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Brexit: Tourism and Hospitality Industries

Volume 774: debated on Monday 18 July 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the implications of the European Union referendum result for the tourism and hospitality industries.

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

My Lords, the decision of the British people to leave the European Union creates new opportunities and challenges for the tourism and hospitality industries. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will hold a round table with the sector before the end of July to listen and learn about those. There are no immediate changes to travel between the EU and the United Kingdom, or to the way in which our services are sold overseas.

My Lords, post Brexit, we are free to abolish air passenger duty on domestic flights and reduce VAT to any level we choose, but the more immediate problem relates to our hospitality industry, sustained particularly by EU citizens born abroad. What assurance can the noble Earl give to them and their very concerned employers as to their status and ability to remain in this country, given the rather confusing statements made by David Davis?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, brings to the attention of the House the ability to reduce value added tax or APD. These matters are always taken under consideration by the Treasury. He also mentioned people employed in this country in the United Kingdom hospitality industry. The Government’s position is clear: we fully expect that the legal rights of EU nationals already in the United Kingdom will be properly protected—they make a huge contribution to our country—but we need to win the same rights for British nationals living in European countries. We are confident that we will be able to reach an agreement, protecting the rights of EU nationals here and our citizens in Europe. Securing such an agreement will be a priority in our EU negotiations.

My Lords, we are told that this new Brexit department will have input from the Treasury, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from the new business department, yet tourism is one of the biggest employers in this country in the private sector. It also earns more foreign exchange than the car industry. What measures will be taken to ensure that a vital industry that gets to the parts of this country that many other industries do not get to will properly be taken into account in the discussions in the run-up to the implementation of Article 50?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that question bringing attention to the interests of the tourism sector and Brexit. Engagement with the sector is hugely important. We have made great strides in giving experts within tourism a more prominent voice in policy-making—for example, through the Tourism Industry Council. Tourism and hospitality industry stakeholders will be important in helping to inform Her Majesty’s Government’s policy during the coming months and years.

My Lords, will my noble friend assure us that, in spite of the economic constraints and possible reductions in departmental funding resulting from Brexit, the Government will not deviate from their policy of encouraging free access to museums and galleries, which contributes so much to the tourist industry in this country?

My Lords, my noble friend draws attention to museums and galleries. I understand that a museum review will be taking place, but Her Majesty’s Government have been looking at this very carefully. We have the Tourism Industry Council, the interministerial group on tourism, the £40 million Discover England fund and grant-in-aid budgets for VisitBritain and VisitEngland will be stable until 2020.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl on his recent promotion and at the same time express regret that we will not be crossing swords across the Dispatch Box in future. In answer to the first Question, the noble Earl said that he expected there to be a bit of a challenge for the tourism industry. Can we be a little more precise about that? Since 2015, there has been a reduction of 35% in tourists coming to London and a reduction of 14% for the UK as a whole. This is a lot more than a challenge. What does he have to say about that?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his kind words. He should know that we have nearly 4 million visits per annum from North America and 26.5 million visits a year from Europe, which produce an enormous amount of income for this country. The weaker pound this year will also help. That makes us a more attractive place to visit from Europe and North America. This is an opportunity to grab, and to showcase ourselves to both overseas and domestic markets.

My Lords, it is not only the hospitality industry that is concerned about the effects of Brexit; British science depends fundamentally on its international pool and the international graduates who work and lead in British science. I refer to my interests in the register. The noble Earl committed to consultations with the hospitality industry about the implications of Brexit. Will he make an equal and urgent commitment to conversations with British science, the leaders of which are gravely concerned at the moment?

My Lords, the noble Baroness brings to the attention of the House an issue that was in the newspapers at the end of last week and the beginning of this. I will draw the House’s point of view to the department and write to her if there is any more that I can add.

My Lords, this time last week there was one Minister of Trade—a Minister of State—in this country; as of today, there are four Ministers for trade, including a Secretary of State. Can the noble Earl tell us if one of these Ministers will be specifically responsible for the issues of this Question—that is, the tourism and hospitality industries? If so, which one is it?

My Lords, as I mentioned in my earlier Answer to this Question, the tourism industry is represented by my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and they will continue to represent the industry’s interests in any Brexit negotiations.