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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester for introducing this short debate. He has a record of distinguished service to his city and his country; now, quite clearly, to his region as well. We are very grateful to him.
The Question on the Order Paper is what new help the Government are considering for inbound tourism to the North West. It is necessary that I address that question although the tone of the debate generally--with the exception, as so often, of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings--was very constructive and laudatory about what the North West has to offer. I am very much in sympathy with the debate in that sense.
When we look at what help the Government can give to tourism we have to be clear about the different roles of government and the private sector. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that governments can deal with major structural failures in industry, be it tourism or any other. What a government can do is provide help with redressing market failures. Above all, they can provide co-ordination, standards and support structures for the tourist activities and accommodation, which, fundamentally, have to be provided by the private sector.
I am pleased that we are making progress on accommodation standards. The new unified accommodation standards are moving ahead and will be publicised within the next two to three years, having been agreed by all the relevant organisations. I accept that we have a responsibility for the transport issues, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, among others, referred. We cannot provide accommodation and we cannot provide more than a part of tourist attractions.
I shall briefly run through what we think the Government can do. Too much is made of the structures of government support for tourism. An enthusiastic government can work to help tourism whatever the structures. I am not too worried about the comments that have been made about the English Tourist Board. We had a short debate at Question Time about this and I made it clear that there is nothing I can say in advance of the comprehensive spending review. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, my noble friend Lord Thomas and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that whatever happens to the English Tourist Board and other tourist organisations will not in any way diminish the high priority which we give to tourism. My noble friend Lord Montague of Oxford said he would await with interest the conclusions of the comprehensive spending review. I am afraid that is exactly what he will have to do.
While on the subject of structures, the House will be aware that we established a very wide-ranging tourism forum last autumn. It has more than 50 members, all with distinction in the industry, working towards a tourism strategy. It will not be only a government strategy but a strategy of the representatives of the industry. It will be published later this year.
Again on structure, concern has been expressed about devolution and the establishment of regional development agencies. We see these as being a real plus already. The British Tourist Authority is working with the Scottish and Welsh Tourist boards, and the prospect of the regional development agencies is leading to better co-ordination of efforts in tourism at a local level rather than nationally.
There was comment from the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and from the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, about sustainable tourism. Our consultation document published in April this year has already been debated in this House. As we said then, we recognise that sometimes tourism can mean that certain parts of the country, to use a phrase, are "loved to death". That is undoubtedly the case. Unless we study these issues, we shall not contribute either to our international obligations on sustainable development or to the development of a greater diversity in tourism, which is what sustainable tourism, to a very large extent, is all about.
We have responsibilities for tourism regeneration. Some of these are private, some public and some are a mixture. The Granada Studio Tours are an entirely private venture; the redevelopment of the Albert Dock and the King's Dock in Liverpool are public and private, as is the Wigan Heritage Centre. The National Lottery and the single regeneration budget are contributing heavily in the north-west region, including a National Lottery grant of £60 million for the Lowry Centre in Salford and the single regeneration budget expenditure of £90 million in Blackpool towards the improvement of the infrastructure, to which my noble friend Lord Montague referred.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred to the Imperial War Museum project in Trafford. We hope very much that this exciting project will succeed. There has been and will be additional fundings for the Manchester museums, for the Xanadu project in Wigan and many other projects in the north-west region.
The noble Lord, Lord Wade, spoke about the need for a big idea--although he did not use that phrase--for a tourist attraction of international significance in the North West. I do not agree with that. Diversity of tourist attractions makes for a more balanced tourist industry. It makes different kinds of people come to different parts of the region. That is what we want in terms of sustainable tourism. Seven-and-a-half million people a year visit Blackpool pleasure beach. That is a tourist attraction of international dimensions.
I acknowledge what a number of noble Lords said about the need for continued attention to the transport infrastructure. Of course, that is what the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is working on now, as it is also working on the preparation for its local government White Paper on contacts between local planning authorities and the tourism industry.
The noble Lord, Lord Wade, seemed worried about that. I remind him that local authorities are very active subscribing members of the regional tourist boards, so much so that the North West Tourist Board is serviced by Bolton Borough Council. Considerable amounts of money--£75 million in the North West--are spent by local authorities on tourist attractions. Their role is extremely valuable. The noble Lord is right to draw attention to the continuing need for co-ordination between them and the tourist boards, but his fears do not worry me too much. Nobody referred in particular to the division between the Cumbria and North West Tourist Boards, but I can tell the House that they have a joint strategy and are establishing single points of contact which are of great value.
The most important matter for my noble friend Lord Morris and others is Manchester Airport. I am grateful for my noble friend's recognition, first, of the Treasury's conversion to the ability of the airport to borrow money on the strength of its balance sheet, with the effect that the borrowings need not be included in the PSBR. Similarly, I am grateful for his recognition that we have removed many, if not all, of the restrictions on bilateral air services being opened up in Manchester, with the result that from Manchester there are now flights to more than 50 international destinations. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is looking at the possibility of loosening the restrictions which Manchester Airport, as a local authority airport, has in undertaking partnerships and joint ventures. We hope that its conclusions will be apparent in the forthcoming White Paper on local government.
There was reference to the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Noble Lords will know that the relevant departments--the DCMS, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the DTI and the DETR--together with Manchester City Council and the English Sports Council are actively planning the funding which will be necessary. However, noble Lords are quite right to say that at that time other events will be taking place. There will be cultural events and of course, although this was not referred to, the Queen's Jubilee will take place in that year.
I have not had time to talk at all about other government policies which are helpful in promoting tourism, although the House may allow me a few extra moments in order that we avoid adjourning during Pleasure. I pay tribute to those major companies in the tourist industry which have supported our New Deal initiative--Whitbread, Stakis, Thistle, Queens Moat House, Granada, Allied Leisure, Swallow and hotels in every part of the north-west region. They are all taking part in the New Deal.
I believe also that our policy as regards the minimum wage, despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, thinks, and the social chapter are helpful to the development of quality tourism. We do not want a tourist industry in which people are paid starvation wages and are forced to work for unreasonable hours. A sensible working week and minimum wage are already applied by those best companies in the tourist industry. The adoption of the social chapter will enable us to ensure that those high standards are achieved by all parts of the tourist industry.
I am not in any way apologetic for the Government's intervention, their role and the help that they can give to inbound tourism in the north-west region. I believe that we are already doing a great deal and that our progressive and forward-looking plans will enable us to do more in the future.
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