Below is the text of Mr Major’s Commons speech on Development of Tourism -
Mr. Sproat The hon. Gentleman says that it is on the record. I said at the beginning that I am opposed to the Bill. I am seeking to persuade my colleagues. I do not know whether I am succeeding. They are looking a little doubtful. I am perhaps changing their minds about the value of the Bill.
I was dealing with the important interjection by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West about the cost of the other boards. but it is not just the cost of having the English Tourist Board, the Wales Tourist Board, the Scottish Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority. Let us, in imagination, jump the Atlantic to the city of New York and imagine that the Bill has become law so that there is a Scottish Tourist Board on Fifth Avenue, an English Tourist Board on Fourth Avenue, a Wales Tourist Board on Third Avenue and the British Tourist Authority on Second Avenue, all competing for tourists from the United States to come to different parts of the United Kingdom. Not only would it cost a tremendous amount, but New Yorkers would no doubt be totally baffled as to why all these different people were competing to get them to different parts of the United Kingdom.
Although I suggested that we jump in imagination to New York, in a way we can already jump to New York and see what has happened, because the Scottish Development Agency, which seeks to do for inward investment in Scotland what the Bill seeks to do for inward tourism in Scotland, already has an office in New York. However, when the development officer for the Grampian region called it up not long ago, he got an answering service instead of anybody at the other end, as the officers were apparently out on the golf course. I think that my hon. Friend who spoke of £10 million would think that that sort of behaviour was not a very good way of spending taxpayers' money.
The setting up of all these different boards is, first, very costly. Secondly, it is extremely confusing. It would mean setting tourist offices against one another, each trying to set out the advantages of its own region. Certainly, I believe in competition. But, as I agreed earlier, let us have moderation in all things. I believe that there is a limit to the amount of competition that the various tourist authorities of this country can afford. My hon. Friend has, therefore, made a very good point.
Certainly, we are in what might be called a "quango-
Mr. John Major (Huntingdonshire) There is one important matter to which my hon. Friend has not yet bent his formidable argument. I wonder whether he is familiar with the remarkable book written by the Under-
Mr. Sproat No, I have not read "Tourism, Blessing or Blight?", to give its title again, but I think that that book clearly encapsulates and possibly expands the argument put forward earlier about how difficult it is to draw the line between where tourism is a benefit and where it is a disadvantage. Certainly, what was most obvious from the speech by the promoter of the Bill was that he did not even seek to address himself to this important argument. Possibly my right hon. Friend might care to send him a copy of "Tourism, Blessing or Blight?" and see whether it changes his mind with regard to the Bill.
First, therefore, we have extra public expenditure -
Mr. Parris I think that the "Tourism, Blessing or Blight?" argument perhaps speaks the other way, and somewhat in favour of what the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has said. My own constituency is very-
Mr. Sproat Yes, I think that that is absolutely true. That just indicates the depth, the width and the elusiveness of the whole argument, which really is not considered seriously in a Bill of two clauses, one of which simply says: This Act extends to Scotland only and This Act may be cited as the Development of Tourism (Scotland) Act 1981. This is a very important subject. The economic consequences of it are indeed vast and simply have not been treated by the hon. Gentleman with the seriousness to which they are entitled.
Mr. Nicholas Baker I am sorry to intervene yet again. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) said, when dealing with tourism from abroad, that one is asking for a completely different and much more highly developed infrastructure of airports, communications, hotels and so on. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major) said, the cost of that has never been properly measured. I should like my hon. Friend to address himself to that point. I also hope to make some remarks about it myself if I have the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Sproat Perhaps I can leave it at that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as there is a good deal that I wish to say with particular relevance to Scotland.
Mr. John Farr (Harborough) I come back to the question whether tourism is a blessing or a blight. Is my hon. Friend aware that a very historic hill at Balmoral was opened to the public a few years ago, since when it has been visited by the public -
Mr. Sproat That is a vivid example of the difficulty of striking a balance. No doubt the number of tourists who walk up the steps of the Parthenon in Athens will eventually destroy the very thing that they wish to see. That is one of the sad ironies with which it is difficult to grapple.
Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central) I am fascinated by the debate, and I should not like my hon. Friend to be distracted by my other hon. Friends into imagining that tourism is not a good thing. If I catch the eye of the Chair, I shall certainly seek to argue the other way. As I visited the Parthenon only last week, I must assure my hon. Friend that the Greek Government attach great importance to tourism and devote a great deal of attention to the maintenance of that magnificent edifice.
Mr. Sproat I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that remark as well as envious of him. I have not been to Greece for a long time, but I believe that there one must pay to visit buildings such as museums and art galleries, except on Thursdays, with the result that old-
Grateful as I am for these interesting and valuable interjections from my hon. Friends, perhaps I can sum up this first section of my speech. First, the Bill will cause greater public expenditure at a time when we are seeking desperately to cut the PSBR.
Secondly, it at least provides the opportunity for the promotion of even more QUANGOs and jobs for the boys. No doubt if the Bill were to pass into law, it would be absolutely vital to set up a Scottish Tourist Board office in Nice, Cannes, Rome, possibly Athens and all those other agreeable places around the world.
Thirdly, the Bill will have far-
Fourthly, this point was not really dealt with by the hon. Member for Dundee, East, what will the role of the British Tourist Authority be if all these different authorities conducted their own business?
The Bill is typical of the Scottish National Party. Fortunately, my hon. Friends who are present, except for my two hon. Friends on the Front Bench, have no real experience of this matter. Until the SNP was more or less destroyed at the general election, it was an extremely selfish party. The Bill pays no regard to the consequences that it would impose upon the rest of the United Kingdom. In my view, the hon. Gentleman wrongly thinks about what it could do for Scotland.
Mr. Blackburn That is an important point and I am delighted that my hon. Friend has directed his attention to it. At present in the Chamber are my hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) and Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) as well as myself. We are all anxious to develop the tourist industries within our constituencies. We see an immense danger in the Bill because it will take all the financial resources away from us. We believe that to be grossly unfair. Perhaps my hon. Friend will direct his remarks specifically to the selfish attitude being adopted in the Bill and the crippling effect that it will have on the tourist industries in Derbyshire and Wales as well as in my constituency.
Mr. Major And East Anglia.
Mr. Blackburn I apologise.
Mr. Sproat This is a selfish and thoughtless Bill. The hon. Member for Dundee, East does not mind being politically selfish. That is what he is in business for. However, he is slitting his own throat because, as I shall now seek to show, the Bill would be detrimental to the very interests that he seeks to promote. I now turn to that section of my speech.
The purpose of the Bill, as I have said, is to give the Scottish Tourist Board the right to set up its own operations abroad. Yet those of us who were fortunate enough to serve on the Scottish Select Committee which looked at the whole matter of inward investment into Scotland found that industrialists abroad did not look upon the United Kingdom as being divided into separate parts. Datsun does not say "We want to come to Wales or Scotland or England". It says "We want to come to Britain". When it has made the decision in principle to come to Britain, it is then directed to the various areas of the United Kingdom where it might best settle.
With the exception of those of specific Scottish ancestry, or those who have been intoxicated by the translation of the works of Sir Walter Scott, I believe that very few people will want to go to Scotland and not to other parts of the United Kingdom. It is inconceivable that people will say "We want to see the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond but not the Tower of London. We are interested to see where Sir Walter Scott lived at Abbotsford but not where Shakespeare lived in Stratford-
It is inconceivable in common sense that the majority of people who come to this "sceptred isle" will not wish to see all that it has to offer, rather than just one part, albeit the part that I represent and of which I am extremely proud. Just as industrialists look at the United Kingdom as a whole, I think we would find that tourists do likewise and that when they come here they would be attracted to other parts of the United Kingdom and would see it as a whole package.
I do not wish to detain the House for too long. To my amazement, when I look at that electronic piece of luminous gadgetry above the hon. Member for Dundee, East, I see that I have been speaking for more than the five minutes or so which I originally thought would be the length of time that I would detain the House.
I want to make a serious point about the efficacy of the Scottish Tourist Board. We are being asked to allow the board to do abroad what it is currently doing at home. However, we find that over the last few years the number of tourists from abroad coining to Scotland has increased, which is excellent for the work of the British Tourist Authority, whereas the number of tourists to Scotland from within the United Kingdom -
Although that is not the whole evidence, it is an important part of the evidence. From it we can see that the British Tourist Authority has done its job better than the Scottish Tourist Board. Secondly, the main thrust of the Scottish Tourist Board's literature is something called "Enjoy Scotland", of which 1 million copies of the latest edition were printed. Of those, 750,000 went to travel agents. Presumably the Scottish Tourist Board thinks travel agents to be important, yet in the board's annual report we find that nine out of ten people who come to Scotland do not even bother to go to travel agents.
Therefore, we have this board, which we are told is so wonderful that it should extend its activities abroad, concentrating its main literature on travel agents whom it says are not visited by nine out of ten people who go to Scotland. Again, that is not total evidence against the Scottish Tourist Board, but it should make one think before devoting £10 million in order to spray literature all over San Francisco, Tokyo, Geneva, the south of France or wherever.
Mr. Parris I promise that this is the last time that I shall interrupt my hon. Friend. I should like to say a word in favour of travel agents. It is widely accepted that most people take their holidays without reference to a travel agency. However, there is the 10 per cent. or so, as is the case in Scotland, who do. Travel agencies have an important role in leading the public. People who have taken a holiday through a travel agency will tell others about it and tell them whether they enjoyed it. It may not then be necessary for everyone to go to a travel agency. However, we should not ignore the importance of travel agencies in leading public tastes in travel.
Mr. Sproat I am very glad that my hon. Friend has made that point. It was my desire to make progress that stopped me from expanding on it. Of course, he is right, but, at the same time, to devote 75 per cent. of one's literature to something that brings in only 10 per cent. of one's tourists is to have the balance slightly wrong. That is the point that I was trying to make.
I was reading with interest a booklet called "Enjoy Scotland" and at the back I found a section headed "Special Interest Holidays". Naturally, I looked up my own area, Grampian, of which Aberdeen is the proud capital, in order to find out what were said to be the special interests there. I found that angling was mentioned. That is certainly true. The river Dee is very fine for anglers. It also mentioned weaving. That would not have sprung to my mind. Another interest was hang-
I then looked at those interests which Grampian, according to the booklet, is not supposed to provide. The first that caught my eye was castles. No castles in Grampian? There are more castles in Grampian than in any other part of the United Kingdom, or possibly in the whole world. Within 20 minutes' walk of my own cottage I can find several castles, some of them in a jolly good state of repair and some not. It used to be said that one of the chief selling points of Aberdeen was that a person could stay for two weeks in Aberdeen, never drive for more than 20 minutes from the centre, and visit a different golf course and a different castle every day. That is true, yet we are told that castles and golf courses do not exist in Grampian.
However, the true acme of almost incredible incompetence achieved by the document comes under the heading "Fife". I looked at what was recommended for tourists who come to what we used to call the Kingdom of Fife. All the world knows that, if Fife has one claim above all others to fame, it is that within its boundaries nestles the old grey city of St. Andrews, the home of golf, with the Royal and Ancient golf club, the old course and the new course. No golfer worthy of the name in the world would not wish to try his luck on the golf courses of St. Andrews. Yet, when we look at "Enjoy Scotland", produced by the Scottish Tourist Board, under "Golf we find that there is no golf to be had in Fife.
I am bound to tell the promoter of the Bill that a Scottish Tourist Board which is capable of an enormity of that size is not a body to which -
The British Tourist Authority, no doubt, could do with more co-
For these reasons, which I have rather foreshortened, I hope that my hon Friends will oppose the Bill.
Mr. Frank R. White (Bury and Radcliffe) I am sure that hon. Members present this afternoon will understand and probably sympathise with my feelings, knowing that I have sat through the first debate, in which a considerable degree of concern was displayed for horses, while I was waiting to display my concern about home workers. I am now sitting through a second debate and, important though it may be for people in Scotland, I am now faced with the prospect of my Bill not being debated this afternoon.
This Bill is designed to empower the Scottish Tourist Board to carry on activities outside the United Kingdom". I suppose that it is with a little temerity that an English Member, from wet Manchester, should rise to speak on a Scottish Bill, although it is a Private Member's measure. I can claim that my antecedents go back only to the 1745 rebellion -
I am particularly interested in the aspect of carrying on activities outside the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) will be aware -
The Scottish Tourist Board, in acting abroad, will come up against a unique position concerning homeworkers. If it sought, in Germany, France or Italy, to continue the practice in which it indulges in this country, employing homeworkers to do its work, it would come up against homeworking regulations which define the homeworkers in those countries as employees. Homeworkers are defined as people who have a light to a basic living wage, defined by an organisation and structured throughout the country, with basic wages specified. It also defines health and safety regulations within the home, and provides security of employment. It provides security against unfair dismissal, and for other benefits such as holiday pay and redundancy pay.
If the Bill encourages the Scottish Tourist Board to carry on activities in the countries that I have mentioned, and those activities are subject to the homeworking regulations in those countries, while in Scotland the homeworkers are not covered by the same kinds of regulations, there will be a considerable degree of argument and concern.
Mr. Blackburn Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the homeworkers in Britain take a great deal of pride in the job that they are going and want to be able to do a job which reflects great credit on the industry? Does he also agree that homeworkers engaged in distributing a booklet such as "Enjoy Scotland" would not find a great deal of pride in that task because of the inaccurate figures to which attention has been drawn by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat)?
Mr. Deputy Speaker I have been listening carefully to what has been said in the debate. We do not want to stray too far from the subject of tourism in Scotland. The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. White) is being extremely ingenious, but I hope that he will bear that in mind.
Mr. White The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn) has raised a point of interest, because in the business of tourism and the protection of tourism the homeworkers have a pride in their job. Their pride in their job is probably clouded by the realisation that they are paid only 20p an hour for their work. It is to the discredit of this country that we are allowing them to continue in that way.
Mr. Gordon Wilson Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, were my Bill to be carried into effect so that more tourists came to Scotland from countries in which the activities of homeworkers are properly organised, supervised and regulated, the experience that the tourists brought with them could easily be transferred to those involved in craft industries in Scotland who are serving the tourist trade? Then in due course, when this House returned to its senses, no doubt some legislation would be passed on that score.
Mr. White I am greatly indebted to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. It is the very point that I was about to make. If his Bill is successful, promotional activities will encourage tourists to go to Scotland. They may come from Germany, Italy or France. They will want to visit the tourist centres projected in the literature. Indeed, that literature will probably have been packaged and posted by homeworkers. They will want to visit hamlets and the birthplaces of poets and bards. They will want to visit the castles of yesteryear. They will find that homeworkers are involved in the souvenir business, in little workshops, and in craft industries.
When we meet parliamentarians from other countries, we compare notes and conditions of employment. We discuss how Mr. Speaker and the Government, or Opposition, treat us. Similarly, one homeworker will talk to another. The truth will then come out. I should have liked the Bill to recognise that fact.
Mr. Major Has the hon. Gentleman considered the possibility of expatriate homeworkers who are resident abroad acting as agents for the Scottish Tourist Board at some future stage?
Mr. White Expatriate homeworkers might be willing to do that, as they are employed on fair conditions and receive fair wages. They are entitled to holidays, maternity benefits, and redundancy pay, and there are provisions against unfair dismissal. If our homeworkers get the opportunity to pack editions of Hansard, I hope that they will read this debate.
Mr. Deputy Speaker I have listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. White). He is entirely in order; I think that he is doing rather well.
Mr. White I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for having given that advice. I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration. I did not come into the Chamber for this debate alone. I have been here since 9.30 am because I had hoped to speak on my Bill. I share the hon. Gentleman's frustration, but I shall not detain the House for long.
I have made the points that I should have liked to make in more detail on an occasion that will not now arise. Problems face those homeworkers who are employed in the Scottish tourist industry and throughout Scottish industry. I hope that the hon. Member for Dundee, East recognises that, and that a conflict could arise if the Scottish Tourist Board were to use homeworkers abroad and were to encourage them to come to Scotland. They could compare conditions with our homeworkers.
Mr. Gordon Wilson Will the hon. Gentleman accept that I understood that his most estimable bill on homeworkers would have gained tremendous support in the House and would perhaps have been strengthened in committee? My Bill makes it implicit that the question of conditions will be taken care of. However, we were not to know that there would be a campaign to prevent my Bill and that of the hon. Gentleman from becoming law and from helping the citizens of our respective countries.
Mr. White I share those sentiments, but all is not lost until the axe chops off one's head. I am sure that the Minister will be sympathetic to the point that I am putting obliquely. He could probably give my Bill a Second Reading on the nod and sort it out in Committee. However, the Minister will be subject to the pressure of the Whips.
Mr. Parris Is there not a danger that the tourists who go to Scotland as a result of the promotional activities of the Scottish Tourist Board will pick up some bad habits instead of teaching us better home work practices? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say something about that.
Mr. White I cannot do that now, because you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order. However, if the hon. Gentleman would care to write to me and tell me about the bad habits of homeworkers, I should gladly look into the matter.
Tourists from Germany, France and Italy will find that homeworkers in Britain fall into three distinct categories. I refer to the chronically sick and disabled who have to work at home; to mothers with young children who cannot find nursery or play school places; and to families that have chronically sick, disabled or elderly relatives to take care of. In large urban areas those from the ethnic minorities do home work, because to work outside would conflict with their culture or with their religious beliefs. In addition, they may have problems with the language.
I do not know of any bad practices that homeworkers are responsible for, but I know of bad practices that employers have imposed on them. That is the point that I was trying to make, in the hope that the hon. Member for Dundee, East could include some provision about it in his measure.
Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton) I am interested in the dimension that my hon. Friend has managed to inject into the debate. Few people are concerned about the welfare of homeworkers who make many of the gifts and souvenirs that tourists take away. Has my hon. Friend any evidence to show that the tourist industry is concerned about those who help to make it so successful? If the Scottish tourist industry is to expand, those involved should be responsible, and should ensure that all those who contribute to it, such as those who make souvenirs and gifts, are protected.
Mr. White I value that intervention, because it brings me to the point that there are two ways of supplying material to the homeworker. Indeed, that is one of the major problems. When a reputable company employs in-
In many tourist areas, there is a direct relationship between a company and the homeworkers that it supplies. The unions involved in the parent company may have negotiated not only on behalf of the in-
However, problems arise when the tourist industry and other industries use agents or middle-
It is surprising that we have allowed such a situation to continue since 1911. Since the sweated trades exhibition, nothing has been done.
Mr. Parris I should make it clear that when I referred to bad practices earlier I meant not that homeworkers had bad habits but that the employment of homeworkers involved bad practices. I was trying to help the hon. Gentlemen.
Mr. White I apologise if I misconstrued the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks and I welcome his support. I hope that I can count on it at 2.30 pm.
You have, Mr. Deputy Speaker, allowed me to develop my points. I am grateful to you and to the House for its tolerance. If the Bill reaches the Committee stage, I hope that the hon. Member for Dundee, East will consider my suggestions. In that way the Bill could be an example to the rest of the country and would show how homeworkers should be treated. It would demonstrate how conditions of employment should be met. Homeworkers would then be in complete harmony with those on the Continent. In addition, the measure would provide those involved in tourism and in commerce generally with the conditions that would bring them out of the dark period of 1911 and into the forefront of good employment practice.
I trust that the Bill will be given a Second Reading. I hope to have the opportunity of making similar points in Committee.
Mr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West) Together with other hon. Members, I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and his colleague the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) on their success in the ballot. Every hon. Member here is quite envious of their having been so successful in the ballot for Private Members' Bills.
During my short service in the House, I have taken a traditional line on Bills. Some of them are long epistles, in theological terms, but occasionally we have a small Bill like a psalm, full of pearls of wisdom. When I read the Bill, I thought that somewhere within the confines of its two clauses there must be a wonderful germ of truth about the tourist industry in Scotland. None of us has anything but affection for Scotland. There are many places where we would rather be than here in the Chamber.
I am concerned about the hon. Gentleman's attacks on the tourist industry, which seemed alien from a man presenting a Bill relating to the industry. I invite hon. Members to share my view that the British Tourist Authority is an important part of the life of this country, especially in foreign currency earnings. In contrast to the hon. Member, I am prepared to pay a public tribute to the authority.
I was also surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman's bitter comments, which were totally unworthy of him, about the publication by the British Tourist Authority called "British Travel News". He said that there were only four of five pages about Scotland. As one would expect of all responsible Members speaking in a debate, I took the opportunity this morning to go to a travel agent. I asked for guidance and literature about Scotland, and was given the booklet, already referred to in the debate entitled "Enjoy Scotland". The hon. Member spoke of only four or five pages relating to Scotland, but in that booklet -
I was saddened to hear the attack on members of the staff of the British Tourist Authority. The hon. Gentleman said that it was quite ignorant of the situation in Scotland. I take the opposite line and support the staff engaged in an industry promoting Scotland.
Mr. Anthony Grant If it were true -
Mr. Blackburn That is true. It is a matter of deep political philosophy that those who hold those positions should be accountable. I am sure that people in other places will take note of the attack of the hon. Member for Dundee, East.
Mr. Gordon Wilson Is the hon. Member aware, as he has been studying this matter, of the article in The Scotsman of 8 October 1980, a cutting of which I have with me by chance? The chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board, Mr. Alan Devereux, who was appointed to that office by the Government, was threatening to resign if the Scottish Tourist Board lost the fight to get back its powers. The chairman of the STB, who sits on the board of the BTA as a matter of statutory right, is entirely dissatisfied with the position and has stridently made his views known on the issue.
Mr. Blackburn That does not reflect adversely on the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant). In fact, it emphasises the responsibility that we are stressing. There must be accountability, especially when we are the custodians of public money in this important industry, of which we are all dedicated disciples -
Mr. Anthony Grant I am sorry to flog this point. I should not have been prompted to intervene again were it not for the intervention of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). Does my hon. Friend agree that the plain fact is that there is a British Tourist Authority, on the board of which sit, as of right, the chairmen of the Scottish Tourist Board, the English Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board? They are all equal, they all have equal rights. They may all have their say and promote their countries within the framework of the BTA. To give special powers to one is unthinkable. If that person does not like it and wants to resign, let him do so and let someone else be appointed.
Mr. Blackburn That feeling is coming through the debate strongly from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Within the confines of the Bill the Scottish Tourist Board has the right to operate outside the United Kingdom. One is staggered to find in clause 2(2) the discriminatory comment that This Act extends to Scotland only". Many hon. Members have a deep interest in ensuring the future tourist prosperity of other parts of the United Kingdom, including Wales and England.
Mr. Major It is devolution.
Mr. Blackburn That is true. I came to the House with an open mind, hoping that this Bill, with its two clauses, would be able to command my support and respect. But that has not happened. We are here to deal with legislation, not with motives, or what was said or what may have been said. We are creating law. It is with sadness that I say that I shall not be joining the hon. Member for Dundee, East in the Lobby. It would be most opportune, as so many of my hon. Friends have been waiting to speak, that I should now conclude my comments.
Mr. Major He has gone to do his homework.
Mr. Rifkind We congratulate the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) on his success in the ballot and we are grateful for the opportunity that he has given the House to debate the important subject of Scottish tourism. It is quite astonishing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, that not only is the hon. Gentleman unaccompanied by any of the sponsors of his Bill, but even his right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) has deserted the Chamber and not sought to speak.
Mr. Gordon Wilson The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) both indicated that I was at liberty to say that they were not prepared to hear any more of the rubbish being relayed to the House by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat).
Mr. Rifkind That is as may be, but they were perfectly free to stand up in their places when my hon. Friend sat down. I am sure they would have been given preference over the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe especially as the right hon. Member for Western Isles is a sponsor of the Bill. If he had had a speech to make I am sure he would have been given the opportunity. It is astonishing that no such opportunity has been taken by those sponsors.
Perhaps more amazing than the attitude of the minority of parties is the fact that the Opposition have made no contribution to the debate. Not one Scottish Labour Member -
Mr. Gordon Wilson The hon. Gentleman should understand the position in which the Labour Party finds itself and have some sympathy for it. No sooner would it put someone on the Front Bench than he or she might well defect to another organisation.
Mr. Rifkind It appears that all the Labour Members have done so already, to judge from the empty Benches around the hon. Gentleman.
I turn to the important points that the hon. Gentleman raised, and the important contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. To put the matter in context one must return to the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which established the British Tourist Authority and tourist boards not only for Scotland but for England and Wales. It was the clear purpose of that Act that there should be a dual responsibility, that whereas the BTA would be responsible for the promotion of tourism overseas for the United Kingdom as a whole, the responsibility of the three national boards was to encourage the growth of tourism within the United Kingdom, each in its own way seeking to direct the maximum number of tourists to its own part of the United Kingdom.
It was not an accident that the Act was framed in that way. We must consider whether the arguments used then to justify that division of responsibility are still justified. There was nothing in the hon. Gentleman's contribution, which was the only speech we heard in support of the Bill, to suggest that that division of responsibility has worked badly. If we accepted the Bill we should be doing a complete somersault, overturning the principles of the 1969 Act. It is justifiable to think of that only if it is clear that there would be considerable advantage not only to Scottish tourism in particular, but to the tourist interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The principle behind the 1969 Act was that in the promotion of the United Kingdom overseas we should try to avoid duplication of effort. It is highly desirable that we should make the best use of the limited resources available, and that we should have a body with the expertise that is essential in a competitive industry, with what is inevitably a limited market.
I must ask the hon. Gentleman why he suggested that that division of responsibility had not worked reasonably well. I do not claim that everything that has happened since 1969 has been an unqualified success for Scotland or other parts of the United Kingdom. That would be an absurd exaggeration. Equally, the hon. Gentleman has not been able to illustrate that any significant benefits would flow to Scottish tourism as a consequence of the Bill.
One of the hon. Gentleman's arguments was that the Scottish Tourist Board had not had the ability to promote overseas the tourist interests of Scotland. Presumably in his view that has reduced the number of tourists coming to Scotland. We must look at the comparative efforts of the board and the British Tourist Authority over the years to see whether the evidence justifies that proposition. It does not.
In the past two years tourism, not only to Scotland but to the United Kingdom as a whole, has been relatively poor compared with previous years. It has shown a downturn. The reasons have included the strength of sterling and the international recession, which has an effect on such matters as tourism.
Mr. John Page (Harrow, West) I was here for the whole of the morning, but I did not hear the beginning of my hon. Friend's speech. I apologise for that. How does my hon. Friend know how many visitors there were from overseas and how many from within the United Kingdom? If the information comes from hotel registers, how does he know that Mr. Bloggins who signs in at Inverness on Monday and at Fife on Tuesday is Mr. Bloggins from the same address? Is the information obtained in that way, or is it an estimate? If not, how is it obtained?
Mr. Rifkind A number of different bases are used to make a calculation. Great consideration is given to the airline statistics. Visitors often fill in a form giving the purpose of their visit and their destination when they arrive in the United Kingdom. Although that is not a guaranteed way of providing the statistics, it gives figures that are believed to be reasonably reliable.
The figures that I have just given suggest that over the period 1972-
The figures in no way suggest that the board has been far more successful than the British Tourist Authority in stimulating tourism to Scotland. The number of overseas visitors has increased very encouragingly. That is a figure which we cannot ignore but which the hon. Gentleman appeared to ignore.
The Bill does not impose a duty on the board to promote Scottish tourism overseas, but it provides power for the board to do that if it wishes. We must assume that it would wish to use that power if it had it. We must consider that in the light of the tremendous importance of tourism for the people of Scotland, which I do not wish to minimise. About 110,000 jobs are directly or indirectly provided by the tourist industry.
The Government already recognise tourism's importance, as does the Scottish Office in the support that we give to the board. This was shown by, for example, the following statement by Mr. Alan Devereux, chairman of the board, in its eleventh report: When I was appointed to the Scottish Tourist Board earlier this year I was assured that the Government recognised the important role of tourism in the Scottish economy. In the event, our financial budget needs have been met in the full and we have been actively encouraged to take initiatives on a number of fronts. That is an important statement. It confirms that, when it has been necessary to make significant reductions in the expenditure and resources available to many organisations and areas of public expenditure, the Government have recognised the board's importance and the importance of tourism to the Scottish economy and have made no reduction in real terms in the resources made available to the board.
Mr. Gordon Wilson Does not the Minister accept that, although Mr. Devereux may be grateful for the maintenance of the budget of the STB, he is greatly dissatisfied about the inability of the STB to participate in the overseas sector which, as the Minister mentioned, is the growth area? Is it not surprising that the Government do not favour giving these powers to the STB when the Highland and Islands Development Board is already able to fulfil that role abroad, with the agreement of the STB, thus leaving a great part of Scotland, including Edinburgh, Dundee and the Borders, without any direct representation overseas?
Mr. Rifkind I shall come to the basic point in a moment. It is significant that the work of the Highlands and Islands Development Board overseas is carried out in co-
Mr. Wilson Does not the Minister realise from my remarks that I consider that the STB should operate in co-
Mr. Rifkind I come directly to the contents and consequences of the hon. Gentleman's Bill. The hon. Gentleman was honest enough to admit that while the direct effect of the Bill would be to provide only a duplicated responsibility, shared by the STB and the British Tourist Authority, he wished, in fact, to see the Scottish Tourist Board with a monopoly of responsibility for the promotion of tourism overseas and for the British Tourist Authority to cease to have any function in that respect. The hon. Gentleman did not develop the consequences and implications of that policy. I have no doubt that it would bring considerable harm to the interests of Scottish tourism.
If the British Tourist Authority no longer had any legitimate interest in encouraging tourism in Scotland, it could not seriously be expected to spend any of its time, efforts, inclination or resources towards that end. At the same time, it is difficult to believe that the Scottish Tourist Board, by itself, could make the significant impact that the hon. Gentleman seeks. Is he suggesting -
If that is not the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, there would be unlikely to be any significant change from present circumstances. If, on the other hand, he wishes to see a wholly separate paraphernalia and bureaucracy established, he has to accept that the Government would have either to give far greater resources to the Scottish Tourist Board or cut back on much of the existing work that they do very successfully in promoting tourism within the United Kingdom and seek to direct it instead to Scotland.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. However, he appears to be trying to have it both ways. That is, unfortunately, a characteristic of the party that he represents -
I fully accept that, from the hon. Gentleman's point of view, he does not care one way or the other whether that happens. That may be a logical approach, as viewed by a nationalist Member. In seeking to gain support from the other 630-
The hon. Gentleman referred to the recommendation of the Stodart committee, although I feel that he was being somewhat selective in one sense. The committee made a whole series of recommendations on tourism. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in making a general response to its recommendations, will be dealing with the various points and recommendations as they affect tourism. Given the opportunity provided by the hon. Gentleman's Bill we have to deal with the specific recommendation concerning the overseas representation of the Scottish Tourist Board. For the reasons I have indicated, we do not consider it appropriate or, indeed, necessary or desirable, in the interests of the tourist requirements of Scotland, that such a change should be made.
However, the Government are not content to let things lie. We share the hon. Gentleman's desire to do the best for Scottish tourism. We are inclined to support and promote a number of improvements in the way in which tourism and particularly the promotion of overseas tourism can be achieved. First, we should distinguish between the marketing of the product and the decision on what product should be marketed. The marketing of Scotland as a tourist destination is at present the BTA's responsibility. We have indicated that we wish this to continue. However, we see scope for improvement in the way in which decisions on what product should be marketed are made.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has been reviewing this aspect over the last few months with colleagues who have tourism responsibilities in the Department of Trade and the Welsh Office. We have been seeking alternative ways of determining the commodity to be promoted. We see a need to improve liaison between the British Tourist Authority and Scottish tourism interests and to ensure that the BTA is responsive to Scottish interests and requirements. We can do this and are already seeking to do so without the need for legislative change.
We wish to have a system whereby the various Scottish tourism organisations and the trade decide in Scotland what should be the priorities for overseas tourism promotion with the BTA then take action upon these identified priorities. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Trade and for Scotland are agreed that this is the approach that is in the best interests of the industry in Scotland. They will expect the British Tourist Authority, in the Scottish part of its overseas programme, to take full account -
For this approach to be fully effective, there needs to be a co-
Mr. Donald Stewart How does the Minister deal with the fact that the Scottish Tourist Board thinks it desirable to have these powers and the evidence adduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) that the British Tourist Authority has failed signally to project Scotland?
Mr. Rifkind I dealt with that matter while the right hon. Gentleman was out of the Chamber. He will forgive me if I do not go over it again. I am glad to say that, in discussions over the last few months, a considerable measure of support for the Scottish Tourist Board acting as co-
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is encouraging the Scottish Tourist Board now to reach agreement with other tourism interests in Scotland that the STB should take this leading, co-
That director will be the main point of liaison between the co-
Mr. Gordon Wilson The chairman of the BTA, who has been resisting any erosion of his power and the role of the BTA, has indicated that he will co-
Mr. Rifkind I have not the slightest reason to believe that procrastination will be applied. These are matters which my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Trade will represent to Government policy, and that is policy which of course the British Tourist Authority will be only too happy to support and to implement.
We appreciate fully the very genuine reasons which led the hon. Gentleman to bring forward his Bill. I have no doubt that he believes that it would lead to an improvement. But I hope that he will accept that from the point of view both of the interests of Scottish tourism and of the much wider implications which the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members have to take into account, it would be inappropriate to seek a change of the sort which he suggests. It cannot be considered purely in isolation because, inevitably, it would lead to questioning the future of the British Tourist Authority. We are not convinced that the British Tourist Authority has failed to promote Scottish tourism overseas. The evidence over the past eight years, with a 71 per cent. increase in the number of overseas visitors to Scotland, suggests that it has worked very hard and successfully in achieving much of what Scottish tourism requires.
On that basis, I could not recommend the hon. Gentleman's Bill to the House, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will agree with that conclusion.
Several Hon. Members rose -
Mr. Gordon Wilson I beg to move, That the Question be now put.
Mr. Deputy Speaker After only two hours and 23 minutes, I could not accept the closure at this juncture, when other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
Mr. Tristan Garel-
I trust that the House will forgive me if I make a passing reference to a comment which has been made by other hon. Members. I have listened to debates in this House which have been sparsely attended, but this is the first one that I have attended in which, from beginning to end, the official Opposition party has not seen fit to have so much as even a Whip on the Opposition Front Bench. I find that very surprising.
Mr. Graham Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain his expression "even a Whip"?
Mr. Major On the more substantive point, does my hon. Friend think that the absence of right hon. and hon. Members who normally grace the Opposition Front Bench has added to or detracted from the intellectual tone of the debate?
Mr. Deputy Speaker I think that that is going a little wide of the Bill.
I ought at the outset to refer to the well-
I hasten to add that many people are not aware that Dr. Johnson went on to regard as his closest friend that great Scottish intellectual and that polyfacetic Scotsman, Mr. Boswell. With him, Dr. Johnson undertook the Hebridean tour, about which Boswell wrote. I am sure that I do not misrepresent Dr. Johnson's views if I say that, in spite of having made that rather unfortunate remark, he regarded Scotland -
In my remarks, I want to draw attention to four very important matters. The first is whether the BTA itself has been a success. The second and most important one is whether the BTA would be able to disengage from Scottish promotion overseas. The third is what the effect of this would be on the Wales Tourist Board and the English Tourist Board. Finally, if time permits, I should like to spend a few moments on what I regard as the very important political undertones of the introduction of the Bill by the Scottish separatist party.
Mr. Donald Stewart I ask the hon. Gentleman to get his facts right.
The first question which I pose is whether the BTA has been a success. We can say with some confidence but without complacency that it has. We have to remind ourselves that we are discussing an industry which in 1979 produced no less than £2,797 million of foreign exchange earnings -
I turn to the question of disengagement. It became apparent earlier in the debate that what the hon. Member for Dundee, East said was the purported objective of the Bill was not his own objective. His objective is a completely separate Scottish tourist authority. Disengagement would prove expensive and inefficient, and it would not serve the interests of tourism.
Perhaps I might link that up with the effect that the achievement of this objective would have on the Wales Tourist Board and the English Tourist Board. I refer especially to Wales, which is a matter of some interest to me. I do not think that this House need be under any illusion that, were the Bill to receive a Second Reading and become law, the Wales Tourist Board and the English Tourist Board would feel obliged, if only out of machismo, to come in behind the Scottish Tourist Board. I am extremely nervous about that, because tourism in Wales is an exceptionally important industry to the Principality, employing, as it does, no fewer than 90,000 people, and it is estimated that in 1978 alone tourism earned £425 million for the Welsh economy.
Those of us who take an interest in tourism in Wales and tourism in England should be very nervous about the implications which the Second Reading of this Bill might have for those industries in our own countries.
The Wales Tourist Board claims that it is possible to boost revenue from tourism to the Principality up to about £1,000 million by 1985 and to create 25,000 new jobs, more than 10,000 of which would be in the South Wales valley. I am sure that the whole House is aware that the Principality could not afford -
Mr. Gordon Wilson On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What has the Principality got to do with a Scottish tourism Bill?
Mr. Deputy Speaker The hon. Gentlemen is straying slightly wide, but I believe that Scotland was part of his argument.
Mr. Gordon Wilson As we are almost out of time, is it in order for me to move, That the Question be now put?
Mr. Deputy Speaker I am afraid that we have had only a brief debate, and I cannot accept that motion now.
It being half-
Debate to be resumed upon Friday 6 March.