HC Deb 01 November 1946 vol 428 cc958-95

12.50 p.m.

Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

I understand that there is a substantial number of hon. Members representing constituencies where the tourist industry and amenities of that kind are a very important element who want to speak in this Debate. I will therefore open it very briefly. Perhaps I may start by explaining why I have taken this opportunity to raise this subject. It is because I have the honour to represent a constituency which stands very high in the list of those which are concerned with the visitor. The Lonsdale Division of Lancashire, in the North-West corner of the county adjoining Cumberland and Westmorland, contains a very large area of our English Lake District, which is popular not only with our own people, but with visitors from overseas, and such famous lakes as that of Coniston, which is wholly included in my constituency, and Windermere, of which three parts are in my constituency, as well as many charming towns, such as Hawkshead, Lakeside and Grange-over-Sands, and vast beautiful areas, which contain great attractions for the visitor and many establishments to provide them with residence during the holiday period. On the sea coast also is Silverdale, and adjoining us in the constituency of Westmorland is the little town of Arnside, and just below us, across the bay, the famous and well known resort of Morecambe. I do not speak for any association of hotels and restaurants or of boarding houses, though I have been in touch with them to get some information about the position in the country generally in order to check up to see that my own personal observations in my constituency are not exceptional. Nevertheless, I am speaking primarily from my own knowledge of what I have ascertained in my constituency of their needs, and it is those that I want to put primarily before the Government.

Before I do that I may call the attention of the House to the size of our hotel, restaurant and boarding house industry? There are two associations, that which has for its membership the larger establishments, of which there are 1,500, with an estimated prewar capital involved in this part of the industry of over £100 million, and the Association of Residential Hotels and Boarding Houses, that is, mainly the smaller establishments, with some 4,000 members and an estimated capital of some £40 million or more. These are prewar figures. They are not inclusive figures, for there are in addition a very large number of establishments that are not members of these associations, and there are, the House will realise, perhaps 40,000 or 50,000 licensed houses which also render valuable services in connection with the provision of holidays and entertainments.

It is a matter of policy for the Government—and I hope the House will take a hand in helping to shape this policy—to see what kind of priorities ought to be given to this industry. I want to submit one or two arguments in favour of giving it a very high priority at this time in the matter of rehabilitation and generally in overcoming the difficulties of the past few years of war. First of all, some hundreds of thousands of beds are provided in these thousands of establishments which I have mentioned. I submit that there is no conflict between the claim of the hotel and boarding house industry for priorities to make these beds effective and the claim of housing in general. Indeed, the provision of these beds is part of the general housing problem. It is within the knowledge of most of us that most beds in most hotels and boarding houses are full for most part of the year. Therefore, they are not a waste provision. They are a definite contribution towards the housing problem. In so far as increased numbers of beds are available in boarding houses and hotels, they make a direct contribution towards easing the strain in the ordinary housing of our people. It may be said that the possibility of securing a fortnight's relief from the difficulties at home and the overcrowding in many homes may well, apart from its other value, contribute something towards making the present housing difficulties more tolerable to hundreds and thousands of house wives who have such a difficult time nowadays.

We all agree that an exceptional superpriority should rightly be given by the Minister of Health to the use of building and other labour to put roofs on houses which are up to the eaves. That is a special priority within the priority class but, outside that, I claim that the provision of beds in hotels and boarding houses throughout the country should rank as high as ordinary houses. I want to ask the Minister whether that is in the mind of the Government, and, if not, whether he will urge that view upon the Minister of Health?

I now wish to deal with some few small figures which I have obtained from the Trade and Navigation Returns. In the period of nine months this year very substantial exports have been made of such goods as towels, sheets, mattresses, furniture and carpets. I will not trouble the House with details except just to tell them that I see from the return that 17,000 cwts. of towels have been exported from this country in that period, and also two and one-third million yards of carpet. I cannot help feeling that the skin on the back of the President of the Board of Trade tingles with pleasure when he thinks of nice rough bath towels in cwts. How many of us would be glad of one, let alone one cwt? That brings us to consideration of the priority that should be afforded to three classes of people: the home user, who is short of all these necessary conveniences in her house; the hotel and restaurant and boarding house industry, on whose behalf I am now speaking; and, of course, the export trade. I returned earlier this year from a business trip to South Africa, and two aspects of that are relevant to this matter. It is essential that exports which we have made overseas should continue, and increase as our production increases. If one puts oneself in the position of the wholesaler or retailer in an overseas country waiting for years for the products from Britain which one valued so greatly, and which one's customers are demanding, one rejoices when at last the doors are opened and small quantities of the wellknown and well-liked goods come out to one's country. It would be a disappointment indeed if after the first year one found that the amount of goods one received for the second year had been cut down. So I do not want it to be thought that I am urging that the amount of goods sent overseas should be cut down.

On the other hand, the process of getting back to normal trade is one which accelerates, and I cannot doubt that the production of towels, carpets, furniture, pots, pans, plates and all the rest, must be increasing at a rapid rate. If that is so, I hope there is room for continuous reasonable expansion in the export trade and, at the same time, for the allocation of substantial quantities of these goods to relieve the necessities of those at home. Those at home include the private, ordinary households and the hotel industry, and obviously, the one must not come before the other. I am suggesting that both must be served, but I want to put this point to the House. We are not, if we supply towels or sheets or crockery to the hotel and boarding houses industry, depriving thereby the people who live in ordinary houses from the enjoyment of those towels and sheets and plates. On the contrary, they are the same people, the people who, dwelling in houses, go for a holiday by the seaside or in the country for a week or a fortnight, and they will enjoy part of the use of these amenities if they are provided. Therefore, I conclude this part of my argument about priorities by saying that, on every ground of equity, the hotel and boarding house industry ought to have a very high priority in the provision of these necessary goods which are required for rehabilitation.

Before I leave the question of South Africa finally, there is one other argument. While out there I observed an extremely strong tendency on the part of business men and others to want to come over to this country, and I can assure the House that only the limited number of places in ships, and the present limited aeroplane service, have kept the numbers down to a relatively low level. There has piled up a large number of people wanting to come. When, therefore, I was told that there were 10,000 people asking to come to this country between April and June, and there were only 340 places available in ships, I realise that the pile-up is increasing, and I do not doubt that next year, from this one Dominion alone, there will be some tens of thousands of people wanting to come to this country, some to see relatives from whom they have been separated for a long time, some on business, some as buyers. These are the precursors, from South Africa, from all the Dominions, from the United States, of a vast return to and, I hope, an increase on, our enormous prewar visiting trade. It is extremely important, because not only does it bring many people to assimilate our ideas and our way of living, of which we are proud, but it brings people to buy our goods, and it brings people who, while they are with us, spend their money in our country, much of it good hard currency which we need. It may even be that some sacrifice in the amount of goods that we send overseas, or in the amount that we might send, would be more than recompensed by the invisible export obtained by bringing in these foreign currencies which the tourists bring with them. Therefore, the Government might well consider balancing these two items in their overseas account. One word about requisitions. From the reply I received to a Question I asked on Tuesday, there are still 558 hotels and boarding houses under requisition. I am not saying that the progress made in de-requisitioning has not been considerable; no doubt it has, but there is still this large number. I ask that they be derequisitioned as early as possible. I ask that once the decision to derequisition is made, the Department concerned will carry out the executive work of derequisitioning with expedition. I have had cases brought to my notice where great delays have taken place, sometimes on the part of Service Departments, sometimes on the part of the Office of Works. So much so, that a month or two has been lost, thus destroying the holiday season for those people and destroying the opportunity of a holiday for those who might have gone to these places. It is not too early to begin to think of next season starting before Easter, and we would like an assurance that a special circular or instruction will be issued to make sure that these derequisitionings take place.

The same sense of urgency is required in dealing with licences for repairs and redecorations and the adding of certain amenities which are necessary for replacement of worn-out fittings and facilities. I have heard from many quarters that there are great delays in the handling of these matters by the Ministry of Works through its regional representatives. Perhaps they are overworked, perhaps their staff should be strengthened. I do not know the cause, and I do not blame any particular official, but the Ministry is responsible for the delays and it is for it to show how they can be overcome. I do not want to "job backwards," I only want to urge the Minister to report to his colleague the urgent necessity for seeing that, where licences are reasonable and should he granted, they are granted quickly. It makes all the difference to get the job done quickly, and, not only that, the licences should be sufficient to enable the job to be done properly. If it needs £250 to put a boarding house in order, and the Ministry is mean and grants only £110 and says more will be granted later, it costs the person much more to have the job done in two parts than in one. It also causes great inconvenience and, in the end, very little is gained.

The House generally seemed to me the other day to approve of the action of our own Kitchen Committee in putting our own restaurant staff into uniform. Why should we deny the amenities and the satisfaction of allowing uniforms to be made available in hotels and boarding houses where they are customary and are required? They contribute very materially towards the smartness a the staff and towards the general satisfaction of the visitors. I want the House to remember that recent developments in our industrial and social views have led to no fewer than 13,000,000 workers having the right to paid holidays with their families, so that the holiday is not to be the prerogative of the well-to-do or of the middle classes or, indeed, of any section of the community. Since 13,000,000 people are entitled to a paid holiday, let us see that by next April or May we have taken every possible step to make sure than in the boarding houses, hostels and restaurants throughout the country we have made a very real effort towards making those holidays as bright and cheerful and as worth while as possible.

1.9 p.m.

Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has brought up this question, because, in my opinion, it is a most important one. I would like to talk on three different angles of this problem: first, organisation; secondly, policy; and thirdly, action. For the last two days we have been discussing organisation for defence, and rightly so, because I am convinced you get nowhere in life unless the organisation is correct. I fear that one of our troubles over hotels at the moment is the organisational problem. In organisation, there are two things that are absolutely essential, particularly in a case where there is a coordinative function. First, you must have responsibility pinned clearly and solely on one pair of shoulders, and, secondly, you must have the proper inter-Departmental coordinative machinery to ease contact, to form policy, and thirdly, to carry out that policy in action.

In regard to responsibility, I would like to ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade who precisely it is that is really responsible for the hotel and tourist industry and, if it is he himself, where, in the two of his dualities of function, the ultimate responsibility lies? Is it in the Foreign Office, or is it in the Board of Trade? As I say, this is very similar to the problem of defence. If the coordinative organisation of defence had been proposed with a Secretary attached to one of the three big Defence Ministries with a little note in brackets underneath "also the Air Ministry and War Office," you would not only not pin responsibility on one pair of shoulders, but you would also not get the effective organisation which is necessary, and this is just the organisation which I believe we have for helping the hotel industry.

The problem of organisation is also important in regard to coordinative machinery, and I would like to ask the Minister whether the Tourist Accommodation Committee is still in being, as a coordinating Committee, or whether it is still disbanded? In this case of hotels there is a great coordinative problem. No fewer than eight Ministries are involved in serving visitors. All these Ministries are involved if it is desired to attract visitors to our hotels, to develop the tourist industry and in so doing to help our export drive forward. The Board of Trade must attract them by providing hotels with the furniture, blankets, and other things about which my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale has been talking. The Ministry of Food must be persuaded to attract visitors by attractive food. The Ministry of Labour must attract them with good service from hotel staffs. I am very glad to see that the Ministry of Labour is interesting itself in the vexed question of coffee in hotels. The Catering Wages Commission, over which the learned Attorney-General presided, I understand took up this question, and there seems, therefore, to be a coordinative problem for the Ministry of Labour over coffee as well as over staff. Then the Home Office comes into the picture, on the question of attracting visitors—or not deterring them—by their alien registration requirements. The Ministry of Works comes in on the question of derequisitioning hotels, and the War Damage Commission comes into the matter in only too many cases, and particularly in the city of Bath. The Ministry of Health comes in on the question of licences and, finally, the Treasury comes in on the question of hard currencies, and the degree of preference to be given to attracting visitors from one overseas country rather than from another.

I turn now from the matter of organisation to the policy which that organisation should work out for itself, and eventually turn into action. I am a publisher, and publishers says that "trade follows the book." I agree, but I would say that if there is one book which trade follows even more than ours it is that book which lies open on the reception desks of the hotels of Britain. It ought to be the first objective of the person with whom lies the responsibility for the tourist industry to get as many people to sign their names in that book as possible, people from influential circles in the important parts of the world, people who will put trade in the way of our country. In our policy, I would say that there are four priorities. It seems to me that accommodation in the big business centres ought to come first—London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and so on: secondly, I think that within that priority the luxury hotels in these areas should come first and the medium-sized ones second, because we must face the fact that influential vistors, those whom we most wish to attract want to stay in just that type of hotel. Surely we must recognise this when we realise that when His Majesty's Ministers go overseas they stay in just that sort of hotel themselves. Therefore, if we wish to accommodate people in this country who are likely to foster our export drive it is that sort of hotel which, clearly, ought to come first.

Then there is next in importance the recreational areas such as the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale. Edinburgh, Bath and Stratford-on-Avon are among the attractive places where the business man will hope to relax and so to combine pleasure with his business and to enjoy himself when he comes to this country to place, as we hope, his orders. It is most important that he should have two reasons to wish to return, and that when the present sellers' market is over, and there is once again a buyers' market, he should renew his custom, even though it may have been originated by the fact that we have output which for the moment we can let him have but which he cannot get elsewhere. We must ensure that such a businessman will wish to come to Britain not only for business, but for pleasure, and therefore, this question of attracting influential men is most important. The International Chamber of Commerce, which is the body of businessmen recognised by the United Nations organisation through its Social Security Council, has been considering whether and when it can hold a meeting in London. It seems probable that the delegates could not for sometime be accommodated, in London hotels, but they are just the very people whom we would wish to come here and so to stimulate and improve our export drive.

Thirdly, you get other organisations like the Workers' Education Association, youth movements and Olympic Games, which are only indirectly connected with the export drive and, finally, there is the home market which can most conveniently be used as a "fill up" on a percentage basis. The home need not conflict with the tourist accommodation. I believe that there is a smooth working system of percentage allocations whereby hotels give to foreigners accommodation which is authorised under any such priority scheme, and that the accommodation not wanted for tourists is available for the home visitor.

In all this there is an important problem of priorities and selection and, above all, timing. Such co-ordinative machinery ought to realise the importance of the objective and ought to work out its priorities properly.

Finally, turning to the action, I think there is no wonder that progress has been slow, when we think that there are eight Ministries and no clear coordinating machinery, and, as I believe, no clear pinning of responsibility on the shoulders of one man. In fact, I should say that, not only has there been no progress, but that there has been actual regress. Certainly, that is the case in the lovely city which I have the honour to represent, and, it is a very good instance of the sort of thing which is happening. The heavy hand of the Ministry of Works has descended upon one of the most important hotels in Bath, which, as the result of long negotiation, has just been released by the Admiralty, and now the Ministry of Works has taken it on for a new user for a period of five or six years. How can Bath with its spa industry, the recreational industry and the Tourist Industry, recover itself after this war when it is a case of regress, not progress? Even elsewhere the situation is worse, not better. Six years of erosion have had a great effect, and the speed of that erosion becomes greater the more worn out everything is. I should say that, at the present moment, the tourist industry is actually going back and not going forward, and so I plead very strongly to the Government to realise the importance of this issue, to solve the organisation problem and to put this important industry upon its feet again.

1.22 p.m.

Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)

I am very glad to be associated in this Debate with my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), for he and I have worked closely together in other fields for many years. It is appropriate that the hon. Member represents the wettest constituency in the country, while I claim to represent the driest.

Sir Ian Fraser

I appreciate the hon. Member's great politeness in his opening remarks, but he will also appreciate that, at certain times of the year, the English Lake District is extremely dry and bright, but without the East coast wind.

Mr. Evans

I was proposing to visit that district for a holiday next year, and I hope it will stand up to the reputation which the hon. Gentleman has given it. I represent the Lowestoft Division of Suffolk, and, as the House is aware, the main industries there are the fishing and catering industries. During the war, these industries were practically eliminated. Lowestoft, and, indeed, all along the East coast, suffered from restrictions because visitors were banned. Holiday visitors were, of course, entirely prohibited, and, naturally, the main industry and prosperity of the town and of the whole coast suffered in consequence. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance that this industry should be rehabilitated as soon as possible. It is perfectly true that there was some form of compensation in that area, as the landladies and hotels which were requisitioned had the duty of billeting Services personnel, but I do not think any one would claim that the profits accruing from taking in soldiers, sailors, and airmen can be measured in the same terms as those from the more profitable holiday industry. Indeed, there have been complaints that the profits in some areas have been exorbitant during the last year, and I hope that will not be continued. It is essential that every encouragement should be given to these areas to rehabilitate their essential industry, and that every inducement should be given to the workers of the country to go to these places. Our greatest asset is our glorious air. It can be very biting and cold on the East coast, and that can be a liability. It is there, I think, that the Government can help us by allowing us to have those commodities, such as household furniture that make for the comfort of visitors and help to make a holiday, particularly in inclement weather —which we do not get very often on the East coast—more enjoyable. I will gladly concede that we, on the Coastal Resorts Committee, agree that, since the Lord Privy Seal interested himself in our problems, there has been a great deal of improvement. Derequisitioning has gone on apace, and there has been a continuous and steady flow of commodities into the hotels and boarding houses.

I want to speak more particularly for the smaller establishments. The Service Departments are inclined to be extremely niggardly in making restitution for damage. These places must be made good and habitable, so as to provide a high standard of amenities, and it is a rather deplorable reflection that, during the war, a great amount of damage—a great deal of it wilful damage, I am sorry to say—has been done to these houses and hotels. It is all very well saying that the Service Departments have derequisitioned these houses and hotels, but the premises ought to be put into habitable condition, and the hotels cannot accept visitors unless something more is done. In cases which I have had to bring to the notice of the Ministries concerned, the very minimum was being offered in the way of restitution, and our people are asking that, not only shall these premises be put into reasonable condition, but that they shall be restored to the condition in which they were let to the Service Departments. We want complete derequisitioning and restitution of this element in the industry, which will make it possible for the industry to rehabilitate itself. We want to make the workers comfortable when they come to the seaside, and we, on our part of the coast, can attract all types of visitors. All these places need the greatest encouragement to get back on a proper footing.

Seaside landladies have often been the subject of criticism and the butt of music-hall comedians. I do not know why it should be so, but the seaside landlady ranks with the mother-in-law and the humble sausage as a subject of jokes. I assure the House that, in this area which I represent, these landladies performed a very useful service. In my own district, they took in naval personnel, made them comfortable, acted in a large measure in a very motherly capacity, took care of their mending and looked after them when ill. Now they ask for their reward, and the reward which the Government can give by way of recognition of those services, is help in enabling them to get back into business as soon as possible.

1.28 p.m.

Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)

I, too, am very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir Ian Fraser) has raised this matter, because it is very important that the hotels and guest houses in what our Dominion visitors call the old country should be properly equipped and ready for visitors. We may be an old country, but there is no reason why we should be dowdy. While in Europe this year, I was delighted to find what a friendly feeling there was towards this country and how interested in us the people there were and how anxious they were to see this country, which has meant so much to them in the war. We do not want to tell them that they cannot come here because we have been unable to reopen our hotels and make people as comfortable as they ought to be, and that, in fact, we have lost something of our blithe spirit.

There is a real danger that in our laudable efforts to establish as sound a foundation as we can for postwar reconstruction in this country, we may get to think that drabness is an inevitable aspect of life. I would like to call attention to a few specific instances of difficulty which have come within my experience. The hon. Member for Lonsdale has rightly said that there has been considerable progress in derequisitioning. I am glad to see that the Minister of Works is here, because I know that he has taken a great deal of interest in this matter. At the same time, we have had our difficulties. I remember a recent case where, for month after month, protests had to be made before we could get a lovely house, in most enchanting grounds near Penzance, derequisitioned. I would like to call attention to an astonishing case. There is in St. Ives an excellent little hotel known as the Trecarrell Hotel, and hon. Members may be surprised to hear that in this hotel there are still war evacuees. I have had a pathetic missive from the evacuees asking me whether they cannot get home. Representations have been made by our most excellent and active local authority. I know that the continuing requisitioning of this hotel for this purpose is causing real anxiety to the gentleman who owns the hotel, and certainly it is desirable for the town of St. Ives and for those who wish to come there that such a place should be free as soon as possible.

I would like to say a few words about compensation. On the whole those who have to assess compensation have taken great care over their work, and I do not think there has been a very great deal of trouble. But in the Isles of Scilly I did strike a case where compensation was being fixed on the basis that a hotel, which is particularly lovely and most beautifully situated beside the bay, should be put right on a shoddy basis; in fact, that it should not be put into the same condition in which it was before it was most lamentably mishandled, I am sorry to say, by troops who were there. The gentleman who makes his livelihood from this hotel happens to be a most patriotic citizen of the Islands, and has given really distinguished service in our Forces, and I could only congratulate him upon the modesty and patriotism with which he has put forward his claim. I am not making these observations because he has asked me to do so, but because I was so struck by the rather niggardly way in which this particular matter was being handled.

I have also, again and again, found that there were really unnecessary difficulties in the way of hotel, boarding house and lodging house keepers obtaining linen or carpets to replace those which had been destroyed during the war for reasons which were not their own fault. I know of a case in the Isles of Scilly where a lady who keeps a small hotel looked after a continuous stream of Service personnel who went to those islands for very special and good reasons, and, although I tried to help her, she was unable to get dockets to buy linen to replace the linen which had been destroyed, in spite of the fact that we all knew that such linen was available in Plymouth. The hon. Member for Lonsdale said that he hoped the respec- tive Ministers would get these matters put right for the coming season beginning next Easter. That is not quite good enough for me, because we have a season in the winter. I look forward to seeing my camelias blooming in my garden in December, as they will be in many other gardens in West Cornwall. There will be narcissi and daffodils in January, and mimosa in the Scillys at Christmas. We should ensure that people from abroad and in this country who come to have a well deserved holiday will find hotels and guest houses ready to receive them.

1.36 p.m.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)

We are all indebted to the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) for having raised this question today, and I think it is appropriate that some of us who represent constituencies which are not entirely on the seacoast—although everything in England is, more or less, near the sea—should give our views on this matter in order to help if possible. I hope the Ministries concerned will realise what the country really needs in this regard. I think it ought to be made clear first, that on this side of the House we realise that the first priority must be the housing of the people. There can be no question about that. I assume that on the other sides of the House a similar feeling prevails. Most of us will agree that the Ministries concerned have done a very good piece of work in providing the housing accommodation which they have provided considering the difficulties in their way; but, taking the case of a town like Leicester, for example, I think there is much to be said for giving very careful consideration to the provision of further hotel and boarding house accommodation as quickly as possible, for many reasons.

Here is an industrial city to which is attracted a large number of buyers from abroad as well as from England, Wales and Scotland, who provide a large market for our products. Leicester should be encouraged in every way to sell its products throughout the world, because they are excellent products. To do that, proper facilities must be given to people to come to the city and to the county and make their purchases, and they should not be put to undue difficulty in obtaining accommodation. I am sorry to say that, in many cases, prospective buyers have not been able to find that accommodation when they have required it, and this undoubtedly must have had some effect, probably a great effect, upon the sales of the commodities manufactured there.

I would like to quote one illustration of what is happening in the city. Some time ago an application was made to the Ministry for the provision of the necessary licences to enable one of the hotels right in the centre of the city to extend its accommodation and provide about 12 more rooms. The applicants have not been able to get the licences yet. Those rooms are required, in the first instance, to accommodate members of the staff of the hotel who at present are using rooms in other parts of the town. Their present rooms would become available for other housing accommodation should they be housed in the hotel itself. It would also mean, of course, the saving of the transport, and everything concerned with moving these people to their place of work. In addition to that, there would be a certain number of rooms available for visitors to the town, which would enable them to enjoy proper amenities that are necessary for visitors—buyers and sightseers. I cannot understand why, in a case like that for example, the licences should not be given. The necessary alterations and repairs are not unduly heavy, and in my view they are very necessary.

The other point is this. We are encouraging, or endeavouring to encourage, tourist traffic to this country. It would result in an import of foreign exchange which is very highly needed. The seaside resorts will continue to attract visitors from abroad as well as from the British Isles, but there does come a period in the height of their season when they are not able to accommodate, even with the best intentions in the world, all the people who would like to be put up at their hotels and in their boarding houses. On those occasions—as indeed throughout the year—it is not unreasonable to expect that if we want to encourage tourist traffic into this country, such places as Leicester, and the county of Leicester, should not be overlooked. Leicester is a historical city, with a very great attraction for people who are interested in the history of this country and in the beauteous features of the English town. Leicestershire, with its historical background, and its beauties of scenery and countryside, would be, and indeed is, a great attraction. We are asking the world to come to our cities and countryside—and far be it from me to suggest the seaside resorts should not also be visited—there are times when the seaside resorts would concede the point that they could not accommodate those people who might want to come over to this country. If we advertise the advantages of visits to our country —and we should advertise these throughout the length and breadth of the world, because we have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world here—as the Government have said they propose to do, it is not a bit of good doing so and then finding, when the tourists come here, that they cannot be properly accommodated.

It is because of the following reasons therefore—firstly, in order to provide accommodation for people who are coming to do business in this country, and so increase our export trade; secondly, in order to give those people an opportunity of enjoying the beauty of our countryside and towns at the same time; and thirdly, to attract holidaymakers, to our country, and particularly to our cities and countryside—that I ask if we cannot, as speedily as possible, get the position eased, and facilities given for improvements for the amenities of people of that nature when they are here.

1.45 p.m.

Wing-Commander Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)

The tourist industry is one in which I am very keenly interested, and I want to take every opportunity to impress upon the Government the necessity of doing something to get it going again in the postwar years. I have pressed it on the House on many occasions, and I have given figures to show its size, so I feel it is hardly necessary for me to repeat them again this afternoon. However, we must help now, because at the moment the Government are doing all they can to encourage our export trade, and to get more foreign currency, which we need to buy certain essential imports for this country. As I have said many times, we can get a lot of foreign currency if we develop our tourist industry, because in it we have a really good wage earner. I think it would be a very wise thing if, instead of sending a major portion of our goods abroad today, we kept some of them at home for the re-equipment and the rehabilitation of the hotel industry, which will continue to draw dollars and francs to this country for many years to come.

When we are considering the rehabilitation of hotels, especially those with which the foreigner is concerned, I think that in the postwar years we will have to revise our ideas entirely. Many of us can think of Americans who used to come over to this country, who visited London, Edinburgh and Stratford-on-Avon, and many of them thought they had then seen England. During the war we had hundreds of thousands, and more, American troops in this country, who have been stationed all over the country, and in each little part of the country. They have made friends, and they are going back again to those places when they pay their return visits to this country. Therefore, we must, in attracting foreign tourists, get away from the idea of visiting only London, Edinburgh and Stratford-on-Avon. It is the whole of the country which is concerned with this very important industry. I do not want the Government to treat the matter merely as one from the point of view of attracting tourists to this country, but to consider it from the point of view of the British workers too. Many of us have worked and fought for holidays with pay. It is an accepted and recognised factor in industry today. It is also accepted on many sides that many of the British workers are getting tired. We have appeals going out from the Government to the workers to produce more. But if the worker of this country has to produce more, then we must make him physically fit to do the job. More important than ever to him now is his holiday, and we must get the catering and tourist industry so good that next year the workers can have a good holiday in reasonable comfort. Then, when they go back to their work refreshed we will begin to get more and greater production from the individual worker.

I recommend the industry to the Government, too, because it is a very big employer of labour in this country. It is an industry which is trying to improve the conditions of the workers. We will never get conditions improved unless the Government are prepared to face up to the need of improving many of the kitchens and working conditions of the people in the hotel industry of this country. They cannot do that without the licences which have to have the approval of the Ministries concerned. One of the most important things at the moment is to get on with the job of derequisitioning these hotels. All over the country there are masses of hotels which are still held by Government Departments. I think everyone in the House knows how very hard it is to shift a Government Department once it gets into a building; it does not want to go. I hope the Minister of Works will fight really hard with the other Government Departments to try to throw them out of those premises which we need. It is a very live fact that in my own town, Blackpool, when we had a very important political conference there only a few weeks ago, many hon. Members from this House who came there found that practically every one of the big hotels in the town still requisitioned and not freed by the Government Department to do the job for which they were built, and for which they were constructed. I hope in the reply today we shall hear that the policy of derequisitioning will be speeded up very much indeed.

After derequisitioning we have got to be in a position to repair our hotels, and I urge that the Minister of Works should realise the necessity for giving the building licences for a reasonable measure of repair, and for modernisation, too. The Minister of Works knows that all of us on all sides of the House have as one of our aims housing for the people of this country. When we suggest the neccesity for these licences being granted, we are not suggesting that work should come before housing. We are not even suggesting that it should be equal to that of housing the people of this country. But, as this is an industry, to my mind the repair of the hotels can well rank with the repair and modernisation of factories, which are going on all the time in the country today. If we can bring our factories in this country up to date, surely we can do the same thing for the hotels. I can assure the Minister that this is being done in other countries. When I took my car to the continent in August I stayed in several hotels which had been damaged by bombs. They had been opened again, and one part of a hotel would be newly painted, even though the other half was open to the skies. That was the case with many hotels. In wanting our hotels back we want a certain measure of rebuilding, and when we have got that we need to have reequipment. We want the help of the Board of Trade to see that hotels get the necessary articles. If we are to attract visitors to this country it is no good offering beds with torn, worn out sheets that people would not have in their homes. I think it was the President of the Board of Trade who said the other day, that at times he slept with his feet sticking out through holes in the sheets. He may get some form of pleasure out of it, but I do assure the House that foreign visitors to this country, though they may think it funny to see the President of the Board of Trade in that position, do not want that experience for themselves. We have got to try to give them, if we want them to come over again to this country, the same standards which they have in their own countries. It would be a fatal thing if, in launching, as we are trying to do now, a drive to bring foreign tourists here we sent them away dissatisfied, so that they did not come back again to this country. Can we have from the Board of Trade some help in getting our beds and our mattresses and tables and chairs and the kitchen equipment which we need? We have these things. A great deal of them is being exported from this country today. Let us keep some of them at home to get this industry going.

I do not want to go much farther. We have in Debates on this subject in the House had from individual Members of the Government a great many friendly statements, saying, "Yes, it is an industry that must go forward. Certainly it must have practically everything it wants." But I often think individual Ministers tend to pass the buck. The Board of Trade is liable to feel that the industry cannot have these sheets, but if the Minister of Works does his job, and gets some buildings derequisitioned, then the people in the industry will be happy. It is the same sort of story with regard to derequisitioning itself. I have no doubt that spokesmen of the Air Ministry think it is wonderful, indeed, to give hotels back to the people who own them and wish to operate them. But they think the Ministry of Works should get out of hotels, and that the Ministry of Food and the War Office should get out of hotels; but the Air Ministry itself cannot get out, because it is very important. I think practically every other Department has the same idea about the hotels it is requisitioning—that Government possession of them is necessary in the national interest. Every Department thinks every other Department should get out of the hotels that it has requisitioned. All the Departments hold that view, but none get out, and the industry is handicapped.

I feel that in this country we are going to have a great expansion of the hotel and catering industry. We have more people having holidays than ever before, and we have a great many coming from abroad. Therefore, we must not put the industry in such a position that we have a closed industry into which newcomers cannot enter. I have been fighting one case with the Ministry of Works for a number of months now. It is the case of an ex-Serviceman who returned from the Service and put his savings into buying a large private house, and thought of re-equipping it, and carving up some of the bedrooms, whereby he thought he might double the accommodation in that house, and run some business from it. But the Ministry of Works pointed out to me that this man was not in business as a hotel-keeper before the war, and, therefore, indicated that this was a closed industry. There should be many newcomers. It seems to me entirely wrong that there should not. We need an expanding industry. We are building it up as we have never built it up before, and we should welcome new people. I urge the Minister of Works to help us in this matter. I sometimes think the Minister has not realised enough the needs of the industry, and that Ministers, in their zeal for housing, are liable to forget it.

I have still another letter on the same case, written four months after the first. The Ministry of Works was asked to keep a building open as a small hotel. The Ministry said that, unfortunately, conditions in Blackpool had not eased, and they were still unable to allow improvements to existing buildings, and that if this work were carried out, although the number of bedrooms would be increased, they would be available to holiday makers and not form a contribution to the housing problem. We know this is not a contribution to the housing problem. It brings me back to the point I was making. Hotels should have the priority which is accorded to industry, so that places like this can be opened and get on with their normal work.

1.57 p.m.

Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

This is a subject which I myself have raised on many occasions both in the last Parliament and in this Parliament. We have had many assurances from different Departments, under the last Government as well as this, that priority would be given to seaside resorts for the rehabilitation of their hotels and accommodation. We have had one season. We have had a summer to test out the sincerity of the Government's pledges. We have managed to get through the summer, and we have now an opportunity of reviewing the situation, and of seeing to what extent these promises have been fulfilled, and to what extent hotels are in a position to accommodate both the summer visitor and their day to day guests. I have found in my constituency—and it is no exception—that there are still a great many deficiences in our hotel accommodation.

A point raised by a great many people is the granting of licences for repairs and maintenance. I find a great many people have mentioned that the requisitioned hotels—I have a good many of these in my constituency—have been handed back, and that they have fared better, I think, than those that have been kept going in the war, so far as rehabilitation is concerned. They have been repaired, and in many cases re-equipped, and now are in a better position, many of them, than they were before the war. That does not apply to the hotels which very gallantly tried to keep going and struggle on through the whole of the war to provide accommodation for travellers.

There are one or two instances of that kind in the Isle of Wight where a great deal of rehabilitation is necessary. There is one particular case of a very progressive hotel proprietor who is very anxious to get on and bring his hotel up to date. He applied for a maintenance licence to restore his rooms and provide proper accommodation for his staff, which is vitally important if staff is to be found. These days they demand accommodation which they might not have expected before the war; indeed we expect our hotel staffs to be better looked after than they have been in the past, and their first demand is, of course, for proper accommodation. How is that proprietor to provide accommodation if, when he applies for a licence to add to or restore his rooms, he is granted a licence for £150? That sum will hardly restore one room if proper equipment is to be put in, and in the case of a large hotel at that rate it would take 50 years to restore. I know what the demands for housing are, they are really urgent indeed, and I would not for one moment suggest that hotels should come before houses, especially in those areas where housing is very short. But if hoteliers are granted licences to carry out repair work during the winter months, I think they would be able to do it. There are certainly times when decorators, painters and other people who are not able to work on housing during the bad weather in winter could get on with some indoor work in restoring these hotels. I recommend that suggestion to the Minister, to grant licences and allow an extended period for carrying out the work during the winter.

As regards equipment, linen and carpets have been mentioned. People are finding very great difficulty in getting dockets to restore them, and I ask the Board of Trade to be a little more generous in that direction. Some places have fared better than others, but many hoteliers have been very badly hit in that their hotels have been closed during the whole of the war. There is an area where visitors were not allowed and the hotels were closed up, with the result that moth has destroyed all the carpets and all the bedding. Some of the sights at seaside resorts would horrify anyone who sees the appalling destruction caused by moth. Those hotels must be restored, but cannot be without some assistance from the Board of Trade. The cost of equipment today is appalling. I have had a list sent to me showing the comparative cost of linen and hotel equipment now and before the war, and in some cases it is 600 per cent. up. That in itself is enough to cripple the hotel industry or any industry trying to get on its feet again. It is very largely due to Purchase Tax, and I ask the Minister to consider whether it is possible to press the Treasury to make some concessions on Purchase Tax in the rehabilitation of hotels.

Priorities of the highest order were given for the restoration of the "Queen Elizabeth," and the same has been done for the "Queen Mary," and I think rightly so, because they are bringing thousands of people to this country and will continue to do so every week. Those ships come past my constituency in order to dock, and passengers very often say, "What a beautiful place that is; before I return to America I want to visit that island." They do, but after having been in the "Queen Elizabeth" with its palatial accommodation they find that the hotels in the Isle of Wight have not had facilities to rehabilitate themselves after the devastation of the war. I, therefore, want to ask the Minister to be a little more lenient in granting rehabilitation, repair and maintenance licences to those people who are struggling hard to restore our hotel accommodation in order to assist the tourist trade, which the Government have so often said they wished to have restored in this country.

2.7 p.m.

Mr. Cooper-Key (Hastings)

The speedy rehabilitation of this industry is generally recognised as being a matter of importance to the country, and there are certain areas where its rehabilitation is vital. I refer to those areas which have no alternative industry, and particularly to those on the South coast of England, some of which have been very badly damaged by bombs and where compulsory evacuation caused some 95 per cent. of the hotels to close down. The effect of the closing down was that the proprietors removed the contents of their hotels elsewhere in England, so that it remains for newcomers setting up in business, many of them ex-Servicemen, to try to find equipment to furnish the amenities for the visitors who come to that part of the world. There are several ex-Servicemen in the constituency I represent whom I know personally and who have got these buildings and cannot get any furniture or linen to set up an hotel. Without curtains, carpets and linoleum it cannot be done, and they cannot even get blankets. Some of the details I have learned have been well nigh beyond belief. There are cases of people owning small lodging houses and hotels with between eight and 15 bedrooms who have not enough linen to furnish more than two or three beds. They are using flourbags and cut up old sheets for tablecloths and table napkins because they cannot furnish any better linen. That, after 18 months of peace, is surely a matter which reflects very poorly on the amenities of our seaside resorts.

I want to ask the Minister whether he will apply the very highest priority to those hotels which are not being occupied because people cannot open them up through lack of equipment. I would also like to see a special priority given to the repair of bomb damaged houses, remembering always that the area to which I refer was the most heavily bombed in the country and also suffered the compulsory evacuation of its people. I should like to make one constructive suggestion, and that is that a maintenance licence might be granted in these special cases so that the equipment could be obtained. On the basis of so much per letting room, say, £200 for a 10-room house, I believe that would be of great assistance in helping out the most penalised of all hotel areas—the South coast towns. We have heard today the various inducements for people to visit various parts of the country—the camellias in winter, soft winds of the East coast and views of the "Queen Elizabeth" sailing on the Solent. In spite of the rather dismal picture I have painted of the conditions in my constituency, I can assure those who feel inclined to try us out next year that they will, with the assistance of the Ministry, find better conditions and that we shall be able to cope with what I am sure will be a record demand for accommodation.

Mr. Marquand (Secretary for Overseas Trade)


Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

Before the Minister replies, may I ask one question?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

It must be only a question.

Mr. Taylor

May I ask whether the Government have any intention of appointing one Minister to deal with the various problems which have been raised on behalf of the hotel industry, because at present the industry have to deal with the Ministry of Food, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour, the Treasury and the Service Departments?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

This is going further than a question.

Mr. Taylor

I hope that the Minister will deal with the question of a Minister being made responsible for these matters in the House of Commons.

2.13 p.m.

Mr. Marquand (Secretary for Overseas Trade)

I do not want to cut short a Debate in which many Members are anxious to participate—indeed, I cannot do so—but I feel that I shall be more helpful to the House if I rise at this stage to deal with the large number of questions, particularly that question which has just been asked and was also asked at the beginning of the Debate, because it seems to me that we are in danger of repeating ourselves. Like all hon. Members who have spoken, I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) for having used his opportunity to raise this question, and I am glad to have the opportunity to make a comprehensive, but not, I hope, tedious statement. The Debate has covered a very wide geographical range, from Lonsdale and Blackpool in the North, to Bath in the West, Lowestoft in the East, St. Ives, the Isle of Wight and Hastings in the South, not forgetting Leicester in the Midlands. I am tempted to speak for Wales, but I will say no more than that she will not be forgotten, nor will Scotland whose voice has remained silent today.

We have not only had an indication of the great interest in all parts of the country in this subject, but also an indication of the varying needs of different types of centres—the business centres, the tourist centres which attract overseas visitors, the centres which attract home holiday makers, and those particularly difficult centres which suffered special wartime injury, the centres on the coast line in certain areas where there was complete requisitioning and where heavy bombing in many cases took place. I will not he able to answer every one of the interesting points which have been raised, but I assure hon. Members that if their particular point is not specifically mentioned, all the matters which have been raised will be carefully considered when we read and study this Debate next week. I must begin by referring to the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), and by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) when he asked his question, and that is the administrative arrangements which are being made by the Government to carry out their responsibilities in regard to tourism. Before the war, responsibility for the encouragement of the tourist trade lay with the Department of Overseas Trade, and the Government grants-in-aid to the Travel Association, which was the principal agency in this field, was borne upon the Vote of the Department of Overseas Trade. Other Government activities in this field before the war were purely regulatory.

During the war several positive actions were taken by Government Departments, in which the most conspicuous was the Ministry of Food. At a later stage during the war special responsibilities were given by this House, by Act of Parliament, to the Catering Wages Commission. When, at the end of the war, we came to review the administration in preparation for the big developments which we felt were necessary, we found that there were a large number of Ministries with an interest in this particular field. We wanted to develop not merely the overseas trade and the attraction of overseas visitors, but to ensure that the catering and home holiday services kept in step with the services provided for overseas visitors. We are now assured that 14,000,000 workers, or some such figure, are now entitled to holidays with pay, and we want these workers to have a longer and better holiday than before. How could we make provision for this? We found that there were no less than eight Departments with a special interest, as the hon. Member for Bath has told us, and there were other Depatments with not so much interest, but with special interests, which were involved to some degree.

The Ministry of Food is obviously greatly concerned with the catering industry. The Ministry of Labour is concerned with any questions of providing additional labour for rehabilitation and reconstruction, and, above all, in the welfare of the workers by obtaining satisfactory holidays. The Home Office still perfoms its regulatory functions in regard to drinking habits and other things connected with tourists. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning has an interest, and, above all, the Ministry of Works has a special interest at the present time because of the problem of recon- struction and rehabilitation. The Board of Trade is involved because it is responsible for the textile industry, the furniture industry and the pottery industry whose products are essential for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of this trade.

We could not create a new Ministry to override or take on all these varying functions. The solution obviously lies in the direction of coordination, rather than in the establishment of some new authority. Coordination is what we have attempted to do. We have said, and the Prime Minister has announced, that responsibility in this field will rest henceforth with the Board of Trade. That does not mean that the Board of Trade will try to do the business of the Ministry of Food in allocating food to establishments, or that they will try to do the business of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works in granting licences. It means that the Board of Trade will lead the team and will take the chair at the Interdepartmental Committee established for the purpose.

Indeed, I have been given the responsibility of taking the chairmanship of the Interdepartmental Committee which we set up, on which, in addition to the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Food, the Treasury, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Education, the Scottish Office and the Home Office—and these are given in order of recollection and not in any order of importance—are all represented regularly, and from time to time, and as necessity arises, other Departments are called in, if their particular interests become involved. Merely to create a committee would not necessarily get the requisite action that is required. I quite agree, though I think that the Committee is necessary, and I think that those members who spoke about this, especially the hon. Member for Bath—I am sorry he is not here at the moment—who had gained such special experience during the war in the organisation of Government Departments would agree that it is along the lines which they would think satisfactory.

But we needed, in the Board of Trade itself, also to create special machinery for this purpose. The old Department of Overseas Trade has been absorbed into the Board of Trade, and has become the Export Promotion Department, but we were not content to leave this particular Board of Trade function to the Export Promotion Department only, because it involved all these problems of linen, furniture, pottery, etc., to which I have already referred.

Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point about the Interdepartmental Committee, would he say whether there is any arrangement as to how often it will meet? Will it have regular meetings, or will it meet as required?

Mr. Marquand

It meets as required. We created in the Board of Trade a new Division altogether, the Tourist, Catering and Holiday Services Division, over which we placed an Under-Secretary, in other words, a Division of equal authority and prestige to other important Divisions in the Board of Trade. Perhaps I ought, in passing, to indicate that the creation of a special Division of this kind within the Board of Trade does not in any way indicate the intention of the Government to nationalise the industry. There is sometimes a good deal of suspicion on these matters, and I may as well make that clear. The new Division is to perform the Board of Trade's function.

The Board has its own special function of encouraging the foreign visitor and providing the necessary equipment for hotels, and of leading the team of the other Departments who seek to do this job. Even before that Committee was established, about three months ago, if I recollect aright, before we had gone through the necessary procedure for establishing a committee of that kind, we had created a small working party. A "working party" is almost a Whitehall slang term for a rather informal committee. This working party was active and busy, and became known currently in Whitehall circles, I understand, as "the Fire Squad." Here was a group of the senior officials from the Departments principally concerned, set to work on the special job of preparing for the 1947 holiday season, and the chairman of that little group was an officer who had gained great experience in wartime Departments in the quick planning of operations and the coordination of the activities of other Departments, the granting of priorities, etc. They did what I think was, in all the circumstances, an excellent job.

I pass from the administrative mechanism by which we have already tackled this problem—from the ad- ministrative mechanism we hope to use to deal with it in future—to some of the problems with which we have to deal. Let me first mention the derequisitioning of hotels. On 1st January, 1945, the Government held under requisition 4,190 hotels, boarding houses and restaurants. On 1st October, 1946, that number had been reduced to 558. In other words, 86 per cent. of the number of such establishments held had been derequisitioned within the period from the beginning of 1945 to October, 1946.

Wing-Commander Robinson

It would help us a great deal if the hon. Gentleman could translate his figures more into bedroom capacity. Have a lot of small hotels been derequisitioned and the big ones been retained for Government Departments? It is a matter of assessing what is the capacity of the industry which is kept by the Ministry.

Mr. Marquand

I agree that it would be more satisfactory if I had the figures in square feet, but unfortunately I have not. It is quite clear, however, that a percentage of 86 must include a very substantial proportion of the total space. Hotels were given a priority of release. They are being released more quickly than other premises which my right hon. Friend holds under requisition. The Board of Trade now takes on the responsibility in advising upon and indicating the type of policy which might be followed in derequisitioning. All the Departments concerned recognise the need for derequisitioning the hotel and catering facilities of the country as quickly as possible. We are aiming at reducing the present number of 558 to about 300 by 1st April. It may be said that that is a slow rate of progress. So it is. Inevitably it becomes more difficult as the end is reached, and there are places—the hon. Member for Bath quoted one of them—which it will be difficult to release for some time to come.

This country had to suffer heavy damage by bombing. The destruction of office equipment and the damage of all kinds of building are quite as much responsible for the present situation as the growth in the size of Government Departments. We would like to attain complete release by the end of 1947, but I am not undertaking to achieve that end. We would like to do so and that is the sort of thing that is in our mind, but I cannot call it a target, because the conception is a bit too nebulous. Our ability to achieve that objective depends mainly on the degree of scarcity of building labour and supplies. We cannot put office or hotel building before house building, and I do not think that any hon. Member would ask us to do that in the light of the present state of things in this country. Some of this space is absolutely needed for Government purposes, and could only be released if completely alternative satisfactory accommodation could be found.

Sir I. Fraser

Would it not really be better if there was less accommodation for the Government and more accommodation for the governed?

Mr. Marquand

Yes, but it is a matter of gradual reduction. I do not intend to be led into a discussion on the size of Government staffs, which are being gradually reduced. Suffice it to say we are, and this is the point I want to make, giving priority to the release of hotel space in this programme of releasing the accommodation held by Government Departments at the present time. There were suggestions in the speeches of the hon. Member for Lonsdale, and other hon. Members, about the delay in derequisitioning. If so, I regret it, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works regrets it, and we will look into any specific instance that may have been raised in the course of this Debate. I must point out that my right hon. Friend has sometimes been requested by those whose properties have been under requisition not to be too quick in releasing them from that arrangement.

I pass now to rehabilitation. We feel that we want to rehabilitate the hotels, particularly those which have been requisitioned or damaged by enemy action. But, at the present time, we must restrict the work to essential rehabilitation. That means that we are not prepared to consider extensive improvements. From time to time, applications are received for substantial extensions and improvements, many of which have attractive features, but it would not be fair to use our scarce building labour and materials for that kind of work in the present stage of our progress. However, in order to ensure that the best possible judgment is brought to bear upon this derequisitioning, which is essential and must be delegated to officials all over the country—and every piece of which cannot possibly be brought under Ministerial observation—we have brought our regional organisation into play. This is one of the advantages of having a united Board of Trade containing the Export Promotion Department, the old Department of Overseas Trade, as well as all the other departments in the Board of Trade. We have been able to use the Board of Trade regional organisation. Just as we were able to appoint export officers who were valuable and appreciated by the community, so here we brought the regional organisation into play. As at the centre in London, the departments in the regions now work in a coordinated way, and circulars have been issued to the regional licensing officers of the Ministry of Works instructing them urgently to consider the projects benefiting the tourist and holiday services. They keep in touch with their colleagues in the Ministry of Food, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour in these matters, so that they march in step together.

We have to have particular regard to the need in 1947 of attracting overseas visitors, and I shall say more about that in a moment. The business centres are important as, also, are the centres like the Lake District, Stratford-on-Avon, and so on, to which these visitors want to come. To comment on a remark made by the hon. Member for Bath, I would say in passing that we already have, and have had for more than 12 months in the Export Promotion Department of the Board of Trade, a special Tours Section which looks after the interests of the overseas business visitor. It arranges to meet him on arrival and helps him with the problem of his hotel accommodation, his registration and the various formalities that have to be gone through, a service which, I am glad to say, is much appreciated. Perhaps I should not make too much of that service in case too many seek its assistance. When we hear from our overseas officers that important business visitors are coming, we take great pains to get into touch with them. We arrange for them to be taken from the station to the hotel and, if necesasry, find them hotel accommodation.

Mr. Pitman

May I ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade whether he would welcome that service being made known when one is overseas, because I have met a lot of people who are important who are not aware of it? It is the sort of thing they would appreciate, and I am glad it is being done.

Mr. Marquand

I am a little afraid that my remarks today may make the service too well-known, and I am sure hon. Members will appreciate that it would be a little difficult to have hundreds of people using a comparatively small service, because, if it broke down and one had to discriminate, those left out of the charmed circle would want to know why. It is a very discreet service to which people who are likely to place substantial orders with us would be welcome.

Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)

Is it a service for those whom I would call V.I.Ps., or a service for ordinary people? If it is a service for ordinary people, does the Secretary for Overseas Trade imply thereby that the hotels and other agencies in England are not advertising properly abroad?

Mr. Marquand

This is not a service for ordinary people; it is a service for visitors who come with a recommendation from overseas officers and who are concerned in a particular commercial contract or deal. That is all it is, and all it could be. We shall cater otherwise for other visitors, as I shall go on to describe. We are still talking about rehabilitation. I want to explain that there can be no rule of priority laid down from the centre in this matter. The degree of priority given in rehabilitating hotels and other catering premises by means of building licences must vary from area to area. For example, in the Development Areas where we are trying hard to build new factories, and where we cannot build the factories fast enough to absorb the unemployed labour at the present time, we are obviously not going to spare the scarce building materials for the re-equipment of hotels, however desirable that might be in cities like the one which I represent. There must be a system of local priorities in this matter. In other areas, where there may be an easier housing situation and where no vital factory building is going on, such as in some of the lovely tourist areas where nobody wants to see factories going up, the thing is easier, and it is possible to carry out a more rapid rehabilitation in some parts of the country than in others. I cannot agree that there is no conflict between housing and factory building, on the one hand, and the rehabilitation of the hotel industry on the other. There must be some conflict in some areas, and, where that conflict takes place, housing and the building of factories must come first. I would ask hotel proprietors who are considering putting forward their projects to bear in mind also that there are certain things among these building materials and equipment which are particularly scarce. Baths are difficult, and paint is in very short supply owing to the world shortage of linseed oil. Projects requiring baths and wash basins and large quantities of paint must necessarily be more coldly received than those which do not require such quantities of these things.

I will now pass to the question of equipment, which is a special interest of the Board of Trade. Early this year, we created a special scheme within the Board of Trade for the supply of limited quantities of sheets, blankets and mattresses to bomb-damaged and requisitioned establishments which were able to open by 31st July. That scheme gave a little preference to the bomb-damaged and requisitioned establishments over others which have been fortunate enough to carry on their normal business throughout the war. I feel that the preference was justified. Needless to say, the many applications quickly absorbed all that we were able to make available at that time. We also decided to import a certain quantity of bedroom furniture specially for the hotels in order to enable them to re-equip themselves, and I am glad to say that that furniture is arriving in this country at the present time. We also had a special scheme for the allocation of upholstery cloth to hotels, boarding-houses and holiday-camps in order to enable those places to cater for the holiday traffic of this year. I was going to say "summer," but I hardly know what is an appropriate word by which to describe the months from June to September of this year.

A great deal more needs to be done for the 1947 season and we are working on the same lines as last year. I wish that the increase meanwhile in the production of blankets, sheets, and mattresses had been as great as we hoped; it has not, but for 1947 we shall carry out a somewhat similar scheme to that in 1946. I am not able to announce it today but I hope to be able to do so before the end of November. We are planning to be ready for the 1947 season, but these items of equipment are all very scarce. Towels and other textile goods were alluded to, and I was glad and indeed not surprised to find that the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale recognised that we must continue to export such goods at the present time. Our total cotton textile exports represent only 16 per cent. of our production, and they are heavily restricted. I frequently have to answer in correspondence the complaints of hon. Members on all sides of the House that their constituents are not permitted to export as many of these things as they would like to do. At a time when we are under heavy obligations to the Dominions overseas to keep them supplied with at least a modicum of these goods, and at a time when, whenever we go abroad to buy our eggs, butter and bacon, we are asked, first of all, for coal, and secondly, for textiles, we certainly have no intention of reducing the volume of exports below its present level. But as home production increases the quantity going into the home market will increase faster than that going to export. It all depends on the satisfaction of our home needs and, as in many things, an increased production at home. If we get the increased production from the textile industries we shall be able to do these things for the hotels, but while the shortages remain we shall apply the sort of priorities and rationing schemes I have already outlined.

I would conclude by saying that we are aiming to begin the traffic in foreign and overseas visitors to this country in the summer of 1947. During this last summer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has instructed his offices abroad not to grant visas for those who wished to come for tourist purposes only. As the House knows, that ban has now been lifted. Visas will be granted freely where they are still necessary, and there will be no deliberate obstacle in that way to the coming in of visitors from overseas who will bring with them that foreign exchange which we so badly need to pay for our necessary imports. Space, of course, will be limited. The hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale referred to the difficulties of our South African relatives who wish to come here, and I know how difficult that route is.

Therefore, the total number of overseas visitors who will find it physically possible to reach these shores in 1947 is of reasonable dimensions. We have calculated that figure with great care with the Ministry of Transport and the other Ministries involved on the Committee of which I have spoken. We have arrived at what I think is a pretty accurate estimate of the total and of what the peak will be, and we have broken that peak down into beds, blankets, mattresses, and other necessary things. We have something like a wartime plan— of the kind that we had for aircraft production during the war—to apply to the tourist trade. The number of our overseas visitors will be necessarily limited, and they may find when they arrive a standard of feeding and accommodation which is lower than that we should like to provide for them. They may, in fact, find standards which are lower than those which prevail in their own countries, but we shall say to them, with some diffidence and apology I suppose, "We are sorry but we cannot entertain you better." But there will be a little ring of justifiable pride in our voices because we shall know that the shortages they may have to put up with are due not to our lack of desire to see them, or to any lack of effort on our part to provide for them, but simply to the damage and injury which we sustained during the war in an effort which was to their benefit.

2.45 p.m.

Lieut. - Commander Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

I appreciate very much the opportunity of making two points arising out of the Minister's speech. Those of us who have been fighting this battle of the seaside resorts for upwards of three years have a very considerable experience and knowledge of the difficulties with which the Minister is now faced. In the coordination of the work of the ten to twelve Government Departments involved he succeeds two Cabinet Ministers, and it is no disrespect to the hon. Gentleman when I say that I only hope he will have the power and strength behind him to be more successful than they were. That is the first point I wish to make. He has a very difficult job before him in the coordination committee over which he tells us he is presiding, and I am perfectly certain that we on this side of the House will give him every help we can by strengthening and rendering more powerful the coordination which is essential, and which hitherto has been a complete failure. We hope that he will very shortly be coming before the House again to tell us what the committee is doing and what it has achieved at the regular meetings which he says it is holding.

The second point I wish to make is to beg the hon. Gentleman not to lay undue emphasis upon the foreign and overseas visitors. I appreciate the natural bias which he would tend to have in this respect, but there are many seaside resorts in this country which do not cater for the foreign visitor at all. They cater for the English working people from the Midlands, the North, and from all the industrial centres as well as from the country. The areas which I represent are particularly of that type—Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, the Witterings—and the number of foreign or overseas visitors who come there for their holidays or for visits represents a very insignificant percentage of the total vast population which comes there during the summer time from inland counties. I, therefore, beg the Minister not to overrate the assistance which he is going to give, and which I believe he is determined to afford the seaside resorts in favour of those resorts which naturally flow through his own Department. May I remind him of the hope held out to us by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Foreign Secretary when he was speaking on the Second Reading of the Catering Bill? The right hon. Gentleman said then—during the war—that it was of first priority that immediately the war was over the seaside resorts should be rehabilitated in order to ensure that the workers of this country had an opportunity of themselves becoming rehabilitated.

2.48 p.m.

Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)

I should like to make two short points in connection with the coordination mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I hope he will see that this coordination takes place on the ground as well as in his offices. For a short time in Blackpool in the middle of last winter there was a touring circus consisting of representatives of a number of Government Departments. This kind of thing is easier in Blackpool than in other places because there are so many Government Departments already there. However well the Minister coordinates things in his own office it is useless if that coordination does not allow a speedy solution of the problems which confront hotels, both small and large, at the present time. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not leave out of account the many hotels, particularly the large number of small hotels, that carried out special services for the Government during the war, either by turning themselves into offices and having their walls knocked down, or by giving their whole accommodation over to the Government to house Government servants or members of the Forces. Perhaps he will give these people special consideration. They have used up a lot of equipment, and those who have had their houses knocked down sometimes lack bricks which, as his right hon. Friend will tell him, are in superfluity in Blackpool, so that there will be no difficulty in giving those. I hope he will give these people special attention because they have deserved well of him during the war.