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Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): As I recall, the former Government constantly consulted on matters relating to schools, which, as we know, are shut at the moment and do not open until September, between July and the end of September. We are doing a little better than they did.

Mrs. Bottomley: In making that comment, the hon. Lady implied that the reason for taking such an approach

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to consultation was somehow devious and an attempt to railroad policy through. On such an important issue, surely the Government should not be afraid of a proper, open debate. To allow seven weeks at the peak of the tourism trade's year, and when local authorities often do not meet, inevitably creates suspicion, outrage and a sense that the Government are railroading policy for their own ideological reasons.

Mr. Chris Smith: The right hon. Lady might like to know that the reason for the relatively short seven-week period for consultation on the paper is that that is precisely what representatives of the tourism industry in our strategic working group asked for. It was their recommendation that we followed when we set the consultation period.

While the right hon. Lady is on the subject of selective quotations, might I complete for her the comments of the English tourist board on the document that we issued on Friday?


The ETB also welcomes our intention to continue to fund English tourism. That was a welcome.

Mrs. Bottomley: I shall help the right hon. Gentleman by continuing the quotation of the English tourist board's press notice.


On the launching of the England mark, he knows full well that the process began a little before he took office. Be that as it may, I shall return to our quotation competition.

Ken Robinson, chairman of the Tourism Society, who was also quoted by the Secretary of State, commented:


Will the Secretary of State keep open the option of extending the consultation? Although the industry may have wanted to get uncertainty out of the way, I doubt whether it realised that the consultation would be in its busiest time. Will he make clear that, contrary to the impression in his document, he will consider allowing the English tourist board to continue--albeit following clarification of its relationship with the regions and tourist information centres? David Quarmby--also of the British Tourist Authority--and Tim Bartlett of the ETB do a remarkably good job. Their authority needs to be enhanced, yet the process that the Secretary of State has instigated simply offers them months of skirmishing over their future. Now, as never before, there is an opportunity for the Confederation of British Industry, the Government and the nation to argue that tourism is a huge boost to the economy and an industry that should be recognised in its own right. I ask the Secretary of State to look again at that area.

I ask the Secretary of State to be more truthful about the degree to which he has raided--or allowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raid--the lottery. I commend him for changes in the Arts Council. Gerry

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Robinson and Peter Hewitt are excellent appointments. Taking a more rigorous approach to their work is vital to our interests. Finally, when the Secretary of State speaks on these matters in the future, will he give more credit to the person who deserves the greatest credit for the flourishing nature of culture and the arts: my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon?

6.15 pm

Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak): I shall try to be brief, and to spend most of my time on matters of substance--unlike the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley).

My constituency covers much of the Peak national park, which attracts 22 million visitors a year. That is the highest visiting figure for any national park in the world except Mount Fuji. Of those visitors, 2.5 million find their way to just one village--Castleton--in the heart of the constituency. It is a very small village at the foot of Winnat's pass, which will, I regret to say, be nothing more than a traffic jam for the next few weeks.

Given that the Peak park is within an hour's drive of one third of the population, and that so many of the 22 million visitors are day trippers, the area is crying out for a sustainable tourism strategy. It sends the strongest message that a tourism strategy must be integrally linked with our transport strategy. I believe that, given the Government's direction, the two will work together in coming years.

The car is causing not only congestion but chemical erosion. The very moorland that people visit is being eroded by the toxic products in car fumes. In addition, the Pennine way in parts of my constituency is being worn out--not by the use of the car but by people's feet. We must keep the needs of visitors, residents and people who work in the area very much in balance in a sustainable tourism strategy.

I welcome the initiatives taken by the Peak national park authority, which has received European funding, to put traffic management for tourism at the heart of their management of the national park. I stress that a tourism strategy must link not just transport but housing, planning and environmental strategy--the very policies at the heart of national parks.

My constituency is not just open countryside. There are several towns and villages in the area. Three of them--Buxton, New Mills and Glossop--have conservation areas in the town centre, which are funded by English Heritage. Buxton is a magnificent spa town; it makes Bath look like a tub with a leg at each corner. One only has to look at the 18th-century Georgian crescent to see its potential as a major tourism centre.

Just behind the crescent, we have the unique dome--dare I mention the word--of the Devonshire Royal hospital which, like the crescent, is very much in need of large amounts of funding to preserve, maintain and enhance its heritage value. Literally, the funding is needed to save them for the nation. They are potential beneficiaries of lottery funding, and the Pavilion gardens in Buxton is an actual beneficiary. The gardens are being restored to their Victorian splendour.

I have been delighted by the way in which the former chair of the heritage lottery board, Lord Rothschild, and his successor, Mr. Anderson, have expressed an interest

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in the future of Buxton and its heritage value. They would be the first to agree that a heritage strategy should be just that, and not a series of piecemeal responses to situations as they arise. A strategy is needed for conserving our heritage to make sure that we do not just conserve, but that we enhance and promote access to our heritage and celebrate it. That, too, is something that the Department will do.

There is another heritage building, if I can call it that, in Buxton--the 1902 Buxton opera house, which is a Matcham theatre. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) has acknowledged that she has a Matcham theatre in her constituency. The two are joined by a rather slow and unreliable railway line between Buxton and Blackpool.

There is no resident company at the opera house, and it is perhaps the least subsidised theatre in the country. It has--it must be admitted--less than perfect facilities. It is the subject of bids for lottery funding from both heritage and arts sources, and it has not been easy to get the two wings working together and co-operating for the future. We are working on that, and the local borough council has been committed to getting the funds operating together.

In arts, it is not just the building, but what goes on in the building, that counts. At Buxton opera house, we have opera--as the name suggests--traditional and modern theatre, comedy, the choir of the year competition and lots of music. People my age enjoy the opportunity once a year to see Robert Plant and Jimmy Page reminding us of what Led Zeppelin were like at their best. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] They are appreciated not only on this side of the House.

Currently, the Buxton opera house has the Buxton opera festival, and a magnificent first night a couple of weeks ago was enjoyed not only by myself and the former Minister for Arts, my hon. Friend the Member forStoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher), but by the Chairman of the Select Committee, the mayor, the leader of High Peak council, the leader of Derbyshire county council and the local Member of the European Parliament--a Labour clean sweep, I hasten to add. The theatre lacks subsidy, and the festival deserves assistance to guarantee its future. It has a thriving and growing fringe, and Buxton fringe festival is now one of the premier fringe festivals in the country.

This weekend, when the opera festival ends, the Gilbert and Sullivan festival starts, and after that we have the festival of musical theatre--the arts are well and truly alive in Buxton. Again, that is an example of the need for strategy in the arts and in promoting arts. It is not just a question of people coming to see them in all their various forms, but of their becoming involved and taking part in the arts. The Department has a vital role to play in that.

A major television series may be relocating its permanent film base to High Peak, and that would be welcome. I regret that I do not have the time to go into all the ways in which the voluntary sector has benefited from lottery funding, and the sport sector is benefiting from lottery funding within my constituency. However, all that is welcome.

I am delighted to say that, over the past few days, it has been noticeable that a number of people from local and national voluntary organisations have expressed their

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appreciation of the fact that the £1.8 billion that they knew they would get from the current lottery contract has now been guaranteed. In addition, many of them will have the opportunity to bid for funds from the new opportunities fund as well. I was delighted by the Secretary of State's announcement that Baroness Pitkeathley will chair that fund. That is a welcome appointment.

All the issues I have raised point to the need for strategies and co-ordination, and for people to talk together to make sure that they are not going off in contrary directions. There is a need to break down barriers and to ensure that strategies for the arts, tourism, sport and the media are delivered through the various avenues that are available. This is an example of what has been called joined-up government, and represents fields in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his team have made an excellent start. The further £290 million in his budget will go a long way, and will have a significant effect in putting strategies further into place.

I am certain that, as a result of that further investment, things will be better, not just for the people of High Peak but for all the very welcome visitors who will continue to come to my area.


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