HC Deb 17 November 1944 vol 404 cc2336-52

3.40 p.m.

Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

We have just listened to an interesting discussion on the question of the rehabilitation of our assets abroad. I wish to discuss the rehabilitation of the defence areas of Britain. I make no apology to the House for raising the question and pressing the Government for a statement. Indeed, I would not be doing justice to my constituents, who have suffered so much in the last five years or more, if I allowed this opportunity to pass without raising the subject again and asking for some solution on the part of the Government. I am glad to see that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister-Designate of National Insurance is here to reply on behalf of the Government, because he was appointed by the Government at the request of a committee, of which I am a member, to investigate this question, and by personal contact and investigation he is best qualified to reply. I hope that he will be able to make a comprehensive reply and that all the Government Departments involved will have been able to subscribe their quota to his statement.

What are the problems with which we are faced? I will deal with them in the order of urgency. The first is the de-restriction and clearance of beaches. I consider that to be a very necessary and urgent problem which can be dealt with now. I am surprised to hear from my constituents that there are even now portions of beaches in the Isle of Wight that are still restricted by the War Office. Whatever reason there may have been for restricting the beaches five years ago or even five months ago, surely there is no necessity for continuing these restrictions now. Therefore, I urge upon the Minister to bring pressure on the War Office to de-restrict the beaches and to allow the local authorities, or whoever is responsible for their clearance, to get on with the job. That raises another question as to who is to be responsible for clearing the beaches and the mines surrounding them. Is it to be the local authorities? If it is, where are they to obtain their labour and who is to meet the cost?

The second problem is the de-requisitioning of the properties in these areas and the restoration to their former condition. In some cases de-requisitioning has taken place and properties have been restored to their owners. I submit that it is very unfair to property owners or tenants to have properties thrown back on their hands until provision is made for their restoration to their former condition. I hope that the Government are sympathetic in that matter and that, before throwing properties back on to the owners and tenants, they will take every step they can to see that labour, materials and finance are provided, in order that the properties may be restored to habitable conditions. The third problem is the provision of equipment and furnishings for these properties, after they have been restored.. This is a Board of Trade matter. I would like to ask the Board of Trade what they are proposing to do in the way of providing the necessary equipment, linens, furnishings and so forth, which are essential for the restarting of these businesses. I hope that the Board of Trade are in a position to give assistance. The fourth problem concerns the moratorium on rates. When does the moratorium come to an end? As soon as the European war is over or at the end of hostilities generally; or is it to be continued for a reasonable period after the war? What is to become of the arrears accumulated in these areas? This is a Ministry of Health problem; what steps is the Ministry taking to deal with those accumulated arrears? Obviously, something should be done and a statement should be made now.

Last, but by no means least, is the important problem of finance. It is obvious that people who are carrying on these businesses in the defence areas are mostly small men who, as a result of five years of war, have come to the end of their financial resources. It is necessary that, by one means or another, new capital is injected into their businesses. It is no use telling them that they can go to the banks. We all know that bankers are not philanthropists. They ask for security as well as interest, and in most cases the security is already pledged. Something must be done by the Government to assist these people to get on their feet again and start their businesses. What are the Government prepared to do? They should put pressure on the banks to be more generous than they have been in the past to people who are endeavouring to get on after the war.

This is a formidable fist of problems. There are others. There is the question of food. I must pay tribute to the Minister of Food. I have had a good deal of trouble, as we have all had in our constituencies, about the grant of licences for the restarting of businesses. As soon as the question was put before the Minister of Food he sent his Parliamentary Secretary down, who dealt with the question and made a comprehensive statement in my constituency dealing with all the defence areas. It gave very great satisfaction to the people concerned. I must also pay tribute to the Ministry of Food for their prompt action, in anticipation of other Government Departments. There is also the question of the amendment of the 1939 War Damage Act. That is absolutely essential.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter which involves legislation, and it cannot be discussed on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Captain Macdonald

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if I have got out of Order. I will not refer to that matter again, although it is one which should be dealt with by the Government at a later date. There is the question of priority for the release of staffs. No hotel, or even lodging-house, is able to get going if it has no staff. I have had requests already from people asking what priorities there are to be in this matter. Their staffs are scattered all over the world, and if they are to get their businesses going they must know what opportunity they will have for getting them back. People in defence areas and holiday resorts are very anxious to restore their premises and their beaches and to improve conditions generally, in order that the people of this country should be able to have a holiday. The Minister of Labour and other Ministers have paid lip service to the importance of holidays for people who have been overworked for five years and who have borne the burden of the war. They have also stressed the necessity of people in the Forces having a holiday.

There has also been a declaration of Government policy as to holidays with pay. It is no use giving holidays, with or without pay, unless there is somewhere for people to go. People want to go to the seaside; that cannot be doubted. We had evidence of it when the ban was lifted recently from the coastal areas. Before we were prepared to accommodate them, thousands of people crowded in, and we had the spectacle of crowds on the littered beaches, among the barbed wire entanglements and other things, trying to get a holiday by the sea. This is therefore a very urgent problem. It is a national problem, and I hope that Government will deal with it as such. If they do so, I am sure that the people in the holiday resorts will play their part in helping to restore the health of the nation. It is up to the Government to do their share in assisting those people.

3.53 p.m.

The Minister of National Insurance (Sir William Jowitt)

I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) for raising this question again. I was, as he said, charged to go round and learn for myself what the position was. I did so. I was very careful on my visits to abstain from making those rosy promises which would have been very agreeable at the time but which would, I am certain, have led me into trouble afterwards. In what I say to-day, I hope I shall follow the same principle. It is much better to be quite moderate in your statements and to be able to carry them out, rather than to make big promises of what you are going to do, and then fail. I am always going to adopt that course so far as I can, and it is not due to any lack of enthusiasm. I confess that for the topic which my hon. and gallant Friend has raised, I have very considerable enthusiasm.

I might perhaps tell the House the impressions which I gained as I went round. Primarily, I was concerned with the evacuation areas, but I soon saw that anything I recommended for those evacuation areas would inevitably have repercussions. After all, you may have an area like that represented by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight, where there has been no evacuation, but where practically the only industry is the entertainment of visitors, and where there has been a ban lasting for many years to prevent visitors from going there, which has done very serious injury to that area. Therefore, I extended my visits rather further afield than the evacuation areas. I have seen, up and down the country, many areas which have been much worse damaged by the enemy than those areas. On the other hand, those areas give one the impression of a kind of economic blight or death. It really was almost the abomination of desolation. One would go round and see places—forecourts which were once gay with flowers and whose beds were overgrown with nettles, windows cracked, neglect and the ravages of moth. The hon. and gallant Member must have very hungry moths in his constituency. It was almost unbelievable. Generally, there was a sort of "Deserted Village" effect. It was a wretched sight. Pleasure grounds and bowling greens and the like occupied with barbed wire, tank traps, etc., are a miserable sight.

Yet, I cannot help feeling that the problem is really a short-term one, because after all the great asset of these seaside resorts is the air, and the sea, and the scenery, and the healthful and invigorating surroundings. All that, of course, remains; not even Hitler can destroy Dr. Brighton—and for Brighton one can read the Isle of Wight, Eastbourne, Hastings and many other places. It is quite true that the Government are absolutely satisfied as to the importance of doing something for these holiday resorts. It is not merely a question of lip service. May I point out to Members in all parts of the House that if you repair a house in most towns you render it habitable and comfortable for some particular person or family? If you repair a house in one of these towns you render it comfortable and habitable, not only for a particular family, but for dozens of visitors who, in the course of the year, may gor there and derive from a holiday the invigoration and health necessary to enable them to tackle all the vicissitudes of business life, which they will most certainly have. It is not merely a question of lip service. I base my reliance on the fact that if I have been able to do nothing else, I have brought home to the Government this aspect of the matter, the importance of holidays for our people, and, therefore, the importance of getting ready the holiday resorts in order that people may have holidays.

There are two aspects I particularly want to talk about—the question of physical reconstruction and the question of financial assistance. Physical reconstruction falls into two categories, the repair of war damage and the like, and the removal of temporary defence works. With regard to the repair of war damage, I was careful in the course of my visit to tell people that I thought they would have to rely, to a very large extent, on their own labour and their own resources. It is a question of the shortage of labour and the priorities that have to be worked out, and I will not say more than this—that I am afraid they have to take their place in the queue. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is very anxious to give them as good a place in the queue as he possibly can, because he realises the immense national importance of doing something to help them. With regard to the removal of temporary defence works, the position stands in this way. On 10th October, the Secretary of State for War answered a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) with regard to this very matter. He said—and it will be satisfactory to get it on record—that there was no longer any operational objection to the removal of defence works.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

Anywhere throughout the country?

Sir W. Jowitt

I am reading from the answer by the Secretary of State. It is quite general: There is no longer any operational objection to the removal of temporary defence works"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1944; Vol. 403, c. 1588.] He went on in the same answer to say that so far as dangerous objects were concerned—such as mines—the military authorities would remove them. It is a dangerous task, which calls for high skill and high courage, and hon. Members will know that that work is in progress. The Secretary of State expressly refrained from promising to provide other labour, and pointed out that the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, provided a measure of compensation. There have been conversations with the War Office, and in a good many ways I am glad to have observed for myself that the work is going on apace, and my observations led me to think it is pretty satisfactory in many areas, at any rate of the South coast, and I hope the good work will go on. I agree with the hon. Member that the Compensation (Defence) Act does state that there shall be no compensation for deprivation or diminution in relation to objects merely of pleasure and amenity. I agree with him that in the case of coastal towns where, after all, these amenities have their financial value in inducing visitors to come, that is a hardship. I should not be in Order if I were to say more than this—that the matter is receiving the attention of the Government. I do not want hon. Members to press me further than that, but I do not want them to go away to-day unduly pessimistic in that regard.

I come to economic rehabilitation. All the way round, in the course of my visits, I was asked about this. Assistance has been given from the Exchequer, 75 per cent. being an outright grant and 25 per cent. a repayable loan. I was asked to give an assurance, first, that the 75 per cent. grant would not be suddenly brought to an end without warning. Then I was asked whether it was not possible to "wash out" the 25 per cent. loan by making that a grant also. So far as a sudden end is concerned, I can reassure Members that there is no intention on the part of the Treasury to bring to a sudden or sharp end this financial assistance which has been given. With regard to the 25 per cent., it is quite impossible to give any general undertaking. The circumstances of these various towns vary very widely. Some have been hit much harder than others. The Ministry of Health will consider each case on its own merits, and will be prepared to be forthcoming in those cases in which there is real or considerable hardship.

The next question is that of financial aid to private individuals. In that regard, I was asked to say something about the moratorium. That is, of course, a form of financial aid, but a dangerous form to have, because people are too apt to forget that the effect of a moratorium is not to destroy the debt, but that the debt accumulates and accumulates until at last, when the moratorium goes, the unfortunate person finds himself under a very large and serious liability. It applies to those who went. Some of those who went have not yet been able to return. Some of them may even have been directed to certain tasks by the Minister of Labour. Others may be wives of soldiers serving overseas. An early termination might create hardship for such people; but an undue prolongation will create a corresponding hardship for landlords and creditors, and, in some sense, make the position of these people worse too.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

Is it merely a suspension of the debt for the time being, and does it carry the interest while the suspension is on?

Sir W. Jowitt

It is merely a suspension of the debt, and the time comes when it has got to be paid. I would ask hon. Members to impress upon their constituents the desirability of using the Liabilities (War-time Adjustment) Act, as far as possible. That can be used while the moratorium is on, and a clearance can be made between the debtor and his creditors. We must allow the bulk of debtors to have an opportunity of returning, and we must make the determination of the moratorium, to some extent, dependent upon the working of the Act. I hope a large number of people will take advantage of the Act, and have their difficulties adjusted, as I have indicated. I have always recognised that that Act was not a complete solution. It provides for a fair share of what there is, but it does not transfuse any new blood into the system. Something must be done on these lines. I am not announcing anything with regard to the larger people. They will have to rely either on banks or, possibly, on further forms of assistance which may be made available for the re-habilitation of industry. The second reason why I do not refer to them is that they have been taken into consideration by the Catering Wages Commission.

For the smaller people, the Ministry of Health have worked out a scheme. It applies to coastal towns reaching right round from the Humber to Lands End—a very large area. It does not apply automatically. The Minister of Health has discretion to apply it to what towns he thinks proper, and no town need apply it unless it is so minded. Interest-free loans will be forthcoming from the Government to the local authority, who, in their turn, will be able to lend money—we propose a maximum of £150—to any small people in their area, to enable them to rehabilitate their businesses, or, where a business has stopped, to build it up again.

Mr. Tinker

Will the local authority lend the money free of interest?

Sir W. Jowitt

I should think not. The details have not been worked out, but the local authority will be responsible for repaying this money, and will inevitably incur some bad debts. I should think that they would seek to reimburse themselves by charging some rate of interest—a low rate of interest.

Mr. Guy (Poplar, South)

What will be the period of the loans?

Sir W. Jowitt

That has not been fixed, but it is not to be a long loan. No money is any good unless with the money you can get the requisite trading licences and all the necessary goods. With regard to trading licences, the Ministry of Food, as the hon. and gallant Member has said, are prepared to grant licences to any retailer desiring to reopen a pre-war business, and, in suitable cases, also they will grant catering licences to existing and returning boarding-house keepers. The Board of Trade will grant licences, under the Location of Retail Businesses Order, to ex-traders who want to resume their former businesses.

Captain Macdonald

In the case of the Ministry of Food, will these people have the right to get a licence, without having to make a fresh application?

Sir W. Jowitt indicated assent.

Captain Macdonald

Does the same apply to the Board of Trade?

Sir W. Jowitt

I am not sure about that. The Board of Trade simply tell me that they will act on the same lines as the Ministry of Food; and, therefore, I infer that the same thing would apply to them. The Ministry of Works said that they will consider favourably granting licences, where necessary, to recondition premises; but I must add that the great shortage of building resources is bound to prove a limiting factor there. With regard to household equipment, the position is very difficult. I wish it were not. With crockery, there is no difficulty at all. Furniture is more difficult, and household textiles are the most difficult of all. In regard to furniture, those hotels and boarding houses which have had it requisitioned will be able to buy back the articles from the Government at the price which the Government paid, less depreciation. As for those who have not had it requisitioned the Government will do their best to help. That is all I can say. With regard to textiles, the position there is most difficult. You cannot get more than a pint out of a pint pot, and I cannot promise to distribute more textiles than there are.

We are going to get these holiday resorts back into being as holiday resorts, and the Government want to clear out, so far as they can, from all the various hotels, but we must—and here I agree with my hon. Friend—have due regard to the interests of the proprietors. It would, I think, be unfair to derequisition—if I may use such an unpleasant word—and give a building back to a man, when it is in a condition in which he can do absolutely nothing with it, and simply stop paying the compensation rent. In regard to light industries, the Board of Trade will raise no difficulty in the event of any of these towns wanting to establish light industries, but they will not be able to extend the inducement which they are going to make available for the other areas. That is, as briefly as I can give it, a catalogue which answers most of the questions asked. May I just add this? I believe that the coastal towns have got to play in future a very much larger part in the health and rehabilitation of the people of this country than they have ever played heretofore.

4.14 p.m.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson (Hastings)

Whatever misgivings might be felt in the defence and evacuation areas at the statement which the Minister has just made, I think everyone will appreciate the great personal attention which he himself has given to this matter. I would like to say to him that his personal visits to certain affected areas gave a great deal of satisfaction, and that there is a great deal of gratitude to him for the care he has given to this matter. As the Minister has pointed out, what is proposed is a short-term procedure; but that is all the more reason for acting quickly. The particular point in the Minister's speech which causes most misgiving is the one in which he said that these areas will have to rely, in the process of rehabilitation, largely on their own labour, This is the whole problem. Their labour has been evacuated.

Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)

Commandeered for London.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

Exactly. I would like to give some figures affecting my own constituency. The local authority there has prepared an estimate of the work required to be done in the borough, including a very substantial amount of deferred maintenance—and, in that connection, let me say that deferred maintenance is required, not merely for bombed and blitzed houses, but for those houses which have stood empty for years, until the accumulation of deferred maintenance is very serious indeed, and very difficult to estimate. It is not until you try to turn on the tap that you find that the cistern is not working.

They calculated that, quite apart from equipment, there is something like £4,000,000 of work to be done. If that work is to be done in one year, it requires a labour force of about 5,800; if it is to be done in two years, it requires about 2,900; and if it is to be done in five years, it will require about 1,450. The normal labour force in peace-time is just under 1,500; so that, even if they had that normal labour force, it would take five years before they got back to normal. But the actual labour force now is about 740. That includes some old-age pensioners, medically unfit, and part-time workers. It includes, the town clerk was telling me the other day, "the lame, the halt, and the nearly blind." That is the essence of their problem. What we are seeking is priority in release of labour and materials—priority in release of labour, particularly in the case of resident labour, which is so much more effective than imported labour. On top of our problems in these areas, we have not only been short of labour, but some of our labour has been taken from us to help in rebuilding the bombed areas of London. That made our problem even more difficult.

I would like to refer to my right hon. and learned Friend's proposals with re- gard to finance. I do not think that £150 is going to be much help. I should have thought that, even in the case of small and moderate-sized boarding houses, £500 or £600 at least would be needed. The big people are just as much in need of help as the small people. You can do much more practical good for a town by helping one big person, than by helping 50 small people. I am not suggesting that we should leave out the small people, but to exclude the large people is to nibble at the problem. A great deal will depend on the priority of these firms. If a particular boarding house requires £400 or £500 worth of equipment, and can get a loan of £150, which it will have to pay back, it can raise the other £300 which is required by a hire-purchase agreement. If this does not involve placing the £150 in relation to all the property and the goods purchased, it may help; but as the proposition stands, limiting the assistance to any one trader or boarding-house to £150 will, I am afraid, not greatly help the situation.

There is one point on which I would like to thank the Minister. That is the evidence that the Government recognise that in rehabilitating houses in these defence and evacuation areas, it is not merely a question of giving the owner or occupier a place to live in, but also of rehabilitating his means of livelihood, which is supplying living space. That is the important point of the whole thing. The evacuation areas require not merely the rehabilitation of houses to live, but the rehabilitation of houses as a means of livelihood. I hope that this is not the last word we have heard from the Government on the subject, because I think the statement of the Government, while good, as far as it goes, will cause a great deal of disappointment in areas which—and this has been acknowledged by the whole nation—have been in the forefront of the battle and borne the brunt.

4.21 p.m.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

I look upon to-day as the beginning of the end of a battle. A small group of hon. Members have been fighting this battle for some two years. We have tried to draw the attention of the Government to the indescribable conditions in our constituencies, and I, for one, am glad to-day that the Government have recognised that our areas do require special treatment and consideration for the things which they have gone through, and through no fault of their own. The principle has been established to-day that the Government will come to our help and to the help of the many people who have been ruined, economically, in these defence areas. I feel that the proposals which the Minister announced to-day need a great deal of thought, and I am not prepared to commit myself to-day whether I consider them all satisfactory or all unsatisfactory, though many of them appear to be extremely satisfactory.

So far as the £150 limit goes, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend who has just spoken, that it is quite inadequate and, when one considers to-day the cost of even a coat of distemper, or a pair of sheets, it is impossible to suggest that £150 will enable the small boarding house in my constituency to rehabilitate itself and reopen for visitors. We have established the principle that the Government are going to help us with finance, but we may have to come back at a later date and ask for that £150 limit to be raised to say £500 or even more.

The next thing that concerns me is the fact that other Government Departments do not seem to be co-operating with my right hon. and learned Friend in rehabilitating our areas. To begin with, there is the Ministry of Labour. I have had considerable correspondence with the Minister of Labour, and I have urged that my constituency and others round the coast should no longer be considered what is known as a "Green Area." In a "Green Area" all the mobile labour is drafted away, and we are not allowed to retain it. That means that all our available mobile labour is sent away somewhere else—perhaps to Birmingham, Manchester or London. While I am on that point, may I say that it is very curious that many of the people evacuated from Eastbourne at the Government's request, who may have been evacuated to Birmingham or Manchester, have now been given permission to return to Eastbourne, and, what is more, being "official evacuees," they have had their fares paid by the Ministry of Health. No sooner have they got back to Eastbourne, which is their home town, having been sent back, or helped back, by the Ministry of Health, than they come under the control of the local Employment Exchange, and, if they are mobile labour, they may be sent back to Manchester, again at the Government's expense.

That seems to be fantastic. Here we are in these coastal areas, badly hit economically, and by the enemy, urgently requiring labour in order to get going again. Evacuated Eastbourne people come back to Eastbourne and they are sent away again by the Ministry of Labour and their train fares are paid both ways. That matter wants looking into. The Ministry of Labour comes into the problem also from the point of view of the question of staffs for our hotels and boarding houses, which are our main industry. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald) said, unless we get the staffs with which to open the hotels again what is the good of giving us money? The Board of Trade are probably the biggest "niggers in the wood pile," because they are exporting linens, fabrics and towels, maybe to get foreign exchange, but we at home are wanting to rehabilitate ourselves and to revive an industry which before the war was a very prosperous industry. We cannot do it because we cannot get the linen for our hotels and boarding houses. I suggest that the Board of Trade should, for a week or a fortnight—it would probably not amount to more than that—cease exporting these commodities which we want at home. There must be a balance between the benefits we derive from the export trade and the benefits which we at home and all the people in Britain will get from the re-establishment of our seaside resorts.

There are so many Government Departments concerned in this problem that it is difficult really to know where to start. I come to the Service Departments—the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. These three Departments have requisitioned a great many houses and hotels in my constituency. We want to get them de-requisitioned. A great many of them are not at the moment occupied, and it would appear that they are not going to be occupied again. We want them de-requisitioned and put into order by the Service Ministries who requisitioned them, because they did the damage. They should be de-requisitioned, put into order and given back to their owners. No money, whether it is £150 per individual or £500, will be of much use, unless we can get all the help necessary from the other Government Departments. I hope that the Government will reconsider these matters in the light of this Debate.

I would like to pay a tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister. If he handles the problems of national insurance as he has handled our problems, if he shows the same sympathetic spirit that he showed when he visited our constituencies, then I can assure the House that the Ministry of National Insurance will be handled in a most sympathetic manner. I should like to pay a tribute also to the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower), who has been chairman of our Defence Areas Committee and a sort of spearhead of the attack that has enabled us to get the principle recognised that the Government should help these devastated areas.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)

I recognise that there are other subjects to be discussed and I proposed only to take a very few minutes of the time of the House, but it is right that, after tributes and criticisms in the South coast, one representative of the East coast should join in this Debate. On behalf of the East coast towns, I would like to pay my tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend. The frank way he handled these problems, without encouraging undue optimism, and his sympathetic approach, gave great encouragement in all parts of the East coast which he visited. Now he has made an announcement which, I think, gives us more encouragement. As regards finance, I agree that £150 is certainly a very low limit in view of post-war prices. Pre-war prices would have helped considerably: Still we recognise the difficulties and that all help that is given has to be borne in large measure by the general taxpayers, who now consist practically of all citizens, at least to the number of 12,000,000 Income Tax payers. Therefore, I accept it with gratitude, still hoping that the amount may be raised. I would like to refer to one remark of my right hon. and learned Friend to the effect that this loan to the local authorities will be without interest and that they will loan the money to the people whom they feel are deserving. My right hon. and learned Friend said they would, perhaps, charge low rates of interest. I take it, however, that it would be permissible to lend even without interest to these small people?

Sir W. Jowitt

I think that that will be so, but, as I warned the House, the full details have not yet been worked out by the Minister of Health. He wants to convene a conference of local authorities so that he can discuss that very sort of point.

Mr. Loftus

I am very glad to get that statement from my right hon. and learned Friend, because I sometimes look at the modern world and the vast volume of debts and think that the whole system may collapse under the burdens which afflict mankind at the moment. We have the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Health dealing with finance, and the Board of Trade, and my right hon. and learned Friend said that licences would be given to purchase where it was possible to obtain the goods, which we recognise are in short supply. How will they be given? Will they be issued in the form of coupons, and fairly quickly, because speed is the essence of the whole thing? There is an old proverb: Help which is long on the road, is no help at all. I hope that the Board of Trade will bear that proverb in mind. The Ministry of Works is concerned with the rehabilitation of houses, blitzed or partly blitzed, and houses damaged by requisitioning. Local authorities want their building personnel back as soon as possible as they know their own towns and how to get to work. We recognise that London has demands to make to-day, but we hope that the Ministry of Works will, as soon as possible, see that our building personnel come back to these coastal towns. My right hon. and learned Friend did not mention one very important Ministry—the Ministry of Labour. The matter affecting that Department will be a great obstacle to future holidays unless it is tackled. Two or three times over this summer 25 per cent. only of the bedroom accommodation in seaside towns could be opened owing to lack of personnel.

I hope that the Ministry of Labour will tackle this matter in good time before next spring so as to prevent difficulties in the summer. The war may end soon—we hope it will—but nobody knows. Anything might happen in Germany in the next few months, and nothing might happen. But if, next Sumner, people from the inland towns in hundreds of thousands flock to the coastal towns for holidays, earned, if ever holidays have been earned, will they arrive and find that there is no accommodation, the boarding houses and hotels not having the personnel? Will even day visitors find the restaurants unable to cater for them through lack of personnel and equipment? Therefore, while I thank my right hon. and learned Friend, and recognise that he has put his heart into this matter; I hope that he will be able to spur on the many Government Departments concerned, and not least the Ministry of Labour, so as to get ready in good time for the holiday, which we all hope will come next summer.