Mr John Lee: It is true that there have been some textile losses recently. but in the past three or four years the textile industry has improved dramatically. Indeed, it was a shade churlish of the hon. Gentleman not to acknowledge that in the past two years unemployment has fallen by 31 per cent. in his own constituency.
Mr John Lee: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Opposition do the north-west a disservice by failing to acknowledge the buoyancy, optimism and pride that most people in the region now have.
Mr John Lee: Why will the hon. Gentleman not acknowledge that in his own constituency unemployment has fallen by 30 per cent. in the past two years?
Mr John Lee: The estimated annual 1 million visitors to Bristol and the high levels of investment in tourism projects show clearly that Bristol is sharing in the general prosperity and expansion of our domestic tourism industry.
Mr John Lee: I am sorry that Avon county council is the only council that is not a member of its regional tourist board. I am happy to say that, despite that, about £34 million worth of investment has been made in Bristol. Exciting developments are under way in the harbour and waterfront area, a number of which I have seen.
Mr John Lee: I recollect that when I was a Minister at the Ministry of Defence I heard similar speeches from the hon. Gentleman. I suggest that he puts that question during Defence Question Time rather than at Employment Question Time.
Mr John Lee: In October 1988, the latest available date, there were 15,626 men and 2,433 women in Merseyside who had been unemployed for more than five years.
Mr John Lee: I will attempt to answer two of them. Of course the Government are not complacent about unemployment on Merseyside. Indeed, substantial amounts of Government money have been poured into Merseyside through a whole range of Government programmes. The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that there has been a significant reduction in unemployment in his constituency, which has fallen by just over...
Mr John Lee: The hon. Gentleman is being extremely churlish. The Government have pumped hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into Merseyside, and in the past two years unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency has fallen by 24·78 per cent.
Mr John Lee: Precise figures are not available. However, English cathedrals and churches are estimated to be attracting a total of 30 million visitors a year, with consequent benefits to local shops, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Mr John Lee: English Heritage is theoretically able to support cathedrals, but it tends to concentrate its resources on parish churches, for which it is more difficult to obtain outside funding. I suspected that the question of section 4 would be raised at Question Time today. Section 4 has undoubtedly helped the tourist industry to develop. But we must now look at it in terms of the present amount of...
Mr John Lee: Tourism is a vital industry to this country. It sustains 1·5 million jobs and is growing at the rate of nearly 1,000 net new jobs a week. It is a subject of considerable interest to my hon. Friends. When, in June of last year, we last debated tourism, only two Members of the official Opposition participated.
Mr John Lee: The tourism review report is still under consideration and no decision has yet been taken on how the conclusions will be announced.
Mr John Lee: Section 4 has been a great success in England, and, as I have said, a huge amount of construction work is under way. The outlook for our home tourism industry in 1989 is now excellent, with overseas package tours under considerable pressure.
Mr John Lee: The tourism review does not specifically examine pay. The hon. Lady does no service to herself or to her constituents by harping continually on low pay in the industry, as by and large the overall remuneration package is improving considerably.
Mr John Lee: I know of my hon. Friend's deep commitment to the tourism industry. We are examining the question of the regional tourist boards. Let me say again, however, that a huge amount of private sector investment is under way.
Mr John Lee: Considerable new invesment and development work has been under way at Haydock park. As for the north-west overall, it has done extremely well in terms of new capital investment in tourism, and the tourism industry there has received substantial section 4 grants. The Granada studios tour development in Manchester, for instance, received some £750,000.
Mr John Lee: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) on having secured this Adjournment debate on employment opportunities for disabled people. I fully understand his deep interest. in the subject. The Government have a long-standing commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities are allowed to develop their talents fully within the labour market. Indeed, it has...
Mr John Lee: Estimates published last week show that overseas residents spent more than £5·4 billion in the first 10 months of 1988.
Mr John Lee: I take the point that my hon. Friend has made about London traffic and transport. That is an issue that we discuss with transport colleagues in the tourism ministerial co-ordinating group. In the invisible earnings sector, overseas earnings from tourism amount to about 40 per cent. of the size of the separate financial services sector. In the first nine months of 1988, other overseas...