Tourism Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 2000.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes 12:00 am, 11th December 2000

What assessment he has made of the impact of regulation on the viability of the tourism industry. [141875]

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The Government are committed to reforming outdated, overlapping and overburdensome legislation. Our aims are clearer and better-targeted legislation and a climate that encourages thriving business while providing proper protection for workers, consumers and the environment. That includes the tourism industry.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen Conservative, Totnes

The impact of regulation on the tourism industry is as nothing compared with the effect on it of the disintegration of our infrastructure. Is the Minister aware of the difficulties of getting to and from the west country? Last Friday, it took me five and a half hours to travel from Paddington to Totnes and, yesterday, it took me six and a half hours to travel from Totnes to London. Is the Minister also aware that plane services are unreliable and unpredictable, that the motorways are gridlocked, and that that is no way to encourage tourists—

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is suffering from amnesia. He may recall that it was the previous Government who established the current system for running our railways. Of course, the infrastructure is not a matter for my Department, but I remind him that one of the things that we have done for the tourism industry—in stark contrast with the Conservative party—is to establish an annual tourism ministerial summit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If Opposition Members listen, they might learn something. At the summit, we will take every opportunity, in support of the tourism industry, to press matters for which other Departments are responsible.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

Although the proposed regulatory changes announced by the Government and their promise of further reviews are welcome, does the Minister recognise the extent to which tourism businesses are being strangled by new legislation introduced by her Government? New employment laws, such as the working time directive and the minimum wage, and new measures on part-time work, maternity leave and parental entitlement have all been heaped on the industry during the past two years. They have prompted the British Hospitality Association to comment that much legislation and guidance was badly drafted and incomprehensible. Hotel and restaurant managers are haunted by the fear of prosecution for inadvertent non-compliance. When can they expect more simplified and workable arrangements?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

It would be interesting to know whether the Conservative party would do away with the measures to which the hon. Gentleman refers if it ever returned to government. We look forward to hearing about that.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that my Department welcomed the better regulation taskforce report, which concentrated specifically on hotels and restaurants. The report made a number of recommendations, which we have accepted. We are now undertaking reviews in Departments throughout Whitehall of much of the highlighted legislation.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's Regulatory Reform Bill, a new measure introduced to deal with regulatory powers, provides an opportunity to consider their priority of better regulation, rather than total deregulation? Does not the Government's priority of encouraging the tourism industry involve ensuring that its workers are given proper protection and conditions?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

My hon. Friend is right. We should remember that, thanks to the Government, workers in the tourism industry now enjoy the right to a national minimum wage. My hon. Friend is also right about the Regulatory Reform Bill, which will deliver more than 20 reforms to cut and simplify existing regulations. There is no doubt that those measures will help the tourism industry and many other industries.

Photo of Mr Ronnie Fearn Mr Ronnie Fearn Liberal Democrat, Southport

How will the regulation powers deal with seaside resorts? Having gone round most of the tourist resorts, I feel that nothing is happening. I have also been to the latest tourism forum, but there is much talk and little action. What action has the Minister taken in respect of tourism in seaside resorts?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government have done a great deal to help seaside resorts, and I thank him for his continued constituency interest and his deep interest in tourism generally. We have done what we can to help through single regeneration budget money, assisted area status and so on, but he will also know that we await the report of the English Tourism Council's resorts taskforce, which is ably chaired by Peter Moore, the former managing director of CenterParcs. We expect the report early in the new year and look forward to reading the recommendations. I am sure that a number of sensible ones will be made, and we look forward to acting on them.