Tourism is hugely important for the United Kingdom, and it will be one of my priorities in this Department. We provide financial support through VisitBritain and VisitEngland, which are responsible for promoting the UK through a range of initiatives and campaigns, including the £40 million Discover England fund, which is aimed at encouraging visitors to explore the regions of England beyond London, including, of course, Warwickshire.
May I also welcome my right hon. and learned Friend to his place? As a fellow Warwickshire MP, he is obviously very aware of the draw that our local area brings. Unfortunately, many miss the opportunity to see the north of the county and the hidden gems up there, such as Middleton hall, our historic towns and the beautiful rural countryside, instead concentrating more on the south of the county. What role can Government initiatives such as the cultural development fund play in helping these lesser known tourist attractions in the north to fully realise their potential?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. As he says, I am familiar with the challenge he sets out, and he is right to focus on the cultural development fund, which is £20 million that can be used to open up the potential of various parts of this country. He will know that we are moving in the new year towards an announcement as to who has been successful in their bids under that fund. He is right that it is important that, even in counties such as Warwickshire, we are able to make sure that those visitors who come to the major honeypot attractions such as Warwick castle and Stratford can see what the rest of the county and beyond have to offer, whether that is Middleton hall, Kenilworth castle or other opportunities—there are many of them. Time spent in Warwickshire is time very well spent.
The Minister will be aware, I hope, that the R&A will come back to Royal Portrush next year for the first time in 70 years for the Open golf tournament. Would he join me in ensuring that his colleagues in the Cabinet take the decision on VAT on hospitality and air passenger duty to try to ensure that tourism in Northern Ireland receives a much-needed boost in advance of that tremendous tournament?
We certainly want to see that be a successful Open championship, and we will look at any way we can to assist. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there are difficulties at the moment in the absence of an Administration in Belfast, but we will do all we can to help, and I look forward to speaking with him and others about how we might do that.
My right hon. and learned Friend will know the importance of tourism— 3 million people are employed in the industry, and it is our fourth largest export—but, for the improved viability of the industry, we need to get a sector deal. It has been submitted to the Department. When are we likely to see the sector deal come through?
I understand my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm, and as he has heard me say, I entirely share it—I think tourism is something we should focus on in the Department, and we will. In relation to the sector deal, there has been a small further delay, caused, I am afraid, by me, because I wanted to look at that deal to make sure it is as robust and powerful as it possibly can be. However, my hon. Friend should take reassurance, as should the industry, that the reason for that delay is not that I am not enthusiastic about tourism but, quite the reverse, that I am extremely enthusiastic and I want to make this bid as persuasive as it can be.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I am not familiar with it yet, but I am sure I soon will be. I will certainly be speaking to the Arts Council about the work it can do across the country, including in her part of the world, to provide support.