My Lords, the tourism and hospitality industries are major employers in the United Kingdom. In 2013, Deloitte estimated that tourism and hospitality supported 3.1 million jobs, accounting for 9.6% of all jobs. Both the Government and the industry are committed to nurturing growth in tourism through the creation of high-quality jobs, while giving young people every opportunity to forge rewarding and lasting careers in the sectors.
I am grateful to my noble friend. According to the British Hospitality Association, at present there are 158,000 job vacancies in the hospitality sector, at all levels of skills. Given that figure, first, what are the Government doing to encourage the take-up by SMEs of apprenticeships and, secondly, is there not an opportunity here for a major partnership programme between government and industry—between the prisons and the hospitality sector—to provide a training bridge for prisoners, to give them hope and a career opportunity post coming out of prison? That would do something to turn and improve our appalling recidivism rates, in parallel to the Evening Standard’s excellent programme to encourage business start-ups in prisons.
My Lords, SMEs account for 80% of the tourism industry, so it is extremely important that we help SMEs to flourish through things like the deregulation task force. They are a very important part of the sector. The British Hospitality Association is looking to create further employment by the end of this year, with pledges of 60,000 jobs. The work that the Prison Service and, I think, the Clink Charity are undertaking with restaurants at certain prisons that I have heard of has been immensely successful. This is an example of where, in partnership, we can make some real progress.
My Lords, given the scale of the tourism and leisure sector, and indeed the robust economy that we hear so much about, will the Government at least try to persuade the industry to adopt the living wage?
My Lords, I think that the Government are very clear: where employers are in a position to pay the living wage, we very much encourage it. However, I repeat that a lot of the businesses involved are SMEs and family businesses, and that may not be possible. Still, we very much encourage that, where it is possible, it should be done.
My Lords, I am well aware that many of these employers in the tourism sector are SMEs and have particular difficulties, but the tourism industry is a major part of the British economy. Was the Minister as shocked as I was to see a major hotel chain named and shamed last week as not paying the national minimum wage? Could he advise the House what proportion of those employed in the tourism industry are on the national minimum wage, how many are on the living wage, how many are on zero-hours contracts and what initiative the Government are prepared to take to raise the level of skill and training in the tourism and hospitality sector?
My Lords, the first thing is to say that there are two trail-blazer programmes specifically designed to enhance training in the tourism industry. That is very important. The government apprenticeship schemes and the Tourism Industry Council are working extremely hard at focusing on improving skills. Anyone who does not pay the minimum wage is breaking the law. I do not know the precise breakdown of the figures as to who is paying the living wage but, as I say, we encourage those who are in a position to do so to pay it. Of course, zero-hour contracts are in part a feature of the tourism industry because it is seasonal. Obviously if there is any wrongdoing or abuse it needs to be investigated, but it is a feature of the tourism industry.
My Lords, I am afraid I am not a magician. What I can say is that the countryside is a very important feature of tourism. Some 13.4% of employment in rural areas relates to tourism, and it is 10.4% of all enterprises, so tourism is hugely important in the countryside. In many constituencies, tourism is the most important industry sector, so it is hugely important for the success of the rural economy.
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a few years ago—no, actually quite a few years ago—tourism was in my ministerial portfolio? Is he aware that it was my complete favourite because it never asked for money but only brought money into the country—for example, carriage by sea was one of our biggest invisible exports? We did not have any problems about training, as people knew their jobs and did them wholeheartedly, in this country and abroad.
My Lords, I think that we all want to improve the training skills of young people and indeed all people in that sector, and that is something that the sector itself very much welcomes. I agree with my noble friend. The value of tourism in 2013 was £127 billion.
My Lords, a report published recently by the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that some 45,000 small businesses do not have broadband at a high enough speed, while others have very slow speed in connectivity. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas. Could the Minister enlighten us about what is happening to support those groups?
My Lords, across the whole rural sector and, indeed, in some urban areas we definitely need to have advances in the broadband sector. It is essential. It is why the Government, in all the press cuttings in all parts of the country, are looking for improvements in coverage. Work is going on to ensure that we get up to 95% by 2017. I hope we will improve on that. The difficult parts are some very remote areas. We are trying to fund ways in which we can get to those parts of the community where broadband is vital for businesses, farmers and everyone involved in those areas. It is a very important issue.