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Tourism

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 10:54 am on 29th November 1996.

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Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet 10:54 am, 29th November 1996

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.