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3 Dec 2009 : Column 797

House of Lords

Thursday, 3 December 2009.

11 am

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool.

Tourism: Air Passenger Duty


11.06 am

Asked By Lord Palmer

Lord Palmer: My Lords, in asking this Question, I declare an interest in tourism in that I open my home to the visiting public.

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My Lords, the Government published an implementation impact assessment of the reformed air passenger duty in March 2009, and a copy was deposited in the Library of the House. The Government keep all taxes under review.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he not agree that in these harsh economic times Her Majesty's Government ought to be doing everything they can to encourage tourism rather than discourage it? Is it not interesting that Holland has already dropped its APD?

Lord Myners: The increase in the air passenger duty is a relatively small amount of money: £10 for a standard-rate traveller to band C on an air ticket price that could be anything from £500 to £3,000. It is modest but it will contribute to healing the public finances, as well as having some good environmental consequences.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, told the House yesterday that the Prime Minister had asked the Treasury to look urgently at the issue of the way in which the APD is impacting particularly on the Caribbean. What does this review entail, and what does "urgently" mean?

Lord Myners: The issue is being reviewed by the Treasury as part of a process of keeping all taxes under review. The increased rates were effective only from 1 November, and clearly a good review will test the outcomes in terms of changes of behaviour from previous performance. We will need some data and some information to be able to inform that judgment. "Urgently", therefore, will be seen in the context of ensuring that we have sufficient information to make an informed judgment.

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Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Just like the charges for visas and the changes to the holiday letting taxation rules, it appears that air passenger duty was brought in totally ignoring the impact on our tourism industry. Is the Minister aware of the work that Deloitte and the Tourism Alliance have done that calculates that if APD were abolished, nearly 40,000 new jobs would be created in our tourism industry?

Lord Myners: I am not aware of that report, but I am aware that air travel receives considerable implicit subsidies. Air fuel is not subject to fuel tax and air tickets are not subject to VAT. The combined effect of that massively outweighs these very modest increases in air passenger duty, a tax introduced first of all by the party represented opposite.

Lord Harrison: Does the Minister agree that there is a discriminatory disadvantage to the United Kingdom domestic tourism industry? Would it not be better to go down the route of working with our colleagues in the European Union so at least disadvantage does not stem from competition with the other 26 members?

Lord Myners: I thank my noble friend for that question. This is one of the issues that will be looked at in the review that I referred to earlier.

Lord Naseby: My Lords-

Lord Geddes: My Lords-

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords-

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, is the Minister able to confirm that, contrary to what was stated in the last question, there has been a dramatic decrease in tourism in the eurozone area-for example, down by 20 per cent in Greece this year-whereas in the United Kingdom there has not been a similar dramatic decrease?

Lord Myners: The noble Lord is absolutely right in his observation. Our share of European visitor numbers has increased quite dramatically over the past 12 months, as the UK is recognised as being an extraordinarily good and interesting destination for foreign visitors.

Lord Geddes: Does the Minister agree that one effect of this appalling increase in duty will merely be to encourage travellers from this country on long-hauls, for instance to Hong Kong, to go via Amsterdam to the considerable detriment of UK-based airlines?

Lord Myners: The saving involved for a long-haul passenger who has to have two tickets issued that are not connected-because if they are connected, they will still be subject to the air passenger duty-is the matter of a modest amount of a few pounds, which is nothing compared with the inconvenience of having to change flights and other issues. However, I recognise that those who make long-haul flights will be concerned about this, and I am concerned about people who are regular visitors to the Caribbean or to adjacent countries. I worry about Mr Zac Goldsmith going to see his

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trustees in Cayman, or the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, going to Belize, but I somehow think that they will be able to afford this.

Lord Walpole: My Lords, I am sure that the answer to my question is in the Library, and I will go and look it up some time, but what effect does this tax have on small airports such as Norwich International Airport?

Lord Myners: The rate is the same regardless of whether one flies from an extremely good small airport, like Norwich or Newquay, or from larger airports.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords-

Baroness Howells of St Davids: Yesterday, the noble Baroness the Minister told us that the Prime Minister had asked for an urgent review, and this morning I heard the Minister say that he needs the research. I can tell him without research that he will be crippling the economy of the Caribbean, which depends solely on tourism at this moment. Also, I am not talking about the Ashcrofts of this world, but the people who live here and have given so much to Britain and who can no longer afford to go home to bury members of their family with the tax that has been put on. I ask him for some really urgent action.

Lord Myners: I am very aware of the concern that my noble friend expresses, as indeed I am of the very many other representations that I have received from the diplomatic community and the industry, but I remind the House that we are talking about an increase in the total cost of travel of £10-less than the price of a return ticket to Gatwick Airport.

Lord Naseby: My Lords, how can it be right that there is a flat rate all the way over to Los Angeles, and anywhere else in the States, and a variable rate for the Caribbean? That is surely an inconsistency.

Lord Myners: There is a flat rate for all bands. The bands are based on 2,000-mile limits and on travel from London to the capital of the country. It is a simple administrative approach, which has been much welcomed by those in the travel industry, who do not want to see a proliferation of rates. I assure the House that the approach for the Caribbean is as fixed as it is for other jurisdictions and destinations.

Cultural and Creative Arts


11.15 am

Asked By Baroness Sharp of Guildford

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My Lords, the creative industries contributed 6.4 per cent of the UK's gross value added in 2006. There are 1.9 million people in creative jobs, both in the creative sector itself and in creative roles in other sectors. They are identified as a key industry sector in several government initiatives such as BIS's New Industry, New Jobsand the DWP's Future Jobs Fund. These are additional to the Creative Britain strategy, launched in February 2008.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I am grateful to the Minister for his positive answer. Is he aware that these industries, even through the recession, have been growing by 5 per cent a year in GDP terms? It is the fastest growing employment sector in the UK and contributes more to the balance of payments than even the banking sector. Nevertheless there are crucial skills shortages in the sector, particularly among technicians, and the companies concerned are having to recruit overseas applicants for these jobs. Are the Government right, therefore, to put so much emphasis on the STEM subjects in their skills and universities policies? Should these sectors not be given somewhat more priority in skills funding?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to identify the importance of this sector. She is also right to draw attention to the question of skills. As she will know, since the Leitch report we have addressed ourselves significantly and particularly to the issue of technicians' skills. That is the basis of our apprenticeship strategy. Of course she will also know that it takes a little while for this process to produce results. However, we are addressing ourselves to the matter. As for higher education, we have a project with the University of Brighton to look at the relationship between higher education and this industry and at whether the courses are fit for purpose from the employers' as well as the universities' perspectives. That is a constructive approach.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, can my noble friend ensure that architecture and design, the nursery of some of our very greatest creative talents, are routinely included in all government assessments of the creative industries?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Of course I accept my noble friend's point. It may be that the country has not previously given sufficient recognition to our creative talents, but it is now clear that they are a very important part of our national well-being, not just because of the enjoyment that we get from the creative work which is produced but because of this crucial dimension of the economy. The House will recognise that the Digital Economy Bill plays its part in recognising this important fact.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of National Museums and Galleries in Liverpool. Is the Minister aware of the two reports that have been published following Liverpool's

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year as European Capital of Culture: the Capital of Culture outputs final report and the National Museums Liverpool economic impact report for 2009? Both show that for £20 million of government investment, there has been a £120 million impact on the regional economy. Does that encourage the Government to continue to invest in cultural and creative arts?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it certainly does. I speak on behalf of the whole of the Government, but I must confess an interest; both museums write to me regularly, as I have a close association with them, so I am all too well aware of their success since the year of culture. It shows just how that concept can bring advantages to a city such as Liverpool. I am enormously gratified to see the extent to which the city is building on those foundations.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords-

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his gracious withdrawal.

Does the Minister agree with me that a lot of the energy, diversity and, indeed, success of the cultural and creative industries over the past decade has been due, at least in part, to a consistent and growing level of investment from government in the core elements of those industries? Does he also agree, going back to the point about technical skills, that the creative industries need those skills just as much as many other industries do, and that one of the helpful things that government could do in encouraging people to think about investing their time and energy in developing technical skills is to point out that they can be deployed very effectively in the area of culture and creativity?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The latter point is valid, which is why I emphasised it in one of my earlier answers with regard to apprenticeships. There is no doubt that the creative industries need that skill level to support the more creative aspects that artists, film directors and so on recognise a great deal more. We all recognise that these are straitened times as far as government investment is concerned, but the record over the past decade is quite unparalleled. The Government are committed to this sector for its value in enhancing the life of the nation and its significant contribution to the economy.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, given the point about the need for technical skills, how much extra effort are the Government putting into ensuring that schoolchildren are properly informed about the opportunities which are available if they begin their education in these areas now?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Baroness has identified an important point regarding the effectiveness of communication in schools about such opportunities. We are developing a project in which schoolchildren are introduced to such opportunities. We are looking at that as a pilot study to see how we can spread it across the nation. There is no doubt that there are opportunities in this area which we need to

3 Dec 2009 : Column 802

see young children exploit and develop. I have not the slightest doubt that they would gain fulfilment from careers in this area.

Health: Epilepsy


11.22 am

Asked By Lord Walton of Detchant

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the Government take epilepsy very seriously and want to see improvements made to services and treatment. Department of Health officials are working with epilepsy groups and others on a number of initiatives to strengthen the commissioning and delivery of services. This work is building on the earlier guidance issued to the NHS, including the clinical guideline published by NICE and the guidance published in 2008 highlighting the value of neurological specialist nurses.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Is she aware that the Joint Epilepsy Council has recently produced a highly critical report demonstrating that a large number of health service bodies are failing to implement the NICE guidance? It found that about half a million people in the UK suffer from epilepsy, and that there have been 990 epilepsy-related deaths, of which it believes that some 400 could have been prevented with better care. Happily, there has been an increase in the number of consultant neurologists, although they are still far short of what would be ideal, but it is clear that the role of highly specialised nurses in the epilepsy field can be invaluable. What action are the Government taking to persuade health service bodies to appoint more epilepsy specialist nurses?

Baroness Thornton: There is no doubt at all that epilepsy specialist nurses fulfil very many roles supporting people with epilepsy and their families, as well as helping to improve co-ordination and communication with the NHS in their local areas. We absolutely support the development of this range of specialist roles within nursing and within the nursing workforce. However, these decisions are taken at local level, so we are working to establish regional clinical champions who will work with the local NHS organisations and patient groups to raise awareness of these standards, and the need to recruit these nurses.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: The Minister says that decisions are made at local level, but what is the national picture in terms of how many specialist epilepsy nurses there are? Are all these posts filled, or do more people need to be trained as epilepsy specialist nurses?

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