the message across that tourism is one of our key industries which is playing an increasing role in the success of our economy".
He pointed out that, over the past 10 years, overall employment has risen by 2 per cent., manufacturing employment has declined by 20 per cent., but employment in tourism, leisure and hospitality has grown by 31 per cent. It is an industry of the future.
Tourism, with hospitality, will be the world's biggest industry by the year 2000. It is a key creator of wealth and employment —in Britain, it generates £37 billion of income, equivalent to 5 per cent. of GDP. Some 1.8 million people work in the industry, and there are as many again whose jobs depend indirectly on tourism. The industry has the potential to create up to 1 million new jobs in the next 10 years.
I hope that I am not anticipating my right hon. Friend, although I fear that I may be, because her speech must show that tourism is very much concentrated in London. Does she accept that boroughs such as Ealing have a great deal to offer, including sites for hotels and other facilities from which people can easily come to London, thus taking congestion away from London hotels and providing valuable employment in Northolt, Perivale, Hanwell and the rest of Ealing and surrounding boroughs? Ealing is the queen of the suburbs and has much to offer.
I am interested to learn from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) that Ealing is the queen of the suburbs. I would not like to take issue with him on that. I am delighted by the excellent turnout in this morning's debate which shows how seriously our party takes tourism and hospitality. I am also delighted by my hon. Friend's recognition that tourism and hospitality are the source of opportunities for jobs and the generation of wealth in his constituency. I am sure that everyone at London First and others who are trying to ensure that all parts of London play their role in boosting the tourism industry will realise that, as my hon. Friend said, Ealing is the queen of the suburbs.
I do not come from Leicester; Lester is my name.
I speak on behalf of the regions because I represent and am a son of Nottinghamshire, which has tremendous tourist potential. We already get a lot of tourists as we have much to interest them, from the first socialist, Robin Hood, to modern authors such as D. H. Lawrence. We also have many industrial museums; we have so much to offer.
For years, we have said that rather than people coming into London first, they should come into one of the regional airports. They should spend three or four days in the regions where there are many exciting things to see. In the House of Commons, we have a picture of Charles I raising his standard on Standard hill which we show all the tourists who come here. Standard hill still exists and people can stand on the site where Charles I raised his standard.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will try to ensure that the whole of Britain shares in the tourism industry. I hope that we encourage inward flights to the regional airports so that people can enjoy the many benefits of our country, not just in London and Ealing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Sir J. Lester) is one of many who can give evidence of the great excitement in many of our wonderful cities and towns. I was in Nottingham only the other day to see the way in which the Lace Market, the Playhouse and many of the other arts, cultural and heritage facilities are benefiting from the Government's commitment to regeneration across the country—especially with the additional help of money from the national lottery. I would be the first to say that people who come only to London and do not see the quality of life in wonderful cities across the country fail to get the full benefit of life in Britain today.
Some 1.8 million people work in the industry and there are as many again whose jobs depend indirectly on tourism. The industry has the potential to create up to 1 million new jobs in the next 10 years. That success is, of course, the reward for our increasing competitiveness in recent years. Unlike the Labour party, we will not burden the industry with job-destroying, bureaucratic regulations. We will continue to work to ensure that Britain remains competitive in the increasingly tough and demanding worldwide market.
The domestic market is particularly vulnerable. Travel to many places is easier than it has ever been. The political changes of recent years have opened up destinations that were previously almost impossible to visit. Increasing affluence, thanks to the Conservative Government's prudent handling of the nation's finances, means that consumers are more demanding, more able to travel and more discriminating than ever before.
This is all good encouraging stuff, but we must consider what happened in the Budget. Does the Secretary of State agree that the new impost on people who travel by air will make it more difficult for the tourism industry to succeed, especially in island and rural areas in the northern parts of the United Kingdom?
Is that intervention another example of the Opposition resisting every tax increase and supporting every spending pledge? Looking at the evidence, I note that the year in which our country had the record increase in tourism and more visitors than ever before was the year in which the air passenger duty was introduced. I would not argue that those two facts were connected any more than I would advance the case that air passenger duty promoted the domestic tourism market. That might be stretching people's patience too far. But the fact is that our tax on air travel is extremely modest compared with others. There is no excise duty on air fuel and there is no VAT on tickets. Air passenger duty is a modest and appropriate response, especially in a booming and successful industry.
I tend to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) on matters concerning the family, but not in this case. We have to spread the tax base as widely as we can. My hon. Friend will be aware that Britain welcomed a record 24 million overseas visitors in 1995, after the introduction of air passenger duty. Earnings from overseas visitors were £12.1 billion, a record in real terms and an increase of nearly a quarter on the previous year. Those figures are impressive, showing more visitors spending more money than ever before.
The news is even more encouraging when we compare our performance with that of our nearest rivals. Using US dollars to make the comparison, Britain's earnings grew by more than a quarter in 1995. Those of Spain and Italy grew by just 15 per cent. and those of France by 9 per cent. Our growth was much better than the world average.
The right hon. Lady is making much of one year's figures; we will come back to that point later. If that year was so outstandingly successful, why was it necessary for her to dismiss Adele Biss from her job at the British Tourist Authority?
In my view, the former chairmen of the tourist boards did an extremely good job in getting the industry to a state of readiness for further development. There is no doubt that the present chairman of the British Tourist Authority, David Quarmby, with his experience of having been the joint managing director of a major company, is the person to take the industry, which is diverse, fragmented and enormously important, into the next millennium. He is well suited to the complexity of the work, with the business links, the training and enterprise councils and the need to improve quality right across the country. I congratulate him warmly on his progress so far and on building on the substantial achievements of his predecessor.
The Government's support for tourism and the contribution of successive heads of the tourist boards are two of a number of factors that have contributed to the improvement in performance. They come at a time when the Government are more active than ever before in seeking to improve the competitiveness of the industry.
The work of the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board is an important component of Government support for the industry. This week, I announced the allocation of funds to those bodies for the next financial year. As the House will be aware, the Government are determined to keep tight control of public spending and difficult choices always have to be made. I have allocated £35 million to the British Tourist Authority—a slight reduction on this year, but still more than it ever received before that. The industry is booming and there are many opportunities. I support the chairman in his work and in his discussions with people in the industry about how they can contribute to the endeavour to promote and market their product.
The level of funding will allow the BTA to continue its excellent work. Over the past year, it has sought to target its promotion more effectively on the consumer groups most likely to visit Britain. It has had great success in attracting funding from the private sector, raising around £16 million. I am confident that the BTA will do even better in future.
Funding to the English tourist board has been maintained at its previously planned level, before allowing for a reallocation of funds to the Government's new sector challenge fund, making a net figure of £9.9 million. That will allow the board to continue its important work on improving the classification schemes, researching new opportunities in the domestic market and helping the industry to improve the quality of its product.
In addition to direct financial support, the wider DNH programme provides further benefits to tourism. My Department spends almost £1 billion a year, much of it on museums, galleries, the heritage and the arts, all of which are important generators of domestic and overseas tourism.
A large number of projects financed by the national lottery are now playing a growing role in the promotion of tourism for the future. There are numerous examples including Nottingham. The national lottery has provided £25 million for the Kennet and Avon canal, £40 million for the renaissance of Portsmouth harbour and £14.5 million for the Llanelli coastal park.
My right hon. Friend used the trigger words "Portsmouth harbour". I know that she takes a key interest in the millennium project that will improve Portsmouth harbour and the facilities in Portsmouth and Gosport and has visited the city of Portsmouth and the borough of Gosport. As I have been in correspondence with her on the issue, can she say when she expects the signature to take place which will allow the millennium project to proceed?
I would like to be able to tell my hon. Friend that I know with confidence when that will take place. I am confident that excellent progress is being made, but there are few further hurdles to resolve. The project is a demonstration of how the addition of National Lottery Millennium Commission money can provide enormous new opportunities for a wonderful city with a great tradition. In Newcastle, Bristol and many other parts of the country, lottery funded projects have acted as a catalyst, bringing together different partners and providing many jobs for the future. There may be as many as 500 new jobs in Portsmouth. The Lowry centre at Salford will produce similar benefits. I shall come back to my hon. Friend with a date for a signature as soon as I can.
The Government's support of the tourism industry involves much more than the provision of funds. It is almost two years since we published "Tourism—Competing with the best". In that time we have worked closely in partnership with the industry and the tourist boards on measures to improve the competitiveness of British tourism.
Our work concentrates on six key areas: championing and raising the profile of the industry, improving the quality of the product, developing a world-class human resource, increasing competitiveness, making marketing more effective and managing the impact of tourism.
One of my main priorities has been to raise the profile and esteem of the industry throughout Government. Tourism is high on our policy agenda. It figures strongly in the Deputy Prime Minister's competitiveness strategy and in the "Competitiveness" White Papers. It was the topic of the first deregulation seminar. We recently held a major conference to increase understanding between tourism developers and local authority planners and, for the first time, the Government themselves are taking a strategic lead.
We have worked with other Government Departments significantly to reduce the burden of regulation on the industry. We want fewer, simpler, better regulations, and to that end we have simplified the rules on food hygiene and fire safety. We have created a less cumbersome regime on signposting and extended opening hours for pubs. The Government have strongly championed liberalisation, deregulation and support for small businesses. All those initiatives help the tourism, leisure and hospitality industries first and foremost.
My right hon. Friend mentioned small businesses and there are many small businesses in the tourist industry. Does she welcome the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor on Tuesday providing greater relief to small businesses from business rates? Does she share my view that in future we need to move the burden of taxation away from business rates, which take no account of the ability to pay, towards such taxes as income tax and corporation tax which relate to the profitability of a business?
I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to foreshadow my later remarks on the way in which the Budget has been of great benefit to those in tourism and hospitality. My right hon. and learned Friend's announcements about business rates will certainly be welcome news to many in the industry.
I had a further example brought to my attention of the effect of liberalisation on the industry. The Marriage Act 1994 liberalised civil marriages. As a result, hotels up and down the country are doing more business at weekends than they ever anticipated. One of my constituents wrote to me saying,
Our weekend occupancy has climbed from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent.
Yes. I am so pleased that the right hon. Gentleman's recognises the success of yet another Tory policy. We are in favour of more marriage, more often, but please do not tell my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) that I said that.
Whereas we believe in deregulation, liberalisation, reducing the burden on small businesses and lowering income tax, the Opposition believe in interference, control and regulation. We are particularly concerned about the EU working time directive. The Government regard its imposition as unreasonable, unnecessary and unwelcome. We intend to insist on changes to the treaty to ensure that social measures are not further imposed on the United Kingdom. Why are the Opposition always so keen to bow to Brussels? Why will they never stand up and defend Britain's interests?
My hon. Friend is right. They are blinkered to the real interests of our industry.
Of course, we must obey the law, but we are determined that there will be no gold-plating of this, or indeed any other, European regulation when it is implemented in the UK. I shall ensure that the views of the tourism industry are fully taken into account. There are derogations for tourism in the directive, and I intend to ensure that the industry receives the fullest possible benefit from them. I shall be meeting representatives of the industry shortly to learn more about the possible effects of the directive on their business. The costs to tourism as a result of the measure are estimated by the British Hospitality Association to be as much as £100 million.
Earlier this year, Sir Ian Prosser, chairman of Bass plc, said:
At Bass we are very conscious of the difference in the on-costs to Holiday Inn employees remuneration across Europe where our people do similar jobs. They range from 10 per cent. in the UK to 43 per cent. in Italy. The difference in on-costs across the European Union reflects different national employment laws and charges.
Granada Forte added:
The introduction of the Social Chapter and the imposition of a national minimum wage would have a devastating effect on the flexibility and competitiveness of this industry, which is one of the largest providers of employment in the UK.
The position is clear. The latest OECD survey of the UK economy records a steady drop in structural unemployment and concludes that
the better jobs and inflation record reflects the UK's greater exposure to market forces and competition".
The well-being of the tourism and hospitality industry depends on the flexible labour market policies that the Government pursue and that the social chapter and the minimum wage would destroy. A further study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the UK has the second lowest non-wage labour costs in the EU with only Denmark being lower. The UK is the only G7 country which has experienced a fall in the rate of non-wage labour costs since 1990.
In the face of all that evidence, it is ludicrous for the Opposition to be so blinkered about the damaging effect of their proposed policies on the industry. Labour is no friend of tourist resorts or the tourism industry or those who seek employment and prosperity in tourism and hospitality.
I expect that the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) will mention the Business Services Association, which apparently made a timid approach towards recognising a minimum wage. However, that initiative is already unpicking. Gardner Merchant is distancing itself fast, no doubt having heard the deputy Leader of the Opposition say that any fool knows that a minimum wage would destroy jobs. The company knows that it is estimated that a minimum wage of £4.15 per hour would cause the loss of 1.8 million jobs.
The final cheek of the Labour party was to produce a policy document about tourism that does not mention where Labour stands on the minimum wage and the social chapter. On the front of the document is a picture of Blackpool pleasure beach, when Geoffrey Thompson, the head of Blackpool pleasure beach said that the minimum wage and the social chapter would have an enormously damaging effect on the industry.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the conference industry is one of the most important sectors of tourism? It relies to a large extent on part-time and other workers to provide hotel and conference facilities that cater for many people arriving over a limited period of time. The working time directive and the minimum wage would have a very serious effect on that sector. I know that she has only recently visited Harrogate, where she will no doubt have heard a number of hoteliers express their very deep concern about the two directives.
My hon. Friend, who has always been extremely well informed about the real needs of the tourism and hospitality industry, makes some most important points. I am well aware of the significance of the hospitality industry and the relevance of tourism in Harrogate. He is right to warn the House and others of the extremely damaging effect that the Labour party's policies would have on an industry of such importance to the future employment and wealth of our country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) will agree that success is about not only a flexible labour market—although we must give that priority—but the quality of the tourism product. "Competing with the best" agreed to take forward work on the accommodation sector. It is vital that the visitor's experience is favourable. Levels of dissatisfaction with accommodation have been unacceptably high. We have addressed that in a number of ways and a great deal has been achieved. We began by carrying out a major piece of research into what consumers want from hotels, basing it on an exercise of benchmarking small hotels against their peers. The guidance that we drew up as a result aimed to help smaller accommodation providers to compare their business with the best performers and thus find ways in which to improve. It was widely welcomed and has been used throughout the industry.
The chairman of the BTA and the ETB, David Quarmby, said:
The Department of National Heritage's benchmarking exercise for small hotels is beginning to penetrate this very fragmented industry and helping to raise standards.
Our research on hotels also informed the work that the ETB has carried out to improve the classification schemes for tourist accommodation. At present, too many visitors—about one in four in some surveys—are dissatisfied with their accommodation. It is vital that customers are able to distinguish accommodation that meets their needs in advance of purchase. Only then will there be real incentives for improvement, as the best hotels will be adequately rewarded in the marketplace for their excellence.
David Quarmby has already devoted considerable personal effort to that complex task. Work has progressed a long way since he took up his post in June, especially through negotiations with other interested organisations. He hopes to consult the industry about his proposals in the new year, but recognises that there is much to be done in the next few weeks to achieve that target.
The most significant influence on experience and guests' reports of their stay is not the physical facilities but the way in which people are treated by staff. Today, the Henley Centre for Forecasting commented again on the importance of service and training for service.
Tourism is fundamentally a people industry. We launched a major investigation into the industry's human resource practices, using Coopers and Lybrand for advice, and published the results at the end of last month. Some firms are failing to make best use of their people, which is affecting their competitive performance, but the best ones successfully create a distinctive service culture throughout their organisations, and satisfied customers return again and again.
We have been indebted to the help provided by the recent appointment of Peter Moore, of Center Parcs, to the English tourist board. He echoed much of the comment that we have received when he said:
I am greatly encouraged to see the focus of attention turn to this vitally important aspect of the quality of the tourism product.
We are drawing up an action plan to take forward the initiative with a group of experts from the industry and people from the world of education and training so that we can ensure that we develop the service culture to match and surpass any in the world.
In a sense, everything that we do is to increase the competitiveness of the industry by helping it to become more aware of what customers want and to find ways of delivering it more efficiently. An important further area has been the downward trend in domestic holidays. The trend towards overseas holidays is well established all over the world, and a consequence of increasing prosperity and easier access to overseas travel. I do not conclude from that, however, that the decline of the domestic holiday is inevitable.
Many hon. Members are aware of the great importance of the domestic market to jobs and opportunities in their constituencies. For that reason, I have asked the English tourist board, in collaboration with my Department, to conduct a major research project to discover what steps need to be taken to increase the appeal of holidays in Britain to the British. The research is under way and I expect to see its findings in the new year. It is good news for British holiday resorts and destinations.
I have been impressed on my visits— whether to Margate, Worthing, Eastbourne, Southport, Blackpool or the many resorts on the Isle of Wight—by the way in which the domestic holiday market is trying to improve its quality to ensure that it takes the opportunities available to it. The further research will help it in directing its services and promoting its marketing.
In all our work, we have been working closely with the industry. I have established an advisory forum of leading industry figures to help take forward our plans; we have a number of secondees from the industry working in the Department; we work closely with the CBI tourism action group and with local authority associations on planning matters; and, of course, a new chairman of the tourist boards was appointed earlier in the year.
It is not simply enough for Britain's tourism to be a world-class product; we need to be sure that we communicate the fact effectively to potential customers. I have spoken of the British Tourist Authority's excellent work. A great deal of research by it and others makes it clear that London is crucial to our efforts to attract overseas visitors.
I am not sure how many hon. Members will be familiar with the Ministry of Sound. It is not to be found in Vacher'sor the Civil Service Year Book.It is one of the world's most popular dance clubs, and it is here in London. We are witnessing the growing recognition that London is the place to be. It is fun, fashionable, exciting, prosperous and successful. Retailing is excellent and eating out, as Sir Terence Conran said only the other day in Le Monde, is said to be superior to that in Paris. In the recent edition of Newsweek magazine, London was described as
the coolest city on the planet
Such comments provide a huge opportunity for all in the tourism and hospitality industry.
London has a great deal more to offer. People are drawn here by our wonderful heritage buildings, museums, galleries, palaces and pageantry. There is also a vast amount of investment in the future. The national lottery has helped to fund new developments at the Tate at Bankside, the redevelopment of Sadler's Wells and the £30 million development of the British museum. Above all, the millennium exhibition in Greenwich—I was pleased that the right hon. Member for Copeland recognised this—will provide Britain with an unprecedented opportunity to bring millions of visitors from all round the world to create a wonderful legacy for the city and, indeed, the whole of Britain.
We all share the right hon. Lady's celebration of what I believe is becoming known around the world as "cool Britannia", but is there not one substantial problem with London: transport? For many people living in west London, because of the concentration of arrivals into Heathrow, the number of night flights—14,000 so far this year arriving before 7 am—is turning their homes into part of the glide path. In addition, the constant traffic gridlock in London means that it can take half an hour by car from the House to Trafalgar square. The problem needs to be addressed.
I will pass on the hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but given the great prosperity that we see in London today we have to balance the needs of the environment and investment in infrastructure with the opportunities for business and for commerce, as they do in other cities. On the question of transport and the millennium exhibition, I had the privilege the other day of being the first passenger on the new Jubilee line from Stratford, under the Thames, to North Greenwich. That is a major regeneration project which, with care and determination, can be a wonderful opportunity for Britain as we move into the next millennium.
On transport, does my right hon. Friend also welcome not only the multi-million pound Jubilee line extension, but the massive investment programme undertaken to upgrade London's underground system generally and to create a new high-speed link between London and Heathrow airport?
Yes. I was keen to have a debate on tourism on a Friday and I would prefer it not to be hijacked into a debate on transport matters, so I hope that my hon. Friend will not mind if I return to the subject in hand.
The millennium exhibition is excellent news for the whole of Britain. Research shows that London is our greatest asset in attracting overseas visitors. If Britain is to do well in the world of tourism, we need London to do well. It is the principal gateway to Britain, and once visitors have been motivated to come here we can show what the country as a whole has to offer and persuade and encourage them to travel round and stay elsewhere, as my hon. Friends have pointed out so wisely. That is why the Government, in partnership with the BTA, London First and the London tourist board, created the Focus London campaign, which I launched in January last year. That partnership is researching London's appeal in overseas markets and leading a strong and co-ordinated effort to promote all of London's assets much more effectively than ever before.
I am pleased to announce that I have again been able to include in the BTA's grant in aid for 1997–98 £1.5 million to support the Focus London campaign. I have asked the BTA to put in as much again, and I expect the private sector to more than match that total. That will allow the Focus London partners to build on the excellent foundation that we have created in the past two years. I have asked that the plans for this year should especially emphasise measures to strengthen London's gateway role; to encourage tour operators to develop more "London plus" itineraries which take visitors elsewhere as well as London; and to do more to get independent travellers to visit other parts of the country. It is my view that those who visit this country and only experience life in London have missed out on an important dimension of the United Kingdom.
My sixth aim is to manage tourism demand and its impacts. Clearly, we need to protect the precious assets that attract visitors, not only because of their intrinsic value, but because not doing so would be akin to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It is in the industry's interests to ensure that tourism development is sustainable. It is our countryside, our wonderful houses and our landscapes that attract visitors from all round the world, so it is important that we take forward our work in sustainable tourism and visitor management.
The Government and the tourist boards have led the way in promoting responsible environmental practices by the industry, through support for local projects and through issuing well-targeted advice and guidance. The most recent initiatives are guidance on developing sustainable rural tourism; a practical green audit kit for tourism operators; and co-operation with the local authority associations to improve working relationships between tourism operators and local authority planners.
With the English tourist board, we will consult the industry on what further action needs to be taken, whether it be tackling seasonal or geographical pressure points. spreading good practice on safeguarding our natural, built and cultural heritage, or other initiatives that are required to ensure sustainability.
My hon. Friends have already mentioned the vital relevance of Budget measures for small firms. One in 12 small businesses operates in the areas of tourism and hospitality, so it is vital that, in addition to specific financial support to the tourist boards and sector challenge funding, the tourism industry also benefits from the extensive support that the Government provide for small firms. There are around 250,000 such enterprises and the Government fully recognise their key role in the economy, and in providing new ideas, new services and new jobs.
In his Budget statement, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out our policies to provide an environment in which small firms can succeed. His was a Budget for lasting prosperity, and that is what business wants. Above all, businesses need stability, a growing economy, low inflation and low interest rates and that is what the Government have provided.
Our economy is in its fifth year of sustained growth and we have had the longest period of low inflation for almost half a century. That is particularly beneficial to tourism because those are exactly the sort of economic conditions in which leisure and business travel can thrive. As a result of the Budget, a family on average earnings will be £1,100 better off next year than it was five years ago.[Interruption.] The Opposition love to jeer and laugh. Over the past 25 years, average real household disposable income has risen by 45 per cent. That is a great boon for the tourism and hospitality industries.
As ever, the Opposition despise success. They envy the Government's achievements. That is understandable, but people in the tourism and leisure industries will note the Opposition's reactions.
The Budget offers more help to small businesses. In addition to the reduction in the basic rate of income tax, corporation tax on small companies will be cut to 23p; the business rate freeze was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen); the VAT registration threshold was increased; and the employer's national insurance contribution will be reduced from April 1997. After those changes, the UK tax rate on company profit up to £300,000 will be the lowest in the EU. Government support for small businesses does not stop there. We have reduced administrative burdens on business considerably and we provide direct assistance where required.
After listening to small firms' concerns, earlier this year, the Prime Minister organised his "Your Business Matters" conferences to give small firms a chance to have their say about future policy development. In the Department of National Heritage, we try hard to ensure that the interests of the tourism, hospitality and leisure industries benefit practically from the wider initiatives that the Government are introducing. One example is the new sector challenge fund. Time and again, businesses have asked us to simplify the systems by which support funding is distributed. The Government have responded by bringing together most Government sectoral support into the new sector challenge fund.
Challenge funding will encourage business-led partnerships at local and national level, and will mean that the most promising proposals will be rewarded. Tourism stands to benefit enormously from the fund. The economic significance of the tourism industry is recognised, and trade associations, businesses and the national and regional tourist boards have been quick to recognise the potential. I am confident that they will produce the high-quality bids that are needed for the tourism industry to attract substantial support from the Government sector challenge fund. I understand that the English tourist board has already submitted a bid, with the hospitality training bodies, to help small hotels to work with training and enterprise councils and business links around the country to ensure that they have the support they need to take all the opportunities now available.
TECs and business links are a vital part of the help we give. They provide the funds and expertise to support small businesses and help them to improve. There are some 240 business links around the country and I am determined that, together with our deregulatory reforms, small businesses in the tourism industry should recognise the facilities that are available for them so that they can work constructively to obtain the benefits. The story of Government support goes further. There are examples up and down the country of investment in regeneration through the single regeneration budget. Brighton, Portsmouth, Ramsgate, Margate, Eastbourne and Hove have all benefited. Over the next seven years, Great Yarmouth will receive £8.7 million, Blackpool £19.3 million and Morecambe £4.3 million. I imagine that the Labour party used the picture of Blackpool pleasure beach in recognition of the great support that the Government have given to it.
In addition, £100 million from the European regional development fund will go to tourism projects. That all adds up to a programme of strong, varied and effective support for the industry, and we intend to do much more.
I know that many hon. Members wish to speak about the importance of tourism and hospitality to their constituencies. We intend to make a further policy statement in the new year about the way forward for the industry, and I shall take careful note of the comments made today by my hon. Friends about how we can best help this growth industry of the future.
Our policies deliver the maximum economic and social benefit for tourism, which is a major source of jobs both now and for the future. It is a major contributor to economic and social regeneration and provides valuable income for our cultural heritage, which is so important to our quality of life.
People are waking up to the importance of tourism and to the huge potential of the industry. The Labour party threatens all that is being achieved. I am confident that people connected with tourism know full well that if they want a champion for an industry that matters to our nation, the party in government has done a huge amount. This has been a record year, and I hope that next year will be even better.
I join the Secretary of State in welcoming the opportunity to debate the tourism and hospitality industries, especially as all hon. Members share her view that they are important to Britain—to our economy as a whole and to our social well-being. It is predicted that those industries will soon be the largest in Britain, and the largest globally, too.
In the United Kingdom the industry is disaggregated—literally, as it is spread out through the economies of rural areas, small villages, market towns, and large conurbations from Land's End to John O'Groats. Tourism is of special and growing importance in Cumbria and the Lake District national park, with which much of my constituency is involved.
I could not agree with the Secretary of State's central theme, which seemed to represent an innovation for the Conservative party—the idea that increasing taxation and cutting budgets for the cultural industries and tourism will be of wide-ranging benefit and contribute to their future success. That is a real about-turn, and as the debate unfolds I shall be interested to hear whether her right hon. and hon. Friends share her view.
About 1.7 million people are involved in the industry. Many of them are low paid and without proper skills and training. I shall return to what the Secretary of State said about the social chapter, the minimum wage and the working hours directive. Most people, including many in the industry, believe that its future success can be based only on improving the quality of the product and of customer services, as the right hon. Lady rightly said, and on moving up-market to attract more visitors to Britain.
None of that will be possible with a sweatshop attitude to employment, widespread poverty pay and a lack of proper skills and training for the work force. According to the right hon. Lady, the Conservatives' view is that the present conditions should endure. At the outset of the debate, on behalf of the Labour party, I reject that approach absolutely.
In 1995 the tourism and hospitality industries generated £37.6 billion in our economy. Slightly more than £12 billion of that came from foreign visitors, so their importance to us is clear. However, United Kingdom residents in turn spent £15.7 billion abroad, so we have a deficit of about £3.6 billion on that account.
Visitors come to Britain for our arts and cultural activities; for our museums, galleries and theatres; for our heritage, our countryside and our sporting events. That is why it is important for us to bid to host events such as the football World cup and the Olympic games. The success of the Football Association in hosting Euro 96 is clear for all to see, and we must build on that success as quickly as we can.
My right hon. Friend has mentioned the bid for the Olympic games. He is of course aware that Manchester will be the venue for the Commonwealth games in 2002. Does he agree that the Government could send a signal of their recognition of the fact that we are to host those games by making a speedy announcement of their approval for a second runway at Manchester airport?
I share my right hon. Friend's view of the importance of that, not only to Manchester and the Commonwealth games but to the future success of the economy of the north-west as a whole.
The industries that we are talking about are hugely important to Exchequer income in Britain. Yet this week the arts, museums and tourism were hammered again by a disastrous short-term Budget. Again the Secretary of State completely failed to protect her departmental responsibilities from damaging cuts.
I welcome the report of the National Heritage Select Committee, which is so ably chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I am confident that the Committee's ideas will be widely endorsed, and I share its view about the special importance of a statutory register for all premises offering accommodation to visitors in Britain, and about the need quickly to produce a harmonised official scheme of ratings. Those are two aspects of the Labour party policy document, "Breaking New Ground—Labour's strategy for tourism and hospitality".
The right hon. Lady chided us for including on the cover of that document a photograph of Blackpool pleasure beach, and said something about the managing director, Geoffrey Thompson. In his endorsement of our document, this is what he actually said about Labour party policy, as opposed to what the right hon. Lady alleged he said:
It's great to see tourism recognised as an industry and on the political agenda. We welcome this initiative".
He also gave his approval for the inclusion of the photograph.
As I understand it, Geoffrey Thompson said that he was pleased that any political party should say that tourism is important—and any company would be happy for its key facility to appear on the front of a pamphlet. But what Mr. Thompson minds about is the minimum wage and the social chapter, which would have appalling effects on his business, as they would on almost every other industry.
What the Labour party does not understand is that if people can get first jobs they can trade up and get other jobs. Unemployment is lower in Britain than in other countries in Europe precisely because we have resisted such policies. The Labour party will not listen, and that outrages the tourism and hospitality industries.
The fact that the Secretary of State's response seemed to be prompted by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins), who is sitting behind her, is rather a joke, in this context. The hon. Gentleman is running away from the electorate of Blackpool, South to seek a safer seat somewhere else, so clearly he does not have much confidence in Government policies for tourism in Blackpool. He is abandoning the electors of Blackpool and seeking safer pastures, so he is the last person who should be complaining about Labour party policy on tourism.
I am encouraged by the Select Committee's report not least because it shares and complements many of the policies set out in our policy document. That document was widely welcomed, not only by Mr. Geoffrey Thompson but by the chairman of the British Tourist Authority; by Mr. Richard Branson; by Mr. Jeremy Logie, the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association; by Juliet Simpkins, the director of public affairs of the Tussaud group; by Mr. Ken Robinson, the chairman of the Tourism Society; by Charles Allen of Granada and by many other leading operators in the tourism and hospitality industries. Unlike the Conservative party, we have a policy and a strategy. The Conservative party has no policy that anyone in the industry or any Opposition Member can discern.
The Select Committee report earned a complimentary welcome, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton and his colleagues. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who enjoys considerable support across the tourism and hospitality sector for the excellent groundwork that he has done in the development of our policy document.
It is clear that our culture, heritage, museums, galleries, theatres, sports arenas and countryside have tremendous potential to attract even more visitors to Britain. A Labour Government introduced the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which created the tourist boards. We remain convinced about their importance and their activities in promoting the tourist industries. It was a ground-breaking Act when it was introduced and it has stood the test of time. We should also reflect that some Conservative Members of Parliament went into the Lobby to oppose the Act at the time. Labour's record on tourism is a good one and it is sad, and an indication of the indifference of the Conservative party, that in 17 years, it has made no attempt to update or improve on the workings of the Act, which we think is due for an overhaul.
With transport, energy, the environment and consumer affairs all impinging in important ways upon tourism, it is clear that more consideration needs to be given to cross-departmental co-operation in the interests of more effective tourism policies. It was surprising to hear the Secretary of State say that she did not want to respond to questions on transport and transport infrastructure. If after all this time in office, she has not made the connection between tourism and the importance of flexible and successful transport policies in providing access to other parts of the country, she has made a huge mistake. A disaggregated industry such as tourism needs sustained Government support and direction across all Departments if it is ever to achieve its full potential.
Recent cuts in the funding of the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board have exposed the staggering short-sightedness of the Secretary of State and her Government colleagues. Obviously, her colleagues have either forgotten what she has been saying about tourism or they have completely ignored the opinions that she has been expressing, not only to the House today, but in earlier debates and discussions about the significance of the industry to us all. When one considers that for every pound spent on promotion by the British Tourist Authority there is a return of some £27 to the British economy, the prudence of maintaining its budget and investment is apparent. But yet again this week, we have seen a cut in the allocation from the right hon. Lady to the BTA.
Britain should take greater advantage of the economic potential in the tourism sector. Tourism will be the largest industry in the world by the end of the millennium. Yet on recent performance, Britain's share of increasing world tourism is in relative decline. If we had simply retained our share of that global market in the past 10 years, we could perhaps have had 200,000 more jobs in our economy today. We have a £5.6 billion deficit on our tourism balance of trade, and that is why the further cuts in the BTA budget, and that of the English tourist board, seem so senseless to us. This short-term, budget-cutting measure will cost us much more in the medium and longer term.
The tourism, hospitality and related industries have many attractions for an incoming Labour Government—something many of the industries hope to see. First, the industries are truly nationwide, and have considerable growth potential. They create jobs, stimulate local economies and promote investment in our cultural industries, heritage, sport and arts. There is a complementary mix of small, medium and large enterprises, and we can build on and extend current performance. The question is, what needs to be done to unlock that considerable potential?
Here are the core issues on the agenda. First—this is a failure on the part of the Secretary of State—it is absolutely essential to establish a political understanding of the importance of the industries to the whole of our economy across all Government Departments. That has not been done in the 17 years of Conservative Government, and it is clear from the events of this week that the Secretary of State faces an uphill struggle in trying to convince the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that importance. Coherence in policy making across the many Departments of Government will be a primary objective for Labour.
Secondly, a review of the existing policy frame work and the methods for delivering it is needed, and that should include the various options within the industries. The Secretary of State had nothing new to say today about the existing framework for the delivery of effective policies for tourism and leisure in the British economy. We also believe in the need for a statutory scheme of registration to be phased in over an appropriate period. That policy has earned widespread support in the industries, which want such a scheme exactly because they believe that it will help them to strengthen their market share and to improve the quality of product. Many people in the industries have made it clear that it will also stop bad employers undercutting good ones and driving the market down.
Britain's performance in providing advice, guidance and information to visitors—particularly overseas visitors—can and should be dramatically improved. We are inept in some respects in providing helpful and easily accessible information to visitors to our country—including, I regret to say, in the capital city, London. We should make a concerted effort to improve the provision of help and information to tourists. The impact of transport policies needs to be analysed—especially rail privatisation, which is affecting the ability of many areas to attract even existing levels of visitors, let alone to build upon them.
We must initiate a wide-ranging debate on sustainable tourism, and that is also on our agenda. I was pleased to see—I compliment her on it—that it is also on the agenda of the Secretary of State. I am happy to have a debate with the right hon. Lady and her colleagues about the social chapter and its consequences for the tourism and hospitality industries, whom I believe have nothing to fear from it. Contrary to what she has said, the social chapter will not impose other nations' social costs on Britain. Nor does it—to knock down another myth from Conservative Members—have anything to do with earnings.
Allied to those discussions must be a higher priority for training and skills in tourism, as in other industries. There are plenty of examples in Britain—for example, York city council's successful York tourist employer of distinction policy, which is a good and succesful model that other local authorities can follow.
The case for the tourism and hospitality industries on the impact of a minimum wage will be effectively presented to a low pay commission to be established by a Labour Government. The industry has that commitment not only from me, but from my right hon. Friend the leader of the Labour party. A Labour Government will establish such a commission because we are aware of the need to consult industry, commerce, unions and employees before any decision is taken.
Did my right hon. Friend have a chance to hear the interview on Radio 4's "Today" programme this morning with the director of the Business Services Association, who welcomed a minimum wage, was seeking to participate in the low pay commission and pointed out that driving down wages to £2 and £1.50 an hour encouraged bad employment practices? Is that not relevant to the tourist industry?
Indeed, I heard that interview and I have also seen the reports in the press today. What disconcerts Conservative Members is the fact that there is growing recognition that Britain cannot compete on miserably low levels of income. That is recognised throughout Europe and in the United States of America.
The idea that we can somehow improve the quality of our product and our services by paying people low wages is absurd.
I have never understood the Conservative party's argument that it is necessary to pay those on high incomes more to make them work harder, but those on low incomes less and to give those on large incomes tax reductions to improve their incentives, but to increase the tax burdens on those on low and middle incomes. That is an absurd argument and I cannot believe that in their heart of hearts many Conservative Members believe in it.
What the right hon. Gentleman fails to understand is that the Conservative party dislikes always telling people what to do, how to run their business and what to pay their staff. We believe that prosperity, jobs and opportunity come from freedom, deregulation and liberalisation. The Labour party stands for regulation, legislation and bureaucracy—always telling other people that it can run their business better than they can themselves. That is why we shall win the next election.
The next election cannot come too soon for us. If the right hon. Lady is so confident of her policies and the Budget, let us have the election now. What are we waiting for? The people of Britain would like to have the election now and we have confidence in our policies, our position and our level of support.
Indeed. But this is what Mr. Peter Moore had to say about low pay:
You can't pay low wages—it's a false economy"—
if you do—
Additional money has then to be spent on constant recruitment, selection and training. No genuine service culture can therefore be built and it just becomes a negative spiral.
The right hon. Lady ought to be a little more careful in adducing support from such people. She did not accurately express his views.
We are determined to make an impact on low pay and we are committed to the principle of a minimum wage. We are determined too that Government and the industries will work together more effectively to market UK plc, to enhance our chances of improving our share of the continuing growth in global tourism.
The Government's record is one of 17 years of indifference, neglect and policies that have been damaging to the industries, culminating this week in the abysmal Budget, with its taxes and cuts in the right hon. Lady's departmental budget. Tax is the ground on which the Tories often choose to fight and I am happy to take up that challenge. Let us consider air passenger duty, which was first introduced by the Government—one of their 22 new taxes. The present rate is £5 for most flights in Europe and £10 for other journeys. Those rates will be doubled as a result of the Budget. The £10 rate will apply to flights beginning in the UK and ending in the UK or any of the following countries: any EU member state, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, the Azores, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Corsica, the Faroe Islands, Madeira, Sardinia, Sicily, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. The £20 rate is for flights to the United States of America. The revenue yield will be £385 million in a full year.
So, the Secretary of State is telling us that by taxing people an extra £385 million she is helping the prospects of our tourism industry. That is complete and arrant nonsense. I cannot believe that it comes from the party that says that low taxes are important. Yet the right hon. Lady —a member of the Cabinet—tells the House today that those increases will not damage the prospects of our tourism and hospitality industries.
The insurance premium tax has also increased as a result of the Budget. Travel insurance and insurance on car hire are the two areas of relevance to be affected. Is increasing the taxes on those insurances calculated to increase the attractiveness of Britain for foreign visitors? Is it calculated to make us more competitive as a host country for visitors and tourists, or less? I will be happy to give way to any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who wants to advance an answer or an argument. Will the taxes help or hinder us? Yes or no? They do not seem to be quite so keen to intervene at this point in the debate.
I hesitated a long time before interrupting the right hon. Gentleman as he is getting on very slowly and this intervention will only slow him down even more—I can see that there is a wodge more of his speech to come. Two years ago, the Labour party argued that the introduction of airport passenger duty was likely to lead to a massive diminution in the number of overseas visitors to this country. It has not done so. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, a massive increase coincided with its introduction. My suspicion is that the attractiveness of Britain is so great that it overcomes that sort of problem. So, the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is that those matters are broadly neutral.
That is not what the Secretary of State said, so the hon. Gentleman is using a different argument. It was fortuitous for the Government and for visitors to Britain that the tax was introduced at a time when sterling was falling in value—there was a devaluation in sterling—and an IRA ceasefire was announced, which we all welcome. So, circumstances other than the introduction of the tax have also to be taken into account.
I stand by what I said—in all other areas of policy and activity the conservatives believe that lower taxes are essential, but in this area they believe that increasing taxes will somehow not be damaging. That is facing both ways at once and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) knows that to be so.
Everyone shares the view, I think, that the future success of our arts and cultural industries is inextricably linked with visitors and tourism—not just in London but nationwide. Yet this week's Budget makes all areas of Britain less competitive as places to visit and in which to enjoy holidays. It was not so much giving with one hand and taking away with the other as taking away with both hands—taking from the arts, museums and tourism. Cuts to the budgets of the British Tourist Authority and the English tourist board are barmy in the face of all the arguments about the importance of the industry to us. The cuts are economic nonsense.
The Secretary of State said that she was pleased to announce today a £1.5 million grant to London, but overall she has agreed to a reduction of £500,000 in the BTA budget, which equates to the cost of several BTA offices abroad—offices that are there to attract visitors to Britain and to promote our country.
A further £134,000 is transferred from the English tourist board budget to the Department of Trade and Industry. The Secretary of State said that she was delighted to announce that the ETB had already put in an application for that money; of course it has: it is trying to get its budget back. It now has to compete for what was its own money, which is absurd.
Our policies on skills and training have won backing today, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) said earlier, and will win further backing. There is growing support for the introduction of a minimum wage, and we also learn from a report in the Financial Times that
The study on the financial impact of poor customer service, the first of its kind, suggests that over a five-year period, a business with annual turnover of £500m could lose more than £1.8bn in revenue and £267m in profits, because of such poor service.
If we maintain the approach on pay and training—or the lack of them—that the Government have endorsed again today, we shall damage the quality of service in our tourism and hospitality industries, throwing away money in false economies.
The timing of this debate is rather curious. I could not quite bring myself to believe that the Secretary of State wanted to come to the Chamber today, following a Select Committee report that was supportive of Labour party policies and a Budget that has had such damaging consequences for all her responsibilities. She had no new policy announcements to make, no coherence in her approach and no new White Paper to flag up.
All was revealed when we read about the activities of the chairman of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr.Mawhinney).
I said that I opposed the cuts in the BTA, which are short-sighted and barmy economics, cutting off our nose to spite our face. In the long term, its budget should have been sustained, if we are to believe what the Secretary of State said at great length this morning about the Government's commitment to tourism.
We hear that the Secretary of State has had some argy-bargy with the chairman of her party, who has been bullying her into being more active in defence of the Government's policies, and we have seen the result today: she came along with an incoherent speech and nothing new to say. She must be wondering who needs enemies, when she has friends and colleagues like that.
Today, we have been given the opportunity to expose the Government's failure to do anything new on tourism in the past few years or to produce any coherent view of its future development. The industry, the Select Committee and Labour have policy ideas for the future of tourism, but the very person who should have such ideas, the Secretary of State, has none. The best that can be said of her speech today is that she seems to have taken a policy holiday on the future of tourism.
The Secretary of State has acquiesced this week in plenty of policies against the best interests of the industry, which will be served, as she said, when the people have the opportunity to vote; when they do so, they will give the right hon. Lady and her colleagues a long holiday in Opposition—and the sooner the better.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in her excellent and comprehensive speech, made it clear that we are debating a success story—the story of an expanding, increasingly professional industry that is growing in terms of invisible exports, investment and employment.
We had to pinch ourselves during the speech of the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to remember that the subject under debate was such a success story. I have never heard such a moaning Minnie—or whingeing pom, as the Australians say. He described in a way to make our flesh creep the terrible horrors of sweatshops and poverty pay, and he tried to make our blood curdle with tales of terrible cuts and the barmy economics of the reduction in the British Tourist Authority's budget.
One would have thought that the reduction was huge and sensational; in fact, it is from £35.5 million to £35 million, a cut of £500,000. By the standards of Chief Secretaries, that is not a significant cut but a sliver or fine shaving.
The tourism industry as a whole has gained by tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds from the national lottery, so the notion that my right hon. Friend is presiding over some cruel. Scrooge-like torturing, twisting and cutting of the British tourism industry is typical of the right hon. Member for Copeland, whose only role in tourism should be as a fairground barker for the house of horrors: roll up to see the terrible disasters that will occur if the Labour party ever gets its hands on the industry.
The statistics in my right hon. Friend's speech that struck me most were those on employment. She reminded us that 1.8 million people work in tourism, which is almost 6 per cent. of total employment in the United Kingdom, and she forecast that the industry had the potential to create another 1 million jobs over the next 10 years.
The industry is such a success story precisely because it is a deregulated industry that benefits from flexible labour laws. One way to wreck it would be to do as the right hon. Member for Copeland suggested; he seemed to imply that the social chapter would have no impact whatever, but one need only consider the pressures imposed by ingredients of the social chapter such as the parental leave, part-time work and works council directives—not to mention the working time directive, which my right hon. Friend said would cost the tourism industry 100 million—to see clearly that the combination of Brussels and Copeland would be a disaster for the industry.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall, as we do, that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment came back from Brussels after discussions on that directive claiming a victory. She said, in effect, "We've won." Was she telling the truth? Before the right hon. Gentleman runs away with this nonsense about the working time directive, he should note that tourism is classified in it as an industry with a number of exemptions: it is exempt from articles 3, 4, 5, 8 and 16. He must do a little better if he wants to convince anyone that he understands what he is talking about.
It is not a matter of dispute that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment got a better deal than expected on the working time directive, but it is still a bad deal for Britain overall. The only common ground that I have with the right hon. Gentleman is that I thank goodness that my right hon. Friend managed, among other things, to negotiate some derogations and exemptions.
One of the problems with Brussels is, when is an exemption an exemption? Often it is not one. The right hon. Gentleman's complacency may be misplaced, and I think that the figure of £100 million for the cost to the tourism industry of the working time directive is about right.
The essence of the tourism industry is that, geographically speaking, one could describe it as an archipelago of classical small businesses, particularly in the hotel trade. Last week, I attended, as I do nearly every year, the annual dinner of the hoteliers of my constituency. There are 535 hotels in Thanet, which employ, directly or indirectly, some 1,500 people. That constituency figure reminds us how well spread is the tourism industry. It is important not only from a London point of view, as has rightly been emphasised, but constituency by constituency.
The hoteliers in my constituency, to whom I often talk, would not recognise the resonant, flesh-creeping phrases of the right hon. Member for Copeland about sweatshop attitudes and poverty pay. The industry is full of optimism, gaining more business than ever before and, in Thanet, creating some good niches such as language schools, which bring in more than £10 million to Thanet, creating some 500 jobs. Seeing you in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am reminded of the great golf courses in east Kent, which are patronised by you and others. Niche businesses are creating more and more jobs in hotels.
If I had a slight niggle about my right hon. Friend's speech it was that it was London-focused. From her point of view that may be correct, because London is a great magnet for tourism, but she mentioned Heathrow's importance as the gateway to Britain. I agree about that, but there is another gateway: the channel ports. They are much in the news at present but, I am sorry to say, for their vulnerability because of the current blockade of Calais by French lorry drivers and the recent Eurotunnel fire. That should remind us that we need diversity, accessibility and a multiplicity of ports, routes and carriers at the gateway to Europe in Kent.
A few months ago, there was much boastful talk, not a million miles from Eurotunnel, about how it would win the price war against the ferries, put its rivals out of business and dominate the cross-channel traffic market. Perhaps that was a case of pride coming before a fire. The regrettable closure of the channel tunnel reminds us that we need competition in the cross-channel marketplace and flourishing ferry companies, just as we need a safe and successful Eurotunnel.
In the cross-channel market, and in the tourism market as a whole, tourism and the travelling public win if competition thrives, but it must be fair competition. I have a special plea for the Government. Let there be equal rights for all channel ports. Fair play must be the order of the day in matters such as signposting, tourism promotion and, above all, communications links. The Government should create for the channel ports, and for elsewhere, a truly level tourism playing field. I must highlight a manifest inequality in the treatment of Ramsgate, which for road links is the Cinderella of channel ports, especially in relation to her two sisters, Dover and Folkestone. I do not intend to imply that they are the ugly sisters—they are attractive towns—but they are far better provided with road links.
The channel tunnel terminal at Cheriton near Folkestone has its spanking new M20 motorway. It cost tens of millions of pounds to bring it up to the terminal entrance. Dover has the M2 and its Jubilee way leading right into the port. Ramsgate alone lacks any sort of port access to link Britain's second biggest channel port to the dual carriageway system of Kent and Britain's motorway network. I know that my right hon. Friend is not the Secretary of State for Transport, so I shall not burden her by rehearsing all the arguments for the Ramsgate harbour approach road, even though the environmental, economic and transportation case is overwhelming, but I would like her to do two things in her capacity as the Minister responsible for tourism.
First, I would like my right hon. Friend to reflect on the unfairness point: that every other channel part in Kent—and for that matter in France and Belgium—has, or is planned to have, its own major port access road, paid for out of the public purse, to separate the port traffic from the congested traffic of the adjoining town. Ramsgate alone is discriminated against. It is Britain's second largest channel port, with 3.5 million passengers, more than 450,000 cars and 250,000 lorries every year; it is in the middle of an expansion programme involving two new fast ferries or catamarans that are expected to attract an additional 1.5 million passengers, 300,000 cars and 140,000 lorries next year; port Ramsgate and the Holyman-Sally ferry company are obviously good for tourism and for Britain and are intending to grow and flourish with the new investment in the tourism infrastructure. Despite all those factors, Ramsgate is the only channel port without a port access road. To leave it in that isolated position is to introduce an element of unfair competition in favour of other ports.
When my right hon. Friend has reflected on the unfairness point, will she take a message from the debate to the Secretary of State for Transport and his road programme and, perhaps more interestingly, to the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is in charge of the capital challenge bid programme? I hope that the conversation that she may have with him will be particularly fruitful, because the capital challenge programme is designed to create jobs and develop successful industries such as tourism. The Kent bid is especially imaginative, because it includes the Ramsgate harbour approach road and all its attendant benefits to tourism. I hope that her role and that of the Department of National Heritage in the capital challenge programme bidding process will be important so that she will be a decisive voice for the Kent bid and the Ramsgate harbour approach road.
That brings me to a theme that I might call my one niggle or nagging doubt about the Department's role in tourism. The House knows after her excellent speech that my right hon. Friend is serious about tourism, but are the rest of Whitehall and the Government equally serious and committed? It is good news that we at long last have a Cabinet Minister, and an energetic and vocal one, responsible for tourism, but how well does her Department co-ordinate with others? When she and others talk about the need to attract high-spending tourists from overseas, especially from the far east and America, I wonder how well co-ordinated that enthusiasm is, given the squalid treatment that they are given at Heathrow, with its huge visa queues of people coming from America and other countries. They are subjected to unjustifiable delays because of the immigration service, which is the responsibility of the Home Office.
In asking how good co-ordination is, I shall let the House into a little official secret. I happen to know that an important Whitehall committee was once set up. It was called the ministerial co-ordinating committee on tourism. I tried to find out how often it has met, and discovered that it has not met since 1991. The five-year gap in its schedule suggests that the Government's approach to tourism is not quite as well orchestrated as it perhaps should be. My right hon. Friend may have a perfectly good answer. Without the help of a co-ordinating committee, she is setting a faster pace and getting more effective results than any previous Minister for tourism. She has a good precedent for that. Perhaps I may refer to an ancestor or relative of mine. When the late Lord Beaverbrook became Minister for Aircraft Production in 1940, he abolished all co-ordinating committees with the memorable dictum:
Committees take the punch out of war.
Perhaps they take the punch out of tourism, too. I do not wish to be too critical, but I believe that there is a need for greater co-operation between Departments, as with the competitiveness White Paper.
The essential message of the debate is that tourism is doing well and has a good Minister, who has raised its profile at home and abroad. I have one last suggestion on profile raising. I wonder whether a better title for my right hon. Friend would not be the Secretary of State for National Heritage and Tourism. It is not simply a matter of nomenclature. Tourism is a huge national interest and creator of jobs. It represents more than 5 per cent. of gross domestic product—some £37 billion a year. We may or may not need a ministerial committee to co-ordinate tourism, but tourism deserves a clearer ministerial identification, and I hope that the title change will be considered.
I have to end my speech on a note of apology. I am going to attend a funeral so, alas, I cannot stay for the end of the debate. I hope that my suggestions will find favour with the Government and that British tourism, like the rest of the British economy, will continue to go from strength to strength.
The right hon. Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) asked whether the Government were serious about tourism. I shall come to that in a moment. In a week in which the National Heritage Select Committee has published a unanimous report, as all our reports are on tourism, the question that I ask is how serious the country is about tourism. How serious is the House of Commons about tourism? The Secretary of State said that there was a good turnout for the debate. A maximum of 22 hon. Members have been present out of 649. Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party have been absent from the debate, even though Wales and Scotland are much more amply funded than England in terms of tourism. The Press Gallery is almost empty.
When we launched our Select Committee report on Wednesday, we had an attendance, including a team of three from the BBC, of six journalists. Yet, as the Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for South Thanet and my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) pointed out, tourism is the biggest private sector industry in Britain. Before the end of the decade, it will be the biggest industry in Britain. As our report says, it employs more people than agriculture, coal mining, steel making, automobile manufacture, aircraft manufacture, food production and the textile industry put together.
One of the special merits of the tourism industry is that it is labour intensive. In an era in which the expansion of industry is capital intensive rather than labour intensive, the propensity of tourism to employ people is one of its most, though not overwhelmingly its most, important aspect. I say to both the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for South Thanet that the issue of the minimum wage is an important one.
I am baffled as to why Conservatives, of all people, seem to believe that a statutory minimum wage is not desirable. As the United States presidential election campaign entered its last phases, Congress voted to increase the American statutory minimum wage. The Republicans were falling over themselves to agree with the Democrats that an increase was necessary. I find it difficult to understand why a Government dedicated to capitalist economics cannot understand that the economy in the world most dedicated to capitalist economics, that of the United States, regards a statutory minimum wage as an inherent part of a burgeoning and innovating economy.
The Department of National Heritage is the most undervalued Department in the Government. I believe—I have said it and the Select Committee has said it—that the creation of the Department of National Heritage was an act of great imagination by the Prime Minister. I believe and the Select Committee which I chair believes that the centrality of the Department is not sufficiently recognised. It is responsible for the two most important industries in the country. It is responsible for the electronic and visual communications industry, which is the industry of the future, on which the basis of our economy and society will revolve as the new century progresses. It is also responsible for tourism, which is the most important private sector industry that the country possesses. It is extremely important that we do everything that we can to expand and foster that industry.
The right hon. Member for South Thanet said that tourism affected most of our constituencies—perhaps not absolutely all, but most. That is why I intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland with regard to Manchester airport. The airport was voted internationally the best airport in the world. It requires urgently a decision on the second runway. Manchester has been classified as an exceptionally important tourist city. The north-west, including the areas to which the Secretary of State referred, is one of the central areas of tourism.
I agree with the right hon. Member for South Thanet that although no one can deny the central importance of London, there is a whole United Kingdom outside London with enormous attractions for tourists, which we should do a great deal more about. I shall deal with that later. If one is dealing with London, one ought to examine not only the merits of London—who can deny them?—but the fact that there is dissatisfaction among tourists with some aspects of tourism in London. I very much hope that the Secretary of State and her right hon. Friends will tackle some of those matters. For example, tourists are exploited by phoney and exploitative theatrical booking agencies, which rip off tourists by selling tickets which are both overpriced and for badly situated seats.
One of the things that I find most annoying as I come to the House of Commons every day is the passing tourist buses run by two companies—London Pride and Blue Triangle—which have on them notices saying, "Official London Tourist Bus". That is deceptive because there is nothing official about them whatever. They claim some official status, and by doing so seriously deceive tourists. I should like to see tourists and visitors to London from other parts of the United Kingdom protected from such activities.
The Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland were both kind enough to refer to the report of the National Heritage Select Committee, which we published on Wednesday. As I say, it is a unanimous report. Although my right hon. Friend has a perfect right to make whatever claims he wishes about any similarities between our report and the Labour party document, it is important for me to point out that we compiled our report without having seen the Labour party document; the Labour party document was not discussed during the compilation of our report. Therefore, if there are resemblances, to which my right hon. Friend has a perfect right to draw attention, they are coincidences which my right hon. Friend may well call happy.
I am happy and pleased to confirm what my right hon. Friend says. Of course there was no collusion between us at all. I am just delighted that an independent Select Committee of the House of Commons, with Conservative Members on it, came broadly to the same conclusions as we in the Labour party did. I am reassured by that.
The Select Committee not only has Conservative Members on it but it has a Conservative majority, as do all Select Committees. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), who sat for a while on our Select Committee, is well aware that we do not have politics on our Select Committee.
I would be the last person to detract from the success and prospects of the tourism industry, which is an extraordinarily important one. If I have a complaint it is that because the industry encompasses entertainment, heritage attractions and the countryside, it is somehow regarded as a peripheral industry rather than one that is central to the prospects of our economy. It employs 1.75 million people, attracts vast amounts of foreign currency and has great prospects. Therefore, if the burden of my speech deals with some of the proposals in our Select Committee report which draw attention to shortcomings, that is not because I or anyone on the Select Committee would detract from the success of the tourism industry, but because we wish to see that industry made even more successful.
That is why I have to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland about the unfortunate cut in funding for the British Tourist Authority. That authority is profoundly underfunded.
When our Select Committee went to the United States, we noted that individual states have more funding for the promotion of tourism within their states than the BTA has to promote Britain. The BTA covers north, south and central America and is centrally run from an office in New York, although there are other offices elsewhere. We regard it as utterly absurd that a potentially extremely lucrative market should be run from New York and that the authority should be so severely underfunded. The BTA has £5.1 million to promote Britain in the whole of the Americas and £750,000 is devoted to advertising Britain throughout the whole of the Americas. Insufficient money is available to establish an office in Dallas, although Texas is regarded as one of the most important growth areas for tourism to Britain.
The Select Committee went to the state of Virginia to visit Colonial Williamsburg. That state spends $1 million overseas from a tourism budget of $17 million. It has a bigger tourism budget than the BTA has for the Americas, and it spends more overseas than the BTA can spend on advertising itself throughout the Americas.
As we said in our Select Committee report:
We asked one of the people we visited what he thought of the BTA's marketing efforts, and mentioned their budget; he replied. 'I guess that's why we never see the ads."'
We attract 750,000 visitors from the United States. That may sound pretty good, but out of a population of more than 250 million it is by no means as good as it should be.
I accept that the resemblances between the state of Virginia and Britain are not total, and I would not want to make too much of the analogy. Nevertheless, as many people in a year visit Colonial Williamsburg in the state of Virginia as visit the United Kingdom from the United States. I accept that that town is in the same country, although it is a huge continental one, and I do not want to make over-much of that fact, but it is clear that we are not promoting the BTA in the Americas anything like as much as we should be.
The statistics on the BTA show that that additional money should not be regarded as a grant because financing the BTA and the tourist boards is an investment in Britain. That investment pays off enormously. The statistics that we cite in our report, which have been updated by the BTA, show that between 1991 and 1994, each pound spent by the BTA generated £14 in return for the British economy. In 1994–95, the return was £23 and in 1995–96, the return was £27. That extremely lucrative investment creates employment and tax revenue in this country.
Our Select Committee report proposes an increase of £100 million for the BTA over the next five years. We base that on extremely conservative estimates because we were careful not to overstate the possibilities. Nevertheless, we pointed out that according to the ratios available, which are official figures, an increase of £100 million in BTA financing could attract more than £2 billion in increased tourism spending in this country. If only 40 per cent. of that was spent on items liable for VAT, the yield on that tax alone would be £140 million. If the Government look on that money as simply a giveaway, they will not understand that it is an investment that would create jobs, provide us with vast amounts of foreign exchange and provide money for the Revenue.
For the benefit of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman explain exactly what he means by the phrase, "over the next five years"? Is he suggesting in the report that that financial support for the BTA should be an additional £100 million this year, next year, the year after and in each of five years; that it should be steadily built up to reach the figure at the end of five years; or that that money should be provided over the five years?
The second of the three—it should build up. We are an extremely reasonable Select Committee—that is obvious since it contains some of the most prudent Members from the Conservative and Labour parties. We do not make foolish demands and we had a long discussion about that funding before we decided that it was an appropriate amount to recommend.
I should like to draw attention to the funding of the English tourist board. Just as the funding for the BTA has been reduced in the Budget, so has the funding for that board. It is a curious thing that although the Scottish and Welsh tourist boards are funded substantially—I will not say amply—the English tourist board is funded in an absolutely derisory fashion. Grant in aid to the English tourist board—before the cut that we heard about today—for the current financial year is £10 million. That compares with £18.2 million for the Scottish tourist board and £14.7 million for the Welsh tourist board. That means that, per head of the population, grant in aid for the Welsh tourist board is £6.40, for the Scottish tourist board it is £4.78 and for the English tourist board it is 26p.
We do not resent the funding for the Scottish and Welsh tourist boards—far from it. There are superb attractions in Scotland, Wales and, indeed, in Northern Ireland for tourists, but there are superb attractions in England, too. It is extraordinary that England should be so ludicrously underpromoted because of the way in which funding is allocated. That is why the Select Committee recommends that the funding of the English tourist board should be re-examined.
The Secretary of State spoke about the attractions of museums, galleries and other cultural institutions. I am sure that our Select Committee would have issued some strictures if we had known in advance about the cut in funding for the British museum. That is one of the most absurd cuts there could possibly be because it is an established fact that one of the primary destinations of overseas tourists is the British museum. Huge numbers of people go there. Free admission to the British museum brings in hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds from foreign tourists providing business for our hotels, restaurants and shops. It is extraordinarily short-sighted that the British museum's funding should be reduced.
A number of comments about spending decisions have been made today and now is not the moment to correct the many incorrect comments, because I understand why they were made. In respect of museums, however, it is important to say that I was able to put an additional £3 million into museums overall. Out of that, we have established a museum maintenance fund, which is being allocated to the major museums according to their needs and circumstances.
The British museum has been the subject of the deeply disturbing Edwards report, which leaves many questions to be answered as a matter of urgency. The museum's most profound difficulty, which I have accommodated in full, is what happens when the British Library moves out. I was able to find £1.7 million in the second year and £3.4 million in the third year so that, provided that it acts on the issues in the Edwards report, the museum can look forward with greater confidence to the phase when the British Library moves out, at which time the museum will need assistance.
I shall not quarrel with the right hon. Lady's figures —I am sure that they are absolutely accurate —but the fact is that the British museum has suffered a cut of £1.3 million.
With the greatest possible good will, I say to the right hon. Lady that she had better not start me off on the subject of the British Library, which is a disaster of monumental proportions. It is a disaster in terms of expenditure, which has gone vastly out of control; it is a disaster because the new building is one of the ugliest on the face of this planet; and it is a disaster in terms of the job that it is supposed to do, because it is too small to accommodate the number of books it already has. I do not hold the right hon. Lady personally responsible for the whole affair —there is a long trail that goes right back to Mrs. Shirley Williams —but the British Library is one of the great disaster stories of our time.
If the right hon. Lady wants to do me a personal favour, instead of announcing when the British Library will move out of the British museum, she will instruct the British Library to stay in the round reading room, which is one of the world's great cultural monuments. It will be a disaster when the round reading room is lost. She had better not start me off on that subject, because I have several ancient mariner obsessions and that is one of them.
On the whole, much of the accommodation that we offer in this country is very good. That statement does not apply only to the great hotels, but goes right down to the excellent bed-and-breakfast establishments that can be found throughout the country. Nevertheless, as the right hon. Lady pointed out, it is a sad fact that some accommodation falls below acceptable standards. There is already a statutory provision in operation in Northern Ireland for the compulsory registration of hotels and the Development of Tourism Act 1969 gives the Secretary of State the power to provide for the registration of hotels in the rest of the United Kingdom as well.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland pointed out, representatives of vast sections of the industry who came to give evidence to the Select Committee and people whom we met during our substantial tour of British tourist centres as part of our Committee's work begged for registration and for something to be done about classification. Of course, we understand that there are many subjective criteria for classification purposes, but it is extraordinarily confusing for visitors to be faced with one classification from the AA, another from the RAC, yet another from the "Good Hotel Guide", and still others in various guide books. It is difficult for the visitor to know what to choose and what value will be received.
That is why we strongly support the efforts of the industry to come up with a unified classification system. After a long and painstaking discussion, the Committee also concluded that, if such a scheme cannot be made to stick if it is voluntary and if it cannot be done within the next 12 months, a compulsory scheme will be the obvious and only alternative. Accommodation is the basis of all tourism. People have a right to clean, attractive and tidy hotels, boarding houses and bed-and-breakfast establishments. I ask the right hon. Lady to consider that proposal with the utmost seriousness.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Lady that we have a success story in tourism. It is a great industry and the decline of other labour-intensive industries because of industrial and technological change means that tourism will become more important. By the end of the decade, it will be the biggest employer and the biggest industry in this country.
The right hon. Member for South Thanet, who explained why he was unable to stay for the remainder of the debate, spoke of the failure of co-ordination by Government and, sadly, that is true. The ministerial tourism co-ordination committee does not meet and there are too many Government Departments with a finger in the pie. The Select Committee, in an earlier report, stated its belief that the Department of National Heritage should have transferred to it a great many of the functions relating to its core activities which are currently spun off into other Departments. The Select Committee believes that the structure of Government involvement in the tourist industry should be re-examined urgently, so that the industry can develop to its full potential.
It may sound odd coming from me, but I am sorry that there has been so much party politics in today's debate. In 1970, when I first became a Member of Parliament, I was young and perhaps even more callow than I am now and I made a somewhat controversial speech on a Friday. Afterwards, Mr. Albert Costain, who was then the hon. Member for Folkestone, took me aside and said, "I think I ought to explain to you that we do not have party politics in Friday debates." There might have been a change in the House's practice since then, but a debate of this sort, on this day, is one in which we can focus on how we can work together to improve the tourist industry.
Of course, with a general election approaching, we will all make party political points and I shall not be backward in doing so myself; nevertheless, where hon. Members on both sides can work together to promote the tourist industry, we should do so. It is in the interest of all our constituents that the industry should be as prosperous as possible. I hope that the right hon. Lady will respond positively to all the recommendations in the Select Committee report. Hon. Members must accept that there is no industry more important to employment and prosperity in our country than the tourist industry.
I am glad to follow the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), especially after hearing his final remarks. It would be naive to say that there should not be too much party politicking on whatever day of the week, because that is the very stuff of this historic Chamber; but an excess of it, and the exchanges of insults, the ranting and raving, and the sloganised imprecations that now characterise our daily debates are turning the public off to a significant degree. That attitude reflects, in part, on hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman referred to empty Chamber syndrome, not only on Friday but on other days of the week. It is a fairly ominous development for Parliament.
I shall be brief. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken), I shall have to leave before the end of the debate to attend other engagements. I apologise for that. Unfortunately, it will prevent me from hearing what I imagine will be an excellent and, as usual, competent speech by the Minister of State, but I shall read it very carefully and no doubt he will be able to put up with one or two subsequent letters from me on various policy aspects, if that would be in order.
I thank the Minister, not only for being a dynamic and confident Minister of his Department, which is an important Department and deserves to grow and expand in future, but for being especially helpful on the school playing fields problem that we have in London —not only central London but outer London, including my constituency of Harrow, East. I am grateful that, this morning, he once again agreed that we can fix a time for an urgent meeting next week to discuss the problem of Camden's ceasing to run the Prince Edward playing fields and the possible options. Those fields are on the verge of being vandalised and falling into dereliction as, in a week or two, for financial reasons, the present tenants —I use that word deliberately —give up running them.
I shall make several rapid points about tourism. Some relate to the activities of Departments other than the Department of National Heritage. As other hon. Members are anxious to speak, I shall not go into detail, and what I say will sound like a list, but perhaps I may develop some points later.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet mentioned the fire in the channel tunnel. When we contemplate that terrible fire and the damage that it has done to Eurostar and Le Shuttle services, we should react with sympathy, not criticism. It was a massive misfortune for the operators of the tunnel and the train services. We do not know what the three inquiries will produce. That service is crucial to the development and health of our tourism industry and the flow of our citizens abroad. It has been a wonderful success so far, and I can only express enormous sympathy for all concerned in the chunnel company and on the French side.
Subject to those three inquiries, I would say that, ominously, the fire appears to have resulted from the negligence of the owner of the vehicle where the fire started —perhaps also the driver, but I hesitate to say so because that could be massively unfair, so I shall not dwell on it —or sabotage or something similar. I hope that the truth will emerge from the inquiries, if it is able to be ascertained. That may be a problem.
In view of the great success of that service —the world's most wonderful transport project—the recent fire is in sharp contrast to the massive and tragic loss of life in ferry boat accidents. A great deal of attention has been given to injuries. Mercifully, only six or seven people were injured; others were in considerable discomfort, but the exercise of removing them from the train went extremely well. We understand that the mistakes made —subject to the inquiries, so I shall be careful what I say —are principally that, understandably, the steward opened the door and allowed smoke to come in and that there was confusion about whether the driver should proceed or stop. We do not know whether the electronics intervened.
We must all support the early resumption of chunnel services. There has been a rather malicious, "Oh, it will have to stay closed for years" attitude, especially in some of our more frenetic, hysterical, chauvinistic tabloid press. I hope that that will not be supported —it has not been so far —by anything that is said officially.
I am a strong supporter of the millennium wheel which, if all the permissions are sustained, is due to be created outside the still empty and unused County hall. By the way, when foreign tourists come to London they are open-mouthed and amazed at the history of the destruction of London government. That is another matter, which we shall go into another time. I opposed that idea when it was proposed by the Thatcher Government.
I hope that there will be more signs in foreign languages, in appropriate places, both official and privately promoted. Although English is the world's dominant language —we are blessed by that and it is fortunate for us —it is reassuring for foreign visitors to see signs in their own language. We are much better at providing such signs than we were 10 years ago, and we were much better at it 10 years ago than we were 20 years ago, but much more needs to be done.
Town twinning helps to promote tourism. The London borough of Harrow has a happy, felicitous and marvellously successful town-twinning arrangement with Douai, near Lille, the centre of the judiciary in north-western France. It is a great success in institutional, collective and personal relationship terms. It promotes tourism because people learn about it in a family and personal sense and then decide to visit one another's town and the surrounding areas. When the channel tunnel service resumes, that will be even easier.
The Government must try to reassure us through the appropriate agencies —London Transport, and our parliamentary authorities —in respect of a dramatic project: the lowering and creation of the Jubilee line connection at Westminster tube station and the new Parliament building. Apparently, both are now behind schedule. It is important for the Government to be able to reassure us that they will not run massively behind schedule. The matter is extremely important because many foreign visitors come to this location, despite the fact that it is a monstrous building site. I make no immediate complaint about that, but if it were to go on too long it could be damaging. Many people will flock to this area, to the benefit of our economy in the tourism sense, when those exciting projects are completed.
The British Rail Heathrow link was mentioned. I hope that it will not fall behind schedule and that we can have reassuring reports about it. I should like Ministers in general —this has a direct impact on tourism —to be more prepared to defend our membership of the European Union in the sense of the reciprocity of the single market in tourism. Thousands of visitors cross the planet as well as the member states of the European Union, but still the attitude of Ministers is not to defend our membership of the European Union enough, generally or specifically.
I make one important suggestion, to which I know the Minister, who is an extremely intelligent person, will react positively. We should do as other countries now do. Will he please discuss with the Department of Transport —we know that, whenever a new idea is promulgated, it takes about 19 years for it to be realised, so the sooner the better —showing the European flag on the numberplates of British cars, as it is in the other states of the European Union? That would be a good idea. Even if it started voluntarily, so that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) would not have to do it, it could be made compulsory later, once people realised what an overwhelmingly popular idea it was.
I conclude with a point of enormous importance to the tourism industry, on which the Department of National Heritage should perhaps hold discussions in future with two other crucial Departments, the DTI and the Treasury. I have expressed several times, and shall develop the theme relentlessly —so I warn my hon. Friend the Minister that letters will flow in due course, if he can stand opening them and reading them —my anxieties about the excessive costs of exchanging foreign currency at currency exchange bureaux in airports and elsewhere. They are often monopoly services in the sense that people cannot really leave a specific zone of the airport, and if they do, the rates quoted elsewhere are usually the same. The rates are based on the lead guidance rates of the leading commercial and clearing banks. As I said recently to the press, when I returned from France in the summer, I wanted to exchange some French francs back into sterling. The rates being quoted, even for quite large amounts of foreign currency, in this case more than £100 nowadays a modest amount of money for tourism and travel would be well into the £250 to £300 area —were phoney and the commission rates approached 10 per cent. In one case, it was well over 10 per cent. —and it was difficult to shop around and get a cheaper rate. There is a similar problem in booths in town and throughout the country.
The Government should look into that matter through the appropriate machinery —the Director General of Fair Trading. My hon. Friend the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs suggested that I contact the Director General of Fair Trading. I have done so, but I still await a reply. The obvious solution is to have the single currency, which is not the intellectual preserve of the central banking elites and high-falutin' officials deciding on their favourite projects. It is for Mr. and Mrs. Public.
I was entranced when a very right-wing colleague in the House —I will not name him —told me about his holiday with his wife, who I shall call, perhaps appropriately, Muriel. He said, "We drove my Daimler. We went around Holland a bit, around Belgium, a little bit in Germany, but that is a dangerous country of course so we did not stay there too long, and a little bit in northern France. We stayed in wonderful hotels and I used my credit card everywhere. But by the way, Hugh, always remember that I am dead against the single currency." It was a wonderfully illogical remark. We shall see how that pans out.
The single currency is a matter for tourists to benefit from. The credit card system allows them to do that, as do similar financial systems. The Government should directly encourage it, even during the preliminary phase before the central policy decision on a single currency is made, to promote the good cause of tourism in this country.
In the mean time, it is essential to reduce the huge cost of exchanges. Long-distance juggernaut drivers grumble massively about the inconvenience of the system. We all know the example of a family driving around half the European Union countries and exchanging currencies as they go across borders. Such a family would lose more than 50 per cent. of every gross pound that they spent because of that ludicrous process. The sooner we make a change, the better. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will undoubtedly give me a positive preliminary response to that very important suggestion.
I am happy to concur with the majority of the incisive and perceptive speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I look forward to having a European flag on my car registration plate soon, courtesy of the Government.
I apologise for not being my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). He is our parliamentary spokesman on tourism, but he is, alas, indisposed. He has been under the surgeon's knife recently. The prognosis is good, but he is ill and I am an inadequate substitute for his experience and knowledge of the wider aspects of the tourism industry. I should like to be able to say that I am about to rush to his bedside to peel a grape and console him, but alas I have to go to Scotland almost as soon as I sit down to attend surgeries that were publicly advertised before I knew that I would have to replace him in this morning's important debate.
We have had a good debate so far. I concur with the view expressed earlier that our Friday debates are often the best. There is no doubt that tourism is an important industry. I concede that the Government have made some progress, but they are not doing as much as they should.
To province evidence of that, I return to the subject of my intervention on the Secretary of State. Air passenger duty is difficult for the industry to cope with. The British Tourist Authority has expressed disappointment about it. I was discussing earlier this morning with the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) the impact that the tax will have on families who travel. He has tabled an amendment on the issue, which I am happy to support. The Government cannot double the duty at a stroke and expect families to be able to travel as easily as they did. The duty has a worrying effect on the competitiveness of the industry. I wonder whether that has been properly thought through.
I also agree with the view of the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that taxpayers' investment in the BTA is good value for money. He quoted an estimated return of £27 for every £ 1 invested. We are not doing enough to invest sensibly and wisely so that we continue to receive good returns. The view is shared across the House that the industry is developing almost exponentially. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has made clear, it will be the biggest employer of labour across the world by the end of the decade. It is therefore worrying that the United Kingdom's share of the world tourism market has decreased in the past 10 years from 5.6 per cent. to the latest available figure of 4.3 per cent. —as the Government's report "Competing with the best" conceded. A declining share of the market is bad news and augurs ill for the success of our tourism industry against an upward trend in other parts of the world.
Like the hon. Member for Harrow, East, I should like to make a number of short, sharp points. I was a little disappointed that the Secretary of State focused so much on central areas. The right hon. Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) said that her speech was too London-centred. That is true.
We suffer as a result of resting on our laurels. It is right and proper to set on the front of our tourism stall all our heritage, culture and museums —the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was right to say that the British museum is a jewel in the crown —but they are not the only things that tourists come to see. Looking to the next century, people will be increasingly interested in culture, arts, fashion and music. The Secretary of State was right to mention the Ministry of Sound. Such attractions will become more valid means of bringing people from furth of the United Kingdom.
I went to Taiwan as a tourist for four days earlier this year —well, actually, I was a member of a parliamentary delegation and we worked very hard studying the economy of Taiwan. However, we did a bit of tourism. I looked forward to seeing the art collection in Taipei from mainland China. My abiding memory of those few days was of the culture and the economy. People who come to Britain in future will be as interested in our fashions and the modern industries that are developing and will continue to develop as they have been in Beefeaters, museums, royal palaces and the like. We must keep that balance in mind.
I should also like to complain —if that is the right word to use —that the Government's view, as explained by the Secretary of State, seemed to ignore the disproportionately high impact of tourism on rural areas and small coastal communities. All the big honey pot visitor attractions that we know so well will be visited and get attention —deservedly so —in any case. We must engage in positive discrimination. That can be supported because of the disproportionate impact that investment in tourism in rural and small coastal communities can have. Industries in those areas are family-based, fragmented and subject to seasonal variations, making it difficult to sustain their financial viability without support. I understand the need for grand, national —nay, international —strategies, but I hope that the Government will also bear it in mind that the economies of small rural and coastal communities rely increasingly on tourism.
I should like to talk briefly about standards, to which the right hon. Member for Gorton referred. His Select Committee report is excellent and well timed. It certainly helped me to prepare for the debate, and I am sure that it will be an excellent aid to inform future discussions. Standards are important, not just in England and Wales, but across the Scottish-English border. The Scottish system is based on assessment and guaranteeing quality in the provision of facilities. As I understand it, the English system focuses far more on the physical facilities provided. We have almost 10 years' experience of our system. We use crowns; I think that in England, people use stars. The RAC and the AA use their own classification systems.
It would be a great shame and a retrograde step if the Scottish emphasis on quality was lost in the implementation of a system guaranteeing quality assurance in the industry. The one point above all that I want to leave in the Minister's mind as a result of this debate is this. I argue forcefully, strongly and robustly for getting a national scheme across the United Kingdom that does not lose the valuable advantage we have gained north of the border from establishing quality as the pre-eminent standard around which everything else should he organised. I encourage the Government to take up the Select Committee report and to make progress on the introduction of standard quality indicators throughout the United Kingdom.
Although the Minister does not have strict departmental responsibility in Scotland, he is a kent face north of the border and he knows my part of the world well. He will know that there has been a rationalisation of the area tourist boards in Scotland, which has been a success. The new boards were introduced in April this year and they are working well.
However, there is still a bit of uncertainty about the funding being delivered, as it now is, through local authorities and local enterprise companies. The LECs concentrate on the important functions of training and the like whereas the new unitary authorities look after the core funding. The area tourist boards look after the promotion and the marketing. In my part of the world, the area tourist boards are concerned that they should have a core funding base that enables them to plan ahead. At present, there is uncertainty about local authority expenditure north of the border. The Borders tourist board expects a cumulative 10 per cent. cut in its core budget because of the downward pressure that central Government are applying on local authority budgets. I ask the Minister to keep an eye on that, in conjunction with his Scottish colleagues, to ensure that the area tourist boards are not left without adequate resources to do the job.
I now turn to matters that are important from a constituency point of view. There is evidence across the south of Scotland that improving the main trunk roads north —the A 1 and the M74 —is encouraging people to travel faster through the south of Scotland as they head for destinations in the central belt and the highlands. I make it clear that nobody is complaining about getting better roads. The Government have made significant progress in improving those trunk roads.
There is, however, evidence from a recent survey conducted by the area tourist boards that although more people are coming to Scotland from England —an 11 per cent. increase in 1995, which is very welcome; we have obviously been successful in encouraging people to come north —they are travelling straight through to the central belt or the highlands. We need to improve transport links through the central borders; the A7 and the A68 need to be upgraded. I hope that the Minister will carry that message back to his colleagues in the Scottish Office.
An even more important item —it is not a big expenditure item, but it is important psychologically —is the need to get better signposting of the roads through the central area of southern Scotland, a matter that goes wider than the Minister's departmental responsibility. The Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment and local authorities north of the border should get together and have a far more co-ordinated approach to providing signs that enable tourists to take advantage of some of the tourist opportunities in the south of Scotland, especially in some of the border towns which the Minister knows almost as well as I do.
It is important to develop tourism as a means of diversifying local economies. The Minister knows well that in areas such as Hawick, where there is a textile industry that will not be able to provide job opportunities as it has done in the past because the textile industry throughout the world is declining, tourism as a tool for diversification is essential. Hawick could quite legitimately be described as one of the principal world centres for knitwear.
I would love to see Government Departments getting together with the local authorities and the LECs to try to develop towns such as Hawick, which is an important example. Hawick has working spinning mills which are museums that could provide tourist and visitor attractions alongside exhibitions of the world-class knitwear produced by Barrie Knitwear, Pringle, Peter Scott, Lyle and Scott and the other companies with which we are all familiar.
Hawick, which is the biggest town in the borders, does not even have a tourist information centre open 12 months a year. That is a great shame. Simple ideas, such as a walking holiday promoted by the local tourist board, can be tremendously successful. People have been able to enjoy the physical environment surrounding the town of Hawick. I am sure that the warmth of the welcome they received will encourage them to return. It requires just a little extra effort, co-ordination and support.
The town of Stirling has been transformed. I do not know whether that has anything to do with the fact that it is represented by the Parliamentarian of the Year, but that would be a churlish suggestion. I shall confine myself to saying that everyone recognises that the initiative has been a fantastic success. If the Government stimulate and sponsor such promotions in other areas —Hawick would be a very good candidate because of the declining knitwear industry —we could make more progress in tourism in future.
The United Kingdom must protect its share of the tourism market. Committing resources to develop tourism is an investment for the future. We need to promote, develop and finance it, and provide facilities and amenities that will encourage people to visit and to return because of the quality of the visitor attractions and the warmth of their welcome in the United Kingdom.
We have had a thoughtful and well-informed debate. If it has the effect of making people more aware of the importance of the tourism industry, it will have achieved its purpose, as will the authoritative report published by the National Heritage Select Committee earlier this week.
Every hon. Member who has spoken has commented on the size of the tourism industry. It is perhaps surprising that it has such a low profile in public perception. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out that the tourism industry is central, not peripheral, to the economy. Some 5 per cent. of the gross domestic product derives from tourism, as do some one in 14 jobs. About 1.7 million people are involved in the industry catering for some 24 million visitors each year, so it is a vast industry.
At the beginning of the year, 8.4 per cent. growth in tourism was forecast. The current figure is some 14 per cent., so the industry has already grown rapidly and 40 per cent. of new jobs are expected to be in tourism, which already contributes some £25 billion a year to the economy.
However, the industry is on a 50-year decline. The traditional tourist destinations do not draw as they did because of the alternative attractions of the weather and the cultural differences in other countries. According to my research, we have a deficit of some £3.7 billion a year, although mention has been made of a £5 billion deficit. The disparity between those figures is not surprising as it is difficult to establish accurate statistics in such a deregulated industry.
Tourism is a difficult industry to organise. I read that some 120,000 small businesses are involved in tourism; however, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to some 250,000 enterprises. The figures vary, depending on whether they include individual landladies and bed-and-breakfast establishments. Therefore, it is difficult for the Government to take responsibility for the tourism industry. Their job must be to lead, inspire and encourage and to use the small amount of money involved intelligently.
My own experience is that, somewhat to my surprise, in 1986 I became a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, with responsibility for industry, a post that included responsibility for tourism. In Northern Ireland, the pronunciation of the word tourism sounds much like that of terrorism, so I could stop a cocktail party when people thought that I was Minister for terrorism in Northern Ireland.
It was a difficult time, when terrorism was rife in the Province, so we tried to develop different niche markets for tourists. One such niche market was fishing, which interested many Germans. I remember visiting those taking part in a fishing competition at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. I approached a fisherman who had a German fishing rod, a German fishing bag and another piece of German equipment, and said in bad schoolboy German, "How much have you caught today?" He said, "Two fish and one Minister, Minister." He was, in fact, a civil servant from my Department.
On taking up my post, I inherited a situation where the Northern Ireland tourist board was not speaking to the Bord Fáiltȩ Ȩireann, the Republic of Ireland tourist board. When it was suggested that we should promote co-operation between the two, it was widely regarded as a political move that would be unhelpful. We went ahead, and it proved absolutely right to promote the whole of Ireland. When trying to encourage people in Newfoundland or Tasmania to come to Northern Ireland, one has first to explain that the island is divided into two different regimes. It is much easier to say, "When you are in Ireland, come to the north", which was the campaign that we developed.
We found in the Department that it was possible to develop niche markets. Tourism is about not one big market but niche markets. We in Northern Ireland developed the niche market of sport and promoted the attractions of the countryside, so that when people came to see their families, we encouraged them to visit elsewhere in Northern Ireland, and when they came on business, we encouraged them to come next time with their wives and families and spend an extra day or so. That is why I suggest that one can bring to the discussion on tourism the concept that it is important to have a professional approach and develop niche markets. The French, for instance, are particularly interested in shopping in England, the Japanese are more interested in cultural activities —the so-called "tea and roses campaign" —and the Americans are, of course, keen on the theatre. The success of tourism derives from its deregulation.
Following the important point made by the right hon. Member for Gorton, as tourism is so central to our economy, so important and such a growth area, I would encourage people to think of the tourism industry in its broadest sense as an appropriate career path. I suspect that very few people at school or college think of tourism as their intended career, but there is a very good career to be made in hotel management, travel and all the different aspects of tourism. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to respond to that point and think of ways in which younger people can be encouraged to consider tourism in its broader sense as an appropriate career. They should be encouraged to think that serving others who are tourists is in no way demeaning. It is worth while and appropriate.
Representing Gosport, as I do, I can tell the House that the area is looking very much to the millennium project for Portsmouth harbour and hoping that it will be signed and carried forward very soon. The concept is dramatic, with walkways on the Portsmouth and Gosport sides of the harbour, a very high tower on the Gunwharf site in Portsmouth and clever use of illumination. It has every prospect of being one of the millennium's most exciting projects and one of the most exciting developments of a region of the United Kingdom.
As a parallel, I think of San Antonio in Texas, and the Alamo. Everyone has heard of the Alamo —the site of a famous siege —but it is rather disappointing once one gets there. People in San Antonio tried to work out how to develop the place as a tourist attraction, since once one has seen the Alamo, one is not likely to spend a particularly exciting time in San Antonio. Alongside the river, they have developed a most exciting walkway with shops, restaurants and all kinds of entertainment facilities, and I see that as the future of the Portsmouth harbour Portsmouth-Gosport project.
Our area has many local facilities already, such as the submarine museum and the marina, and future developments are planned for the Royal Clarence yard and Priddy's Hard. If the harbour project goes ahead, it will put Gosport and Portsmouth very much on the tourist map and encourage people to visit the area not only to see HMS Victory, the Mary Rose, or HMS Warrior, and then go home, but to stay for several days using the hotels.
The whole concept will come to full, flowering fruition only if people are encouraged to make use of the water when they are there. We want people to come to the Portsmouth-Gosport area and book into a hotel. I would love to see a cruise liner put into Portsmouth harbour so that people could enjoy a static cruise, as it were, and then use boats to visit the other attractions of Portchester castle and the naval yard. That would make the area a dramatic holiday destination.
We have now been waiting some months for the project to be signed. The Millennium Commission has made demanding requests of the local authorities, but I understand that the project will be signed in the next two weeks or so. We are keen that that project should proceed, because it will provide, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned earlier, some 5,000 jobs locally.
The House will not expect me to make my next and final point. We need good facilities if we are to promote tourism in this country, and good facilities include every kind of convenience. I venture into the territory of my next remarks with great diffidence. Some 10 years ago, I made a speech in which I said that it was grossly unfair that women should have to queue for the loo. I first thought that at the London Coliseum theatre when I noticed that people were returning to their seats after the interval had finished and women were still queuing to get into the ladies' lavatory. It is monstrous that we should impose that inconvenience on women.
The problems derives from physical differences. The House will be entranced to hear, for instance, that men take an average of 45 seconds in the lavatory and women take an average of 80 seconds. As Claire Rayner the journalist has pointed out wittily, men have a handy little gadget for coping with the task, and women do not.
It is bad for tourism in this country that we still do not have fully adequate facilities for women. I make a plea for all those who make decisions on such issues to consider that. I do so with diffidence because, after my previous comments on the subject, I was inundated with letters and I did live television and radio interviews with Canada and Australia. I do not want any of that, but I must point out that decision makers, architects and managers, who tend to be men, usually provide the same sized areas for male and for female lavatories. In fact, women need around three times the amount of provision. I hope that that plea will be heard by some of the people who make the decisions about the provision of public lavatories.
I am afraid that I, too, have to leave before the end of the debate. I undertook a commitment at the beginning of the year to chair a meeting of the governors of St. Vincent's college in my constituency and I regret that I shall not be able to stay for the winding-up speech of my hon. Friend the Minister. I shall certainly read it in Hansard.
I welcome the opportunity today to speak on this important subject and I hope that the debate itself will help to promote the industry for the benefit of all who work within it. For the past four Sunday evenings, I have been delighted and fascinated by the BBC's programme on the history of American art. The presenter, Robert Hughes— an Australian art historian—began the series by showing scenes from Plymouth bay and Williamsburg in the United States of America. Those two areas are present-day tourist attractions, in which well-educated actors and actresses dress in period costumes and dresses and, speaking in the language used in colonial times, illustrate the beginnings of American-European art history. I feel sure that the series will not only promote an interest in American culture, but will stimulate interest in the American tourist industry. Many American and European tourists will be attracted to those historic sites.
I became more than interested in the programme because of my great interest in the arts, and also because the Select Committee on National Heritage, of which I am a member, recently visited both of those tourist sites during our research on tourism.
On Wednesday our Committee presented its report on tourism to the press. I always find it difficult to speak after my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the Chairman of the Select Committee, because of his firm grasp of the subject, but I shall do my best. He gave a superb summary of the report and stressed how important the tourist industry is to the British economy.
The BBC reporter covering the north-west immediately asked my right hon. Friend why, if the industry was so vital to the British economy, so little was known about it. That question went to the heart of our report, and I am sure that people who read the report in full will find their questions answered.
As my right hon. Friend said, tourism is a big and important industry. It is not usually a matter of party political controversy, so it is not often given anything like sufficient attention by Governments. None the less, the tourist industry now employs more people than agriculture, coal mining, steel making and car and aircraft manufacture put together, and it brings in more foreign revenue too.
Too often the industry has been regarded as an incidental activity rather than a central element of the economy. The Government should re-examine it urgently so that it can develop its full potential. We must invest significant capital in the industry, because that brings such a huge return in the form of jobs and foreign currency.
The Americans advertise their tourism and we should do the same. If we do not, we shall fall behind other countries. In the course of our inquiry the Committee tried to find out whether our industry is efficient or bureaucratic, whether Government investment is sufficient and whether it is productively spent. We also tried to find out what changes could be made to improve the efficiency of the industry.
During the inquiry we took evidence from many witnesses, and undertook two short visits. Our first visit covered a wide range of tourist destinations in England—Blackpool, Morecambe, Lancaster, Wigan, Chester, Alton Towers, Stratford and Oxford. Our second visit was to the United States to see how historical tourist attractions are operated and marketed there. We visited Plymouth, Boston, Williamsburg, Concord and Salem.
Several of the sites that we visited are of national significance for the history of the United States, and many children visit them as part of their education. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is a replica of the Mayflower which was built and sailed over from the United Kingdom in the 1950s. The Plymouth plantation, a completely rebuilt village intended to resemble that in which the pilgrim fathers lived, was featured in the Robert Hughes television programme that I mentioned earlier.
Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia, consisted of an area of the original town in which some buildings had been preserved and the remainder rebuilt in accordance with historical records. In parts of Plymouth and Williamsburg there are staff dressed in period costume, acting as people from colonial times and speaking in the language of those times.
We saw an example of a similar approach during our visit to Wigan pier, where we saw a school in action and became the pupils in a class. We believe that greater use of imaginative methods of interpretation at appropriate sites in the United Kingdom should be encouraged.
We discovered that the tourist industry in the United Kingdom employs about 1.7 million people, and that in 1995 it generated £37.6 billion, £12.1 billion of which represented spending by just over 24 million foreign tourists. Those are impressive figures, but unfortunately the balance of trade cancels them out, because United Kingdom residents spent £15.7 billion abroad. Between 1980 and 1990, international tourism to the UK grew by an annual average of 5.7 per cent. However, the world average was 8.5 per cent. I was pleased to note that, in 1994–95, Britain's tourism trade grew faster than the world average and Britain regained fifth place in the world tourism league, earning more money as a result.
The current structure of Government investment in the industry stems from the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which has been mentioned already. The Act set up the British Tourist Authority and the English, Scottish and Welsh tourist boards. The Northern Ireland tourist board was set up in 1948. The BTA undertakes overseas promotion through a network of 42 overseas offices, and it has developed many ways of attracting visitors to the United Kingdom. However, we discovered during our visit to the United States that states and individual towns have state-funded budgets for the marketing of tourism.
We were struck by the comparison that the BTA's budget was £5.1 million for the whole of the Americas, but the state of Virginia spent $1 million overseas from a tourist budget of $17 million, and the state of Massachusetts spent $2 million from a budget of $9.8 million. The BTA claims that, between 1991 and 1994, each pound spent on marketing generated £14 for the UK economy, and the corresponding figures for 1994–95 and 1995–96 were estimated at £23 and £27 respectively. That return on every pound invested is—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton said—an argument for considerable increases in funding.
As regards the money invested in the industry, the Council for Travel and Tourism was highly critical that the grant-in-aid to the English tourist board in 1996–97 was £10 million, compared with £18.2 million for the Scottish tourist board and £14.7 million for the Welsh tourist board. The council says that this imbalance
cannot be justified on any rational grounds
and I agree.
The English tourist board has said that its funding has been more than halved in real terms since 1991–92 and that it therefore lacks the resources to promote England to the British. The Select Committee believes that a complete reappraisal of the situation is essential to the funding of the English tourist board. As regards the quality of tourism provided, surveys conducted by the BTA show that only 28 per cent. of overseas visitors to London believe that London hotels provide good value for money, and that is not good enough. Due to the shortage of hotel accommodation in London, poor-quality hotels are not driven out of business by market forces, and that is a great pity.
We must discuss whether there should be a minimum standard below which accommodation should not be allowed to be offered at all, and this would require a compulsory system of registration and inspection. In addition, we need to discuss whether the information about accommodation could be improved by a unified system of grading and classification and whether such a system should be compulsory, as it has been in Northern Ireland since 1948. That is a matter for the House to decide.
On overcrowding and tourist management, the National Trust has said:
The Prime Object of any tourism strategy must be to protect the environment on which tourism depends. If tourism impacts too much on the environment, the people are destroying the very thing they are coming to enjoy.
The Countryside Commission said:
It has become almost a national pastime to overstate the problems that visitors bring to the rural environment and Its communities. Evidence shows that the actual problems are localised and comparatively few in number.
The Select Committee on the Environment concluded in its report on the environmental impact of leisure activities that
according to the balance of evidence we received, compared to other activities, leisure and tourism do not cause significant widespread ecological damage to the countryside.
English Heritage told us, however, of the need to avoid conflict between tourism and conservation by the careful management of sites.
So, what do we need to do to assist the tourist industry? The Department of National Heritage said that Government intervention was needed to provide effective tourism marketing and to improve product quality. No one can disagree with that. The Council for Travel and Tourism said that the industry required leadership to bring the different elements together. The Tourism Society said that there is no co-ordination at Government level between the tourism activities of the BTA and the ETB under the sponsorship of the Department of National Heritage and the tourism activities supervised by the Welsh Office and the Scottish Office.
A survey of hotels in the "The Good Hotel Guide" by its editor elicited the complaint that nine Ministers have been responsible for tourism in the past 11 years. This constant change in leadership does not help the industry.
Our strategy for tourism and hospitality should have six broad aims: first, a positive approach from Government for the industry; secondly, the marketing of Britain overseas; thirdly, the marketing of Britain at home; fourthly, improving the quality of the product; fifthly, jobs, training and investment in people; and, sixthly, protecting the environment. I believe in those aims because tourism and hospitality already make a massive contribution to our social well-being and the potential for growth is exciting.
Last year, four out of every 10 new jobs created were in tourism and hospitality. Forecasts indicate that direct employment in the industry could increase by 400,000 in the next 10 years and that the indirect employment created in related industries could bring the total employment gain to 1 million.
The aim of our report is to begin a debate on how the industry and the Government can together rise to the challenge. I hope that the Government and the industry will bring together information and ideas from a range of sources to build up a viable and strong tourist industry that can meet international competition and win back our share of the world market. I trust and hope that the Government will take note of our report and take all the necessary action to assist the tourist industry.
I welcome you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. Just before you took the Chair, the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) was talking about the visit of the Select Committee on National Heritage to Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is very much a sister town to your own. As a young man still at school I took part in a debate whose terms were, "This House wishes that the Plymouth Rock had landed on the Plymouth Brethren and not the other way round." I am delighted to discover that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had a successful visit to America—something that we were not able to achieve in the pursuit of the study of tourism when I was a member of the Select Committee on Employment six years ago.
The industry has had a successful couple of years-1995 and 1996 will go down in history as two of the best years ever for tourism. As a result, as has been said, the United Kingdom has regained its fifth place in the world tourism league. We do not compete with the United States of America because of the size of the continental market there and we can compete only with the greatest difficulty with warm weather countries, such as France, Spain and Italy. The fact that we rank behind only those four is a mark of the success of the British Tourist Authority, the English tourist board and all those involved in the industry.
It is sad that Opposition Members, in order to make their points about the Government, seem to pay less than the due regard to the work that is done in the industry. I know that that is not their true attitude, but it is the impression that sometimes comes across. I know that I speak for all hon. Members when I say that the work done by all the people in the industry is widely admired, respected and appreciated.
The industry is well positioned for the future, as the impact of lottery money on infrastructure projects gives us yet more attractions to bring people from throughout the world and to encourage the British to move around the island and see for themselves what is being done. I suspect that the spur of the millennium in three years or so will attract enormous numbers of visitors.
The point has been made well and often in the House that tourism is a complex industry that does not sit as easily under the analyst's pen as the motor car, chemical or textile industries, for example. It is a diffuse industry and there can be confusion in trying to assess the statistics. I welcome the recent joint suggestion of the Council for Travel and Tourism and the Tourism Society that an element of satellite accounting might be undertaken by the Treasury to give a just assessment of tourism's contribution to the British economy.
We benefit not only when people who come to this country spend money on hotels or attractions, but when they go shopping and to a range of leisure facilities that also contribute to the enjoyment of the indigenous population.
There is evidence of growth in tourism throughout the country and there are many excellent initiatives. Since the previous tourism debate some months ago, I have visited many places, and I want to mention one or two that stand out in my mind. In the summer, I visited Cumbria, which is extremely successful in attracting visitors because it contains the Lake district.
It was interesting that, in the two and half days that I spent in Cumbria, the tourist board invited me to visit Barrow and Carlisle, two towns that were traditionally the Cinderellas of Cumbria, because they were not in the Lake district. I visited the dock museum in Barrow and spent a whole day in the proud city of Carlisle, where I was enormously impressed by the Tullie House museum. I realised that tourism was changing and developing from the traditional attractions of the seaside, lakes and mountains to industrial and historical tourism.
Thanks to some recent American scholarship, it has been discovered that no less a person than King Arthur was not from the west country, from Tintagel or Glastonbury, as has generally been believed in the past, but was firmly based in Carlisle, with occasional forays across the borders, through the constituency of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), to Edinburgh—think of Arthur's seat—and up to Stirling, which he mentioned and about which I shall say more in a few minutes. I suspect that the development of the King Arthur legend as a north-west England and southern Scotland legend will play a big part in the development of tourism there.
My visit to the north continued to Scotland, where I was enormously impressed by the professionalism of those involved in the tourist industry. I saw everything from the highlands to the borders. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire has had to leave early—I understand the reason—because I wanted to pay a special tribute to the work of the Borders tourist board: the quality of the accommodation that I was shown was as impressive as the general professionalism, and I echo his comments about the success of the Scottish tourist board's crown classification scheme.
Only this week, I visited our second city, Birmingham, to see the work that is being done to restore canals and build the international convention centre and view some of the public sculpture that is a credit to the city.
At the beginning of the year, thanks to the kindness of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, I was able to visit Cardiff, the capital of Wales. I saw the Techniquest museum, the first hands-on museum in which children of all ages can explore the wonders of science.
The hon. Gentleman asks me to plug a well-known Yorkshire fish restaurant. My next comment would have drawn attention to the fact that the ubiquitous Harry Ramsden's is well established in Cardiff bay. I am pleased to add that it will shortly open a new emporium in my constituency. The Cardiff bay development is recognised in south Wales as likely to lead to an enormous increase in the number of visitors who come to that already fair city.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) spoke about the glories of Portsmouth harbour. He probably knows that I am a native of Portsmouth. That is why I am delighted at the prospect of lottery money being used to transform Portsmouth harbour. I was christened in the dockyard, though I am not sure that that is of great significance. However, the Mary Rose, HMS Warrior and the Victory are tremendous tourist sights that are likely only to become more attractive.
To complete the round Britain tour to which I have subjected the House, I shall return to London. My point in emphasising the regions was to agree with hon. Members who have spoken about the importance of encouraging tourism in the regions. However, we cannot neglect the fact that London acts a magnet for the whole world. Few people who have heard of it do not regard it as a place that they would like to visit at some time in their lives. That is why so many do. The London of 10 or 20 years' time will be a very different place from the London of today. The developments that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned along the River Thames are of great significance. I hope that I can look forward to seeing the Tate gallery of modern art in Bankside power station in time for the millennium. When I visited the power station with the Tate gallery a couple of years ago, it talked of the possibility of a river boat shuttle service between the existing gallery and the new one. I suggested that it might be known as the Tate-à-Tate service.
The millennium wheel causes considerable emotion among hon. Members but there is a misunderstanding about it. It was suggested during National Heritage questions recently that it was a millennium project in the sense that it was likely to attract money from the millennium fund. That is not so; it is an entirely private sector venture, primarily the initiative of British Airways. I welcome it on the understanding that it is a temporary construction. It would not be appropriate for the south hank to have it for the rest of time. On the understanding that it will be there for five years to celebrate the millennium, I think that it will add a little extra something.
Yes. That is why I was at pains to stress that the wheel must be temporary. That should be clear in the minds of those who will give planning consent. Having said that, I welcome it. When hon. Members go on the Terrace in the summer they are overlooked by cameras from Westminster bridge; the fact that people will be able to look down on us from the considerable height of the wheel should not be a greater problem. We will pass to other matters.
The obvious major attraction in London in the next few years will be the Greenwich millennium festival, which I welcome hugely. Notwithstanding the claims of Birmingham which were pressed hard during my visit there on Monday this week, London and in particular Greenwich is the natural place for the festival since it combines the important elements of time and location. I have little doubt that, for all the difficulties that the Government have experienced in getting the programme under way, it will be a vast success when we come to AD2000.
The lottery contribution to tourism, which has not been much mentioned in the debate, should be singled out as of supreme importance to the industry now and in the future. We will see a huge growth in expenditure on infrastructure right across the board from both the Millennium Commission's fund and the arts, sport and heritage funds. Many hon. Members have not necessarily comprehended just how significant that expenditure will be. It opens many opportunities for tourism development.
I wish to sound a note of caution here, and ask my hon. Friend the Minister to think about it before he responds. The question of matching funds concerns me. Many excellent projects have been offered funding by the various lottery funding councils. I shall mention just one example. The Kennet and Avon canal, which runs through Wiltshire and other counties, has been offered some £25 million from lottery funds. The question that is now being asked locally is how the matching funds will be raised. Private industry, local councils and voluntary donations will all no doubt be tapped, but the sum involved in matching that £25 million is substantial. I hope that the Government will keep their eye on this particular ball and recognise that although that project may be successful, others will run into difficulties because of the problem of finding matching funding. That is something that needs to be thought about in the on-going debate on the lottery which will undoubtedly take place.
In the same context, I welcome the National Heritage Bill, which is currently passing through another place. I have spoken previously in the House about the need to protect those elements of the heritage that are in private hands from the depredations of age and the competition which rages in that particular area of our tourism industry from other attractions that are publicly funded. I hope that the Bill will lead to the opportunity to make extra funding available for the private heritage.
Today's debate is an interruption of the Budget debate, which has occupied the attention of the House since Tuesday, so I hope that it will not be thought inappropriate if I make one or two references to the Budget. I was delighted when my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned the idea of "spend to save". He expressed himself in a way that made me think that he thought that this was a new idea. However, back in 1980 the Government introduced the concept of the development corporations. A pound of public money was thought to be likely to generate between £5 and £10 of private money. So "spend to save" or "speculate to accumulate" is not a new idea. It is an idea that the tourism industry has been putting to the Department of National Heritage and, dare I say it, the Department has been putting to the Treasury for many years now.
I support the idea that the British Tourist Authority should spend as much money as possible on advertising and promotion of British tourism in overseas markets. Indeed, as has been said often in the House today, a large part of its budget goes to precisely that. We should not forget that a further £16 million is made available from the private sector of the tourism industry to the BTA to help it market Britain overseas. Not surprisingly, the Opposition were quick to condemn the small reduction in the grant to the BTA. Of course, they have not suggested that extra effort on the BTA's part, which no doubt it will make, might have the effect of replacing the £500,000 of lost grant with additional funding from the private sector, which recognises that it offers extremely good value.
This week, the report of the Select Committee on National Heritage was published. I am sorry that none of its members is now present because I rather thought that they might have been encouraged to respond to my comments. Nevertheless, in their absence, I should like to draw attention to certain issues that must be highlighted.
I intervened on the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to ask him to explain exactly what was meant by the rather unclear wording in the Select Committee report about additional funding for the BTA. He was good enough to explain that he was recommending that the grants to the BTA should be increased by up to £100 million over a period of five years. He did not spell out what the grant would be in the first year or in any of the following four years, but by the end of five years we would see an extra £100 million in the coffers of the BTA.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) gave the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) a fair opportunity to say whether the Labour party supported the Select Committee's recommendation, all that was forthcoming was that the Opposition would not have made the reduction that the Treasury imposed in the Budget on the Department of National Heritage. We do riot know whether it is Labour policy to spend up to another £100 million on the BTA over the next five years. My guess is that, as is normal with the Labour party at the moment, private nudges and winks will suggest, "Yes, of course, don't worry. It will be all right. There will be plenty more money when we are in power." Then the shadow Chancellor will rise to his feet and with the enormous fiscal rectitude that he always displays on such occasions, he will say, "Not a penny more will the industry get from us." We will be left with the same old hypocrisy—the Labour party promises one thing on one hand and then promises something quite different on the other.
The Select Committee report has a problem, notwithstanding the fact that at its final meeting more Labour Members were present than Conservative ones, so perhaps we should assume that its report is supported by the Labour party. That report is unrealistic. The BTA does not need a general increase in its budget. It does not need four times as many cleaners and ladies to serve tea in the cafeteria; what it needs, if its needs anything, is an increase in the amount of money for promotions and advertisements overseas. That point has been properly made already.
In its 1990 report on tourism, the Select Committee on Employment suggested that an increase of between £2 million and £5 million should be made for promotions and advertisements by the BTA for its overseas efforts. That is a sensible figure—perhaps it could be upgraded a little to cover the rate of inflation—and it is the sort of figure that the BTA could usefully absorb and spend. It could have a dramatic effect on world markets that are already well inclined towards the United Kingdom.
It is worth noting that, thanks to the tough measures that the Conservative Government have taken in the past six years, the price of the 1990 Select Committee report was £5.85 whereas the price of the National Heritage Select Committee report, which is exactly the same length as that 1990 report, is £6.50. A 10 per cent. increase in six years shows that, if no one else is doing it, the Stationery Office is absorbing inflation extremely effectively. I pay tribute to it.
I certainly agree that if at some future stage in the Government's financial management of the economy conditions are as good as they are now, with the inflation rate low, it would be a good thing for Britain to allow the BTA more money to spend on overseas promotions and advertisements.
Recently, the Labour party published a strategy document. The trumpet sounded and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who is lurking on the Opposition Front Bench to speak, attended the World Travel Market with his right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland to launch that document. It was mentioned in one or two newspapers. We did not hear a great deal about it after that, although not surprisingly it resurfaced earlier in the debate. It had the massive endorsement of the industry.
I follow the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde on visits around various sections of the tourism industry and we meet on many occasions. He has many friends, as I have, and their names are all down on that list. He will not agree, but I suggest that all his friends in the industry—as he is a nice man, he has plenty of them—are delighted that the Labour party is finally expressing an interest in tourism. Years have gone by with only thinly populated debates on tourism—the Labour Benches are not over-full at the moment, but, to be fair, nor are ours. In the past, the Labour party has ignored tourism.
A few months ago, when I had a question to the Welsh Office about tourism in Wales, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) had a supplementary called by Madam Speaker. He asked—I think my recollection is accurate—"Can I now ask a question about a real industry?" and went on to talk about coal or steel. That is the authentic voice of Labour. Over the past two or three years, ably spearheaded by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, the Labour party has made a serious effort to convince people that it now recognises the importance of the tourism industry.
It is not surprising that many people welcome that effort—I welcome it. I do not know whether it is sincere—we shall find that out in due course—but I am delighted that the Labour party is showing an interest in tourism. There is nothing in the Labour party document with which most reasonable people would disagree, other than, of course, the usual hints that Labour would spend more money than the Government have been able to spend.
It is worth pointing out that the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) would fall on the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde from a great height, soon after attaining a position in which he could do anything about spending plans. He would say, "I'm sorry, Tom, but it's not on—you cannot have £100 million for the British Tourist Authority." The tourism industry would say, "Ah, well, there we go. It was worth a try." Let us not get too carried away by all those nice people being nice to their friend, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde—when all is said and done, the document does not add up to a row of beans.
Most of the document is unexceptionable stuff and most of it agrees with what the Government are doing at the moment. One or two matters should be highlighted, however. I have heard the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde talking about a review of the Tourism Development Act 1969 for some time and I have to tell him that the regional tourist boards do not want to be amalgamated. The English tourist board does not want to be absorbed into the British Tourist Authority and Scotland and Wales certainly do not want to lose their autonomy. When it starts talking about meddling with the structure of tourism—the Select Committee report said something similar—the Labour party might be stirring up a little antipathy and resistance. It might even be losing votes, which I know it is desperately anxious to avoid at the moment. It should think carefully about how far it should go down the road of threatening all those bodies with extinction.
My visit to Cumbria in August convinced me that there is enormous pride in the work of the regional tourist boards. The new chairman of the Cumbria tourist board, Mr. Richard Boddy, was at pains to point out that Cumbria was Cumbria, that it did not have synergies with the north-west, Yorkshire or Northumbria—excellent regions though they are—and that the board wanted to be able to continue to market Cumbria in its own way, for the benefit of the people who live there. I support that.
The enormous success of Euro '96 clearly demonstrated that Britain can handle large numbers of visitors in an effective and friendly manner and London remains one of the most popular destinations in the world. However, I hope that the success of Euro '96 showed us something else—that the regions can cope with large numbers of additional visitors, if only we can persuade them to go and see other parts of Britain for themselves.
I want the marketing of the regions to be done in London. Large numbers of people come to London because it is a magnet, but they never go elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Why not do more regional marketing in London, when visitors, who have already demonstrated their willingness to come to the United Kingdom in the first place, are at the mercy of placards in the backs of taxis or in the tube that tell them about the other England, the other Britain, the other United Kingdom that lies outside London? I hope that that point will commend itself to my hon. Friend the Minister and other right hon. and hon. Members.
The Select Committee report discussed accommodation standards. The Government have already set about the business of trying to improve the quality of accommodation in this country with the benchmarking exercise. I welcome that and look forward to its being brought to fruition. I know that it will raise standards.
Classification schemes are a difficult issue. We know that in 1990, the Select Committee report on tourism recommended that we move to single inspection followed by a single scheme six years later. We are still trying to move in that direction, but it is not easy. There is a great deal of resistance from the private sector, especially the AA and RAC, which feel that they have perfectly worthwhile star schemes. As the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire and others said, the English, Scottish and Welsh tourist boards have developed excellent crown schemes, with the additional advantage of quality representations to make them an extremely worthwhile basis for assessment and classification of accommodation.
I hope that the best efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, David Quarmby, the BTA and the ETB will combine to produce a scheme that works. We look forward to hearing what it is.
May I say a word to the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton about interpretation? The Select Committee report highlighted the visit that the Committee made to Colonial Williamsburg. I have been there too, not at the taxpayer's expense, and I noticed the excellent work done there in interpretation, but the next time that the Select Committee undertakes a study of tourism, let it visit Stirling gaol, go on a ghost tour of Edinburgh or visit the Scottish wool centre in the Trossachs, and see for itself the superb interpreting work that is being done, bringing alive to visitors the history, geography and economy of towns and cities throughout the country.
Not only Wigan pier is on that bandwagon; in the past six years, interpretation has taken on a new lease of life throughout the country. I am slightly disappointed that the Select Committee felt it necessary to hold up Colonial Williamsburg as an example of how to do things in this country when we already do them so well.
The tourist industry is doing very well at the moment, but there is no room for complacency, so we must not allow the national minimum wage to be introduced. In the debate much has been made—and may yet be made—of the suggestion made this morning by an organisation that the national minimum wage was a good thing. The marketing director, I believe, of Gardner Merchant, Mr. Bob Cottam, was asked what he thought. He said, "We do not mind a minimum wage provided it is at a sufficiently low level not to interfere with the market." So much for the national minimum wage.
The Opposition's problem is that they are still hand in glove with the unions, who have already set out their stall for £4.26 and no doubt will advocate an even higher figure by the time of the general election. That is not what the industry wants. Most employers in the industry do not want a national minimum wage. If they must have one, they want one at a level that will not interfere with their ability to employ people and thus create unemployment. It is not good enough for the Opposition to quote reports that are immediately unstitched by the people who put their name to them, pointing out that the opposite of what is claimed is the truth.
We not want the national minimum wage, the social chapter or the 48-hour rule. We do not want any interference from Brussels in our ability to provide the tourism industry with a framework in which it can continue to be hugely successful. Basically, we do not need a Labour Government.
I shall make a short speech, because Back Benchers of all parties are waiting to speak. I look forward to their contributions.
The. Secretary of State referred to the Budget. We need to address one aspect—or rather, one and a half aspects—of the national economic situation in this debate. The first is the alarming rise in the exchange rate. Sterling is creeping up against the dollar and the deutschmark week by week. The fact that the past two years have been good for tourism in this country almost certainly reflects the massive devaluation of the pound after the 1992 humiliation for the then Chancellor. As a tourist who occasionally goes overseas, I may welcome a stronger pound, but for our export industry the continuing rise in sterling presents real problems. It will certainly cause problems for our inward-bound tourism industry.
We need a policy to ensure stable interest rates, inflation and exchange rates. None of those factors holds at the moment, alas. To build a strong and enduring tourist industry—a policy that the whole House supports—they will have to be addressed.
The other sad part of the Chancellor's sad Budget was the tax on children and children's holidays implicit in the doubling of the air passenger duty, to which the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) has already referred. According to 1995 figures provided by the Library, 3.5 million children travelled by air that year. There is a case for exempting them from the doubling of air passenger duty, or even exempting them from the duty altogether. I am happy to say that there is all-party support for an amendment to that end that I have tabled to the Budget resolutions on the Order Paper.
The issue of air travel into the United Kingdom is relevant. Heathrow, our main port of entry, is immensely crowded. No other country in Europe or the world so funnels its tourists and other passengers into a single airport. The most common noise heard in London, or at least this part of London, is that of planes flying overhead. I can think of no other major capital city that suffers that level of noise pollution.
I want a strong Heathrow, a strong British Airports Authority and strong flow of visitors into the United Kingdom, but I wonder whether we shall have to consider at some stage whether all those passengers have to come into Heathrow. We must try to spread the flow of arrivals across other airports and, as hon. Members from both sides have said, encourage people to visit the regions.
Tourism outside London and the south-east is of great concern to all those hon. Members who, like me, do not represent constituencies within the M25 beltway. I have no problem with the proposed giant ferris wheel on the south bank. I understand that we shall be able to see Tunbridge Wells from the top of it. I know that it has always been an ambition of many hon. Members to be able to see Tunbridge Wells from somewhere in the centre of London.
How can we get a more balanced tourist trade? One important area is the upgrading of staff quality and competence. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) referred to interpretation. Our skills in language interpretation are notably deficient. We shall not get skilled staff by continually driving down wages. Over the past 17 years, the British share of the world tourism market has sunk from nearly 7 per cent. to 5 per cent. We have a £3.5 billion balance of trade deficit in tourism.
British tourists flock in their millions to Europe, where they often enjoy better-priced facilities. Minimum wage legislation, if it exists in the countries concerned, and the social chapter, are respected there. The sooner that we send out a signal that British tourism will not be based on very low wages the better. My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), in his excellent report "Breaking New Ground", has set out a clear policy on the matter, which will be welcomed widely in the tourism industry.
I make a special appeal for Yorkshire, the region in which my constituency is situated and which has some of the finest tourist attractions in Europe. I am a great walker and I cannot see a hill without wanting to scramble to the top of it, hoping that I can conquer my fear of vertigo to do so. The dales and the peak district of Yorkshire stand comparison with any equivalent walking region in the rest of Europe.
However, we need more. We need to increase the availability of heritage attractions in Yorkshire. I was astonished by a reply I received only last week from the Minister, who is responsible for tourism—he is not here at present—to a question in which I asked him to identify the museums and heritage centres for the rail, car and steel industries. There are 36 railway museums and 21 car museums. There are major coal mining museums, including the national coal mining museum for England, the Scottish mining museum and the Lancashire mining museum. But for steel, one of the industries to which Britain gave birth and in which we still have an excellent record, there were only four rather minor cottage and craft museums—I mean no offence to them. The time has come to put on the map the need for a major heritage tourist centre for steel.
In Rotherham, there is a wonderful project, the Magna steel project, which is backed by British Steel, by the business community, by the local council and by the local community. The intention is to open a steel heritage centre in Rotherham. Rotherham is where the cannons that sunk Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar were made and where the Bailey bridge was developed. It is still a major steel-producing site.
Steel conferences are often international. I am sure that many of those conferences would come outside London instead of crowding inside London if the Magna steel project was set up in Templeborough in my constituency. Unfortunately, both the Millennium Commission and the Secretary of State have shown almost complete indifference to the application for funding for the project. I hope that the Magna project—which is part of the steel heritage, which is a proud part of the British heritage, which will attract tourists outside London and which will be a focal point for the many international conferences for the world steel industry—will be given the attention it deserves.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). As I made clear in an earlier intervention, I share his concern about the imposition of the new tax on travel by children. That may seem a small point, but it is a serious matter if one is trying to take three or four children on holiday because the tax could add £80 to the journey. I hope that the Government will think again about that.
The hon. Member for Rotherham, a great and noted enthusiast for all matters European, dwelt on the exchange rate at length. I will not deal with that issue except to say that as the great value of England and Great Britain generally in terms of tourism is our distinctiveness, whether it is warm beer as opposed to cool refreshing beer or driving on the left rather than driving on the right, there is no point in allowing the European Community to acquire competence over tourism. I will not dwell on that; I make the point so that if the Minister wants to reply on that particular matter, he has the opportunity to do so.
I want to deal with a concept of national importance which is of particular interest locally to my constituency—I refer to the Mayflower 2000 project. It is a millennium project which has been conceived by the Southwark Heritage Association, a registered charity.
The project is important for tourism because the voyage of the Mayflower, which is one of the most famous voyages in history after that of Noah's Ark, has been sadly neglected. Some 22 million Americans claim descent from the pilgrim fathers, who sailed in the Mayflower and related crossings. The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), among others, have mentioned Williamsburg. Americans are enormously interested in their colonial history and anything that we can do to encourage that interest through ideas such as the Mayflower project will be enormously beneficial in attracting American tourists to Britain.
The basic idea of the project is to reconstruct the Mayflower. However, it would not be a replica. A replica was built in 1957 as a gift from Britain to the American people. It is now the centre of a pilgrim fathers exhibition at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, which has already been mentioned in the debate and is a tremendous tourist attraction.
The concept behind the Mayflower 2000 project is to build a permanent memorial based in Britain. It will be a symbol of resistance to religious persecution. The Mayflower compact, which was signed in 1620 by the male passengers of the Mayflower, is considered to be the foundation stone of American democracy.
The idea of the project is to build an exact reconstruction of the Mayflower which will set out for America in spring 1999 and then return to Rotherhithe, the original spiritual home of the Mayflower, where it will become a visitor centre. It will have enormous importance educationally, not just in terms of tourism.
The project is not just about building a replica; it will also set up a pilgrim heritage trail that will involve parts of my constituency. Famous ports of call—particularly in the east of the country—were important to the pilgrim fathers. They include Rotherhithe, Boston in Lincolnshire and your constituency of Plymouth, Madam Deputy Speaker, which although it is not in the east of the country is an important part of Mayflower history. The Mayflower project has enormous tourist potential in encouraging Americans to our shores.
The project also involves my constituency. Gainsborough has a former congregational chapel—now a United Reform chapel—called the John Robinson memorial chapel. It was built in 1896 and earlier this year I was happy to attend its centenary. John Robinson was one of the original pilgrim fathers. Indeed, the Americans showed their interest in Gainsborough when the then American ambassador, T. S. Baynard, laid the foundation stone of the John Robinson memorial chapel in 1895.
John Robinson may have been born in Gainsborough, but he was probably born a few miles away, in Sturton le Steeple in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who also takes a close interest in the project. However, it is certain that on Sundays John Robinson and the other original separatists would walk to Gainsborough to worship at services conducted by the Baptist, the Rev. John Smythe. They were led by a marvellous character called Robert Trouble Church Browne.
Rev. Smythe had been sacked from his living in Lincoln for preaching "strange doctrines" and Robinson had been the pastor at Norwich before he had to flee to Gainsborough. When the authorities prevented them from preaching in churches, they met in the Old Hall in Gainsborough, which is an excellent tourist attraction. It was built in about 1480 and is probably a leading example of domestic architecture of that period.
When John Robinson and his friends were persecuted, he tried to leave for Holland from Boston in Lincolnshire in autumn 1607. He was arrested and imprisoned in Boston, but finally left for Holland, as did many of his friends. In 1620, as the whole world knows, they set out in the Mayflower. Robinson was either on the first or the subsequent trip and certainly some of the original pilgrims on the Mayflower who founded American democracy came from Gainsborough and the surrounding Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire countryside.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Minister is not in his place at the moment—I am sure that he will soon return—because I particularly wanted to direct the following remarks to him. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Whip will ensure that my remarks are passed on. I want my hon. Friend the Minister to reply to the point. The Mayflower was captained by a Harwich man, and, of course my hon. Friend represents Harwich. Indeed, I have in my hand a letter of support from him, as the Member for Harwich, for the whole Mayflower 2000 project. I hope that he will take a particular interest because his intervention could be absolutely vital to the project. Why do I say that?
One would think from what I have said—that the project is wonderful, it will promote tourism, it is important to our history and it is a sad and neglected part of our heritage—that it will surely go ahead and is bound to receive the Millennium Commission's support. Sadly, the Millennium Commission, of which my hon. Friend the Secretary of State is chairman, has turned down the project on the ground that it does not allocate funds for replicas. Of course, what would be built would not be a replica.
As the hon. Member for Bassetlaw said in the National Heritage Committee to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, it is not as if we want to build a model of a Viking ship to float on the Serpentine in Hyde park. We would reconstruct in exact detail the Mayflower. In replying to the hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend said that she thought that the policy decision was taken before she became chairman of the Millennium Commission and undertook to report back to it the hon. Gentleman's concerns.
I very much hope that, since the matter has been raised in Select Committee, the specific point has been put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Mayflower was captained by a Harwich man initially, both my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister will take up the issue and see whether there is any way in which we can revive the project and make funds available for this excellent concept.
If the Mayflower were built and berthed at Rotherhithe it would not need to stay there all the time. It would a sea-worthy vessel and could travel to Plymouth, Boston or even Gainsborough, and be a tremendous source of new tourism. Tourism in a rural area such as West Lindsey can be very important. In 1994, it is estimated that it raised about £24 million and supported 642 full-time jobs. With related and seasonal jobs it could support as many as 912 jobs.
If we can encourage tourists to come to Lincolnshire and other ports of call in East Anglia on the Mayflower trail, they will have much else to look at in the area. I have already mentioned the Old Hall in Gainsborough. Gainsborough was mentioned by George Eliot—it is called St. Oggs in "The Mill on the Floss". There are interesting towns such as Caistor and Market Rasen. Horncastle and Market Rasen are Roman towns and the latter is the site of a national hunt racecourse. There is all sorts of interest in which local tourists can get involved. It has become almost a cliche in this debate to say that we do not need any more tourists in London and that we must encourage them to visit the provinces, the Lincolnshires, of our country. We must also use our history creatively to encourage tourists to come to these shores in order to generate wealth, opportunity and jobs.
I am pleased that we are having this important debate. I looked at Hansard for reports of previous tourism debates; an impossibly long time has elapsed since the last one. I think it was nearly two years ago, and the previous one was another two years before that. We have had too few debates on tourism, which is surprising considering the important role that it plays in this country.
I want, first, to pay a special tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage for her efforts to raise the profile of tourism. She has been a champion, and I do not think anyone could have done more. I know also that she has been ably supported by her Minister. One example of her energies was her visit to Tokyo to spread the good news in Japan. Japanese tourists play a key role among visitors to this country and they are coming in greater numbers than ever before. It is important for my right hon. Friend to keep her eye on the ball, and I congratulate her on her foresight in going to Japan. Tourism from Japan brought receipts of £554 million in 1995, excluding air fares, so her efforts were worth while. I hope that she will not stop at Japan, and that she will also visit other countries.
There was a slight ripple of laughter around the Chamber earlier when my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) claimed that his constituency is the queen of the suburbs. He claimed that Ealing had the right conditions to attract tourists. I have to take issue with my hon. Friend; if he thinks Ealing is good news, I reckon visitors would get an even better deal if they came to my constituency of Sutton and Cheam, which is a leafy, pleasant area with many avenues, parks and quiet streets. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) can testify to that; I know that he has a close relative living there and that he is able to bear good witness to what we have to offer.
My remarks are not totally in jest, because it is nice for visitors to London to stay somewhere quiet and pleasant. We are well placed for transport—we are not only on the main lines to Victoria, but are equidistant from Heathrow and Gatwick. The main arterial route of the M25 is also close by, making it easy for visitors to travel across the country.
Companies should also bear in mind our affordable conference facilities. Not all companies are immediately attracted to the main conference centres in the centre of London and they should think carefully about deploying their efforts to a pleasant suburb, such as Sutton, where they would get good value for money.
In fact, the whole debate hinges on the key point of value for money. Few people realise what a significant role tourism plays in our economy. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the spirit of our tourism has been driven by freedom from regulations. The industry operates according to market forces in a low tax economy and, of course, has the most wonderful resources in the world. It is not surprising that tourism is responsible for more than 5 per cent. of our gross domestic product, amounting to £38 billion. I welcome the fact that the United Kingdom is fifth in the world in earnings from foreign visitors, who last year accounted for a blockbusting £12 billion, up by more than 22 per cent. on 1994.
As has already been mentioned today—it is worth re-emphasising—the industry employs 1.7 million people. Admittedly, some of the jobs are part-time or seasonal, but all those people have jobs. The industry is also responsible for 220,000 businesses, 200,000 of which are classified as small businesses, which are a key factor in the industry as a whole.
The industry is labour intensive, and employs more people than the Russian Army or the Indian railways. As the Select Committee report pointed out, it employs more people than are involved in agriculture, coal mining, steel making, car and aircraft manufacture, food production and the textile industry put together.
Considering the enormous tie-up of resources and people involved, it is astonishing that we have not given the Department of National Heritage the status that it deserves. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) said, it should be called the Department of National Heritage and Tourism. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will join me in pressing that, eventually, we should make that change.
The industry involves such a significant amount of capital that we must ask ourselves why it does not achieve the attention and esteem that it deserves. It is disappointing that it is not recognised as a central element in the economy. I think one reason for that lies in the very nature of the industry, which consists of places of leisure. Somehow, leisure is not considered serious.
The industry embraces hotels, heritage attractions such as castles, places of entertainment, theatres, fairs and jousting. They are all too easily disregarded as somewhat frivolous—as an optional extra perhaps. How short-sighted people are to think in that way. We must bear in mind the indispensable and growing contribution that tourism makes to the economy, not to mention the role that it plays in our balance of payments.
There is much that we can do not only to boost the status of tourism but to capitalise on its success. Marketing must be a priority, so it is not surprising that it has been a popular topic in the debate. The British Tourist Authority has £35 million earmarked for it in the next financial year to market the United Kingdom abroad. With that sum, it will undertake promotions through a network of 42 overseas offices. Within its rather limited resources, the BTA has tried to be as effective and innovative as possible, and I pay tribute to the enormous energy that it puts into that effort.
However, I share the concern expressed in the National Heritage Committee's report on tourism, published this week, that a greater return could be achieved if more money were spent on promotion. I note the Committee's recommendation that the Government should increase the sum paid to the BTA by £100 million over the next five years. That would quadruple the current allocation.
There is, rightly, a debate about whether that is the correct figure, but the broad principle ought to be borne in mind. Before the Minister faints with shock at the idea of my asking him and the Government to spend more money when we are trying to cut the public sector borrowing requirement, I shall remind him of the point ably put across by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the Chairman of the Select Committee: we should regard whatever sum is deemed appropriate not as a grant—non-returnable dead money—but as an investment, from which we shall get more back.
I am persuaded that marketing is an important key to our success. There is no point hiding our talents under a bushel. It is worth nothing that, in central London, Regent street, Oxford street and Piccadilly are littered with tourist offices from other countries, door after door. We should recognise that such offices play a key role.
People do not come to this country unless they know the good news; to tell the good news, the tourist industry cannot rely on the bush telegraph. It has to go out and "get 'em in."
I read with some attention the experiences of the Select Committee when it visited the United States—it was struck by the sheer scale of promotion. The state of Virginia alone spends $1 million on overseas promotion, while Massachusetts spends $2 million. That should be compared with the BTA's promotion budget for the whole of the USA of £5 million, which includes about £750,000 for advertising.
The BTA claims that every pound spent on promotion in 1994 generated £14 for the British economy, and the corresponding figure was estimated at £23 for 1995 and £27 for 1996—a handsome return for every pound spent in promoting our country. It follows that larger investments would reap the highest reward and would bring greater revenue to the Treasury, making the original investment worth while. I hope that that is a persuasive argument for an increase in funding.
We have just had a succesful Budget, and the Chancellor has been able to report that the economy is growing continuously and steadily. I hope that, in next year's Budget, he will he able to respond to requests from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage for more support to boost British tourism.
I wish to comment on the quality of tourism in the United Kingdom. It is encouraging to see more and more overseas visitors in Britain, but we should not take their arrivals for granted. We must ensure that they receive good value for money, especially in terms of accommodation. In my years in political life, I have travelled across the country and stayed in innumerable hotels. I must say that I have had some "Fawlty Towers" experiences.
I shall never forget the first time I attended a Conservative party conference up in Blackpool. I was shown into a little hotel in Coronation street, where we always seem to end up. The price was modest, but I was surprised that, when I was shown to my room, I had to ask, "Where is the bed?" The man showing me round said, "Here," pulled a rope out of the wall, and down it fell. He left and, a few minutes later, my room was plunged into darkness. I thought, "Goodness. A power failure." I dashed out into the corridor and found that the lights were on, and suddenly it struck me—my room was on an electricity meter. I then had the most appalling hunt for the meter, which was in a cupboard, and I then had to find out what coins it took and go and get them. All told, it was a miserable experience. That was Blackpool, but things do not go wrong only there.
The other year, my husband and I attended another Conservative party conference, this time in Bournemouth. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the bathroom door fell off its hinges and across the bed as the manager showed us to our room. We may laugh—I certainly did at the time—but it is absurd. We should not have such hotels.
It is interesting that these things seem to happen at what I call the middle-ranking hotels—those that are neither cheap and cheerful nor luxurious. I have never had a bad experience while staying in bed-and-breakfast hotels, which have always been of the highest quality, whether in towns, in the country or on a farm. They are personally run by the householder and his wife, who provide the best possible service and attention and certainly the most magnificent slap-up British breakfast.
Foreign visitors do not always have such good experiences, however. A British Tourist Authority survey shows that 28 per cent. of visitors to London do not believe that London hotels provide good value. Of overseas visitors who did not stay in London, 36 per cent. felt that their accommodation was poor. Criticisms related to room size; decor; washing facilities, especially the availability of private bathrooms—amazingly enough, that is still a problem; meal hours, as restaurants often close at 8.30 pm, just as guests arrive, and are inflexible about what they can do for a late traveller; and cost.
The shortage of hotel space in London means that poor hotels are not driven out of business by market forces. Travellers have no choice but to accept second best. There should be a proper registration scheme for accommodation, modelled on that in Northern Ireland, where registration is compulsory and has been since 1948. I cannot understand why it has taken us so long to jump on board. In Northern Ireland, inspections are carried out to ensure minimum standards and a certificate is issued categorising the unit as a hotel, guest house, bed and breakfast and so forth. Indeed, it is an offence to provide accommodation without a certificate, and it has been known for such certificates to be withdrawn following serious complaints.
The Consumers Association is keen on compulsory registration, as is Westminster city council, the BTA chief executive, the British Incoming Tour Operators Association, the British Resorts Association and the Tourism Society. They all want statutory classification, although there is a debate about grading. There should be clear grading so that people know exactly what they are getting, which is important.
Although the Department quails, I gather, at the work and expense involved, it would be short sighted to sit on the fence, hoping that voluntary registration will suffice. That option would have none of the necessary rigour, and would do little to push for improved standards. Hotels that are poor performers would not register voluntarily, so we would still face the difficulty of how to tackle unsatisfactory service.
Labour's new tourism strategy spells new dangers. The industry's biggest resource is its people. We need to take care of them, and not only in terms of training. Personal service must be valued, respected and seen as a worthwhile and dignified career. We must also protect the interests of the work force. I am concerned for them, bearing in mind the fact that they number 1.7 million people. They would be put at great disadvantage if the industry suffered from the insidious workings of the social chapter. The tourism trade would be burdened with damaging new regulations, such as the 48-hour working directive, the parental leave directive and the planned part-time and temporary workers' directive. They would crush the industry and job opportunities rather than build it up. Under new Labour's plans, this prosperous industry would be dragged down because jobs would be put at serious risk by the minimum wage.
I was disappointed when the Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), referred to sweatshops and poverty pay. It is all very well to use highly emotive language—that is easy—but what we really have to do is to look at people's lives.
Is it right to push around and socially engineer jobs so that some benefit from an increased wage and others are thrown on the scrap heap, without a job and dependent on unemployment benefit? If we asked any one of the 1.7 million people working in the industry if he would surrender his job so that his friend next door could get a bit more pay, the answer would be no. Nobody would go on the dole voluntarily rather than have the dignity of working and supporting a family.
We must understand that one man's pay rise would be another man's job loss. Moreover, the pressure on businesses would cause them to go bankrupt. Let us not forget that we are dealing with 200,000 small businesses that are vulnerable to pressures. They are not what Labour Members would describe as fat cat enterprises that can absorb an enormous amount of shocks; press them too hard and they would go under.
Even if businesses stayed afloat and paid the increased wages, the costs would be passed on to the tourist, who would resent it and stop coming here. We should seriously consider the effects that the Labour party's proposals could have on the tourism industry and the jobs that it provides.
It is important to encourage people—not just foreigners, but English families—to visit not only London, but our wonderful and beautiful regions. We should adopt the New Zealand saying, "Don't leave home 'til you've seen the country." We should encourage our friends, neighbours and constituents to see some of their own culture and heritage.
Of course, we cannot stop people flitting off to Kos for two weeks, but we can encourage them to see more of this country, even if only for a few short breaks in the year. Everyone has heard of the Londoner who has not been beyond the M25 but has been to Corfu; we should get him to the Cotswolds, to East Anglia, Oxford and Cambridge.
Can my hon. Friend advise people travelling up to Scotland to stop off in Yorkshire, which has the most superb countryside that can be imagined, and offers the best entertainment and enjoyment facilities for tourists?
It is with the greatest pleasure that I would encourage tourists to visit the lovely Yorkshire dales, to try the Yorkshire pudding, to sample the culture, to visit the pubs and, indeed, to try to understand the language.
We should focus more on the regions. I appreciate that the English tourist board gets much support in its effort to spread the good news across the country, but we need to build new images. We need to get away from the "Hi-de-Hi" television image that suggests that visiting the provinces is second rate. We are making good progress and we should endorse many new initiatives.
We could do more to encourage the development of country cottages and self-catering holidays; the quality of those lets is enormously high, and they provide a useful income, especially if the owners are going on holiday themselves. I have seen what a powerful role holiday lets have played in the East Anglian economy; they give enormous pleasure to the visitors and bring a great deal of income to the area.
I am proud of the achievements of the tourism industry, which have been built on a healthy economy that has had careful Conservative management over many years. It is encouraging that we have provided the right infrastructure, the right Budget and the right circumstances for small businesses to flourish. By reducing corporation tax, freezing business rates and raising the VAT threshold, we have set the stage for the most magnificent show on earth. I thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for making it all possible.
First, I apologise for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). I thought that he was at the same meeting as the Secretary of State, but she has returned. I hope that he will come back in due course.
This has been a good debate. We have good debates on Fridays, though they are not the best attended. I am for ever telling the Minister that we generally finish by speaking to a few hon. Members who have drawn the short straw. It would be good to have a debate in Government time during the week. I hope that that message gets through. Many northern, Welsh and Scottish Members would love to be here but cannot re-arrange their diaries.
I can vouch for the attractions of the constituency of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) because my sister lives there and I often visit it. The hon. Lady asked why the industry is not taken more seriously. That is a problem but it is not helped by the fact that tourism Ministers come and go, as the Select Committee report noted. Many tourism Ministers sit in the other place. That downgrades tourism in the eyes of many in the industry. I hope that that message, too, gets across.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam goes much further than we do—the Secretary of State did not hear this part of her speech—on standards of accommodation. She wants a statutory grading scheme. We and the National Heritage Select Committee want to give free enterprise a whirl first. She is more strident.
We have had an excellent debate in which many hon. Members have raised matters relating to this most important sector of the economy. Hearing hon. Members talk about the economic, employment and social benefits that tourism brings to their constituencies, it strikes me that the Government have still not got to grips with the industry's potential or produced a meaningful strategy to assist its development. The Budget only confirms that. The Secretary of State's cheek is amazing. She claims to be the champion of the tourist industry. She really must calling stop herself the champion of everything. She is the champion of sport, the champion of tourism and last Wednesday she even said that she was the champion of bingo.
The hon. Gentleman presses me too hard. It is only fair to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat) is definitely the captain of Sproats.
The hon. Lady is trying to divert me from the bingo argument. I was speaking to bingo representatives and they told me that she was no champion of theirs for pushing through a second weekly national lottery draw. The Budget has not helped them. She must at least stop calling herself the champion of bingo.
As a former boxing champion, I think that I could give the Secretary of State a few tips. She has got to start winning some rounds with her Cabinet colleagues. I understand that at the Conservative party conference tourism breakfast for which guests were asked to pay £500 to meet her, she spoke of being
stunned at the professionalism of the British Tourist Authority having visited their offices in Japan and the United States".
She has some way of showing it by cutting its budget.
On top of that, the doubling of air passenger duty has been described by Robert Ayling, the chief executive of British Airways, as an imposition that will
penalise one of our most successful export industries by adding further to the cost of incoming tourism to Britain at a time when competition in the international market place is becoming ever more intense.
Again, some champion.
Last week the Secretary of State asked me how I had the gall to mention the Labour party's document on tourism and hospitality strategy, "Breaking New Ground". She said that it had sunk without trace. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins), soon to be somewhere in Sussex or wherever, agreed with her. The thing is that she does not read, and nor does he, the national press or the tourism press, where the document received considerable coverage. Perhaps the Secretary of State did not have a chance to read the endorsements, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland listed.
Far from sinking without trace, the document has been in such demand that we have had requests for more than 2,000 copies, including bulk orders from the Confederation of British Industry, the English tourist board, the Association of District Councils, the British Resorts Association, the British Hospitality Association and the British Incoming Tour Operators Association. The chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, Jeremy Logie, wrote a letter saying:
As you may know, we have distributed Breaking New Ground to many of our members and we are discussing the contents all round the country at our autumn series of regional meetings.
On the whole, my members are delighted to learn of your very positive attitude to our industry and to learn of your pledge of real commitment and involvement.
Sunk without trace? The Secretary of State really must look again.
The Secretary of State made great mention of Blackpool pleasure beach, which has invited us to hold a regional launch of "Breaking New Ground" in the north-west next week. We have had a similar invitation from the east midlands and there is more to follow. Such a response shows that the industry now recognises that we are the party with a positive agenda for tourism, in contrast to the Government's lacklustre approach.
Let us take accommodation standards. We know that there is a serious problem with the quality and standard of service offered. The Government's own report "Competing with the best"—[Interruption.] If Front-Bench Members care to listen, they may learn something. I am quoting their own document. Surely they are proud of it. It says:
There is clear evidence that too many visitors are disappointed with the value for money they get from some hotels. In a recent survey, 30 per cent. of overseas visitors to London said that their hotel did not meet expectations.
That is more than 3 million a year, and clearly that is not good enough. How many of them will return? How many will report poor opinions to their friends when they go home? Yet what is the Government's answer? A benchmark scheme is certainly better than nothing, but it is not good enough. Visitors to accommodation premises want a comprehensive grading structure which they trust to describe approximately the standard of the accommodation that is on offer, not a confusing array of stars, crowns, stripes and various descriptions. They need a clearly identifiable scheme which demonstrates certain basic standards of service and provision.
If the Government listened to the industry, they would be aware that the Tourism Society recently published the results of a detailed study that it had undertaken with accommodation providers of the standards of hotel provision, called "Tourist Accommodation: Classification and Grading Schemes". The report revealed wide industry support for statutory registration of all accommodation premises and the introduction of an industry-led grading scheme.
During our consultations with the industry, we were persuaded of the merits of such an approach and, because we are a listening party, we reviewed our previous position of outright support for a statutory grading scheme, which is what the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam wants. That reviewed position is now outlined in "Breaking New Ground". In her heart of hearts, the Secretary of State knows that that is the best approach, but the ideology of her party prevents her, I am sure, from responding to the industry's needs. Now she has perhaps one good last chance to do something positive.
The first report of the National Heritage Select Committee, published this week, comes down very much on our side. I was pleased to hear the Chairman of that Committee, who spoke so eloquently, make that point as well as others. I was pleased to note that that far-reaching report comes much closer to understanding the needs of the industry than anything that the Government have produced. It also recommended an identical approach to our own on certain issues.
Today hon. Members cited certain statistics that are always heard in debates on tourism, for example, whether 1.6 million, 1.7 million or 1.8 million people are employed in the industry. It may sound a bit tedious, but it is worth repeating those statistics, because, as was said earlier, the more we do that, the more people will understand the importance of the tourism industry.
Several hon. Members have referred to legislation that will affect the industry. The Labour party makes no apology whatever for wanting to improve the pay, training and recognition of Britain's tourism and hospitality workers. That is essential if we are to compete with the world's other skilled countries.
When the Secretary of State wrote to me on the day of the launch of her Department's paper, entitled, "People Working in Tourism and Hospitality", she noted:
The quality of the workforce is a key driver of both customer satisfaction and the competitive success of the tourism industry. The report shows how progressive firms use good management practices to help them retain staff, deliver quality and achieve customer success.
That is an endorsement of our policy. The right hon. Lady did not say, however, that the progressive firms to which she referred also pay good wages and invest in their staff. Peter Moore of Center Pares, who the Secretary of State rightly praised at a Business in Sport and Leisure conference on Wednesday, was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland to say:
You can't pay low wages".
The Secretary of State is out of touch because Mr. Moore is quite right. Labour will ensure that we invest in those who work in tourism and hospitality. We will provide them with positive training opportunities by producing individual learning accounts that will encourage people to train. The British Incoming Tour Operators Association, the Hospitality Foundation and many others, according to the tourism papers, have expressed support for our policy.
We make it clear in our document that we will work with the private sector to create a university of the industry to utilise the potential of information technology in education. We will end the poverty pay, low-status, high turnover jobs by introducing a statutory national minimum wage. No one should be worried about that, including the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, because the Leader of the Opposition has said clearly that the low pay commission to be established after the election will include representatives from tourism and the hospitality industries. They will help to determine the right level of pay that should be set, and that has satisfied most people in the industry.
I do not expect that the Government's strategy will match Labour's plans to introduce a development of tourism Act. The need for restructuring is clear, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland has already outlined how Labour will make that new Act work for the industry.
Integral to our aims is the need to encourage the British travel agent to sell more domestic holidays, including short breaks. [Interruption.] I hope that I can get some attention from those on the Government Front Bench. Currently domestic tourism represents about 15 per cent. of travel agents' turnover. We must work to ensure that the skills they possess in information technology and marketing and in offering a good-value product are more aligned to the domestic industry. I hope that the Secretary of State agrees with that.
Colin Trigger, president of ABTA, has praised Labour's initiative and he wonders why he has not heard anything from the Department of National Heritage. I would welcome the Minister's comment on that.
Some hon. Members have spoken of the importance of sustainable tourism. I hope that the Secretary of State will not say that I am straying into a debate on transport when I say that she knows something of Sustrans, the charity-based project to develop a national cycle network. I accompanied my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland when he officially opened in his beautiful constituency the impressive C2C cycle network, which links Whitehaven to Newcastle.
I hope that cycling, which has the potential to be big business in terms of tourism, attracts the Secretary of State's attention. Already, it is estimated that 500,000 holidays are primarily for cycling. Cycling has many appeals—it promotes a healthy life style, boosts local tourism and is sustainable and environmentally friendly. Cycling and the cycling network should be at the forefront of our attempts to promote more short-break domestic holidays. The development of the national cycle network will provide the tourism industry with the infrastructure for a UK-wide tourist attraction that will appeal to UK residents of all ages and will attract overseas visitors.
When he replies, will the Minister tell us what talks his Department has had with the Department of Transport? As the right hon. Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) said, it appears that few interdepartmental talks go on these days. Will he tell us what the Government's cycling strategy is? Will he tell us what measures the tourist boards are taking to promote Britain as a cycling destination? What efforts have he or the Secretary of State made to assist that process?
As they should, the Government will propose a tourism strategy for the new year. They are always following our lead and we are pleased that they have done so in this instance. We take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton that it is best to avoid political punch-ups in this respect. I give due credit to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), who spoke for 33 minutes today. When not straying into the realm of political punch-ups, he is generally supportive of the industry and is well-respected within it.
In the spirit of co-operation, I hope that the Secretary of State will look more closely at our document and see that it was drawn up following a great deal of consultation with representatives of the industry, many of whom have endorsed the end result. When she gets round to drawing up her strategy, I hope that she will address the following points. First, there should be a determined effort to improve hotel standards. Secondly, there should be real investment in people who work in the industry, including protection against poverty pay. Thirdly, there should be a commitment to a new development of tourism Act to ensure that the structures are updated. Fourthly, there should be recognition of the needs of the hospitality industry, including a review of the present licensing laws. Fifthly, local authorities should be required to provide a tourism strategy for their local areas.
The right hon. Lady might want to re-examine "Breaking New Ground". She clearly did not read it properly the first time, because she said it contained no reference to the minimum wage. She will find in it the issues that I have outlined and many positive ideas for the industry, which have widespread industry backing. Sadly, I believe that she will again fail to meet the challenge. The tourism and hospitality industry will know, once and for all, that only a Labour Government will provide new life for tourism in this country.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) say that the late Mr. Costain, who was once a Member of Parliament, had told him that it was a tradition of the House that Friday debates should be relatively uncontroversial. I had not known that. I think that it is a good idea.
Usually, when the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and I face each other over the Dispatch Boxes, the debates are fairly good-tempered. I think that, since the last election, we have had seven debates on tourism and several on sport. On balance, today's debate has revealed a great deal of common agreement; but, although it is not the first time that the hon. Gentleman and I have disagreed, the debate has also revealed a significant and central element of disagreement between the two parties.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks), who is exceptionally knowledgeable about the tourism industry, pointed out that difference of opinion at the start of the debate. He said, rightly, that the working time directive, minimum wage legislation and the social chapter are all abominated by the tourism industry. Perhaps, here and there in the tourism industry, some people are less worried about it than others.
The Business Services Association was quoted earlier as supporting a national minimum wage, but now the argument is unravelling. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) said, a representative of Gardner Merchant has said that it supports a minimum wage only if that is so low that it will not affect it. I understand that the chief executive of Rentokil Group plc was quoted on the BBC as supporting a national minimum wage, but Rentokil is not even a member of the association.
There is a key point there. The history and traditions of the Labour party, and its association with the trade unions, lead it to support a minimum wage. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) said so well, however well-intentioned that may be, there is only one inevitable result of a minimum wage, and it would especially apply in the tourism industry—jobs would be lost.
Many people in the tourism industry may say, as they are entitled to, that they very much welcome the Labour party's, interest—some of us may say new-found interest—in tourism. Yes, they may welcome that interest, but no, they do not believe a word that the Labour party says about it. As long as the Labour party has at the heart of its tourism policy a minimum wage, a social chapter and adherence to working time directives, the tourism industry will know that it would be its ruination, were the Labour party ever to form a Government.
I shall now discuss one non-controversial aspect of the debate. I shall treat hon. Members' contributions in chronological order in so far as that is sensible.
The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) mentioned the opportunity for England to host the football World cup in the year 2006. The Government are extremely keen that that should happen. Earlier in the week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I had a meeting with the Football Association. I shall have another meeting with the Football Association to discuss in detail what the Government can do to ensure that we get the World cup in 2006, as we should. Our record in hosting the Euro' 96 football championships makes it extremely likely that we shall get the World cup, because the Euro' 96 championships were very well organised. Tourism benefited from Euro' 96. In June 1996, receipts from foreign visitors—£1.2 billion in that month—were up 20 per cent. on the previous June. That was in great measure a result of Euro' 96.
Once the lawyers can lick into shape the details of the proposed United Kingdom Sports Council, one of its top priorities will be to bring major sporting events to this country. Everything is being set up for that.
I say to the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) that I shall now revert to a marginally more confrontational mode. The right hon. Member for Copeland said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was forced to cut everything as a result of the Budget; he was totally wrong. The reverse is true. My right hon. Friend fought fiercely and successfully in Cabinet. We obtained an increase of £3 million over plan for the Arts Council, an increase of more than £500,000 over plan in provision for the arts pairing scheme, an increase of more than £2 million over plan in provision for English Heritage, an increase of £3 million over plan in provision for museums and galleries—including £5 million for maintenance—and a £2 million scheme for public libraries.
In recognition of the fact that museums and galleries make London one of the worldwide attractions for cultural tourists, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State protected them, with £3 million more for the arts and more than £2 million more for museums and galleries. We have done what we should have done to protect—
Well of course that is tourism. I shall come to the wider point in a minute. The right hon. Member for Copeland rightly said that museums and galleries were important to tourism. He then went on to say that we had cut funding. I am merely pointing out that, as so often, the Labour party is comprehensively wrong. We did not cut funding; we increased it.
The right hon. Member for Copeland then attacked the increase in the air tax. Let me ask a simple question: is it the Labour party's intention to scrap the tax—yes or no? The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde does not make a move. He is as still as a mouse. He has no idea.
He is a very big mouse, and a very dangerous one, too, as a former boxing champion.
Would Labour scrap the airport tax? On the subject of funding, we have also heard a lot from Opposition Members about the extra £100 million that the National Heritage Select Committee recommended should be added over five years to the amount of money that we give to the British Tourist Authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam would like that extra money to be given. The Government will give serious consideration to the proposals, whether they refer to classification and grading, extra money to the BTA or other issues. We did not hear a single mousey squeak about whether the Labour party is pledged to add that £100 million. Will it abolish the tax? Will it provide the extra £100 million? Or is that another of those pledges that are spoken silently out of one side of the mouth by the right hon. Member for Copeland and denied out of the other side of the mouth by the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown)?
It is true that the budget of the British Tourist Authority, which does a wonderful job, has been cut from £35.5 million to £35 million. That is a tiny cut, but it is a cut. We have heard from hon. Members on both sides—rightly—that tourism is the second largest industry in the country and that, by the end of the century, it will be the biggest both in this country and in the world. It seems extraordinary that the Government should be criticised for knocking £500,000 off the budget of an industry worth £37 billion. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde failed to emphasise that the BTA has rightly had an extra £16 million—not just half a million—from the private sector to join in its promotions and advertising.
I did not intervene earlier because I thought that the Minister would have a catalogue of questions for me. The main point is that we would never have imposed the air passenger tax. After such a good year for tourism last year, because of devaluation and other factors, we would certainly have expected the Secretary of State to fight her corner and ensure that there was no reduction in the budgets for the tourist boards. She did that last year and was boasting that she would do the same this year. That is the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was making.
I gave way for a minute and a half. That gave the hon. Gentleman plenty of time to say, "We will abolish the airport tax." Did he say that? No. There was plenty of time for him to say, "We will give an extra £100 million to the BTA." Did he say that? No. It was a total waste of time. He was asked a question and he did not even attempt to answer it.
The key point is that we have a giant industry worth £37 billion. It employs 1.8 million people, with another million jobs, we hope, to be created in the industry in the next 10 years.
This year, we have had a record number of foreign visitors—24 million. We have had record earnings from foreign visitors—£12.1 billion. We have got 5 per cent. of the world tourism market. We have gone up in the league; we were down to sixth, but we have gone back up to fifth. We have not slipped, but Labour Members do not understand that. We have gone from sixth up to fifth, and why? The reasons are the economy of this country, the general prosperity, the steadiness, the low inflation and the falling unemployment; all those factors have contributed to an economy in which tourism can flourish.
At the heart of Labour's policy is not only the poisoned pellet of the minimum wage, the social chapter and the working time directive, but plans that, if Labour ever came to government, would wreck our economic stability, our low inflation and our falling unemployment. The tourism industry would be in an infinitely worse state.
The fact is that I have only to quote the words of the right hon. Member for Gorton. He rightly said that the tourism industry is a great success story. There are more visitors, more earnings and a bigger share of the world market, and we are going up in the world league. One cannot ask for much more than that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Mr. Aitken) made a point about needing competition between the ferries and the tunnel. He is entirely right. He asked whether we could not improve the reception for foreign visitors at Heathrow airport. That is a good and fair point. My noble Friend Lord Inglewood recently went to Heathrow to look at Customs and Excise and immigration procedures. He spoke to Customs officials with a view to helping them in their wish to be even more courteous and friendly by introducing them to the English tourist board's welcome hosts scheme, which is a very good idea. However, we take the point. My noble Friend has done something about it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet also made a point about the co-ordination committee. It is absolutely true that the co-ordination committee has not met for five years. Why? The reason is that it was a waste of time. We do not go on with something that is useless; we have a far better way. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gets on the telephone and says to her colleagues, "This is what I want you to do", and it happens. From my experience of many and many a weary but successful hour spent in the Deregulation Committee, I know that it does more for tourism and taking burdens off the industry's back than ever the co-ordination committee did. Too often, that committee became a talking shop, and that is why we abandoned it. There is, therefore, a very simple answer to my right hon. Friend's point.
I say again to the right hon. Member for Gorton, because the point needs to be understood, that we are looking extremely closely at his Select Committee's report. We understand that it is a non-political Committee and we understand that it has made some extremely important recommendations about extra funding, about registration and about grading. We shall look at each one of the recommendations and come back to the Committee as soon as we have had a chance to give the recommendations the serious consideration they deserve.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to a second runway at Manchester airport. Manchester is a wonderful airport and I am glad that the Government pursued their liberalising policies for aviation transport. Let us not forget that those policies were totally opposed by Labour Members. I remember that when I was a Minister with responsibility for aviation, we could not get the Opposition to support the privatisation of British Airways or putting the airports out into the private sector or local authority control. The Opposition were entirely against those policies, yet they now urge us to do even more. Well, because we are generous, we shall do so and I shall draw the right hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
The right hon. Member for Gorton used an excellent phrase when he said that there is a whole United Kingdom outside London. That is true and important. It is a difficult balance to strike because some 55 per cent. of all tourists who visit Britain come to London. Whether we like it or not, London is the single biggest magnet. My right hon. Friend has put another £1.5 million into the London focus campaign so that foreign tourists to London are made aware that they should visit Yorkshire, Scotland, the south-west, Shakespeare country, Cambridge and so on.
Tourists want to visit London first. They know about Buckingham palace, the Tower of London, the museums, galleries and all the cultural benefits that London has to offer. As I was born in Scotland and I represent a constituency that is a couple of hours away from London, I agree entirely with the importance of encouraging as many visitors as possible to travel around the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) spoke about the Prince Edward playing fields. I am pleased to inform him that we shall have a meeting on the matter as soon as possible—next week, if he can arrange it. I pay tribute to the persistence with which my hon. Friend has pursued the problem. He also mentioned currency changing booths charging unfair rates of commission. I shall draw that comment to the appropriate authorities.
I was pleased to hear from the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who has had surgery recently, is now making a speedy return to health. I am sure that we all look forward to welcoming him back to the House.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire also said that our tourism policy was too London centred. I have explained the difficulty of getting tourists to visit such places as the borders of Scotland. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's request for better signposting to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the opportunities that tourism provides for diversification. He mentioned the town of Hawick where the once-great textile industry is in decline and the potential for museums to commemorate the industry. No doubt his suggestion will be followed up.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) spoke about career opportunities in tourism, travel, hotels, restaurants and so on. My right hon. Friend and I will look at ways in which we can draw the matter to the attention of young people in schools and colleges.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) gave us an excellent resumé of the Select Committee report and we shall certainly take into account the points he raised—although I do not necessarily agree with them all—when we consider that report.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) talked about the Mayflower 2000 project. It is a wonderful project and I congratulate Mrs. Pickering, who has been the driving force behind it. I very much hope that the Millennium Commission will realise that it will be a reproduction of the Mayflower, not a replica—it will actually sail and is not just a toy. Perhaps I should declare a constituency interest in the project as the original Mayflower and its skipper came from Harwich.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon made an extremely well-informed speech, including the succinct and vital point that, after all the rubbish that we heard about airport taxes doing down the tourist industry, British tourism has just had its best two years ever. Of course nobody likes increased taxes, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor has to find the best and fairest way of raising revenue. He did it. We have had the airport tax and the best two years in tourism. It is a knock-down argument and it is absurd to pretend that a fiver, and now a tenner, will ruin the British tourist industry.
My hon. Friend said that he had visited Barrow. He made the important point that in the past people visited that part of the United Kingdom to see the Lake district. My hon. Friend is also extremely keen on Peter Rabbit and there are great campaigns in Japan publicising the Peter Rabbit exhibition in Cumbria, which is extremely popular with the Japanese. Barrow is an added attraction. It is an opportunity for an industrial museum. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) talked about the need for a steel museum. There is a marvellous mining museum in Wakefield, and a steel museum would be a very good idea.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned the problems of matching lottery funding. Yes, it is a problem. He will know that the Arts Council and the Sports Council very often lower the matching from 50 per cent. to as low as 10 per cent., but we certainly ought to keep the issue in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle talked about European competence in tourism. Her Majesty's Government are totally against the idea of there being a European competence in tourism. We published a Green Paper in April last year that offered four options. The first was to scrap the current arrangements, the second to keep the status quo, the third to enhance slightly the status quo and the fourth to establish a competence. We were totally against it then, and we are totally against it now.
We have had a very good debate on the great success of the tourism industry—