I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. I was pleased to join him earlier this week. One thing that struck me from the meeting was the longevity of some of the staff there, how long they had worked for the British Council, their passion and dedication and how the current actions and what was happening were undermining how they felt about their organisation. I agree that it is very important that we have a degree of transparency, particularly for a non-departmental public body such as the British Council.
Soft power is important. My colleagues and I see the benefits of the UK’s being trusted and respected around the world. Our education system is outstanding, and we want international students to come and benefit from it. I want students from around the world to come to the University of St Andrews in my North East Fife constituency. The British Council helps to support that aim, engaging with the Turing and Erasmus programmes, science, technology, engineering and mathematics scholarships, technical placements and assistance with applications.
Those students bring countless benefits to us at a local level, not only to our local economic circumstances, but with their experiences and knowledge. Speaking as a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, we should remember the importance that international students have in Scotland in particular, which we picked up in our inquiry. Their fees are no doubt part of that.
Tourism contributes £106 billion to the British economy and supports 2.6 million jobs. We cannot recover without it, particularly in North East Fife, so we need to encourage visitors to our shores. Despite current temperatures, I am yet to meet a tourist who says they came to the UK for the good weather. People come for our history and to experience our culture. They go to Stratford to learn about Shakespeare, they go to the pub just about anywhere, they want to experience our vibrant arts and theatres and, at least in North East Fife, they definitely want to have a round of golf. Of course, all those good things exist independently of the British Council, but its presence around the world, teaching English, sharing our culture and demonstrating that we are an open and welcoming nation, plays a significant role.
We also need trade deals. We need to export our goods and services, be it Scotch whisky or cutting-edge science, technology, engineering and maths knowledge, but what country is going to make a trade deal with a country it does not trust? What does it say to the countries we want to work and trade with if we turn our backs on them and withdraw our institutional presence? What does it say about our commitment to tackling climate change if, as reported today, this Government are considering doing away with agreements around climate change when they look at trade deals, such as that with Australia?
The biggest challenges we face today do not affect us alone and cannot be solved by us alone. We face a climate crisis; we face a growth in extreme ideologies around the world. The world is a less safe, less stable and less prosperous place, and retreating solves nothing. For better or worse, we have already retreated from the European Union—I firmly believe it is for the worse—but we still need to work together to respond to global health crises, to house and support refugees coming from Syria, Afghanistan and other places, to tackle cross-border crime and terrorism, and to make the shifts required to respond to the climate crisis.