§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how many new hotels have been planned to serve the needs of the Midlands National Exhibition Centre and what assessment has now been made of the success or otherwise of this venture.
My Lords, a commercial development consisting of two hotels has been located within the grounds of the National Exhibition Centre, providing 700 bedrooms together with conference and banqueting facilities. The National Exhibition Centre is the joint responsibility of the Birmingham City Council and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. I understand that the demand for space has steadily increased since the Centre 298 opened in February 1976. Some 37 events are being held there this year, and 35 bookings have already been made for 1978.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that we in the Midlands and other areas believe that Birmingham City and the local chamber of commerce should be congratulated upon this venture? Is he further aware that, according to the English Tourist Board's assessment of the grants to hotels in England, some £43,506,000 was paid out? Is any of that money now available further to extend the amenities of this important area in order to attract commerce and industry from abroad to exhibitions in England? Lastly, is there any co-operation whatsoever with the National Economic Development Office, which is under the leadership of Sir Ronald McIntosh, the Director-General?
My Lords, I entirely welcome my noble friend's opening compliments to those responsible for this project, and I certainly share his hopes and expectations that the Centre will develop further. On the question of help from the Government, it does not flow just as my noble friend has indicated, but the Department of Trade and the British Overseas Trade Board are working with the Centre's management to help it succeed, especially in the early, difficult years. The British Overseas Trade Board is making a contribution of up to £75,000 towards the advertising overseas of trade exhibitions to be held at the Centre during 1976 and 1977; and, in addition, our diplomatic posts are active in support of its work.
§ Lord PEDDIE
My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that, quite apart from the provision of adequate hotel facilities, there is need for far better rail services in order to ensure that there is a steadier flow of people to the exhibitions? There is room for improvement in that regard, and I should be glad to have the comments of my noble friend on that aspect.
My Lords, the Centre has been going only for some 18 months, and, naturally, there are things that need developing; but, as to the rail services, the Centre is directly connected with British 299 Rail's Birmingham International Station, which connects with many centres, including London, and passengers can get to the Centre from London in an hour and a quarter. I think that the facilities, particularly with the new railway station, are proving adequate.