When he last met representatives of the tourism sector in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
Wales Office Ministers regularly meet representatives of the tourism industry in Wales. Wales is a fantastic holiday destination, and this Government will continue to do all they can to promote Wales at home and abroad.
We are indeed fortunate in that people the world over want to visit the wonderful country of Wales—I and, I am sure, the Minister are very proud of the country—but more should be done in terms of tourism and the Welsh economy. What discussions has he or his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had with colleagues to implement a 5% VAT rate for the tourism sector, which would bring 5,500 extra jobs to Wales?
With permission, Mr Speaker, a gaf i dalu teyrnged i’r Aelod gwir anrhydeddus? I would like to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his service in this House over many years, and for the way in which he has led his party here.
VAT levels for business are of course set by the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman rightly points to the importance to the Welsh economy of tourism, which makes up almost 15% of the work force. That is why I am delighted that the number of international visits last year increased by 7.5%, or 26,000 visits.
Diolch i’r Gweinidog am ei eiriau caeredig. I will help Hansard with the spelling later.
In terms of competitive disadvantage, 24 EU states already have a reduced rate of VAT on tourism. In addition, the economic study by Professor Adam Blake, using the Treasury’s own modelling technique, showed that a cut in tourism VAT would increase GDP by £4 billion per annum.
A strong tourism sector needs a strong economy. Wales is the fastest-growing part of the United Kingdom, which creates a greater opportunity to attract tourists from not only the UK but beyond. VisitBritain is launching the Countryside is Great campaign, from which I know the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency is set to benefit.
The Minister is right to highlight the successes of the Welsh tourism industry. Will he reflect on the benefits of a cut in VAT for rural economies, particularly those in west Wales—the constituency of the Secretary of State and Ceredigion, Powys and Dwyfor Meirionnydd? They would really benefit because they are incredibly fragile economies.
VAT rates are a matter for the Treasury, but the hon. Gentleman will be able to make such points in the forthcoming Treasury debate. We need to ensure that Wales gets its fair share of VisitBritain, and the Countryside is Great campaign provides a great opportunity for his constituency and large parts of Wales to ensure that Wales is promoted internationally as well as within the United Kingdom.