My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to open this debate on the subject of tourism in the UK and its value and importance to the UK economy. The debate has attracted no fewer than six maiden speakers and I look forward in anticipation to hearing the contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham of Droxford, and my noble friends Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames and Lord Risby. I am delighted also to note the names of several distinguished Members of your Lordships’ House down to speak. It is clearly a good day for Palmers and I look forward with interest to hearing from the other noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and from my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford, a former Minister for Tourism.
Why do I think that this debate on tourism is important at this time? First, we in the United Kingdom are entering a busy and exciting period over the next two years when we will be welcoming many foreign visitors to our shores as a result of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the royal wedding and, of course, the Olympics in 2012. It is essential that we maximise this opportunity and make it an exceptionally fruitful period for the country, both in increasing our invisible earnings and in ensuring that visitors enjoy the best possible experience with us. We must ensure that they return as so-called repeat business. This is particularly important for capturing a greater share of the Far East business.
Secondly, we must always remember that many UK nationals choose to holiday in this country. It is vital that people are encouraged to stay in the UK and made more aware of the benefits and pleasures of holidaying in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Of the total UK average household expenditure on holidays, only 36 per cent is spent in the UK. Yet the amount is not insignificant in monetary terms; in 2009, UK nationals spent 126 million nights away from home, which represented some £22 billion to the economy, primarily to the hotel and restaurant trade. There is clearly an opportunity to increase on this percentage expenditure.
Tourism is important at this time for a further reason. Your Lordships will hardly need reminding that we are enduring an unprecedented period of severe public sector cuts, as a result of having the largest deficit in the G20. This week’s economic figures of near-zero growth for the final three months of last year confirm that our recovery is precarious, while the prospects for growth in early 2011 look less than encouraging. There are the added concerns of increasing energy costs and rising inflation.
Tourism provides an excellent opportunity to boost the economy. It is the third highest export earner for the UK, behind only the pharmaceuticals industry and the financial services sector. It generates £115 billion per year for the UK economy, which is equivalent to 8.9 per cent of UK gross domestic product, according to a recent Deloitte study. That breaks down between the UK’s four countries as follows: England generates £96.7 billion, 8.6 per cent of GDP; Scotland £11.1 billion, 10.4 per cent; Wales £6.2 billion, 13.3 per cent; and Northern Ireland £1.5 billion, 4.9 per cent. Inbound tourists spend about £16 billion per year, thereby contributing £3 billion to the Exchequer.
Looking ahead, over the period 2010-20, the increased growth rate of visitors to the UK is expected to rise by 3.5 per cent per annum, which is ahead of the 2.9 per cent per annum on average forecast for the economy as a whole. Most importantly, there are some encouraging forecasts for employment. More than 250,000 jobs are expected to be created during this same period, to rise from 2.64 million to 2.89 million. Currently, one in 12 jobs in the UK is directly or indirectly supported by tourism. We can begin to see how tourism can play a vital role in rebalancing the economy. We cannot afford to miss that opportunity.
The tourism industry is often described in terms of the services and attractions offered to visitors—the product side. We know that there is great variety and that there are many exceptional, high-quality destinations in the UK, of which more later. However, are we doing enough as a kingdom to ask what the customer wants? The customer is, of course, the tourist—a generic term that describes anyone of any age, gender or nationality who is away from home or his native country, at leisure and willing to spend money. For example, I heard recently of an Asian delegation booked into a UK hotel. Nobody had thought to check whether there was internet access there—an essential requirement for Asians—and there was a hasty rebooking. It is perhaps rather archaic, prosaic or both that many Asians perceive the UK as being the country of the high tea. Should we be encouraging a high tea start-up programme? Those are small examples but they matter at the coal face in understanding our customer.
The tourist always has a choice. Competition is fierce, notably for those travelling to Europe, with a rich choice of countries. According to the latest figures, from 2009, the UK is the sixth most-visited destination by international tourists, with 28 million staying visits. France is number two with 74.2 million and Germany number eight with 24.2 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the UK’s international visitors increased by 37.4 per cent but France and Germany are still ahead of us, at 49.7 per cent and 85.6 per cent respectively. Crucially, we are falling behind in attracting visitors from the key emerging markets. France attracted eight times more visitors from China last year than did the UK, and Germany six times more. Nearly four times more visitors from Brazil went to France than to the UK and about 30 per cent more Brazilians visited Germany than the UK. France attracted visitors from India at a factor of more than 50 per cent more than the UK.
In briefly outlining an audit of UK competitiveness, let me start with the challenges. Britain ranks 133rd out of 133 nations on the specific issue of the cost of travel to a holiday destination. For example, a UK short stay visa costs £70. If you are a visitor travelling to other European countries at the same time, where you can obtain a multi-country Schengen visa at £50, the bill rises to £120. Add on to that the increase in the air passenger duty and the costs are considerable before you have even booked your flight, accommodation and transport. On the ease of booking flights, although airline seat capacity for internationals visiting this country has increased by 2.9 per cent, it increased more for France at 6.3 per cent and Germany at 5.5 per cent. A comparative reduction of our inbound route capacity pushes up prices for the tourist choosing to come to the UK.
There are other challenges. The VAT increase to 20 per cent is a necessary move by this coalition Government, but it inevitably decreases the spending power of all tourists in the UK. By contrast, Germany and France have reduced VAT rates for the hotel and restaurant sector. Although the exchange rate remains in our favour for encouraging foreign visitors, excessive volatility means instability. At present, that is providing a brake for those UK nationals seeking holidays abroad, which is in our favour. Overall, it remains expensive to holiday in Britain in comparative terms.
A further challenge is to encourage tourists to go further than their single-destination city. I accept London’s primacy as one of the key holiday destinations in the world, but as many as 48 per cent of all UK visitors spend time in London and do not go further afield, whereas only 12 per cent visit Paris without enjoying thereafter the pleasures of France. The same applies to 14 per cent of visitors to New York and 10 per cent of those to Berlin. London enjoyed 11 times more visitors than Edinburgh, 18 times more than Manchester and 23 times more than Glasgow. I will be interested to hear the thoughts of my noble friend Lord Gardiner of Kimble on encouraging more visitors to the countryside.
Finally, I feel sure that the Government are reviewing our so-called welcome pack. For example, the average queue time for exiting customs at Heathrow remains at 45 minutes for foreign visitors.
On the positive side, what does the UK have to offer? Putting aside the small question of our weather, we are best placed, above all other countries, to offer a unique, varied and exciting opportunity that can be tailored for all visitors, with all vacation tastes, coming to the UK. There are quintessentially British festivals and events, from the highland games and county shows to cheese rolling and river dragon racing. There are theme parks and music festivals for the young. There is outstanding architecture, steeped in history, stretching back many centuries, from cathedrals to country churches. All these are accessible and appreciated over a particularly fertile landscape, from the north-west of Scotland—perhaps the last great wilderness in Europe—to Cornwall with its coves and beaches, Norfolk with its fascinating network of broads, the canals of Shropshire and Warwickshire, so enjoyed by American tourists, and, of course, Liverpool and Tyneside.
There are also many unseen treasures in the UK that can be exploited. For example, because of our geophysical make-up and our presence in the Gulf Stream, we have come to do gardens rather well, from Kent to Inverewe in Scotland and Cornwall. Even before the Eden Project, gardens in Cornwall alone generated more than a million visitors per year. I recently met a gentleman who had set up the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust. From initially identifying six gardens for development, within the first year of research he had identified a further 306, all for eventual public viewing.
We have our priceless museums, notably in London but also in such places as Portsmouth, which represents our colourful maritime history with the “Mary Rose” and HMS “Victory”. There is also the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. It is, above all, through culture that the UK is perceived particularly to draw visitors and this gives us a competitive edge. The Nation Brands Index has indicated that Britain is ranked fourth out of 50 nations for having a vibrant and exciting contemporary culture; seventh as a nation with a rich cultural heritage; and eighth as a nation excelling in sport, with many foreign visitors coming to the UK for football alone. VisitBritain concludes that inbound tourist spending on our culture and heritage subsector is £4.5 billion. This alone supports more than 100,000 jobs in the UK. Overall, Britain is ranked fifth in terms of tourism. It must be perfectly possible to rise further in these rankings.
No stall for Britain can be set out without confidence in and scrutiny of the structure of tourism management in the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the Department for Culture, Media and Sport there is a Tourism Minister. VisitBritain, which was the British Tourist Authority, is now responsible for marketing Britain abroad, with a fund-matched £100 million partnership marketing fund earmarked specifically for the emerging markets. The quid pro quo is that cost reductions in administration of 50 per cent over four years must be made. The question that we must ask is whether the funding and the structure in place are correct.
It is as well to remember that the engine room of tourism works as a result of more than 125,000 privately owned businesses, 80 per cent of which have a turnover of less than £250,000 per year. The question that we have to ask is how best to help these local businesses, starting with more bank lending and greater tax incentives. I am sure that the Minister will refer to the imminent release of the Government’s tourism strategy document. In the mean time, I trust that there is enough stimulus for debate.
Finally, I leave your Lordships with a creative idea, which is that if we were to switch to SDST—for the uninitiated, that is the single/double summer time, with its lighter evenings—it is estimated that we could create tourism growth of between £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion and between 60,000 and 80,000 extra jobs. I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Viscount and congratulate him on getting this debate on to the Order Paper. Unbeknown to him, it has provided me with an opportunity to raise the matter which was burning in my soul. He mentioned Cornwall, and Cornwall is part of it. I should also say that as it is a discrete matter, I thought it sensible to have a word with the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, yesterday to ensure that she, at least, was certainly not caught unawares on an apolitical matter.
It concerns the Isles of Scilly, which are a string of islands 37 miles by sea south-west of Penzance, five of which are inhabited. The population is around 2,000—it is probably on the low side rather than the higher—and tourism is the principal source of income. Almost all other sources have disappeared. The flowers have gone, either abroad or to Lincolnshire, and are a minimum part of their livelihood. The majority of the visitors go by sea. You can go by air and when I go, I usually try to do that, although you can be diverted to the ferry if it is too bad for planes to fly. However, the planes have to be small because the runway is short. There are also helicopters.
Two vessels ply between Penzance and Scilly, a passenger vessel and a freight vessel. They are owned by the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company, which was set up in 1920. Prior to that, since 1859, all transport to the islands was undertaken by the Ministry of Shipping, which must have disappeared at some time in the past. The passenger ferry is the custom-built “Scillonian III”, which will be 35 years old next year. The freighter, the “Gry Maritha”, is over 30 years old and takes 95 per cent of the freight. As with many islands around our coast, the only way of getting anything from nails to door knockers is by sea. That freight vessel was in fact a Norwegian freighter. I will come back to that issue after getting around to the matter of the “Scillonian”.
The “Scillonian” takes 90,000 passengers a year. It had a refit in 1999 but, despite that, it will not get a maritime coastguard certificate after 2012. In other words, it will go out of service. Since 2002—over eight years ago—there have been discussions and explorations of what to do about that risk of losing the passenger vessel. The conclusions have been twofold: that there should be a new, dual-purpose ferry ordered and built and that there would have to be some harbour improvements, both in Scilly and in Penzance. The market for a second-hand vessel has been thoroughly researched but nothing that is likely to be suitable has been found. The harbour improvements have now been agreed but why is there not a vessel somewhere around the world at a time when, on the whole, sea transport is being either limited or transferred to a very large vessel?
Essentially, there are two factors. The vessel has to have a draught of only three metres and it must be able to sit on the seabed, because the high tides literally leave little or no water in the harbour area. There have been consultations with the Department for Transport and with Cornwall Council, which led to revised plans that saved a good deal of money. For example, they changed the specification of the vessel, reducing its potential speed from 20 knots to 15, and they retendered. We are now left with a total cost, excluding the harbour works, of £62 million. Under the outcome of the discussions this is to be shared, with £10 million coming from Cornwall Council, £11.75 million from a European grant and £40.3 million from the Department for Transport. We expected an answer from the Department for Transport by the end of this month but it is clearly not going to come. I understand that it is not now likely to arrive before the end of February. I do not know the reasons for that. On 16 February, a finance meeting of Cornwall Council will take place. There is a very real risk that it will decide that, given present circumstances, it cannot come up with this money. If that happens, the vessel will not be ordered.
There is also a risk with the European grant which has gone on for so long. There is an end-date, of which I am not aware, but there is a risk that the money will go elsewhere. Many projects around the country are looking for money from Europe, so this service could end in 2012. If that happens, there will be a direct loss of 79 jobs on the ferry service itself. There are only 1,272 full-time jobs throughout these islands, 30 per cent of which are related to hotels and restaurants, so there is a total potential job loss of around 380. That is not the national figure of one in 12 which the noble Viscount mentioned but represents something like four in 12 of all the work opportunities on these islands. Seventy per cent of the 380 jobs are related to tourism. Therefore, we have a potential job loss approaching a third, plus, of course, marginal losses relating to tourist spending, which would substantially disappear. It would be a major tragedy if these islands were effectively lost to tourism.
I hope that the points I have raised will find support around the Chamber and that we can look to accelerate a positive decision on this matter. Delay is no longer a wise or safe option. I will seek to follow this up as the days go by.
My Lords, I hope that I am not being precocious in making my maiden speech so soon after being introduced to your Lordships' House. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so as I felt immensely frustrated yesterday in the debate on the parliamentary seats in Wales as I could not even thank noble Lords who were being kind to me. Today’s Motion relating to tourism is important to Wales and is close to my heart.
Before addressing this subject, I thank colleagues and officers of your Lordships' House for the kindness that has been shown to me. I particularly thank my supporters on Monday, my noble friends Lord Elis-Thomas and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who I am glad to see are both present, for all their help and encouragement over a protracted period. I also thank the Cross-Benchers for allowing me to join their ranks and for the help given by their staff. It has been a very great pleasure to meet so many former colleagues. The warmth of their welcome has been a moving experience.
When we were elected MPs in 1974, my noble friend Lord Elis-Thomas and I were among the youngest Members of Parliament. It was once suggested that the two of us entered the place as revolutionaries and departed as mere reformers. But if the objectives which we then had, and to which I still aspire, of a new relationship between the nations of these islands can be achieved by reforming the structures of government, that is all to the good. Revolutions can be messy and painful. If the process of devolution allows Wales on matters such as tourism to take appropriate decisions on an-all Wales level, and to have its voice heard when other decisions are taken on a wider basis, that is also to the good.
I also thank those of all parties, and those of no party allegiance, who, while not necessarily agreeing with our politics, have supported Plaid Cymru’s bid to have a formal presence in this Chamber. For many years my party did not seek a voice in your Lordships' House. It reconsidered its position after the Government of Wales Act 2006, which stipulated that our National Assembly could legislate in devolved matters such as tourism only with the agreement of both Chambers at Westminster. Many in my party felt that we should make our views known whenever and wherever the interests of Wales were at stake, on the basis of our country's long-standing commitment to social justice and our wish to shoulder our responsibilities towards a wider world.
We see Wales in an international context. That is relevant to today's debate. Tourism is a major industry in Wales. As we heard from the noble Viscount, it is worth £6 billion a year and generates almost 10 per cent of our jobs. My former constituency of Caernarfon contained the summit of Snowdon, the Menai Straits, the glorious Llyn peninsula, a phalanx of castles and several of the spectacular little trains of Wales. It is a Mecca for tourists. Wales’s major events programme has succeeded in promoting Wales as an international tourism destination. We hosted the highly successful Ryder Cup last autumn, and an Ashes test the previous year. When people attend such events, they come not only to Wales but to other parts of Britain. International visitors to Wales may fly in via Manchester or London as well as Cardiff. The benefits will be felt all around these islands, and I hope that those who are primarily attracted to Scotland, Ireland or England will also visit Wales.
I imagine that public policy is geared to spreading the economic benefits of tourism around these islands. However, there is scope for improved signposting of such opportunities, so that visitors to Britain are aware of the wide variety of attractions across these islands. There is a huge opportunity to do this in the context of the forthcoming Olympic Games, and there is an onus on public bodies to co-operate. There is a need to use technology creatively to engage with potential visitors, providing reliable advance information online, not just about places but about activities.
We in Wales are particularly conscious of the contribution that cultural tourism can make to the economy. Music is a big attraction for overseas visitors. It is not just renowned institutions like the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod that attract people from around the globe. A valuable role is played by local festivals such as the Brecon jazz festival and the Green Man festival. I declare an interest in this context because my wife, son and daughter are all involved in such cultural events.
In 2011, Visit Wales will also support events such as the Glanusk international horse trials, the Heineken Cup final and the rugby league Millennium Magic weekend. Visit Wales has three EU tourism projects on stream with an investment of £53 million, together with a £19 million heritage tourism project, also supported by the EU. A VisitBritain survey of 10,000 potential overseas visitors identified Wales's historic castles as the top UK attraction, beating Buckingham Palace into second place.
Co-operation with UK agencies can maximise the benefit that we get from such visitors. One good example of co-operation between public bodies on an all-Wales and a UK level is that which has enabled sculptures from the Dazu world heritage site in China to feature in an exhibition that opened in Cardiff this week. It will only be seen in Wales and it is the first time that the exhibits have left China. This exciting development has been made possible by the co-operation between the Government of Wales, our National Museum and the Chongqing Culture Bureau through the British Council's Connections through Culture programme in China. In mentioning China, we must be aware of how the demographics of tourism are changing, with an increasing number of potential visitors with disposable income coming from China and other developing countries.
There are other opportunities to work together to attract major events to the UK, such as the WOMEX world music showcase. This exciting project will bring together to the UK, for three to five days, 2,700 delegates from 92 countries, mainly programmers of international festivals and venues worldwide, some 450 world music artists and crew and 400 journalists. Cardiff is one of the cities shortlisted for the next WOMEX in 2013, and there is already positive co-operation between various key bodies in Wales and on a UK level to turn this into reality.
In regarding tourism as a major plank of economic policy, we certainly have the enthusiastic support of the Welsh Government. It is worth noting that the Minister, Alun Ffred Jones AM, has responsibility for heritage, culture and sport and tourism. However, he will be able to play that much greater a role in developing international tourism if he can work hand in glove with the UK Minister in proposing or supporting initiatives.
I hope that in attacking the international markets, the diversity of the tourism product within the UK can be used as a positive feature on which to build. I was glad to note a key recommendation of the recent report of the British Hospitality Association entitled Creating Jobs in Britain, which many of your Lordships will have received. It stated:
“Joining up—to a greater degree—with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to enhance the visibility and reach of Britain as an international tourism destination across the world”,
should be a key objective. I am certain that the Welsh Minister for Tourism would endorse that; I have discussed the matter with him. He would welcome the chance to develop his ideas on a partnership basis.
I am delighted that my first contribution to your Lordships’ Chamber should be on this subject, and I am grateful for the generous hearing that has been afforded to me today.
My Lords, first, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions—40 of our major attractions, all of which get more than 1 million visitors a year. I am delighted to say that National Museum Wales is one of our members. I am also absolutely delighted that 17 Members of your Lordships' House are speaking today, including six who are delivering their maiden speech. I must say that this is far more than we normally get in a tourism debate; nor do we normally have the same number of Peers speaking as there are piers in the Weston-super-Mare constituency of our present Tourism Minister.
I pay particular tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for his maiden speech, which we all found fascinating. He and I spent many years together in the other place. He was hugely respected. He is a magnificent ambassador for Wales, and has done a huge amount for the disadvantaged and the disabled. We look forward to many excellent contributions from him over the years; from all sides of the House, we welcome him.
I also congratulate the noble Viscount on moving the debate. I had the privilege of serving under his father as a junior Minister in the Ministry of Defence. As a Minister, he commanded huge respect and was a gentleman in the very finest sense. I am delighted that his son is moving our debate today.
Tourism is probably the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other industry, yet previous Governments have paid little regard to it. It has hardly featured in party election manifestos. Over the years, there has been a steady reduction in the funding of our national tourist boards. Past Prime Ministers have not taken a great deal of interest. Gordon Brown could hardly be described as the happy holidaymaker. Tony Blair tended to prefer warmer climes in Tuscany. At least the present Prime Minister is spending a little more time in this country.
The Government regard the chair of our national tourist board, VisitBritain, as only a six-day-a-month job, which is frankly ridiculous given the scale of the industry, as we heard earlier. Of course, tourism is not in the title of its sponsoring Ministry, the DCMS. As we have heard, it is a huge wealth creator and, potentially, a huge jobs creator. We must all be conscious of the number of overseas people who provide most of the workforce in so many of our major hotels and restaurants. There surely must be great opportunities for many of those in the UK who are at present, sadly, unemployed.
Many people tend to denigrate tourism as a service industry, but of course there is a relationship between service and manufacture. When I was Tourism Minister in the 1980s, the largest steel contract at that time was placed by the Blackpool Pleasure Beach for one of its big new rides. A big hotel development programme is currently under way in London, as we will no doubt shortly hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine. Eighty per cent of the content of a new hotel used to be of UK-manufactured origin. As for our civil airline industry, we should think about how many of the aircraft carry tourists. Therefore, there is a relationship between service and manufacture.
Our domestic tourism industry is relatively buoyant at present. One has only to look at the number of people who increasingly caravan. The figures from the Caravan Club show an amazing growth in recent years. Of course, as was said a little earlier, we have a tremendous national heritage with our great museums and galleries, but they need extra resources. I ask the Minister whether the Treasury is making any progress in encouraging lifetime giving by those who are willing and have the resources to support many of our great heritage institutions.
As for the regions, there is considerable concern at the phasing out of the RDAs, which used to provide most of the funding for the destination management organisations. It is of considerable concern to read today that Visit Lincolnshire, the county council body that promotes Lincolnshire and tourism in that county, has been forced into administration after apparently losing £670,000 of funding.
However, the biggest single boost that the Government could give our tourism industry would be to support the Lighter Later campaign by altering the clocks and extending the useful hours of daylight. I was absolutely delighted that this was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, who is a Scot, as it is of course from Scotland that historically the criticism of a possible change has come, so I am delighted to hear his support for this proposal.
There is huge potential in overseas markets; China has already been referred to by other speakers. The visa situation is particularly unsatisfactory, and I end by reading an e-mail that I received yesterday from the managing editor of China Ethos:
“The UK is a very attractive tourist destination to the Chinese people. However, their enthusiasm to holiday in the UK is dampened down by the inconvenience encountered in obtaining a separate UK tourism visa in addition to a Schengen visa which allows entry to most European countries. Unless visitors have specific reason to come to the UK on their European trip, most will not bother applying for a UK visa due to the elaborate and time-consuming procedures. It clearly seems that the UK is losing out by keeping its door shut to the wealthy Chinese tourist on a shopping spree in Europe. In 2010, Chinese shoppers alone contributed to nearly a third of the UK post Xmas sales in luxury goods”.
My Lords, together with the noble Lord, Lord Lee, I am delighted to be able to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for his excellent maiden speech. I look forward not only to further speeches from him but to the other maiden speeches that follow. Perhaps none of us can compete with the beauty of the area in which the noble Lord had the privilege of representing the constituency.
The diocese of Hereford covers not only Herefordshire but south Shropshire, and I am told that the border country of the Wye Valley claims to have been the place where tourism began. Other noble Lords might wish to contest that, but that is what the people there say, and they do so on the basis that the Wye Valley attracted artists to the area in the 19th century.
I pick up the theme with which the noble Viscount began and others have continued: the opportunities for development and growth in tourism throughout the United Kingdom. Reference has already been made to the number of jobs that could be added—more than 200,000 are anticipated—and to the research; the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, referred to this. It will not surprise your Lordships that I want to connect it to visits to churches.
Forty-five per cent of grade 1 listed buildings in England are churches. That is a staggering number. If any other organisation or institution, apart from the church, was responsible for quite that number, I have no doubt that it would receive more attention. It means, therefore, that we are in the unique position of being able to welcome, as we do, visitors to our churches throughout the country. In our diocese, 71 per cent of the churches I know stay open all the time. They are there to welcome visitors and, indeed, do so free of charge. I am told that more than 70 per cent of the population have visited churches during the past year. Obviously, many have done so for the primary reason of our existence, for worship, but not exclusively or only for that.
Visitors are welcome for all the different reasons why they come. Some come for the architecture, history, beauty and heritage that churches have; and an increasing number, which again will be no surprise, come to explore family history, which has become such an interest for so many. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, we can host concerts and other cultural activities in our churches and church buildings in Wales. There is also nature and wildlife in our churchyards, and the opportunity that the undisturbed ground provides. The charity, Caring for God’s Acre, which began in our area, stresses that and wants to encourage other churchyards to connect with the work that it does. Churches also provide a place for quiet or silent reflection, spirituality, sacred space, and so on.
In England there are 43 Anglican cathedrals, which between them attract nearly 10 million visitors a year. Again, that is a vast contribution. There are 16,000 Anglican churches in England and the welcome that they give. We do not have the particular statistics, but they are there to encourage visitors and connect with local communities. Again, in our own diocese we are privileged to have so many architectural gems, such as Kilpeck, Abbey Dore, Ludlow and, of course, our own cathedral, which has 200,000 visitors a year. It is more visited than anywhere else in Herefordshire, which in itself emphasises the importance of our churches and cathedrals within the realm of tourism. Perhaps the scope to develop and extend that work is neglected. A cathedral close project in Hereford is the biggest current tourism investment in the county; more than £5 million goes into that. Only last week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, working with Durham diocese, put forward the twin monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow as the latest UK nomination for World Heritage status. There are nearly 30 World Heritage sites in the UK, four of which involve church buildings. That is yet another way of stressing the importance and contribution that they make.
As I conclude, I wish to emphasise not only the churches’ potential for growth in this regard, as in so many other aspects of tourism in our nation. I imagine I was not alone in being concerned to hear from the noble Viscount how much we have fallen behind France and Germany in the development of tourism in the past few years. I shall therefore end with a question for Her Majesty's Government. How are we to see funding support for tourism in the future, particularly in the post-regional development agency era and without the contributions that it was able to make more locally? Partnership funding for a Herefordshire churches tourism project in my area, sadly, had to stop. That weakens the way in which we can work together so that an area such as this can grow. I would love those aspects to be reversed so that instead of getting weaker, we can not only get stronger but can work more fully in partnership and perhaps speed up the development and rate of growth of tourism in our own United Kingdom.
My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech with some nervousness, particularly after hearing the eloquence of another newcomer, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, but that nervousness would be much worse had it not been for the extraordinarily generous welcome I have received from all sides of this House. Having been introduced almost three weeks ago, many noble Lords have been at pains and pained to say that it is not always like this here. Nevertheless, the warm reception for this one of very many newcomers has been hugely appreciated. I am delighted and honoured to be among you. I will always be grateful to my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, two genuine friends of very long standing, who introduced me in keeping with the coalition spirit. I add my tribute to the tolerance, good humour and unstinting helpfulness of the staff here. As we debate the importance of the tourism industry, I reflect on how some corners of that industry might benefit from emulating the behaviour of those who look after us here. It would be wonderful work experience for anyone contemplating going into tourism.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for initiating this important debate. My experience of working in the hospitality industry is limited to student spells behind a bar. Most of my career has been in journalism. It started when I replied to an advertisement in a daily newspaper, which stated: “Backdoor to Fleet Street”. It was so far back that it was in Woolwich, but it fulfilled its promise and enabled me to build a long and highly enjoyable career in national newspapers, where I concentrated on business and finance. I spent nine years as business editor of the Times and left there to edit the Sunday Telegraph. I take this opportunity to apologise humbly to any of your Lordships to whom in that capacity I might have caused any offence. It was never personal. Most recently, I was editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal Europe, but before joining that paper I took the opportunity to see business from the inside and joined the boards of a property company and a bank, Barclays. As noble Lords will know, journalists vie only with MPs for rank in the public’s estimation. My husband hoped that my standing might improve when I ventured into business, but unfortunately becoming a bank director did not provide that uplift. He is delighted with my new role and, in a brief Oscar moment, I thank him and our family for their support.
Over the years, I have chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and economic policies. I do not underestimate the difficulties of getting either right. However, as the UK seeks to regenerate its economy, I have no doubt that tourism has a vital role to play. This country has unique attractions. They draw visitors from around the globe, as we have heard, but they could, and should, draw more. I declare an interest here as I am lucky enough to be a trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Albert Hall, two very special—indeed, unique—institutions that both play almost to capacity, and on their behalf I join my noble friend Lord Lee in pleading for more help in encouraging philanthropy in this country.
If our tourism industry is to thrive, we need to nurture it. Noble Lords might not be surprised to hear that I believe that this is predominantly a job for the private sector and not for government. I fear that tourism, like so much of British business, might suffer from the short-termism that afflicts private sector investment today.
Tourism in this country is served by many small, striving businesses. Although it already accounts, as we have heard, for 8 per cent of total employment in the country, it has the scope to generate many more much needed new jobs. The development of a Disneyland, an Alton Towers or a major hotel complex requires long-term investment, not just in the physical structure but in seeing it through the planning process, the brand building and the employee training that tourist attractions need if they are to thrive. That is miles away from the short-term horizons that dominate much of today’s investment industry.
Too much of the financial world has moved a long way from the concept of money being invested to build businesses and create jobs. The financial crisis had many causes, but at least some of the blame must lie with investors. Many of them had not the faintest idea of what was going on in the banks that they owned. They were there as traders who watched symbols on a screen, anxious to make a quick buck. They were not interested in the concept of long-term ownership in building a business. That attitude, I am afraid, characterises much of what now masquerades under the label of investment.
We need to rekindle the appetite among investors for backing real businesses, not merely trading in stocks. A first step would be to encourage those whose money is in pension funds and savings plans to take a real interest in the way in which their cash is employed. Building successful businesses with long-term futures in many sectors, including the tourism sector, is in their best interests.
Finally, I echo the plea of my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie in asking that we consider resetting our clocks. Putting Britain’s clocks on the same time as most of Europe could, so we are told, bolster spending by another £3.5 billion a year. Holidaymakers tend not to be early risers. Delaying dusk by an hour will apparently coax the pounds from their pockets. I trust that this is a topic to which this House will return, because as we strive to rebuild our economy, the potential return from just turning back the clocks looks like a sound investment.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to congratulate, on behalf of the whole House, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft on her excellent and delightful maiden speech, which she made with such humour and style. She has given us an insight into the qualities and experience that she brings to your Lordships' House. In testing times, her distinction and reputation in the front rank of journalism and her knowledge of the City and the financial sector will be invaluable. Her public service commitment as a trustee of the British Museum and the Royal Albert Hall could not be more appropriate for today’s debate. We look forward to hearing from her often.
I also thank my noble friend Lord Younger for initiating this important debate and I very much look forward to the maiden speeches of my noble friends and other noble Lords. We have already heard two exceptional speeches. It is also a great pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, in his place on the Front Bench for the first time. As a Buckinghamshire man, I am delighted to see another.
Tourism is a big business in this country. The United Kingdom is the sixth most visited country in the world, with people coming to experience our culture and heritage and to visit locations that inspire democracy, industry and the arts. London is the number one most visited city in the world and is rightly famous for its museums, theatres and galleries. Indeed, in 2009 this Palace had nearly 1 million visitors. However, in 2006 only 20 per cent of visitors left London and the major cities. Therefore, many tourists are missing out on the British countryside, its county towns and villages, and the rural tourism industry is losing out on potential income.
Your Lordships would expect me, as a board member of the Countryside Alliance, to say that we should be encouraging more people to visit our most precious natural asset, which is our magnificent countryside, but Britain is ranked only 24th in the world in terms of natural beauty, behind countries such as Finland and Japan, and 12 places behind Ireland. As I reflect on that, are not all too many of our arterial routes strewn with litter, which is a disgrace to our country? I doubt that I am alone in expressing great embarrassment over just how filthy many of our roadsides currently are.
There are many beautiful parts of the world, but do they have the range—I emphasise that word—of landscapes that our comparatively small islands have to offer? The Lake District, Exmoor, the Chilterns, the Cotswolds, the Highlands, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Giant’s Causeway—to name but a few—provide astonishingly beautiful landscapes. It is encouraging that VisitEngland has identified that, in 2008-09, rural attractions reported a strong increase in visits, which were up by 7 per cent on the previous year, and we must build on this. I welcome the proposals that the Prime Minister laid out in his speech in August last year with the aim of invigorating tourism in the UK. The royal wedding, Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics will put the international spotlight firmly on London. There are great opportunities to promote visiting beyond the boundaries of the M25.
The good news is that the UK domestic tourism market has increased over the past few years. Last year, visitors from within the UK made 126 million overnight trips and spent £22 billion in the process—much of that in rural areas. In total, rural tourism in England and Wales generates at least £16 billion a year, which makes up a substantial part of the overall total of £73 billion. Tourism makes a significant contribution to the rural economy, supports village shops and services, jobs and businesses and is crucial to ensuring the long-term sustainability of our countryside. The jobs that are supported by rural tourism—380,000 in England alone—encourage people to live, work and bring up their families in rural communities.
Turning from the general to the particular, I want to focus on one part of the country, West Somerset, where a quarter of all jobs are in tourism. This is due in part to the good relationship between the private and public sectors and to the fact that the national parks work well with local hostelries and activity enterprises. A further reason behind the area’s success is the draw of country sports enthusiasts from here and abroad to participate in hunting, shooting and fishing in the counties of Devon and Somerset. These pastimes are not only part of Exmoor’s heritage but, as the Countryside Alliance has pointed out, account for 90 per cent of winter tourism in the area. They maintain employment in otherwise challenging circumstances and provide vital income in the winter months. Indeed, many would not survive without this trade.
Rural tourism playing its fullest part in the international market is a huge economic opportunity. Currently, we have 3.5 per cent of the world market in the international tourism sector. It is estimated that each half a percentage point increase would add £2.7 billion of spending to the economy and more than 50,000 jobs. Therefore, we should work hard to promote the UK in emerging economies such as India, China and Latin America. My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft’s membership of the UK-India Round Table will, I have no doubt, be most helpful in that regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Lee, mentioned China. We must become a destination for more Chinese tourists. The UK has recently fallen from sixth to eleventh place in the World Economic Forum’s travel and tourism competitive ratings. We are rated 14th out of 50 countries for the quality of our welcome. According to VisitBritain, foreigners view us as honest, funny, kind and efficient, but,
“in some cases they wish we offered a more exuberant welcome”,
so we have some challenges ahead.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has put aside £50 million to market Britain across the world, and the tourism industry has responded well to the challenge to match this with the same amount of private investment. These are exciting opportunities for us to grasp firmly. In the current economic climate, tourism is an area in which Britain could succeed. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will explore further the many areas in which Her Majesty's Government can assist in this partnership for success.
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for initiating this debate. I also thank the many noble Lords and officers and staff of the House who have befriended me since my introduction and made my first weeks in this illustrious House far less unnerving than they might have been. I thank particularly my two sponsors, my noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lord Carlile, for all their help and encouragement.
Nevertheless, it is with some trepidation—your Lordships can hear this from all the maiden speakers today—that I stand to speak before you today for my maiden speech. Could it be that Oscar Wilde was wrong when he said that politicians address all subjects with an open mouth? Even more difficult is the requirement to be uncontroversial—particularly for me—but I will do my best to be both uncontroversial and to the point.
When I stood as a Liberal candidate in school elections way back in the dark ages—it was a long time ago—I had no idea that I would one day be addressing this august body. My family background is a cocktail of nationalities. My late mother was Polish, and in the context of today being national Holocaust Memorial Day, I remember her mother and sister, my grandmother and aunt, who stayed in Poland and were never heard of again at the end of the Second World War. Today, we remember all those, not only in that Holocaust but everywhere else, who were not so lucky as my mother and sadly perished in those dreadful times.
My father also came from far away—Newcastle. My Uncle Isaac was killed in service in the Middlesex Regiment in the First World War, while my father served in the British Army in the Second World War.
By profession, I am a chartered accountant and spent my professional life as a partner and senior partner in firms of London-based chartered accountants. As an adult with a young family—I thank my wife Susette and my children for their wonderful support—I wanted to play my part in making my London borough a good place to live and work. As a borough councillor for the best part of 25 years, both in government and in opposition, that has been my aim.
As a councillor, one of my concerns was that of promoting the London Borough of Barnet. However, my interest in urban tourism was generated by chance. I was invited by a senior politician to hear a speech that he would be making at the English Tourist Board. As I had at that time no practical interest in tourism, he had to persuade me that I would enjoy his speech and, incidentally, the copious food and drink that would follow. He was right. As I walked, somewhat erratically, down Lower Regent Street following the event, I started to think about what I described as urban tourism. I realised that my borough, Barnet, like many towns and cities, had much to offer visitors. Lots of famous personalities lived or worked there—for example, Amy Johnson—and there were many places of real interest, one being the exceptional Royal Air Force Museum at Colindale, which has fascinating displays including a hands-on section for children.
Then there is the green belt surrounding Barnet with its rural parks and open spaces. We have heard about rural England from other speakers. Consulting with Barnet's local studies historian and archivist, I ascertained that there were many notable people and places of pilgrimage in our borough. William Wilberforce—he of the abolition of slavery—prayed at St Paul's church, while his friend Sir Stamford Raffles has a tomb at St Mary's Hendon. For those interested in church monuments, there are monumental brasses to be rubbed, notably at Finchley and Hadley. I am very grateful to the right reverend Prelate for talking about the place that churches can play both in religion and in tourism. We are also in close proximity to the great estate of Kenwood, with its historic house and grounds.
I am sure that Barnet is not alone in having more to offer tourists than at first meets the eye. This situation probably applies to many towns and boroughs throughout Britain, which, if they look, will find sights and facilities to promote tourism. I was shocked when I was a council cabinet member I found find that managers of local hotels had little idea of the wealth of interest in the local area. However, once apprised of the possibilities, they were interested in taking them up.
In these difficult times, more conferences will be held outside central London, and our urban conurbations need to develop positive facilities for these and to promote places of interest for the non-attending partners of delegates.
What about the bikes for hire in London? Surely there is scope for rides through the Royal Parks, or guided bicycle tours of London's historic centre. More people are getting on their bikes, even without the prompt of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and this should be encouraged as an environmentally sound way of exploring our country for citizens and visitors alike.
I have concentrated on London, but the same rationale can be applied to many places in Britain. For example, my children were at university in Manchester, which is another example of a large town with an industrial background where many visitors interested in industrial history, manufacturing and the growth of urban life will find sites of interest.
With the rise in the use of the internet and mobile phone apps, particularly among the young, promoting one's area on these media is essential for successful tourism. My plea is that tourism is not only for the headline-catching events, but these certainly have their place. We are starting a decade of major international sporting events hosted across Britain, with the Olympic Games. Our travel, hospitality and tourism industries have a wonderful opportunity to boost tourism, show the country's great attractions and increase and enhance Britain's popularity and reputation as a five-star tourist destination. We need to encourage everyone to enjoy seeing as much of our country as possible and to travel widely throughout our urban and rural landscapes, across the great diversity of interest and enjoyment that our country can provide.
Government can help. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, referred to a speech on tourism last year by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. I shall quote from that, because there was not a lot of quote in what the noble Lord said. The Prime Minister said that,
“the current business rates system … fails to support the development of tourism. If a local council does more to attract tourists to its area they know they’ll be picking up costs but they’ll get none of the additional business rate revenue. Central government sucks in 100 per cent of this revenue generated by all local economic growth. This is just mad”.
We are known as a country with a temperate climate—and reference has been made to our weather in this debate. It is interesting, at least. Our countryside ranges from pleasant to magnificent, but we should not forget our towns and suburbs, both ancient and modern, with much to offer the tourist. We had a lot of statistics from the noble Viscount, but I shall quote just one. Cultural tourism is Britain's fifth largest industry, our third largest export earner and worth about £115 billion a year. This is good, but it could be made even better and more versatile, and I welcome this debate.
In conclusion, I thank you all for your kindness in this my first—some would say unusual—week in your Lordships' House, and I hope to contribute to the civilised debate, for which this House is famous, for many useful years to come.
My Lords, I still find it a little strange no longer to be the only Lord Palmer in this House. I have never before received so many Christmas cards, but it gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord on his thought-provoking maiden speech, which was delivered with distinction and fluency. He has long been a prominent member of his party and I am sure that we will all benefit from his interventions in the years to come. On behalf of the whole House, I congratulate him on a truly splendid performance.
I, too, congratulate the noble Viscount on introducing his first debate and for his comprehensive view of the United Kingdom’s tourism industry. I concur with everything that he said. I also congratulate him on attracting a record number of maiden speakers, pro rata, in this debate, which only goes to show how strongly Members of this House feel about this subject. Back in 1995, I had the privilege to lead a debate on the arts and heritage, which then attracted a record number of maiden speakers, who included an Earl, a Viscount and a noble Lord from these Benches. Sadly, such an occasion is no longer possible.
I must declare an interest, because I open my home and gardens to the visiting public. As such, I am very dependent on a vibrant tourism industry. Sadly, our income from tourism has recently fallen drastically—20 years ago, I used to be relatively content with 12,000 visitors a year; last year we were lucky to attract a little more than 5,000. It does not take a financial genius to work out what a sizeable drop of income that represents. This affects not only our income but that of the local economy in the sparsely populated area of the Scottish borders, which during the summer and indeed the winter months—with shooting, for example—is so dependent on tourism. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, made that very point, particularly with regard to the West Country.
In my small capacity as a tourist attraction operator, I employ five full-time people and a further 15 part time. I believe that due to our repeat business which we are fortunate to experience, we have a product worth selling, but we are up against all the odds, not least of all the price of petrol, the increase in VAT and fierce competition from overseas. If one looks at the travel pages in the daily press, in theory—I emphasise, in theory—one can go to Malta, for example, for £299 per person, all inclusive. I repeat, all inclusive. That includes flights, board, lodging and all drinks for seven nights. A first-class open rail ticket from King’s Cross to Edinburgh now costs nearly £400. That is simply for one journey.
I know of one noble Lord who visited my home, among others in the Scottish borders, whose total bill for the week was well over £2,000. I confirmed this with him only last night. How can visitor attractions in this country possibly compete with what is on offer overseas?
I wish to concentrate on the grotesquely unfair tax—air passenger duty or APD. It is an utter myth that this is an environmental tax, given that private planes and cargo planes are exempt. The one group of people who really could afford APD are those with the luxury of owning a private plane or a part-share in one. Holland and Belgium have recently abandoned their equivalent, realising the damage that APD has done to their economies. Meanwhile, in the past six years, APD in this country has risen by a staggering 325 per cent. London is far more of an expensive destination than all our rival European cities, especially for those coming from China, India, Australasia and Russia. Ireland has just announced that its levy will be cut from €10 to just €3. When you compare that with a levy of £85 for someone travelling in economy class to Ireland from the United Kingdom, it makes a complete mockery.
Not unnaturally, more and more travellers living in the regions are increasingly choosing to fly long haul via Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt rather than Heathrow, in order to avoid this tax. Her Majesty's Government have announced that they are looking at APD and I sincerely believe that all these points must be taken on board and action must be taken as soon as possible.
One of my pet hates about tourism in the United Kingdom is the lengthy queues at immigration desks on entering this country, especially early in the morning when only a small number of desks appear open and a vast number of passengers are arriving after a long and exhausting overnight flight. That is so unwelcoming and surely it is a problem that could be so easily rectified. I urge the Minister to take this on board. The noble Viscount and others mentioned the forthcoming Royal wedding and next year's Olympic Games. The results of the review of the APD must be in place well before the first of those two important events.
This country has so much to offer and this is such a wonderful opportunity. It must be grasped now—I emphasise now—before, indeed, it is too late.
My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to the House for the first time. I would like to thank the House and especially its staff for the welcome and support that I have experienced during my introduction and induction. It has been very much appreciated. Coming in as a long-time supporter of reform of this House, the warmth of my welcome has made me recall the advice of my former mentor, friend and colleague Roy Jenkins—a most distinguished past Member of this House—who, echoing the words of Adlai Stevenson, always advised us to be cautious. He said, “Enjoy the House of Lords, but don't inhale”.
Like Roy Jenkins, I have been a long-standing European. I am a little sad that it was in my home village of Droxford in Hampshire, now associated with me in this House, that Churchill made his intemperate response to General de Gaulle that when it came to the point, he would always side with the USA against France. The fierce arguments two days before D-Day in June 1944 took place on a train on the sidings of Droxford station, now sadly closed. I like to think that the intemperate atmosphere that day was not helped by the tactless choice of Churchill to meet a French statesman in a railway carriage so soon after the French surrender at Compiègne. Anthony Eden and Ernest Bevin did their best to contradict the views of Churchill that day but Harold Macmillan sadly felt the consequences of this conversation 18 years later.
I have spent most of my business career in the newspaper industry, both in regional and national newspapers. For 10 years, I was based just over the downs from Droxford in Portsmouth. There I became firmly committed to the view that successful businessmen should contribute more to society than they take out—a sentiment that I fear has weakened in recent years but needs much more emphasis in a period of austerity.
When I went to work in Portsmouth 21 years ago, it had unemployment of over 10 per cent. The naval dockyard was in severe decline. The community simply had to diversify from its overdependence on the Navy. Fortunately, Portsmouth had a vision of what needed to be done, and developing tourism lay at the heart of it. The Renaissance of Portsmouth Harbour partnership was formed, which I chaired. It involved the private, public and voluntary sectors to regenerate and restructure the whole Portsmouth harbour frontage into the world asset that it deserves to be. Funds came from private developers and were combined with lottery funding and other funds to link existing and new attractions on the harbour-side. Two million people have visited the Spinnaker Tower since it was built five years ago, and the city region now benefits from over £400 million in spending by 7.2 million visitors a year. As important as the new jobs and revenues, tourism has helped shape a new perception of Portsmouth so that it can attract new business and investment.
I like to think that the Portsmouth partnership will be seen as a forerunner of the local enterprise partnerships. They will have a major role to play in developing tourism. Portsmouth has joined the new Solent Partnership with its great rival Southampton and the Isle of Wight. There remain great opportunities for other regeneration work in the old dockyard. There is a new museum for the “Mary Rose” and the Royal Navy to come. Tourism will continue to be a strong source of jobs and economic growth. Portsmouth will not stand still. I am also glad that the Navy, despite its cutbacks, has found funds to keep HMS “Victory”, the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, in her prime.
Tourism is one of our biggest business sectors in the UK and has great economic potential for the country. However, we cannot be complacent and just rely on our innate heritage, culture and countryside. In a very competitive global market, tourism needs renewal and investment. It will be an important outlet of jobs over the coming decade. It is a fact that the largest proportion of our young people get their first experience of work in the tourism and hospitality sectors. In terms of skill enhancement, the experience of work and confidence-building among young people, tourism has an important role to play. The Government can help with initiatives for employment training and work experience for those finding it difficult to enter the labour market.
It is essential that the Government set a stable and encouraging environment for tourism to develop. At a time when funds will be short, though, we should be looking again at a costless initiative to boost the tourism industry. I support the view expressed today by my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, who I worked with at the Times, that the Government, in their forthcoming review of tourism, should put the extension of British Summer Time back on the political agenda. That would directly benefit tourism in this country. I thank the House for listening to my views today.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able to congratulate my noble friend Lord Stoneham on an excellent maiden speech. He brings to this House a great deal of talent and a huge amount of experience. He told us some of the things that he has done in Portsmouth, and we all congratulate him on them, but he has done all sorts of other things too. He might well have enjoyed his time in the Labour Party but it could not have been a bundle of fun to be treasurer during the 1979 election for the campaign for Labour victory. He moved from there, however—he obviously did not inhale the Labour Party enough to satisfy himself—and, in a way, he became a maternity nurse because he oversaw the beginning of the Alliance. More recently, he was on the Alliance’s merger committee, so he has had a wealth of experience in politics. He has stood for Parliament four times, and the other place’s loss is our gain because it is a delight to welcome him here. I am also pleased that one of his interests is housing because the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and I have taken part in debates on that and welcome a new face in them. We look forward to hearing my noble friend a great deal more in future. I thank him for a very good speech.
I thank my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie, a fellow Scot, whose father was my first Secretary of State when I was a Whip for Scotland many blue moons ago. There is no doubt that my noble friend’s late father would be immensely proud of what his son is doing in the House and of his introducing the debate today.
I declare my interest. I run a heritage visitor attraction in the north of Scotland, am a trustee and have involvement with other visitor attractions. I also take an active part in ancestral tourism. When I discussed this debate with a friend yesterday, he said, “Goodness, tourism is going so well that I would not spend any money on it”. At first blush, he might be right. As my noble friend Lord Younger said, the picture is good. Tourism is Britain’s fifth largest industry, its third largest export turnout and worth about £115 billion a year. Overseas visitors contribute some £3 billion to the Treasury every year. Tourism supports over 200,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and, according to the Nation Brands Index, in terms of culture the UK is fourth out of 50.
In Scotland—I will, not surprisingly, speak mostly about Scotland—tourism accounted for £11.1 billion of GDP, which is over 10 per cent, and over a quarter of a million jobs, again over 10 per cent of the total. A disproportionate number of those jobs are in the Highlands. Recently, the National Geographic Traveler included the Scottish Highlands as one of its 20 best trips of 2011. We welcome that greatly. I look forward to more visitors to the Highlands but it must be remembered that those visitors will also go through London and probably Edinburgh—or one of the two. Those cities will benefit and we in the Highlands tend not to get much back from them. Recent reports predict growth throughout the United Kingdom including the north of Scotland, so perhaps when I discussed that with my friend yesterday he was right.
Yet it is clear from the debate that not everything is rosy in the garden. We need to protect and enhance the jewel that we have in tourism. The Government need to recognise what it contributes to the country. I was interested by what my noble friend Lord Lee said on that, having been a Minister for Tourism. I know that it is not given the recognition that it deserves by government. We have no divine right to expect tourists to come here. We are losing our share of international tourism. In competitive terms, in 2009 the UK was down five places from where it was in 2008. It looks as if the goose that lays the golden eggs is being slowly strangled. There are warnings here for the national Government in Westminster and the regional Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On the national Government, the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, mentioned inbound immigration costs. He will be horrified to know that the UK Border Agency aims for a 45-minute wait for those coming from outside Europe but fails to achieve this 30 per cent of the time. The cost of coming to the UK is horrific. It is ranked 133 out of 133 nations on price competitiveness. The ease of access of coming to the UK between 2006 and 2012, so far as airline seat capacity is concerned, has increased by only 2.9 per cent whereas the capacity of France is up 6.3 per cent while Germany has risen to 5 per cent. Those are not good trends. The red lights are flashing.
While on the cost of travel, I pick up again what the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, said on airport duty. Would the Minister spare time after this debate to look at the cost of booking a flight to Wick in July? She will find that the airport duty—tax and fees—alone is more than the entire cost of a flight, including taxes and fees, to either Milan or Malta on the same date. That is stupid. It is cutting our own throats and stops people wanting to come here.
As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said in his excellent speech, tourism is a devolved matter. In Scotland we are lucky to have an agency such as VisitScotland that has such a good brand to sell. I said I was interested in ancestral tourism. In 2009 in Scotland we had the Homecoming, which was a major attraction throughout Scotland. The prime event was the Gathering in Edinburgh, which was organised by the private sector. My noble friend Lady Wheatcroft is absolutely right to say that the private sector should drive such things. Although it is disappointing that it lost money, it is worth reflecting on the figures. In the end, when all the costs were in, about 20 per cent of the budget came from public funding but the return on public funding as a result of the Gathering was 20:1. It produced something like £10.4 million for the Scottish economy and £8.8 million for Edinburgh. The projected rate of investment return was 8:1 but, as I said, it was 20:1. The Scottish Government are planning another Homecoming in 2014, when I hope there will be another Gathering. We have the blueprint and have learnt some lessons but there needs to be much better co-ordination and help across all sectors, including the Government and all agencies. However, it must be run by the private sector because it is the private sector that brings ancestral tourism back to this country.
That working relationship needs to be addressed in another area, too. It was quite right that the tourist boards were abolished; they were bureaucratic and not doing their job. The destination marketing organisations are a much better way forward. They need to be mean and lean and private sector-driven, but they do need the support of local government and its agencies. Local government and the agencies often think that they can do things better than the private sector, when they should be working in partnership.
I mention one thing that has not been mentioned so far: signage on roads. We have a five-star tourist attraction called Caithness Horizons in Thurso. It has been open for two and a half years but there is still no agreement between TranServ and Travel Scotland about signing it on the main trunk road to Thurso. It is ludicrous. How can visitors to the country begin to realise what we have and come to appreciate it?
I have mentioned what the Government should be doing and what the agencies should be doing but the private sector also needs to get its act together. We are not working in as united a way as possible. There are huge challenges ahead. We are subject to vast international competition. Visitors are even more demanding than they have been in the past. Unless we produce the right quality of visitor attraction and service in the hotel they will not come again. That is, without doubt, a very clear message. We have problems with the quality of staff. Getting the right quality of staff and retaining them when you have such a short tourist season as we have in the north of Scotland is a major problem. The private sector needs help on that.
One of the reasons that National Geographic Traveler mentioned in its support for the Highlands as a destination was the countryside and the,
“stunning quality of light on the moors”.
One of my major concerns is the plethora of windmills that have appeared on skylines, and which are edging the beautiful light that we have in the countryside into a flickering light that will put off every tourist who comes near the place.
I will close on one thing that I was not going to mention but has been mentioned—that is, daylight saving. I know that all your Lordships would expect me, coming from the far north of Scotland, to be against daylight saving. I have not come across anybody in Caithness who does not want the change. We realise that farming methods have changed considerably. It was quite right that 20 years ago daylight saving would have been a huge disbenefit to us. Now it would be a benefit and I hope it is one of the things that the Government will introduce.
My Lords, as I rise to speak here for the first time, I am deeply conscious of the privilege and honour of joining your Lordships’ House. For me, as a lawyer, it is a particular privilege—and a daunting one—to be joining the substantial cohort of distinguished lawyers who sit on these Benches and across the whole House.
I start by thanking my two supporters. My noble friend Lord Goodhart is one of the most distinguished of those lawyers whom I mentioned and has been a friend and mentor to me throughout my 30 years of involvement in politics. Indeed, it was his wife Celia, herself a well known and widely loved Liberal Democrat, who first signed me up as a member of the SDP in those heady days following the Limehouse declaration in early 1981. My junior supporter, my noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine, has also been a very good friend to me and a source of advice, information and good ideas over a number of years. I am very grateful to them both.
I am also hugely grateful for the generosity of my welcome here across the House, both from my own party and from Peers of all parties and none. Before arriving here, I used to think that I had a good sense of direction—so good, in fact, that in common, I am told, with many of my gender I never needed to seek directions when lost. Here, however, I have been completely humbled by the layout of this Palace and, had it not been for the enormous help of the Doorkeepers and all the other staff, I would never have found my way anywhere at all. I thank all the amazing staff of this House for their constant help and kindness over the two weeks—two rather full weeks, I might add—since I arrived here.
As a barrister, I have practised in recent years mostly in the largely unrelated fields of commercial and family law, but for much of my career I have had a far wider general practice. I hope to put my experience at the Bar to good use in your Lordships’ House. Politically, I chaired the Liberal Democrat Lawyers Association for six years and served, also for six years, on the party’s federal policy committee. However, I come to this House with no previous parliamentary experience and was never a Member of the other place. That was not for want of trying, as in the 1980s I stood twice as a candidate for the House of Commons, first in Weston-super-Mare and then in Falmouth and Camborne. I also stood as a candidate for the European Parliament for Cornwall and Plymouth.
It was in connection with Cornwall in particular that I became interested in both the opportunities and the challenges offered by tourism, which was then and is now even more so Cornwall’s principal industry. It is for that reason that I have chosen to speak in this debate. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for bringing it to this House. For Cornwall, the challenge has been and remains to attract high-quality tourism that is not unduly dependent on the weather and that extends over a season beyond the traditional tourist summer months—and to do so in a sustainable way, where the demands of high tourist numbers do not damage the quality of the very environment that makes Cornwall unique.
Cornwall is of course blessed with a natural landscape of remarkable beauty, but it has also had great successes achieved by the imagination of a large number of people. They include, to name but a few, the development of the Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and a great many wonderful smaller private gardens, and the Tate at St Ives and the revival of interest in the Newlyn school of painting. However, one step that would, in my view, further assist Cornwall in particular and the tourist industry generally in Britain—this has been mentioned in a swelling chorus in this debate by the noble Viscount, in his opening speech, and by my noble friends Lord Lee of Trafford, Lady Wheatcroft, Lord Stoneham and Lord Caithness—would be for the Government to give their backing to the Daylight Saving Bill. The one-hour move proposed would have profound economic and environmental benefits at virtually no financial cost.
I would also like to say a word or two about the Olympics and Paralympics in the context of tourism. My wife—I thank her and my family for their wonderful help and support—is Greek. We visit Athens regularly. In 2004, we attended a large number of events at the Athens Olympics. I think that there are lessons that we can learn. On the positive side, the organisers had recruited a veritable army of young people, who were there to give advice and help to visitors to the Games not only at the stadia but at metro, bus and tram stations across the city. For those young people, as well as for those whom they helped, this made a profound difference. There are no doubt many whose experience of the Games has built up their confidence and helped them in later life at a difficult time for Greece.
On the negative side, however, while the transport infrastructure built for the Games in Athens has survived and has given a substantial boost to the city’s economy, the wonderful sports venues now lie forlorn and derelict, covered in graffiti and strewn with rubbish, maintained, or rather undermaintained, at a public cost of tens of millions of euros annually. It is vital that, following the 2012 Olympics, we ensure that the promise of a long-term legacy that we made in our bid for the Games is kept, so I hope that when the Olympic Park Legacy Company meets again to consider the rival bids for the Olympic stadium early next month it will look to enhance the future of athletics in this country and to take advantage of the regeneration in east London that the Olympics will bring about. That will be good both for the future of sport and for the future of tourism in Britain.
Finally, on the importance of sport to tourism, I mention my own home town, Henley-on-Thames, where I was brought up and where I live now. It has, since 1839, and without any commercial sponsorship or outside subsidy, hosted the Henley Royal Regatta, probably the world’s greatest rowing event, which attracts teams and their supporters every year and in increasing numbers from all over the world, to the immeasurable benefit of the local economy of the town and of the wider area. It is a great example of what tourism already does for our economy locally and nationally, but there is a great deal more that we could do to foster and encourage the tourist industry to achieve its full potential. I hope that this debate plays some part in that endeavour and I am grateful for the part that I have been able to play in it.
My Lords, after nearly 48 years in this House, I wonder why I feel rather nervous today. I think that it is something to do with the word “maiden” or the fact that there are six maiden speakers in a small debate. When you come to this place, often you have many friends who try to advise you. One of these was the ninth Baron Hawke, who came from a great cricketing family and was very kind to me. He was a Lord in Waiting and told me where to sit. To begin with, I did not know where to sit; I sat on the Barons’ Bench, which is the Back Bench over there, because that is what it said in the book. I did not know that when the Government changed you sat on the opposite side of the Chamber. I was only 25. I had no concept that the Liberals would so change sides. This idea of maidens made me think, because when you hear six really good maiden speeches you realise that adding to this House provides quality from time to time. Lord Hawke had six daughters and then, being descended from a great cricketing family, he had a seventh. When asked how he felt, he said, “At least I’ve got a maiden over”. Sandwiched between these maiden speakers, I feel rather like some sort of worn-out grilse with two fresh run salmon on either side.
I should declare an interest in that I have spent much of my life as a business tourist. I like to go to places that I want to go to. I have spoken before on the subject of tourism. I declare first and foremost that I worked for a while with the Midland Bank group. We owned Thomas Cook, the first tour operator. I hate “ism” words. I do not like tourism, fundamentalism or any form of “ism”. The tour was the original thing that Thomas Cook did. He set up a train that went from Leicester to Loughborough. Then another member of the family, Miss Jemima, set up the river boats on the Nile.
I will concentrate today on infrastructure. I went out to see why Thomas Cook was not doing very well on the Nile. I came back to my hotel one night and felt really ill. I realised that I had that classic disease known as gippy tummy, a cousin of Delhi belly. I wondered what the problem was and was told that it was the sewers. I went off and asked if we could rebuild the sewers. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, will understand this, because he is a specialist in the doubtful underground tunnelling machinery that I have used in my life. I came back and suggested that we should redo the sewers of Cairo. Before long, I was rather proud to tell my colleagues that I had won a contract to rebuild the sewers, because tourism was fading and it was disease that was killing it. Then in the Times—this was nothing to do with my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, whom I had not met at the time—I saw the headline, “UK Cashes in on His Lordship’s Stomach”. I was caught. What happened was that if you get the infrastructure right, suddenly things change. I use Egypt as a simple example. Its tourism industry is booming because there is no disease.
One of our problems in the United Kingdom may well be the lack of necessary infrastructure. I declare another interest. For six years I chaired the Greater London and South East Council for Sport and Recreation, responsible for planning sport and recreation in Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, so help me God. We had a team of 152. The Government thought that the more people one brought together to do things, the better. We had quite a lot of money to spend. However, I realised that we had something like 85 active sports. Now, if you want the British to do something, the best thing that you can do is to get them to enjoy it. We did not worry about trying to stop ILEA closing down playing fields for children. We set out to create fun. We thought that it might be a good idea to create enjoyment on the Thames. To us, it seemed a place that you could attract people to. It was slightly polluted. Noble Lords may remember Tufton Beamish, the great Member of the other place, who offered a 100 guinea prize for the first person to catch a salmon in the Thames. All of us tried. We bought salmon in shops and tied them to a bit of string to see if we could win the prize. Now, suddenly, the Thames is beginning to clean up. Docklands was a dead place. Those of us who went down to help to regenerate Docklands would go past Limehouse Cut every day. We knew that little planning shop in Limehouse, where suddenly politics was going to change.
I turn now to the infrastructure of tourism and the points that have been made so far. In order to attract people to the United Kingdom, we have to make it easy and economic to get here. However, we must not look solely at tourism, because we are looking to attract people to invest and build businesses here. I remember working with Peter Walker and the Welsh Development Agency. We created a wonderful network of new technology that went all the way down to Hereford, the Wye valley and beyond. It was the same with Silicon Glen in Glasgow and Scotland.
Attracting people here is important. It is an attractive place to be. When we were trying to get the Japanese firm Nissan to come here, the most important thing was whether they could be members of a golf club. We even put in a proposal for the creation of a new golf club. If one wants to attract tourists, one should think about the facilities and the infrastructure.
It is pretty pathetic that we had to shut our airports, that we could not keep them open this winter and that we were putting people off coming here. It is also disturbing that, as has been pointed out, the costs of coming to the United Kingdom from parts far away are so high. We have forgotten that there is in this world a kind of heritage. Every Commonwealth country has a heritage relationship with us. We know that when the Australians come they flood into Earls Court, kangaroo country. Others will go to different parts of England. It is those relationships that we need to build on, to make this place an attractive place to come to, a place where people want to work. We can look at the tourism—if we could use that word without the “ism”, I would prefer it—of teaching people the language; we could look at schools, games and sports. There is the boom that may take place as we look towards not only the Olympics but Her Majesty’s Jubilee year. Few of us will forget the time of the last Jubilee, when the whole of the Mall was crowded with the most amazingly mixed-culture group of people that you have ever seen, or the spirit of good will that was in the air.
I have envied the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for a long time. I had to take professional risks in the construction industry when we did not have the benefit of his advice. As he knows, he is in one of the oldest buildings in the world, which may well not conform to some of the high standards that he has been used to in his professional career. I regret that we have lost the Law Lords. We had 107 people to whom we could turn for free advice, but the addition of the noble Lord, Lord Marks, leads me to believe that, as money may not change hands in your Lordships’ House, he will be freely available to be consulted by your Lordships on everything that we can think of. I am grateful to him for what he said today. I am really impressed by my noble friend, whose father I knew well, for having assembled such a remarkable team.
My Lords, I add my appreciation, as have so many who have made their maiden speeches this afternoon, for the real kindness and friendliness which has been shown to me. It is deeply appreciated and sincerely expressed. I also express my appreciation for the helpfulness and encouragement of the staff of the House of Lords. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Younger on introducing this debate in such a comprehensive way and putting it into such a good context.
I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation of my two supporters: first, my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew of Twysden, whose work in Northern Ireland was hugely successful and greatly beneficial, as I saw for myself, and characterised by his immense modesty; and, secondly, my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever, whose good sense, wisdom and judgment I heard on many occasions in many meetings over the years.
In 1997, I became a shadow Minister for culture, media and sport, and enjoyed the tourism brief. I am pleased to say that today there is a dedicated tourism Minister. In those days of a somewhat passionate honeymoon for the incoming Government, it was not particularly easy to be an opposition spokesman, but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to travel to many parts of the country to meet people engaged in the tourism industry. I visited Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, where I had the opportunity to stay with the local Member of Parliament—a Liberal Democrat. At the time, one or two eyebrows were raised by local Conservatives at that act of minor political ecumenism, but I like to think that it was an act of prescience, even if it took 12 years to come to proper fruition.
Of course, we cannot account for our weather. It is eccentric and not predictable. People will travel abroad in their droves to go to sunnier climes where the weather is more predictable. However, the point about our tourist offer is that we have an astonishing variety of places to visit and activities in which to share.
There is something of the Heineken effect with the tourism industry, in that it spreads to all parts of the United Kingdom, but I want to talk about London for a moment. We have an incomparable cultural life in this city with our opera, ballet, music and galleries and, perhaps above all, our theatre, which really is the jewel in the crown. Year after year and decade after decade, we have playwrights, producers, directors, actors and actresses of the highest possible quality, and they thrill us with their performances. Of course, we are blessed to have the English language, which draws many people to this city. As one goes down the Thames, it is wonderful to see the juxtaposition of an ancient building such as the Tower of London set against the Gherkin. We are comfortable with all the architectural styles that mark our long and extraordinary history. Within 100 yards of where I live in central London, there are blue plaques in memory of Laura Ashley, Jomo Kenyatta and Aubrey Beardsley. They are an unlikely trio but that is London and that is its massive tourist appeal.
There has been a lot of discussion about the branding of tourism. I think that the Prime Minister got it right when he talked about there being a spectrum from Glyndebourne to Glastonbury. I know something about rock concerts and music festivals because my daughter would disappear for days on end and be totally incommunicado at such events. However, they are certainly a great draw for young people, particularly from China and south-east Asia. We also outclass other places in our exhibitions of fashion and design. Modernity and creativity are very much part of our national offering.
We ourselves are in an iconic building. Big Ben is something of a national symbol, and opposite is the London Eye—again, a perfect example of the juxtapositions that I am talking about. Of course, we are served very well in this country because there is nothing in the world comparable with the National Trust, English Heritage and the Historic Houses Association. What is so marvellous is that the people of this country really cherish the built architectural heritage and want to share it with others.
We have heard about some of the events that lie before us in tourist terms: the royal wedding, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. Following their hosting of the Olympics, Barcelona and Sydney experienced an enormous increase in visitor numbers. I very much welcome the £100 million overseas marketing fund, which aims to deliver an additional 1 million visitors and £2 billion in extra revenues. Tourism contributes 8.7 per cent of our GDP, and that will undoubtedly be boosted by those events.
I live in a part of England which does not have hosts of golden daffodils by lakes—we do not have very much water in Suffolk. We have not mountains or soaring cliffs but a gentle landscape. However, we do have the music by people such as Benjamin Britten and the paintings of Constable which were inspired by that landscape. For 18 years, I represented a part of Suffolk in another place. I lived just outside a village called Risby, which was the epicentre of the area, and I saw the importance of the local attractions, whether it was the racecourse at Newmarket, Thetford Forest or the abbey at Bury St Edmunds. As our regional structures of governance are being changed, it is very important that the focus on the local market, and making people aware of that local market, is maintained. Today, we have country houses offering health hydros and wonderful restaurants. The standard of our food has increased enormously and, of course, the multi-ethnic nature of our population means that we have a huge variety on offer.
There has been a lively debate about the structures of tourism in this country, with VisitBritain promoting our country abroad. Of course, the economics are good and bad: we have a substantial trade imbalance for the reasons that I have talked about. Nevertheless it is the fifth largest industry in this country and employs 1.5 million people. What is really significant is that it cannot be out-sourced or offshored. It is ours. What we are seeing is a better level of co-operation between government, tourist boards and the private sector. The real importance of tourism is understood for all its difficulties and challenges.
I conclude by saying that what we offer is unique. It is vital that more people know about it. It is in our national economic interest that that should be the case. It is true that perhaps journalists, real estate agents and politicians may rank low in the esteem of the public. It was perhaps ever thus, but it may be worse than ever now. For myself, I consider it to be a great honour to be here and to be able to continue to play some small part in the public life of our wonderful country.
I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, on securing this important debate. I also congratulate all those who have given their maiden speeches today, which have variously been insightful and humorous. In passing, I point out that London’s innovative bike scheme, to which the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, referred, has been provided by a fellow maiden speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, through her position on the board of Barclays.
I also extend a personal welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, whom I have known and respected for many years. In particular, I extend a welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Risby, whose maiden contribution has demonstrated his grasp of the importance of tourism and culture to the UK. I note that he was born in South Africa, which, taken with his chairmanship of the British Ukrainian Society and involvement in the British Syrian Society, will provide a valuable international perspective to your Lordships’ debates. His long experience in the other place will add further insight to your Lordships’ scrutiny of legislation.
I declare that I am chief executive of London First, which is a not-for-profit business membership organisation that includes QEII, ExCeL, Tottenham Hotspur, AEG and Westfield among its many tourism-relevant members. Think London—London’s inward investment agency—is also a separately managed subsidiary of London First. I have much to declare, but also, I hope, some insight to share.
I join the choir of honourable members singing the praises of our cherished heritage and outstanding arts and culture sectors. Annual tourism revenue is more than £100 billion, with some 2.5 million jobs in hospitality alone. The sector contributes more than £34 billion in gross tax revenue. On this scale, tourism can make a significant contribution to desperately sought economic growth. What is more, with our currently competitive exchange rate and with a bit of investment, it can make that contribution now.
The UK offers a tremendous package—Bath’s Georgian delights, Shakespeare’s Stratford, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, and the Brecon Beacons’ natural splendour— but London is the gateway to the UK. Three-quarters of overseas visitors arrive via the capital and around half of all visitors stay overnight in London. Hotels and restaurants are the sixth largest employer in the capital. Business leaders seek a cultural weekend before a Monday meeting and leisure travellers explore the West End.
As for the promotion of London, the deckchairs are moving. The mayor is bringing together Visit London, Think London and potentially Study London into a new, merged promotional agency. I look forward to that agency building on the Think London staff team’s business ethos, which has ensured that London has remained the top destination for inward investment in Europe for many years. However, I regret that the funding for this agency was temporarily mislaid before Christmas. That seems extraordinary at a time when we are building up to the Olympics and suggests that somebody somewhere is not taking the role of promotion and tourism seriously, despite its—and London’s—manifest contribution to economic growth and, indeed, the sector’s tax contribution.
The new agency has an opportunity to address one of London's shortcomings. Business tourism already makes a contribution of over £24 billion each year to Britain's economy and accounts for about one in five overseas visitors, but it is unacceptable that London languishes at 16th place in the International Congress and Convention Association rankings. We need to co-ordinate, celebrate and sell London as a world business destination. Decades of debate about the merits of an international convention centre have been overtaken by events—if noble Lords will excuse the pun—as ExCeL now has 100,000 square metres of event space and is a world-class venue. However, the future of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre remains in question. With its unique Westminster location and some imaginative thinking from government, the QEII conference centre could also play its part in London's broad visitor offer.
The Olympics are an obvious opportunity to champion London and the UK to the world. Summer 2012 represents merely the tip of the iceberg. I would not dare opine on the merits of football versus athletics as a future use for the stadium. My plea to the Olympic Park Legacy Company is to dare to dream of a new visitor destination in east London—including the Olympic park itself and the area south to the O2, east to ExCeL and London City Airport and west to Canary Wharf—to create something fabulous for visitors, businesses and residents alike. The Mittal Orbit tower will be iconic, Westfield Stratford will be Europe's largest urban shopping centre and there will even be a river crossing—which the Mayor quips will be a tribute to the Business Secretary—by cable car. Most vital is the stadium's role in securing the overall vision of a dynamic east London. Alongside the iconic, we need the prosaic—business investment and jobs for local people.
Finally, may I nudge the Minister on two issues? First, as other noble Lords have suggested, will she consider making tourist visas less restrictive, time-consuming and expensive? Of the 2 million increasingly spendthrift Chinese visitors to Europe each year, only 5 per cent visit London. Taiwanese visitor numbers soared by 40 per cent when similar restrictions were relaxed. The second, which has also been mentioned, is the queues at Heathrow, on which we must do more. I hope that UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow terminal 4 have learned to sing, dance or at least smile; how else can they welcome and entertain arrivals when one in five non-EU passengers waited for longer than the 45 minute immigration queuing target in the first two weeks of September 2010?
I conclude by wishing all power to the Tourism Minister's elbow. She has a superministry wrapped up in a microministry—a big unpolished diamond that just needs a bit of burnishing to demonstrate its true value. For growth, balance of trade and jobs, tourism is the gift that keeps on giving.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, for securing this debate and for introducing it in such an interesting and informative way. He was able to draw out key points about the importance of tourism to our economy and illustrated them with some detailed factual information. A lot of the points that many other noble Lords picked up in their speeches make it clear that this is a vital part of our economy. He also pointed out the risks if we do not improve our offer. I cannot really agree with him about the clocks, although I know that that is not a very popular view, given that so many people have suggested that we should revisit this issue, because I come from Scotland, I lived through the earlier experiments and I did not like them. I encourage everyone to join the new campaign to bring back high tea, which is clearly the answer to a lot of our problems. The noble Viscount and I are on opposite sides of the debate today although, in truth, we are not really very far apart in what we say. We share other interests in Scotland and in Buckinghamshire and agree about the need to preserve the Chilterns, which I regard as a beautiful area of the country that currently has much to offer foreign and domestic tourists.
It speaks volumes for the topic selected by the noble Viscount for our short debate today that it has attracted a very high number of speakers, including an amazing six maiden speeches, and has prompted the addition of half an hour to the debate, something that I have not seen since I joined the House. I join other noble Lords in congratulating those who have made excellent maiden speeches today. Having only recently given my own maiden speech, I know all too well the heady mixture of exhilaration and sheer terror that accompanies that event. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, it is a necessary part of the process. Indeed, once their maiden speech has been completed, noble Lords have access to all the important activities in the House in which they will play their part.
I enjoyed the use that the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, made of her journalistic background to inform the debate. Her experience of working in a pub will obviously play on some of the points made about employment and other things. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, opened our eyes to urban tourism, of which I had not heard. It is certainly interesting and, as he said, once one begins to dig into areas that might on the surface seem a little unlikely, they reveal riches of which we should all take advantage.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, warned us not to inhale, but he also gave us important information about the new LEPs and their contribution to tourism. The noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, drew on his experience in Henley and Cornwall to bring out points about tourism. He made a valuable point about the dangers that will accompany the expenditure and support of the Olympic Games if the site is not maintained and carried forward. Those words were wisely made. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, told us—I think it was tongue in cheek, but we may never know—that as a result of a visit to the Isles of Scilly he might claim credit for starting the coalition, so we know who to blame.
In no sense do I want to diminish the debate for other noble Lords, but there were so many detailed points that I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not go through them one by one, but I will refer to them as I make the remainder of my remarks. The test of whether any debate in the Lords is a success is that, having read it, you feel that you have been informed and are up to date on every point that should bear on the issue in question. Today, we have amply exemplified that.
This has been a high-level debate with practitioners and two former Ministers, many of whom have direct experience of operating visitor attractions. It was good natured, good humoured, informative and competitive. I now have a long list of places that I really have to visit all around the United Kingdom, which have been compellingly argued for by noble Lords who have spoken. The debate was also celebratory of the best of Britain, which is what it should be.
Many noble Lords set out the key facts affecting the current economic contribution of tourism to the UK economy. I will not repeat them, but they are impressive. I should like to make two points about the way in which they have been brought out. First, on direct tourism, it is very interesting to reflect that the proportion of jobs in tourism varies across the United Kingdom. We find a far higher proportion of tourism-related jobs in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the periphery of England than we do in the centre.
Looking at the wider contribution that tourism makes to our economy, which many people have said is probably 8.9 per cent or 9 per cent of GDP, it is interesting that most of that seems to happen primarily, and has most effect, in rural areas. It employs a large number of part-time staff. Sometimes it is very difficult to find part-time work, which is often female dominated. It is often difficult for females to find jobs outside the city centres. It is also important that we should recognise that it encourages entrepreneurship through some 200,000 SMEs, although most of them have a very small turnover.
It is clearly an important industry with interesting characteristics. It has been described as invisible, which I hope will change now that the department has a Tourism Minister who clearly has the support of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. However, as several noble Lords have said, our tourism on offer suffers from the perception that it is not very well co-ordinated, is possibly not good value for money, has a variable quality—and it does not offer enough high teas, and is not responsive to our clients.
Because international tourism is a very competitive business these days, we are not doing so well in overseas markets, particularly in Asia. European competitors seem to do much better, and we must get to the bottom of why that is. However, as I have said before and as many noble Lords have said, we have a great deal to offer. We should not be shy in that and should not pretend that we have any difficulty in what we offer to people when they come.
However, there are barriers and problems. The industry is fragmented and there might be some significant market failures in information flows, marketing spend and co-ordination. There is a honey-pot effect in that 20 per cent of attractions appear to receive about 80 per cent of visits. I think that that might have been one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, whose wonderful house I have visited and who said that he had seen a decline in numbers over time. However, other visitor attractions seem to be doing well. Tourism is an industry with low wages, particularly because of part-time jobs. It certainly has poor training, partly because of short-termism, partly because there are no major players and partly because of poor industrial co-ordination.
As has been mentioned, there have been substantial grant support cuts amounting to 15 per cent over four years in the arts and heritage sectors, which of course drive tourism. There are sharp cuts in funding for VisitBritain and VisitEngland; I think the figure is 34 per cent by 2014-15. As the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, said, the RDAs are being abolished, although there will be a regional growth fund worth £1.4 billion, which does have space for tourism and which the new local enterprise partnerships have to bid for.
In answer to a Question last year in this House, we were told that the Government estimated that the total spend on marketing in the tourism sector, both public and private, was around £240 million, although I expect it will be a lot less this year. Of course, this is an industry that has what is called the free rider effect. You cannot really expect so many local small businesses to do what is best funded and led by national or regional bodies.
There are opportunities. We have heard about the royal wedding, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games as part of the decade of sport, and they must offer a ray of hope. As a British tourism study says, all these events provide a global opportunity to invite the world to visit Britain, and the Olympic Games alone have a potential tourism benefit of around £2.1 billion between now and 2017. Clearly, all of us want to ensure that that is realised.
Currently, the Government say that they are formulating their tourism policy. When she responds, perhaps the Minister will give us at least a trailer about what is in store. Let me end by posing her some questions about that in the hope that they might draw her out. Can she share with us when we are likely to see the tourism strategy? I read in the Prime Minister’s speech in August last year that it would be presented in October, but we have not seen it yet. Can she let us know what progress is being made in generating the fund for marketing and PR, a joint fund between the Government and the industry? Can she tell us whether any of the local enterprise partnerships have made significant bids for tourism projects to the regional growth fund? I gather that the closing date was 21 January, so perhaps we will be told about that. Has her department looked at VAT in the tourism sector and whether it will have an impact on the targets that have been set for the industry? Can she let us know a bit about the pressing need for fast internet access, which was referred to in a number of speeches? It is obviously necessary in rural areas if businesses are to get on to the internet and market their wares, but how will they do that without the infrastructure? Lastly, can she confirm that the necessary funding and organisational structures will be in place to ensure that the expected £2.1 billion of tourism benefits actually arise from the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games?
To finish, VisitBritain said in its April report that:
“With right support tourism can be a growth industry for Britain”.
It sounds like a good idea, and if they are talking about £188 billion by 2020 and 250,000 new jobs, surely we want a share of that. It occurs to me that if there has to be a plan B for the economy, maybe the Minister and her department should make the case to the Chancellor that a slice of the £3 billion in tax receipts should be returned to her department as an investment fund that could then be deployed to support the tourism sector, something I am sure we would all support.
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Younger for bringing this issue before the House. He spoke eloquently and gave a comprehensive overview of the value of tourism to the UK economy, its many possibilities and the challenges. I also take the opportunity to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to his new role. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, and in particular add my congratulations to the six new Members who have made outstanding maiden speeches which have added to the quality of this debate and ensured that we will look forward to their future contributions in your Lordships’ House.
We have heard today about the real contribution that tourism makes to our national and local economies. It can be an underestimated industry, but not for this Government; for us it is a priority. We heard the concerns from my noble friends Lord Lee, Lord Caithness and Lord Risby that it may not be given due regard, but the appointment of a designated tourism Minister is one of the aspects which shows our seriousness. Further, in his third month in office, the Prime Minister gave a keynote speech on tourism and spoke again in its support at the launch of the Government’s major new marketing campaign for tourism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred.
Tourism is our third highest export earner. It generates around £90 billion of direct business for the economy and more than £115 billion in indirect business, as well as being one of our largest employers. Of the 200,000 plus businesses, many are small and medium-sized, providing more than 1.5 million jobs and 5 per cent of all employment. Tourism is therefore vital. It is fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy, to generating employment and to inspiring enterprise. It provides opportunities to drive growth and regeneration in all parts of the country, in our rural areas as well as in our major cities.
However, tourism has the capacity to achieve more and grow more, and the Government will help it to do so. It has been projected that tourism could generate 150,000 new jobs and an extra £34.5 billion for the economy by 2020 alone. We need to make sure that that potential becomes reality.
Let us just think of what this country has to offer—we have heard so many aspects today. We have breathtaking scenery—we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, about the importance of rural tourism and from the noble Lord, Lord Marks, about Cornwall and Henley. The noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, spoke about the glories of the urban scene, which I shall mention again shortly. We offer a range of hospitality, from bed-and-breakfast to internationally renowned hotels. We have great regional, national and international food and drink, and incomparable history and heritage—we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford about the magnificent churches and cathedrals in our country, with which go the wonderful musical and other traditions associated with the church. We can boast culture, sport and forthcoming major events, including, as has been indicated, the royal wedding, Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympic Games and the Cultural Olympiad. The noble Lord, Lord Risby, mentioned the glories of our theatres and our buildings, and the treasures of the National Trust.
However, we need a new approach to maximise the industry’s potential, to move Britain up the rankings as an international destination and to provide a real boost for domestic tourism. The Government aim to help the industry in three ways: by creating a sustained legacy from the 2012 Olympics and other major events that the UK is due to host over the next few years—we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and others of the importance of that Olympic legacy; by supporting and promoting domestic tourism and therefore boosting domestic visitor expenditure; and by helping to raise the sector’s productivity and performance so that UK tourism can compete more effectively in an increasingly crowded international market. I shall say a little more about that later.
Over the next four years, the Government will invest nearly £130 million in VisitBritain and VisitEngland. The very necessary public sector savings that we are making must apply to tourism funding as well as to other areas, but we aim to protect our priority programmes and focus the cuts on administration. We recognise that it is vital that government and industry work more closely together to develop a robust and rational investment model for tourism. As has already been mentioned, we have challenged British business to come together with government to create the best-ever overseas tourism marketing campaign for Britain. I am pleased to say that a number of major companies have already pledged their support to help match the £50 million of public money that the Government have committed specifically for this campaign through VisitBritain. I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that we are well advanced towards meeting the £100 million target for the marketing fund. It was encouraging to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, and others of the importance of the private sector to those money-raising campaigns. Arts & Business announced today that, in 2009-10, the culture sector received private sector donations of £658 million, of which £359 million was individual giving. That gives an indication of the support that is coming from private investors, whether as individuals or business.
Through this campaign, we are aiming to deliver 1 million additional overseas visitors to the UK in each of the next four years and £2 billion in extra visitor spend. We can and will create a real legacy for tourism—more visitors, more income, more jobs. We want to attract a larger number of international visitors and we need to do more to encourage UK residents to spend more of their leisure time in this country. I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill talk of urban tourism. If he will forgive me, I recall a wonderful sketch many years ago by Peter Sellers entitled “Balham, Gateway to the South”. Although it was a spoof, there were grains of truth in its drawing attention to lesser-known attractions in our urban and suburban districts. My noble friend has made a much better fist of promoting Barnet as gateway to the north. As he said, it has a very wide range of history, buildings, culture, sports and parks, as have all the areas of London and further in the regions, to attract local residents as well as people from further afield.
The Government are also addressing the volume and complexity of regulation and the need to encourage tourist businesses through fiscal incentives by tackling that regulation and looking to simplify visa procedures. A number of contributions from your Lordships addressed that theme. We are currently looking at the customer experience at and through airports, and how that might be improved. It is evident from the contributions today that there is certainly room for improvement as part of an evolving strategy.
We have also been looking at visa procedures to try to simplify them and to see how far there is a deterrent effect in the complexity and the cost of having to apply in English, whereas other countries will often accept applications in other languages. Of course, we have to balance that with the elements of the security that our visa system gives us. The benefits, initiatives and marketing campaigns will be felt across all parts of the country, not just in London and other major cities but applied to our rural areas as well.
I turn to particular issues that arose. Noble Lords mentioned that we were not doing very well with India and China. We have recent news that applications for visitor visas from Chinese tourists rose by 40 per cent in the first six months of 2010, compared to last year, and more than 100,000 visa applications were received between January and July 2010—more than 50 per cent more than in the same period last year and way above what was expected. The noble Lords, Lord Wigley, Lord Lee and Lord Gardiner, and the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, all referred to the importance of extending our visitor attractions to the emerging economies and the great nations such as China and India to ensure that the visitors see the UK as a prime tourist location.
The question of daylight saving cropped up. The noble Viscount, Lord Younger, introduced it but then the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Marks, have all mentioned the issue. Last week there was a half-hour television programme on this. Having been in this House morning, noon and night, I have not had the opportunity to see television for a while, but I have been told that it is still going on out there and that there was a programme on daylight saving that raised the profile of this issue.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that it would be inappropriate to consider making changes in daylight saving unless there was consensus among the four nations of the United Kingdom. We are all agreed that the issue deserves more discussion. My right honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations made the offer during the Private Member’s Bill currently going through the other place to publish a review of the evidence and to start a dialogue with the devolved Administrations, because there appears to be a growing body of opinion about daylight saving.
The noble Lord, Lord Christopher, mentioned the specific issue about the Scilly Isles. I looked into that and I understand that the Department for Transport is in receipt of a funding bid from Cornwall Council and will make a decision very soon. We appreciate how fundamentally important tourism is to the economy of the Scilly Isles and the importance of maintaining a ferry link, but I understand that there are also strong feelings about the terminal building and the harbour works, which also need to be resolved or taken into account by Ministers. But it is an ongoing consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and my noble friend Lord Caithness, mentioned the air passenger duty per plane. Of course, tax is a matter for the Chancellor and announcements are generally made on these issues at Budget times. The Government are exploring changes to the aviation tax system, which will be subject to consultation, but I certainly hear what noble Lords say about the costs of travel in this country. They gave some startling comparisons between costs—and the fact that you can take a package holiday abroad for the cost of a train fare within the UK.
My noble friends Lord Stoneham and Lord Marks commented on the opportunities for work experience of one sort or another provided by the Olympics. My noble friend Lord Stoneham mentioned particularly that the tourism and hospitality sectors were very often a source of first employment for young people. Those are areas that we will be taking forward in conjunction with the Department for Education and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, to ensure that there is a package of opportunities for work experience which will be afforded by the upcoming major events in this country.
My noble friend Lord Caithness mentioned the lack of signs on motorways and elsewhere to venues and places of interest around the country. I understand that the Department for Transport is currently undertaking a review of road traffic signs, so there may be light at the end of that tunnel. We hope so.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon mentioned the importance of fun in all these areas. It would be a mistake in any debate on tourism not to say how much sheer enjoyment is generated by this sector of industry.
The lack of internet connections and lack of technology in tourism cropped up in one or two speeches. Noble Lords may be interested to hear about one aspect of that; last year VisitBritain entered into a memorandum of understanding with Samsung, and there are other ongoing dialogues with the internet industry to try to ensure that we are fully covered for visitors who expect internet provision.
I am aware that I probably have not answered all the questions asked. This has been an extraordinarily rich and varied debate, with contributions from all around the House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that we have so many opportunities to visit interesting and exciting places in this wonderful country of ours. I very much welcome all the contributions that have been made.
The tourism strategy is waiting to be revealed. My understanding is that it should be published next month. There are a great many strands to it, which my colleagues in DCMS have been trying to tie together. They are hoping for a comprehensive strategy to help move forward in all the ways that have been highlighted in this debate, and to show how our tourism sector deserves maximum support if it is to fulfil the great ambitions we have for it. As I have mentioned, the marketing and public relations campaign is well on target and the Government have been absolutely delighted with the response from a number of major industries on contributing to that campaign. The response from private individuals is also highly necessary if we are to make the most of all the treasures we have to offer in this country and attract people from overseas as well as domestic tourism.
In conclusion, tourism is a priority for government. This has, I hope, been demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s public support for tourism, which has not always been the case in previous Administrations. This encouragement has come from the top, and repeatedly. We have secured public funding for tourism for the next four years, in spite of the fact that we live in hard times and there will inevitably be reductions in some areas. The Secretary of State has given backing for a sustainable tourism legacy. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Marks, referred to this important aspect, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, who is very much involved in this issue, and whose expertise we so much value, given all her dealings with London’s involvement in the Olympics.
The forthcoming tourism strategy, which is confidently and breathlessly expected, will, I am sure, pull together a number of these issues. With constructive partnership between the industry and government, tourism will continue to play a key part in the UK’s economic and fiscal recovery. We face an exciting decade for this vibrant industry. We have already heard the list of one-off events that are coming to this country in the next few years, in addition to the major sporting, cultural and other events which take place from year to year.
If I have not answered any questions, I shall certainly attempt to write to noble Lords with answers. Finally, I thank all noble Lords for their creative and stimulating contributions. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Younger for securing the debate. I again congratulate noble Lords who made their maiden speeches.
My Lords, I also thank all those who contributed to today's debate. I am particularly pleased that it struck a chord as being an important debate for the tourism sector and the country as a whole at this particular time.
I pay tribute to the six outstanding, different and thought-provoking maiden speeches. The other contributions were wide ranging and in some cases rather direct, which is no bad thing. I particularly point out the views that came from my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord Palmer who highlighted the cost of travel within the UK. To conclude, I want to pick out three key themes that the debate brought out. I hope not to take too much of your Lordships’ time.
The first theme, which may not surprise noble Lords, is funding. There is no doubt that there is a shortage and that funding is fragmented. I will pick up on a minor point made by the noble Lord, Lord Christopher, when he spoke about his project in Cornwall, which is that Europe is certainly not always forthcoming in producing funds. More importantly, my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft correctly pointed out that there was far too much short-termism in investment. That was echoed by my noble friend Lord Stoneham of Droxford who said that there should be much more long-term investment in tourism and from the private sector.
Secondly, it is important that tourism is pushed up the political agenda. In the past, all Governments have not promoted tourism enough. That was pointed out eloquently by my noble friends Lord Lee of Trafford and Lord Caithness. Tourism needs to be in the manifestos of Governments. That is particularly important as there is such a strong link between tourism and job creation, especially at this time.
Thirdly, it is clear that there is a great need to market tourism within all areas of the UK. That was highlighted initially by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, when he spoke about Welsh castles. I think I am right in saying that Asian visitors like them the best. Also, my noble friend Lord Palmer of Childs Hill created an interesting and different angle to the debate when he focused on urban tourism speaking about Barnet and industrial Manchester, and it is right that we should focus on that.
I conclude by highlighting a degree of caution when we look at tourism statistics, because in undertaking research I discovered that there was certainly a need for a degree of consistency and simplification. That is a point for the industry and Government to note for the future. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.