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Volume 638: debated on Thursday 22 March 2018

This week is English Tourism Week, and more than 50 Members of Parliament are doing constituency days tomorrow. The Government’s tourism action plan outlines the ways in which we support tourism, both domestic and international, throughout the UK, and VisitBritain works hard to promote Britain as both an international tourist destination and, of course, one for domestic visitors.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. As this is English Tourism Week, may I draw his attention to the wool towns project in Suffolk, where five of our beautiful medieval wool towns—Sudbury, Hadleigh, Long Melford, Lavenham and Clare—are joining together to draw more tourists to the area? I send him a warm invitation to visit the wool towns and to meet the stakeholders who are working so hard to make this happen.

Yes indeed. I thank my colleague for his interest in this area, and I will always support my colleagues in their efforts to improve the visitor economy in their constituencies. I hope that we can indeed organise a visit to the wool towns. In the meantime, I advise him in the first instance to look into the Discover England fund, which is a great fund. Also, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has the Coastal Communities fund, and sources of funding for initiatives that support the local visitor economy.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but this question is on tourism throughout the UK. Earlier this month at the Welsh tourism awards, the Brecon Beacons in my constituency was announced as the best tourist destination in Wales—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I knew that, and the Secretary of State knew that, and evidently many Members in this House knew that as well, but how can we tell the rest of the world about it so that they will come and visit?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State knew that as well, and I certainly want to congratulate the Brecon Beacons national park on its award. We are working closely with our national parks, which are real jewels in our tourism crown, to ensure that visitors enjoy our beautiful countryside, and thanks to Members of Parliament such as my hon. Friend, that message is being well and truly transmitted.

I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on industrial heritage. Our history is of course about beautiful stately homes, but it is equally about the history of working people. What steps can we take to ensure that our industrial heritage gets its fair share of advertising space in our ports and airports, where it can be seen by tourists visiting the UK?

The Black Country Museum and other heritage sites are very important to our economy. The heritage aspects of this country are one of the principal reasons that people within the United Kingdom visit sites around our country, and we value them greatly. In fact, a recent report has indicated that UK hotels, including those around heritage sites, received some £5 billion of investment in expansions and openings last year. That is driven by record tourism figures, and it is thanks to our heritage sites that we can promote that tourism.

Will the Minister explain why lottery funding, which supports tourism, is so unequal? Since 1995, the Secretary of State’s West Suffolk constituency has received more than £22 million, compared with just £13 million in Barnsley East.

It is arm’s-length bodies that allocate that funding, and the reality is that 70% to 75% of all funding goes outside the London area. Of course we want to encourage as much funding throughout the United Kingdom as possible.

The merits of rural tourism are well understood by the Minister. May I also urge him to join up the dots and use the opportunities to promote rural tourism, and to offer those who visit rural areas a better understanding of food, agriculture and food production?

Yes, indeed. The Prime Minister herself acknowledges the wonderful aspects of our rural tourism through the walks that we know she enjoys. Our rural economy benefits hugely from tourism.

Great Grimsby is of course known for its fishing heritage, and it has the wonderful National Fishing Heritage Centre in its town centre, but our history goes far beyond that. Grimsby has its very own original seal from the signing of the town’s charter in 1201. Will the Secretary of State and his Ministers assist me in promoting this important part of our history, perhaps starting with a display in this place?

Of course a document dating from 1201 is very much worth visiting, and we would encourage visits to the hon. Lady’s constituency in order to do that. It is a matter for Parliament whether documents are hosted here, but we would certainly encourage as many people as possible to visit her constituency to see the wonderful things on offer.