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Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, Tomorrow's Tourism makes little or no reference to restaurants, which are an important segment of the whole tourist industry. Restaurants generate over £4 billion annually and employ many hundreds of thousands of people. Here I must declare an interest as the honorary patron of the Restaurant Association.
I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lady Anelay not only for bringing up the subject of tourism this evening but also for mentioning licensing, on which I have spoken many times in your Lordships' House. The Restaurant Association has long campaigned for generalised licensing reform, but unfortunately as things stand at present the Home Office will publish a White Paper sometime in the middle of next year. This means that, after wide consultation on generalised licensing reform, legislation could not be introduced until the Queen's Speech in 2001 at the earliest, and that would be implemented hopefully sometime in 2002, by which time there will probably have been a general election. That is a long timescale indeed.
In the meantime there seem to me to be several minor matters which could be dealt with quite simply by deregulation orders. I have in mind Extended Hours Orders. To obtain an EHO, restaurants face two obstacles. First, they must obtain a supper hour certificate to serve drinks with meals until 1 a.m. In addition they must provide some form of live entertainment. Most restaurants, many of which are small businesses, find this both impractical and an unnecessarily costly activity. In addition many diners
I regret to say that I have not given adequate notice to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, of this specific matter and do not expect him to comment on it tonight. However, I would be most grateful if he could investigate why nothing has happened and when something might happen. If he could write to me later, that would be agreeable and most helpful. It would indeed be progress if we can move forward on this simple matter in the near future.
The Earl of Stair: My Lords, I must start by declaring an interest in that I run a small tourism business. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has addressed an extremely important question tonight. At a time when devolution is almost upon us, and agriculture and rural business as a whole is undergoing some of the darkest moments for several years, tourism and leisure are highlighted as the industries of the future.
In Britain we have some of the most spectacular countryside certainly in Europe, but I would say on a global scale as well. We have a rich heritage and environment, much of which we owe to the way in which the countryside has been managed throughout history. There is, however, still a vast tourist potential to be developed, to encourage people to visit these often isolated areas, which will not only provide employment but will also contribute to the gross domestic product of a region.
The pattern of the tourist--or perhaps the "short-term visitor" is a better description--is changing. Due to improved availability, particularly of air transport, many people are able to enjoy short break holidays within the United Kingdom, and perhaps a longer holiday overseas. The Internet provides information for planning from home. And Project Ossian, which is currently under development by the Scottish Tourist Board, will enable the entire resources of an area to be available to those wishing to plan a break from their home or work areas.
There is already a co-ordinated approach to organising tourism development on a national and regional level in Scotland, with the formation of the strategic tourism groups. These are a mixture of both public and private sector organisations, and aim to co-ordinate tourism development in areas where there may be an overlap of interests between councils, enterprise boards, and tourist boards. The main mission of the strategy is to create benefit through the development of successful tourism businesses.
I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments on the government's strategic plan for the tourist industry, and would like to raise three points before doing so. First, the regional tourist boards in Scotland receive a small proportion of their funds from the Scottish Office through the main Scottish Tourist Board. I assume the same applies in the remainder of the United Kingdom as regards the relevant Government Offices. However, they are expected to generate the remainder of their funds from sales in tourist information centres, from subscriptions, and from advertising. Thus a considerable proportion of the boards' income is taken up in their own administration when these funds could far better be used in the marketing of the area, to generate more visitors, and to support the small businesses in the tourism and associated sectors. Funding should perhaps be based on the establishment of the board, or on the number of businesses marketed. This funding should be centrally provided, which would reduce the annual subscription costs for the often seasonal small businesses.
Secondly, I referred earlier to the potential for development in the regions of the country. I do not wish to create an excess of caravan parks or bed and breakfast establishments. They tend to be self-regulating in any case. There is a tremendous opportunity offered by undeveloped heritage visitor centres, historical attractions, and, as Forest Enterprise has proved, even commercial forestry can create jobs by attracting visitors. However, much of this potential is in the private sector, and although public sector funding is available, it is often not enough to enable this potential to come within the financial reach of a small business. Historic buildings and historic sites are the natural core for the development of heritage visitor centres, enabling the visitor not only to enjoy the architecture and workmanship of previous eras, but also to learn from the experience. Sadly, many of these buildings are in a state of decay, and in Scotland the public sector body which could boost this opportunity has no funds available until at least 2004.
Rural diversification programmes are much used sources of European funding for diversification into tourism related business, and, under Objective 5b status, tourism is identified as a key sector of the rural economy for funding. However, following the recent negotiations in Europe, all this is subject to review, and Objective 5b will be replaced by Objective 2, which may not be so far-reaching.
My third point is on marketing. I referred earlier to Project Ossian currently being researched by the Scottish Tourist Board. However unless the information technology is available throughout and allows all the regional tourist boards to make use of the facility, its value is lost. Once again this all comes down to the strategic funding of the tourist industry. The Government should remember that the success of the tourist strategy will depend on the success of the small, mostly private sector businesses providing a service to the visitor.
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns for introducing this debate. I declare an interest as the director of a company which at present is developing a hotel and is also involved in the leisure industry. The 26th February tourism strategy which the Government announced must be welcomed with its 15 core points for recovery, especially in the development of the film and sports niche market and the regeneration of traditional resorts. That must be good for tourism.
As my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas said, it is essential, now that devolution is coming about, that the Scottish Tourist Board and the Welsh Tourist Board work very closely after devolution with the British Tourist Authority as 86 per cent. of all tourists coming into the UK start in London and work outward. The BTA's primary role is to encourage regional dispersal of tourists and their spending, so it is essential that we continue to market Britain as a whole rather than its composite parts separately. Obviously the STB and the WTB must exist to promote tourism within their own countries. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, has taken that on in his role as head of the Scottish Tourist Board.
As we are all aware, there are two kinds of tourist. There are the foreigners who come to Britain to see the sights and to play sports, such as golf, and there are the British themselves who want to holiday within the United Kingdom. Both groups have the same problems to a very large extent. Hotels are expensive in this country, as we have heard, and with VAT at 17.5 per cent. that is guaranteed to be so. But, as has been said, we discussed that in November and we do not need to discuss it again. The Government are fully aware of that.
Bed and breakfast is becoming better and better value, but in Britain, and especially in Scotland, the tourist industry is dominated by the large number of small businesses where all too often there has been inadequate investment in knowledge and skills. That has had a strong impact on the quality of the product available. The Scottish Parliament must address this matter by encouraging the industry to help itself. It must also review all aspects of commercial taxation in Scotland. Costs, government-led especially, lead to uncompetitiveness in the market place. If they are found in only one part of the United Kingdom they will have a great adverse effect. The suggested bed tax will certainly do that. There is strong evidence that 500,000 tourists could be deterred by that cost alone. An imaginative and attractive tax regime would bring significant inward investment.
My noble friend Lady Anelay of St. Johns said that there are strong hopes that EEC funds will be available for the regeneration of Scotland's beaches and tourist resorts such as Ayr and Aviemore. And, my goodness, both towns need it! Will the Minister please remember to remind those who make the decisions that it will be the service industries rather than the manufacturing industries that will provide the impetus to regenerate tourism in Scotland, clean up our beaches, tidy up our hotels, improve our pubs and encourage all tourists to spend their holidays in Britain.
The Government must also review the licensing laws, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. We must clear away the present over-regulation of framework and go back to first principles. The law must recognise social changes and bring itself into line with modern consumer needs. Too much paperwork discourages businesses from changing bad working practices. We surely need one set of agreed countrywide computer-generated forms to save time and administration.
Planning authorities, too, must accept tourist developments much more readily. We need more tourist route signs on roads--the "white-on-brown" ones--to show where venues of interest are. We must have a better integrated transport system, a subject very dear to our Deputy Prime Minister. Of all Scottish airports, only Prestwick has a railway station; not Edinburgh or Glasgow. In England, except for Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, I think the story is the same.
The Government can make or break the tourist industry. Their policy of highly priced petrol and diesel is stifling tourism in Scotland. Goods are expensive because of carriage costs. It is now 12 times more expensive to license a lorry in this country than in France and diesel costs £300 more every time the lorry is filled up. The car is still the best, and very often the only, way to see Scotland and some of the more remote parts of England and Wales. There is no other mode of transport there. Costs are now so high. Petrol costs more than £3 a gallon whereas in the United States it costs 38 pence. We must wonder what the Chancellor is up to.
We have in Britain so much of what the tourists of today want to see. We must make it more readily available to all of our tourists--whether they are rich or poor, British or foreign--at an attractive price with affordable, comfortable accommodation.
Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I always feel at a slight disadvantage when declaring my interests in a tourism debate because at the last count there were more than 12 companies of which I am a director and I am either patron or president of half a dozen industry associations. So, with the leave of your Lordships, perhaps I may declare those interests en bloc bar two. I declare those separately because on pages 46 and 47 of the strategy there is reference to Hospitality Assured and I am the chairman of the governing council of that body; and because the noble Baroness in her opening remarks spoke of the Tourism Society, I point out that it very kindly made me a fellow last month.
I should like to welcome the noble Baroness to what the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, once described as "this happy band of old lags who come to discuss tourism". The noble Baroness is a welcome and refreshing new face. I should like to thank her for bringing the subject to our attention though, as she pointed out, it is an extremely big subject and six minutes is not long enough to do anything but canter through.
I welcome the Government's paper Tomorrow's Tourism, not least because it follows many of the points which I raised in a paper published last July called Tourism Tomorrow. I wonder if perhaps the name had anything to do with it. But that was the Liberal Democrat tourism policy which I co-authored and published last July. I sent the document to the DCMS. It appears to agree with a great deal of what we put in the document and has taken it on board. That is a very good reason for welcoming the strategy.
I also welcome it because there is much in the strategy that is clearly good. I will mention that briefly. Equally, I have to say that there is also a good deal of dross in it, although there are some lovely gems hidden away within that dross. Perhaps I may quickly mention what I think is good. First, the best of the lot is that we have a strategy--the document has been published--and we should not under-estimate the importance of the document. Even if the document was awful all the way through, having a document and a strategy means that one can have another document and improve the strategy.
The second point that I think is good is that the Government have genuinely recognised many of the issues which those of us practising in the tourist industry have been trying to bring before government for a great many years. For example, in paragraph 2.3 on page 14, there is a very good analysis of the role of government in marketing support. I like the concept that is used. I believe it is called "market failure". There is an understanding of what needs to be done in licensing, a point to which the noble Viscount referred. My noble friend referred to seaside resorts. At least the issues have been recognised in the document. Agricultural tourism, to which the noble Baroness referred and to which I referred in the debate on the countryside last Wednesday, is also mentioned. So there is much in the document that I welcome. I certainly welcome the fact that we have a strategy at all.
I now turn to my three criticisms. My major criticism relates to what is omitted from the strategy. Any strategy not only needs to analyse the problems and set out the course that is to be travelled, but also needs an action plan stating how it is to be done. In relation to a great many of the bullet points in the document I was able to ask: "How will this happen?". The strategy seemed to be very much a diagnosis without a prescription. That is its main weakness.
My second criticism relates to the new ETB, whatever it will be. I welcome the fact that there will be a strategic body for England. At the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review it was certainly under threat. I am delighted that a body has been chosen. I am worried about the relationship with the regions and with local areas. I am not sure that it has been thought through. However, I shall defer further comment until the implementation group has reported, when we shall know what is going on.
My third major criticism is an old chestnut for which the noble Lord, Lord Gordon, has been waiting. It relates to devolution. I believe that the Government have got the matter comprehensively wrong. It is a complex subject. I have been in correspondence with the Scottish Office, and have sent copies of the correspondence to the noble Lord, Lord Gordon. I do not have time now to go into it. I believe that making the BTA a cross-Border authority is a recipe for disaster. I shall happily expand on that to anyone outside the Chamber when I have more time.
I thank my noble friend Lady Anelay for introducing this excellent debate on a subject that we often discuss in this House. We do so because tourism is a vitally important part of our economy. Also, it is exceedingly diverse and complex, as my noble friend said.
It seems a pity that the Government find it necessary to tinker with the various bodies administering the industry. The English Tourist Board was abolished (nearly) and now it is being resuscitated--but what for? All its power to publicise England has been taken away and given to a new tourist authority with no name, no remit, no agreed budget, and no chairman. This flagship for English tourism will not be able to advise customers or the press on its own subject. Who or what will be responsible for these extremely important matters? No doubt the Minister will tell us.
The Government are spending between £9.7 million and £10 million on promoting tourism to England through the BTA--less than the amount that was spent on refurbishing the House of Commons kitchens last
Why is so little mention made of transport in Tomorrow's Tourism? Only on pages 76 and 77 of Annexe 4 is an attempt made to discuss the matter. The tone is that he or she who drives a car is hardly acceptable. I quote:
BTA achieves a return of £27 for every £1 of public money spent on marketing Britain abroad and will shortly top £30 for every £1. One reason that BTA is so successful in promoting Britain is its concentration on our island's history, tradition and culture. I am not one who thinks that the so-called modern culture activities inspire visitors. Our history is unique; let us be as proud of it as we should be.
Then there is the Dome. Love it or hate it, it is fast becoming an icon known round the world. It must be an integral part of the marketing strategy to promote London, England and Britain as the tourist destination for the year 2000. I am delighted that BTA will be liaising closely with NMEC on this subject.
Nothing is said in Tomorrow's Tourism about the River Thames and how it fits in with next year's activities. New vessels are being launched, which will provide one way of getting from Westminster to the Dome. Sadly, other great ideas about the use of the Dome have become rather small-scale. However, I hope that these new boats will attract many tourists to spend at least part of their time in London on our splendid river.
I have spent part of today in Greenwich learning about some of the new developments which it is hoped will make that an even more attractive part of the world. There is not only the Dome; the National Maritime Museum is having some new extensions, which are nearly complete, and Woolwich Arsenal is scheduled to
It has been an excellent debate and I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply. Perhaps I may make one comment about the speech of my noble friend Lord Rowallan to back up what he said about the brown signs on motorways. I would ask that those who are responsible for designing these signs should take a trip from Calais to Rheims on the new motorway. There the brown signs actually represent what one can see if one looks at the particular town or item which is advertised. In England the signs are very graphic but bear no resemblance to what they are drawing attention to.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, before I forget, I must respond to the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. These graphic signs are all over France. My favourite one, which is in Burgundy, says, "Buses rapaces". It was a long time before I got to a dictionary to discover that buses referred to vultures. For years I could not understand what the sign was about.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for making this debate possible and for doing it at such an appropriate time when we have just published our tourism strategy. I am sorry that she did not like the launch and that she and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, would have wished it to be a parliamentary launch. It was not that kind of occasion, because it was not an occasion when government were talking to Parliament about what government were going to do. This was a collaborative effort between government--all government, not just the Department for Culture, but other departments, too--and the whole of the tourist industry. It sounds as though the noble Baroness was not invited to the launch at Glaziers' Hall. If that is the case, I am deeply sorry. Perhaps she would have felt compromised if she had been invited. She should have been invited, I think. If she had attended that occasion she would have found that, apart from a speech by Chris Smith and another by Janet Anderson, there were many 10-minute speeches, almost all of them from the tourist industry itself. That was the significance of the launch: it was the whole of the tourist industry presenting this strategy, not just the Government. I believe that such an occasion is better than the rushed kind of debate that we have on a Statement to Parliament, with merely 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions. However, we have learnt a lesson from what the noble Baroness said.
Our production of Tomorrow's Tourism was, though everybody hates the phrase, an example of joined-up government. It was across all government departments, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport taking the lead in promoting tourism's interests within government and maximising the involvement of the industry in policy initiatives across government. It contains a very substantial list of initiatives: to promote and improve career opportunities in the tourism industry, to which my noble friend Lord Gordon referred; to increase access to tourism for those on low incomes, families, the elderly and the disabled; and to open up new markets as a whole. I appreciate the
Clearly, we must open up new markets both for those who need holidays and those who could afford to pay for holidays in Britain but do not do so at the moment. That means that another part of the strategy is to provide better information about tourism. Another element is the provision of sustainable development of tourism; in other words, not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; namely, our art and culture, which were spoken to by the noble Lords, Lord Selkirk and Lord Freyberg, and our history, which was spoken to quite rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. Another initiative is to develop and promote quality tourism experiences--I shall return to the grading of accommodation in a minute--and provide a new and improved support structure for tourism in England.
A number of contributors, beginning with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, complained that there were gaps in the strategy. I must say that she is wrong about that. There is a substantial section from pages 56 to 58 on transport. It is not just about transport information but is concerned with transport improvements. There is also a substantial section on planning from pages 58 to 59, to which I shall return in a moment. There is also coverage of licensing to which the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, referred. I shall also return to that matter. Before I leave the coverage of the strategy I should point out to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that the £5 million additional funding of BTA is in addition to the £5 million that is to be expected from the refocusing of its activities.
I said at the outset that this is the most comprehensive, far-reaching tourism strategy ever produced by government. But it is not just produced by government. We expanded the Tourism Forum so that with 57 members it would be truly representative of all sectors of tourism, not just the industry itself but those representing the interests of consumers, people with disabilities and special needs and the environment. We had two quite elaborate formal public consultation exercises on sustainable tourism and future support structures. The working groups of the Tourism Forum were those who reported back at the launch at Glaziers' Hall on 26th February.
Many noble Lords have quite properly been interested in support structures and funding. One of the implications of having a strategy is that all government departments must take account of tourism and the tourism industry when formulating their policies and programmes. We intend to maximise the return from increased government funding for the overseas promotion of tourism. The British Tourist Authority will now focus its activity on key markets to release extra money for pro-active marketing and investment. I say to the noble Lords, Lord Freyberg and Lord Luke, that as to joint premises for BTA and the British Council there are a number of countries involved but the separate premises for BTA cover countries that provide 88 per cent. of tourists who come to this country. There is a memorandum of understanding between the BTA and
As regards the structures in this country, we intend to create a more effective, leaner national body for tourism in England to focus on the national strategic framework rather than the provision of direct services.
I disagree with those noble Lords who expressed disagreement with the new division of responsibilities between the national body for England and the regional tourist boards. Regional tourist boards are different: they are largely run by the tourist industry itself with the collaboration of local authorities, which are responsible on the ground. Those are independent companies; they are companies limited by guarantee. They know what is happening in their own areas; and that part of the responsibilities of the English Tourist Board is properly on a regional basis, with people who know what they are talking about on a regional basis.
The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, referred to the Lake District. Although the location of the Cumbria Tourist Board in relation to regional development agencies is not resolved, it is determined to maintain its independence. As I said, those boards include the important participation of local authorities, which between them contribute £75 million a year to promote tourism.
It is regrettable that we have not been able to announce the full details of the national body for tourism in England. However, I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that it will have what she calls an England mark. It will be a national body. It will have the strategic responsibilities which we have described; and it will be an effective resource complementary to the regional tourist boards. I can assure the noble Lords, Lord Selkirk and Lord Rowallan, that arrangements for the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board to work with the BTA are well established.
I wish to say a word about improving quality. Very properly, there has been reference to the grading system to be introduced by the end of this year. Let me acknowledge to the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, that Scotland is ahead of us in that respect. However, the fact that the AA, the RAC and the English Tourist Board have been able to join together in a common grading system for England is a considerable advance and one which I think will be widely welcomed in the tourist industry.
Throughout our strategy document, Tomorrow's Tourism, there are many examples with case studies showing how businesses and destinations have prospered by diversifying or developing into niche markets. There is much to be learned from those examples.
Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, that there is no intention to have a tourist tax. There is no intention to have a bed tax in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, referred to taxation of tourism. We have taxation, VAT, on accommodation. But, on the other hand, we do not have many of the tourist taxes, the bed
On the points which noble Lords said were omitted from the document, let me first refer to transport. The most conspicuous item in the transport pages relates to an integrated public transport information system. It may sound trivial but I do not think that it is. In the document, we talk about guidance on best practice to help tourist and leisure site managers to produce green transport plans. We talk about the necessity for the upgrading of transport infrastructure, park-and-ride schemes and integrated ticketing schemes. There is a great deal of valuable thinking on the transport element of tourism.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said that planning had been omitted. In June last year, we published guidance for planning officers and developers called Planning for Tourism and we are now working on planning policy guidance to facilitate leisure and tourism development.
As regards liquor licensing laws, again, I must write to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. I appreciate his passion for a simplification, even an abolition, of our licensing laws, and many people share his view. However, the issue is complicated and many vested
I turn to seaside resorts. It is true that the duty was raised on amusement machine arcades, but it was the first increase for four years. It is not that much compared with the benefits from deregulation on the number of machines allowed, the maximum price per play and the maximum jackpot prize. Perhaps more significant is the fact that within the single regeneration budget round there were 44 bids from seaside towns this year. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will make a decision in June based on social exclusion generally rather than on manufacturing, as had been suggested. From what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said about Blackpool, it sounds as though there could be a considerable degree of social exclusion there as well as in other seaside towns.
Many noble Lords referred to Scotland. I have difficulty in answering the questions, bearing in mind the fact that later this year the matter will be devolved. However, I can assure noble Lords that there is a proper relationship between the BTA and the Scottish Tourist Board. For example, the Ossian website will be available on the BTA website.
This is not the end of the process; it is the beginning of a continuing process. An annual tourism summit will be in operation and Tomorrow's Tourism will remain the basis of our agenda for years to come.