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House of Lords

Wednesday, 22nd April 1998.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester

David Edward, Lord Bishop of Gloucester--Was (in the usual manner) introduced between the Lord Bishop of Norwich and the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Northumbria Regional Tourist Board: Funding

2.43 p.m.

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will undertake to increase the funds available to the Northumbria Regional Tourist Board as soon as public expenditure constraints permit.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government do not fund the Northumbria Tourist Board directly. However, the English Tourist Board provides some funding for each of the 10 regional tourist boards so that they may implement an agreed programme of activities. The formula used to calculate the level of funding focuses on national and regional tourism objectives and is a matter for agreement between the English Tourist Board and the Northumbria Tourist Board.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful explanation. Now that the north east has got rid of most of its industrial scars, is he aware that it is beautiful and historic and has the fastest growing overseas tourism of any region? Will my noble friend bear in mind that additional investment in tourism will help the economic regeneration of that region?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am happy to confirm what my noble friend says. The north east is indeed the fastest growing tourism region in the United Kingdom. It has doubled its receipts from tourism in the past five years to approximately £1 billion. That has been recognised in the amount of European regional fund money that it has been able to obtain.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, perhaps I may confirm what my noble friend Lord Burlison said. The north east is surely not only the most beautiful but the most interesting region. I have been a member of the Northumbria Regional Tourist Board. Is the Minister aware that some residents of the north east feel that too much tourism might spoil the area? However, as my noble friend said, there is an overwhelming need for

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more employment in the north east. Tourism makes a valuable contribution. Perhaps I may remind the Minister--

Noble Lords: No!

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I am getting out of practice because the Labour Government is in office! Is the Minister aware that the northern region still has the highest rate of unemployment in the country outside Northern Ireland? I hope that the Government will take seriously the Question put by my noble friend.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that further answer--

Noble Lords: Ah!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can only excuse myself by saying that I have caught the bug from my noble friend!

Of course we are aware of the importance of tourism in the region, as in the whole country. It represents approximately 3 per cent. of gross domestic product in Northumbria. My noble friend may not have seen this morning's papers. It is reported that a group of Spanish tourist chiefs and catering students from Majorca are coming to Redcar to learn from those people how to run a seaside resort. I hope that that gives my noble friend some encouragement.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, following the question by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, regarding the unemployment figures, are the Government prepared to match any EC funding for the area?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the issue of additionality in EC funding is as complex as it always was. There have been no changes in policy. However, if the noble Baroness looks at the accounts of the Northumbria Regional Tourist Board, she will see that the funding for the board is approximately £300,000 from Government, £300,000 from local authorities--they make an outstanding contribution--less than £100,000 from commercial members, and £300,000 from the European Regional Fund.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the great part that tourism plays in the north west, in particular Blackpool? Is he prepared to encourage his friends on the national executive of the Labour Party to take the party conference to Blackpool in the year 2001?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if I were to follow my noble friend on his first point, I fear that we might make a scenic tour around the entire United Kingdom, and I do not think that the House would appreciate that.

My noble friend's second point is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government, although the Labour Party will of course be Her Majesty's Government in the year 2002.

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The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, if the British Library were to return the Lindisfarne Gospels to the north east where they belong, tourism would increase and the north-eastern economy would be enhanced?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the matter that the noble Earl raises was the subject of debate in this House in recent weeks. The noble Earl will recall that he alone among all of the speakers in the debate believed that the Lindisfarne Gospels should be returned, as he puts it, to the north east.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that the £300 million contribution from the European Community to which he refers in fact comes from this country through direct payment by this country of its share of contributions to the regional fund; and that the likelihood is that we pay in rather more than we get out?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint my noble friend: it was £300,000, not £300 million. Of course we make our contribution to European budgets. My point was to congratulate the Northumbria Tourist Board on its initiative in submitting successful applications for regional development funding.

NHS Funding

2.50 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the increased funding for the NHS announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech will be made available to those hospitals specialising in the treatment of cancer.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, the Budget speech announced an extra £500 million for the National Health Service for 1998-99. Of the £417 million for England, £320 million will be targeted directly at cutting waiting lists. All health authorities and, in their turn, all hospital trusts will be set targets for reducing their waiting lists by 31st March 1999. That will clearly include hospitals specialising in the treatment of cancer. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health announced earlier this week that £10 million of the additional funds made available in the Budget is to be used specifically to reduce colorectal cancer waiting times.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful Answer. I express, I think on behalf of most people, appreciation that the funding has been found. However, is the Minister aware that the Christie hospital in Manchester, the largest in Europe, has an increasing workload and cannot manage on its existing finance? I know that the Secretary of State gave an instruction that there should be a meeting with the

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north-western regional health authority to discuss the matter. I visited the hospital only last Friday. There is disappointment there that no such meeting has been arranged. The chief executive of the north-western regional health authority is saying that it is difficult to get all those involved together. What an excuse that is to give to people waiting for cancer treatment when telling them that they cannot be slotted in--namely, that a meeting cannot be arranged. If it is beyond the wit of those involved to arrange a meeting quickly, as ordered by the Secretary of State, should we not look for other people who do have the organising ability to arrange such a meeting quickly?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am well aware of my noble friend's personal concern in relation to the Christie hospital in Manchester, which does excellent work in cancer care. I think he refers to a situation whereby specific allocations of the new money have not yet been made. They are being worked on this week and will be announced within the next few days. I expect that the issues to which my noble friend refers will then be resolved. As he rightly said, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked the north-west region to meet executives of the hospital to discuss any specific problems that they have in that area.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, do the encouraging remarks of my noble friend mean that the Marsden hospital is now safe?

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