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Tourism and Hospitality Sector

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

3. What discussions he has had with representatives of the tourism and hospitality sector on the effect on that sector of reductions in his Department’s budget. (18945)

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman would expect, I have regular and extensive discussions with representatives from right the way across the tourism industry in all parts of the country, and I hope to continue to do so.

Will the Minister outline what plans the Department has to facilitate growth in tourism and hospitality in the north-east of England? Tourism North East and its successful and popular marketing programme, “Passionate people, passionate places”, have until recently been under the umbrella of the regional development agency, One NorthEast, which is soon to be abolished. Given that Tourism North East’s advisory board’s proposed alternative marketing strategy has been rejected by the Government, what does he envisage will fill the vacuum in order to support the highly important tourism industry in the north-east of England?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, and we have already made representations within Government on the importance of continuing tourism marketing spend, to ensure that local tourism boards of all kinds have continuity of funding. I hope that he will also be pleased to know that I have tasked VisitEngland to ensure that, for any programmes that are halfway through, as much continuity as possible is maintained.

The Minister will understand that the tourism and hospitality sector in North Yorkshire benefits greatly from having so many race courses there. Will he ensure that the owners, trainers, jockeys and everyone else involved, including stable boys and girls, benefit from any changes to the levy to ensure that tourism and hospitality continue to flourish at race courses?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that racing is an important part of our tourism industry. Race meetings all round the country bring in many people from the domestic tourism market, but they are rightly internationally famed for bringing in foreign visitors too. She is right to point out that any changes to the levy will need to ensure that the existing important symbiotic relationship between racing and bookmaking is maintained, and that a fair solution is achieved for all. I am sure that we will endeavour to achieve just that.

This Government have little feel for the history and heritage of this country, although they are among the drivers of the tourism sector. Will the Minister explain why the Government are seeking to protect the overpaid panjandrums of the Olympic Development Agency while cutting English Heritage by 30%?

I think that that last comment was extraordinarily rich, coming from a member of a party that, within living memory, was going on about cool Britannia and that completely failed to fund heritage in the way that it should have been funded over the past 10 or 15 years. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know that the entire heritage sector feels that it has been undervalued and underfunded for a very long time, in stark contrast to what is now happening under the new Government. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has pointed out, if we take into account the changes in the lottery, we can see that the total cut to heritage funding is minus 4%, and that is all.