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Volume 720: debated on Wednesday 14 July 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the contribution of tourism to the United Kingdom economy.

I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

My Lords, tourism is a key priority for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. In 2008, direct tourism spend was worth £88 billion and a Deloitte study estimates a direct and indirect value to the UK economy of £115 billion in 2009. Tourism is one of our biggest employers, with over 200,000 businesses and providing some 1.5 million jobs. It has significant potential for growth and is an important engine of recovery for the economy as a whole.

I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Tourism is now the largest single industry in all parliamentary constituencies and is greater than any other industry. Is he aware that the tourism industry calculates that moving the clocks forward an hour would generate an extra £3 billion of revenue and between 60,000 and 80,000 new jobs? Given that the Lighter Later campaign is also supported by RoSPA, Age Concern and the Local Government Association, is it not time that the Government moved substantially on this issue and brought in a three-year trial? Is it not really a no-brainer?

My Lords, I have a note about £3 billion being the estimate that the paid attractions sector maintains that adding an hour would bring in terms of extra money from tourism. There is no doubt that from time to time there are occasions when people raise the idea of this extra hour. This is one of those occasions when the time is right once again. We have been here before, in the period 1968 to 1971; but perhaps there have been changes in views in the 39 years that have passed since then.

Is the Minister aware that the status quo of dark winter evenings cannot possibly be beneficial to the tourist and leisure industries in this country, especially for those located in the more northern latitudes? Therefore, will the coalition now consider implementing a lighter winter evenings policy to assist these important industries while allowing the Scottish Parliament to decide its own winter timescale, even if it is different from the English?

My Lords, I have been trying to find out whether time is devolved: I am told that it is not. Nevertheless, it is important, and one can see the situation of transport and changing the clock at Berwick and Carlisle, with all that that would mean. It is my view—and there have been interesting noises coming from coalition Ministers, including the Minister for Tourism, John Penrose, in the other place—that this is very much on the agenda as far as this department is concerned. However, the lead department is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and this will be something for government as a whole to consider. It may well be that a campaign is a useful thing that could occur.

In the interests of the tourism industry, is it not time that tourism was added to the title of the department? Secondly, has the Minister made any calculation of the adverse effect of increasing VAT to 20 per cent on all the entrepreneurs in the tourism industry?

That is a bit wide of the Question. What it means is that if bed and breakfast is £58.75, it will become £60 after 3 January: that is what the rise in VAT means. As to whether tourism should be in the title of the department, of course we can have lengthy titles—perhaps “Olympics” is half way in the title as well, so there could be a “T” and an “O” in the title as well. I will take it back to the department. It is clearly a very important part of what DCMS is about.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many years ago when tourism was one of the things in my ministerial portfolio, we were greatly helped by tourist boards such as the English Tourist Board and the London Tourist Board? I hope that these are still flourishing. If not, will he make sure that they are reborn if they have gone? Also, would he be interested to know that in those days our second-biggest invisible export for tourism was carriage by sea?

My Lords, if the noble Baroness is referring to carriage by sea, then that was some time ago. However, she raised the interesting matter of tourist boards, of which there are several: VisitBritain, VisitEngland, the Scottish Tourist Board, the Wales Tourist Board, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the regional tourist boards. There is also everything that the various local authorities do for tourism—as a whole they are spending £123 million. From the figures that I have been given, I calculate that current promotion-of-tourism spend, whether it is promoting people staying here or promoting Britain overseas, is £285 million.

My Lords, the Minister has been most encouraging and we welcome what he has said today. However, I should like him to comment on two small points. First, is he aware that implementing a daylight-saving scheme would be relatively inexpensive? That is an important factor. Secondly, given the bleak outlook for jobs, surely it is exquisitely attractive to have an industry that offers 80,000 new jobs. I should have thought that any Government would find that hard to resist at this time.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that. She is right that such a scheme could do a great deal. However, it is a question of the will of people, including the will of people in this House. I have done a bit of research on this. Back in 1967, 49 Members of this House decided to go for something called British standard time but 13 Members opposed it. The legislation also went through the Commons. However, on 2 December 1970, just under 40 years ago, by 81 votes to 366 the Commons decided to put an end to the experiment. The interesting point is that, of those 366, 32 are now in this place, so it would be very interesting to see whether minds have moved. The campaigners could start with those 32.