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Tourism

Volume 891: debated on Monday 28 April 1975

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26.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he has taken to consult commercial interests in the travel, transport, hotel and catering industries, in his current review of Her Majesty's Government's policy for tourism; and what further consultations he plans to have.

The Development of Tourism Act 1969 established the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board to advise us on matters relating to tourism. Accordingly our consultations on policy are conducted through them. Such consultations are naturally on a continuing basis.

Is the Minister aware that in his absence his hon. Friend indicated in reply to me that he would be prepared to receive representations from the industry, and not only from the tourist bodies? Does he understand that if he is talking only to the people on whose patronage he depends and who in their turn depend on him, he is likely to get only the answer he is looking for? Will he take positive steps to talk to people who work in the industry so that the review of tourism can be meaningful?

Now that the guidelines nave been announced and we are having discussions on them it is up to the industry to make such representations as it wishes. We drew the matter to the attention of the trade and the rest of the country in a Press notice dated 21st November last year, and we are always open to receive representations from the industry. So far we have had representations from only one particular organisation representing the commercial interests.

Is the Minister aware of the considerable difficulty felt in many parts of the tourist industry on account not only of the increasing cost of rates but of the capital burden quite rightly placed on them by safety precautions and such things as fire escapes? In these circumstances will he consider amending the Development of Tourism Act to give additional help over this difficult period?

We do not intend to amend the Act. We have announced the new guidelines, and the basis of them is that there will be no increase in the real resources of Government expenditure devoted to tourism in the next few years. Within that static total there are various ways in which money can be allocated for the various purposes of tourism, including those which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but it is up to the tourist authority and the tourist boards together with the Government and the interests concerned to decide on the best allocation in the national interest.

There is the gravest dissatisfaction among restaurant and hotel proprietors not at the fact that there are fire regulations, which are accepted, but because they are imposed wholly at the whim of the local fire officer. There is no appeal, and different fire officers say different things. In the case of one West Country hotel there have been four fire officers in succession each demanding different things, and this is becoming something of a public scandal.

Responsibility for the Fire Precautions Act belongs to the Home Secretary. I shall make sure that the hon. Member's observations are brought to my right hon. Friend's attention.