§ Mr. Gordon Marsden
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what decision he has made about the new national body for tourism in England. 
§ Mr. Chris Smith
On 14 December 1998 we announced in A New Cultural Framework that we would establish a new streamlined, more strategic body to support tourism in England. An Implementation Team was set up in January, supported by an Advisory Group representing the industry. We have now considered its report, which was received on 9 April and of which a copy has been placed today in the Libraries of both Houses. I am now able to announce more fully the details of the framework within which the new arrangements will operate under the leadership of a Chairman, whom I will shortly appoint.
The new body will be known as the English Tourism Council (ETC). Its prime role will be to provide strategic leadership to drive delivery of the national tourism strategy. It will have a parallel function as a centre of excellence supporting the industry in five key areas: research, in particular work on emerging markets and sectors; quality, including work on the accommodation schemes and also attractions and seaside resorts; overseeing systems for data collection and analysis; championing sustainable tourism, and wider access; and spreading news of innovative ideas and examples of best practice in all these areas of work.
There will be a significant switch of funding so that most is available for tourism in the regions and I want to see a new system for its distribution. This will enable a greater proportion of the strategy to be delivered at regional level and will secure enhanced benefits for tourism in the regions. The money will continue to be passed via the ETC to the Regional Tourist Boards (RTBs), except in the case of London where the Department will pass it directly to the Mayor of London, while recommending that the London Tourist Board is the most appropriate partner for delivery of the national strategy.
We are currently considering applications received for the post of Chairman of the ETC, whom we will announce as soon as a decision has been made. At present the Board consists of six other members and we intend to increase that to eight. Decisions on staffing will be for the Chairman and Chief Executive, but are likely to lead to a different structure with higher skilled staff and a new mode of working. The ETC is likely to relocate within Thames Tower, Hammersmith but, in due course or if the funds allocated for its transition allow, the organisation may decide to move to new premises.
Once the new Chairman and Chief Executive are in place, the ETC will be able to finalise its Strategic Action Plan and the Planning and Bidding Guidance for the Regional Tourist Boards on regional funding. We expect this to be possible by July, at which stage there will be a public launch of the new national body for tourism in England, one that has a far clearer and more focused remit than before and will be better equipped to maximise England's tourism interests. In the meantime, I am 115W grateful to the current Chairman, Board members and staff at ETB who continue to provide a high standard of support for this vital industry.