Tourism is an incredibly important part—one of the most important parts—of the UK economy, generating £68 billion a year and employing more than 1.5 million people. Visit Britain and the GREAT campaign, backed by significant Government support, continue successfully to promote the UK internationally.
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was seeking to group this question with Question 5. Is that right? That is what we have been advised—[Interruption.] Surely you know your own grouping, man!
If you wish, Mr Speaker, I will certainly do that. I had not understood that to be the case, but I am happy to link that question with Question 5— [Interruption.] I will say yes.
Very good. I understood that to be the request of the Government. It is quite important for the Government to know what the Government want. If the Government do not know what the Government want, how is the Speaker supposed to know, for goodness’ sake? I call Chris Davies.
I know what the Government want, Mr Speaker. So—[Interruption.] I think our colleague was going to ask a question.
If the Minister does not mind, I will ask my question before he answers it!
In my beautiful constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, the River Teme runs through the scenic Teme valley into Shropshire, the River Wye runs through the idyllic Wye valley into Herefordshire, and the well-trodden tourist trail of Offa’s Dyke—where one can walk with one foot in England in one foot in Wales—runs down my constituency border. Will my hon. Friend confirm that his Department will ensure that rural tourism is indeed cross-border?
The hon. Gentleman’s question was charming, but it was too long.
With the Brecon Beacons national park, my hon. Friend’s entire constituency is one of many with considerable beauty and attraction for tourists internationally as well as nationally. It is a key part of our economy to encourage tourism around the country, and we do that via Visit Britain and the GREAT campaign. I would happily encourage visitors to go to his constituency at any time.
With Southend-on-Sea about to become a city, please will my hon. Friend explain to the House how the tourism sector deal can help Southend-on-Sea on its journey to become not only the finest seaside resort in the country, but the finest seaside resort in the world?
The constituency certainly has one of the finest Members of Parliament. The important proposed tourism sector deal has moved into the negotiation phase, and we are exploring how the Government can work with the industry to reduce seasonality and address other tourism-related issues, such as increasing skills, improving local tourism offers and helping more people to develop tourism. All that will apply not only to my hon. Friend’s constituency, but to constituencies around the country. I wish Southend-on-Sea well.
One of the things that drives tourism is the arts, including theatre. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Nottingham Playhouse and its new artistic director, Adam Penford, on winning regional theatre of the year in The Stage awards? Does he agree that the theatre not only demonstrates outstanding creativity, but engages with and serves our communities, works hard to make the arts accessible to everyone, and provides yet another good reason to visit Nottingham?
I absolutely agree. In fact, more people visit the theatre than go to premiership football matches in any given year. The theatre is a key part of our economy and encourages visitors from around the world to come to this country, and I congratulate Nottingham Playhouse and its staff and management structure. I recommend that people go to the theatre and to Nottingham Playhouse.
Will the Minister do what he can to help to promote a summer of sport in Northern Ireland and in my constituency? The Open golf tournament is coming back for the first time in 70 years, and the North West 200 motorbike race celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
Yes, I will. The reality is that those activities and so many others in his constituency bring not only soft power, encouraging people to come to his constituency, but economic power. We encourage all sports activities in that way.
Tourists come to north Oxfordshire for many reasons, not least to shop in Bicester Village. Does the Minister agree that a tourism tax would not be beneficial?
I do. My hon. Friend may have seen an article by the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum. I was surprised that the director had time to engage with the subject of a tourism tax, on which I think he is wrong, but of course he is a former Labour Member and Labour MPs do like to tax as much as possible. The reality of the matter is that Bicester and other parts of this country benefit hugely from tourism, and we want to encourage it, not discourage it. There are 1.5 million jobs in tourism in this country, and Bicester attracts visitors from all over the world.
There is a lot to be said for Bicester Village. I have been there many times, and I have an extremely agreeable Zegna tie that I purchased there some years ago. I am not wearing it today, but I will wear it for the benefit of the hon. Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) on another occasion.
Tourism is greatly boosted by our music industry. Sheffield’s musicians are renowned the world over, building their reputations on shoestring-budget European tours that are guaranteed because the movement of music equipment around Europe does not require a customs document known as the ATA Carnet. Will the Minister guarantee that musicians in Europe will not require such a document post Brexit, that the movement of music equipment will be frictionless and that the people of Europe will not be deprived of the Arctic Monkeys of tomorrow?
What I can guarantee is that my portfolio involves looking after the interests of musicians and orchestras. The Department does that by lobbying where appropriate and by discussing such matters with the Home Office, which is ultimately responsible for immigration issues. I met the Association of British Orchestras only last week. We are ensuring that musicians are looked after. They are an important part of our economy.