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Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Tourism

Volume 693: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will include tourism in the title of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to acknowledge the place of the tourism industry in the United Kingdom economy.

My Lords, the Government have no such plans. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spends over £55 million a year supporting the tourism industry, and a change of organisational name would make no difference to the high priority that the sector already enjoys within the department.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, whose 40 members each receive more than 1 million visitors a year. The exclusion of the word “tourism” from the DCMS title is unfortunately symptomatic of the lack of interest that the previous Prime Minister took in our tourism and visitor attraction industry. To welcome the new Prime Minister, and to encourage him to support our tourism industry more, today over half of our ALVA members are delivering complimentary tickets to him to visit places ranging from Canterbury Cathedral to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, from the London Eye to the National Portrait Gallery, and from Chester Zoo to the Falkirk Wheel.

Will the Minister, perhaps when he is called in to see the Prime Minister today, encourage his right honourable friend to use the tickets to support our industry and to ensure that he enters them in the Register of Members’ Interests because we do not want him to get into trouble so early in his tenure?

My Lords, what’s in a name? Our major competitors such as France and Germany have ministries for tourism. France has a Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, and Germany has a Ministry of Economics and Technology. We succeed in supporting tourism without having the name and a departmental title, which is already quite long enough. We are committed to ensuring—as the noble Lord will recognise, and as we have been over the past 10 years—that tourism gets its fair share of national resources. Its grant has kept up comfortably with inflation, and its success is there for all to see. In the past few years there have been significant increases in tourism in this country, and of course we look forward to 2012 and a further boost.

My Lords, can I encourage my noble friend to use his free ticket to come to Chester Zoo? Given the fine record of Labour Governments, notably in the 1960s with the first ever Development of Tourism Act, is it not negligent that the word “tourism” is missing from the departmental title of the DCMS or, as some of us would like, the Department of Trade and Industry, to verify the Government’s enthusiasm for this important industry and to show it to the wider world?

My Lords, the Government’s enthusiasm is in action, not in names, as I have indicated. Tourism is now 3.5 per cent of the national economy; it is an important contributor. Of course the Government recognise that in their support for the industry and take every opportunity to extol the virtues of the UK in these terms. As for the free tickets, I thought they were offered to the incoming Prime Minister rather than to me, unless they are offered as a consolation prize later in the day.

My Lords, if the department has some responsibility for tourism, would it kindly get rid of the eyesore on Parliament Green? It alienates many of us, particularly the tourists who come to this country.

My Lords, all of us value the immediate environs of Parliament as an absolute Mecca for many tourists. There has been some disfigurement of Parliament Green. The noble Baroness will recognise that Parliament is the symbol of our democracy and therefore protest has its role, too.

My Lords, having been the spokesman in this House a few years ago, when the present department had a different name, and recognising the great importance of tourism to this country, I ask the Minister whether he will consider, with the new Government, changing the whole name of this wretched department. How can you possibly include in “culture” a woman whose art consists of an unmade bed? Maybe she comes under the heading of “sport”.

My Lords, the noble Baroness will recognise that there are different perspectives on modern art; she has expressed one. Britain is going through a significant cultural renaissance; for instance, visits to our museums and art galleries reflect enormous public interest in the cultural opportunities that the nation affords. We should be positive about that, not least because it helps to sell the United Kingdom to tourists.

My Lords, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, the Minister referred to the benefits that would accrue to tourism from 2012. Given that Cumbria—I declare an interest as president of the Cumbria Tourist Board—is further from London than Paris, can the Minister confirm that it will receive more benefits than Paris?

My Lords, by 2012 there will be a slight difference in transport links between Paris and London, and Cumbria and London. We intend that the benefits from the Olympic Games, from tourism and the cultural Olympiad, should be spread right across the United Kingdom. Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that 2012 is a significant date for the whole nation not just London.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the British tourist deficit 10 years ago was £4 billion and has now fallen to £18 million? Is that not a good reason for the Government to take tourism even more seriously? Now is the perfect opportunity to appoint a senior Minister to be devoted solely to tourism.

My Lords, as I indicated, the Government have a good record on tourism and show their commitment to it as a priority. Whatever the department’s name and whoever its Ministers, its activities cannot bear fruit for the population of the United Kingdom without also embellishing the United Kingdom as a tourist Mecca for others.