|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I have asked the British Tourist Authority to redeploy funds to help the recovery of inbound tourism. In response, the BTA has announced a new£5 million international marketing campaign for 2002, which will focus on Britain's key strengths. I have also agreed that the London Tourist Board can switch £500,000 from overseas marketing and promotion to domestic or near-European marketing.
Mr. Pond: I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. She will know that, as the place where Dickens lived and Pocahontas died, Gravesend is something of a tourism hot-spot nowadays. Is she aware that in the past few days we have heard news that the historic ferry service in Gravesend is to be saved? Does she agree that tourism has a vital role to play in economic regeneration and the creation of employment? Can she give an assurance that she will continue to focus her Department's attention on giving every support possible to that vital part of our economy, to ensure that we can continue to build prosperity in areas such as mine?
Tessa Jowell: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the efforts that he has made on behalf of his constituency. Gravesend recently won an award for town centre regeneration. He is right about the role of tourism in promoting economic growth. One of the areas in which new jobs are increasing fastest is the hospitality sector; about one in 14 people work in tourism. The Government must ensure that all possible help is provided to ensure raised standards and therefore better value for tourists across the sector, and investment in skills to improve the quality of service and recruitment to a vital industry.
Nick Harvey (North Devon): I welcome the money to which the Secretary of State referred. Does she agree that in today's advertising market £5 million does not go very far, in the light of the trouble that the tourism industry has had this year? If the review to which the Minister with responsibility for tourism referred decides that the English Tourism Council should have a marketing budget restored to it, will the Secretary of State take steps to ensure that it has similar sums at its disposal to those available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? The English Tourism Council is getting 22p a head, compared with £5.08 in Scotland, £5.31 in Wales and £8.18 in Northern Ireland. Given the problems that the tourism industry has had this year, does the right hon. Lady recognise the urgent need to get money through to the ETC now?
Tessa Jowell: First, on the question of the money spent on marketing in England, as opposed to Scotland and Wales, the yield in terms of overseas visitor income is by far the greatest in England. The hon. Gentleman made a crucial point about the importance of a sustained
Ms Claire Ward (Watford): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the key attractions for tourism is the British film industry, especially with the current success of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", which was filmed in various locations around the country, including my constituency? Will she take this opportunity to give her support to the British film industry and do all that she can to promote it, to ensure that we reap the benefits not only from that industry, but from the associated tourism?
Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance and potential of the film industry's role in promoting tourism. Everybody is basking in the success of "Harry Potter". My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for tourism was last week in America and Canada, where precisely the same point was made about the attraction of the British film industry to visiting American tourists.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): The Secretary of State referred to redeploying money that had already been allocated. Does she agree that the tourism industry is very much in need of help, but her Government have increased the regulatory burden on businesses? Will she endeavour to avoid duplication by the various agencies that are spending the taxpayers' money to which she referredthe regional development boards, the regional tourism boards and local authoritiesand when will she establish the marketing role that she envisages for the English Tourism Council?
Tessa Jowell: The answer to the first three questions is yes, yes and yes. We are in discussion with the industry about the ways in which deregulation might be extended. What is absolutely clear is that any further Government investment and any deregulation have to be matched by improved value for the tourist. On the hon. Lady's last point, we are in discussion with the English Tourism Council. We have asked it to take on a short-term responsibility to assist in the marketing of England. Those discussions are under way, but the longer-term role of the ETC is a matter for longer reflection in conjunction with the British Tourist Authority.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells): In relation to the BBC, Ofcom will set and monitor standards and quantifiable quotas and targets, much as it will do for
Mr. Wyatt: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What we do not understand, at least on this side of the House, is that if the BBC takes a position in ITV Digital and continues with the most successful website in the world, those activities will cover the whole of broadcasting in broadband, so why should the governors retain a specific interest on their own? Surely, we want a level playing field and Ofcom should provide it.
Dr. Howells: My hon. Friend makes a good point. As a former distinguished England winger, he is used to taking positions on sidesusually offside, as I remember. I do not disagree with him; indeed, Ofcom will have an important part to play in the commercial activities that the BBC undertakes. Streaming images across the internet is an expensive, highly competitive business. I expect Ofcom, as well as the competition authorities, to play a large part in determining the future shape of such a service.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): That was a charming answer from a charming Minister, but he did not answer the point that the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) made. Either the Government trust the BBC and distrust the commercial sector or Ofcom should have the same powers over the BBC as it has over the commercial sector. What is the reason for the imbalance?
Dr. Howells: The spectrum of public service broadcasters ranges from the BBC to Channel 5, which is mainly a commercial operation but has a small public service responsibility. It is difficult to assume that regulation should be the same for a broadcaster with a small public service remit as for that with an entirely public service remit.
I shall reiterate the earlier comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Parts of the BBC's remit will be profoundly affected by Ofcom's regulatory activities in future. However, we must maintain a clear perspective. Throughout the world, the BBC is considered the best single broadcaster, which makes the best programmes. We either want such a public service broadcaster or we turn it over to the market. If the Conservative party supports that, that is fair enough.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): While my hon. Friend is considering Ofcom and the way in which it will affect the BBC, will he also urge it to consider the governance of ITV, given the comments of Jon Snow on the appalling deterioration in the quality and quantity of the current affairs and news coverage on offer in the independent sector?
Dr. Howells: Loth though I am to disagree with my hon. Friend, who has long been a good ally, it would be a sad day when the House attempted to determine the content of television. Most politicians never watch it. They pontificate about it endlessly, but they are lucky if they turn on "Newsnight" last thing at night before they crash out. I do not believe that we are the best judges of
Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk): It is clear that the Minister is dithering about how far Ofcom should regulate the BBC. His explanation of why it should not totally regulate it is inadequate and based on groundless assertions. The same dithering was apparent last week when the Government published their consultation paper on media ownership and failed to take the opportunity to relax Britain's outdated media ownership rules. Are the Government also dithering about the date for digital switchover?
Dr. Howells: Certainly not; we are consulting about important issues. Parties on both sides of the House should ensure that our conclusions are sound. There will be a long debate on the matter because the communications Bill will be one of the most important that we shall consider. We need to hear the views of industry and everyone involved in broadcasting before we make a decision that we could otherwise regret later.
Mr. Yeo: That was a long way of saying yes, the Government are dithering. Does the Minister understand that, of the thousands of television sets that will be bought this Christmas, more than nine out of 10 will be analogue sets? Does he realise that refusing to give a lead on the crucial issue of digital switchover means that families up and down Britain will be in the dark about whetherthey are spending their precious money on obsolete equipment?
Dr. Howells: I realise that the Conservatives have been out of power for well over four years, and that they probably do not know what is going on. They do not seem to read the newspapers or follow the news. We have been taking a strong lead on digital switchover. We have declared that it will take place and we are trying, with the co-operation of the industry, to ensure that it is done properly and as swiftly as possible. What we are not going to do is disfranchise large numbers of people. The only party that has ever dithered on this issue is the party that was originally afraid to tackle it: the Conservative party. We will drive forward this project, and we will be the first country in the world to have properly digitised television broadcasting.