Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001
120. But the suggestions have probably been
in people's minds for many years and nothing has been done about
(Mr Britten) I cannot say that, I have
only been here for 18 months. In my time we do not have enough
money but I do thank the Secretary of State for giving us an extra
£2 million next year and £2.5 million the year after.
Of course it is not enough, I am sure he knows that as well, but
he did do us the honour of saying that although everybody needed
more money he was persuaded the ETC's need was greatest.
121. But influence is more important than money,
you can have the money and not have the influence. Would you agree?
(Mr Britten) I do. I hope I can have
influence without money but money helps.
Chairman: If I have influence it is certainly
122. I am quite at a loss to understand what
you do if you do not promote England as a tourist situation.
(Mr Britten) We are a strategic and research
organisation. The responsibility for tourism, the operational
side of tourism, is devolved to the regional tourist boards and
they are actively involved in promoting tourism in their area.
The kind of things which the ETC does are looking at national
issues like, as I say, IT. We cannot look at that locally, it
has to be looked at nationally; transport needs to be looked at
nationally and not locally; quality, you need one quality brand
for the whole area. There are things like research, it would be
pointless to undertake consumer research in ten different areas
so we do research for the whole industry. There are things like
our papers on sustainability which we promote. We have really
honed down our responsibilities into what we call competitiveness,
quality and wise growth. Those are the things which we try to
look over nationally and, of course, we give advice to Government.
We are responsible for co-ordinating all the tourist industry
activities and advising Government accordingly.
123. So when you advise the Government do you
ever point out in that advice that England gets a completely unfair
deal on this?
(Mr Britten) Yes.
124. How do you express that to the Secretary
of State and what do you say ought to happen?
(Mr Britten) He knows as well as we do
that England relative to (a) its need and (b) the devolved administrations
is seriously under-funded. He knows that and we discuss it and
I am sure whenever he gets the chance he brings it forward.
125. Why do you think nothing has happened?
(Mr Britten) You would have to ask him.
I can only say I get support from him.
126. Do you take up with him the fact that in
the devolved areas those businesses with turnovers worth £50,000
a year get 100 per cent rate relief whereas in England they have
to be worth only £12,500 a year to get 95 per cent rate relief?
How can that be justified? What are you as an organisation doing
(Mr Britten) The question of rate relief
on the foot and mouth issue, you mean?
(Mr Britten) That is primarily done through
the Rural Task Force which Mary sits on. I must say my concern
primarilyand Mary will respond in a momentfrom the
ETC is to get business back into tourism. The most fundamental
thing we can do is to create an environment, and this is what
our £35.5 million is intended to do, so we can recreate business
in the tourist areas. That is the greatest favour we can give
any of them, I believe, to regenerate the tourist activity which
has been lost.
128. Would not the greatest favour be to stop
them being lost in the first place and therefore lobbying more
effectively to the British Government as to why England gets a
wholly unfair deal compared to various businesses in the devolved
(Ms Lynch) The issue of rate relief and
a series of other fiscal measures was put forward at the first
meeting of the Task Force and at that point the Treasury and the
Government undertook to look at a range of measures and came back
and announced some changes, particularly in relation to rate relief.
It was after the announcement in relation to England that Wales
then announced their package, and I am not quite sure when Scotland
announced their package, but it became obvious there was some
disparity between the three countries. That has been raised at
every meeting of the Task Force and brought forward by many representatives
as an issue that is felt to be unfair. It is not just in relation
to rate relief either. In the tourism industry, for example, if
you are a business in Scotland you qualify for a 50 per cent reduction
this year in membership of your area tourist board and a 50 per
cent reduction in the fees you will pay for hotel inspections,
and that does not apply in England. Many of us have pointed this
out. The Government's response to date has been that is an automatic
by-product of devolution and that three administrations will not
necessarily behave in the same way.
129. That is all very well, but from your point
of view it is a pretty supine position to say that is a matter
for the Government and that is the difference between the devolved
assemblies. You are there with a remit to help English tourism.
You are faced with a grossly unfair situation in which the British
taxpayerbearing in mind that most taxpayers are English
taxpayers in the United Kingdomis facing a wholly unfair
deal. I do not hear you say this outside the confines of this
room. As the Chairman pointed out, it will remain a secret except
to those inside because there is no-one here to report it. How
will you get the message across that English visitors are being
treated grossly unfairly? What are you doing?
(Mr Britten) It was made very clear to
me on my appointment that we are not a lobbying organisation.
We are a body which gives advice to government, and we give that
very clearly, very openly, very freely and quite directly.
130. But any meetings do not involve the press
or the wider public.
(Mr Britten) No, they do not, and that
is the business of a quango. We do not go out and lobby for certain
things. We are completely open with government bodies of this
nature. We are open when we meet the press, we are open, of course,
with all the tourism bodies that exist, but we are not a lobbying
131. I would have thought that whether you are
a lobbying body or not, if you are given a job to do, you can
make a case for how the job should be done.
(Mr Britten) We make that case extremely
clearly whenever we get the opportunity.
132. You said you got £3.8 million extra.
Was that new money or was that drawn down money that was going
to come through the financial year at a later period?
(Mr Britten) That was genuinely new money.
133. How have you spent that?
(Ms Lynch) To follow up the point the
Chairman has made, it had to be genuinely new money because we
do not have a marketing budget, so there was no existing resource
to re-allocate. Of the £3.8 million, £3 million has
gone on advertising and promotion and the balance has gone to
fund the call centre, the provision of data collection for building
web sites and provision of leaflets and information, and the collection
of research information, because one of the things that was obvious
very quickly was that the public were confused and that people
were planning promotional activities without a clear idea of what
was in the public's mind. So we have been commissioning surveys
and feeding those through to the task force and to the regional
tourists boards so that they can make better use of the promotional
funds they have.
134. Of the ten regional boards in England,
how many did not have web sites at the beginning of this year?
(Ms Lynch) Six.
135. Do you not find that rather alarming?
(Ms Lynch) Absolutely, and I think it
is fair to say that the Chairman has been in post for 18 months,
and I have been in mine for a year. For the whole of that time
we have been raising the issue of investment in ICT, and the critical
importance of new media to the success of the industry. Over the
course of a year we have made four bids for additional funds,
and three of those four bids failed.
136. Presumably you have written papers to the
rural task force.
(Ms Lynch) We table documents and we
have put forward proposals at every meeting. I suppose the difference
between the rural task force and our other activities is that
the rural task force is looking at the impact on the whole rural
economy. Part of it is feeding in the particular impact on the
tourism industry and making recommendations on how to help the
tourism industry, but also part of our role is to collect the
most up-to-date information, advice and guidance and feed it back
out to the industry.
137. Do you not think there ought to be a tourism
task force? Is this not back to front? Farming is 0.8 per cent
of GDP; tourism is 9 per cent.
(Mr Britten) There is a Tourism Cabinet,
which we have formed in the light of the foot and mouth crisis.
It has participation from people in the Cabinet Office, the BTA
of course, and the regional tourist boards represented by the
North West Tourist Board in this case, and representatives of
the industry, both operators and bodies like the National Trust.
138. What have you recommended? What does it
(Mr Britten) It recommends things which
then go into the tourism task force.
(Mr Britten) First of all, it recommends
the messages that should come outa little bit of this lobbying
area. It is primarily a communications lobby. It gathers data,
it releases data, and it makes the points which are available
for public consumption, and those have been fed out quite successfully.
It also gives information for the standard report which comes
out every day now from the Tourism Council.
(Ms Lynch) To clarify on the rural task
force, I believe it has now met five times. The part that we played
was that in the first two meetings we put forward three main proposals.
The first was that the most important issue for businesses was
cash, because at the stage of the first meeting many businesses
had not actually taken a single pound over the preceding month,
and therefore we put forward proposals for rate relief, for a
VAT holiday, for sympathetic treatment for people who were having
to lay off staff and for soft loans. We put a series of proposals
together because we said the first issue was to help the businesses
to stay in business. The second issue was to clear up the confusion
about what you can and cannot do, because the public certainly
believed that the right thing to do was to stay at home. That
had to be the second thing, to provide clear, honest and accurate
information to the public. The third thing to do was to promote.
The first two meetings were focusing very much on the fiscal measures
and the cash issues, and we then moved on to the next two measures.