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Volume 569: debated on Thursday 31 October 2013

The Government place great importance on tourism. It is an excellent part of our growth strategy, which is why we are investing over £130 million, matched between the public and private sectors, in the GREAT and other marketing campaigns, both at home and abroad.

Following a very successful summer in South Thanet, profiling some of my beautiful beaches, I was very much hoping that the Government might reopen the issue of daylight saving, which would deliver £3 billion extra to the economy and 700,000 jobs in the tourism sector.

I know that my hon. Friend is a passionate advocate of tourism in her area, and I have been fortunate in being able to visit her constituency. However, as the Prime Minister made clear quite recently, in the absence of consensus on this matter throughout the UK—including in Scotland and Northern Ireland—it would be inappropriate to consider making changes.

With 8,000 people in Worcestershire—the glorious county that gave birth to Edward Elgar—working in the tourism industry, will the Minister welcome the 13.5% increase in long-haul flights into Birmingham airport? Will she also welcome the news that, in 2014, the runway will be lengthened and even more markets will be able to access tourism in Worcestershire?

I am happy to welcome both pieces of positive news. I know that my hon. Friend’s constituency is very beautiful, so I can well understand why so many people would wish to flock to it.

May I push the Minister on the arts as part of the tourism attraction? People come to this great country for our great artistic endeavours, but we have arts in the regions, and is it not about time that, through the Arts Council and other means, the regions got the support they deserve—rather than just, “London, London, London”?

A total of 70% of funding goes to the regions, which is a very positive story. I have to say that Labour Members did little about this when they had the opportunity to do so.

What specific proposals has the Minister for the promotion of world heritage sites? Ironbridge Gorge is an incredibly important world heritage site, and an engine for the regional economy in the west midlands. We are missing a trick as a nation by not promoting such sites more strongly.

VisitEngland and VisitBritain do very good work, and I am sure they both have comprehensive strategies, but the hon. Gentleman has made a good point. I shall be happy to meet him and hear about any ideas that he may have, and I shall certainly pass them on.

One iconic institution that attracts a lot of tourism into the United Kingdom—and, indeed, within the United Kingdom—is the great British pub, where people can enjoy tremendous real ales, tremendous food and a wonderful welcome, but far too many pubs are still closing every week. Will my hon. Friend discuss with fellow Ministers what more can be done to retain the vitality of this amazing industry, particularly in the realms of rate relief for rural pubs?

I am very fond of my own local pub, the Unicorn in Marden, and I do step in there now and again. I reassure my hon. Friend that we are doing a great deal to assist the business sector, and that includes helping pubs by reducing fuel and beer duties. We are also trying to simplify planning, and are continuing to cut red tape, regulation and bureaucracy.

The Minister will, of course, have noticed that Scotland has been named the third best place to visit in 2014 by the “Lonely Planet” travel guide. The guide cites a

“jam-packed schedule of world class events”,

including the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games, as well as our

“buzzing cities and stunning scenery”,

much of which is in my constituency. It also notes that the referendum gives Scotland an opportunity to

“shine on the world stage”.

Does the Minister agree that, without even a vote being cast, Scotland has already won?

Scotland is a wonderful place in which to live and work, and I am sure that it will put on an absolutely fantastic Commonwealth games event next year. I look forward to my next trip up there. I grew up in the borders and spent many a time in Dumfriesshire and Gretna Green, so I know what a beautiful place it is.