Thank you for calling me to respond, Mr Speaker, and I hope that your voice is fully recovered very soon.
The UK tourism industry is of vital importance to the UK, with 38 million visitors from overseas in 2018 spending £22.9 billion. A total of 1.6 million jobs are supported by the sector, and the Government are working closely with the industry on delivering both the tourism sector deal and the international business events action plan.
Since the expansion of the tourist industry has undoubted economic benefits but significant local costs, will the Minister accede to the request of local authorities of different political persuasions for the right to impose a small levy on overnight stays to defray some of those costs?
It is important to have a sensible conversation on this subject, and the Government are always keen to hear the views of all stakeholders. As the right hon. Gentleman implies, tourism brings great benefits to local areas but there are undoubtedly some costs and strains on the local economy. If he wishes to write to me with any further proposals, we are always interested to hear them.
I have Strepsils, Mr Speaker.
Our most popular tourist attractions are our national museums, led by the British Museum with more than 6 million visitors last year, but we also have some hidden treasures in our regional and local museums that have been squeezed dreadfully by the issues with local government funding. What plans does the Secretary of State have to help investment in that important part of our cultural heritage, which helps to educate future generations, boost regional identities and diversify tourist interest away from the capital?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that our local museums play a really important part in our local heritage and culture. I am thrilled to be heading up this Department, and I hope very much that we will be able to find the funding. I will be having conversations with the Treasury to ensure that we are investing in places, and in the feeling of place, right up and down the country, and I know that he will want to be involved in that process locally.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government’s plan to put a £30,000 salary floor on migrants entering the UK will massively damage the tourism industry in the Lake District and the Yorkshire dales, leaving many unable to fill vital positions? Representatives of the tourism industry and I have spoken to Ministers past and present about the need to massively lower that figure. Will she listen?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will know that I am a Minister who always listens. He represents a beautiful part of the world in the Lake District, whose benefits I have been delighted to enjoy on many visits. I am very aware of this issue, which is obviously under active consideration. One point is that post 1 November, the UK will be able to set its own immigration policy that is right for this country. We are aware that the tourism sector is reliant on domestic talent, but also on recruiting from overseas.
Kettering may not be the first place people think of when it comes to tourism, but they would be wrong, because located in the beating heart of the east midlands, right in the middle of the town, is Wicksteed Park. It was the first ever leisure park in the UK devoted to children’s play, and it attracts 800,000 visitors a year. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will be celebrating its centenary in 2021. Will the Secretary of State ensure that Wicksteed Park is at the forefront of her mind whenever she considers tourism?
As my hon. Friend knows, Kettering is very much in my heart because I go through it at least twice a week on the East Midlands Trains service to and from my constituency. I am delighted to hear that Wicksteed Park is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This goes to the heart of the fact that there are some real treasures up and down the country. This is about the importance of place and ensuring that we invest in it.