§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Major SALMON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
837 I am pleased to think that the proposal of this Bill is not a party question. As a matter of fact, it is supported by all parties in the House, and over 200 Members have already signified their approval of such a Bill. No new principle is involved in the Bill. It is merely an extension of the Health Resorts and Watering Places Act of 1921. Briefly, the object of the Bill is to empower local authorities to spend up to the product of a halfpenny rate upon advertising the amenities of our country by contributing to a central organisation. I can imagine, if I may digress at this moment, hearing critics state that the words "central organisation" are a little too wide. I should have no objection, if the House so desired it, to add these words:or any non-trading organisation approved by the Ministry of Health".My object in raising this point at this juncture is rather to anticipate any small criticism which may be made by any opponents of this Bill. The Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland, which was started in 1929, is an organisation which exists for the purpose of advertising throughout the world the great amenities of this country. Unfortunately, it is supported only by the railway companies, hotels, and steamship companies, though the total sum which it receives per annum is gradually increasing. It started with a sum of£16,000, and it is anticipated that this year it will go up to£20,000. The Government have also seen their way to give a subscription of£5,000 to the Travel Association in support of the work which it is undertaking.
Many local authorities see the great use of this central organisation and are desirous of contributing, but the law as it at present exists prevents them from contributing to a central organisation outside their own area. The main object of the Bill is to remedy this position. It is also of interest to note that the Travel Association, which is the organisation dealing with this matter in a. comparatively small way at present, has at its head the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, and there are also some very influential men on the committee. The great national work which the Association has already done is demonstrated by a report which was made by the United 838 States Trade Commissioner in London to his Government, in which he said that the Association had been responsible for an increase in American visitors to this country. Everyone who gives serious thought to this matter will see that there is a great necessity for us to advertise this country abroad much more than we have done in the past. I realise that there is a school of thought which does not see the true value of publicity. The idea to them is that it is undignified. To my mind, there is something of inherent snobbishness in such an attitude. We cannot afford to blush unseen.
The excuse generally is that public money should not be directed into channels not usually used. That view is not shared by foreign Governments. France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and the United States of America all devote considerable sums of money towards advertising, in all parts of the world, the beauties and amenities of their respective countries. If we take the figures of 1928–29, it will be seen that France, by doing a great deal of this publicity, was enabled to induce 1,800,000 visitors to the country during that period, and that those visitors spent no less a sum than£75,000,000. What is the position of Great Britain? Great Britain, during that particular year, had 457,000 visitors, and it is estimated that they spent£15,000,000. Therefore, there is a great economic value in getting tourists to this country, and in giving permission to local authorities to spend, should they so desire, up to the proceeds of a halfpenny rate for the purpose of advertising this country. It will enable them to spend money for which they can obtain a quick return on their investment. I think we can truly say that the money would be used for productive purposes.
I will not trouble the House by going into details as to how it is proposed to be expended. The method which has been adopted up to now by the Travel Association has been the use of the cinema, the Press, photography, posters, and broadcast talks. If you are to do this sort of work efficiently, it requires a large sum of money. I do not believe that money could be spent to greater advantage for the benefit of this country than for people abroad to learn of the beauties and amenities than can be afforded to visitors here. I hope that 839 the Bill will receive a Second Reading and that at no distant date we shall see it on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to second the Motion.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow (Major Salmon) has said, all parties are in agreement on the Bill. The local authorities want it, and I gather with pleasure that the Ministry of Health also desire its passage into law. I called this morning at the office of the greatest touring agency in the world to see, casually, what advertisements for travelling there might be at hand, and I found, to my astonishment, two documents which I think illustrate the attitude of our own people towards publishing the amenities of this country. There was a booklet running into 86 pages entitled "Winter in Germany", and a leaflet of only four pages entitled "Christmas Festivities at Home Resorts." I think that gives a fair indication of what we think about our own country in connection with advertising its attractions. I have visited several foreign countries during the past few years, and when I was in America last I found, much to my surprise, that men and women even of British stock seem to be more familiar with places of resort on the Continent of Europe outside our own country than they were with our own land.
It is very necessary that our local authorities should he granted the power contained in this Bill. We have a very peculiar habit as British people, more emphasised, I think, among the people of England than of Scotland or Wales, of depreciating ourselves when we are abroad. We glory in our historical battles and Imperial achievements, but we say very little about the amenities of our own country. It is about time that we told the world what there is to be seen in this land. I would prefer to boast of the amenities and glories of Oxford and Cambridge than of the conquests of our navies and our armies. If we told the world a little more of what is to be seen in those great centres of learning, I think we could attract many more tourists here. It is a strange fact that some of our own people seem to know more about Coney Island than they do about Blackpool. The pictures, the cinema 840 films and the leaflets that are published from time to time make our people more familiar with places abroad than with resorts in our own country.
I have come to the conclusion that we have been very backward in this matter. I tried some years ago to induce a local authority of a seaside resort to tell American tourists what that town was like, but I was astonished to find that they could not spend one penny piece in telling America anything whatever about the amenities of their district. This Bill is long overdue. I am delighted that the Bill is, if anything, a little more Socialistic than some hon. Members opposite would, as a general rule, care to accept, but it does not matter whether it is Socialistic or not, it is highly desirable that the Bill should be carried into law.
Attractions of foreign countries are much advertised here. We see in the windows of our tourist agencies advertisements about hotels and railways abroad. I have seen advertisements in London about the Pennsylvania Railway, Atlantic City, and the glories of California. Hon. Members from time to time receive copies of advertisements of the amenities even of the remote State of Virginia. Why should the City of Manchester not tell the world of its glories? [Laughter.] Why not? I live there. Hon. Members imagine that it rains more in Manchester than elsewhere. That is not so. It simply takes longer for the rain to come down. There is no reason why we should not advertise more in order to attract people who have a great deal of money to spare. It is astonishing how travel has grown in the last few years.
I support the Bill for another reason. My experience in travelling is this, that a tourist coming from America to this country or a Britisher going to France or Germany can sometimes do as much towards the peace of the world as a diplomat or a delegate to the League of Nations. I am satisfied of one thing, that when a person travels in another country he drops certain words out of his vocabulary. He forgets the words "foreigner" and "alien" and finds that other people are human beings like himself. That reminds me of a good story I heard the other day of an English lady who went to Berlin. She was asked to 841 fill in a form because she was an alien. She was very insulted and replied, "I am not an alien, I am an Englishwoman."We all help to break down the alien feeling by travel. I hope therefore that the Bill will have a speedy passage into law.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Miss Lawrence)
This Bill appears to the Ministry of Health and to the Government to be a small but admirable Bill. We very much desire to encourage this particular kind of imports for re-export. In the past there have been certain disagreements among those interested in the question. So far as we have learned, those differences are now at an end, and there seems to be substantial agreement both locally and nationally in favour of giving this permissive power to local authorities. I desire to associate myself very briefly with all the patriotic remarks made by the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Second Reading of the Bill. Like them, I appreciate the beauties and amenities of this country, and I feel that if foreigners only knew how nice this country is they would flock here in their thousands and spend their money with both hands. While there is fairly general agreement locally and nationally and in this House in regard to a Bill of this character, I must say one warning word. An essential condition for the smooth passage of the Bill will be general agreement in this House both now and in the Committee stage. Any considerable amount of opposition would, I am afraid, very much prejudice the prospects of the Bill becoming law.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
The Parliamentary Secretary has expressed the hope that there will be no undue trouble in regard to the passage of this Measure. That depends, as she has pointed out, upon a union of the three parties, or more, on the Bill. As far as I can speak for one of the parties in the House, I heartily endorse the appeal she has made, and certainly the Bill will receive hearty support from these benches during all its stages. I also endorse what has been said as to the necessity for this country advertising itself more than it has in the past. We have been inundated with advertisements of the beauties of other parts of the world. I represent a part of the country, Cornwall, which certainly can claim precedence of most other 842 places of pleasure and recreation, certainly in quality, and there is a movement in the West of England, associated with the railway companies, and others, who are anxious to cater for the tourist. The endorsement of Parliament will be an immense incentive and a great encouragement to watering places and recreation places of this country.
§ Major GLYN
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health need not anticipate the slightest delay in getting this Measure passed, but there is one thing in which the Government can help, and that is to give some financial assistance from the Treasury to the British Travel Association, an organisation which exists entirely for the purpose of putting forward the advantages of this country abroad. Whilst money can be well spent by local authorities in advertising the amenities of their district, there is also great need that the British Travel Association should be helped by the State, as it is at the present time by many organisations, to make the advantages of Great Britain more widely known overseas. It is estimated that the Transatlantic travellers coming to Europe leave something like£60,000,000 a year behind them. The advantages to this country would be enormous if we could get a larger share of that travel, but we cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that our legislation in regard to public-houses and hotels has been of such a character as not to make a stay in an hotel as attractive in this country as some foreigners would like it to be. Until we can improve our hotels and our accommodation for visitors we shall not be able to get that amount of foreign traffic coming to this country which we desire. An enormous amount of good work has been done by the Public House Trust, and similar organisations, and our inns are now becoming admirable for good accommodation and good food.
Travelling organisations like the railways spend annually vast sums of money abroad and at home in inducing people to travel. We spend the money and they go in chars-a-bancs by road. The railways do not get the advantages which they deserve. At the same time in association with railways there are hotels which cater for the travelling public, and if the Government could do something to help licensing magistrates to realise the 843 advantages which are provided by these inns in the way of good food and accommodation for the travelling public, and encourage them, a great many more people would travel than do so to-day. If you go to a British Consulate abroad, or to the commercial side of an Embassy, you cannot get any information at all in regard to travelling in Great Britain. Many foreign countries allow a certain amount of information to be given to inquirers. If the Parliamentary Secretary would have that matter considered it would greatly assist local authorities and those who are anxious to snake the advantages of our country more widely known, and more foreign money would be spent here to the advantage of the country.
§ Mr. PYBUS
There is one point to which I desire to refer in connection with this Bill. Previous speeches on the question of advertising have dealt with it from the point of view of booklets and posters and other forms of literature, Hon. Members may not know that local authorities in seaside resorts have the right to spend up to a penny rate, but it can only be spent for that one town, and no form of combination between neighbouring resorts is possible. This Bill makes it possible for varioustownsto combine, not only in regard to the issue of booklets and posters, but for other modern types of advertising. It is impossible, on grounds of expense, for any one single town to get, say, a film made and exhibit it, but it is possible for a group of resorts to combine and make a film and get that film shown, not only abroad, but on the liners which cross the Atlantic. Recently, on the East Coast, we have been able by local co-operation for Clacton-on-Sea and also Dovercourt to get a loud speaker van which toured the whole of the industrial centres of Great Britain. It was also possible to distribute literature from the van at the same time as the loud speaker was proclaiming our champagne air, our minimum rainfall and our maximum sunshine. This is only possible financially if towns group themselves together, and not the least advantage of this Bill is that it makes combination in more than one form of advertising possible.
§ Mr. ALPASS
I desire to support this Measure. I come from a city which possesses very many advantages, historical, commercial and from the point of view of scenery. Recently a movement has been started to smile these advantages more widely known. An organisation has recently been founded called "The Bristol Publicity Board," and many of the citizens have generously supported financially the organisation. During the present year we have had the pleasure of entertaining a very large number of visitors from one of the cities in France, and we named it "The Bristol-French Week." The result was that not only was the city made more widely known commercially and physically, but we have made contacts which will result in mutual trade relationships being developed between us and this part of France. I want to see that work extended and developed, and if this Bill is passed, it will be possible by means of its financial provision for this good work, started in this voluntary way, to be much extended and developed to the advantage of the city and the surrounding district.
I do not desire to detract from the marvellous beauty of Cornwall. I have had the pleasure of visiting that county, but those who live in the city of Bristol are proud of the wonderful beauty of the scenery around the Avon. There is a story told of the great Duke of Wellington that when he was going from Bristol to Gloucester, he staved at a place called Almondsbury Hill, from where you get a wonderful view of the Severn Valley, and he said that in all his travels he had never seen anything which appeared to him more beautiful than that view. I believe it would be possible to make these beauty spots known and to attract a large number of people from other parts of the world. Even if the Duke of Wellington did not say what has been attributed to him, I think that visitors would give expression to such sentiments.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I am in complete agreement with the proposals of the Bill. Although permissive only, the Bill does enable local authorities to increase their rates by a halfpenny in the pound. That may seem small and trivial, but one does not require very great knowledge of local authorities and of those who are interested in local finance to know that they, like many of us, feel that at a 845 time of very considerable financial stringency there must be clear and good reasons why even permission should be given to local authorities to increase the rates. In this case there are good and sufficient reasons. What has been said by every other speaker so far need not be repeated. It is clear that the encouragement of foreign visitors to this country is of financial and economic value to the laud. These visits can be increased in number by suitable propaganda and advertisement. I have no doubt that a permissive halfpenny rate would yield productive results, and if we as a House indicate our desire in the matter we do so because we are satisfied that this would be a productive use of the ratepayers' money. If I were not satisfied on that point I should oppose the Bill. My vote is given for this Bill because I am satisfied that the expenditure would be productive, and support of any expenditure that is truly productive is the best foundation for complete resistance to further expenditure on unproductive objects.
§ Viscount ELMLEY
I wish to support the Bill because it proposes to do a very useful thing in a very simple way. When I have been in other countries I have been struck by the absolute ignorance of our own country. In Germany this year I could not find anyone who had ever heard of the county of Norfolk or the Norfolk Broads, though they knew of glorious cities like Exeter, Bristol, Lincoln and so on. This Bill aims to put that kind of position right. What is the case in London to-day? Within a short distance of Piccadilly Circus you can find some sort of office or organisation which will give you the fullest details about any country abroad. That is not the case in regard to this country in cities like Paris or Berlin. I hope that the result of this Bill will be that more and more people will come to this country.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I hesitate to sound a discordant note in this happy family gathering of supporters of the Bill. I have moved the rejection of the Bill for this reason: We are all agreed that this is a time when economy should be practiced, Economy 846 means not only economy of money voted by this House, but economy of money voted by local authorities, and if possible reduction of the rates.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
The hon. Member has anticipated what I was about to say. It is only permissive that an extra rate may be levied. No one can have the slightest doubt that permission given to a local authority almost invariably ends in the local authority levying the rate which it has permission to levy. The Parliamentary Secretary made the point that this was the prettiest and most agreeable country in the world. The inhabitants of this country have some rights in the matter and should be allowed to enjoy the prettiness of this most agreeable country in the world without having their peace and tranquillity interfered with, very often against their will or possibly against their will. By advertising the beauties of the country you are asking not only that people may come from far and near and destroy the amenities of beautiful places, but you are asking the victims who live there to foot the bill for the destruction of their own peace of mind.
I think that some voice should be raised against this increasing of expenditure. Yesterday it was money for grand opera. To-day it is the ratepayer who has to find money in order that his own peace and security and tranquillity may be taken from him. A right hon. Gentleman who is not now in the House referred to the beauties of Cornwall. Anyone wishing to enjoy those beauties is entirely prevented from doing so by the host of other people who wish to do the same thing. By this Bill you are to raise a monster which will prevent your having the very thing that you are advertising as an attraction. Who would go to Land's End on a Bank Holiday now when thousands of chars-a-banes go there and make the beauty and pleasure and peace of the place utterly impossible? It is true that the Bill put no compulsion on local authorities, but local authorities are not slow to accept the lead of the Parliamentary Secretary and spend money if it is possible for them to do so. In that way it does put compulsion on the local inhabitants to pay this extra rate, whether they like it or not.
847 I am not gainsaying that it is good for the trade of the country that there should be advertisement of the country and of certain parts of it, but it does seem to me to be rather unfair that the ratepayer should have to pay a rate to advertise something which will be for the benefit of other people. After all, the ratepayer has some rights, and it is only fair that at least one voice should be raised in defence of economy, for the Bill is brought in at a time when economy is the most crying need. Some brake should be put on the expenditure of local authorities, who already spend far more money than they should, at the expense of that patient mulch cow, the ratepayer. The Bill is inopportune. It will be used as a tyrannical measure by the local authorities upon the long-suffering and patient ratepayer.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not go quite so far as my hon. and gallant Friend in thinking that the local authorities will be tyrannical, but I do think that we want to be cautious in encouraging any authority to increase the demands upon the public purse unless we are quite convinced that those demands will he productive. An hon. Friend has said that they would be productive demands. I am not so convinced. I do not believe that local authorities up and down the country are the best people to decide to what organisation to contribute. They are to be allowed by the Bill to contribute toany organisation which is established for collecting and collating information in regard to the amenities and advantages of the British Isles",whether that authority, as I understand it, is one established in this country or outside this country. The better people to judge where and when to advertise are associations of traders or chambers of trade, the railway companies, and the associations of hotel proprietors. They know from long experience where best to advertise order to get increased publicity for this country, and to induce people to come here and spend their money, which is, I suppose, the object of this Bill. Those people who, because of their trade, have been accustomed to deal with advertising firms for years, are far the best people to do this publicity and to pay for it. What does the 848 ordinary small ratepayer, the man who lives in a small house and has to pay rates on that house, gain from the fact that a number of people are brought into this country? Not a single thing. The people who gain by it are the railway companies, the hotel proprietors and the shopkeepers. The ordinary resident does not gain a bit by having a large number of people coming here from France or Germany or anywhere else outside this country. I do not suppose that anybody would dispute that fact. [Interruption.] I really do not know what the ordinary man living in a country village or in the small streets of our towns or any of us here who pay rates on our houses, would actually gain by having a large influx of visitors into this country.
The people who will gain are the traders; I hope to see them gaining, but they are the people who should pay the money to get that gain, and not the ordinary run of ratepayers. If this Bill be passed, some local authorities will be looked upon as more backward than others if they do not advertise, or pay ratepayers' money away to some advertising agency in France, when its next door neighbour is doing so. We shall hear that one seaside town is doing it, and the next is not, and in that way areas which may have no advantage to gain will be egged on to spend this extra halfpenny on the rates. I do not believe in this power being given to local authorities, because the advantages to be gained by this advertising are much more likely to be gained by the traders' associations and similar organisations, and they are the people who should put up the money.
§ Mr. EDE
It is surely an astonishing thing that the rejection of this Bill should be moved by the Member for one town which is known throughout the world. If the Noble Lord below the Gangway had mentioned Epsom in Germany, he would have found that it was as well known there as here. One can well understand that from the point of view of the principal town, although not the largest town in his constituency, the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby) feels that this Bill is not needed. He displayed the complete and truculent insularity that we generally associate with the British naval officer. 849 After all, he has seen many parts of the world; he has gone there, like some of the rest of us, under orders, and, although we are now told to join His Majesty's Forces and see the world, there were times when some of us saw the world after having joined the forces without feeling that the parts we saw were too attractive.
I hesitate to use the words which should properly apply to what he said about people in chars-a-bancs going to Cornwall. I recollect a former Conservative Member in this House once discussing with me what was the most beautiful spot on the English seaside, and he plumped for St. Margaret's Bay in Kent. I said that I was there on Easter Monday. He said, "I was staying at the hotel there." I said, "I had tea there", and he then said, "I am sure that you will agree that the whole place was spoilt by the fact that 50 chars-à banes were there". I replied, "I cannot feel that it was spoilt, because, if one of them had not been there, I should not have been there". One of the most useful things that has happened in the alteration of our social order in recent years has been the fact, that for all classes of the community there are now opportunities of getting into the most beautiful parts of the country, and he must feel a poor-spirited man who says, "My enjoyment is spoilt because there is somebody else here".
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I do not wish it to be understood that I would put anything in the way of people enjoying themselves in chars-a-banes, but I have said that it should not be at the expense of the ratepayer. That is the point I was making.
§ Mr. EDE
I will deal with that point in a few minutes. I agree with my hon. Friend, the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), in what he said with regard to the desirability of people from other countries mingling with the people of this country. A more serious difficulty than getting them here and advertising, is the fact that the Channel rolls between us and other people, and, like the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Major Llewellin), I find a trip on the sea exceedingly disquieting. I crossed the Channel eight times during the War, and six times I was N.C.O. in charge of 850 the hold; and I am bound to say that, if the ship had gone down, I was in such a state that I could have taken no steps towards helping the people who were supposed to be under my charge. It must surely be an advantageous thing at this time, when the world is being bound more closely together, when mechanical contrivances are destroying time and space in so far as they separate nations, that the beauties of this country should be known to people in other parts.
But, ask the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of this Bill, why do it at the expense of the ratepayer? The hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge went so far as to say that the ordinary person living in the small streets—presumably in Uxbridge—would gain no benefit. My knowledge of the Uxbridge district is that it is becoming increasingly industrialised. From. one point of view, that is an advantage. Some of the industrialisation has not been carried out on the lines that I should have liked to have seen, and it is not likely to lead to Uxbridge being regarded as one of the beauty spots of the country. If there is anything like the amount of expenditure in this country that has been mentioned in this debate, it must follow that it is generally shared by the community. Where do the waiters and hotel servants, for instance, live? I was in what I suppose is almost the most remote part in this country for my summer holidays this year—Praa Sands near Penzance. One morning outside the post office there, I was brought right back to London by seeing one of Lyons' motor vehicles delivering chocolate and cake. I have a photograph of the van. Is not that an example of the way in which people in the small streets of the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge are interested in the more complete utilisation of the beauty spots of this country for the promotion of human intercourse?
Finally, I support this Bill because of my own constituency which is known locally as Scarborough-on-Tyne. The Tyne is there, in plenty, and there are some parts of my constituency which well merit comparison with Scarborough. We have a promenade; we have a pier which is probably the finest in this country, and it has the additional advantage of being free on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. I am sure that when people 851 travel up the Tyne to Newcastle from foreign countries, it would be a good thing that they should know beforehand that near to the place where they are going to land is so delightful a seaside resort as South Shields. I deplore the fact that the Member for my native town —my only claim to fame is that I was horn in Epsom—while profiting by the great advantage of that town's notoriety, should have thought fit to hinder those of us who represent less fortunate places, in trying to make known the beauty spots of our constituencies.
§ Captain EDEN
I should imagine after the free advertisement which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just given to his constituency, that there will be no need for the levying of any rate to subsidise the advertising of that district while the hon. Member can so eloquently describe its charms. I felt a little nervous earlier to find that there appeared unanimity in support of this Bill, because, if the House is unanimous it is nearly always wrong, and I was therefore relieved to find some measure of opposition to the Bill which reinforced those of us who wish to support it. Frankly, I am in sharp disagreement with my two hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill. My own constituency does not, perhaps, need the advertisement given to his constituency by the last speaker. It has perhaps more visitors than any other part of the country during the year, and the visitors to Shakespeare's country are not specialists in the same sense as the visitors to the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Commander Southby). Our visitors are people interested in more diversified tastes. However that may be, the point which I am anxious to make is this. I am sure I can say with some authority, speaking for the constituency which I represent, that nothing is more remarkable, particularly of recent years, than the respect which is invariably shown by the visitor to the beauties of the district which he is visiting.
There is no justification for the suggestion that those who come out to enjoy the beauty of the English countryside, do not care for it and feel proud of it pari passu with those who live in the countryside. I think that those who have 852 the privilege of living in the more beautiful parts of our country are willing to help make those beauties available to all people who can share then). I do not think that my hon. Friends did proper credit to the local authorities in this matter. This Bill is only permissive and surely the local authorities can be trusted to see that the money is not wasted and that a. rate is not levied for this purpose unless it is actually required. This is a reasonable power to give to local authorities and if one hesitates to leave to local authorities a degree of judgment such as the Bill proposes, one can have but little faith at all in local government as such.
I endorse what was said earlier by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn). It is a good thing, economically, that people from abroad should spend money in this country, and that people at home should spend money here instead of on the Riviera, but there is no use in assisting local authorities to advertise in this way unless at the same time our amenities are improved. As my hon. and gallant Friend was speaking, I could not help thinking that he is associated with railways, and that the railways might do their share towards that improvement. We might have, for instance, an improved standard of food upon our railways because at present the standard is far below that of the Continent. They might also improve the facilities for the unhappy passengers who arrive at Folkestone and Dover under conditions which are unparalleled in their enormity in modern times. These are side issues which I think the House might well consider while approving this Bill. I say, finally, that it is a reasonable proposal to give local authorities this permissive power which we know they will not abuse and which we think they are entitled to use.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I would not have entered into this debate had it not been for the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill which has been moved from the other side. The hon. and gallant Member for Epson) (Commander Southby) said that the beauty of the countryside was very often destroyed by those who went to see it. I have been longer in this world than the hon. and gallant Member, and my experience in this country has been that natural 853 beauty is always respected by those who go to admire it. We want to do all we eau to make known the beauties of our own country, and to make our country attractive for other people. It was my good fortune once to have been in the Lake district accompanied by a gentleman who had visited Switzerland and the Alps—where I have never been in my life—and I was interested in his comparison. He said, "In Switzerland you have a great expanse, but here is consolidated beauty." From my experience I know that local authorities are anxious to make known the beauties of their localities. It is true that they may meet with opposition, because a halfpenny or a penny late may be involved, but that halfpenny or penny rate is very often more than repaid in the health of the people, and I ask hon. Members to keep in mind that aspect of the question.
I want people to come and see my own industrial county. I want them to see what has been done and what has not been done there. There are some of the most beautiful spots in the country in my own county of Durham and there are also some of the most ugly. The town of Sunderland has possibilities that any goahead council would give£1,000,000 to have moved into its area, and I believe this Bill would help the people and the Council of Sunderland to develop the beauties of their town. If that were done, the whole county would benefit. In Durham we have the beautiful Tees Valley, the Wear Valley, the Derwent Valley, and the Tyne Valley, and no more beautiful dales than these can be found in England. I support the Bill because it will encourage other people who have been neglecting their duty to put their house in order.
§ Sir WILLIAM WAYLAND
One speaker on this side said that he represented a town and district where they probably received more foreign visitors than any other in this country. I think he is wrong, because I represent a town which is looked upon as being the Mecca of the English-speaking race, and that is Canterbury. An hon. Friend below me said the ordinary man in the street did not benefit from the visitors who came to a town, but I cannot agree to that. For some time past, for some months or a year now, Canterbury has had a great deal of unemployment. That 854 is in common with a great deal of the rest of the country, but in a place like Canterbury, which is not at all industrial and has no industries, some other cause must be looked for than industrial depression, and that cause we believe to be the fact that, owing to world conditions, we have not received so many visitors from abroad or from other parts of this country as usual.
I also represent two seaside towns on the South-East Coast, both of which have been feeling the draught from the fact that visitors from the Continent have not been as numerous as they were a few years ago. Canterbury and these two towns are very anxious that this Bill should pass. It will be a help to them, they consider, in bringing the beauties of those two seaside towns and the historical attractions of Canterbury to the notice, of the whole world. I trust the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment will agree to withdraw it, and if they do so, I hope the Government will give time for the passage of this Bill, so that it may be placed on the Statute Book before Christmas. There is such universal agreement in the House that this very small amount of money, a halfpenny in the pound—which in my case and in practically all others should give a return of many halfpennies in the pound to the people of the town and the wider circle of the surrounding country—is a good business proposition that it should receive the unanimous support of this House.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
I wish to protest against this Amendment having been moved. The chief argument used by the hon. and gallant Member who proposed it, I understand, was that it would enable local authorities to spend large sums of money in opposition to the wishes of the inhabitants of the place. I must say that that seems to me an exceedingly weak argument, because, after all, the local authorities are elected just as we here are elected, and if they are too extravagant, it is always open to the inhabitants to elect someone else. With all due deference to hon. Members opposite, that is what has happened lately in the municipal elections, and it always will happen. It is no argument to say, therefore, that a council can act in opposition to the wishes of the inhabitants. As a matter of fact, in the vast, majority of 855 these cases—and I sit for a constituency where there are two seaside towns—it would not be regarded as a misuse of money at all.
We have heard a. great deal in this House about what is product[...] and what is unproductive expenditure, but so far as such towns are concerned, the most productive expenditure is advertisement. There is any number of these towns. They are luxuries to other people but necessities to themselves, but people will not be attracted to one rather than to the other except by seeing its name on a poster. Therefore, it pays the town every single time. There was an argument used by the hon and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Major Llewellin), which not only astonished me and, I suppose, other hon. Members on this side, but shocked and horrified me, when he said that the benefit from the visitors went only into the pockets of the hotel keepers and shopkeepers. On that basis, if it is true that money spent only benefits those who receive it directly, you could justify a capital levy or anything else of that nature, and I should have expected to hear such an argument used rather by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) than by my hon. and gallant Friend. We all know that when a man makes a large profit in a hotel, he probably adds to his hotel, builds on a new wing, and so on, and that employs large numbers of people to make the windows, to paper the rooms, and so forth. That is the whole basis of our individualistic system, and I was astonished to hear that argument coming from my hon. and gallant Friend. I am sure that if he speaks again, he will wish to withdraw that particular argument.
I believe that this Bill will be of extraordinary benefit to a large number of places in this country. It certainly will be to a constituency like mine, which has been very much handicapped in the past. I feel some doubt about praising my own constituency, because the hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden), who spoke just now, said that his constituency did not need praising; and, therefore, to praise your own constituency after that, rather seems to imply that it does need praise. As a matter of fact, my constitu- 856 eney is an exceptionally beautiful part of the world, and I strongly advise any hon. Members to go there. It is an ideal place for a holiday, but it has suffered no doubt, and the town council has suffered by being handicapped through lack of advertisement.
It may be said that the railways always advertise, and so they do. I think the railway advertisements in this country are probably the best form of advertisement that there is anywhere, but there is this to be said—and I do not say it with any desire to criticise the railways—that it is not really a good plan that your advertisement should be done by another organisation, which may have divergent interests of its own. There may be a place where a railway company owns the hotel itself, and it is bound to boost that in preference to the other places. Though I do not think they do it any more than we should do it under similar circumstances, it is far better, I think, that the advertisement should he done by a travel agency representing all interests together. In this House we have accepted this principle of giving grants to advertisements. Under the Empire Marketing Board, we allow advertisements of that kind, and it would be unfair, therefore, to refuse to local authorities what we have voted ourselves to the country.
§ Colonel Sir JAMES REYNOLDS
I wish to underline the commercial aspect of this question, and I can illustrate the advantages of advertisement from my own knowledge. Liverpool has set up an organisation which is independent of the Corporation, but it is supported by the Corporation, and I think the Corporation ought to do far more for it than it does, though probably the limited powers of the Corporation prevent it. That organisation has rendered the greatest possible service to Liverpool in making known to the world at large the advantages to be found there, thanks to the Mersey, for the placing of factories and other commercial enterprises. If that sort of thing can be done for the benefit of a great commercial centre, the ratepayers in that centre 'will eventually gain. Therefore, there is justification for authorising a certain amount of expenditure so that a 857 town as a whole may increase its prosperity and extend its commercial utility. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
I want to say a word in support of this Bill from, perhaps, another angle. It is a very timely and necessary Bill from the point of view of a great many localities dependent almost entirely upon that kind of advertisements and the opportunities they have for catering for visitors to this country from all parts of the world. It so happens that I have a passing acquaintance with Canterbury, which was mentioned just now; I represent Greenwich, which is one of the places that should be more widely known and better advertised; and I sleep, when I get home at night, in that fasionable Essex watering-place with a large pier. These watering-places are a very doubtful form of advertisement, but under the provisions of this Bill, opportunities are given to localities to have the right kind of advertisement and so put the features in the right light, which will be of tremendous assistance to a locality. I have no fear that it will be a burden on the rates. In point of fact, these things, if properly carried out, should be a great help to the rates. The Bill is not a day too soon, but is a very timely Bill, and one which should receive the unanimous assent of this House.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
In view of the unanimity in the House, I shall be most happy to withdraw my Amendment, but, in doing so, may I say that I want it to be clearly understood that I am not in any way against advertising I My point in raising this was that the advertisements should be paid for by those who are benefiting—the various enterprises—and not at the expense of the ratepayers. The hon. Member opposite who made reference to my particular constituency in the course of his speech, might have said to the House that, at any rate, Epsom is not advertised at the expense of the ratepayers, but on its merits.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.