§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Harrison rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to promote tourism in the United Kingdom.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, as one leaves the Palace this evening the first British industry that one stumbles across is tourism. I do not mind being tripped by Japanese tourists, flattened by French flâneurs, pushed by promenading Prussians or yanked off the pavement by towering Texans if it means that London and Britain's tourist industry is alive and kicking. But these are harder times, and foot and mouth disease has caused even London's hotels, theatres and restaurants to fall and stumble. We should support the tourist industry not simply through the bad times, as now, but the good times. We have not always done that.1445
§ We have not always taken the tourist industry seriously. Why? For us, taking a holiday is what we do when we cease to be politicians. We do not know how to take fun seriously. Tourism is a successful industry. As politicians, we are programmed to deal with industries in crisis rather than those which flourish. For us, tourism is a disparate industry, not a desperate one, to be found in every nook and cranny of the British way of life, not concentrated like the automobile industry in a car plant. Tourism has no Longbridge or Dagenham to concentrate politicians' minds.
§ For us, tourism is an industry of big attractions and small businesses, with no single voice to speak on its behalf. It has no NFU to beat its drum, yet tourism is many times bigger than farming both in jobs and wealth creation and is more poorly regarded and supported. Farmers have received £1 billion to help recover from foot and mouth disease; tourism has received a fraction of that. For us, farmers grow food, but the tourism industry only serves it, but it also serves those who stand and "waiter"—until now and FMD. The silver lining of that dreadful disease has been to throw into sharp relief not only the interdependence of tourism and farming but also the overarching importance of the former.
§ What should the British Government do to help tourism back onto the road of relentless progress? I am grateful to the Prime Minister for receiving American and other foreign tour operators at No. 10 recently to help dispel the image of a Britain closed to business and pleasure. I am also grateful to the Government for the £14.2 million grant under the BTA's March FMD recovery plan. But can my noble friend say whether the remaining £8 million to finance the global image campaign will be released soon?
§ En passant, I extol the sterling work of the BTA, ETC and regional tourist boards in helping to respond to the depredations of foot and mouth disease. I am grateful that the Government have extended the 100 per cent hardship relief on business rates to rural hospitality businesses whose rateable value approaches £50,000. I am also grateful to the Government for the minimum wage, which is a fillip to all who work in the tourist industry, but much more needs to be done. For example, will the Government respond to the National Trust's recent call to switch payments for food production to land management projects? By uprating old buildings and rejuvenating heritage attractions rural tourism can be strengthened.
§ Will the Government review their excellent 1999 policy document Tomorrow's Tourism to take account of the new devolved political landscape of RDAs and national assemblies? Will they contemplate a new development of tourism Bill to build on the Labour government's ground-breaking Act of 1969? Would such a Bill restore the English Tourism Council's right to promote itself within the United Kingdom, which is a licence that is granted to all other national boards? 1446 After all, tourism begins at home. A sound domestic industry is the sure footing to attract overseas visitors to Britain. English tourism lacks that step up.
§ In addition, the ETC should have a national co-ordinating role to ensure consistency of approach by the regional tourist boards. Chester brands itself as the gateway to Wales, but in general there is little co-ordination of that kind among national and regional tourist boards. Like the butterfly, tourism does not recognise political boundaries. Why is it that the RTBs which shoulder these promotional and marketing responsibilities are expected to obtain funds from their commercial members? Is there not an unassailable case for government grants to complement the private sector's current contributions? Such sprats from the public purse can catch mackerels of private investment in a real private-public partnership which should warm the cockles of the Prime Minister's heart.
§ Will my noble friend tell the Treasury to abolish the iniquitous air passenger duty—that poll tax on wings—which is so counter-productive and inhibits foreign tourists from coming to Britain? Will the Treasury boost the competitiveness of the British hospitality industry by realigning VAT rates in hotels and restaurants to those of our EU rivals and partners? Our thinking on that matter is one starter short of a set menu. When will the Treasury wake from its torpor and provide detailed facts and advice on the impact of the euro on the competitiveness of Britain's tourist industry? Tourists, London and Britain will be awash with euro notes and coins in five months' time, but the Chancellor's five economic tests will mean nothing to the London taxi driver or Chester hotelier who needs to provide change to the American and continental visitor who offers payment in euros. High fives to the Treasury if it can respond to this imminent change.
§ Will my noble friend, who is a recent distinguished graduand from the field of higher education, consider the establishment of a university of tourism whose purpose is to promote quality in the tourism product and careers for young people from the New Deal to university graduates? Does my noble friend also recognise that the tourist industry still lags woefully behind in the adoption of information and communications technology? The Harrison family has just experienced horrendous difficulties in organising its twin-centre summer holiday in Cambridge and Suffolk. Despite my wife's fluent Internet skills, in trying to secure accommodation the family was offered a stamped-addressed envelope service which would have done Thomas Cook proud in the 19th century.
§ Will my noble friend encourage the new Minister for Tourism, Dr Kim Howells, to continue to speak out of turn on the often exorbitant prices and poor quality service offered by hotels and restaurants? Will my noble friend consider the inclusion of tourism in the title of the DCMS? This Government support tourism, so why not proclaim it proudly? Further, does my noble friend accept that tourism is more appropriately located in the DTI, where the interests of the tourist industry and those of the consumer are instantly 1447 allied? I remind the Minister that Dr Howells comes hotfoot from the consumers' brief in the DTI and surely that is no accident.
§ As to the question of tourism and public policy, will my noble friend spell out the precise mechanism whereby the needs of the industry can be factored into all aspects of government policy-making? By its diverse nature this industry requires someone to lay the towel of tourism across all the deckchairs of government departments if it is not to suffer policy sunburn by benign neglect.
§ I conclude not only by anticipating the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, a noble warrior in the cause of all things touristic, but also in making a prediction: tourism is an industry whose time has come. Next year it will be the industry to convince our fellow citizens of the worth of the single currency, as British tourists bring it home from abroad and the British tourism industry deals with it via inbound tourists.
§ Once the turbulence affecting the tourism industry in the wake of FMD has been overcome, we must remember to support this powerful industry, not just in the times and the years of famine but also, and paradoxically, in the ensuing years of plenty.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on his initiative in introducing the debate, I declare an involvement, indeed a huge interest, in tourism through my directorships in British Airways and Thistle Hotels.
The debate attempts to elicit help from the Government for an industry that accounts for 4 per cent of GDP. It has a turnover of some £64 billion and employs some 3.2 million people, directly and indirectly, which is 10 per cent of total employment.
Tourism is not by any means a cottage industry but is hugely important to employment and wealth creation throughout the country, not just in London where we see the tourists. It is particularly important in rural areas. It is sad that it took the catastrophic disaster of foot and mouth disease to heighten awareness of the tourist industry and the central part that it plays in our now largely service-based economy.
We have already heard, and doubtless we shall hear again this evening, of the great generosity of the Government towards the tourist industry. Certainly, the £14.2 million additional promotional funds given as a result of the foot and mouth disaster have been as much welcomed as they have been trumpeted around. But, not wishing to sound ungracious, it is somewhat in the category of "sticking plaster to cure a major cancer" problem.
There needs to be a fundamental reassessment of the Government's role in promoting tourism and encouraging better standards and higher quality throughout the industry. Short-term measures such as the additional promotional expenditure grant are hugely helpful in the current crisis. I do not use the word "crisis" lightly. However, the importance of the industry to the economy as a whole demands that a 1448 strategic view is taken of what should be done to ensure that our successful tourist industry becomes stronger and fitter and more able, in effect, to compete for the ever-increasing growth throughout the world.
The Secretary of State who is ultimately responsible for tourism, the right honourable Tessa Jowell MP, on 8th July wrote in the Observer that,the truth is there is more wrong with British tourism than the cold it caught in March".Despite the fact that I think the word "cold" is somewhat understated—pneumonia would be more likely—I am glad that such an admission, or recognition, of a fundamental problem exists. What would like to know is what do the Government intend doing about it?
Since 1997 the Government have, first, scrapped the English Tourist Board and replaced it with the English Tourism Council which has no marketing function. I ask the Minister, "Why?". Do not the Government believe in marketing tourism? They seem to believe passionately in marketing themselves.
Secondly, the Government have increased the regulatory burden, including the regulations conditional upon this country adopting the Social Chapter. On this subject the UK brewing and pub industry which, with one or two exceptions, covers the hospitality sector, has had an additional 79 pieces of legislation imposed upon it since May 1997. If the Minister wishes, I can give her the list because I have it here. The list includes one regulation which stipulates that GM ingredients must be listed on menus. Is that really necessary? Who wants it? Does anyone do it? How many people are employed in enforcing it?
Thirdly, the Government have forced the BTA to close a number of its overseas offices, while other "tourism economies" are investing more and more in attempting to woo customers to their shores. None of this suggests that the Government really believe that,there is more wrong with British tourism than the cold it caught in March".Now is an opportunity to make some strategic decisions about where Government support for this very important industry should be focused. We need to think about the longer term as well as dealing with the immediate aftermath of the crisis in the industry following the FMD disaster. Would it be too optimistic to hope that the Government might look outside the box of usual suspects and, on a non-political basis, try and engage the best brains in the industry in a forward looking strategic analysis of what should, could and is capable of being done?
Time does not permit an in-depth analysis of what I think should, could and is capable of being done, but I would just mention one area. Bearing in mind the Government's avowed intention to raise skills levels, perhaps I may suggest to the Minister that she takes a look at the relativities between the funding for modern apprenticeships in the hospitality industry versus that for hairdressers and forklift truck drivers.
There is a devastating skills shortage and skills gap problem in this sector of the tourist industry. Colleges are shutting down whole hospitality and catering 1449 departments or withdrawing practical facilities because of the lack of funding—Hereford College, Sutton Coldfield College and Evesham College to name but three. Work-based learning providers are threatening to pull out of the hospitality sector because delivery under the current funding regime is so expensive. The Minister is very aware of this problem, as it was one that she dealt with in her previous government role in the department then known as DfEE. It is one that will not go away.
Too often we hear of complaints by tourists about the quality of our catering industry. I fear we cannot be surprised as there are, I am reliably informed, some 50,000 chef shortages at the moment. It is in such areas that if action were taken now the future of the tourist industry would be much brighter. It would be promotional support of lasting value. I hope that the Government will respond favourably. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for tabling this Unstarred Question.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Lord Greaves
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this short debate. I should like to focus on one aspect of the tourist industry. That is the industry in general in upland areas in this country. They have been particularly badly affected by foot and mouth disease. I particularly focus on the Lake District in Cumbria which is not only the major tourist centre for upland pursuits—mountaineering or simply sitting in one's car looking at the mountains and everything in between—but the main area of foot and mouth disease. It had some 40 per cent of the cases nationally.
According to a Written Answer I received before the last Recess, tourism in Cumbria is three times as important as agriculture in terms of its economic value. I have not been able to ferret out the figures within the Lake District National Park but my guess is that it must be at least ten times as important as agriculture. Yet most of the focus has, for obvious reasons, been on the farmers who have been stricken by foot and mouth disease.
During the election campaign I stood in the middle of Carlisle talking to people. I met a couple called Myra and Bill Pearson from Keswick. They run a guest house called the Fawsley Guest House. Their experiences are a microcosm of what has happened to the tourist industry in that area. Their guest house is in Keswick, one of the towns of the Lake District. It has not been quite as badly hit as some of the very rural areas. Since foot and mouth started their trade has been down 50 per cent. In March it was down 75 per cent; in April it was down 40 per cent; and in June it was down 60 per cent. This month it has recovered because of the Keswick convention. However, their bookings for August are zero. They fear that many businesses in Cumbria will go under unless the fells are opened quite soon, perhaps in September or October.
1450 According to a Written Answer I had from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, yesterday, only 31 per cent of the fells in the Lake District are open, despite the fact that people have been told that half are open for walkers. In that area the situation is still dire.
There is an organisation based in Keswick called the Cumbria Crisis Alliance. It is a drop-in centre that is run by 20 or so volunteers. Every day many people go there, not just from the northern Lake District but from the whole area. They are mainly people in tourist businesses who are at the end of their tether and who do not know what they are going to do. But a whole series of other kinds of business is also suffering knock-on effects. For example, in January a business on the west coast bought a large quantity of quad bikes. They are machines with which your Lordships will be familiar. The company bought them from Japan. It has not sold a single one and is having to cover the cost of the machines. It is not easy. The business would expect to have sold them all by now. The Barclays Bank commercial manager in Keswick is quoted as telling the Cumbria Crisis Alliance:We have been instructed to start drawing on people in August".I am told that a café at Seatoller at the top of Borrowdale went into liquidation this week. The people at the Cumbria Crisis Alliance believe that unless direct aid can be provided before the end of the summer such a future faces a large number of small businesses catering for Lake District tourists of all kinds.
I am aware that the Isle of Man Government have allocated £36 million of direct compensation to businesses suffering from a loss of income due to the cancellation of the TT races. A fortnight ago Kim Howells was in Cumbria and met the Cumbria Crisis Alliance and many other local people. He also went on local radio and television. He said then that EU state aid rules prevented the Government from helping out businesses in Cumbria. He said that it was not possible to give the kind of aid that was being given in the Isle of Man. I have been in touch with my local Member of the European Parliament, Chris Davies, for whom I used to work. He said that he had spoken to European Commission officials and learnt that they were unlikely to have any objection to payments being made to businesses suffering as a result of the foot and mouth crisis so long as they are payments made to tide them over the temporary crisis rather than long-term subsidies. In view of the extenuating circumstances, should not the Government make an application to the Commission to waive the rules so that they can give direct financial support to businesses hit by foot and mouth disease?
I should have liked to talk at length about the effect of the foot and mouth crisis on businesses concerned with outdoor pursuits and outdoor education in the upland areas. I do not have time to do so today but I put down a marker for a future occasion. Those businesses are in desperate straits because they depend directly on people having access to the upland areas for mountaineering, climbing, hill walking and other leisure pursuits. That is not possible in many places. Those businesses are being destroyed by factors over which they have no control.
1451 The long-term future is a matter for debate. But I would say that the future must lie in co-operation between all the interests in the upland areas—the farming industry, the tourist industry, local industries and the people who come to these beautiful areas to use the facilities. When we were discussing the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill there was a good deal of tension inside the House between what were perceived to be opposing interests—the interests of the landowners and the farmers on the one hand, and the interests of recreational users on the other. What the calamity of foot and mouth disease has shown us is that the interests of farmers, landowners, tourism and the people who go to these areas to use the facilities are basically the same and that the future lies with them working together.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Lord Pendry
My Lords, I am delighted to be making my maiden speech in your Lordships' House and in doing so to be following the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Before making my own contribution, I wish to thank the very many Members of the House who have made me so warmly welcome over the past few days. In addition, I should like to thank the officers and staff of the House for their courtesy and for the kind efficient services that they have afforded me.
I welcome the opportunity that my noble friend Lord Harrison has presented me in this short debate. It is an opportunity to place on record my affinity with those who work in this important industry, an interest I have had ever since I was given Front Bench responsibility for tourism by the late John Smith in another place back in 1992. It was given to me in conjunction with the sports portfolio. I think it is fair to say that, for an industry that employs some 2 million people, tourism has had far too low a profile over the years. In my view, the industry itself should have presented a more powerful and unified voice, demanding an insider status with government as other industries have done. Governments of all complexions, until possibly now, have been too slow to recognise tourism's potential to be one of the real economic and employment driving forces with our country.
I can say that governments are at last beginning to recognise tourism's importance because many more parliamentarians and policymakers are taking a real interest in it. I say that also because for the past four years I have been privileged to have been chairman of the All-Party Tourism Group. In that group we have many active and spirited participants. Fortunately, recent political changes have not deprived us of many of our key members. Both the chairman, myself, and its secretary, Lord Fearn, have crossed over from green to red and Viscount Thurso has changed his red shirt for a green one—a quite rare achievement, as I am sure noble Lords will agree. I can assure the House that all three of us will do our best in whatever capacity to fight tourism's corner.
1452 I recognise that I am also fortunate to join so many eminent noble Lords who over the years have raised important issues with Government Front Benches, as did the noble Lord, Lord Montagu with the Minister a few days ago. I recall that my noble friend Lord Harrison, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, and many others have played an important role for tourism in your Lordships' House, which I know is appreciated by those who work in tourism.
Last night I hosted a parliamentary reception on behalf of the All-Party Tourism Group for the British Incoming Tour Operators. Those who attended were heartened by what the new Secretary of State said in her speech, recognising the need for a closer relationship between government and tourism in the future. I know that the All-Party Group on Tourism will be taking up the challenge presented to both the industry and government by playing its part in bringing that closer unity to reality.
I conclude by stating that my greatest wish is for tourism and sport and leisure to become a department of state in its own right. Sport and tourism to my mind are natural bedfellows. Both are vibrant and growing sectors of the leisure economy. Britain's sporting infrastructure offers huge tourism potential. There will be the perfect test next year when Manchester hosts the Commonwealth Games. This promises to be a marvellous sporting festival and a chance for Manchester and the North West to receive many visitors and to put themselves on the world map.
I would commend my noble friend Lady Blackstone to look closely at what is taking place already between sporting bodies and tourism organisations. I refer in particular to the Sports Tourism Forum and the British Tourist Authority. The BTA, the Minister will know, has established a joint marketing initiative with the FA Premier League. That will provide the BTA with the chance to reach a massive TV audience never previously attempted by the BTA. By using the FA Premier League agreement, the BTA will reach some one billion viewers in 160 countries in the 10 BTA markets where the image of Britain has been most affected by the outbreak of foot and mouth.
My noble friend Lord Harrison has given us the opportunity to discuss this important industry—but there is much more to discuss. However, that will have to wait because my time is up. It must suffice that I congratulate my noble friend Lord Harrison and express the hope that, through this debate, he will have initiated many more debates—of longer duration, it is hoped—in the months and years ahead.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Geddes
My Lords, it is both an honour and a privilege to find that I am to speak immediately following the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. He brings with him a formidable reputation, not least 31 years as a Member of another place but also, as he mentioned, as the Opposition Front Bench Spokesman on sport and tourism for 1992–97.
However, what noble Lords may not be aware of is that the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, has another claim to fame. I am sure that he has many, but the one I have 1453 in mind is that he was the Middleweight Colonial Boxing Champion while undertaking his national service in the Royal Air Force in Hong Kong in 1957. What the noble Lord does not know is that by coincidence I, too, was undertaking my national service in Hong Kong in 1957. I am extremely glad to tell noble Lords that I was in the Royal Navy and thus never came across the noble Lord. Believe me, I am heartily relieved. We all welcome the noble Lord most sincerely to the House and hope that he will speak often in our debates. He brings with him an enormous expertise in this and I am sure many other subjects.
I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison—whom I almost called "my noble friend", but that is at the bridge table—that he is to be congratulated on bringing forward this short debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed out, I hope that it will serve as a precursor for a much bigger debate to be held in the autumn. Tourism is an all-embracing subject, but it covers such a multitude of industries and reflects so many facets of our national life that in a sense the word "tourism" defeats its own objective. May I say personally to the noble Lord that if he has any problems with accommodation in Suffolk, as a native of that county, perhaps he could see me after the debate and I shall try to help him.
While fully supportive of the £12 million grant to the British Tourist Authority to promote overseas tourism in England, I understand that the English Tourism Council received only £3.8 million in special grant for foot and mouth disease recovery. I am advised that that money was used successfully over Easter and the May bank holiday. The problem is that, in that context, no money remains to promote English tourism in relation to the problems generated by foot and mouth disease, despite the fact that £4 out of every £5 spent on tourism in England is spent by British people. I must confess to the House that until recently I did not know that statistic. I am further advised that only £1 in every £5 of grant to tourism is given directly to the promotion of tourism within England. I see an extremely unpleasant reciprocal there. Perhaps the noble Baroness would like to comment on that in her reply.
As my noble friend Lady O'Cathain and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, have already pointed out, tourism is a vast industry, the fifth largest in England. It embraces 125,000 businesses, it has a turnover of £52 billion and it employs almost 2 million people. Furthermore, those figures exclude what is known as the multiplying factor; namely, that an extra £50 is generated for every £100 spent directly on tourism. It is the add-on factor. We are discussing big business and do not let us forget that.
More specifically, perhaps I may say to the Minister that there is an urgent need for a nationally compatible data management system within the industry. As I have said, of the 125,000 businesses in the industry, some 85 per cent of them employ fewer than 10 people. It is a huge, but hugely fragmented industry. I understand that the Government allocated just under £1 million from the capital modernisation fund.
1454 That is enormously welcome. However, if no further general moneys can be allocated from government—I hope that I am wrong about that—please could I ask the Minister at least to fund ITC in full now because then, in this hugely fragmented industry, those who are trying to co-ordinate and boost it will know where they stand and what they can do. That, almost more than anything else, is desperately important.
I shall finish with a truism that is nevertheless true: the only enduring relief for the tourism business is more tourists. Any means which we and the Government can find to promote further visits by tourists must be good for the industry.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells
My Lords, perhaps I, too, may thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for his wonderfully broad sweep of this subject and for giving us an opportunity to contribute. Much of my diocese makes up the old county of Somerset. Noble Lords will have guessed that it depends on tourism as its main business. I have to declare an interest on behalf of almost 600 churches which are visited and form a precious treasure in the county. We have a cathedral without equal—he dares to say—a wondrous abbey and, here I declare a special interest because I am a transient lodger in it, a bishop's palace which is open to visitors. We hope that not only will those visitors have an opportunity to share in the spirit and history of that beautiful and unique place, but also that they will help to make it begin to pay for itself and thus save it for the future. We are only one of the many small businesses forming the tourism industry in the South West.
As we have heard from other speakers, the impact of foot and mouth disease has been totally devastating in the South West, as it has been in Cumbria. However, Devon has been the most fiercely affected. The recent reopening of paths and woodlands will help in the recovery, but many areas such as Exmoor—which is also upland, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, pointed out—have had little business all season. Hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafés, camping and caravan sites as well as other attractions have been seriously affected. Tourism is 33 per cent down in Somerset and 2,500 people have been made redundant. Some 14,000 are laid off. Businesses employing fewer than 10 people have been the worst affected by the crisis. For example, the reduction in turnover for the two months to the end of April was £760 million in Somerset and the South West alone.
The South West Regional Development Agency has found that around 19,800 businesses are facing bankruptcy. That is an enormous figure, and it is one that has been carefully researched. Recently I chaired a large meeting of business people. Many expressed complete despair. Usually these are independent, entrepreneurial people who make a huge contribution to the South West. They are not asking for ongoing subsidies; they would not like such subsidies. What they need is transitional help. The Government have provided £11.5 million for the South West. However, not only has that money taken a long time to percolate 1455 through the RDA and Business Link—almost too late for many people. It can at best help only between 5 and 10 per cent of the businesses involved. The bankruptcies will themselves cost the state a great deal. People do not always recognise that the cost of not doing something can be just as great as the cost of doing something. They will create a long-term loss for the whole region.
A massive marketing campaign is needed. The Government have provided 25p per head for the marketing of tourism, whereas in Wales and Scotland, perhaps as a benefit of devolution, £5 per head has been provided.
It is difficult to express the desolate feelings which are being experienced. Close to my home—where I live rather than lodge—the two nearest hotels were bought just before Christmas as a great venture for two families. Since they opened, one has had no business and the other very little business. We do not know how long they will survive, having invested so much.
The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, mentioned the steps that the Government have taken, and there is real gratitude for that. But, as I am sure they know, there is much more to be done.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Lord Smith of Leigh
My Lords, I should declare an interest as the leader of Wigan council and as a director of Manchester Airport, which has an interest in tourism, and the Midland Hotel in Manchester. I, too, thank and congratulate my noble friend Lord Harrison on introducing this topic and raising again the importance of tourism in terms of creating wealth and jobs. In my region, the north-west, it is an industry which is worth £1.5 billion and provides more than 200,000 jobs. It is a very large industry.
The industry is spreading beyond the traditional areas that have been referred to by noble Lords and the right reverend Prelate. Even my own town, Wigan, now boasts its own tourism industry. It is worth some £30 million pounds through Wigan pier, and, fortunately, the Americans have not been put off coming to the international jazz festival which is taking place at the moment. I am missing a very good event today.
We need to grasp new opportunities. Tourism changes; we cannot stick to the same old events and the same old buildings and so on. When opportunities come along, we need as a country to be able to take advantage of them. Perhaps I may plead a particular case. In my area, private developers want to build an indoor snow centre of huge proportions. The centre—called "Xanadu" in its planning stage—will create real snow indoors. It will not be artificial snow; it will be real snow which will come down from the roof. The technology is proven and this British company has built such projects in the Far East.
However, when it comes to building one in the UK, the developers have run up against those intransigent objects, the UK planning laws. The project has been going through the planning stages now for almost two years. It will cost £150 million; it is expected to attract 1456 some 4 million visitors, many of them day visitors; and it will create somewhere in the region of 2,000 jobs. In a former coalfield area, that is an important addition. I hope that we can forget this "large project syndrome" in the UK and begin to develop projects as they seem to able to do in France.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Pendry on his maiden speech—I say "my noble friend" not in its normal honorary sense; I have been a friend of his for some time—and on making sure that we do not forget the links between tourism and sport. He referred to the Commonwealth Games: We should not call them the "Manchester Commonwealth Games"; they are England's Commonwealth Games. They will bring a huge number of visitors—athletes, officials, the media and so on—and, more importantly, they will be shown on world television. An audience of 1 billion people around the world is expected to watch the events of the Commonwealth Games. We need to ensure that they work well for England.
I congratulate the Government on their recent decision in that regard. I think the games are now properly funded and on a firm footing. We must promote not only the games but the fact that they can be used for so many more things.
The sport I am most familiar with is not football, as is the case with my noble friend Lord Pendry, but rugby league. When the rugby league cup final was moved to Murrayfield in Edinburgh because of all the messing about at Wembley, it was the third biggest tourist event in Edinburgh. After the festival and the millennium weekend, rugby league tourism brought more people into Edinburgh than anything else—and I am sure that they were all well behaved.
The issue we are really debating today is what should be the respective roles of the Government and the industry in developing tourism and maximising its benefits across the country. In preparing for the debate, I received a copy of this agenda for tourism—other noble Lords may have seen it—which is published by England's regional tourist boards. Many of the ideas that have been mentioned by noble Lords in the debate are things that should happen in the tourist industry, but we should begin to question the extent to which they should be reliant on the Government and government funding and to what extent the tourist industry should look after itself.
If we have learnt anything from farming, it is that when an industry becomes too dependent on the Government—when it cannot move without wanting a subsidy or support here, there and everywhere—it is not good for the industry in the longer term. I hope that in the tourist industry we can develop a more mature approach. Of course it will need government support, but not always financial support; it will need encouragement and help with getting people together and so on. We should begin to think that there are other ways forward than simply looking to the Government. Lots of ideas have been mentioned. The tourist industry should take responsibility for itself.
There are two other issues I wish to refer to. The first is the developing regional agenda. The role of tourism is a very important part of that and, as my noble friend 1457 Lord Harrison said, the RDAs need to recognise that fact. At regional level, the fact that tourism has an impact not only jobs but on the transport system, the environment and so on should be looked at in the round.
Many noble Lords have mentioned the impact of foot and mouth, particularly in Cumbria. I managed to resign my position last week as leader of the North-West Regional Assembly, but in the brief period that I held that post, because it was so important to the north-west region as a whole,.we managed to go across to Brussels to visit both Commissioner Liikanen, who has responsibility for tourism, and Commissioner Barnier, who holds the purse strings in terms of structural funds.
Commissioner Barnier has extended the uplands programme by putting £3 million more money towards the problems mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and others. Commissioner Liikanen has promised to visit Cumbria and look for himself at the problems there. He will address a conference to help relaunch the industry, and I am sure that the DCMS will be welcome to send a Minister to attend that conference.
The second issue is to make sure that there is an adequate and fair playing field in terms of funding for tourism across the whole of Britain, a point referred to by the right reverend Prelate. It is not fair that in England the figure is 24p per person, whereas in Scotland it is £3.78 and in Wales £5.24.
I begin to question the role of the English Tourist Council. I suggest that we do not need an English Tourist Council. Its responsibilities can be devolved downwards to the regional tourist boards, which have the ability to work in partnership with other bodies, and upwards to the BTB, which should play the role of foreign marketing for all parts of the United Kingdom.
I suggest that the tourist industry should not become an industry waiting solely for government help. If it looks to help itself, I am sure that the Government will also help.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Baroness Byford
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for giving us the opportunity for the debate today. It comes at an important time.
British tourism is worth some £12 billion and provides some 380,000 jobs in rural Britain. My first question to the Minister is: how many people in tourism have been made redundant? Secondly, how many have been put on part-time employment while the foot and mouth crisis continues?
While the outbreak of foot and mouth continues to cripple certain areas of the United Kingdom, other regions have escaped the disease or have been less directly affected. But even in those areas the tourism industry is suffering acutely. Despite the low number of confirmed cases of foot and mouth, the east of England economy—and the tourism sector in Particular—has been affected immensely. A recent report compiled for the regional task force estimated 1458 that overall some £450 million of tourist expenditure will be lost in the east of England in 2001, with a further estimated loss of £45 million in 2002.
Tourism there contributes more than £4 billion to the regional economy and employs 135,000 people. The east of England has the second largest tourist industry in terms of nights and spend. Over the past five years, tourism related employment has grown by some 20 per cent in East Anglia. Overseas visitors account for one-third of the income from tourism in the east of England, 16 per cent coming from America, 15 per cent from Germany and 12 per cent from France.
Over the past five months we have taken many Statements in this Chamber on the foot and mouth outbreak. We have recorded our concern and expressed our sympathy to the farmers who have been directly affected. We have paid tribute to both the professional and the voluntary workers who have helped to relieve the pressures of suffering animals and who have supported families devastated by the effects of the disease.
I also extended my concern to others whose livelihoods were affected and in some cases have come to a standstill: market towns and livestock markets; hoteliers, bed-and- breakfast businesses; outdoor pursuits, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves; zoos and wildlife parks; farm visitor centres; and equestrian centres. Suppliers to all of these businesses have felt the chill.
One cause of so many cancellations has been the confused messages put out by the Government. MAFF implied that all areas were closed, while the DETR maintained that they were all open. The lesson to be learnt is surely that an accurate information centre is essential.
Sub-post offices in Leicestershire and Rutland are currently taking part in an important six-month trial. They will be able to provide on-line access which will help both residents and visitors to gain up-to-date information. How does the Minister see this project in relation to the information that is carried by libraries and by tourist information centres? Is she confident that joined-up thinking will be established and that there will be sufficient funding for all of them?
I should like briefly to touch on the role played by the agricultural and county show programme in the yearly life of rural England. This year, it has almost been eradicated—although I should add that I am to travel to Lancashire to support its county show in two weeks' time. Lancashire has taken the decision to go ahead, without cloven livestock classes, and is accentuating the importance of rural trades and countryside businesses. For other shows scheduled earlier in the spring and summer a decision to go ahead was not viable. The organisers had to decide whether to take the risk in the event of the disease being controlled quickly; unfortunately, events proved that not to be the case. For those who exhibit their animals in livestock classes, cancellation of the shows this season has been disappointing. But more importantly, for those retailers who take trade stands, cancellation 1459 means the loss of a large proportion of their total income. Such trade cannot easily be replaced. The traders move from show to show, promoting their specialist goods. Equally, if those traders are not selling, the wholesalers who supply them also have cancelled orders. The loss of jobs is often reflected in the market towns and those areas of the countryside that the Government are trying to assist.
The shows might not be directly thought of as tourism businesses, but they are just that. They have an impact on rural trade; they also attract many thousands of visitors to the area. The cancellation, for example, of the Royal Cornwall Show had a direct effect on local hotels, as I saw for myself when we stayed there for a weekend. They would have been fully booked during that week and the next, but that was not the case.
I understand that many shows cannot obtain insurance cover for future cancellations due to outbreaks of foot and mouth or other disease. Have the Government considered this point? What will they do in the face of such failure to obtain insurance?
It is clear from this debate that the effects of foot and mouth have not been restricted merely to farmers and farms alone. The Government failed to react quickly enough to the outbreak. Even now, there are new outbreaks. The spread of the disease to new areas continues to cause concern. Visitors both from the United Kingdom and from overseas come to experience and enjoy our countryside. They come for holidays, for business visits or to visit friends and family. They take day trips; they visit towns, the seaside and the countryside; they use our accommodation; they eat out; they shop; they travel; they use our services and enjoy the entertainment that is provided.
I have given a number of examples to indicate the inextricable link between farming and tourism. They depend on each other, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said. If the Government value the contribution that tourism makes, they must understand that truth.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Viscount Falkland
My Lords, this debate has been refreshing. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for providing the opportunity to discuss tourism again. I say "again" because I have taken part in a number of debates on the subject over the past two or three years, acting as number two to my "ex" noble friend, Viscount Thurso. I congratulate him on his success in being elected to the other place and I miss him enormously, not merely for his expertise on tourism. I admit that when I took over from him I was reluctant to continue, and I looked on my Benches for someone who could undertake this spokesmanship.
I was interested in the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. It was excellent in both style and content. The noble Lord suggested that although the tourism business was so big, its profile was piteously low, and that it took the tragedy of the foot and mouth outbreak for us to be able to concentrate our mind 1460 sand blow away some of the complacency. There has been a wind of change blowing in this House and probably in the country at large. We are coming to understand that all is not well with tourism. The noble Lord expressed his belief that tourism warranted a department together with sport. I strongly agree with him. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, suggested that tourism should be separated from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and that it should perhaps come under the DTI. That is another possibility; however, I marginally prefer the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Pendry.
In previous debates I have made frequent comparisons with what happens in other European countries—France in particular. I was interested to see that the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, was going down the dangerous road of praising anything French. I can tell the noble Lord that if he wants a flea in his ear in this House, one of the quickest ways to get one is to compare anything with France. But the noble Lord is quite right: France is the country of grand projects, not only in tourism but in other fields as well. We do not have that culture in this country; it would be difficult to become involved in projects such as the gigantic snowstorm that the noble Lord so graphically described.
I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will not continue in the vein of her response to a supplementary question that I put to her; namely, telling us how marvellous tourism is. She rather followed on from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who often told us that tourism in this country was something of which we needed to be proud rather than critical. Tourism is a huge business. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, reminded us that it has a turnover of £64 billion and employs 2 million people. One would not connect the attitudes that one hears from those involved and those connected to tourism with a business of that size. There needs to be a new attitude. The role of government is to see that that happens as quickly as possible.
We can do nothing about the infrastructure in this country which badly hampers tourism. Sir Alastair Morton tells us that we cannot have a first-class railway system for 15 years. We can do nothing about that. Our railways will be far inferior to those in France for that period of time at least. The same goes for our roads.
However, there are certain things that we can improve. We should be playing on our strengths; for example, we have a great variety of attractions in this country. But, again, as other noble Lords have said, our targeting has been too narrow. There are too many tourists visiting too few attractions. I shudder every time that I look at the steps of Westminster Cathedral. Indeed, all the people visiting the cathedral are wearing out the steps. I should like to see fewer people visiting both the cathedral and the abbey and more people going to other cathedral cities to visit other attractions, such as the palace of the right reverend Prelate.
1461 I should also like to see much more collaboration between various organisations, like the National Trust and the Church. Indeed, as I have mentioned before, I should like to see more collaboration with the racing authorities. There are 59 racecourses in this country, many of which are situated in places of extraordinary beauty. In some places, not even the people in the local town know that a race meeting is taking place in the area. Such meetings could attract many tourists from abroad.
The problems associated with the tourism industry are manifold. The standards of service in this country are deplorable overall. I travelled up the Al to Scotland this weekend, my destination being Edinburgh. I must say that I was enormously surprised by the transformation that has taken place in that city over just a few years. It is extraordinary: the city was full of foreign tourists, and I was extremely pleased with what I saw. I noticed many signs in foreign languages. We need to use foreign languages much more for tourist guides and on websites.
The standard of food available in this country is extremely uneven. One takes pot luck. I dread any foreign family travelling up the Al and stopping at a service station to use the washrooms and lavatories. That is a dismal experience, but something that we could easily put right. We should compel motorway service stations to adopt and maintain a high standard of washroom facilities. What is available at present is inexcusable to us, let alone to tourists. All those issues need to be addressed.
I have only just been able to sketch a few of the problems in the tourism industry in the time available to me this evening. As the noble Lord said, tourism begins at home. Our seaside resorts are in a deplorable state. Whether we can get the regional involvement, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, is a matter that I hope the noble Baroness will be able to address.
As noble Lords have recognised, the situation is not good. That is a wonderful change in attitude. I hope that the Minister will follow in that vein. We recognise what is wrong; we recognise the potential; and we must do something about it. When we return in October, I trust that we shall have many debates on the subject through which we shall push the Government as much as we can, so that we can get this business recognised, and, ultimately, derive the profits from it that we deserve.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, I add my congratulations to those expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, on his maiden speech. I look forward to hearing him continue to fight his corner for tourism. However, after hearing from my noble friend Lord Geddes about his previous prowess in the boxing ring, I think that I might perhaps keep out of his way on the odd occasion. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for giving us the opportunity to debate tourism tonight.
1462 Tourism is an industry that does not whinge: it gets on with its job. That job is being a powerful locomotive for the economy in the United Kingdom in many sectors. As noble Lords have pointed out, this year tourism has experienced the worst crisis since the Gulf War. However, it is making a fight back; it is planning for long-term recovery, but it has a long way to go yet. It is still losing £150 million a week, which, according to the ETC, could rise to £250 million during the peak season that is shortly to come upon us.
Like my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, I was astonished to see Tessa Jowell's article in the Observer on 8th July in which she referred to the fact that,there is more wrong with British tourism than the cold it caught in March".As my noble friend said, some cold! With diagnostic skills like that, I must say that I am rather relieved that the Secretary of State is not my GP.
Visitor numbers slumped when pictures of funeral pyres hit the television screens and appeared in newspapers around the world. As my noble friend Lady Byford said, when the Government gave confused and confusing advice to people about the countryside being closed, the number of tourists visiting the UK simply died away.
When the Government announced additional funding for the British Tourist Authority and the ETC so that they could give clear information to all visitors, perhaps all was not quite as it seemed from the Government's press releases and their Statements to this House. We were told then that an additional £14.2 million had been given to the BTA and an additional £3.8 million—it is the word "additional" that I question—to the ETC. Yes, that is true in one sense; but I understand that the organisations have had to pay VAT at 17.5 per cent on those sums, which has gone straight back to the Treasury. Therefore, if the Government want transparency in pricing from the tourism industry, is it not reasonable to ask that they, too, should be transparent in their press releases?
Can the Minister put on the record tonight the legal basis on which VAT is charged on such grants? I appreciate that that may be a requirement of long standing and one that is absolutely proper in its charge. However, are the rules of our own making or are they subject to EU direction? Indeed, is there any way that we could change them at some stage? Are payments to the RDAs also subject to VAT in like circumstances? As these are questions of a technical nature, I have given the department advance notice of them. Can the Minister say what contingency plans the DCMS took to ensure that both the BTA and the ETC have been able to get hold of 100 per cent of that money in order to promote tourism in the UK?
My noble friend Lord Geddes referred to the effectiveness of the ETC in co-ordinating its campaign of information and delivering a clear message to the public that the countryside was open, ready and waiting to welcome them. However, its work was cut short prematurely when the funds ran out at the end of 1463 May. On 12th June the inquiry hot-line had to be closed down. Can the Minister say what further help the Government plan to give to those two bodies, and others, for the marketing of tourism to UK visitors? For example, will the Government be providing additional funding for the London Tourist Board to maximise London's gateway role during the recovery period?
Much mention has been made of the sterling work being carried out by the regional tourist boards. They are, indeed, doing their best and are accomplishing some very innovative work, especially in Cumbria and the south west. However, they are doing so with very limited resources and in competition with each other for the same pool of tourists.
My noble friend Lord Geddes made valuable points about the need for the management of information via the use of information technology. I wonder whether the Government might now reconsider the request that I made in my Unstarred Question last September; namely, that they should support the development of a "Visit England" portal under the aegis of the English Tourism Council.
As regards the regions and the work of the ETC, will the Government recognise that none of the needs of tourism in England can properly be met from an exclusively regional structure? Is the Minister aware of the concern in the industry that the regeneration programmes distributed through the RDAs can be patchy: they tend to prioritise objectives that have nothing to do with tourism needs? Indeed, for something to happen to help the local tourism industry, it often depends on whether or not the agency has a member like the noble Lord with really good experience of tourism. The Minister may have read the article in NEW START of 6th July which pointed out that in order to get money tourist boards are having to design applications to lit the programmes that the RDA runs rather than the needs of the sector.
There is now a window of opportunity for the new team of Ministers to review the role of the English Tourism Council and of the regional tourist boards. I hope that they will consider restoring to the ETC its marketing role. I trust that they will grasp that opportunity. My noble friend Lady O'Cathain very properly pointed out that this new team has the wider, golden opportunity now to reconsider the Government's strategic analysis of tourism policy. There is always a time for challenging the tourism industry to do better and for challenging its preconceptions; and there is a time for encouraging the industry. Now is the time for encouragement.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)
My Lords, I should begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Pendry on what was an excellent maiden speech. We very much look forward to hearing a great deal more from him over the months and years ahead.
1464 I also thank all the speakers in this short debate for the contributions they have made this evening. Tourism is always an important subject but never more so than in the light of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Harrison for introducing the debate as it gives me an opportunity to pay tribute—as he did—to all the tourism businesses, trade bodies and national tourist boards which have contributed and continue to contribute to the recovery effort following the outbreak of foot and mouth. Clearly, there is still a great deal more work to be done, as many speakers have pointed out and as I was told just last week when I visited Chester, which is the home town of my noble friend. I saw some of the interesting facilities there.
The only point on which I take issue with my noble friend is his suggestion—if I understood him aright—that we do not know how to take fun seriously. I certainly know how to take fun seriously and I think that I can speak for my colleagues in the department when I say that. My noble friend Lord Harrison referred to a recent press article by my honourable friend the Minister for Tourism. I agree with the comments of my honourable friend. Foot and mouth disease has been a terrible body blow. However, we shall regain our markets by competitive pricing and with a well motivated workforce which delivers further improvements in quality of the kind that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, mentioned. I refer to the comments of David Harris, the news editor of Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Much of what Dr Howells said rings true. I assure my noble friend that my honourable friend will continue to speak out, as he always does.
This Government are conscious of the importance of the tourism industry and we are anxious to support and foster it by offering strategic leadership. Our aim is to increase international competitiveness, champion the consumer, of course, and encourage investment in skills, products and facilities which are both sustainable and accessible. I accept what my noble friends Lord Pendry and Lord Smith of Leigh and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, have said; namely, that the industry makes a significant contribution to GDP. I also accept what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said about its importance to the rural economy. That point was also made by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. It is particularly important in areas such as Cumbria. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is also right to say that what we must see is co-operation between all the different interests in these areas. That is terribly important if we are to reestablish the industry where it has had particular problems.
I believe that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is the right department to deal with tourism even though tourism is not included in its title. That, of course, is a matter for the Prime Minister but we have to be careful not to become too long-winded in the titles we give to government departments. Through the DCMS tourism has strong links with all the sectors that attract visitors to this country: the arts, museums, galleries, the historic environment and historic buildings such as the one where the right reverend 1465 Prelate is in temporary residence. I refer also to the Commonwealth Games, to which the Government have just pledged £105 million worth of support for next year, and racing, which the noble Viscount mentioned.
Tourism in Britain is a major success story. I shall continue in the tradition of my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey in arguing that, although I have already accepted that much more can be done to improve the services we offer. I ought to remind the House that Britain is fifth in the world in terms of earnings from visitors after the US, France, Italy and Spain. We should not be too dismissive about the French. I thought that the noble Viscount was a little unfair in taking my noble friend Lord Smith of Leigh to task about mentioning France. In the UK in the year 2000 overseas visitors made 25.2 million visits and spent £12.8 billion. The latest estimate is that £3.2 billion was spent on inbound travel with British carriers. Tourism, therefore, is very important to our economy and expenditure by overseas visitors last year was one of the highest on record.
Some of that has undoubtedly been put at risk by the foot and mouth outbreak. The number of visits to the UK was estimated to have fallen by 6 per cent in the three months from March to May 2001, compared with the same period last year. While we are in no way over-optimistic about what is happening to inbound tourism, the trends at present appear to be not quite as bad as the figures for April, when a downturn in the region of 10 to 20 per cent was forecast. Of course, any fall is disappointing. Other factors such as the poor weather conditions that we have experienced in many areas, and are experiencing this evening, may also have contributed to that downturn. However, we planned to address a loss of this nature when awarding the BTA an extra £14.2 million this year to stimulate a recovery, as many speakers have conceded. I am confident that the benefits of that initiative will soon begin to emerge, although I accept that in some parts of the country the picture, such as the one painted by the right reverend Prelate, is pretty grim.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked about additional money for London. London, like other parts of the country, will benefit from the extra £14 million. There is no plan to provide particular additional money for London as against any other part of the country. My noble friend Lord Harrison asked whether we plan to give yet further resources to the BTA. We need to wait to see how it deploys the extra £14 million before we decide to add any more.
A number of noble Lords have mentioned how English tourism is marketed to British customers. It has been pointed out that visitors to rural areas in particular are often from other parts of Britain. It has also been said that the devolved administrations spend more per head of population on promoting tourism than we do in England. There is no doubt that bed and breakfast accommodation, hotels and tourist attractions need to be marketed and advertised primarily to the UK visitors who make up the greater part of their customers. What is at issue here is the 1466 most effective way of doing that and whether the Government should pay for it. Most English newspapers are read by English people but the Government do not pay for advertising such facilities to their customers. I hope that I can take the House with me in saying that by far the greatest part of the marketing and promotion of English tourism services is the responsibility of the companies selling those services. That point was made clearly and forcefully by my noble friend Lord Smith of Leigh. I agree with him.
Our policy since 1999 has been to confine government intervention to strategic guidance and leadership through the English Tourism Council. That work has started well. I do not entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Smith of Leigh who wondered whether we needed that body at all. It has risen to the exceptional challenge of the collapse in demand at the beginning of the year by organising and executing effective tactical marketing to get the British customer thinking again about holidays and short breaks in England.
As the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, mentioned, the ETC was given £3.8 million in April to counter the effects of foot and mouth. As I am sure they are aware, £2 million of that sum was distributed to the English regional tourist boards which are also extremely important.
However, the action required in a time of great uncertainty is not necessarily right for a long-term plan. We need to look afresh at how the considerable funds spent on private advertising and public sector regional promotion can be better co-ordinated. That point has been made by a number of speakers. I entirely accept it. To that end my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked the industry to work with us to prepare a programme of action which will include the co-ordination of marketing. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, that we are working already with the best brains in the industry. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made that very clear in one of her first speeches in her new job. This is where the joined-up thinking, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred, is needed.
Comparisons have also been made about the generosity with which public money is dispensed to the industry in different parts of the UK. But those differences have been with us for many years. I should like to assure noble Lords that, despite those differences, it appears that the tourism business in England has grown the fastest. That is something that we should remember. A large number of specific questions were put to me. I have the answers to many of them. Sadly, I am running out of time. I shall write to noble Lords and try to respond to the points they have made.
Britain has a great deal to offer its visitors from overseas and domestic holiday makers. There is enormous diversity which ranges from heritage and tradition to a vibrant youth culture. We must, of course, always think about young people. We have everything from museums and galleries, built heritage, 1467 stunning landscapes through to good restaurants (as well as some bad ones) and exciting shopping possibilities. I assure noble Lords that the Government are playing their part in promoting tourism by their commitment to cutting unnecessary red tape, ensuring that regulation provides proper 1468 protection, driving up quality and working to improve career possibilities as well as training for those who work in this important industry.
§ House adjourned at seven minutes before nine o'clock.