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Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will merge the British Tourist Authority with the national tourist boards.

The Development of Tourism Act 1969 established these bodies as four separate units. We have no plans for amending the statute.

Does not the Minister agree that having two autonomous bodies responsible for formulating and implementing tourist policy is thoroughly wasteful and can lead only to confusion? Will he introduce a unified structure of tourist administration?

My Department is not convinced that the remedy suggested by the hon. Gentleman on this and on other occasions is the appropriate remedy. Each of the bodies concerned has specific expertise which we consider to be valuable. For those reasons I do not believe that it would be helpful to change the present régime.

Does the Minister appreciate that tourism is one of the most important industries in Scotland? Will he ensure that when the Scottish Development Agency is established the Scottish Tourist Board will come under it and that it will have full control over its own finances?

Is the Minister aware that the review presently being undertaken by the Secretary of State appears to consist almost entirely, if not entirely, of consultation with Government-sponsored bodies and that those who work in the industry in a commercial sense are not being consulted? Is it too late to reconsider whether the hon. Gentleman's Department should consult such bodies as the British Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers Association—I happen to be on the association's national council in an unpaid capacity—before coming to any conclusions about this important review, which itself is welcome?

No doubt the hon. Gentleman, in following the best course possible to assist the cause in which he has just declared an interest, will ensure that representations are made to my Department. My understanding is that the consultations are not within the narrow confines which he has just suggested.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will publish a table showing the amount of Government support through the English Tourist Board to the West Country Regional Board as compared with the contributions made to the Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards; and if he will show the number of tourists in the year for the West Country, Scotland and Wales.

With permission, I will circulate the tabulated replies in the Official Report, although, as will be apparent, there is no appropriate basis for comparison given the different range of responsibilities of national and regional tourist boards.

Does not that reinforce the case for the West Country having a tourist board with status equal to that of the Scottish and Welsh boards? Will not further examination of these figures show that more tourists go to the West Country than to Wales and Scotland put together? Will the Government give an assurance that before any cuts are made in tourist board budgets a per capita calculation will be made to ensure that the West Country does not suffer?

I do not agree that there is any point in establishing a separate West Country board. If, as is the case, fewer tourists visit Scotland and Wales than the West Country, that justifies the Government's view that by giving assistance to those two areas they will increase the number of tourists going to Scotland and Wales, which I should have thought would be the desire of all hon. Members.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a West Country Tourist Board and that what we are asking for is status, not a new board?

By adding his voice to that of his hon. Friend, the hon. Member does not help to reinforce the argument. There are in fact Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards.

Following is the information:

Grant-in-aid 1973–74:
Scottish Tourist Board£712,000
Wales Tourist Board£537,000
English Tourist Board£1,750,000
Contribution by the English Tourist Board to the West Country Tourist Board's 1973–74 income of £116,000£30,000

Information about the number of tourists in the year for the West Country, Scotland and Wales is not available. The following table provides estimated number of nights spent by holiday visitors in these three areas in 1973 which is the latest year for which figures are available:
Million Nights
The West Country111·6


International Passenger Survey.

British Home Tourism Survey.

The tables above, however, are not an effective basis of comparison. The cost of generalised promotion, information services, research and other schemes of assistance for the tourist industry undertaken by the three National Boards and benefiting individual areas, in the case of England is borne by the English Tourist Board and is not represented in the allotment made to the West Country Tourist Board.