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Mr. Hendry : I heard that sedentary intervention and I can understand why the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is angry, because the greatest tourist attraction in his constituency is the northern sewage outlet. That is scarcely in competition with even the most meagre tower block in Basildon or any of the beautiful sights in my constituency.
Mr. Hendry : I am immensely grateful for that invitation. When the hon. Gentleman described it as a "green" walk, I wanted to know why it was green, and whether something coming out of the sewer outlet causes it to be that colour. I should be delighted to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency and make his constituents realise that they should follow the Conservative approach to tourism. When they compare what is on offer in their
Column 506constituency with what is on offer in Conservative constituencies, they will realise that there is no comparison between the two. My constituency is just outside Manchester and I was desperately saddened that we did not win the Olympic bid for the year 2000. One reason why those games went to Sydney was that many of those who would have backed Manchester felt that they had to stop Peking winning at all costs, and so opted for the city which they felt stood the best chance of doing that. Manchester's case was much more strongly put than the end result gave it credit for. Had the media attention paid as much attention, before the decision was made, to explaining and pushing Manchester's case as they paid afterwards to explaining why Manchester had lost, we would have had a better chance of winning votes.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on initiating this important debate. It is appropriate that we should have it now, as we are in the middle of the British leisure season, the most famous in the entire world. This week and next, we have Wimbledon--it may not last until the end of next week, given the way it is going ; next week, we shall have Henley ; Ascot was held recently ; and Glyndebourne will go on through the summer. Those events give us the most famous leisure season in the world. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) is scoffing. Those events are not just wonderful for the people who attend them ; they are watched by millions, not just in this country but throughout the world. The Wimbledon final will be the most widely watched sporting event in the world on that day. Those events do a tremendous amount of credit to Britain and its image overseas.
Ms Mowlam : May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I was not scoffing at the events but thinking how those events change in national importance. As the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) said, we must consider the difficult question of national coverage--when a national event should remain national and how to keep it on our national terrestrial television so that it is the cement that keeps our society together. I must admit that I had a little snigger at Glyndebourne, wonderful place though it is, because people in Redcar get little opportunity to see opera. That is not good for people.
Mr. Hendry : I agree with the hon. Lady but just down the road from her is Opera North, and the number of facilities is increasing. Emphasis has been put on touring opera to ensure that her constituents have a chance to see some of the wonderful opera that is available.
I was intrigued by the hon. Lady's speech, although I picked up few policy points from it. She mentioned the number of bank holidays in this country, but it was not clear whether she was promising more under a Labour Government as a carrot, implying that if people voted Labour they could have every day off or saying that businesses would suffer as a result of more bank holidays. Or perhaps she was saying that, because we have fewer bank holidays than other countries in Europe, we have a greater commitment to our work and the success of our country. She simply raised the matter as an interesting subject. I agree that it is interesting, but it would be nice to know whether the Opposition have a policy on it.
Column 507two years from an election because if we are, the Government will simply nick them. I was trying to highlight four or five important points that need to be dealt with for the good of our tourist industry and to give pointers in the hope that things will be done, because the industry is crucial for our growth and development. On many of the points that I made, I was agreeing with the hon. Member for Swindon, who introduced the debate.
Mr. Hendry : I am grateful to the hon. Lady. It is helpful to know that the reason why the Opposition do not dare to have any policies is that somebody might agree with them. I am sure that, when the Labour party comes to put forward policies, if Conservative Members find that there is any element in them that is favourable, the Opposition will not simply stick to their gut reaction of opposing everything at every opportunity, which happens too often.
Mr. Fabricant : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for letting me intervene. Before the intervention of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), he was mentioning the coverage of Wimbledon and the final. The hon. Gentleman might be interested to learn that during the two weeks of Wimbledon, the BBC is providing five simultaneous channels of continuous coverage from the different courts to 18 different countries, with all the technology that that involves. I had the opportunity to see, as recently as two or three days ago, the way that Spanish Television, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and M-Net in Johannesburg are covering, not only the finals, but the two weeks of Wimbledon, day by day, ball by ball. Is not that one of the things that promote Britain throughout the world ?
Mr. Hendry : My hon. Friend is right. That will be an immensely popular service in every country that I can think of apart from Germany, which probably would not wish to watch Wimbledon. The motion correctly points out the great role that has been played by the Department of National Heritage. My constituency has more to be grateful for on that front than almost any other constituency in the country. The predecessor of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State stepped in with a compulsory repairs order to save the grade 1-listed Crescent in Buxton--the pivotal centre of Buxton. A £1 million pound grant has now been made available through English Heritage. Thanks to the Government's intervention and the money that they have made available through English Heritage and the national heritage memorial fund, a building which was falling apart-- which had decayed almost to the point at which it could not have been saved --has had its future secured.
Money has also been put in to restore the Slopes, which are the wonderful slopes that come down from the top of the town to the front of the Crescent. Those two restorations combined will do more than anything to make Buxton one of the most appealing tourist attractions in the country.
I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) occasionally engage in a little bit of rivalry about which constituency attracts the most tourists and which is falling into the sea most rapidly. But both their constituencies combined have fewer visitors a year than does High Peak : 22 million visitors a year visit the national
Column 508park--more than are received by any national park in the world outside Mount Fuji in Japan. People flock not only from the surrounding cities of Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Derby and Birmingham but from places throughout the world to look at its stunning beauty.
Although the Department for National Heritage deserves tremendous credit, the greatest credit goes to the individual people who have made that success. It goes to the hoteliers and people who run bed and breakfasts, who have made the national park a welcoming place to come and who ensure that people return time after time to our award-winning hotels. It goes to the people who run the sporting activities, the people who harnessed the natural beauty of the Peak district with man's talent and man's ability to take part in sport. It goes to the way in which the reservoirs are used for sailing, windsurfing and other water sports. It goes to the way in which we put money into sports clubs, rugby clubs and cricket--into the range of sports that make English life what it is.
I give tremendous credit and gratitude to the support that we have had from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. The sporting clubs in my constituency have had many tens of thousands of pounds' worth of support from the FSA. That support has enabled them to expand, to bring in new people, to provide a worthwhile activity in which young people can become involved. That support is tremendously welcome and we are grateful.
We have in the area some of the finest treasures in the country. At Chatsworth house, just outside my constituency, the Duchess of Devonshire has shown other stately home owners how to run their houses--not only in the best interests of those home owners, who want to secure their heritage in their homes, but for the benefit of people who want to enjoy them and who like a good day out. I believe that the Duchess of Devonshire was invited by Her Majesty to give her advice on how to open Buckingham palace to the public. I hope that Her Majesty will not have the same trouble as the duchess. A man came up to the duchess in the grounds of Chatsworth and said, "Here, lady--you're not allowed dogs in here." He did not realise that she owned the place and could probably take her dogs where she wished. I trust that Her Majesty will not have a similar problem in her own garden.
Chatsworth house is a wonderful jewel, and next door, is Haddon hall, owned by the Duke of Rutland. Those two wonderful, historic families have preserved a jewel of this country's treasure, which can be enjoyed by millions of people over the years.
Mr. Hendry : In Buxton there is a marvellous opera house. No doubt the hon. Member for Newham, North-West thinks that that is stuffed with bourgeois layabouts. It is not case ; it is a small jewel of an opera house --a 900 seater. I invite the hon. Gentleman to come. After I have walked along his sewage outfall with him, I hope that he will come with me to enjoy the Buxton opera house
Column 509to my constituency the scales will fall from his eyes and a vision will open before him of how much more beautiful life could be if he lived in my constituency.
Tremendous effort is put in by people who, weekend after weekend, give of their own time. The Victorian weekend in Glossop brings the town together-- residents celebrate its unique facilities and delightful assets. Young girls from all over the area participate in the May queen festival in Hayfield, and I am given the joyful role of judging the competition.
We also have the wonderful and historic well-dressing events in Derbyshire. Our wells are the source of our water and the source of our prosperity, so we give great thanks for that supply. We also give thanks to North West Water and Severn Trent Water for purifying the water and delivering it to us. There are great celebrations of village life in my constituency and such events ensure that, year after year, people return to see what we have to offer.
We must beware that we do not kill the golden goose. We could do so either through over-bureaucracy or by putting too much pressure on people through organisations such as the Peak national park. We could damage our assets. Of course, there is a case to be made for managing better the 22 million people who visit my constituency and for ensuring that the traffic flow is kept down so that we do not have traffic queues in the constituency that are worse than those in the city centres from which people have moved away.
We must ensure that we carry the people with us. The Peak national park and the Peak tourism partnership must not impose their way of life on the people who live and work in those constituencies, at their expense. When we make districts conservation areas, it should be a selling exercise. People should not be told that their district is to be a conservation area whether they like it or not. People should want their district to be a conservation area because they perceive the benefits. Sadly, that is not the case now and there is a greater need for organisations such as the Peak national park to carry the people with them.
If the district is to be successful, we must strike a balance between the interests of the visitors and the interests of those who live and work there. We must balance the interests of the hang gliders against those of people who live round about. I tried hang gliding, but I was not very successful. I hovered about three inches off the ground and did not make any progress. At least I missed the overhead pylons. Residents in Castleton are fed up with people jumping off the top of Mam Tor, a mountain in the middle of the constituency, and landing in the middle of the village, disrupting the traffic, frightening the sheep and bouncing off the power cables in between. If we participate in sports in rural areas, we must ensure that we respect the interests of those who live there. Last year, I introduced a Bill in the House to enable footpaths to be closed in the national park during times of particularly high fire risk. The previous year, hundreds of acres of moorland were devastated by fire. Under existing law, we cannot close footpaths even when we know that one bit of glass dropped, one careless match or one cigarette end can cause carnage-- damaging the heather for years to come and setting back the wildlife for generations.
Hundreds of people in my constituency earn their living by quarrying. Certainly, we need to be concerned about the
Column 510natural beauty of the area, but Buxton Lime Industries, for instance, has the biggest quarry in Europe. If we tell such companies that they have no right to be there because we have changed our environmental approach, the very reason for the existence of the villages in the area--the reason why people moved there in the first place--will be taken away from them. So the right balance must be struck.
Deregulation also remains an issue. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage, on the sterling work that he has done towards tackling excessive bureaucracy--those rules that we all knew were rubbish but which were forced on people who run bed-and-breakfast accommodation, hotels and tourist attractions. Much is being done, but I urge the Minister--I do not imagine that he needs much urging--to nerve himself to continue the fight against regulation with unrelenting vigour, so that we can tackle all this gobbledegook and sweep away ridiculous rules.
There has been progress. When we last debated this matter, significant attention was devoted to the silly signs denoting animal attractions, which all had to show an elephant. For the sake of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, I am wearing my elephant tie today, in recognition of his and my great interest in elephants, but I do not want to see them on every signpost for flamingo parks, whale sanctuaries and so on. There has been sensible progress in this area, but if we want a truly dynamic tourist industry we must sweep away the regulations that hinder it.
My final point relates to farmers--in an area such as High Peak, the guardians of the countryside. They conserve it and they ensure that we can enjoy all that beauty in perpetuity. Perhaps we do not get the system quite right, however. We give grants to farmers who put up stone walls, but if a farmer has maintained his dry stone walls year in, year out, he will not get a penny in grant. A farmer who allows his walls to fall down will get a grant from the Government to put them up again. If, as we must, we give grants for conservation purposes, the focus should be changed to reward farmers who maintain their walls and barns in good condition. We want the countryside to be maintained in a way that keeps it beautiful and shows that mankind can improve on nature, harnessing natural resources for the benefit of those who live in an area or want to visit it.
In many ways, High Peak is a beacon for the leisure and tourist industries. I am always glad to invite my colleagues to visit it ; I hope that they will always feel free to do so. I am grateful for having had the chance to make a small contribution to this important debate.
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire) : It is a great privilege to take part in this debate and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), whose brave initiative it was to initiate it. It is also a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry), a near neighbour of mine. He mentioned Castleton ; I have not hang-glided off Mam Tor, but I have climbed it and afterwards enjoyed sustenance at Ye Olde Nag's Head, an excellent restaurant and hostelry in Castleton--which, of course, is not far from Buxton. Although I have not recently visited the opera house there, I have been to the pub next door to it. In its own special
Column 511way, it, too, has a great deal of style which reflects the general character of Buxton and of the hon. Member who represents that great town.
I shall speak only briefly, on four topics. I should like to discuss broadcasting, to touch on investment in tourism, to talk about the different sorts of holidays we can enjoy in the United Kingdom, and to discuss the great city of Lichfield, which occupies a small part of my 34- mile long constituency but whose population accounts for 35 or 40 per cent. of the total.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon was absolutely right to talk at some length about broadcasting, although some might have said that it was not the sort of subject to be mentioned in a debate on leisure. As my hon. Friend said, on average United Kingdom citizens watch television for three hours and 45 minutes each day. That is far too long when there are other things that they could be doing, but it is a smidgen compared with the time that US citizens spend watching television--about seven hours a day. That shows the lack of imagination of some American citizens, or a lack of alternative interesting activities to draw them away from television. It is certainly not a reflection on the quality of television there. I was a student in the United States and I later worked there, and I know that it is not a patch on the television that is available in the United Kingdom.
The Select Committee on National Heritage is currently looking not only at broadcasting but at sport and its broadcast coverage. I do not wish to pre- empt the Committee's conclusions because final decisions have yet to be made. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) spoke about listings--the sports that are confined to terrestrial broadcasters. The Wimbledon finals are an example. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak spoke of the importance of Wimbledon in promoting Britain abroad. While at Wimbledon two or three days ago, I noted that about 20 per cent. of the people walking around seemed to be speaking foreign languages. That demonstrates that not only does Wimbledon promote Britain abroad among people who watch the games in their own countries, but it attracts people to the United Kingdom. Initially Wimbledon may have drawn German visitors but, sadly, many of them will have left by now.
The BBC is broadcasting on five channels simultaneously to broadcasters in different parts of the world, and that is a great credit to the BBC. Very few broadcasting organisations would be capable of doing that. For much of the time, we in the United Kingdom see only one of those channels, although sometimes BBC1 and BBC2 simultaneously cover different aspects of Wimbledon. Three additional feeds go to various parts of the world.
We shall find out in the next week or two, when the Select Committee on National Heritage makes its recommendations, whether the listings will be abolished or expanded or whether subscription services will come under the purview of the listings. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Minister will read that report in detail, as will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, because I know that they both read Select Committee reports with great interest. No doubt they act on them.
It is unfortunate that people get cheap laughs at party conferences by referring to the BBC as the bolshevik broadcasting corporation. That is not the case : many people who work at the BBC are not socialists but
Column 512Conservatives. The BBC does an excellent job, as do Independent Television and other United Kingdom broadcasters.
I agree with the hon. Member for Redcar when she says that not enough research is being done in investment in tourism. It would make an excellent subject for a doctoral thesis and I invite universities in various parts of the United Kingdom to encourage students to undertake a doctoral thesis in the cost benefit of investing in tourism. I believe that there is a multiplier effect and if the state--the taxpayer--were to invest more in the promotion of British tourism abroad, alongside the private sector, it would not be investment down the drain. I believe, but I do not know because the facts are not available, that it would generate a huge return in money raised through the Exchequer, from corporation tax on our hotel groups, from income tax from those people employed in the leisure industry and also from VAT as people pay for their hotel bills and go on rides, such as the biggest helter-skelter in the United Kingdom, if not the biggest in Europe, which happens to be in the domain of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson). I must point out, however, that the most exciting, even if not the tallest, helter-skelter in the United Kingdom is the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers, which is not far at all from my own patch of
I therefore invite universities, other places of higher learning and institutions that conduct such research to try to perform an analysis. We need hard data. What is the percentage return that we can expect from promoting Britain abroad ? How much money is raised by tourists coming to the United Kingdom ? Guesses are made and the guesses may well be informed. On the other hand, they may not be. I agree with the hon. Member for Redcar when she says that she suspects that we may well be underestimating the amount of money that enters the country--directly and indirectly--from tourism. That area needs to be explored in much more detail.
There are many different sorts of holidays available in the United Kingdom. It saddens me when I meet American friends who say, "We've visited the United Kingdom. We've seen the UK." I ask them where they have been. They say, "We've been to London and we've been to Stratford-on-Avon." Sometimes they say that they have been to Blackpool, but rarely. Sometimes they say that they have been to our great university towns. What do they mean by that ? They mean Oxford or Cambridge, but what about Durham ? Durham has one of our oldest universities. I did not go there, I have no axe to grind there, but Durham is a beautiful city and yet, it saddens me when so few people visit it. It saddens me, too, when one walks around the Cotswolds. Stratford-on-Avon is almost sinking under the weight of American tourists. Yet when one visits beautiful villages such as Broadway, they are virtually empty of tourists from abroad. They are filled with tourists from the UK, but I rarely see tourists from abroad in such villages.
It is tremendously important to promote other parts of the United Kingdom. Whenever I go to the United States, I make a point of touring around various parts that even American friends say they have never visited. It is also regrettable that too many Brits fail to visit other parts of the British Isles. Two Christmases ago, I went to Scotland to tour the area. At the tender age of 42, I visited Scotland for the first time. That is a shame, but I am trying hard to
Column 513rectify the situation. At present, my knowledge and geography of the United States of America is far better than that of the United Kingdom.
Different types of holidays are being promoted in the UK. People undertake cycling holidays. Britain boasts one of the largest canal systems in Europe. I went for the first time on a canal boat holiday for a long weekend a few weeks ago. I travelled from Flore in Northamptonshire to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and back. What a marvellous experience that was. At one point, looking at the map, I could tell that I was within 150 yards of the M1 motorway. Yet I could have been in a totally different world. In fact, in many ways, I was in a completely different world and living at a completely different pace of life. Such holidays should be promoted more. It was a great pleasure to discover that many of the other people travelling on narrow boats were not from the United Kingdom. Many of them were American. I do not want hon. Members to think that I am criticising Americans--far from it. I simply pick on them as the archetypal visitor to the United Kingdom. We not only export canal boat holidays, in the sense that they attract overseas visitors, but the largest canal boat cruise company in France is British owned. I like to think that British people occasionally go to France--after all, it is a fellow member of the European Union--and that many of them are taking their holidays with a British company, so that the money comes back to the UK one way or the other.
There are other unusual holidays. One involves visiting different castles by bicycle or canal boat. Warwick is one of the best castles to visit, and it is in the private sector. It has been imaginatively and tastefully developed. One can also take holidays in hotels in the form of mystery weekends, at which one has to determine who is the murderer in a scenario in which Hercule Poirot appears. That is uniquely British.
My own patch is the city of Lichfield. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) said that he was a successor to the first Member of Parliament for Scarborough, who was elected in 1295. When my hon. Friend said that, I rushed off to the Library and discovered that I pre-date my hon. Friend not just in my birthday but in the sense that the first Member of Parliament for Lichfield attended at Oxford on 15 November 1213 to meet there in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Library was unable to tell me his name. However, the first recorded Members of Parliament for Lichfield sat in the Parliament of 1304. They were Vincentius de Hulton and Nicholaus Clericus. I suppose that with a name like Fabricant, which I never pronounce with a French accent, I follow that Norman style. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough follows Robertus le Covoner and Johannes Hamund, who are linked in many ways with the name Sykes.
Lichfield cathedral is 800 years old and attracts many visitors. In the near vicinity there are Alton Towers and The Belfry, where the Ryder Cup was recently staged. Lichfield also recently held folk and jazz festivals and will shortly stage the Lichfield arts festival. It is interesting that many able people were born in Lichfield but subsequently left. I live in the home of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, and the actor David Garrick was born in Lichfield. Ashmol, founder of the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, was also born in Lichfield, and Dr. Johnson was
Column 514born and educated there. Even you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, visited Lichfield to chair or address a mock Parliament in our ancient Guildhall, for which I thank you. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage will visit Lichfield tomorrow and I look forward to that event, as do the people of Lichfield, with great interest and excitement.The annual Bower festival in Lichfield dates back to the 13th century. Morris dancers and the Member of Parliament, sheriff and mayor of Lichfield all take part. Interesting people come along : I hope that some day the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will take part in this exciting event. Britain offers overseas visitors a gamut of activities and places. It is sad that while certain parts of the United Kingdom are sinking under the weight of those visitors, others are not often visited. It is also sad that certain unusual holidays do not attract overseas visitors ; they need to be promoted more. I believe that investment by the United Kingdom in overseas promotion of British
activities--together with private investment--is well worth while. I hope that universities will take up the challenge that I have offered and research further into the moneys that investment in tourism could return to our economy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on securing the debate and choosing its subject : the House is in his debt. He gave us a marvellously sweeping and comprehensive view of many of the activities for which the Department of National Heritage is responsible and, in doing so, made an extremely important point about the Department as a whole. Most of the debate has concerned tourism, quite rightly. I believe that, before the Department was set up after the last general election, we had had no debates on tourism for four or five years ; yet, within the time of the current Parliament, I have taken part in two major tourism debates. The other day, we had an important debate on the arts in which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) took part, and my predecessor participated in another debate on tourism. I think that the establishment of the Department of National Heritage has focused the minds of hon. Members and Governments, and I hope that it has had the same effect on the leisure industry, particularly tourism. For that alone, I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon.
The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) properly conveyed the apologies of her hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) for his absence. I should put on record that I appreciated his courtesy in telling me that he would not be here. We value his contributions to tourism and sport debates very much, not least in his capacity as a former boxing champion ; we miss the advice that he would have given today, although we greatly envy his being in the United States to watch the world cup. I know that he wanted to attend an Adjournment debate the other night and normally he attends such debates assiduously. I should add that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks)--also an assiduous attender of tourism debates--is abroad on parliamentary business. We miss the contribution that he, too, would have made.
Column 515Near the beginning of his speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon used a very good phrase : he said that we had become "an earplug society". I took him to mean that we listen too much to Sony Walkman personal stereos, as well as watching too much television and too many videos. Far be it from any Government to say how much time people should spend watching television and videos, but it is extremely important that our children should not spend so much time watching television and videos and playing computer games that they do not take proper physical exercise or play enough sport. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said, one of the things that I am most keen to do is to ensure that children have proper opportunities to play sport, especially team games in school. My Department and the Department for Education are in the process of producing a joint report on what we should do to increase sport in schools. Sir Ron Dearing has produced his report and we are looking forward to hearing people's comments on it by the end of next month.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation and paid it some well-deserved compliments. The hon. Member for Redcar also mentioned the BBC. All hon. Members will know that a White Paper on the BBC will be produced shortly and until that moment comes I shall let the matter rest. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon launched a gentle attack--as attacks go in this place--on the arm's -length principle as it applies to the Arts Council. Of course, I take his point that Ministers often get the blame for decisions that are taken by the Arts Council. My hon. Friend mentioned the case of the London orchestras last year. Although there may be occasions when, had I been taking the decision, it would have been different from that of the Arts Council, it is common ground among hon. Members of all parties that, on balance, we should continue to adhere to the arm's-length principle and that, although from time to time the Arts Council, the regional arts boards, the sports councils and others make decisions with which we do not agree, the principle is worth sticking by.
My hon. Friend then moved on to the national lottery. As he rightly said, it will revolutionise the way in which we consider many projects that will be funded by the lottery. A number of hon. Members said that tourism will not be directly eligible for lottery funds, but tourism receives a substantial indirect benefit from the five areas that will directly benefit from the national lottery--sport, the arts, charities, the built heritage and the millennium fund. I hope that those involved in tourism will get together with others and apply for lottery funds. Clearly, the built heritage is at the heart of what is attractive about this country. I hope that those involved in the tourist industry will get together with others and come up with projects that will improve our built heritage, which will in turn attract more tourists to any given area.
It is worth making another point about the lottery. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said that he was concerned about the relationship between capital spending and revenue spending from lottery funding. He was right to make that point. In the past few months, I have gone round every sports region in this country. At every meeting, the issue that people were most concerned about was the relationship between capital and revenue funding. Although sports projects would, rightly, be eligible for lottery funding, the people to whom I talked were afraid that, because it was all capital spending, we would find
Column 516ourselves building, let us say, a load of new leisure centres with no money to pay people to run them or for maintenance and repairs. One statistic that I picked up somewhere along the regional sports trail was that it cost £200 an hour to keep an ice rink frozen. That is serious money. It is no use putting up the capital spending to build the ice rink and then not having the revenue cash to deal with it.
I am glad that as a result of many of the representations to me and to other Ministers, we have now issued directions whereby it is possible, when a capital project is to be funded by the lottery, to make arrangements whereby revenue funding will follow it. There cannot be revenue funding for a project if there is no capital funding. In the case of the leisure centre, which I gave an instance of a moment ago, there can be revenue funding either by way of an endowment trust or by way of direct funding from, let us say, the Sports Council. That is a very happy compromise and I am glad that we have reached it. It may turn out that that is wrong ; it could be wrong either way. We may find that the lottery money is silting up too much and that we shall wish to go back to more capital funding. I do not think so, but it may happen. In one, two or three years' time, we will look at the matter. We will keep an open mind on the subject. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon feels that the important central point that he raised has been dealt with satisfactorily, as appears to be the case for the moment--at least until we have more experience to look at.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon also mentioned the film industry. Nobody could have done more over the past months than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take advice on what should be done about the film industry. My right hon. Friend has seen representatives from almost every possible branch of the industry. He is considering what to do--whether there is more Government help that could be given or not. He will make his announcement shortly. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon mentioned sporting scholarships ; that is a very important point. Sporting scholarships would not, of course, be eligible for lottery funding directly, for the reasons that I have just given. However, I undertake to look carefully at what my hon. Friend has said. It may be that before the summer recess, I shall have the chance to make an announcement about what we intend to do about the Sports Councils. I certainly very much hope that we shall be able to do that by the summer recess. My hon. Friend may then be able to put his question to me in that context. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon also made the point about the inflation-linking of the level above which the Sports Councils have to come to my Department to ask permission to spend money. I will look at that point ; I am not entirely convinced. The recent reports by the National Audit Office and others have made me look extremely cautiously at the way in which the Sports Councils and other bodies spend money. I undertake to look at that point. As I said, I hope that the Sports Councils announcement will be made before the summer recess.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon then passed on to an important section of his speech--the section on tourism. I do not think that any hon. Member these days needs to be reminded of the importance of that industry. I was very struck by the fact that the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) said that she would not run through all the statistics again about the industry involving 1.5
Column 517million people and having a turnover of £30 billion. We all understand why. It is significant that only two or three years ago, she would not have said that. It is because, quite rightly, we have had so much concentration on tourism that people know the statistics. Certainly five or 10 years ago, those statistics would not have been at the top of everyone's mind. That is a tribute, I hope, to what the Department of National Heritage, among others, has done to explain the importance of tourism as a major industry in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) referred to my being an industry Minister and he was absolutely right. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) suggested that we might put the section on tourism at the front of our annual report in future. That is a very good idea and I see no reason why it should not be done. It is certainly true that for the first time ever we have a Department--the Department of National Heritage--in which tourism is the single most important economic element. I am acutely conscious of that. The fact that tourism has played such an important part in today's debate shows that the House is very conscious of that fact. I am also acutely conscious of the fact that the hon. Member for Newham North-West (Mr. Banks) has an important motion on which he would like to speak. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but this has been such a wide-ranging and valuable debate that I could certainly take up all of the time available.
Mr. Simon Coombs : My hon. Friend has covered my points in great detail. He has missed only one, and I should like to give him the chance to respond to it. I raised the matter of the private sector and its relationship with the various funding bodies under the lottery in relation to sport and heritage. Will he clarify the position of the private sector in respect of its entitlement to lottery proceeds for joint funding ?
Mr. Sproat : I shall do my best to clarify it. I say "do my best" not out of false modesty, but because it is a grey area. As I understand it, the National Heritage Memorial Fund is prevented by primary legislation from giving money to private sector organisations. For instance, if one owned a stately home or a pier--Hastings pier was an example which I looked at the other day have--one would have to turn oneself into a charity before being eligible for certain sectors of money. That is certainly true of any funds that somebody applied for from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
In other areas, such as sport, it is a question of what the royal charter of the Sports Council allows it to do. As I understand it, the Sports Council is of the opinion that its charter may allow it to give money to partnerships that include private sector profit-making bodies. That will be something for the Sports Council to go over again with its lawyers, no doubt before the first applications come forward. That is also the case for the Arts Council, and so on. It is a very important point. We want a proper partnership with bodies that have applied for the national lottery funds, and those may be local authorities, organisations with private sector involvement, charities or whatever. The key question is--is the lottery money going
Column 518to be used for the "public good" ? Clearly those are words which can be defined in a number of ways, but basically that is the key element. I very much hope that, certainly as far as sport is concerned, it will prove that we can look at private sector bids as part of a partnership. My hon. Friend mentioned the David Lloyd tennis centre, but I cannot not tell him off the top of my head whether that body is eligible or not.
My hon. Friend has makes an important point, and it is a grey area which the bodies will be looking at in the coming months. If we find that they are prevented from involving the private sector bodies in partnership, we will look again at the legislation and see whether it ought to be changed. I am not saying that it should be changed, but we will look at it.
Had I more time, I would have spoken more on the position of the English tourist board and the British Tourist Authority. As we do not have as much time as we would have liked, I shall just say that it has made a terrific difference having Adele Biss as chairman of the English tourist board. The managing directors, as it were, are John East and, at the BTA, Anthony Sell. I feel that they are injecting a new sense of dynamism into those organisations. They have been looking at everything. For instance, Anthony Sell has just completed a tour of all of the BTA stations around the world. He is getting the bureaucracy squeezed out of the centre and directing it to the outposts for promoting this country abroad, and I congratulate him on that.
At this stage, I shall pick up on what the hon. Member for Redcar and one or two other hon. Members said about D-day. Of course, the tourism aspect of the D-day memorial was extremely important and the hon. Lady will be pleased to know that it was not only important, but successful. We gave more money to the BTA office in New York, which is now run by its dynamic new chief, Mr. Jeff Hamblin, and he was specifically set the task of getting as many visitors as possible from North America over here to participate in our joint activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-day. According to the initial information from the BTA, its efforts were extremely successful. I cannot give full weight to the figure given, but it is estimated that more than 100,000 extra visitors from North America came over to share in our commemoration of D-day. That is what we wanted to achieve.
We look forward to next year's commemoration of the end of the second world war and we should be grateful to receive any advice about that which hon. Members may wish to give us. I should also pay tribute to Lowe Bell for its efforts in getting those extra tourists over here. It did a marvellous job in raising public awareness of D-day and increased the number of events for tourists from just a couple of hundred to more than a thousand. It was marvellously professional and I congratulate it and thank it for the role that it played.
I am aware, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) said, that the headquarters of the British Resorts Association is in his constituency, because I had the pleasure of meeting its representatives in Aberdeen on Friday. I am extremely impressed with its work. I hope that it will be possible to hold regular meetings with it and other organisations, because one of the problems of being a Minister is that people only come to the Department when they have a problem. One does not know about the genuine, normal background work. It is just the same for us as hon. Members, often we only see
Column 519people at our surgeries when they have some terrible problem. I should be glad to fix up regular meetings between the British Resorts Association and myself so that it can update me on how things are going in its part of the industry. That will give me a context within which to make my judgments as to what more should be done to encourage tourism in this country.
I noted what my hon. Friend said about the allowance for day visitors in the standard spending assessment. My Department was extremely keen to pursue that issue and I am grateful to my ministerial colleagues for doing so. That demonstrates how tourism is only just beginning to be taken more seriously than it used to be in Government. It is another example of the benefits of having a Department such as the Department of National Heritage.
My hon. Friend also mentioned DSS hostels and hotels. I should like to pay great tribute to the work done by my hon. Friends the Members for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) and for Blackpool, North. Without their detailed research, it would have been difficult to convince my ministerial colleagues of the seriousness of the problem. On the question of the European regional development fund, assisted area status and similar funding, it is true that tourism has not always benefited from those funds. The idea still exists that unless a job is in the manufacturing sector it is not a proper job. That is rubbish, because jobs in tourism are as important as those in any other sector. We must be absolutely sure that those who make decisions on how to deploy moneys from the ERDF, assisted area status funds or single regeneration budgets understand the importance of tourism, as well as that of manufacturing industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough made a powerful contribution to the debate. He mentioned the difficulties that he has encountered about the dualling of the A64. I will draw that matter to the attention to my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister was travelling on the A64 over Whitsun, so perhaps he will not need too much persuading. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough is right to emphasise the great importance of proper communications.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North emphasised the importance of tourism, which is important not just in this country ; it is estimated that it will be the largest industry in the world by the year 2000. He also mentioned the vexed question of VAT on hotel accommodation. I know from my travels round the tourist regions of the strength of feeling on that matter. We and the British Tourist Authority take seriously the points that have been raised about VAT on hotel accommodation. The association has, therefore, hired the consultants Touche Ross to look into the matter and make comparisons, because the matter is not as simple as it looks. The French charge 6 per cent. VAT on hotel accommodation while the Danes charge 25 per cent. and we charge 17.5 per cent. While we do not pay VAT on food, other countries do. It is a complex balance to make, but it should and will be made. I look forward to receiving the advice of Touche Ross in due course.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West talked about the sewage outfall walk in his constituency. I take that seriously. Tourism is not just the Tower of London and the Victoria and Albert museum, or even the Lake district or highlands of Scotland. I welcome anything that adds to the variety of this country's tourism product. I, too, noticed the sign on the GLC building. Indeed, a policeman in the
Column 520House sharply pointed it out to me and said what a disgrace it was. I cannot say that it is a disgrace because I do not know who is responsible for it, but I will find out whether I have a locus to say that it is an unsightly addition to an important listed building. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have no locus to say how the Football Association should deal with the allocation of world cup tickets, so long as it keeps within the law. If members of the FA have not heard the hon. Gentleman's speech, I am sure that he will draw it to their attention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) made some important points. I heard what he said about the Foundation for Sport and the Arts' contribution to table tennis in Basildon and I shall draw it to the attention of the excellent secretary-general of the FSA, Mr. Grattan- Endicott.
A number of hon. Members mentioned listed sporting events. That is one of the most important points which the Select Committee on National Heritage made to me the other day. It is a difficult balance to strike. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Redcar about the cement that keeps society together. I look forward to considering that point when the Select Committee on National Heritage report is placed before me.
With those few words, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon once again for giving us the chance to discuss this important subject.
I am grateful for the support that I have received from a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Although the debate was supposed to be on leisure, it has concentrated increasingly on tourism. That is right and good. I have long been an advocate of the House's showing more interest in tourism. That interest has been amply demonstrated by today's debate. I particularly agreed with those hon. Members who said that as the importance of tourism grows, it becomes much more important that we consider its management in terms of protecting the environment--both the countryside and our historic towns and cities. The Department's predecessor commissioned a report on the environment and tourism a few years ago, which I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister.
The debate has touched on problems with cable. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) had no sooner made his speech than he rushed off to Basildon to deal with more of his constituents' problems. I can tell him, however, that help is at hand and efforts will be made to overcome the problem that he described.
In an excellent contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid- Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) pointed out that people in the United States watch more television than we do. The answer to that riddle is simple : their football games last three times longer than ours.
I question whether the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) has read the annual report of the Department of National Heritage.
Ms Mowlam indicated assent .
Column 521of Lords, are able to get through. I commend my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the tremendous energy that he and the Secretary of State have shown in the past two years in covering that complex and important subject. There are signs not so much of drift but of tremendous activity in all directions.
I am delighted that so many of my hon. Friends have spoken up on behalf of their constituencies ; that is what these debates tend to degenerate into, and they do it so well that it would be a shame to stop them. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for the fact that he concentrated on the arguments that I made in the debate and was very helpful about several issues. However, I commend to him the importance of considering the heritage and the way that private owners within heritage can be helped in the future. I want England, Britain and the United Kingdom to be successful in sport and in other respects. I want us to win cricket matches. I want us to win football matches. I want us to win athletics gold medals. I want Jeremy Bates to win Wimbledon. I want a great deal. I am hungry for more success for the United Kingdom in sport and other aspects of leisure. I want the British to be an active, healthy and happy nation, and I hope that, in a small way, this debate has helped to make that dream a reality.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House congratulates the Department of National Heritage on its first two years ; recognises its contribution to the development of leisure in the United Kingdom ; calls for a continuing debate on the purposes for which the proceeds of the National Lottery should be used ; and expresses the hope that, in future, encouragement will thereby be given to the promotion of more active leisure pursuits.