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Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what he is doing to encourage regional tourist boards to focus on shopping as a major element in tourist spending.

The English Tourist Board's development strategy "A Vision for England" identifies leisure and speciality shopping as an important growth opportunity for tourism, particularly in towns and cities. The ETB is actively working with the regional tourist boards and others to encourage such developments.

Does my hon. Friend accept that spending on such items as specialist shopping, food and drink is of crucial importance to employment not only in the United Kingdom as a whole but in cities such as Winchester? Can he please give the House an estimate of the proportion of total tourist spending for which this type of activity accounts and, therefore, give us a target at which we can aim for spending on high-quality goods, food and drinks?

I know that my hon. Friend is keen to encourage tourists to stay overnight in Winchester.

We estimate that about 40 per cent. of the money spent by overseas visitors goes on shopping, food and drink. I certainly support all that my hon. Friend is doing to draw to the attention of visitors the attractions and heritage of Winchester— including King Arthur's round table and Winchester cathedral. Of course, the money spent by tourists will provide every opportunity for entrepreneurial retailers and shopkeepers to develop their businesses.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the wonderful things happening in Birmingham at the moment, with the creation of new jobs and investment; in particular the £100 million convention centre, which will attract tourists from all over the world, and the £250 million, 1 million sq ft redevelopment of the city centre and the old Bull Ring, which will provide hundreds of shops and 6,000 new jobs?

When the tourists come, should they not be able to use those new facilities on a Sunday? Therefore, should we reform our trading laws to enable this to happen?

As the Minister with responsibility for tourism, I support an extension of Sunday trading. That has always been my personal view and it is also my ministerial position. I support what my hon. Friend said. Birmingham offers tremendous opportunities, and huge developments are coming on stream. I was at the NEC Interbuild exhibition recently and heard some tremendous success stories and good reports about what is happening in the region.