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Tourism (Job Creation)

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Paymaster General how many jobs he estimates will be created by tourism in 1987; and if he will make a statement.

The Government do not produce forecasts of future employment levels, which depend on many factors. However, if present trends in tourism continue, I would expect to see further significant growth in employment in 1987.

Does the Minister agree that there would be more job creation in the tourist industry if the Government implemented the Select Committee's suggestion in its report of extending the tourist season? That could be done at low cost, or even negative cost. Does he further agree that the refusal to do this could only be interpreted as a sort of doctrinaire approach, because it would assist the regions in their job creation efforts?

I agree that it is important that we should do all that we can to extend the tourist season. In fact, we responded positively to that when the Select Committee report came out. The hon. Gentleman should be careful not to quote too much from that report, because if we had implemented all it, recommendations, that would have been disadvantageous to Scotland.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have done a great deal to extend the season by encouraging especially business tourism and conference trade, and that the contribution of that to employment has been largely underestimated by Opposition Members? Does he share my hope that they will change their attitude in the next Parliament?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In fact, one of the conditions that we have introduced alongside section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 is that those who apply for the grant should devise means whereby they can extend the tourist season.

Does the Minister agree that many extra jobs would be created in tourism in Wales if the Welsh Tourist Board was able to advertise itself directly overseas as its Scottish equivalent does? Does he agree also that the promotion of Wales overseas should not be left to the British Tourist Authority? Will he urge the Government to bring forward the necessary legislation to enable that to happen?

That would mean that Wales would get two bites at the cherry, because the principal job and responsibility of the British Tourist Authority is to bang the drum abroad and encourage inward tourism to the United Kingdom. The Welsh Tourist Board does have an opportunity from time to time to exhibit with the BTA at various exhibitions. I am certainly not averse to the hon. Lady's suggestion. However, I must point out to her that the principal responsibility for that must rest with the BTA.

As my hon. Friend knows, the office of the East Midlands tourist board is in Lincoln, which is quite right, because Lincoln is the most historic and beautiful city in the region. Does he agree that, given imagination, professionalism and co-operation between the public sector and private enterprise, many thousands of jobs could be created by the proper development of the eastern tourist group of Cambridge, Peterborough, Lincoln, York and Durham, and that all of us should give our minds to developing that?

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said and agree with him completely that the headquarters of the East Midlands tourist board is in the right location. We are trying to encourage areas further north of Watford to make application under section 4, given the new policy, so that we can try to assist the dispersal of tourists away from London and the south-east.

The Minister, who has some knowledge of the north-west region, will know that the north-west is developing tourism. Everyone will welcome jobs in that area. However, does he accept that that is only scratching at the surface of the 300,000 people who have been thrown out of work in the manufacturing sector and the 32 per cent. reduction in jobs in that sector since the Government came to power?

I love the back-handed compliment that the hon. Gentleman pays me by saying that I have some knowledge of the north-west. I was born, brought up and have lived there all my life. I dare say that I might know it better than he does.

On tourism, again I caution Opposition Members not to be so quick in rubbishing this industry. I cannot find another sector of the British economy that is showing such an increase in wealth and job creation. That should not be discouraged. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that in manufacturing, in which we are seeing an increase in profitability the like of which we have not seen for a long time, it is possible for many companies to take on 10 per cent. more work without taking on one more person. We must look to the sectors that will produce the jobs.

Does my hon. Friend, agree that job creation in tourism owes a great deal to sensitive developments? Will he congratulate and further encourage the English Tourist Board in its efforts to promote environmentally acceptable and international standard projects?

Yes, I do. I am glad to have this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to my hon. Friend, who has specialised in this since he was elected to this House, and I am sure that he will continue to specialise in it in the next Parliament.