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Volume 600: debated on Thursday 22 October 2015

8. What progress the Government have made on implementing their five-point plan for tourism published in July 2015. (901730)

This Government back tourism and want to spread the benefits throughout the country. That requires concerted and sustained action across Government, and in partnership with the sector on jobs and skills, transport, regulation, and the great British welcome. Last month, I chaired the first meeting of our inter-ministerial group on tourism to co-ordinate work. The new Tourism Industry Council and Business Visits and Events Board will be meeting later this autumn to advise on our approach.

I assure my right hon. Friend that the Government’s new focus on tourism is hugely welcomed across the west country. He highlighted the fact that part of this plan is the promotion of skills and jobs in the tourist sector. Is he aware that, as a result of our booming food and hospitality industry in Cornwall, there is currently a large shortage of qualified chefs? Can he assure me that the promotion and provision of skills in the food and hospitality sector will be part of the strategy?

I very much agree. We are indeed aware that some of the finest restaurants in the world are based on these shores, not least in Cornwall. All tourists want something good to eat, and we should try to ensure that they get it. We are taking action in this area. For example, one of the Government’s trailblazer apprenticeship programmes announced by the Prime Minister centres on professional chefs, and we will be looking further at the important issue of skills as part of a reformed Tourism Industry Council. I would be happy to hear any other ideas that my hon. Friend has on the issue.

Tourism is worth £3.8 billion and 49,000 jobs to the Liverpool city region. Attractions include the Gormley statues on Crosby beach in my constituency, which I hope the Secretary of State will visit, if he has not already done so. However, those who go to the VisitEngland website would be forgiven for thinking that everything is about London; apart from the odd reference, there is nothing about the rest of the country. Will he address that point and ensure that Government investment and support goes to the tourism industry across the country?

I welcome London’s success in attracting international visitors—it is the most visited city in the world—but I agree that our next challenge is to persuade visitors to this country of the fact that there are many attractions outside London, not least in Liverpool. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his invitation to see the Gormley statues, which I hope I will have an opportunity to do.

12. Does the Secretary of State recognise the importance of infrastructure in promoting tourism? Will he lend his support to the Robin Hood line so that more people can come and enjoy Sherwood forest and all it has to offer? (901736)

A key element of our five-point plan for tourism is ensuring that tourists visit places outside London, as I have said, and that requires good infrastructure covering road, air and, of course, rail. Of specific interest to my hon. Friend and his constituents will be the work that the Rail Safety and Standards Board is doing on a “rail for tourism” programme, which we hope will be launched in January.