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Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how much was spent by tourists in the six counties of the west country last year.

I understand from the English Tourist Board that total estimated spending by tourists in the six counties of the west country in 1986 was £1,650 million.

That information is extremely helpful. It obviously means plenty of job opportunities and investment. Does my hon. Friend agree that it was detrimental to the interests of the west country for Avon county council to withdraw from the West Country tourist board? What benefit does he see in the council's rejoining it?

It is a pity that Avon withdrew from the West Country tourist board and we hope that it will rejoin. I think I am right in saying that it is the only county council in England which is not a member of its regional tourist board. Given that Avon has such considerable attractions for tourists, such as the cities of Bath and Bristol, it is really missing out, and I hope that it will reconsider.

Will the Minister confirm that many of those so-called tourists come from the north of England and from Scotland looking for jobs? They may or may not have bikes, but they are anxious to have the means to exist as human beings. Does the Minister have anything to say to people in other parts of the United Kingdom who are anxious to contribute to the national well-being, whether or not they are tourists? Can he say anything apart from his nonsensical contribution about tourism?

I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraging all his constituents to go on holiday from Leith to the west country next year.

Will my hon. Friend recognise that, in seeking to meet the demands of the important tourist industry, ancient cathedral cities such as Salisbury have particular problems? Is he aware that following the decision of the dean and chapter to remove coaches from Salisbury close, two years ago, it is beginning to look as if the only solution which will save Salisbury as a tourist centre is to breach the 13th century closed walls yet again, to make room for a coach park inside them?

I cannot give an instant answer to the particular problems of Salisbury, but I am sure that no one would want any city walls to be breached.

The Minister spoke about the attractions of the west country for tourists. Will he tell us about the attractions of tourism for the people of the west country? In the west country, as elsewhere, the tourist industry provides the lowest rates of pay and the longest hours and has the least trade union organisation to protect the workers against excessive exploitation. Apart from uttering platitudes, what will the Minister do about that?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman takes that view. In terms of job creation, the tourist industry sustains about 1·4 million jobs nationally. No other industry creates jobs at a rate of 1,000 a week, as our tourist and hospitality industries do. Certain conclusions can be drawn from the fact that there is no over-substantial trade union representation in that industry.

Does my hon. Friend accept that many people feel that although the West Country tourist board does good work, it covers far too large an area, stretching from the Isles of Scilly to Swindon? Will he look at the possibility of devolving part of its budget downward so that county promotional organisations such as the Cornwall tourist board can get a share of that budget?

In my discussions with the West. Country tourist board, that point was not raised. It does not consider its area to be too large. However I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion.