The Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a new tourism minister who supports a cut in the VAT rate to 5% for tourism and hospitality businesses.
Tracey Crouch will take on the role of minister with responsibility for sport and tourism in the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), alongside the department’s newly appointed secretary of state, John Whittingdale.
Crouch, who has been MP for the Kent constituency of Chatham and Aylesford since 2006, was described in the House of Commons on 15 January by Sajid Javid, the then DCMS secretary of state, as being passionate about a VAT reduction. He was responding to a question from Crouch about the benefits of a cut in tourism VAT.
She said: “The secretary of state will be aware that across Kent tourism accounts for the direct employment of nearly 65,000 people. Tourism VAT rates across the EU are much lower than in the UK, and if VAT on accommodation was reduced to 5% that would boost jobs and bring a further £1m into Kent. What conversations has he had with the Treasury about the benefits of a future cut to VAT, as that would bring jobs and growth into Kent and the UK as a whole?”
Javid replied that he was having ongoing discussion with the Treasury on the issue, before highlighting that “because of the support the Government have provided to the sector, we saw record levels of tourism (in 2013), and it looks as if 2014 will be another record year”.
Crouch, a law graduate from the University of Hull, was a researcher for several Conservative MPs, including Michael Howard, before going on to work as a political consultant, chief of staff to several shadow ministers and for insurance company Norwich Union.
In the last Parliament she served as chairman of the all-party alcohol misuse group and vice-chairman of the all-party groups for dementia and women in sport.
Crouch is a sports enthusiast and a FA-qualified football coach who manages a local girls’ football team. She also likes reading, travelling, listening to an eclectic music collection and eating.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association said she commended the appointments of Crouch and Whittingdale, both who have experience of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, particularly following the committee responding in March to the Tourism Inquiry report and highlighting the Government’s failure to give the tourism industry sufficient recognition and support.
“With the recent Tourism Inquiry report serving as a great foundation, we look forward to working closely with John and Tracey especially in leading the delivery of the Inquiry’s recommendations to reduce tourism VAT, improve the speed and cost of visas and to diversify and strengthen the Tourism Council. The time has come for the hospitality industry to be empowered to help our economy reach its potential with more jobs, visitors and tourists across the UK.”
There was also support from Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain, for the appointments of Whittingdale and Crouch.
“We look forward to working with them both to deliver economic growth and jobs across the nations and regions of Britain,” she said.
“International tourism is the UK’s seventh largest export industry by value, and our third largest service export. It is a global sector in which Britain continues to compete on the world stage, so increasing the value of tourism can play a vital role in any long-term government economic plan.”
The most recent full year figures show that 34.8 million international visitors came to the UK in 2013, an increase of 17% since 2010, spending a total of £21.7b (up 29% on 2010).