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Column 502who come here from overseas to carry on business and other activities. We have no wish to see them leave. I am grateful for the many responses that we received. They expressed a variety of views, and considerable concern was expressed about the implications of moving to a world income basis of liability for certain categories of people not domiciled here.
We decided that the world income approach would not provide a satisfactory basis of taxation for non-United Kingdom domiciled foreigners who are resident in this country. Therefore, we do not intend pursuing it, and in those circumstances it is not our intention to bring forward any proposals at this time. I may say that we received representations from members of the Labour party as well as of the Conservative party on that matter, and they were both in the same direction.
The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East is interested in the cost of private medical insurance tax relief. It will cost about £40 million in its first year. In arriving at that figure, we presume additional take-up of 10 per cent. in the first year, 1990-91. I expect that in later years take-up will exceed present levels by a considerable margin. The exact figure will depend very much on the extent to which the medical insurance industry meets that new marketing challenge. As take-up increases, the diversity of private medical provision and choice should increase. At the same time, the greater proportion of people electing to take their medical treatment privately will help relieve pressure on the Health Service, to the benefit of those who continue to depend on it for their treatment.
Mr. John Smith : If the presumption is that the increase in take-up will only be 10 per cent. despite a 40 per cent. subsidy being offered, may I take it that if there is 100 per cent. take-up, the cost will be £400 million and not £40 million?
Mr. Lamont : Because take-up depends on how strongly insurers market insurance. It will take time for plans to be marketed and for the figure to rise. Obviously, it will not be high in the first year, but it will increase in the second, third and fourth years. Opposition Members have suggested that the burden on the taxpayer could be about £500 for each 65-year-old, which almost exceeds the cost of National Health Service care. Their arithmetic is no better now than when they were last responsible for the economy. The average cost of tax relief for each individual's cover is expected to be under £100, while spending per head on National Health Service care for the elderly is almost 10 times as much.
In the Finance Bill, we are bringing forward measures based on recommendations of the Keith committee. The main proposals deal with the system of interest and monetary penalties for tax offences. They will, inter alia, bring PAYE into line with the changes already enacted for VAT and corporation tax. Together with the measures in the past two Finance Acts they complete our programme of reforms of the administration of income tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax, except for the recommendations on the administration and conduct of appeals, which will be the subject of further consultation.
Column 503The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East has been jumping up and down and putting questions to us, which is proper because it is his job. We have heard remarkably little about what the Labour party intends to do about taxation. Labour Members have been remarkably quiet since the last election, when the exposure of their commitments to clobber all taxpayers ensured their defeat at the polls. Their addiction to taking and spending other people's money cannot be suppressed for long, as has been apparent from their remarks today.
The salary-snatchers are at it again. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has already committed the Labour party to the abolition of the upper earnings limit on national insurance contributions, which he confirmed last week. It would increase marginal rates by nine percentage points for 2 million people, thus making them worse off at a stroke. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) wants the top rate to be 60 per cent., which, together with the abolition of the upper earnings limit, would imply a new top rate of 69 per cent. Labour Members also want to reimpose the investment income surcharge, which would lead to taxes on savings at a rate higher than 69 per cent. Labour Members have been saying that they want a Budget for savings. Their Budget for savings would include increasing taxation to a confiscatory level.
In an interview on 12 February the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East admitted that he would increase income tax for many basic rate taxpayers. We still have not received answers to the two big questions, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues repeatedly refused to answer--by how much would the Labour party increase public expenditure, and, to pay for it, by how many pence would it increase the basic rate of income tax? We have put those questions repeatedly, but answer comes there none.
Mr. Pike : Does the Minister agree that many ordinary people, earning ordinary incomes, think it fairer to give cuts such as those given last year by increasing allowances rather than reducing the top rate of taxation? Would such a cut not be much fairer, if that is the direction the Government want to take?
Mr. Lamont : I am sure that those people welcome what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has done to national insurance contributions, which is by far the most effective way of directing help to the lower-paid.
The essence of the Budget is that the medium-term financial framework should be used to continue a more stable economic climate. Confidence and certainty should be confirmed through careful budgetary control and economic management. There will be possible reductions in taxation in future years. There will also be a fundmental improvement in the supply side of the economy. This is a Budget that builds on a decade of economic success and financial prudence. It is a Budget that recognises the
Column 504tremendous advances made in tax reform over the last decade. It is a Budget that recognises the new concerns of the environment and the elderly as well as the saver. It is a Budget that may be cautious but, above all, one that is sensible and constructive, and I commend it to the House.
Debate adjourned.-- [Mr. Alan Howarth.]
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker : By leave of the House, I shall put together the Questions on the two remaining motions on the Order Paper. Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.).
That the draft Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.
That the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Regulations 1989, which were laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.-- [Mr. Alan Howarth.]
Question agreed to.
Moray Coastguard (Peterhead)
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I beg leave to present a petition from John D. Buchan, former chairman of the Peterhead harbour board. The petition is signed by 350 fishing skippers from the north of Scotland, and supported by fishing organisations and harbour boards representing over 1,000 boats.
The material allegations in the petition demonstrate the overwhelming opposition of the Scottish fishing fleet to the proposed closure, at the end of this month, of the Moray coastguard sub-centre at Peterhead and express the serious concern of the coastal communities that such a closure would adversely affect marine safety off the north-east coast of Scotland.
The prayer reads :
To the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of fishermen's organisations, harbour authorities and skippers sheweth that Moray coastguard (Peterhead) provides a vital service to mariners, coastal dwellers and holidaymakers alike, and is currently threatened by cutbacks in the resources available to the service.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House ensure that Her Majesty's coastguard receives the resources necessary to the maintenance of a full and thorough rescue service at the port of Peterhead and in the Moray coastguard area.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
To lie upon the Table.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Alan Howarth.]
Mr. Allan Amos (Hexham) : The purpose of this debate is to draw attention to the House to the enormous and exciting potential for tourism in Northumberland. It has all the ingredients for success. There is an amazing array of natural advantages in the county. There is need for agricultural and rural diversification. Tourism is labour-intensive, and the tourist industry is based largely on self-employment and small-scale units. My hon. Friend the Minister is already a frequent visitor to the region, and I am grateful to him for his genuine interest in the area.
As I am sure you know, Mr. Speaker, Northumberland is a beautiful land. The sheep are succulent, the people are proud, pleasant and prosperous, the cows are contented, and the scenery is stunning, staggering and spectacular. Let us look very briefly at the national context within which Northumberland has to operate. Last year was the best ever, nationally, for tourism : 15.4 million overseas visitors spent £6.2 billion, and domestic visitors spent £7 billion. The British tourist industry supports 1.4 million jobs, and about 40,000 new jobs are created each year. The annual turnover is equivalent to about 4 per cent. of GDP, and Britain is fifth in the world tourist earnings league. Nearly £7 of every £100 spent by world travellers is spent in Great Britain, and, significantly, every 1 per cent. increase in the British world market share would lead to an increase of £1 billion in earnings and 40,000 new jobs.
The role of the British Tourist Authority is to
"encourage tourism throughout the country, particularly in areas of tourism potential with higher than average levels of unemployment." That applies in particular to a county like Northumberland, so let us look now at a recent profile of holiday visitors to the Northumbria region.
In 1987 4.3 million visitors spent £265 million in the region, sustaining 34,000 jobs. In 1988 tourism was worth £300 million to the region. The largest proportion of Northumbria's visitors, some 69 per cent., were from managerial and white collar groups who were particularly keen on our heritage attractions. A higher than average proportion of visitors were under 45. The 35 to 44 age group was the most evident and represented some 30 per cent. of our visitors, compared with only 17 per cent. nationally. Two thirds of that category had children and, in particular, they liked Northumbria's heritage attractions and tended to stay in self-catering accommodation and caravans. The area attracts large numbers from the south-east, London and east anglia. Those people stayed slightly longer than average and spent well above the average.
Overseas visitors were 15 per cent. of the total, and they also spent more and stayed longer than the average. Twenty per cent. were from north America, 35 per cent. from the EEC and 17 per cent. from Norway and Sweden- -all countries with high income economies. The potential for expansion there is exciting. Altogether they spent £100 million.
Other characteristics of tourism are that 80 per cent. of our visitors come by car. The most popular pastimes are sightseeing, motoring, historic attractions, rambling and sea bathing. On average, holiday visitors stayed six days
Column 506within an overall holiday period of nine days, whereas overseas visitors stayed nine days out of an overall 16-day holiday. A high proportion of our visitors simply stay overnight.
The characteristics and behaviour of visitors to Northumberland, a part of the Northumbria region are similar. They tend to be middle-class ; relatively few stay with friends and relatives. Fewer than average for the region come from overseas. They are more likely than average to come from the north. They are particularly interested in historic sights, sightseeing and rambling. Ninety per cent. come to the area by car. They spend more each day per person than in the rest of the region, and a greater proportion of those people in Northumberland as opposed to Northumbria plan their visit by seeking information in advance.
What are the sources of that information about the region? It is a case of seeing is believing. Forty per cent. of the information comes from friends and relatives and 30 per cent. comes from previous knowledge. The region sells itself. Once people know about the region they come back time and again.
What, then, are the attractions of Northumberland? I shall have to curtail the list and simply point out some of them. The uniqueness and diversity of the region are important. First, the recent official designation of Hadrian's wall as a world heritage site and the Roman heritage generally is a prime attraction. I am not one to boast, but Kielder water is the largest man-made lake in Europe and Kielder forest is the largest man-made forest in Europe. We have border castles galore. There is the Christian heritage. The area is the cradle of Christianity. There is the historic cathedral city of Hexham. There are historic and charming small towns such as Allendale, Blanchland and Bellingham. With Government assistance we have seen the rebirth of a village at Allenheads with its heritage centre. We have the south Tynedale railway and the Wentworth leisure centre in Hexham. We have sports centres in Otterburn and Ponteland, and we have a new international golf and hotel complex at Slaley hall. The Northumberland national park speaks for itself, as does the quality of the unspoilt environment generally.
The Metro centre is on the doorstep. That is the largest covered shopping centre in Europe. The area is a vast hinterland for Scandinavian shoppers to Newcastle, and there is plenty of lead-free petrol if they want it. We welcome visitors from across the North sea. Unlike hundreds of years ago, they now pay for what they take home.
What is the way forward? There must be an acceptance that tourism represents one of the most dynamic and exciting opportunities for the creation of jobs and wealth for the foreseeable future. Secondly, we must accept that tourism is a proper industry. It is highly competitive, it is consumer-led and it is having to meet rapidly changing tastes and fashions. There is a need, as in all other industries, for a better trained, qualified, educated and skilled work force. That is not an unnecessary expense but an essential investment.
I would welcome the role of the Department of Employment in that. The tourist and training initiative is to be greatly welcomed, as is the education and training group from the National Economic Development Office. The new GCSE in travel and tourism, the growing number of BA degrees at universities and polytechnics and better
Column 507schools careers guidance to increase awareness of the opportunities in the tourist industry are all welcome developments.
Tourism is largely a private sector industry, but the Government have a role to play. Their job is to create the conditions for expansion, including help with promotion and infrastructure. The Government should be, and are, a facilitator and encourager, so I have two pleas to make to the Minister. First, might we, as soon as possible, end the suspension of section 4 grants? The Northumbria tourist board told me only yesterday that it is receiving 50 applications a month which cannot be dealt with. It would be helpful if we could end this period of uncertainty.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : As the hon. Gentleman knows, my constituency shares the beauties he has described, but it also shares the belief that section 4 grants should be reinstated. This is felt particularly keenly in my constituency, on the border with Scotland. Grants continue to be paid by the Scottish tourist board on the other side of the border, while people on my side of the border feel increasingly that they are being left behind while the review takes place.
Mr. Amos : These grants are important to the industry. They are being strategically targeted into new areas of unrealised tourism potential. They are most effective. They generate private investment with a leverage of seven or eight to one, which is an enormous ratio. They are especially important for smaller scale developments. That applies particularly in Northumberland. This shortage of section 4 grants is hitting self-catering, where the situation is already near capacity.
My second plea is to complete and implement swiftly the latest tourism review. Again, uncertainty adversely affects the finance and confidence of the industry. The structure and framework of the industry is about right. It now needs to be enabled to get on with the job.
The Government's help is also needed with the promotion of new products and sustaining and developing existing ones. The aim for domestic and overseas visitors must be to identify the market, to anticipate market trends, to stimulate quality and to spread the benefits away from congested London to the regions, where we have clean air and plenty of space. In such a diverse and dispersed industry, it is vital to target our resources and effort well. But we need to know visitor profiles and patterns--who is coming, what they are looking for and what type of holiday is being sought. Identification of the various market sectors is an essential prerequisite for successful marketing. We must accept that the vast majority of people who visit the countryside come on day trips. We need to know if there is a potential demand for specialist interest holidays, such as the Christian heritage or the Roman heritage, what proportion are on second or third holidays, what proportion are on short breaks and how many people are going on caravan holidays. There is a growing demand for self-catering and day trips, and that is well documented. Stays in the area of between one and three nights have been increasing significantly and will continue to do so because they represent the increasing affluence and leisure time of the majority of the population. But we must accept all the time
Column 508that we are competing with the rapid growth of holidays abroad. Equally, we must promote two-centre holidays away from London. I accept that London will always be a magnet, but Northumberland is a magnet in its own right.
It is vital, therefore, that information is readily available in advance from the Northumbria tourist board for visitors, and from the tourist information centres on the spot, and we have good ones in Hexham and Haltwhistle in my constituency. The role of tourist information centres is crucial and they should be kept open to suit the demands of the consumers.
Charges for book-a-bed-ahead should not fall unfairly on guest houses and hotels, which are often small establishments operating on low margin. They need to be encouraged, not put off. The locations of tourist information centres can make all the difference,. They should be, and are, at airports, transport termini and in the high streets, and other agencies have a role to support this activity--for example the Rural Development Commission.
Marketing and market information depend on investment in the latest information technology. The efforts by various local authorities must be co -ordinated to avoid waste and unnecessary competition. Marketing Northumberland is easy. We have so much to offer : people will love the area and we must tell them about it. You, Mr. Speaker, are always welcome to visit Northumberland. You will get a warm welcome, and I look forward to seeing you there.
The Government can help with improving quality. I commend the crown classification scheme, although I wonder about the possibility of merging it with the AA and RAC star system to establish clarity in the public's mind. It is important throughout the industry to get value for money, to raise standards and to improve training for staff to get a more professional service. That applies to every catering and accommodation outlet. For example, we need more rooms with private facilities. That is what the public want and what we must provide for them.
The Government can greatly help also with infrastructure. Most visitors come to Northumberland by road and travel within Northumberland by road. The county has an extensive and well-maintained road network, but it is 300 miles from London, so quick and convenient access is especially important. We need the dualling of the A69 west of Hexham, a major caravan route and a winding road on which it is difficult to overtake. We need bypasses for villages such as Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge to facilitate travel within the county and to protect the environment. We need a good motorway to the north-east, a reliable and punctual rail service and a direct link to and from the Channel tunnel--on that point, I strongly support the move to have the terminal at King's Cross. We also need deregulation of European air fares to get greater use of regional airports such as Newcastle and to get cheap fares.
Mr. Amos : I thought that the hon. Gentleman would say that. We want greater use of Newcastle international airport and the Tyne seaports for direct entry from north America and Europe. The majority of foreign visitors arrive
Column 509through London if they are coming by air, and through Dover if they are coming by sea. There is tremendous scope for improvement. I ask also for help on signposting. A simple principle is involved : people will not use facilities if they do not know that they exist or do not know where they are. Northumberland has large stretches of open road. More signs will not be any distraction or danger for the driver, and it is absurd to suggest that they will be. Brown and white signs are welcome but at about £500 a time are far too expensive for most ordinary people in the tourist industry. We need flexibility and common sense. As the British Tourist Authority says :
"signposting is an important part of a successful visitor service."
Of course, the signs must be environmentally sensitive, informative and properly designated. Unless we get this right, the problem will seriously hinder tourism development. For example, Mr. Moss, in my constituency, who opened tea rooms near Shotley Bridge, creating jobs, is about to close because no one knows that he is there as he cannot have a sign. Authorities at Vindolanda, a principal Roman site, battled for years to get a signpost. This is absurd. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take up these matters with his colleagues in the Department of Transport.
I ask my hon. Friend also to take up another matter--help with obtaining EEC assistance under objective 5b of the European regional development fund and reformed structural funds. The problem is simple. Other rural areas get funds that Northumberland does not, even though, as most of Northumberland is in a rural development area, it has the benefit of a national grant aid scheme. The Northumberland rural development programme committee and I have been pressing the Government to notify the EEC that this area is under a national grant aid scheme in order to qualify for the extra EEC funds. We meet all the necessary criteria. Therefore, I believe that we are being discriminated against. The regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry is sympathetic to the submission for assistance.
Northumberland is creating and establishing an identity for itself. It is waking up to the possibilities. In 1987-88, 26 tourism projects were recommended for grant approval at a cost of £1.5 million. That is a sign of vibrant and exciting activity. The Northumbria tourist board has invested £4 million in the region through its support of local projects. The Northern Consortium continues to launch effective promotional campaigns in the region, and the private commercial sector is now more closely involved in the management of the Northumbria tourist board.
The stimulation of desirable and relevant investment in tourist facilities has been identified by the local
authorities--Northumberland county council and Tynedale district council-- as being of major importance to the economic prosperity of the area and to the quality of life. Attention is being paid to the provision of public facilities, such as public loos, museums and art galleries, to environmental matters, such as street cleaning and litter collection and to recreation and leisure facilities, such as picnic areas, parks and access to viewpoints.
The work of other agencies is also to be commended. They include the Rural Development Commission, the Countryside Commission, the county council and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which has provided grants for on and off-farm developments. The
Column 510Forestry Commission also has a role, and the Northern Development Company has a vital part to play in promoting the region. Rural tourism development action programmes have been designed to create working partnerships between local authorities, the private sector and the tourist boards to implement key schemes to increase tourism and create jobs. There was one at Kielder, in my constituency, assisted by the National Tourist Board. The Keilder forest park TDAP--in existence from 1984 to 1987--was a great success. The rural tourism development strategy, launched by the Rural Development Commission last year, recognised tourism as a growing part of the rural economy.
County council structure plans have a vital role to play. There is enormous scope for partnership between the public and private sectors in marketing and funding and for co-operation between the various agencies. Airlines and car rental companies, for example, can sell the region as well as their own services.
The success of tourism depends on an integrated and co-ordinated approach to the development and management of tourist potential. It needs a lead-- and a clear sense of direction within a clear strategy. We must maximise the use of our resources and avoid duplication. Tourism is a dynamic and vibrant industry in which we must grasp opportunities and challenges to maintain healthy growth and, in an environmentally sensitive way, to preserve the fragile beauty of our area.
We want to extend tourism into a year-round activity. The opportunity is there. In January last year, for example, hotel room occupancy was 44 per cent.--a figure that is staggering but true--and higher than in most other regions. In September, with 73 per cent. hotel room occupancy, we were up with the leaders.
Years ago, Northumbrians, under foreign direction built a wall to keep out the barbarians. Now we welcome all suitable visitors and we want them to stay as long as possible.
It would not be fair for me to conclude without congratulating the Government on the commitment that they have shown to tourism by allocating more resources and by giving us a special Minister responsible for the industry.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amoson securing an Adjournment debate on a subject that is becoming increasingly important to his constituency and his region, and I thank him for his comprehensive speech. I am especially pleased that a number of other hon. Members are with us--not least the Opposition Chief Whip, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon- Tweed (Mr. Beith), who take a great interest in tourism matters in their own region.
In previous tourism debates I have begun by talking about the healthy and dynamic state of our domestic tourism industry. I am glad to say that tonight's debate will be no exception, and that I can report further encouraging signs of the buoyancy of tourism in this country.
Figures released last week show that 1988 was another record year for United Kingdom tourism, with a total of
Column 51115.7 million visitors from overseas during the year, surpassing the previous record total in 1987. Prospects for 1989 look even better. Many tour operators are reporting a significant upturn in domestic holiday business. Some operators have seen increases of as much as 50 per cent. in forward bookings for the year compared with 1988. This very heartening state of affairs shows that the foresight and confidence of investors in the industry is beginning to pay off. In the second half of 1988 investment in major tourism projects under way or completed also reached an all-time high of over £2.5 billion, which represents an increase of 25 per cent. on the previous six months.
It is therefore very gratifying to hear that advance bookings for the 1989 season show a very definite consumer preference for what I might term the quality end of the market. Britain is developing a quality image, and can more than match what our overseas competitors are able to offer without some of the attendant problems such as airport delays which many package tourists suffered last year. I believe that those who have invested in new facilities, or have upgraded existing facilities, will see a rich return from that investment in the coming years.
Having outlined the national picture, I should like to focus on tourism in Northumberland. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million visitors a year spending at least one night in Northumberland, generating a total tourism spend of over £60 million. A recent survey of Northumbria tourist board members indicates that 1988 was the best ever year for visitors. Once again the customer emphasis was on quality, with many visitors attracted by the area's incomparable Roman and early Christian heritage. I am glad to say that I will be adding to this year's visitor total when I take my family to Northumberland for part of our Easter holiday later this month. Investment in large-scale projects in the Northumbria tourist board area totalled £110 million in the second half of 1988, an increase of 34 per cent. on the same period in 1987. Admittedly, most of that investment went into projects outside Northumberland, but we are now starting to see some major developments in Northumberland itself coming on stream, which bodes well for the future.
One development which is already completed, although I understand that further expansion is planned, is the £1.4 million Amble marina, which provides berths for more than 200 boats. The marina's first maritime festival in September 1988 attracted 5,000 visitors in a single weekend, which shows the potential for extending the tourist season beyond the traditional high summer months. Amble was also the only northern port to win a Tidy Britain Group blue flag award in 1988.
I am also glad to see that the project at Slaley hall, near Hexham, which my hon. Friend mentioned, is now very much on the go again, after some initial difficulties. This planned £8.7 million project, which will include a 140-bed hotel, a conference centre, timeshare lodges, a golf course, and other leisure facilities, will bring some 200 direct jobs to the area.
One particularly interesting development is at Cragside hall in Rothbury, the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity, which I visited last year. The National Trust has spent £167,000 on restoring the hydro-electric
Column 512machinery and on creating a "power circuit walk" to entertain and instruct the 100,000 or so visitors who come to the hall each year. On that same visit to Northumberland I also saw the very successful house of Hardy Fishing museum in Alnwick, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), which is attracting a good deal of overseas interest. Visitors to the museum can also tour the factory and see craftsmen demonstrating their traditional skills. I have no doubt that other businesses in the country would benefit from catering for visitors. I have made the promotion of modern industrial tourism something of a personal crusade. That is why I welcome the forthcoming industry- tourism conference, which is being organised by my Department, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the CBI, among others, to be held later this year in the region. I mentioned earlier that heritage is one of Northumberland's strongest suits. That fact was given international recognition when UNESCO designated Hadrian's wall a world heritage site. The Roman forts along the wall, Housesteads, Vindolanda, Chesters, and the Roman Army museum at Carvoran together attract well over 300,000 visitors a year, showing the importance of the wall to
Northumberland's tourism industry.
Indeed, the North-East regional tourism co-ordination group, which is chaired by the Employment Department's regional director, has set up the Hadrian's wall marketing group. This group has already carried out a review of signposting in the vicinity of the wall, and has agreed a strategy for co-ordinating the signposts to the various attractions along the wall. Other initiatives on the heritage front include the production of a leaflet called "Great North Houses", a first-ever joint effort by English Heritage, the National Trust, and the Historic Houses Association. There are now further plans to set up a Christian heritage trail, which would include such major heritage attractions as Lindisfarne priory, which now has a new £250, 000 permanent exhibition of monastic life.
Those and other initiatives illustrate the partnership approach which is beginning to achieve success in Northumberland. It is good to see that public sector bodies are getting involved in the development of tourism, and are working more closely with the private sector. The county council and all six district councils in the county belong to the regional tourist board, and many now have their own tourism officer and tourism strategy. The county council has set up a marketing campaign, using the slogan "England's Border Country", and the Northern Development Company has launched its Great North campaign, emulating Glasgow's highly successful "Glasgow's Miles Better" campaign. My Department has given financial support to the Great North campaign during the last two years.
I am also pleased to see that commercial members of the Northumbria tourist board are now represented on the board's executive committee. However, as it has only 600 commercial members--one of the lowest memberships in the country--there is still considerable scope for increased commercial membership of the board, and for greater private sector participation in its work. I look forward to the publication of the board's tourism strategy for Northumbria, which I understand is due to appear later this year.
Another example of fruitful collaboration between several organisations is the Kielder tourism development
Column 513action programme, which brought together, among others, the English tourist board, the Northumbrian water authority and the Countryside Commission. During the action programme's period of operation, from 1985 to 1987, investment in the area increased sevenfold to £1.5 million, leading to the development of water sports facilities, a visitor centre, sports centres and allied activities.
Let me finally refer briefly to the section 4 scheme--the suspension of which, as my hon. Friend will know, was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on 30 January. The future of the scheme is one of the issues currently being considered as a result of the recent review of tourism policy in the Department of Employment. An announcement about the outcome of that review, including the future of section 4, will be made in due course. In the current financial year up to January 1988, offers of assistance totalling nearly £800,000 were made to 34 projects in the Northumbria tourist board area and offers totalling almost £1.5 million made to 37 projects in 1987-88. However, it is important to put section 4 grants, totalling about £13 million per annum nationally,
Column 514in the context of a £2.5 billion capital investment programme. It is clear that the vast majority of projects would have proceeded in any event.
In covering the main developments and issues pertaining to tourism in Northumberland, I have attempted to paint a picture of a county that is blessed with many natural assets, with its beautiful coastline, marvellous, grand, unspoilt countryside, and its Roman and early Christian heritage. The area's tourism potential has perhaps in the past been rather neglected, and has rather fallen behind other areas which in recent years have discovered the benefits of marketing themselves as tourist destinations. Things are now changing for the better. What is needed now is a concerted effort to develop the sort of attractions and facilities that today's visitors require, and to put Northumberland firmly on the tourism map.
The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker-- adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order. Adjourned at twenty-nine minutes to Eleven o'clock.
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