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Volume 648: debated on Thursday 1 November 2018

Tourism is hugely important for the UK. One of my major focuses is to encourage visitors from across the world to visit the whole of the United Kingdom. We provide financial support through both VisitBritain and VisitEngland, which are responsible for promoting the UK through a range of initiatives and campaigns.

One of the many reasons why millions of people from around the world come to the UK and Scotland is because of our world-class food and drink sector, of which Angus is a powerhouse—the Minister is very welcome to come and taste our Forfar bridie whenever he wishes. Can he reassure me that the UK Government are working to support the Scottish food and drink industry, and to develop the necessary links between that sector and the UK tourism industry?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question because we are working hard to protect and promote some of our world-leading produce, and she is doing a wonderful job in her Angus constituency with regard to tourism as well as many other areas. I am sure that she will join me in welcoming the Chancellor’s Budget because the support it shows to the whisky industry by freezing duty clearly helps. Food and drink is particularly important. I attended a board meeting yesterday of the GREAT campaign, which covers Scotland, and I am disappointed that the Scottish Government have not been as supportive of that campaign as my hon. Friend.

West Oxfordshire has many famous tourist attractions that bring economic benefits to the surrounding areas, including Blenheim Palace, which attracts almost 1 million visitors annually. What are the Government doing to ensure that lesser-known tourist attractions such as Kelmscott Manor, Crocodiles of the World and Cotswold Wildlife Park have their fair share of the tourism cake to bring in all those benefits?

As you know, Mr Speaker, West Oxfordshire is a beautiful part of the country and we are supporting it in a number of ways. VisitBritain has organised travel trade trips to West Oxfordshire, including to Blenheim Palace. My officials at the Department also work closely with Experience Oxfordshire, a good organisation that makes sure that as many visitors as possible come to that part of the UK.

With the building of the new £83 million international convention centre at Celtic Manor, there is huge potential for Newport. What are Ministers doing with the Wales Office to encourage more events and conferences in Newport, the home of the NATO summit in 2014?

I commend the hon. Lady for her support for that conference facility. Conferences, business events and events of all types are very important to the economy of this country. We engage with the Wales Office, as indeed we do with the Scottish Government, to support business events.

It is nice to have the festival for Great Britain and Northern Ireland that is due to take place in 2022. Will the Minister commit to ensuring that Northern Ireland does not get left behind and has the same opportunities as our GB counterparts to show off our business, technology, culture, sport and arts expertise to the rest of the world?

Northern Ireland will certainly not be left behind. I was delighted to visit Belfast only a few weeks ago, when I saw its wonderful tourism offer, including the Titanic exhibition and so much else. I would recommend visiting Northern Ireland to anyone, as there are wonderful tourism opportunities—“Game of Thrones” is filmed there, and there is so much else.

Steve Ridgway of VisitBritain, along with Anthony Pickles, together with airlines, hotels and all the rest of it, have pulled together a sector deal. I do not want to bore the House because I have raised this before, but when are the Government going to support it?

My Department is working very hard on that matter. We have been pursuing it and we continue to do so.

Tourism should not just be beaches and city breaks. The wonders of Ealing include our world famous studios of Ealing comedy and Downton fame, the basement blues club where the Stones first played, and the Questors theatre, the biggest am-dram venue in the world. They should all be linked together in a cultural quarter, but our council is cash-strapped in its provision of even the most basic services. The Minister mentioned the effect of Brexit on the number of overseas visitors. [Interruption.] So my question is—[Interruption.] I was building up to the question, Mr Speaker; thank you for reminding me. What are the Government doing to put suburbs on the tourist trail?

We want to support tourism around the country, and of course that includes Ealing. The hon. Lady mentioned Ealing Studios and the Ealing comedies—I think I have a box set actually—and the reality is that VisitBritain and VisitEngland support lots of programmes around the country. [Interruption.] Some of the comedians are on the Opposition Benches at the moment.

The biggest concern for the tourist industry at the moment is access to labour once we end the free movement of people. Will the Minister join my calls for the Government to introduce a seasonal migrant workers scheme for the tourism and hospitality sector?

We are in close discussions with our colleagues in the Home Office about that, and my hon. Friend can be assured, as can the whole House, that I am representing the tourism sector and all its interests.