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Companies (Tourists' Visits)

Volume 128: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to encourage industrial companies to open their premises to tourists; and if he will make a statement.

I shall continue to take every opportunity to promote the potential benefits to be gained from industrial tourism and am particularly pleased at the support expressed by Sir David Nickson, the president of the CBI, at my recent meeting with him. I welcome his proposal for a conference to be arranged by the CBI on this topic in September this year.

Everyone likes to watch other people at work. Who has not stopped to watch the activity on a building site or visited a local craft factory, such as a pottery or glassworks? Will my hon. Friend use his considerable influence to open up more mainstream industrial processes — for instance, car and furniture manufacturing—to industrial tourism? Who knows — that might even help us to sell a few more British goods.

As one who voted for the televising of the House, I believe that people do want to watch other people at work. In more serious vein, there is considerable potential for opening up more of our industrial factories to tourists. I want to encourage firms to progress from open days, or allowing only limited parties to go around, to embracing the concept of visitors and constructing walkways and viewing points, with proper visitors' entrances and access.

Will the Minister take a personal interest in the project being proposed by Jennings Breweries in Cockermouth in my constituency? It wants to turn part of the brewery into a sort of museum, but there appears to be some resistance from the councillors on the parish council. Will the Minister put it to them that Jennings' proposals are in the interests of the people of Cockermouth, and will he intervene?

I spend a great deal of time up in the Lake District and in areas covered by the Cumbria tourist board. In the next two or three weeks I hope to visit the Cumberland Pencil Company in Keswick. I shall certainly take on board the hon. Gentleman's points about Jennings and look into the matter. In due course, I may be able to visit the brewery, too.

Will my hon. Friend have a word with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to ensure that nuclear and coal-burning power stations have facilities for visitors and viewing galleries? Does he agree that as the sites are often on coasts and estuaries, they may become significant tourist attractions during a typical English summer?

My hon. Friend is right. He has opened up a new range of tourism opportunities for the electrical industry and coal mines. I should like to place on record the great success that British Nuclear Fuels has achieved at Sellafield, which receives 100,000 visitors a year.