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Covid-19: Tourism Industry

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 8 July 2020

What steps the Government are taking to help support the tourism industry in Wales during the covid-19 outbreak. (904300)

What steps the Government are taking to help support the tourism industry in Wales during the covid-19 outbreak. (904301)

What steps the Government taking to help support the tourism industry in Wales during the covid-19 outbreak. (904302)

What steps the Government are taking to help support the tourism industry in Wales during the covid-19 outbreak. (904304)

What steps the Government are taking to help support the tourism industry in Wales during the covid-19 outbreak. (904309)

The UK Government have provided unprecedented support to enable the tourism industry in Wales to get through the pandemic. Now is the right time for the industry to reopen safely, and I have urged the Welsh Government on many occasions to share their plans to ensure that Wales is not left behind and can make the most of what is left of the summer season.

Many of my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South will be hoping to be able to get a holiday in Wales this summer, so as we reopen, will my right hon. Friend do everything he can to ensure that my constituents will still get a well-earned break and enjoy everything that Wales has to offer?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out that tourism, like covid, does not recognise political boundaries, so we are very eager to welcome his constituents—indeed, him and anybody else in the House who wishes to visit Wales—once the lockdown has been properly lifted. It is really important that there is a road map to that position. Wales wants to be back in business; it needs to be back in business, and that leadership needs to come from the First Minister of Wales. It has been a bit messy up till now, but there is still time for him to correct the untidiness around the reopening so that tourism can resume.

The people of Darlington have a great fondness for Wales. [Interruption.] Can the Secretary of State outline what representations he has made to the Welsh Government to encourage them to open up their economy, so that my constituents and others from across England can enjoy all its attractions?

I am not sure that I understand why there was sniggering from the Opposition ranks in response to the point that the residents of Darlington might want to visit Wales. We absolutely want residents of Darlington and everywhere else to visit Wales, as has always been the case, but it does need a clear plan; and what has been lacking so far is a clear plan that enables our tourism industry to welcome with open arms residents of Darlington and other places back into the country in the few remaining weeks of the season.

The UK internal tourism market will be very important for the rest of this year, not only for Wales in Rother Valley but for Wales as a nation, so does my right hon. Friend agree with those in the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions who, before they delivered their vote of no confidence in the Welsh First Minister, said that the Welsh Labour Administration were “destroying the survival chances” of the tourism industry in Wales?

We really should take some time to reflect on that. As far as I can remember, that is the first time ever that a major representative body, the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, has not only passed a vote of no confidence in the First Minister, but also said that his Government are “destroying the survival chances” of an industry in Wales. That, surely, must be the most shameful description of a devolved Government that we have heard in this Chamber.

My hon. Friend is right that 160,000 jobs are dependent on the industry—9.5% of the workforce of Wales. It deserves far better treatment than it has so far had at the hands of the Welsh Government, and I welcome his ability to raise it in the House—

Order. I appeal to the Secretary of State. We have a lot of questions to get through; let us have shorter questions and answers.

My right hon. Friend will appreciate the interdependency between the economies of north Wales and north-west England. We often see holidaymakers travelling between both regions, and in Blackpool, we are always pleased to welcome visitors from north Wales. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to improve transport links between the two regions, which will boost not only tourism, but the economy more generally in a post-covid-19 world?

I will endeavour to be briefer than I have been so far. We have already delivered a £50 million project of railway upgrades in north Wales. We have commitments to the A55 improvements. There are numerous other accelerated plans for infrastructure. As I said in answer to an earlier question, tourism and covid do not recognise political boundaries. Such attempts to improve infrastructure will continue.

Many tourists will go to Wales from England and, indeed, Cornwall. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that those travelling, or thinking of travelling, know the differences between any lockdown rules that we have and any that are in place in Wales?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I think that residents of Wales and other places have become fatigued by the completely confusing array of messages coming out of the Welsh Government in relation to what they can do, what they cannot do, and how far they can go to do it. That is gradually being cleared up. However, we do not want residents of Cornwall to decide that they cannot come to Wales and therefore align themselves with another part of the UK at our expense because of this lack of clarity. The perfect example of that is Llanymynech golf course, where you tee off in England and the ball lands in Wales.

There is mini-Budget talk of a VAT cut for hospitality, and it is fantastic if this is true, because Plaid Cymru has been pushing for it since 2008. Would the Secretary of State support a clear plan for targeted Wales-specific VAT cuts for specific sectors, such as tourism and home improvements, so that our small-employer economy can recover as quickly as possible?

I am going to goad the hon. Lady into having to wait a little longer to hear what the Chancellor has to say in his statement at half-past 12. I would just point out to her, though, that at every possible opportunity the UK Government—I emphasise, the UK Government —have embraced jobs, livelihoods and businesses across Wales in a way that is unprecedented in modern times. I am sure that even as a nationalist, she would like to thank the UK Government and the Chancellor for those very special efforts they have made on behalf of the people of Wales.

The Secretary of State has very kindly answered my question with a question. I will take it, because he has not said no, that he is interested in Wales-specific VAT reductions, and I look forward to talking to him more about that.

Another initiative we could introduce in Wales is one introduced in countries such as Malta and Poland—voucher schemes to encourage domestic tourism to help the recovery. Ahead of the Chancellor’s statement, would the Secretary of State support the introduction of a Welsh tourism voucher scheme to be spent on outdoor attractions, accommodation and transport—trains and buses—which would be a much-needed boost to make the tourism industry work for the people of Wales?

I think the first part of the hon. Lady’s question is aiming too low. Referring to Wales as just a tourism industry in its own right does not go anywhere near embracing the opportunities that tourism in Wales, and the jobs associated with it, has as part of the Union push. My message to her is just to have a look at the interventions that the UK Government have made so far, let alone anything that may come later today, in support of that and many other industries. It is a bit like the sketch, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” I urge her to look at those figures, because I think she will be as pleased as the rest of the House is.

Ynys Môn is the most dependent of any constituency on tourism. My island constituency needs jobs, skills, employment and investment if this Government are to deliver on their levelling-up agenda. Will the Secretary of State commit himself to helping our island by championing Ynys Môn’s capacity to play a leading role in the decarbonisation of the UK economy?

There is no greater champion of Ynys Môn than my hon. Friend, on this and numerous other issues. In particular, her work around Wylfa Newydd has been outstanding and is ongoing. I would urge her —as I am afraid that I have become boring in saying to other Members—to remain in her seat for just a little longer, because I think that some of the subjects that she has raised may get a greater airing later.

As we know, the tourism and hospitality sector has been hit very hard by this pandemic, and despite the best efforts of operators across Wales, this year will be a very difficult one for those in the industry. Can the Secretary of State get the Government to act now and extend the furlough scheme to the tourism sector to avoid workers facing a cliff edge later in the year?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there have been significant interventions already, with £2.4 billion-worth of Barnettised income for the Welsh Government, plus over twice that in terms of the other interventions that the Welsh workforce has benefited from, particularly in tourism and hospitality. One in three workers in Wales is currently being supported by the furlough scheme. It is not for me to comment on what the Chancellor may or may not be saying in a few minutes’ time. As with so many other questions this morning, I can only say that if he can remain patient for as long as possible, he may find some interesting comments will be made.

Tourism is extremely important to mid-Wales. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for meeting some of my local businesses recently. Many of them could benefit from the £59 million generated by the Culture Secretary’s recent announcement, but I am deeply concerned that the Welsh Government could stick to form and only channel that money towards Cardiff-based tourist and culture attractions. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that he will do all he can to ensure that mid-Wales will see the benefit of that money, which is, after all, mid-Wales’s money?

Of course I can offer that commitment, but the commitment is to urge the Welsh Government to make those important decisions for the whole of Wales. Having had the pleasure of meeting some of my hon. Friend’s industries the other day, I know that, in her own area, critical events such as the Royal Welsh Show are hugely culturally important, and it is absolutely right that the Welsh Government should look at the whole of Wales, and not be tempted into just supporting a few well-known industries around their favoured patch.