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Tourism

Volume 934: debated on Monday 27 June 1977

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the contribution made by tourism to invisible earnings.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is likely to be an even larger surplus on the travel account this year than in 1976? Does he agree that, in view of the importance of the contribution that the travel industry is making to our economy, there is certainly a strong case for upgrading tourism from sixth position in my right hon. Friend's list of I think, eight ministerial responsibilities?

I entirely agree that it looks as though the surplus on tourism this year will exceed even last year's figure, which is very valuable. I can assure my hon. Friend that the success of tourism is a very welcome benefit to our balance of payments. I assure him that I give it the attention that I think is necessary. I am not absolutely sure that ministerial attention is always a direct guide to the success of an industry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that tourist spending in the United Kingdom is now up to £5·6 million a day? Does he agree that that is remarkable in relation to tourist board grants of about £20 million a year?

I think that the performance of the tourist industry is extremely satisfactory and that the grants we give it are small. I do not say that it does not require certain other forms of assistance that we can give. We are working out some other minor forms of assistance. The success of the tourist industry is a great credit to the efforts that the industry itself is making.

As nearly half of the enormous tourist income coming into the country comes to the London area, will my right hon. Friend ascertain what he can do to encourage the tourist authorities to do more to spread the earnings into the countryside, especially to the East Midlands?

We have a policy of trying to guide tourists to parts of the United Kingdom other than London, which has had a certain amount of success. We shall continue pressing for that objective.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his modesty in admitting that a lack of ministerial interest may possibly lead to success for an industry. Has he heard of the slogan which was carried in the back of motor cars during the American election stating "Please do not promise to do anything for me this year. I am still trying to recover from what you did for me last year"?

I am not aware of that poster. The hon. Gentleman should not be surprised about my comment about tourism. After all, it is a comment of the sort that I have made many times before.