To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the growth in black country tourism and the potential for job creation.
There is every sign of an encouraging growth in tourism in the black country. A number of major projects are either planned or under construction. The black country tourism initiative has done much to help to develop tourism in the area.
Although my hon. Friend will be only too well aware of the reputation of the black country as the heartland of traditional manufacturing industry, which is thriving under this Government, is he aware of its growing reputation for its major contribution to tourism? A number of exciting new projects are taking place and there is a huge amount of investment, with people putting their faith in the region. Jobs are also being secured and created. Will my hon. Friend do me the honour of allowing me to take him on a day trip round the black country—starting, of course, in Wolverhampton—so that I can show him some of the attractions and so that he can meet many of the employees who are doing their best to attract visitors to the black country?
My hon. Friend makes me an offer that it would be churlish to refuse, and I look forward to the visit. I am well aware of the attractions of the black country. I think that I am right in saying that my hon. Friend was a member of the executive committee of the co-ordinating body that looks after tourism in the black country.My hon. Friend referred to the number of jobs that had been generated in the area. Black country tourism initiative staff estimate that, directly and indirectly, about 2,000 jobs will be created in tourism. I am certainly well aware of the work of the Heart of England board. From my tours in that part of the world, I can confirm that it is a delightful area, and its tourism potential has not yet been fulfilled.
My hon. Friend and I have crossed swords on this matter before, and he will know my view that while it is most gratifying to have an income from tourism and the job creation that it entails, there is also a danger of ruining parts of England, as other parts of the world have been ruined. In the west midlands, for example, Stratford-upon-Avon is so crowded that it is getting near bursting point.
I was not aware that I had crossed swords with my hon. Friend, but if he says that that is what happened, so be it. I accept that there is a paradox and that a dilemma arises: we want to attract people to particular areas because they want to see what is there but in the end tourism may destroy the very things that people want to see. My hon. Friend may have seen a perhaps slightly tongue in cheek article in The Daily Telegraph today by Lord Grimond, who draws attention to precisely the problems to which my hon. Friend refers. I cannot offer my hon. Friend an answer or solution, except to say that this is something that we shall certainly have to watch.