To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on his Department's review of regulations in the tourism industry.
I told the House on 14 June that my Department proposed to carry out an urgent and detailed inquiry into the damaging effects of regulation on the tourism industry. This was because I was extremely concerned at reports of the expensive and time-wasting consequences of many regulations, and of their harmful effects on the competitiveness of our tourism industry.I promised that I would report to the House before the summer recess on what the inquiry had achieved by that date. This I now do.Following my announcement of an inquiry, I wrote asking for facts, examples, opinions, and proposals for change to the chairman of every regional tourist board, to scores of tourist-related trade associations, other relevant bodies, such as local authorities, and individuals such as hoteliers and restaurateurs. I also wrote personally to some 60 Members of Parliament with constituencies where tourism is a significant industry. I held meetings with the chairman of the British Tourist Authority, who is also chairman of the English tourist board, and with the chairmen of the Scottish and Wales tourist boards. I also met many delegations of those directly and personally involved in the tourism industry. I have met the chairman of the Retail and Tourism Task Force and the task force members representing the tourism industry, who have already done much work in this area as part of the deregulation initiative.
Officials of my Department have also had many detailed discussions with appropriate individuals and bodies.
The result of all this activity has been a deluge of valuable information from the industry on the subject. I am very grateful to the tourism industry for the swift, detailed and helpful responses I have received.
As a background to action that will follow from this inquiry, I want to make clear two matters: these regulations, or their interpretation, derive from several very different sources. These sources are the British Government, the European Community, local authorities, NDPBs, individual officials of local authorities and NDPBs, and rumour, ignorance, and misunderstanding; and regulations are, or are perceived to be, damaging for very different reasons. Here are 12 of many such reasons:
In addition to the damaging effect which individual regulations may have on individual businesses at individual times, there is a damaging effect brought about by the accumulation of these regulations—a damaging, cumulative effect which can be far greater than the sum of its parts.
I should also wish to emphasise most strongly that many regulations are wise and practical.
My Department's review has so far identified more than 80 pieces of legislation and regulations which affect the industry. It may be that we shall discover even more. I intend to investigate each of these individually and in detail in order to assess whether it imposes unnecessary burdens on tourism businesses.
Having identified the more than 80 pieces of legislation which I mention above, my inquiry has focused on the damage caused by burdensome regulations, and in
particular the seven areas most often complained about. These are the subject of detailed and on-going study by my Department. These areas are:
Drawing on the information received from tourism businesses, and my Department's consequent research into the regulations concerned, a number of preliminary conclusions and recommendations have been arrived at in each case. I intend to discuss these conclusions and recommendations with ministerial colleagues.
I also intend to take up two further issues which have been raised with me where the interest of the tourism industry were not primarily considered:
First, I want to ensure that sufficient account is taken of tourism interests when air services agreements are being negotiated, and that benefits to regional airports can be maximised.
Second, there is growing concern, particularly, but not exclusively, in coastal resort towns, about the number of hotels which are being converted to hostels for benefit recipients, and about the unpleasant and harmful effects which this change of use is having on tourism, and the quality of life, in those areas.
My Department's review has also produced the preliminary recommendation that the Department should establish better communications with the grass roots of the tourism industry. My Department must also in future be even more closely linked into the Whitehall consultation process. This is in order to ensure that the implications for tourism of any regulatory proposal are recognised and fully taken into account.
The preliminary overall conclusion of my review is that the complex proliferation of regulations is unquestionably having a damaging effect on the tourism sector. This should now cease. I intend it to do so.
In addition to the detailed work which will now be undertaken on individual regulations, my Department is now advancing five guiding principles to be adopted whenever new regulations are being proposed:
I wish to emphasise strongly that this inquiry, and the specific actions that flow from it, are only the start of a continuing campaign to rid the tourism industry of unnecessary regulatory burdens. I shall continue to welcome advice and information from the tourism industry on this subject. During the summer recess, I intend to see representatives of every regional tourist board, in my office, and then to visit every regional tourist area in the field. I shall also be seeing more delegations from those involved directly in the tourism industry.