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Miss Geraldine Smith: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jenkin: I have given way to the hon. Lady already. I intend to be brief because I know that other hon. Members want an opportunity to speak in this debate.

The Government have disregarded tourism, our fifth biggest industry. They have damaged the industry with the downturn made in Downing street, and have burdened it with extra regulations and costs, which will damage growth and job creation. However, what have Ministers responsible for tourism done? I refer to a document issued following the comprehensive spending review, paragraph 1 of which states:

The document goes on:

    "Our principal conclusion has been that all the areas for which DCMS is responsible are important".

That stunning analysis seems to dominate the Government's flaccid thinking on that whole question. On the pretext of that earth-shattering conclusion, Ministers

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announced yet another round of consultation on all aspects of DCMS, including tourism. With incredible ineptitude, they put forward four options for the future of the English tourist board, not one of which includes the possibility of its continuing in existence.

I accept that the present relationship between the English tourist board and its regional counterparts is far from perfect. However, there are some real "sillies". For example, the English tourist board has produced a brochure entitled, "The Essential England". It deals with neither the west nor the east of England, because it was cheaper to produce a brochure that covers the east and the west. It places Buxton in the same region as Basildon and Hereford in the same region as Lowestoft. It is ludicrous to suggest that such an entity is marketable across Europe and the rest of the world.

The correct way to market the east of England, particularly to the short-haul overseas market, is to keep it as the east of England. I commend the tremendously good brochure, which I understand has been very popular, advertising the east of England. The East of England tourist board was unable to produce enough copies, possibly because of its over-centralising attitude towards the regions.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely symptomatic of the Secretary of State's attitude towards tourism that the consultation process on the future of the ETB took place during the high summer season? Anyone who understands small businesses would know that that placed an impossible burden on hoteliers, which underlines what my hon. Friend has been saying--that, in practice, the Government care nothing for the tourist industry.

Mr. Jenkin: My hon. Friend is right. Whatever the problems faced by the English tourist board, the answer is none of the four answers provided to the question that nobody has asked: do we need to get rid of the English tourist board?

The ETB and its regional offspring look jealously at their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, which have much more substantial funding. Scotland spends £18.3 million, or £4.81 per head of population; Wales spends £14.6 million, or £6.36 per head of population; and England spends £9.73 million, or only 25p per head of population. The problems that we face in England are simply a reflection of that imbalance. I do not begrudge what the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office choose to spend on tourism, nor am I calling for higher public spending in England; but it is ludicrous to suggest that we can solve these problems by abolishing England's shop window on the world.

The east of England, including north Essex, has its attractions, but every region of England must live under the brand name of England, or it is nowhere. I used to work for the Ford Motor Company in sales and marketing. It would be much harder to sell a Mondeo or a Focus if it did not have a Ford badge on it.

One can only conclude that the name of England has become something of an embarrassment to Ministers in this post-devolutionary world. Scotland can have a Parliament, Wales can have an Assembly, but England must be lectured to by the Scottish Secretary. We cannot have a Parliament--we cannot even have a tourist board.

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The tourist industry does not need this myopic obsession with regionalism. It would not be sensible to submerge the regional tourist boards into the new regional development authorities, because their functions would be swamped by all the other things the authorities will want to do.

I am sure that the Minister will have a lot to say--Ministers always do--but I would be happy with quite a short speech from her. It would be nice to think that she will make an announcement to the House today on the conclusions drawn from her consultation on the future of the English tourist board, but I doubt that the Government want the House to be the first to know.

The tourist industry is highly fragmented. Thousandsof small businesses are not geared to the strategic international promotion that English tourism requires. There may well be better ways to deliver such a strategy through greater involvement of the private sector. Will the Minister tell the House--I have given her notice of this question--that the English tourist board will stay? Despite its limited budget, it plays a vital role in promoting one of our major national industries, and it should stay.

9.52 am

Miss Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale): I shall highlight the enormous difficulties faced by British seaside resorts, especially those affecting my constituency. It is outrageous that our seaside resorts are still reeling from the effects of the decline of the British seaside holiday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, despite the fact that tourism is forecast to be the world's largest industry by 2000. It is vital for the future prosperity of our nation that the British tourist industry play its full part in that expansion.

I blame the Conservatives for these problems, because they were in government for 18 years, and they did nothing to help British seaside resorts. We are living with the consequences. The town in which I grew up and have lived for most of my life was prosperous, and I have seen how the Conservatives allowed it to decline.

Many of our resorts have great natural beauty--magnificent beaches, splendid coastal terrain and breathtaking views--but they now play host to areas of dereliction and social deprivation that would match the worst found in any of our inner cities. Without a clear recognition that those conditions exist, and action is taken to remedy the situation, these resorts, which should be the cornerstone of British tourism, will continue to decline, and our tourist industry will fail to fulfil its potential.

I shall illustrate the problems that exist in many of our seaside resorts by referring to the position in my constituency. Over the past 20 years, 70 per cent. of the holiday accommodation in Morecambe and Heysham has ceased to be used for that purpose. Many of the huge number of redundant guesthouses and hotels are now used for multiple occupation, and are rented to families and individuals on social security benefits. Unscrupulous and usually absentee landlords have advertised extensively throughout Lancashire and elsewhere, exhorting people to come and live by the seaside. This huge pool of cheap and often sub-standard accommodation has acted as a magnet for the urban poor, the unemployed and the socially disadvantaged from those areas.

As a result, many parts of Morecambe and Heysham have a largely migrant population without roots in the area, and those people have few prospects in life.

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Hon. Members can imagine the pressure that that places on our schools, especially those providing special needs education, and on social services. People come and go from the area. The daily flow in and out of those properties makes it impossible to establish any sense of community, and it makes nonsense of any attempt to provide reliable statistics on unemployment and social needs.

These areas not only are unemployment black spots, but have become hotbeds of crime and drug abuse. Three of the worst 10 and six of the worst 30 wards in Lancashire are in Morecambe and Lunesdale. Ill health, dereliction and social deprivation abound, but perhaps the most worrying aspect is the impact that they have on adjacent areas, causing them to decline and thus perpetuating the cycle.

Mr. Spring: The hon. Lady describes clearly the position in her constituency. What escapes me is the role that the Labour-controlled Lancashire county council and other councils in the area have played in letting the problems develop in the first place.

Miss Smith: The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that Lancaster city council has done a good job of trying to regenerate Morecambe. Obviously, a great deal more has to be done, and we need help from central Government--I make no bones about that. I shall ask the Minister for the help we require, because we received no help during 18 years of Tory government. Local councils had to act in isolation and in very difficult circumstances.

Morecambe and Heysham remains a beautiful area, despite these problems. I am proud to have grown up and to live there, and I want to stay there for the rest of my life. It is ideally located as a gateway to the lakes. Its views and abundant wildlife rival any in the country, and it has enormous potential for the tourism trade to be expanded. I pay tribute to our beleaguered business community, which has worked tirelessly to regenerate the resort and, against all the odds, has been remarkably successful through private-public partnerships.

However, it is high time those in Morecambe and other seaside resorts received the full support of Government to help them in what they are trying to achieve. Like many others, my area has applied for assisted area status. Our case is fully justified, but it remains to be seen whether we will be successful.

British seaside resorts have suffered through the collapse of their domestic tourism industries every bit as much as other areas have suffered from the decline of their core industries. Coalfield communities and areas affected by the decline in manufacturing have received assistance, and we need the same assistance. The Government should provide a package of measures aimed at regenerating seaside resorts. That is not only in the interest of those who live and work in the resorts, but in the economic interest of the nation.

I hope that the Minister will offer some hope to seaside resorts. It is important for us to be given hope, because we have immense problems to overcome. We also have immense opportunities. Morecambe is doing well as a seaside resort, and is striving to overcome the difficulties. I cannot miss this opportunity to ask the Minister to visit my constituency in the new year. I will be interested to hear what help she can offer British seaside resorts. That support is vital, and has been lacking for many years.

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