§ 4. Mr. Gregory
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has concerning the number of tourist information centres which stay open for the winter period; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)
Currently, out of a total of 562 tourist information centres in England, 394, or 70 per cent., are open during the winter months.
§ Mr. Gregory
We must be losing an enormous opportunity by not having more tourist information centres open in the winter months. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a national scandal that such attractive venues as the Tower of London, which last year attracted about 2.3 million visitors, closes its information centre from autumn to Easter? Will he hold discussions with local authorities so that more tourist information centres are open to disperse visitors throughout the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend is right. We should like more tourist information centres to stay open for longer periods. The majority of those that are open only during the summer are in fairly remote areas. I gather that the Tower of London TIC is located in a temporary hut that is unsuitable for winter use, but discussions on that are taking place between the London tourist board and the London Docklands development corporation.
It is a shade depressing to note that the tourist information centre in York is closed on Sunday mornings.
§ Mr. Lee
I certainly would not say that the success is due solely to tourist boards, although they have had a considerable influence. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the money for the tourist information centre in Southport, which I opened about a fortnight ago, came from the local authority, English Heritage and the tourist board. It is a partnership.