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11.53 am

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes): I shall start with an advert for Cleethorpes. Everyone else has been advertising their resorts, so I should advertise mine. Cleethorpes is a wonderful place with many amenities. We have a great theme park and one of the largest caravan parks in Europe. The Greenwich meridian runs through the town, although we are not putting up any dome. There is a pier, a steam light railway, a prom, amusements, a wonderful discovery centre, sands, waters that have been given a clean bill of health, and Grimsby Town football club. We also have the best fish and chips in Britain. [Hon. Members: "No, no."] They are absolutely the best.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting visited the town over the summer to see our facilities, and to learn of the problems facing Cleethorpes. She met owners of guest houses and people who provide the amusements in order to find out what the Government

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can do to assist them. I can echo what other hon. Members have said by saying that as people come to Cleethorpes--mainly from South Yorkshire--they often do not see what lies behind the fun, the amusements and the prom. There are severe pockets of deprivation in the area.

Cleethorpes is part of the same urban area as Grimsby, which has one of the highest structural unemployment levels in the United Kingdom. In the North East Lincolnshire council area, deprivation is severe, and is worse than in some of the former mining communities of south Yorkshire, which provide most of our visitors. However, the size of the area, and the fact that there are affluent areas on the fringes of Cleethorpes, mean that the deprivation is largely masked. It is concentrated in only a few wards, but, as other hon. Members have said, that hidden deprivation must be addressed.

We must reconsider both standard spending assessments and all the employment problems that impact on seaside resorts. Cleethorpes is part of the same urban area as Grimsby, and the decline in the fishing industry there has had a severe impact on the area. However, the problems are more complex than that. North of Grimsby, and within the constituency of Cleethorpes, though not the town, there is a booming industrial area on the banks of the Humber where there are chemical firms, power stations and oil refineries. That, too, has an impact on our travel-to-work area, and on our unemployment statistics, so that our severe problems are not recognised.

I recently came across another quirk in my area's funding. As far as the Home Office is concerned, Cleethorpes is not a resort. There is a pier, there is water and there is sand, but we are not a resort, and we cannot, therefore, have funding to cope with the big influx of visitors who come weekend in and weekend out, and throughout the summer. That must be reconsidered. I have been given no adequate explanation of why Cleethorpes is not regarded as a seaside resort, although it is, by some quirk, considered to be on the Humber, and to be an estuary resort because there is a bit of fresh water coming into it. That is a pretty tenuous explanation. We still host the same number of visitors, and that problem ought to be addressed.

Most of the resorts that have been mentioned so far are much bigger than Cleethorpes, and they have the benefits of larger hotels and conference facilities. Cleethorpes has none of that. We cannot rely on conference trade to boost the town, and we have had to be somewhat more imaginative in promoting the resort. Things are not all that bad because we are using money from the Government, from Europe, from the council and from business. We have turned round the decline previously experienced in Cleethorpes. For about five years, there has been a lot of investment in the town.

I pay tribute to North East Lincolnshire council for its innovative work with industry on the Humber bank to create and to fund new attractions, such as the discovery centre, which has an observatory overlooking the Humber from where one can study wintering birds on the estuary. That new attraction has taken off, echoing developments in the Victorian era when councils and entrepreneurs joined forces, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) said earlier.

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I would like to see much more, however. Lottery funding has been mentioned, and, although Cleethorpes and Grimsby--with four recent winners--seem able to be home to people who win the lottery, the picture the other way round is different. Can we get any money out of the lottery for the town? No, we cannot. We have put in bids to regenerate the marketplace in Cleethorpes, but they have been slapped down time and again. We do not have regency terraces, and the resort is both small and more working class than others, but the marketplace still has architectural merit. We seem to be overlooked repeatedly. Awards to our part of Lincolnshire are among the lowest in the country. I shall be approaching the Minister to find out whether a lottery development worker could come to the area to see our problems, instead of simply refusing our bids out of hand.

I should like to see a change in the way in which we promote our resorts. When I go abroad I can purchase an integrated ticket which provides me with accommodation and travel, and sometimes includes entry to museums or vouchers for meals. It is very difficult for somebody coming to Britain from abroad to purchase such a ticket. That is a disincentive to people from this country as well as to overseas visitors. As I have said, Cleethorpes attracts many people from south Yorkshire so we should be trying to promote Lincolnshire resorts in the cities of that county in an integrated way.

The ferry from the Netherlands docks in Hull, just on the other side of the river from Cleethorpes, but it is rare for any people from the Netherlands to come into the resort. When I visited Thorpe park recently, which is one of the attractions in Cleethorpes, it boasted that this year it has had its first Dutch visitor. As I have said, hundreds of people from the Netherlands come off those ferries daily, but they simply bypass our seaside resorts.

12.1 pm

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge): As time is short, I shall restrict myself to one substantive point. I commend the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) for choosing the subject and for the way in which he introduced it. I also commend him for his professionalism in avoiding the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). It was an excellent speech.

Throughout the debate we have heard a great deal about the changing holiday patterns at seaside resorts and the fact that, behind the facade, there can be areas of real commercial and private deprivation. As a result, in Teignbridge, to my certain knowledge, there has been at least one application in recent days--I suspect that there will be others shortly--from those who have owned hotels, care homes or the like and who are now seeking planning permission to make them centres for refugees from Kosovo. Anybody who sees what is happening on the television or reads about it in the newspapers cannot help but feel great sympathy for refugees from any country. However, I am here to speak on behalf of the people of Teignmouth, not the people of Kosovo.

The people of Teignmouth are gravely worried that a substantial change in the social patterns of the town are taking place in a way that has not been planned and which, to be fair, was not intended by anyone. I can understand why somebody might see a perfectly legitimate commercial advantage and seek to exploit it, but when refugees are brought in like that, we do not

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know about their status. We do not know whether they are economic refugees or genuine refugees. Whatever they are, there will be a substantial demand on local resources. It will make a difference to education, social services and housing. That is a whole new subject area that must be considered by the Government.

The problem is that, as in so many things, the Government ape our rhetoric on immigration but, in reality, the Labour party does not find it easy to bear down on immigration. Therefore, it does not find it easy to face up to some of the social consequences. Because of that, I have already written to the Deputy Prime Minister. I did not criticise the Government for not having anticipated the problem as that would be unfair and unhelpful. However, it is fair to say--I said it to the Deputy Prime Minister and I say it to the Minister today--that, even though it is not the Government's fault that this situation has arisen, it is up to them to find a solution. Even if the Minister cannot respond to me today, I hope that, if he will not adopt my words, he will at least acknowledge that there is a problem and accept that it requires some substantive thought from the Government.

I shall end on that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I said that I would restrict myself in accordance with your strictures. Also, even though you are not the same Deputy Speaker who said that short speeches would be appreciated, I hope that you will feel able to note what I have said and to note in your book that, when I am called, I really do comply with the request for short speeches. I hope that that will be borne in mind for the future.

12.6 pm

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport): I made an earlier intervention about beaches and I want to follow that up by relating what happened when I visited Sellafield. I am talking on behalf of resorts in the north-west, stretching from Cumbria to Wilfra power station on the isle of Anglesey. A few years ago I visited Sellafield unannounced and, while standing on top of the old Magnox reactor, I asked how much radioactive material was pumped into the Irish sea. A member of the management told me that it was a very small amount compared with about 40 years ago. That radioactive material is still in the Irish sea. All the beaches along the coast from Cumbria down to Wales are washed by the Irish sea.

Our council in Sefton, which covers Southport, asked the Government at that time for some money to monitor the beaches to find out whether there was any radioactivity. The answer from the Government was no. However, councils should monitor their beaches throughout the year. Some councils did that and I believe that our council managed to do it with about £8,000. That figure has now been slashed under the standard spending assessment. Perhaps today we will hear more about the SSA and be able to get that money back.

I hope that the Government will consider the fact that, in the north-west, and probably on the Welsh beaches, there is a problem from 40 or 50 years ago that needs to be dealt with. Some councils are aware of it and many have information on it. It is very serious. Since that earlier visit to Sellafield I have been back on other occasions and, although I have asked similar questions, I have not received the same answers.

I want just one more plug. My town of Southport has diversified. We have many conferences and a great shopping area. In Lord street there are many individual

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shops. The shopping areas that have grown up around Southport are beginning to pull away some of the strands from the private shopping area. I ask the Government, as did the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden), to look at the business rates, especially those in seaside resorts and in areas with individual shops.


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