The Economy

Part of Council Tax Rebate – in the House of Commons at 9:03 pm on 31st March 2009.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 9:03 pm, 31st March 2009

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. The pub industry itself must come to terms with that. I am focusing on what the Government can do that is positive.

I want to see a strengthened Tourism Minister who has the power to negotiate more firmly with other Departments. I want to see local authorities being encouraged to consider a tourism strategy in every part and every corner of the UK. I also want to see an empowered VisitEngland that can use the strength of the nine regions, rather than each of them individually representing their patch. It is wrong when places such as Boston, Massachusetts, have six different offices representing different corners of Great Britain and trying to get tourists back to the UK. That is madness and it must stop.

There are other aspects of British tourism—I could go on for a long time. I believe that we could have a debate on tourism itself, so important is it. I stress again that I do not believe that we give this subject the justice it deserves. Nor does the Treasury understand how much more money could be brought into this country, bearing in mind that £36 billion of British money is spent abroad simply because we do not really understand what is under our noses and what wonderful opportunities there are in British tourism. As I said, that is now changing, because the economy is working against people, so we should be harnessing those opportunities to ensure that tourism is one area that sees growth and that can help improve employment. We should be doing that rather than cutting the tourism budget, which is what the Government are doing. VisitBritain's budget for the coming three years has been cut by 20 per cent. That must be wrong, given how much money it could make for the Treasury.

We should step back and look at the economy as a whole. Banks were lending money that they did not have to people who could not afford it and in ways that they did not understand. The Government watched the merry-go-round go round and round, but then the music stopped and they are now looking for answers. The British people are suffering as they wait for the Government to respond.

I have yet to be impressed by any of the answers given by the Government. As I said, I shall hold my breath about the G20, but I plead with the Treasury to recognise the economic benefit of investing in our tourism industry. It is the one industry that could provide a return to the Exchequer, as more people choose domestic holidays over holidays abroad.

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