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House of Lords

Tuesday, 13th November 2001.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.

English Tourism

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, perhaps I may declare an interest as honorary president of the Southern Tourist Board.

The Question was as follows:

Whether Her Majesty's Government will now give the English Tourism Council the responsibility and adequate finance to market Tourism for England in close co-operation with the regional tourist boards.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, Tomorrow's Tourism did not give the English Tourism Council a role to market England. However, in the light of events this year and recent consultations which the Secretary of State has had with senior industry representatives, we are currently reviewing the options for stimulating better co-ordination of the public and private sector funds currently spent on marketing tourism in England.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Although it is certainly a step forward, why does not England have a tourist body of its own which can speak for it? With the BTA it co-operates with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish tourist boards which have their own rights, but England does not.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, indicated, he has close relations with the southern regional development agency. The regional development agencies are charged, and have been funded with resources, to improve the marketing of tourism in England. We cannot be doing so badly because it is still the case that expenditure by tourists in England substantially outscores the spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therefore, the present strategy has something to commend it.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, tourism in England is a business with a turnover of approximately £53 billion. Does the Minister agree that it is odd that the business should allow its marketing to be done by its subsidiaries, in this case the regions? Does the Minister further agree that now is the time to introduce a central marketing strategy? Yesterday we had a most interesting debate on the National Trust. Should not such bodies be brought in to assist in such a strategy?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, during the foot and mouth outbreak, which resulted in a decline in

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visitors from abroad and elsewhere, an increased role was created for the English Tourism Council in relation to marketing abroad. However, it is thought that marketing aimed at British tourists is done better by concentrating on the specific English regions—for instance, the Lake District—rather than speaking about England as a whole.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, are the Government doing more to encourage broadband access to the Internet through availability in the regions in order to promote, for instance, tourism and industries which are alternatives to farming?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am the first to confess to not being totally familiar with the arrangements for broadband in this dimension. However, I want to stress that it is important that the industry and all our tourism and heritage developments are not looked upon as employing fuddy-duddy technology. That is far from the case. The most modern technology is used to promote what is an important industry and earner for this country, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, indicated.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that the timing of any marketing efforts by English, Scottish and Welsh tourist boards abroad is most delicate. What guidance are the Government giving to those boards with regard to marketing efforts abroad?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we are all conscious of the fact that the latest tragedy in the United States will not have encouraged the use of airlines by tourists from America to the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. We recognise that the US is an important market, and of course the issue must be approached with great sensitivity. However, during the problems we had with the foot and mouth outbreak earlier this year, we indicated the importance of co-ordinating all efforts and ensuring that arrangements were in hand to recoup potential losses in terms of visitors here.

The Secretary of State has been in close liaison with leaders of the industry, particularly the CBI, in order to ensure that the industry comes together in one body to promote tourism. That is of great importance to us all.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in any advertising abroad, the merits of the whole country—Wales, England and Scotland—need to be stressed? Further, does he agree that perhaps there has been a lack of stress on Scotland and Wales, as the noble Lord has just told the House that much more money is spent by tourists in England?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord will recognise that the advantages of devolution have enabled the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to devote greater resources to marketing their own excellent tourist facilities. When

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one talks about tourism from overseas, particularly the American market, it is important that co-ordination is effected on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord will recognise that in the promotion of tourism increased efforts on the part of everyone—the Scottish and Welsh dimension and the regional development work in England, for which additional resources have been made available—all contribute to a greater whole.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the best advertisements for tourism in this country are the cathedrals and churches? Therefore, will the noble Lord incorporate those both in the publicity and consideration by the Government of increased financial help for those buildings?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, if the glory of the cathedrals did not speak for itself the right reverend Prelate has certainly done so on their behalf. We know that a very high percentage of tourists enjoy our national heritage, of which inevitably ecclesiastical architecture and cathedrals, and all that they represent, are a very important part.

Immigration: Franco-British Initiatives

2.44 p.m.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discussed with the French Government the possibility of joint Franco-British assessment at Sangatte of third country nationals wishing to enter either the United Kingdom or France; and, if so, with what result.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, the British and French Governments are currently pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at resolving the immigration problems in northern France. We are actively considering ways to encourage a more orderly asylum system which will help in the fight against illegal immigration and reduce the pressures at Sangatte.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I am sure the Minister is aware that the situation is now much worse than when we discussed this subject last week because the French railways have closed the Channel Tunnel to all freight trains, thus severely disrupting trade. Will the two Governments, therefore, at least agree to the presence of British frontier officers in France? If that can be done, will it not help to separate economic migrants from genuine refugees?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, there are British immigration officers in France. Indeed, by the end of the month we shall have increased the number from 40 to 45. At Coquelles they will work 174 extra shifts per week by the end of this month. The noble Lord

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referred to the difficulties with the freight system operated by SNCF. There have been difficulties in the past few days. It is probable that the security of the freight site, for which SNCF is wholly responsible, has not received the same attention as the tunnel. That has shifted the clandestines, who will look for weaknesses, from one to the other. I understand that that situation is being rapidly addressed in the interests of trade between our two countries.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, do the Government agree that the use of the Sangatte centre goes beyond a joke? We hear that 74 people from Afghanistan and Iraq arrived on freight trains on 6th November. Does the Minister agree that the Sangatte centre is a symptom of a far wider problem; namely, that we are trying to reformulate an asylum policy, some but not all of which is welcomed by these Benches, without having a clear immigration policy?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, in recent weeks and days I have explained at some length that in January we shall produce a White Paper setting out what we hope will be a managed migration system. That will enable us to arrive at a system of managed migration from areas where there is pressure and conflict, not clandestines in the European Union. If we start to operate a system that picks up clandestines within the European Union it will become the most serious "pull" factor for people traffickers than anything we can possibly design in the areas of the world that are in conflict. We hope that regard will be had to the wider picture when we publish the White Paper in January.

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