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The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): It is anticipated that the Government's plans, which were announced as part of the Budget, to replace income- spreading rules with a simpler profits averaging system for creative artists will be of assistance to more people in the performing arts.
Mr. Hopkins: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I want to draw his attention to jazz. He will know that the jazz audience is similar in size to that of opera, but that arts funding for jazz is a small fraction of opera funding. Britain is arguably the second greatest jazz nation in the world after the United States, but jazz receives a tiny proportion of funding. Arts Council allocations have improved, but will he use his influence to ensure that jazz funding at all levels, including schools, will increase substantially to ensure that jazz receives its fair share of the arts budget?
Mr. Howarth: Jazz musicians will benefit from the new tax provisions to which I referred. On my hon. Friend's comments about Arts Council support, he himself is a notable performer not only at Question Time, but as a saxophonist and as leader of the all-party
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Will the Minister confirm that, between 1997 and 2000, payments by the lottery to the Arts Council of England were reduced by £97 million because of the siphoning off of moneys into health and education? What does he say to that?
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): Does my right hon. Friend accept that an integral part of the Budget was continuing pressure on local authorities, which, even though they have had a small real increase in funding, have a large number of duties to perform to match it? Particular difficulties have been created for those who want to keep regional and local theatres and concert halls open. Will he ensure that, for the next Budget, Ministers with responsibility for local government are made aware of the importance for the arts of the local government budget?
Mr. Howarth: It is important that we have a partnership in funding and that local authorities give the support to the arts that they wish to give. We have asked all local authorities to develop a local authority cultural strategy by the end of next year. The signs from the pilot authorities that have been engaged in the project suggest that it has focused their minds and that other local authority departments, apart from leisure departments, have increasingly recognised how much the arts can contribute to an authority's wider objectives. I hope that the trend that we have seen for far too many years of real-terms decline in local authority support for the arts will be reversed.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): One of our most successful industries is our popular music industry, which receives not a penny in public support. Will the Minister please resist the siren voices and claptrap coming from the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) and others on public subsidy for jazz? I have a photograph in my office of the no-turning back team of rowers. The right hon. Gentleman stands proudly with me, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth), Michael Forsyth--now Lord Forsyth--and my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope). In those days, he banged the drum for free enterprise. He should return to his roots and say no to such suggestions.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The English Tourism Council, which is responsible for tourism in England, has been very active in promoting quality standards schemes for tourist accommodation. We now have in place a standard grading scheme for hotels and guest houses in England, agreed between the ETC, the AA and the RAC. Improvements in the quality of service and accommodation, coupled with a well-motivated and properly remunerated staff, are the best way forward.
Dr. Iddon: Is my right hon. Friend aware that tourism and its related sectors support 20,000 jobs in Bolton-- 20 per cent. of our total work force--and that we have 1 million staying visitors each year? Is not that a good illustration of why the Government and others should support urban tourism?
Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Across the country 1.8 million people are employed in tourism-related activities. The industry contributes some £64 billion a year to our national economy. It is an enormously important industry, and it is equally important that the standard, quality and renumeration of staff within the industry are right.
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): How will it encourage tourists to attractions such as Whipsnade or Woburn to see lorry loads of carcases being transported into a disease-free area of mid-Bedfordshire and dumped in pits at Stewartby or Brogborough, with the ensuing stink and the danger of leaching into the ground water?
Mr. Smith: The best possible answer to foot and mouth, for both the agricultural industry and tourism, is to eradicate the disease. That is the end to which all the Government's efforts are being put. I am very sad that the hon. Gentleman makes statements that are not guaranteed to present a good picture of Britain to overseas visitors.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): May I remind my right hon. Friend that quite a large number of tourists visit the United Kingdom out of an abiding interest in the history of naval architecture? With that in mind, may I put in a plea for heritage lottery funding for the restoration of the Carrick-City of Adelaide--a famous 19th century Scottish vessel--and the steam ship Shieldhall, both of which definitely need that money? The Carrick is managed by the Scottish maritime museum and the Sheildhall by Solent Steam
Mr. Smith: I am pleased that the heritage lottery fund has at least done some extremely valuable work over recent years in helping to preserve our maritime heritage. However, decisions on individual schemes are entirely a matter for the board of the heritage lottery fund; I am sure that it will have heard my hon. Friend's eloquent representation.
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): The question is about improving facilities for tourism. I think that the right hon. Gentleman realises that the real question at the moment is how far we are able to sustain the present facilities for tourism, given the critical situation that they face. I agree with the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw): the present package simply will not be good enough. It is vital that some of those businesses know, and know very quickly, that interest-free loans will be available, otherwise a number of facilities will be lost and the employment figures that the right hon. Gentleman has just quoted for tourism will no longer be relevant because of significant job losses.
Mr. Smith: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that aid measures are already in place, including access to the small firms loan guarantee scheme. I repeat to him what I said to his hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) earlier: the best possible way to help tourism businesses to recover from the present crisis is to get visitors coming back. That is the end to which all our efforts must be put, and that is what the Government have assiduously been doing. I hope that the Opposition will wake up to doing it as well.
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Does my right hon. Friend agree that facilities for tourists in the United Kingdom would be more than adequate if we were able to spread the tourism trade around a bit more? Perhaps we could attract tourists from hot spots such as York, which is a lovely city but which gets overcrowded in the summer, to--dare I say it?--west Yorkshire, which has the armouries museum in Leeds, which is not attracting too many visitors, and the national museum of photography, film and television in Bradford. There are also three splendid tourist attractions in my constituency: the Worth Valley railway, East Riddlesden hall and the Bronte parsonage museum. If we could encourage tourists to spread out a bit more, it would be better for them and it would certainly be better for the economy of west Yorkshire.
Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is a powerful advocate for the attractions of her constituency and those of west Yorkshire. I was particularly pleased to hear her mention the national museum of photography, film and television in Bradford, which last year welcomed a million visitors for the first time in its history. My hon. Friend's basic point is right. We need to ensure that the information services and--particularly in an era of new technology--the website technology are in place to ensure that information about attractions outside the traditional
Sir Sydney Chapman: Well, should it not be, given that the Secretary of State has already correctly identified that the foot and mouth epidemic has had an appalling consequence for tourism not only in the countryside but in our towns and cities?
Mr. Smith: The primary marketing role in England must rest with the regional tourist boards, because, inevitably and rightly, they are the greatest focus of promotion work, advertising and the means of attracting visitors. The English Tourism Council primarily has a role in relation to research, the upholding of standards and improving information across the country. Of course, given the current difficulties because of foot and mouth, the English Tourism Council is already taking on additional responsibilities and will do so for the foreseeable future. That is only right and proper given the immediate tasks that face us, but the proper split of responsibilities must be between promotion work at regional level, and work on research, standards and quality at the English level.