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Social Tourism

Volume 736: debated on Monday 23 April 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will incorporate social tourism policies, such as the provision of holidays by the Family Holiday Association for people living on a low income, in future tourism strategies.

My Lords, the Government support the work carried out by organisations such as the Family Holiday Association which provides holidays for families who would not normally be able to afford a break away from home, but we do not hold the view that holidays are a right. We do, however, keep an open mind about future tourism strategies. Our current priority is to encourage the potential that tourism gives to help the growth of our economy.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. Is she aware that there are more than 2 million families in the United Kingdom—about 7 million people—who never enjoy a holiday and who will probably never have one in their whole lives? Is she also aware that while social tourism has never had official recognition or been integrated into tourism policy in this country, in the European Union, several countries integrate it—notably France and Spain, but also Portugal, Greece, Germany and Italy.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell, asked a similar Question in February 2010. I know she is a redoubtable campaigner on social tourism and is patron of the Family Holiday Association. The Answer, which was very succinct, said that,

“the Government understand the value of access to leisure and tourism activities”—

and we are aware of the 2 million who never have holidays. It continued:

“By providing support for those who need it most, we are committed to a society where everyone can engage in leisure activities, including holidays, if they wish. A good example is our policy of free admission to many national museums and galleries”.—[Official Report, 8/2/10; col. 478.]

The noble Baroness asked about Europe. The Governments of some European countries, notably France and Belgium, take an interventionist approach to social tourism by directly funding or subsidising people to take holidays. Such countries take the view that holidays are a right.

My Lords, would the Government consider setting up a working group to consider the social and economic benefits of social tourism?

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, was on the all-party group on social tourism. The Government were looking at this, but have not pursued it further. We are keeping an open mind and are aware of the European Calypso programme.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and of the all-party tourism group. The proposed tax changes on air passenger duty, philanthropic giving to our great museums and galleries, restoration work for our major cathedrals, churches and historic properties and on static caravans all potentially have a negative impact on our very important tourism industry. Given that DCMS is a sponsoring ministry for tourism, could my noble friend tell the House whether it had any discussions before the implementation of the ideas of these tax changes?

The noble Lord asks a very relevant question. Regarding the tax changes, they are still very much in discussion. We are well aware that they have an effect on tourism and on many of the museums and galleries and all the charities that are involved with this. This is partly covered by the Treasury, but DCMS is very much aware of all this.

When 2 million people do not get a holiday at all and those who are in the top tax bracket are now getting £45,000 a year extra and will be able to go on more skiing holidays and Mediterranean holidays, how can we all be in it together? Will the noble Baroness not listen for once to what is being said by knowledgeable people in this House, take it away and do something about it?

Social tourism is for the less well off. The Government are involved with the Family Fund, a registered charity covering the whole of the UK and mainly funded by the national Governments of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The funding from all four Governments amounted to £35 million, and included £27 million from England.

I am sorry, we are being a bit slow on this side. Does the Minister accept the educational benefits of children and families travelling outside their own confined communities? Does she recognise the role that that might play in raising the aspirations of young people? Will she agree to talk to her ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education about the contribution that they can play in facilitating holidays for those too poor to afford a family break?

The noble Baroness raises a very good point. Such travel does raise the aspirations of children. Through our changes to the education and welfare system, we hope to overcome barriers to social mobility by giving families the power and resources to be able to go on holiday if they choose.