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10.48 am

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) on securing the debate on an extremely important industry, as he rightly said. That is why the Government produced the strategy that has been referred to frequently in the debate, and which I shall deal with later.

Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the world. As has already been said, one in five new jobs that have been created in the past 10 years have been in the industry. The Government estimate that it is worth £53 billion a year to the economy, and as we know, it employs 1,750,000 people.

Hon. Members have touched on various issues that are the responsibility of other Government Departments, such as VAT on accommodation--

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: What about joined-up government?

Janet Anderson: The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government's strategy contains a proposal to do with joined-up government. For the first time ever, we shall have a tourism summit that will bring together Ministers

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from all Government Departments to discuss the needs of the industry. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me what his Government did to support the industry? I remind him that for the first time ever, this Government have a Minister with the word "Tourism" in her title. The previous Government were not prepared to give the industry such acknowledgement.

I see that the Opposition have belatedly set up a forum to consult the industry. In the course of producing our strategy, we consulted no fewer than 200 representatives of the industry. That is a record which the hon. Gentleman quite simply cannot match.

Many hon. Members have referred to funding and the disparities between England and Scotland and Wales. I am sorry, but I have to say yet again that the previous Government reduced funding for the English tourist board from £25.8 million in 1988-89 to less than £10 million when they left office. It is relevant to remind the House that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) was parliamentary private secretary to the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) when she was Secretary of State.

We have heard much criticism and, first, the national minimum wage and the great burdens that it is putting on the industry was mentioned.

Mr. Butterfill: Although it is absolutely true, as the Minister says, that funding was reduced under the previous Government, this Government have continued that process. Funding for the English tourist board was £10.3 million when they came to power; they reduced it to £9.9 million. Funding for the British Tourist Authority was reduced from £36.5 million to £35 million. Even if the much-vaunted £5 million over three years is included, that comes to £40 million for the BTA by the end of that period. If the Government had simply put funding up by 3 per cent. on the figure that they inherited, the total would have been £41.08 million.

Janet Anderson: We would all like there to be more money, but what we do with what we have available is the important issue. There has been an increase in funding to the BTA, the ETB has been restructured and the new English tourism council has been set up. One reason for that--I will come to this later, if I have time--is to release more money into the regions. Would Conservative Members prefer that money not to go to the regions?

Mr. Ainsworth: Before the Minister moves on--and, I hope, moves away from her trip down memory lane--will she confirm that the departmental budget for tourism is being cut?

Janet Anderson: I do not want to repeat things over and over again, because we do not have that much time, but the hon. Gentleman knows that funding to support tourism has been increased for the first time in many years. Through our restructuring, we have made sure that there will be more money to go into the regions, and that has been widely welcomed by the regions.

May I quickly counter some of the criticism that we have heard this morning by quoting some of the

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comments that we have received about our strategy? The British Casino Association said:

    "I write to congratulate you on the publication of 'Tomorrow's Tourism' which shows a cohesive approach to improving Britain's competitiveness as a world class tourism destination."

The Holiday Care Service said:

    "I was very pleased to see that the new Tourism Strategy which your Department published a couple of weeks ago highlights the way in which the industry can play its part in helping to create a fully inclusive society."

CenterParcs wrote:

    "Firstly, I don't want the launch of 'Tomorrow's Tourism' to go by without congratulating you again on the very considerable feat of having managed to get a very clear and focused strategy document from the many and quite disparate views held within the tourism industry."

There are many more--

Mr. Ainsworth: Will the Minister give way?

Janet Anderson: No, I will not give way again; I have given way several times and I want to get on with what I have to say.

Conservative Members have referred to the national minimum wage. I do not know whether they are aware that, on the day that the pay of 2 million employees increased as a result of the national minimum wage, a new independent report showed that companies in the sector most affected--the service sector--are experiencing expansion, not job losses as some predicted. I suggest that Conservative Members refer to the report of the Low Pay Commission and study it with care.

My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Quinn) has been helpful to me in my post as Tourism Minister and I compliment him on what has been happening in his constituency. Reference was made to lack of partnership, but, as my hon. Friend said, partnership is very much in evidence in Scarborough and Whitby and previously declining seaside resorts aregoing through a substantial period of regeneration. I congratulate him on his contribution to that.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) said that he did not understand the division of ministerial responsibilities in the Department. We have not only joined-up government, but a joined up Department as well. We speak to each other.

The hon. Gentleman referred in particular to cowboys in the industry; we want to deal with them. We also want to do something about quality in the industry. Only yesterday, I was consulting a group of hoteliers to see what we can do.

The reputation of the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) is well known and he knows the problems of the industry only too well. I will do my best to visit Southport soon. He referred to transport routes and to the lake district in particular. I invite him to keep a close eye on developments because, before too long and following consultations with my colleagues in other Departments, we will be making announcements to do with the lake district. The Cumbria tourist board has already put together its own business plan based on our strategy, "Tomorrow's Tourism".

"Tomorrow's Tourism", the Government's new strategy for the development of tourism in England, was developed with the help of Departments across Whitehall

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and with the co-operation of nearly 200 representatives of the industry. I will not set out the raft of initiatives detailed in the strategy, because we do not have time, but all are a first for any Government and such problems have never before been addressed by any Government. I say to Conservative Members that "Tomorrow's Tourism" will not be a "here today, forgotten tomorrow" strategy. It contains well-thought-out, genuine commitments to action and is a springboard to the future. It will remain the basis of our agenda for years to come. Unlike the hon. Member for East Surrey, we set up a tourism forum--some considerable time ago--which will continue and will be followed by a ministerial summit with Ministers from all Departments.

The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, who initiated the debate, said that there is no national training organisation for the industry. I reassure him that the Hospitality Training Foundation is the NTO for those in hospitality-related occupations. There is widespread recognition that the quality of customer service provided by the people employed by the tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses is crucial to success. That is why a working group of our tourism forum considered how the industry could improve the way in which it recruits, manages, motivates and equips its people with the skills that they need to provide excellent customer service. The objective is to build a more stable, appropriately-skilled work force for the future.

I invite hon. Members on both sides of the House to join in national hospitality week in June, and to initiate events in their areas to highlight the importance of the industry and the career opportunities it can provide for our young people.

Particular reference has been made to planning. As reported in "Tomorrow's Tourism"--I wonder whether some of the hon. Members who spoke in the debate have bothered to read it--the Government are researching how planning policy guidance for England can best facilitate leisure and tourism developments while achieving more sustainable patterns of development in travel. That research will be completed this year.

Concern, of which we are aware, has rightly been expressed about the burden of regulations on the industry. The forum and the summit will be considering that issue. There has also been much criticism of regionalism. We are creating the English tourism council--which will be a more effective, leaner national body for tourism in England--to focus on the national strategic framework rather than on provision of direct services.

Reference was made to the lack of national data; that will be one of the functions for the new strategic body. We will also ensure that all the regions of England can benefit from the future growth of tourism. A greater proportion of funding will directly support tourism in the regions and the new regional development associations will make tourism a key part of their economic development strategies.

Finally, I say again that the Government take the industry very seriously.

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