On Monday, Dan gave a speech to The Caravan Club where he praised them for "cementing their place in the British way of life."
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a real pleasure to join you today in Parliament.
Can I begin by thanking David Amess for hosting this event.
I have fond memories of David because a little over a year ago, I made my Maiden Speech in the House of Commons during the Budget debate.
In my speech, I gave the Government a bit of a hard time and wasn’t too nice about George Osborne’s budget either.
Some things don’t change!
Anyway, it dawned on me, that as soon as I sat down, the Speaker was going to call a Conservative MP and I would probably get my first barracking of abuse from the benches opposite!
So much for a gentle start, I thought!
So I sat down and nervously looked over to the Chair and saw the Speaker look to his right and just as I expected, call a Tory MP.
It happened to be David Amess - which I suspect was no coincidence!
David was very kind with his words and so I could breathe a sigh of relief.
For nearly 30 years, David has been a doughty champion for his constituents and for the many causes that he speaks up for in Parliament and I’m delighted to accept his kind invitation to speak today.
Can I also thank the Caravan Club’s Chairman – Grenville Chamberlain – for his speech. A timely reminder of the great work the Caravan Club are doing.
I should say at the outset that I wouldn’t claim to personally be the most experienced caravan expert in the Labour Party – we, of course, leave that particular mantle to Margaret Becket – but I have enjoyed some great caravanning experiences.
I just mentioned my maiden speech in this house – no one here ever forgets their first speech.
And I will never forget the first night I spent in a caravan!
It was during my time in the Boy Scouts.
Looking back I wonder quite how hardy a bunch we were because instead of camping and the privation’s that brings – my scout leader decided to take us caravanning by the sea!
The first night saw us boy scouts watching a horror film – yes even in those days, caravans had TVs and could be almost palatial.
Anyway rather than playing outside, we retreated into the warmth and comfort of the caravan away from the cold and swirling sea mists outside.
On went the film.
Now this is absolutely true – the film that was on the TV was about some young people staying in a caravan on a caravan park – by the sea –
that became engulfed by swirling sea mists from which all sorts of horrible nasties began to pick off the unfortunate caravaners!
And I was watching this in a caravan engulfed by swirling sea mists!
That said – it didn’t put me off but only increased my desire to do more of it!
I should also say that I want to make a point that is perhaps slightly prosaic and even a bit romantic…
I think that Caravanning is a wonderfully liberating and enjoyable experience.
The simple act of taking to the road with a caravan is one that has huge appeal for millions of people.
Now you won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree with much of what comes out of Jeremy Clarkson’s mouth.
Let me tell you, I definitely disagree with his views on caravanning.
He might not get it but – you do, your one million members plus do, and I do, as well.
Now, one of the great things about my brief as Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister is that, it is diverse and far-reaching.
I have responsibility for: the Creative Industries, Culture and the Arts, Heritage, Museums, Galleries, Orchestras, the Ballet, Libraries, Lotteries and the Royal Household and Royal Family
and of course, for Caravanning and Tourism.
It is particularly exciting to be a part of the Labour Culture, Media and Sport team in this Olympic and Diamond Jubilee year.
And I know, that tourism is an industry that should be a beneficiary of the Olympic Games, this year and for many years to come.
I also know that any benefit from the Games, will only be realised if we make sure that we have a climate that is conducive to attracting tourists to Britain.
So we find ourselves in what should be an exciting period for UK Tourism
and it is right that we recognise an organization such as the Caravan Club, which has, for over 100 years, been at the heart of this great industry.
And I am seized by the potential and the contribution that you make…
to providing opportunities for people and families to explore
to the tourism industry,
and to local and regional economies, right across the British Isles.
So the Caravan Club is undoubtedly unique.
Not only have you retained your sense of mission and identity, 105 years on from ten men and one woman joining forces to create the Caravan Club,
but you have also recognised your social responsibility.
Through your alliances with:
The National Cycle Network,
National Motor Museum Trust,
The Campaign for National Parks and many others,
You have successfully cemented your place as an integral part of the British way of life.
Today, over a million people are a part of your network, and this figure is growing.
This is the kind of membership that the political parties which David and I belong to, can only dream of.
Of course, the rise in membership of the Caravan Club, also coincides with the rise in the number of people choosing to stay and holiday in Britain.
This is something, we have labeled ‘Staycation.’
‘Staycation’ is a phenomenon that may be new to many, but is something that has been at the core of the Caravan Club’s appeal, for over a century.
The idea that people can get in their cars or motor homes and travel to remote, idyllic parts of their own country, to enjoy areas of natural beauty, is something that is particularly important.
Because Britain has so much to offer.
We have world-leading museums, galleries and theatres,
A wonderful coastline,
Famous landmarks and historic buildings
It can also be an affordable holiday option for hard-pressed families
– all of which is part of the appeal to over 300,000 families that are part of the Caravan Club network.
We meet today to recognise the prestigious Certified Location of the Year Award winners.
The award is symptomatic of why the Caravan Club is so popular –
Many of the winners today will have developed sites that are in tranquil and remote parts of Britain, offering those members who choose to holiday there,
the chance to experience a part of Britain that they otherwise would never have been able to enjoy.
And importantly, in the current economic climate, the Caravan Club has been, and will continue to be, a key contributor to local economies, right across our country.
And as its membership has grown, so too has its economic footprint.
A recent study by Visit Wales suggests that the Caravan industry is estimated to be worth £727 million in expenditure and turnover each year in Wales alone.
The Caravan Club is key to that success, by driving up the number of people seeing caravanning as an enjoyable holiday choice for them and their families.
Nationally, the estimate is that Caravan Club members spend £400million in the local economies they visit, each year.
The Caravan Club is also a key driver for local jobs.
In the last nine years, you estimate that you have spent £100 million on site developments, with much of this work being completed by local contractors and tradesmen.
What is more, the very nature of Caravanners means that you are a major customer of the British motor trade.
So it is important to highlight the Caravan Club’s economic value.
And especially at a time which could and should, open up doors of opportunity for The Caravan Club,
its members and all those businesspeople and manufacturers involved in the caravan industry.
Because I know that right now, there is uncertainty over the Government’s plans for the Caravan industry.
The rising cost of fuel means that many people simply cannot afford the petrol to fill up their cars or motor homes, and drive across the country.
Let me also be very clear; my party firmly believe that the Chancellor was wrong to propose VAT on static caravans.
Because plans to introduce VAT on static caravans will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the tourism industries in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as affect the long-term future of Caravan manufacturers and staff who work for them.
VAT on static caravans could add up to £4,000 onto the price of a caravan, deterring many people from buying their own.
Ladies and Gentlemen, caravanning has been a way of life for generations of people, and long may that continue.
The Caravan Club is a first-rate example of an organization that we must ensure we continue to nurture and not neglect.
It is a privilege for me to join you today and I want to thank you for the continued contribution you make to Britain and to our tourism industry.
Thank you very much.
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