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House of Lords Hansard
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Local Authorities: Tourism
28 October 2019
Volume 800

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to granting local authorities more powers to manage their local tourism industries.

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My Lords, the Government are not currently minded to give local authorities new powers to manage tourism. As the noble Baroness will be aware, the Government have given a great deal of thought to how we can best support the tourism industry, hence the recent publication of the Tourism Sector Deal. The action outlined in the deal addresses the challenges facing the sector, with a focus on growing productivity. The deal envisages a role for local authorities in managing tourism zones.

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I thank the Minister for her response. Will the Government agree to use the tourism zone pilots to trial a tourism levy, with money raised ring-fenced for the visitor economy? Does she agree that this would provide an evidence-based assessment of the value of tourism taxes to local economies?

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I recognise that the noble Baroness has done a great deal of work on and thinking about these issues. The Government share her broader aim to give local authorities, businesses and other stakeholders a real voice in the local tourism strategy. Our view remains that it is a matter for the Treasury to review the tax regime, and we have no plans to introduce any kind of local taxation.

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My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that the intention in Scotland is to allow Edinburgh to go ahead with a tourism tax. Under debate on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill, why was not Birmingham given the opportunity to at least pilot a tourism tax, which would have paid for the city’s contribution to the costs of the Commonwealth Games? Does she further share my disappointment that the Liberal Democrats would not support that move when we debated it at that point?

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On the Scottish approach, we will clearly be watching developments there closely and aim to learn from them. In relation to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, I have been reassured that my honourable friend the Minister in the other place had confirmation from Birmingham City Council that there is no need for additional taxation: it can meet the cost of the games.

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My Lords, if the DCMS believes in tourism, why does it not stand up to the Treasury?

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The noble Lord has more experience than I have of standing up to the Treasury. The DCMS absolutely believes in tourism: that is why we were so committed to working for a sector deal, which has been universally welcomed by all parts of the industry and gives us exciting opportunities to develop it, particularly outside London.

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My Lords, your Lordships’ Select Committee that looked at seaside towns identified the concentration of social and other problems in former hotels which had become houses in multiple occupation and were often exploited by landlords. Is there not a very strong case for giving local authorities in these areas bespoke powers to deal with abuses of this kind?

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I fear that I may have to consult my colleague in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government about houses in multiple occupation. Perhaps I may write to the noble Lord.

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My Lords, I recognise that Birmingham is rather far from the sea but could we return to those sunny shores? In the discussions referred to by my noble friend on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, we received from the then Minister, now the Chief Whip, the assurance that Birmingham City Council was undertaking detailed work and taking expert advice on various options for revenue-raising to offset the costs of the Games, including the use of existing powers on the introduction of a new tax such as a hotel tax. He went on to say that:

“Her Majesty’s Treasury await the conclusion of that analysis and stand ready to look at the details of any proposals put forward by the council”.—[Official Report, 24/7/19; cols. 784-85.]

That does not seem to square with what the noble Baroness said. Is that still the Government’s position? Further, when will we hear the results of those discussions?

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The Government’s position is that we are still in discussions. I understand that my honourable friend the Minister for Sport has been in discussions with Birmingham City Council very recently and that those conversations are continuing. As we said originally, we will review its suggestions.