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Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, given the amount of assistance that the tourist trade provides to this country's balance of payments, would it not be the height of folly to get rid of the English Tourist Board?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the tourist industry in this country is enormously important to our economy. I acknowledge that straightaway. The department is by no means neglecting tourism as part of its functions, even though the word "tourism" has been left out of its title.

What the Government can do for tourism includes not only the work of the national tourist boards but also of the British Tourist Authority and the regional tourist boards, as well as the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland tourist boards. The noble Lord should look at the whole range of government services to the tourist industry.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that some of our representatives abroad who are trying to promote English tourism are seriously hampered by the fact that they have so little money to

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spend compared to other European countries, which spend a great deal of money in this country on their tourism?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the budget for the British Tourist Authority is that which was left to this Government by the previous government and which we determined to continue. It is true that there are differences. However, there are possibilities: for example, greater efficiencies and economies through co-operation between the British Tourist Authority and the British Council in many parts of the world.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that, with the forthcoming devolution of tourist interests to Scotland and Wales and to the rural development agencies, there is an ever-increasing need for co-ordination? If the regional development boards have separate tourist policies, as may well happen, it could do great damage to tourism nationally.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. When we see the final form of the devolution Bills and the Bill for the regional development agencies, I am sure that Ministers will agree with the noble Lord that that will have an effect on the operations and ethos of the British Tourist Authority. We have that very much in mind.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the admirable support for London which the Government are showing, taken together with the rumoured abolition of the English Tourist Board, might lead one to believe that the rest of country was being ignored? Can he give us an undertaking that in future government policy equal attention will be paid to the rest of the country?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall certainly not fall into the trap of welcoming the noble Viscount's comments about our admirable support for London. That will lead the other regions to feel that they are being neglected. The noble Viscount asks me to say whether I have stopped beating my wife.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the English Tourist Board came into existence because of a Back-Bench revolt in the then Labour Government as a result of their neglect of the English dimension? Does he consider that perhaps the Government are running the risk of ensuring that they make history repeat itself?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for his lessons in history. Since I have already said that no decisions have been taken about the sponsored bodies of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, I do not think that I can answer his further supposition.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, does the Minister agree that however energetic tourist boards may be, the main difficulty facing the industry is the price in our hotels?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, tourism is one of those industries where the fundamental provision

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for accommodation is in the private sector. It is true that prices in hotels have been higher in this country than in the past, but the English Tourist Board is recording a welcome increase in the number of budget hotels. We have a remarkable range of bed-and-breakfast accommodation which is not equalled by many other countries of which I am aware.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, as a supplementary question to what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, will the Minister be kind enough to consider looking in Hansard at the proceedings in Standing Committee E on 18th March 1969 on the Development of Tourism Bill? The then Minister of State at the Board of Trade, who is now a Member of your Lordships' House, made a concession to cross-party views--from England, Scotland and Wales--to establish an English Tourist Board. He persuaded the Treasury that it was a right, wise and proper thing to do. If the noble Lord looks at that report, he may find that very good arguments were deployed by the Minister of State at that time for continuing the board as it now is.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, was not the Minister of State at that time a Mr. W.T. Rodgers? I am grateful to him for his history lesson.

Lord Montague of Oxford: My Lords, in the answer given by the Minister, he tended to imply that the responsibilities of the English Tourist Board, the British Tourist Authority and the regional tourism boards are identical. They are not. They have quite specific responsibilities. Does he agree that there is a great responsibility on the Government to ensure that our seaside resorts are looked after? They depend on tourism. The Minister will also remember that it was the Opposition, when in government, who over 10 years reduced the grant to the English Tourist Board from £29 million to now just under £5 million?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the House is very much indebted to all noble Lords for the history lessons. If I implied that the role of the different bodies was identical, I apologise. I did not mean to. I meant, of course, that they are complementary.

Fair Rent Increases and Investment

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the publication on 21st May of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions' consultation paper Limiting Fair Rent Increases, what estimate they have made of the impact of these proposals on future investment in the private rented residential sector.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we see no reason why, once they are properly understood, our proposals for limiting fair rents should affect future

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investment in the private rented residential sector. As our consultation paper makes clear, the proposals do not apply to tenancies established since January 1989, for which landlords can charge market rents. The paper confirms that we have no plans to amend the legislative framework for those tenancies.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Has she seen the research report of June 1998 of the British Property Federation? It shows that more than half the commercial property industry doubts the Government's statements that they have no intention to extend rent control beyond the fair rent sector. I quote from the report:

    "Those who had experienced the 'bad times' of regulation in the past were more negative".
It is does not need me to remind the House that that was in the days of a Labour government. Is it not a fact that the only sources of substantial investment to enlarge the private rented sector are the investing property companies and financial institutions? The Government claim to wish to encourage that investment. Are the proposals on limiting fair rent increases at best not just a discouragement and at worst a positive disincentive to further investment by the private rented sector?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Baroness raised the issue of the British Property Federation report. It suggests that those institutions looking to invest in the private rented sector are much less concerned about our proposals than those not looking to invest. I am confident that those who have a closer interest in the future of the sector are sophisticated enough to recognise that our proposals do not apply to the deregulated tenancies. We have given assurances that we have no plans to make changes to the legislative framework in that sector of the market.

The noble Baroness's second question gives me an opportunity to say that I am happy to reaffirm that the Government have no plans to amend the legislative framework for assured shorthold tenancies under the Housing Act 1988.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, how long are the rent registrations intended to last? If re-registration is to be allowed after, say, two years, the increases of only 5 per cent. plus RPI will go up fairly rapidly on a cumulative basis in quite a short time.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the proposed limit on the rent increase at the first re-registration after the legislation has come into force would be RPI plus 10 per cent. for two years. The landlord could not normally increase the rent for the tenancy for a further two years. After two years, if he wanted to increase the rent again, he or the tenant could apply to the rent officer for a new rent re- registration. The proposed limit for the rent increase at the second registration would be RPI plus 5 per cent. For each subsequent re-registration, the rent increase would be limited to RPI plus 5 per cent. The objective of the

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proposal is to allow fair rents to move closer to market rents, but at a slower pace than would have been the case had those limits not applied.

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