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Torbay MP Adrian Sanders: 'Vital' tourism industry needs a full-time minister

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 11, 2012

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A Westcountry MP has called for the Government to re-instate the sacked Tourism Minister as the move risks damaging the region's economy.

Somerset MP John Penrose had been Tourism Minister, but was dumped last week after finding his department had been made smaller as part of the Cabinet reshuffle.

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay, arguably the region's busiest resort, says giving tourism even less prominence will undermine its chances of influencing Government policy.

Liberal Democrat MP Mr Sanders has written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to review the decision.

He said: "The Government's decision puts tourism even further down the list of priorities.

"For such a vital industry, with many uniquely cross-cutting issues from transport to immigration to consider, this can only be a bad sign for economies such as Torbay that rely heavily on visitors."

Tourism is the fifth biggest industry in the UK, contributing around £115 billion a year to the economy.

It employs over 2.5million people and for resorts such as Torbay the sector accounts for around a third of all jobs.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced Sports Minister Hugh Robertson will assume the tourism portfolio on top of his responsibilities.

Tourism is worth more than £2 billion annually to Devon and Cornwall. In 2010, David Cameron said the country should "up our game" so that 50 per cent of what the British spend on holidays is spent domestically. It stood at 36 per cent at the time.

The Government has repeatedly claimed tourism would help "re-balance" the economy, and published a tourism strategy to kickstart the sector.

But critics say it is not doing enough. Ministers decided not to press ahead with re-arranging the bank holiday running order, which was the most eye-catching policy in the strategy.

Calls to move the clocks forward an extra hour have been rejected, as were demands for a VAT cut for the hospitality industry to bring the UK on par with Ireland and France.

A DCMS spokesman said last week: "Tourism continues to be an absolute priority for the department and indeed the wider government, and is at the forefront of our growth agenda.

"Tourism was one of a number of issues covered by John Penrose in his portfolio, in the same way that Hugh Robertson will also look after sport and gambling."

Labour warned that getting rid of Mr Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, would put Britain's Olympic legacy at risk.

Shadow Tourism Minister, Dan Jarvis, said: "The Government has proved once again that it is out of touch and is placing the Olympic tourism legacy in jeopardy. There is now understandable concern that tourism's voice will carry a lot less influence at the Cabinet table."

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