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Tourism in Yorkshire

Volume 532: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2011

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Goodwill.)

I thank the Minister for attending this debate, which is important for the Yorkshire region. I also thank my Yorkshire colleagues for getting up early this morning for a debate on an industry that means so much to our great county.

The tourism industry is a rare wealth generator for this country and one of our most important industries. The variety and history of our landmarks, monuments, countryside and culture are powerful magnets for visitors from all over the world. Important events such as next year’s Olympics will continue to contribute greatly to putting Britain firmly at centre stage, globally.

A little more than a year ago, the Prime Minister gave a speech on the importance of tourism in the UK and launched the first ever tourism policy in this country. That landmark policy set out targets for attracting 4 million extra visitors to Britain over the next four years and is backed by £100 million-worth of marketing campaigns. Along with that increase in visitor numbers, the policy aims to increase the proportion of UK residents who holiday in the UK to match that of those who choose to holiday abroad each year.

This country has some of the most spectacular and wide-ranging scenery and holiday destinations, most particularly—I am sure those present will all agree—in Yorkshire, God’s own county. It is important that we encourage the British people to make the most of what they have on their doorstep.

I thank my hon. Friend and Yorkshire colleague. He will be pleased to know that I was happy once again to take my family to Yorkshire on our summer holiday. I apologise to him and to you, Mr Hancock, because I have to leave for an equally important event for Yorkshire; it is the launch of the Leeds city region bid for the green investment bank—something that colleagues will also support.

My hon. Friend is right about the offering that Yorkshire has, with two national parks, some of the finest coast in the country and a host of attractions. I pay tribute to the wonderful and important work that Welcome to Yorkshire does in promotion. I ask the tourism Minister not only to be a champion for tourism in this country, which I am sure he will be, but to ensure that he speaks to his colleagues in the Treasury—

Order. You are pushing your luck; this is an intervention, not a speech. You have apologised for having to leave, so ask your question and then we will move on.

Thank you, Mr Hancock. I am asking my question now. Can the Minister, in his discussions with the Treasury, ensure that sustainable development cannot include the deliberate closure of pubs and other community assets, which are enormously important to the whole of Yorkshire? People are cashing in those assets for the one fast buck of development, but that is not sustainable development.

That is not a precedent for anyone else. Mr Mulholland, I think you owe the House apologies for that; it was an intervention, not a Member’s speech or a speech in lieu because you had to leave. May we bear that in mind for future reference?

I appreciated that intervention, despite its length. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) said about pubs—I am a fellow member of the all-party save the pub group. The point that he made is incredibly important.

Not only is this country well worth a visit, but the tourism industry is vital to our economy, and the 200,000 businesses directly involved are key contributors to Britain’s economic recovery. They provide £52 billion of our gross domestic product and 4.4% of our jobs, and they have contributed to making tourism one of the fastest growing sectors, providing employment in our most rural communities and enjoyment to millions. The industry accounts for almost £90 billion in direct spending each year and, equally importantly, it rises above north-south or regional divides and creates wealth and employment in all parts of the country. It remains a fantastic, cost-effective way to rebalance the fortunes of the country away from past reliance on financial services, construction and the south-east.

I turn to tourism in Yorkshire. As I am sure we are all aware, Yorkshire is England’s largest county, with a population of 5.5 million—equal to that of Scotland and twice that of Wales. Tourism is the county’s third largest industry and continues to support a quarter of a million jobs and more than 25,000 businesses, many of which are in rural and coastal areas that depend solely on visitors for their livelihoods. I am pleased to see Members representing coastal areas in the Chamber today.

All my Yorkshire colleagues present today are well acquainted with the county’s official destination management organisation, which is called Welcome to Yorkshire. I am delighted to see the senior management team of Welcome to Yorkshire, who are—by sheer coincidence—in the Chamber today. The organisation is widely heralded as a national success story that has transformed the UK tourism landscape. I confess to being, in a previous life, a director of its predecessor, the Yorkshire Tourist Board. What now exists is a completely different beast; Welcome to Yorkshire is doing a fantastic job.

Yesterday, I launched the Stroud special train, which is designed to pick people up from Paddington and take them to Stroud and, obviously, Gloucestershire. The train will run every day, with cheap tickets and advice on what people can and should do once they reach their destination. It seems to have caught the imagination of people in Stroud and the rest of Gloucestershire. Does my hon. Friend think that that kind of thing should be done for Yorkshire? Can he not imagine trains going from King’s Cross to Yorkshire, with the same sort of promotion, tickets and, effectively, navigation of people to the right place?

That is an excellent example. Yorkshire is fortunate to have a good railway service to and from London, but I am sure that the railways Minister might be interested in a similar proposal that involves taking advantage of the high-speed rail network in a few years’ time—such a train could be up in Yorkshire within several minutes, I imagine. The Stroud train is a great initiative and, although we are well served in Yorkshire, it is certainly something we could take on board.

Since Welcome to Yorkshire was launched in 2009, the value of Yorkshire’s tourism has increased from £5.9 billion to £7 billion, adding more than £1 billion to the economy. Its role is to change perceptions of Yorkshire, by projecting a new, dynamic and vibrant county sitting alongside its tradition, history and natural beauty. The Welcome to Yorkshire gates at King’s Cross station fill me with great pride every Monday morning when I arrive in London, reminding everyone that they would surely rather be spending their time in Yorkshire than London.

It goes without saying that Yorkshire is awash with tourism assets, which are the envy of the nation. I do not mean to upset any of my Yorkshire colleagues, but I am sure that they will allow me to mention a handful and that they will put me right if I miss a few. We are lucky enough to host, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), the world’s oldest and greatest cricket festival, at Scarborough. We have two world heritage sites, Studley Royal and Fountains abbey, and Sir Titus Salt’s vision at Saltaire.

We have some fantastic churches, abbeys, minsters and cathedrals—none finer than Selby abbey in my own constituency. The weekend before last, I visited a fantastic small church in the village of Birkin in my constituency, a Norman church which has lasted for all those centuries and is an absolute gem, and a great potential tourist destination. Hopefully, it will not be blighted by the proposed wind farm adjacent to it.

Other great examples of what we have in Yorkshire are UNESCO’s first and only world city of film, Bradford, and six national museums. Yorkshire is arguably the food larder of Europe, and we have 190 independent breweries, which many of us are doing our best to ensure that we visit in the course of this Parliament. We have the seventh most visited attraction in the UK in Flamingo Land. We have more blue plaque awards for quality beaches than any other county, and the world’s No. 1 heritage railway—North Yorkshire Moors railway—which was featured in ITV’s “Heartbeat” and in Harry Potter movies. I could go on.

Our destination management organisation has revolutionised the approach of the UK’s tourism industry as a whole by raising standards and redefining the role of traditional tourist agencies. Its return on investment is impressive, with £40 delivered to the local economy for every £1 invested in the organisation, £18 of which goes back to the Treasury in tax receipts. There is not much not to like about that; it is a great return on investment.

The tourism policy’s aim is to attract greater numbers of visitors over the next four years, and Welcome to Yorkshire has become an innovative international ambassador, tirelessly promoting Britain and, of course, Yorkshire, as leading tourism destinations. It has even been suggested that, within the tourism policy, Yorkshire has become an attack brand, capable of rivalling London as a super-destination for international visitors—although we do not want to stir up too much rivalry.

According to independent research from Visit England, we are succeeding in the role of encouraging more people to visit Yorkshire, to stay longer, and to spend more. In the first quarter of 2011, visits to Yorkshire were up 14% on the same period last year, compared with just a 5% increase throughout the UK as a whole. During the same period, length of stay increased by 15% in Yorkshire, compared with a 2% decrease nationally. Yorkshire also experienced a 25% growth in visitor spend, compared with just 5% for the UK, with overseas spending at 70%, compared with a 7% expenditure increase in the UK overall. In the two years since Welcome to Yorkshire was launched, 4,000 new jobs have been created in the tourism industry in Yorkshire. I have listed many figures, but they are impressive and worth mentioning.

The organisation has won numerous awards, including the world’s leading marketing campaign and Europe’s leading marketing campaign, and has been shortlisted for status as the world’s leading tourist board 2011; I believe that it is England’s only representative, and it is up against the likes of Malaysia, the Maldives and New York. We wish it well with that award. However, the progress and success of Yorkshire’s tourist industry is now at risk.

When Welcome to Yorkshire was launched, it had funding of £10 million a year for three years, but that funding stream ends on 1 April 2012. When it ceases, in just over seven months, its resources will be vastly reduced, leaving it to be funded through a cocktail of revenue streams, including strong private sector support from several thousand businesses that partner the organisation, local authorities and the newly created local enterprise partnerships.

Those new methods of funding are concurrent with the tourism policy’s stated aims for tourism bodies to be less reliant on public funds, and more locally responsive. I support that. It seems all very well, self-sufficient and in order, until one discovers that Visit Scotland received £66 million in funding in 2009-10, the majority of which came from Westminster. As I pointed out, the populations of Yorkshire and Scotland are the same, with similar sized tourism industries, employing 240,000 people in Scotland and 254,000 in Yorkshire, yet Scotland received six times more funding than Yorkshire in that financial year.

When centralised funding ceases on 1 April 2012, Visit Scotland will continue to receive funding from Westminster, but England’s largest county will receive nothing. If we are successfully to rebalance the UK economy, as we all know we must, it is clear that some central funding, not necessarily at the same level as in Scotland, is needed in England for super-destinations such as Yorkshire, which the Government have already identified. I urge the Minister to consider that in great detail.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. He is rightly making the point that tourism is important to local economies, particularly in cities such as Bradford, as is the investment that comes to Bradford from tourism, whether in Haworth or the variety of other assets that we have, and which I will talk about later. Should not the Government recognise that if that funding ceases, and Welcome to Yorkshire does not succeed, local economies such as Bradford will be affected?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The days of going cap in hand to the Government, and of organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire being funded totally from the public purse, are gone, and rightly so, but we must be mindful of the impact of complete cessation of funding. That is the point that I want to raise with the Minister, and I have another suggestion for a way of squaring the circle. The Government’s tourism policy has identified Yorkshire as one of a few elite areas capable of being an internationally attractive super-destination, with pulling power alongside the likes of the Cotswolds, Cornwall, the Peak district and the Lake district. The risk is that, without continuing funding, Yorkshire may no longer be able to keep up.

One idea being bounced around and discussed is that the Government should match-fund the private sector membership of England’s attack brands over a minimum subscription level of £1 million; Welcome to Yorkshire is capable of extracting money from the private sector—from industry in Yorkshire. That would be extremely cost-effective in helping to fulfil the Government’s goal of rebalancing the economy geographically, investing in the success of areas that they have identified as being examples of excellence in UK tourism and helping to increase a major local and national industry, safeguarding jobs and generating additional wealth.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s recent announcement that £3 million will be made available for tourism in connection with the Olympic games, and I am keen to hear from the Minister how much money Yorkshire is likely to receive from that £3 million. Continued support of our leading tourism agencies will also help the Government to achieve their three stated aims of attracting more visitors to Britain, increasing the number of Britons who holiday at home, and improving the sector’s competitiveness and efficiency.

I realise that I am biased towards Yorkshire, as are many of my colleagues. I am Yorkshire born and bred, and I urge the Minister to look at the facts and figures that I have mentioned, all of which prove that Yorkshire is a worthy investment—not only for our visitors’ time, but for the national economy.

I am grateful to my Friend the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) for raising this important debate. I am delighted that members of Welcome to Yorkshire are in the Chamber and that parliamentary colleagues from all parties are united in saying how wonderful Yorkshire is. I say that as a Lancastrian. By an accident of birth, I was born in Salford, but I have lived and worked in Yorkshire all my life, and was educated there, so I hope that that will not be held against me. I fully understand the importance of the tourism industry to Yorkshire, and during my intervention on my hon. Friend I referred to the importance of tourism to economies such as Bradford.

Welcome to Yorkshire and its predecessors have brought people together. In the past, tourism involved competing city against city, area against area. The good news is that Welcome to Yorkshire has brought the whole of Yorkshire together, and collectively its assets and other fantastic attractions, such as culture, sport and recreation, have been packaged together. It fills me with pride whenever I watch adverts about Yorkshire, wherever I am in the UK or indeed the world. Welcome to Yorkshire has united the county to ensure that we maximise what we can from the tourism industry.

The hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty discussed Yorkshire’s various assets, and I could go on at length about the wonders of Bradford. He mentioned Sir Titus Salt’s village, Saltaire. It has a festival this week, and people will be coming from all over the UK to enjoy its benefits and delights, not least the Saltaire brewery. Talking about breweries was a noble attempt by the hon. Gentleman to encourage us to go to as many as possible during the lifetime of this Parliament. I will try to help him, not least by visiting the Timothy Taylor brewery in Keighley, which is world famous for its bitter and other delights. It is a brewery, and it employs people.

Yorkshire has breweries but also culture, and it is amazing what Yorkshire has produced in terms of film, culture and arts. Last week saw the launch of the film “Jane Eyre”, and I understand that a remake of “Wuthering Heights” is due to be released shortly. That shows the impact of Yorkshire. Behind those films are the great delights and wonders of the Bronte family at Haworth, but jobs are connected to those great assets.

We have mentioned breweries and culture. As a former Sports Minister, I wish to talk about sport in Yorkshire. It is fantastic that we have got the Olympics, and it is great to see the Minister, and the shadow Minister my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero), in the Chamber today. We will have the delights of the Olympics next year; there are training camps in Yorkshire, which is fantastic and will boost the economy. Young people will draw benefits from having international athletes in our community.

Sport is important in many other regards. Yorkshire has nine great race courses, which is more than any other county. The race course at York is the jewel in the crown with the one at Doncaster not far behind, but people also enjoy the smaller courses such as those at Wetherby and Ripon. Those assets are important, and Welcome to Yorkshire has increased its spend in Yorkshire and brought people together.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the days of handouts are gone, but the Government must recognise how important it is that organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire continue to operate. We must encourage more people from the private sector and more individuals to become members of Welcome to Yorkshire and to join the crusade of extolling the virtues of Yorkshire. The Government have a role to play not only at national level, but at local level, and we must keep the momentum going. Those who support Welcome to Yorkshire do a fantastic job, and we must ensure that people are behind them.

I hope that the Government will listen to the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the possibility of matching funding and about whether there are other ways we can be creative. As I have said, in cities such as Bradford the tourism industry is perhaps akin to the engineering and textile industries in the past—tourism is a key player in the city’s regeneration. Bradford has a diverse population, and we have the opportunity to enjoy wonderful international cuisine. We are proud of the curry run in Bradford, and people can come for the weekend and enjoy the flavours of Asia.

Bradford has been called “The World in a City” because of the make-up and diversity of its population. That developed over centuries and is based on the wool capital of the north that Bradford once was. I know that the Minister, and the shadow Minister, will recognise the importance of the tourism industry, not only in terms of the beautiful and wonderful things that we see in Yorkshire, but because of the impact that has on our economy. I would be worried if organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire were not supported by the Government and others, and this morning’s debate provides a wonderful opportunity for us to state our thanks to Welcome for Yorkshire for the work it does in the region. I hope that the Minister and the shadow Minister will do what they can to ensure that the momentum that has started will continue.

May I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on securing this debate? Tourism is an important issue in Yorkshire, and it has been important for me during my career. I spent many years working in the tourism sector, first running the marketing team at Going Places, and more recently on the board of Harrogate International Centre. Tourism is a critical part of our local economy, and it is a sector that drives our economic growth. It is the third biggest sector in the county as a whole, and it is the biggest sector of the economy for my part of the county, North Yorkshire. Overall, the industry employs 250,000 people and accounts for just less than 10% of our economy. There is an enormous scale to our tourism industry.

Tourism is a marvellous success story. Visitor numbers are up by 12% this year, which vastly outperforms other parts of the country even when building on high levels of visitors in the first place. I read that we have about 215 million visits to Yorkshire every year, which is more than to Disney worldwide, so the scale is significant. I want to say why the tourism sector in Yorkshire is doing so well, mention a little about the business tourism sector, which is often ignored, and comment on where we might perform a little better.

There are a number of reasons for the encouragingly strong performance by Yorkshire, but the main reason is the quality and variety of the tourism offer. The product is excellent, but it is not a single product and the key is in its variety and choice. Yorkshire delivers a world-class offer in many different sectors of the tourism industry. From family holidays to short breaks, no destination can better match the heady mixture of landscape and heritage offered by Yorkshire. Underpinning much of that is the stunning natural landscape. Yorkshire men often refer to our county as “God’s county”. I have occasionally had a bit of a joke or banter about that with tourism Ministers in the past, but we continue to refer to Yorkshire as God’s county because it is.

Last week, Mintel’s annual British lifestyles survey rated Yorkshire as the happiest place to live in the UK. Yorkshire men and women are more satisfied with their lives than people in any other part of the country, and one reason for that is the abundance of open spaces. The range of accommodation and hospitality available in our county has breadth and quality. Visitors can be catered for in different styles and to different budgets, and the product is very good. It is not possible to drive an industry if the product is poor.

The tourism sector has had a strong product for some years, so what is driving growth and causing visitor numbers to accelerate? I think that it is the combined effort by the industry and the way in which the county has set about selling itself. We saw a change some years ago with the move from marketing campaigns based on destinations, where towns and cities marketed themselves, to more co-ordinated campaigns based on the types of holiday and break available. That is a more customer-driven approach that shows fantastic insight and has been a practical way forward. It has meant the promotion of heritage, art, sport, spa breaks or whatever type of holiday people are looking for. I say sport with a heavy heart, because yesterday Yorkshire county cricket club was relegated. [Hon. Members: “ Shame”.] It is a shame, but I cannot really say any more about that.

That change in the tourism industry has proved extremely successful and combined with the great efforts made to improve the offer available and create new products. Tourism entrepreneurs are bringing new developments to market. Around the Harrogate and Knaresborough area alone, we are seeing new rooms and a spa at Rudding Park hotel, a new golf resort is planned at Flaxby, Harrogate’s Turkish baths have recently been refurbished, and we have the Royal Horticultural Society’s Harlow Carr garden and its successful partnership with Bettys tea rooms. Across the county there is ongoing investment in some of our major stately homes, such as Harewood house and Castle Howard, a location that my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty will know well as he used to live about a mile away from it.

There are efforts to keep what Yorkshire offers live, fresh and new. People will have read recently about aspirations to bring the opening stages of the 2016 Tour de France to Yorkshire, and to host the British leg of the World Rally Championships. Aspirations are high. Underpinning all that, however, must be a culture of service. A holiday destination is not only about product but about the service offered by individuals. That is firmly understood. In Yorkshire, there is always friendly service and a welcoming approach.

There has been a recognition that the area must compete and win as a whole. Community groups and local authorities have been playing a major role. The excellent work of the In Bloom teams, which I support locally, makes our communities not only better places in which to live, but better places for visitors. The Harrogate In Bloom team and their partnership with the borough council’s very good parks department play a critical role in making Harrogate Britain’s premier floral town.

The improvements in Waterside in Knaresborough, driven by the Renaissance Knaresborough group, have improved the walk and the views of the river, the castle and the crag. That iconic Yorkshire view has been much improved.

My point is that we are seeing growth coming from a quality product, good service, an entrepreneurial spirit and effective partnership working, but also from the entrepreneurial vigour with which that is sold. At this stage, I join the praise for Welcome to Yorkshire. The whole team, under the dynamic leadership of Gary Verity, has displayed professionalism and zeal and has really made a difference. It is good to see some of the team in the Public Gallery today.

There is one part of our tourism industry that does not receive as much attention but that can be an important driver of business growth—business tourism. There are huge overlaps between leisure and business tourism. From my experience in Harrogate, I know that visitors who come for conferences often return to the county later for leisure breaks, too. However, that is a different market and, at the moment, it is a troublesome market that has obviously been affected by current economic conditions. As I have said, I was on the board of the Harrogate International Centre. That conference centre brings to the area 300,000 visitors and £150 million of spend and supports more than 5,000 jobs, so business tourism is clearly a major player in my constituency. It has been a success story, irrespective of the current trading difficulties. The drivers of success in that field are, again, investment and partnership working.

I will share a couple of examples to make my point. Investment in new facilities is fundamental. People have to keep their offer up-to-date, relevant and attractive, because many new entrants are challenging for business in the marketplace. In Harrogate at the moment, there is a £13 million scheme to build new exhibition halls. I look forward to that scheme coming online next year, as it will be a significant addition to the offer. I have been very involved in making that deal happen, which will be a huge tonic for our conference industry.

Does my hon. Friend agree that sometimes local authorities could do more in encouraging business tourism, because one of the problems that most businesses face when organising a conference is lack of parking spaces? If we are to encourage more businesses and more business conferences to come to Yorkshire, we need to ensure that there is adequate car parking near any exhibition centre that may be operating.

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Ensuring that the offer is welcoming to visitors is critical. All local authorities should have that in mind all the time. Parking facilities are necessarily an important part of that, but so are other means of transport, too. Local authorities should be working together to secure better parking provision, and they should lobby Ministers and the Highways Agency for improvements in the road and rail networks. I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend’s point.

I was recently at the opening of a trade show, the home and gift show, in the Harrogate International Centre. The organisers told me that they would use the new facility, but I have also spoken to many delegates, who have commented on the importance of transport connections to the decision about where to locate a conference.

The biggest single show in Yorkshire is a mixture of business and leisure. The Great Yorkshire show, organised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, is a magnificent event. It has bucked the trend in agricultural shows by going from strength to strength. Indeed, this year it was just four visitors off its record attendance, so if the Minister had been able to visit God’s county for the show and brought his family, we would have had a record! He should take that as a standing invitation. If he can come up to future events, I will be delighted to provide him with tickets—I would happily buy those. I hope that we can enjoy attending such an event in due course.

There is a strong partnership that helps to promote business tourism in my area. Called Destination Harrogate, it is an association of the leading hotels, which work with the conference centre, the local council and the media to bring business to Harrogate. I support its work, which has been excellent, but there is one example of partnership working that I want to draw to everyone’s attention—the Harrogate hospitality and tourism awards. Those awards are all about celebrating success and outstanding service. It is right to recognise and reward what makes a difference to customers. The awards are used by a variety of local players to showcase their offer to visitors and to build relationships.

I am conscious that I am describing the factors involved in making a successful sector even more successful, but it is not without its problems. Other hon. Members have spoken about funding. I want to highlight a feature that the industry is talking about a lot at the moment—a potential subsidy being paid by local councils to conference organisers to bring their conference to a venue. The team at the Harrogate conference centre think that that is a major factor in the market and have questioned whether it is appropriate for local councils to use council tax or Government grants in that way. I am not sure whether that is classed as state aid, so its legality might be questionable. The issue needs to be explored.

One factor that is a key challenge for the future of our industry is the transport infrastructure. There are 220 trains a day from London to Yorkshire, but we certainly have room for improvement. As a region, we have not enjoyed the same long-term investment in transport as other regions, but I can say to the people of Yorkshire that they have a new set of MPs, who are working together to address that issue. I have been working with the chamber of trade and commerce in Harrogate to secure better rail connections. We have secured our first direct London-to-Harrogate service in 20 years and are now working on a scheme of improvements to the Leeds, Harrogate and York line. I applaud the work done by the chamber of trade and commerce.

A major problem is our lack of air links. Direct links to Heathrow or Gatwick do not exist. We need connecting flights, but we do not have them. That is a factor in our performance in the international business exhibition market. Indeed, I think that transport is a reason why the UK underperforms in the huge international business exhibition market.

Overall, however, the tourism industry in Yorkshire is doing well. The reasons for that growth are quality products, new investment, excellent service, working together and good marketing. Those are sound ways in which to grow any industry for the future. The industry understands what drives it and is determined to make it even better. Indeed, there are lessons from Yorkshire that the rest of the country could learn. I hope that as a country we do learn them, because tourism could be at the heart of the economic recovery that we all need.

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship again, Mr Hancock. It is also a great pleasure to speak in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on securing a debate that is so important to our region. I echo the sentiments already expressed by fellow Yorkshire Members on both sides of the Chamber.

Tourism is a key economic driver across the Yorkshire region as a whole and to the city of York directly, creating 23,000 jobs in the city, generating £433 million for the local economy and promoting the many visible and, indeed, hidden treasures of God’s own county to more than 7 million visitors a year.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty has said, the Prime Minister made a key speech in August 2010 about the importance of tourism to the UK economy. Tourism is worth at least £47 billion a year to the UK economy, with more than 1.7 million people employed in the sector at present. Throughout his speech, the Prime Minister admirably stressed the importance of a renewed focus on tourism and the need for Britain to break into the top five in the World Economic Forum’s travel and tourism competitiveness ratings.

If Britain is to achieve that goal, a vibrant, growing and resilient tourism sector across Yorkshire will be crucial. However, too many people still automatically think of London when they think of British tourism. The capital is indeed a remarkable and historic place, and it is undoubtedly one of the greatest cities in the world—up there even with the great city of York. However, there is more to Britain than London, and if we are to boost the tourism sector, we need to boost our support for local tourism in regions across the country. With that, I pay tribute to Welcome to Yorkshire’s success in our region, from innovative advertising to key partnership working.

My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty has mentioned King’s Cross station. Similarly, on the few times I fly into Manchester airport, I see the sign saying “Gateway to Yorkshire”, which always lifts the heart of any Yorkshire man. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) has had to leave, but he is a keen Manchester United supporter, and he will have seen that sign many times.

As one of the two MPs for the city of York, I shall focus particularly on tourism in York. As many Yorkshire colleagues present will testify, York is a beautiful and historic city. It is situated on the banks of the River Ouse and surrounded by quaint villages and spectacular landscapes. From its Roman ruins and Viking remains to the industrial legacy of the National Railway museum and the jewel in the crown that is York minster, York is truly one of Europe’s most inspirational and eye-catching destinations.

More than 1 million people a year walk on the city’s historic walls. For a Yorkshire man or woman, it is almost a ritual to be walked over the walls by their father or grandfather as a young child. Originally designed to defend the city from attack, the walls now stand as a proud symbol of York’s history and international standing.

The challenge for York, as for so many areas, is to compete in an increasingly tough tourism market during extremely difficult economic times. That is why regional partnership working, which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) has mentioned, is so important. York has already benefited from such partnership working, which brought about the refurbishment of the Yorkshire museum, which now receives record numbers of visitors.

Yorkshire racing and the Ebor festival are other examples. The hon. Member for Bradford South touched on Yorkshire racing, and Welcome to Yorkshire got involved in promoting racing across the region two years ago. This year, the numbers at the Ebor festival were up 16% on the back of record attendance figures last year. Some 360,000 people visited the race course last year—the highest number since racing started on the Knavesmire in York in 1761. Members should think of the impact those growth figures have on the economy of not only York but the wider region. Similarly, the production of “The Railway Children” in London lifted visitor numbers at the National Railway museum by 6%.

I welcome the Government’s tourism strategy, which they published in March, and I agree with their three aims of launching a £100 million marketing campaign, increasing the proportion of UK residents holidaying in the UK and increasing the sector’s productivity—no one can argue against those—but we must make sure that the money is channelled through the right areas to deliver the biggest impact.

I acknowledge the important role played by local authorities in promoting local tourism, and I congratulate the Minister on a policy that will incentivise local authorities to do more on that front. I hope reforming business rates revenue will ensure that local authorities reap the full rewards of their tourism strategies, rather than simply picking up the costs. Such incentives should drive City of York council to do even more to promote the city’s tourism industry. I would, however, be interested to learn the Minister’s thoughts on the role played by local enterprise partnerships in local tourism. How much responsibility for tourism are those new bodies expected to pick up in the coming years?

In his speech last August, the Prime Minister stated that

“tourism is one of the missing pieces in the UK’s economic strategy.”

I agree wholeheartedly with those sentiments, and I would be grateful if the Minister were to provide an update on the Government’s work internationally to promote tourism in Britain and specifically in Yorkshire. Likewise, the creation of business-friendly conditions is key to supporting the tourism sector in cities such as York. Such conditions encourage entrepreneurship and support small local businesses, which are crucial to York’s vibrant atmosphere. I would therefore be grateful for the Minister’s thoughts on whether the Government are doing enough on that front.

I want briefly to mention the funding of Visit York. Visit York is having to apply for alternative funding, and one of its bids is being made to the regional growth fund via VisitEngland. Given that it faces budget cuts, I would be grateful if the Minister could advise it on how best to apply for funds elsewhere and if he could give us his thoughts on how partnership working across the region might drive economies of scale.

I appeal to the Government to retain their strong focus on tourism. The sector needs encouragement and reassurance. Cities such as York have much to offer, as long as enough support is provided during economically challenging times. As a result of the dynamic and innovative work of Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit York and the partnerships they have formed, the tourism industry in our region is in great heart. Those bodies have proved themselves great wealth creators in our region, and that must always be remembered in any funding formula. For that success to continue, however, we need a level playing field. In that respect, I support my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty in his drive for matched funding for the tourism industry.

As I have mentioned, the city of York and our region have a magnificent story to tell visitors, but we, as representatives of our region, also play a role, in proudly talking about our beautiful, historic county and in promoting its many delights and attractions.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hancock. It is also a pleasure to respond on behalf of the Opposition. I congratulate the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on securing this important debate. He spoke passionately about the issue and posed some good questions, which I hope the Minister will address.

I echo many of the things that have been said about Yorkshire, because, as hon. Members may be able to tell from my accent, I am originally a Yorkshire girl. Everybody in the room has a responsibility to ensure that Yorkshire and its tourism industry stay on the agenda. As the hon. Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) said, the debate is an important part of that.

I am from Bradford, and it is good to see my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) here. He is my mum and dad’s MP, and I know how proud he is of his constituency and how hard he works to promote Bradford. He has also done a fine job of promoting Yorkshire today.

Tourism is incredibly important for the survival and continuing regeneration of many regions such as Yorkshire; it creates huge numbers of jobs for people directly employed in the industry and for many thousands more working in similar industries. Its importance to our national economy is highlighted by the fact that it is our fifth largest industry. According to figures from Yorkshire Forward, tourism contributes billions of pounds to the regional economy.

Tourism should feature strongly in our strategy for economic recovery. I know that Britain cannot afford to give the industry a specific VAT cut at this time, but does the Minister accept that this is perhaps not the right time for the Chancellor to hike up VAT?

It is not hard to see why Yorkshire is popular with tourists and so valuable to the economy. It has everything, from the hidden gem of Selby abbey, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty, to Scarborough, which was one of the first seaside resorts in Britain, to great moors and coastlines. It also has cities such as York and Leeds and shopping complexes such as Meadowhall. The hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty is rightly proud of the region.

I have learned some new facts about Yorkshire from the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones). We all know about the landscape and heritage, but I did not know that it was the happiest place to live in. I have enjoyed tea and cake at Bettys, and it is a fantastic part of Harrogate.

Can I add to that impressive list the enjoyment of fresh crab and lobster at Bridlington, Britain’s largest shellfish port?

I remember the odd school trip to Bridlington. I did not have any crab then, but perhaps I will now, as a grown-up.

As people have said, tourism is about more than economics. It has the magical ability to conjure up dreams and create special memories. I grew up in Bradford, and I remember vividly the opening of the National Media museum, where my dad used to take me when I was a little girl. That museum did so much to capture my imagination. It was there that I learned about how television was made, and its history. That broadened my horizons, and who knows whether it was responsible for my choosing a career in TV before I came to this place? There was a mat to sit on, which would transform, by means of the television screen in front, into a flying carpet to transport visitors to far-flung places. I went back to the museum a couple of years ago and the flying carpet mat had gone, but the special effects meant that people could transport themselves to outside 10 Downing street, to be a reporter. That offered a little less magic to me, as that was my job at the time.

Another pleasure when I was growing up was Haworth, down the road. I am sure that it was the main reason I fell in love, as a teenager, with Emily Bronte’s book “Wuthering Heights”, and went walking the moors wondering when my Heathcliff would come. Those moors brought the novel to life for me, and I am sure that they do for many tourists. That reminds us that tourism is not only about people from different counties or countries, but can be for people from nearby in the same county: it can expand people’s horizons. It can expand the taste buds too. Much to the horror of my Italian parents, spag bol was not my food of choice, because, as everyone knows, Bradford has a reputation for fantastic curries, and I became a devoted convert. I wish Bradford and Sheffield well, as they have both been nominated for the Curry Capital of Britain award. It would not surprise me if Yorkshire were to add another award to its growing list.

With brilliant attractions on our doorstep, it is important to make sure that everyone knows about them, and that people do not miss out. That is why hon. Members are right to point out the importance of promotion. I am originally from Bradford, and am the shadow Minister for Culture and Tourism, but I did not know until recently that my birthplace beat cities such as Los Angeles, Cannes and Venice to achieve UNESCO city of film status. If I did not know that, what are the chances that someone from Japan, or even someone from Jarrow, will know?

Spending on promoting Britain and its wonderful regions should not be seen as an unnecessary cost; it brings valuable cashinto Britain too. I am sure that the Minister is all too aware of figures that show that money spent on promoting tourism can be extremely cost-effective. For instance, Welcome to Yorkshire was launched in April 2009 with regional development agency funding from Yorkshire Forward of £10 million a year for three years. According to Welcome to Yorkshire, for every £1 invested, it has delivered £40 back into the local economy. However, the Minister will know that it is in the dark about its financial future, with the impending closure of the regional development agencies. When regional funding ceases in April 2012, it will be interesting to see what effect the Government’s new enterprise partnerships will have on the tourism industry. If regions such as Yorkshire are not protected and developed, and if budgets to attract tourists to them are slashed, people may simply go elsewhere.

The Labour Government worked hard to ensure that the British isles were once again becoming an attractive place in which to live and work and enjoy simple pleasures such as the Yorkshire moors, Whitby bay, Bradford and Selby—places where vast numbers of people show their support with their feet and their wallets. Yorkshire is a wonderful place and I hope that it has a wonderful future.

I have a few questions for the Minister. What does he believe will be the impact of the VAT hike on the Yorkshire tourist industry? What does the Government tourism strategy have to offer the Yorkshire tourist industry? Does the Minister appreciate that spending on promoting Britain and Yorkshire should not be viewed just as a cost, since it brings in cash? Will he give an assurance that Welcome to Yorkshire will receive some financial support from the Government, after April 2012? Finally, to echo what the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty said, will the Minister tell us about the funding anomaly in relation to Scotland?

It is a pleasure to know that you are here this morning, Mr Hancock, to provide a firm hand and make sure that we stay in order. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on getting the debate under way. It is tremendously helpful to be able to mark the contribution that Yorkshire makes to tourism, because Yorkshire is one of our most important attack brands—I think that is the phrase that my hon. Friend used—and a potential alternative to established tourism honey pots such as London. Providing us with a chance to consider how to pursue that potential is a tremendously worthwhile and intelligent use of time.

Everyone in the debate, across the party divide, seems to agree on the importance of tourism overall to Britain’s economy. I shall not repeat the various figures that have been cited and points that have been made, but it is helpful and instructive to note that one of the Prime Minister’s main intentions in making his speech on tourism within the first 100 days of the coalition Government was to raise the profile of tourism as a sector of the visitor economy overall. The reason why he did that, apart from the fact that I was cheeky enough to ask him to, was his feeling that it was important to nail down the point that although tourism and the visitor economy as a whole have been an important part of the economy for many years, they have perhaps been slightly undervalued and under-appreciated. There was a need to raise their profile. That is also why the Prime Minister appointed, for the first time in many years, a dedicated tourism Minister—in the shape of myself—in an attempt to give the sector a fair crack of the whip.

All that attention, focus and constructive and helpful input, from all sorts of people around the industry and Members of Parliament on both sides of the divide, led to the tourism strategy that was published in March, which several hon. Members have mentioned. I hope that the strategy will create—again, for the first time in many years—a focus and sense of overall direction for our visitor economy and that it will give people something to get behind, a template to work to. However, it will be a slightly different kind of template from those that people have been used to in the past. The intention is to say, “Tourism involves a very large number of small and medium-sized businesses, and therefore it is wrong to try to treat the industry as a single organisation.” In fact, it would be counter-productive and destructive of value to do so.

There will not be a grand, centrally planned Stalinist master plan handed down from my office about how we shall pass investment between different parts of Britain and different sectors of the visitor economy. Instead, we must have a much more bottom-up, organic approach, through which local destinations can say, “This is what we need in our area.” What is right for Harrogate will be different from what is right for York or Scarborough. That is entirely correct, and the people best placed to understand the different responsibilities and priorities in each area are inevitably the businesses that operate in those local markets, which are trying to make their living in those local destinations.

I understand the thrust of what the Minister says about small and medium-sized businesses, but it is important that there should be an overarching organisation. As I said in my speech, before the tourist board and Welcome to Yorkshire, areas competed against each other. There is a need for co-ordination. That is why we are concerned about the long-term future of Welcome to Yorkshire.

I completely agree; I am not talking about an either-or option. We need the bottom-up, organic, business-led approach, because that is what will give our management and marketing efforts to grow the local visitor economy in each destination more commercial edge and nous. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the approach must not be at the expense of other areas or trying to do down neighbouring destinations, particularly those that could themselves be a vital attack brand or an overall destination. If he will hold his horses for a moment, I will come to the point about Yorkshire’s overall position as a potential rival to London, alongside the Peak district, Cornwall, the Lake district and others.

There is an important difference in the way that we are trying to approach things, in that local destination management organisations will increasingly become more business-led and commercially savvy but still be supported by local councils, local enterprise partnerships and all sorts of other public sector bodies, particularly where tourism is an important part of the local economy, such as in large parts of Yorkshire.

Tourism’s place in the pecking order will obviously vary from place to place, but there is no doubt, as we heard this morning, that the visitor economy is an extremely important part of the local economy right across Yorkshire, and local councils and other public bodies will naturally want to support tourism in whatever way they can. Again, however, we hope that they will be supporting and backing up a business-led organisation—one that has that extra commercial nous. In creating those organisations, I hope that we will have started to change the culture of the business and the way in which we approach the matter.

Before speaking about how we might create rival attack brands or alternatives to London, I should make clear that all the contributions made today show that Yorkshire has a great sense of place and of a shared culture and history. That is a huge advantage when creating an alternative to London and rival destinations. There is a huge sense of pride in a shared Yorkshireness.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) said that in the past he and I have been prone to a little banter on the relative merits of Yorkshire and my county of Somerset. I shall not intrude on private grief by alluding too often to the Yorkshire cricket team, but I was pleased to hear the selfless offer made by the hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) to arrange a tour of the Yorkshire breweries. I am sure that many Members here today would be willing to assist him.

Having spoken about breweries, I mention in passing the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland), who was concerned about pub closures. I remind the House that the Government recently announced what I hope will be a valuable initiative, one that will help many more of those pubs that have been struggling to stay open. It is a strong consultation on deregulation and reducing the red tape on entertainment licensing. That will clearly be very important for a great many pubs that currently find it difficult, time-consuming and awkward to lay on music. I believe that that will make a huge difference to the future success of many pubs, both rural ones and those in city centres.

I speak next about establishing Yorkshire as an overall destination, as well as a place that contains many local tourism gems. As everyone else has done so, and because they deserve it, I add my congratulations to the people of Welcome to Yorkshire. It is a good example—I am boring the rest of the country with it—of a high-functioning, well run and effective local destination management organisation, and Yorkshire can be proud of it. The organisation will be at the front and centre in the drive to establish Yorkshire as an alternative destination, and an attack brand to attract people to other parts of the country rather than simply to London. It is important that we make the effort.

London is a hugely valuable tourism asset to Britain. It is the single most visited area of the country. However, we need to use London as a way not only of attracting people to Britain but of making it their first stop before they move out and visit all the other things that we have to offer. As Minister with responsibility for tourism, I do not much mind if that means Cornwall, the Lake district or Yorkshire, but we must have credible alternatives. That is why I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough talk about the importance of investing in the product and ensuring that the attractions and accommodation are kept up to standard. He is right to say that it is impossible to drive success in this industry without a product that is worth promoting.

Once we have created a high quality and good value product—I mean good value at all price points, from the cheapest to the poshest and most expensive—we must ensure that people understand that going for a weekend to York is fine but that they can spend longer there, perhaps spending an entire week visiting the whole of Yorkshire. That is the kind of challenge that we must get across; we must ensure that people understand the richness, breadth and diversity of the various things that can be done in places such as Yorkshire. It should not matter if people go to Yorkshire for a particular purpose; there are always other things to tack on the end. If one goes with the family, the children will not be bored. There will always be something new and different to do.

It is important that organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire put across the message of a rich and diverse tourism offer. Destination management organisations are not the same as destination marketing organisations, and the difference is crucial. We need management organisations to act as the voice of the visitor when talking to local public bodies, be they local councils, LEPs or whatever. It is important that locally elected councillors and other politicians have somebody to remind them what visitors want because, by definition, visitors come from elsewhere and do not have a local vote.

We need somebody to stand up and speak up for the local tourism industry on behalf of its customers; when councils are considering how, for example, to renew or regenerate a piece of public space—perhaps an old market square—we must ensure that the needs of the tourists are considered at the same time as those of local people. Those needs can often be entirely congruent and aligned, but occasionally the needs of the visitor will be slightly different from or additional to what local people want, so it is vital that we have organisations strong and vibrant enough to speak when the moment strikes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty raised some important questions about funding. I wish to develop my argument in response to those questions, possibly wrapping up the various queries raised by others during the debate. My hon. Friend was entirely right to say that there are different levels of funding around the country, but we are in a transition period at the moment. The old regime of regional development agency funding is coming to an end, and new sources of funding are being found by destination management organisations around the country.

My hon. Friend was right to point out that DMOs take a different approach in Scotland. It is worth pointing out that domestic tourism in Scotland is a devolved matter; it is the responsibility of the Scottish Executive. Having taken the overall funding devolved under the Barnett formula, they may make decisions about the relative priorities for spending in Scotland that are different from those made in England. If they want a different trade-off between the health service spending and tourism, they are entitled to make it. None the less, and however those local priorities are assigned, we in England have to ensure that we make the best of our overall funding allowance.

My hon. Friend mentioned the efforts that we are making to promote Britain abroad and to attract more foreign visitors. That is going pretty well. I suspect that few Members will have seen our advertisements or marketing, because by definition they are being applied in foreign markets. They are being targeted at the top 20 or so most important markets for visitors to the UK. They include some of what I would call the near abroad, in western Europe, which may have been a little ignored in the past; it also includes some traditionally strong markets for the UK, such as the USA and Canada. It also includes some of the high-potential, fast-growing but historically small contributors to our visitor base, such as China, Russia and Brazil. Those are working well, and we are seeing strong levels of interest.

As will be understood, we also have a series of amazing and wonderful events to add to our existing attractions, not only in 2012 but in future years. Next year we have Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee. We also have the Olympic and Paralympic games and the cultural Olympiad, and in 2012 and 2014 we will have the two flavours of rugby world cup. We have the Commonwealth games, the Ryder cup and so on and so forth. There is a whole stream of wonderful opportunities that we can use to raise the profile around the world of Britain as a destination.

The point that I want make to hon. Members here and to the industry more broadly is that those events are not the main course. They are not the moment when we will see huge increases in the numbers of visitors, although we expect and hope to see influxes of visitors around the events themselves. The really big-value opportunity here lies in the fact that events such as the Olympics will probably attract the single biggest TV audience that this planet has ever seen, which gives us an unparalleled, historic opportunity to demonstrate all the wonderful things that Yorkshire and other parts of Britain can offer to the rest of the world. We want the people who cannot come to the Olympics or the Paralympics next year to watch the events on TV and think, “You know what, I may not have been able to get there for the games themselves, but I fancy going to see all those things that are available in Britain in 2013, 2014 or 2015.” That is the big opportunity that the international marketing campaign is aiming to use.

There are also some domestic funding opportunities and targets that we want to explore. Various Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy), mentioned the reform of business rates. Those rates are tremendously important as a source of public sector funding. By reforming them and giving councils an opportunity to share in the proceeds of local economic growth by retaining some of the increased business rates that are generated, we change the mindset of councils about investing in local tourism. From being something that was not a statutory duty—it still is not a statutory duty—and was, in many cases, viewed as a cost and something for which local councils got very little return, it will hopefully be seen by local councils as an opportunity to invest in a successful local business. We expect them to say, “If we put some money into local tourism, either into marketing a local destination or into investing in infrastructure, we have an opportunity to drive economic growth very effectively.”

The figures that have been quoted in this morning’s debate show that tourism is an extremely rapid and financially efficient way of driving economic growth. It is also a way of driving economic growth that is not centred on the south-east or on one or two of our traditional sectoral strengths such as financial services.

Tourism, therefore, ticks a great many boxes. It is instructive to see what has already been done by successful organisations such as Welcome to Yorkshire. The local rates of economic growth in the sector far, far outstrip those of the economy as a whole. From the Treasury’s point of view, that has to be good because it shows that the tourism sector and the visitor economy as a whole has a huge potential and is already delivering on that potential to be a leader in the country’s economic recovery. The reform of business rates is crucial and will provide important incentives for local councils and other public bodies to invest in local tourism organisations.

It is also true that local tourism businesses are increasingly willing to get involved. If they contribute to local destination collective marketing campaigns, they will see positive returns to their businesses as well. It is important to draw a distinction here. In the past, in some parts of the country—there have been notable and honourable exceptions to this—local councils and local councillors have gone round and effectively twisted the arms of local tourism firms to contribute to a local tourism marketing campaign, which has never been a terribly effective system. It was driven more by the mayor’s desire to wander into the local tourism and information centre and see his picture and a foreword from him on the front of a leaflet rather than to put heads on beds or bums on seats and drive top line revenue for local tourism businesses.

If we move away from that and have business-led organisations, we will achieve our aims because those organisations will have an extra commercial edge. If we start running campaigns that genuinely make a difference to local tourism businesses, and make more of a difference to those that have contributed to a collective pot than the ones that have decided to free-ride, we will have something that is not an exercise in corporate philanthropy or council arm-twisting but makes good commercial sense because it justifies its own place in any local tourism companies’ local marketing plans. Equally, it will make more sense to participate than not to participate. Firms that participate in the scheme will do better that those that do not. Those are simple, clear incentives that will transform the way in which local tourism bodies work. They will also transform the incentives for local companies and local councils to get involved. What that means—this is already happening in many parts of the country—is that we will get locally organised, locally run and locally focused shared marketing campaigns that are funded by contributions from local businesses, and backed up by local tourism and marketing organisations, often with the support of local councils.

It would be remiss of me to pass over the issue of ongoing central Government support. There is the regional growth fund, into which a number of what I hope will be highly successful tourism-related bids have gone for consideration. Those bids vary in size from the small to the extremely large. We hope and expect that many of them will be compelling when they are being considered.

Yesterday’s announcement on the torch relay was also mentioned. We are using £3 million of central Government money to leverage local tourism money from different parts of the country. There will be a strong discount-led offer for anyone who wants to book a trip to a destination where the torch relay is happening. The trip does not have to take place at the same time as the torch relay, but it has to be booked while the relay is happening. We will use that unique event to highlight the wonderful things that visitors can do in York or in Harrogate or wherever the relay may be happening. It is a golden opportunity to leverage a lovely piece of Olympics-related public relations in a way that will stimulate local tourism demand. Therefore, there will be a series of central Government initiatives designed to drive Olympic-related tourism activity.

I hope that I have responded to all the points that have been raised and that it is clear that there is a great deal of commitment to tourism both in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the country, a high degree of pride in the kind of tourism opportunities that counties such as Yorkshire provide, and a huge excitement in the potential that places such as Yorkshire have to put across the breadth and depth of what they have to offer to potential visitors, thus enabling them to become rivals to London and alternative centres for extended stays rather just short breaks.

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the opportunities for Yorkshire tourism are bright. The future looks very good indeed. We must understand that landing those opportunities will require huge amounts of hard work, but with the cross-party commitment and local pride that has been on offer today, I am sure that we will manage to do so.

Sitting suspended.