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Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 9:35 am on 29th November 1996.

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Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage 9:35 am, 29th November 1996

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.