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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, not only do we debate these matters more frequently than the other place, but I believe that, on the whole, we do it better with our more consensual approach. Before going any further, I must declare my interests. My own family home is open to the public and I am involved in my family's hotel business.
The point at the heart of all my remarks tonight was first mentioned by my noble friend Lord Bradford. I refer to the fact that the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry has very much come of age. It is a central part of our national economy and is very important to the country as a whole. Its importance is recognised by economists, and politicians, and is axiomatic to this debate.
There are a number of important consequences for the industry. I should like to touch on one briefly. I make the following remarks in a spirit of amity, not hostility. The case is often made for there to be almost a quantum leap in the amount of public money that is made available by the Treasury for the institutions through which the industry is organised. My right honourable friend the then Secretary of State and I advanced those arguments to the Treasury because we recognised as well as anybody that a bit more money would be of considerable benefit. While the Treasury accepts that there is some market failure in this area, it is illusory for the industry to believe that there can be some kind of sea change as opposed to additional money being made available to it in the way I have described. After all, when viewed in comparison with the demands of hospitals, schools and so forth, the Treasury will say, "Well, if it is such a good deal why not do it yourselves?"
I believe that in looking for leadership from government one should not focus on the money but on other aspects so long as the industry is not starved. The Government cannot deliver tourism, but what they can and should do is set the framework and provide the context. One is talking about an industry that is not homogeneous. It has a multiplicity of players with different needs and different relationships with other people involved. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie,
The Department of National Heritage should act as intended--as the focus in Whitehall for the industry and as a sponsorship department in the manner described by my right honourable friend Michael Heseltine. I believe that it and the government agencies for the industry--the ETB and the BTA--should focus on positive practical steps to help it.
I should particularly like to touch on the classification and grading schemes and pay a tribute to the work of David Quarmby. Many of the establishments in our country can compare with the best in the world. But, sadly, there are those--many of them not very far from where we are today--that are not good enough. That should concern not only them but the industry as a whole. I believe that the work that has been done to try to find a way to produce a classification scheme that is understandable to visitors to this country is of the greatest importance. As I understand it, the description provided by the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, of the differences between the English and Scots schemes is not accurate. We have heard about the differences between the English and the Scots. All I say is that I understand the constitutional reasons that lie behind them. At the same time, I urge those involved not to focus on minor points of theology. There is something much more important at stake. As a number of your Lordships have said, what are the implications of devolution? I believe that we should focus on practical matters.
I should also like to mention briefly some work that I carried out in the Department of National Heritage on the relationship between government and the other responsibilities of that department: museums, theatre, the lottery, film, design and so on. They are terribly important to the tourist industry. The money and support that they give is of paramount significance in the long and medium terms.
I have already spoken for five minutes. There are many other matters on which I would have liked the opportunity to speak but I shall not. I conclude by saying that it is often thought to be the hallmark of the cynic to say that business succeeds despite governments. That view may be born of cynicism but nonetheless it is realistic. We all recognise that in the world in which we now live governments must raise tax, set rules and provide proper consumer protection to enable the market to work properly. At the same time they must resist the temptation--I urge it on this Government--to overdo it, contain their impulse to do too much and remember that the best may be the enemy of the good. If those on the Benches opposite
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, referred to the participants in this debate as a club. He welcomed me to the club. I am not sure that I am being welcomed unequivocally to this club. What is happening is that I am being put through a tribal initiation ceremony. Those noble Lords who have a vast experience, which they have properly declared in introducing their contributions to the debate, have so much to teach me that it will be difficult for me to continue, when noble Lords have heard me through, with the kind of response that I am expected to make. I express my appreciation to the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, and all who have taken part in the debate for the great expertise that has been shown and the considerable degree of wisdom which has permeated many of the contributions.
Let there be no doubt, the Government are fully seized of the importance of tourism to our economy and to our society. My noble friend Lord Graham and other noble Lords referred to the Labour Party document Breaking New Ground and challenged us to give effect to that document. I have to say that in a period of fewer than six weeks, for all practical purposes, in which the Government have been formed, it is not realistic to expect that we will have made real progress towards the implementation of all of those policies. I fear that our response will be, as is the response of so many departments, that there will be reviews of existing policy; that we will consider our position; and all the cant phrases that go with that.
However, we do not for a moment yield to other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate in our appreciation of the importance of tourism and coherent policies to deal with it. That is not necessarily to say--here I follow the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood--that the measure of government action should be direct spending on tourist facilities or, indeed, even on tourist promotion.
I am not sure that there is such a thing as a tourist industry. It seems to me as an outsider that what we have is a ganglia--if that is the correct number for such a thing--of interdependent sectors--the hotel sector, the hospitality sector, the entertainment sector, transport and many others--which come together in a consumer-defined concept; in other words, their own expertise can be different but they come together because they are looking to the same customers.
What is characteristic of that ganglia is that we have imperfect competition. Some people have used the words "market failure". I think that that is going a bit far. We have imperfect competition mainly because of imperfect knowledge. There is inadequate guidance to consumers on the products and services and the best way to take advantage of what is on offer.
A number of noble Lords have particular expertise on Scotland--it is notable that there do not happen to be any who are interested in Wales--and have raised the prospect of devolution. It is true that the interrelationship of the British Tourist Authority--to which I pay tribute, as I am invited to do--and the country tourist boards is complex. However, it will not become more complex or difficult after devolution comes into effect.
After all, what happens now with the Scottish and Welsh tourist boards? They voluntarily collaborate with the British Tourist Authority; they participate in the preparation of the marketing strategy; they contribute their own ideas to it; and where the two coincide they can contribute financially to overseas promotion. As the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said, they are not looking to set up their own overseas trading posts but seek to use the advantages of a British Tourist Authority. Surely that can and will continue after the establishment of a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly. The relationship between the British Tourist Authority and the tourist boards is a good example of the way in which the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly will want to take part in nationwide--Great Britain-wide--public sector activities.
I readily acknowledge that employment and training are critical to the economic and financial success and contribution to our economy and society of tourism. It is not adequately recognised how closely the demands of noble Lords from other Benches coincide with our policies on this matter. It is almost as though our welfare-to-work policies were devised in order to encourage people to come into the tourist industry. The whole concept of attracting young people into the industry which was referred to by noble Lords on other Benches fits in so well with what we want to do in taking young people off the dole and giving them an effective guarantee of training and work. It is surprising that there should be any question about that. The tourism industry already provides 1.6 million jobs. Without wishing that our young people should unnecessarily go into uniform, it is a critical part of what we want to do that we should be providing exactly the kind of jobs which tourism can provide.
There was no particular reference to the minimum wage. Even the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, did not refer to it, although he usually does. However, I am delighted to recall that he referred to it in the previous debate. The minimum wage can be a contributor to the guarantee of quality in our tourism industry that we all want. I am delighted to welcome noble Lords to that recognition, which I believe is widespread in the industry.
The membership of the Low Pay Commission is not yet established, but I have no doubt that the tourism and hospitality industries will put forcefully to the commission their case for the setting of a suitable minimum wage and the evidence it submits will be carefully considered. I am grateful in particular to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, for his remarks on that issue.
I turn to the issue of accommodation rating. Noble Lords will know that the English Tourist Board is on the point of going out to consultation on its proposals, together with the AA and RAC, for accommodation rating which will combine rating of quality, facilities and services. I believe that that is absolutely critical. If that works, we can provide something comparable to the Nomenclateur National in France together with the Michelin and other quality grading. In the past, there has always been a lack of a conjunction of those three important elements--qualities, facilities and services. A number of noble Lords referred to that.
I was asked whether we should be moving rapidly towards a statutory accommodation rating system. We shall certainly be moving towards statutory registration but we should first like to try a voluntary rating system before we see whether we are forced to move to a statutory system. In the first instance, it can apply only to England, although it will be available for Scotland and Wales. But 80 per cent. of visitors to this country come to England and I believe that the system will be very successful and will leapfrog rating provision in other countries.
I have great difficulty, in the time available, in referring to the points made in particular by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, about licensing. From my previous contributions from the other side of the House, it is no secret that I am no friend of having regulation in that area. But it is a matter for the Home Office, and Home Office Ministers are considering whether and how any changes should take place to our existing licensing regulations. I shall certainly draw to their attention the particular points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, about supper hour certificates and EHOs and what seem to me the horror stories of the noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, as regards the way in which licensing works in his part of the world.
I do not have time to respond to the questions of my noble friend Lord Graham about tax but I shall write to all noble Lords on the points made in their very constructive speeches which I have not been able to cover in the debate.
I am asked how quickly we should move towards a new development of tourism Act to upgrade and, if necessary, replace our own 1969 Act. My answer can only be that we are consulting like mad. We are seeing everybody who wishes to see us and we are going around the country to talk to people in the tourism industry. But we must legislate now for the 21st century. It would be extremely foolish to do so
The well-informed and constructive contributions which have been made in this debate by many noble Lords will be of great value to us in considering what future steps should be taken. The Government are very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.
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