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Sir Peter Emery: It is a nonsense.

Mr. Lansley: As my right hon. Friend rightly says, it is a nonsense, especially because people do not have to visit the United Kingdom. We must encourage them to come here, and make it easier and pleasurable for them to do so. If they find that the accommodation is not what they expected or they cannot anticipate what it will be like, they will not be attracted to this country. That is a further example of why we need to make things connect.

I was very disappointed by the response in "Tomorrow's Tourism" on training. From the very beginning, the document says that people are the key to how we can provide quality in the service industry. Although that is true, the document's exploration of training is weak. It is perfectly clear that, for the industry to be able to make its impact on, for example, training and enterprise councils and local training activity, there ought to be a national tourism training organisation. That is the only way in which sectors can have a strong voice and make the appropriate impact on local training decisions.

As a great devotee of and former incumbent of the British Chambers of Commerce, I should say that "Tomorrow's Tourism" pays far too little attention to the strategic desire for local partnerships to promote tourism activities. In America, for example, chambers of commerce and municipalities work very closely together on managing tourism activity.

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): I thank the hon. Gentleman for referring to partnership; I was waiting for that word to come up. To me and to the people who work in tourism and the hospitality industry in Scarborough and Whitby, partnership is the key word. In "Tomorrow's Tourism", the hon. Gentleman will find a clear example of effective partnership in my part of the world, which is developing hospitality in particular. We are looking at matters such as training, too. I urge him to look very carefully at our example. Does he agree that the industry will develop and be far better in the future as a result of such partnership?

Mr. Lansley: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I saw the reference to Scarborough and Whitby. There are several very good examples of local partnership in the document, as there often are in tourism. The partnership between the Cambridge tourism group and Cambridge city council is another good example. That reinforces my point.

If one works towards a strategy that is based on good practice, one often finds that, valuable though the work of, for example, the East Anglian regional tourist board

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may be, the focus of action must be complementary to the visitor's view of the area. The Cambridge sub-region and Cambridge might therefore connect with Huntingdon, Cromwell and Constable country and the imperial war museum in my area. By and large, visitors do not visit East Anglia as a whole. Although seaside resorts such as Yarmouth are important, their marketing must be different from that for Cambridge.

Mr. Quinn: I agree with the hon. Gentleman up to a point. The people in the industry whom I represent have struggled for many years under Governments of both parties, and have concluded that establishing partnerships with local authorities and others in the area is the way to ensure that tourism thrives. Where did the industry in my part of the world go wrong over the past 18 years under the hon. Gentleman's Government? People in my area did not see an approach such as that suggested in "Tomorrow's Tourism". We did not receive any national help or hear of any national strategy, as he seems to be saying we did.

Mr. Lansley: The hon. Gentleman is asking me to revisit the past; I am talking about a strategy for the future. It is important that we focus on the future. It seems perfectly clear that if we built a strategy on examples of good practice and first principles, we would be putting more effort and power into the ability to create local partnerships, so that visitors are managed, and businesses--often small ones--can feel that they have an influence. A national body should provide a strategy and, through the BTA, marketing in England in order to attract visitors to local areas.

The Government have gone in the wrong direction. They are trying to shift the national role to regional tourist boards--the relationship between the ETB and the consumer and marketing is to disappear completely, for example--but such boards should be responsive to local action and be drawing their role from local communities and partnerships. The role should not be set from the top down.

The Government are obsessed with regionalism, but pursuing it for tourism is not what the industry is looking for--it is looking for effective overseas marketing co-ordinated by the BTA, for national champions to market and promote harmonised national products, and for power and resources to get behind local partnerships so that they can provide the visitor experience, visitor management plans and destination management systems which are able to work successfully at a local level.

It is right that the Government should publish a strategy document, but it is a pity that they have not sought to expose it to debate in the House. I therefore hope that this debate serves some purpose. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will propose further ideas on how to create a strategy where, at the moment, there is none.

10 am

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West): First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) introducing this debate on a matter that, as he rightly says, is of considerable national importance, given that the tourism industry contributes nearly 5 per cent. to our gross domestic product. Indeed, if one also takes into account the leisure industry, the contribution is probably considerably greater.

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I shall make one or two brief comments, the first of which has to do with the principle of joined-up Government. I very much supported the idea that responsibility for tourism should be moved from the Department of Employment, as it was at the time--it is now under the control of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire has pointed out, a great many of the visitors to this country come for our cultural heritage, historic buildings and royal palaces, and to experience many of our cultural activities.

That leaves me rather puzzled at the arrangement of responsibilities within the Department. For example, the Minister for the Arts is responsible for arts, crafts, music and the Government's art collection; for museums, galleries and libraries; for the built heritage, the royal estate and architecture and design; and also for the Department's interests in information technology, training and education. Training and education also play a big part in the tourism industry, but, as all those responsibilities tie in closely with that industry, one would expect that Minister's role to include tourism.

I mean no criticism of the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, but her responsibilities, in addition to tourism, include broadcasting, film and the press, and the creative industries. She supports the Secretary of State on the millennium project and she is responsible for international, European, regional and local authority policy issues. However, those issues do not tie in very closely with tourism. Given that tourism, appropriately, is allied with her Department, why is it that that allianceis not reflected in the allocation of ministerial responsibilities?

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire referred to the importance of tourism to the nation, but tourism's local importance varies greatly between areas. More than one third of the local economy in my constituency is derived from tourism. If one adds in the associated leisure activities, the figure could be around 50 per cent. Those proportions apply equally to many other towns and cities in the United Kingdom, where tourism is the lifeblood of the local economy, and not just an ancillary industry.

Therefore, it is important that the industry be encouraged in a way that is dynamic and creative. I am afraid that not many examples of dynamism and creativity are evident at present. My hon. Friend mentioned the funding given to the English tourist board, but British Tourist Authority funding is also vital when it comes to attracting visitors, and it has been cut under this Government. That is extraordinary, given that, for every pound that it spends, the BTA returns about £27 to the Exchequer. Britain is the fifth largest recipient of overseas visitors in the world, but the numbers coming here are well below those visiting Spain, France and Italy. Given our heritage--and how important that is for international tourism--that is not very satisfactory.

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): I apologise for intervening on what I recognise is Back-Bench time, but I must correct the hon. Gentleman. Is he aware that my right hon. Friend the

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Secretary of State recently announced an additional £5 million for the British Tourist Authority over the next three years?

Mr. Butterfill: I am aware of that, but Library figures show that the amount available to the BTA went down last year, and that the increase, which is spread over three years, will do little more than keep up with inflation--so there will probably still be a real-terms cut in the amount being spent. The Government's approach is timorous where it needs to be much more dynamic. Last year's cut in the money for the BTA caused much anxiety across the industry, not least in the BTA itself.

The disparity between England on the one hand, and Scotland and Wales on the other was mentioned earlier. The ETB receives £9.9 million, but its counterpart in Scotland gets twice that, and that in Wales receives nearly £15 million. It is extraordinary that so small a country as Wales should be spending so much more on tourism than England.

I want now to deal with the question of value added tax. The Government have said that they are keen to harmonise VAT rates across the European Union, but VAT rates for hotels in this country are the second highest in Europe, which puts our hotels at a substantial disadvantage. In addition, air passenger duty means that visitors to the United Kingdom from outside the EU pay £20 to enter the country, while visitors from the EU pay £10. The Government doubled the air passenger duty last year: surely that is the wrong signal to give to visitors.


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