HC Deb 19 November 1948 vol 458 cc806-38

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. R. Adams.]

2.50 p.m.

Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

It is customary, I believe, for any hon. Member speaking in this House to disclose his interest in the industry under discussion. My particular interest in the hotel and catering industry is, first and foremost, that it happens to be the largest industry in my constituency. Secondly, I have the honour to be vice-chairman of the Council of the British Hotels and Restaurants Association, and I hasten to say that I get no remuneration from that source, my services being purely honorary and voluntary.

I understand that the Government have a four-year plan for the rehabilitation of the country and that this plan is to be incorporated in the plan of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. According to the "Observer" last Sunday, there is one sentence in the plan of the British Government which says: The Government believes that the tourist trade is of the greatest importance. Plans are being made to modernise hotels and increase their capacity. If one did not know very much about the British hotel industry one would think, from reading that statement of the Government, that they were prepared to do all they reasonably could to make the industry successful. We know from past experience that this is sheer utter nonsense, and in a few minutes I shall try to show what the Government have done, what they have not done, and what they should do to help this important industry.

I begin with food. Over a long period the hotel and catering industry have tried to get an increase in the 5s. maximum limit for meals served in hotels and catering establishments. The 5s. meal limit was agreed in 1942. In 1947 the industry submitted a case to show that for various reasons a 5s. meal in many cases could not be served with any profit at all to the hotelier or caterer. To begin with, since 1942 it is estimated that the cost of food has gone up something like 1s. a meal. Secondly, there has been a considerable increase in wages between 1942 and 1947 amounting, I believe, to about 1s. 6d. a meal, and in addition there have been increased charges for laundry services as well as an increase in maintenance and equipment charges.

We therefore see that even in 1947 it was pretty difficult for any small or medium-sized hotel with medium-sized overhead charges and without any house charge to serve eatable meals at anything like 5s. without making a loss. Since 1947 there has been a further increase in wages. In March of this year there was introduced the Wages Regulation Order, and under that Order it has been estimated that a further 6½d. should be attributed to the cost of a meal because of the increased wages which are paid to the staffs. I believe that we could quite easily remove that 5s. limit altogether. I do not believe that the 5s. limit is any longer serving a useful purpose, because we now see the ordinary laws of supply and demand coming into action.

Any hotel or restaurant which charges too much or which charges a price which is beyond the purse of the person to whom the meal is to be served, or which does not give good service and good value, will no longer secure business. If the 5s. maximum limit could be removed, the smaller establishments with fewer overhead charges and with less expenses would perhaps be encouraged to reduce the maximum price and charge even less than 5s. I believe we should see a resumption of fair competition in this respect.

Then I come to the specific point of the Christmas and New Year holidays. It is an old English custom to indulge in some special celebrations over the Christmas period. We also like some little celebration to see the New Year in, especially in Scotland, and hotels and restaurants naturally want to do their bit. They want to be able to do something a little out of the ordinary to give the festive season a bit of a fillip. It is quite apparent that if these hotels and restaurants are already losing money on the 5s. meal, they will not be able to do anything special for Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Eve.

In the first place, I ask the Minister of Food to reconsider the whole question of the 5s. meal limit. Secondly, hotels and restaurants must be given some authority to increase their charges over the Christmas and other holiday periods. That authority is required immediately if hotels and restaurants are not going to close over the Christmas period because already during the Christmas and bank holiday periods they have to pay something like treble wages to their staffs under the new Wages Regulations.

One of the difficulties which we in this House have to face when we discuss the hotel industry, is that there are so many Ministers concerned. I have finished my point which concerns the Minister of Food. I next turn to the question of equipment. It is agreed that the hotel industry is one of the leading dollar earners in the country, and if the industry is to give satisfactory service, undoubtedly much more equipment must be made available to it. I know that Sir Alexander Maxwell, the chairman of the British Tourist and Holiday Board, has done what he can. He has made representations to the Government, but unfortunately his representations do not always meet with success, and although I would give Sir Alexander the greatest credit for all that he has tried to do, I give His Majesty's Government the very opposite for what little they have done.

Sheets and towels are probably still the most outstanding need, although there are many other outstanding needs. It is no good giving an American visitor a bath towel about the size of a handkerchief. It is no good saying to an American visitor "We can only afford to supply you with one sheet on your bed." If necessary I can give specific instances of visitors being given only one sheet on their beds instead of two. We are told that sheets and towels are needed for the export trade. Of course, they are. So is crockery. But what is the good of giving our overseas competitors sheets, towels, linen and crockery when they are competing with the dollar earning capacity of our hotels in this country? How can British hotels be expected to compete with the foreigners when they are left with few sheets, few towels and only cracked crockery?

Even on the question of building permits, the hotel industry is not being treated fairly. Why should the hotels and restaurants be treated differently from shops and offices? They are of just as much value to the well being of the country, and I repeat they are one of our biggest dollar earners—and I want to ram that point home. Surely, therefore, the new free limit of £1,000 for building repairs should be applicable to this industry. Let the industry be given a chance to modernise itself. The statement on the Four-Year plan says: To modernise hotels and increase their capacity. I suggest that not only have the hotels been prevented from modernising themselves and increasing their capacity, but they have not even been able to renew a great deal of their machinery and equipment which is now out-of-date because of the war years. I also understand that hotels and restaurants are classified as commercial consumers for the purpose of electricity cuts. If they are so classified, why should they be classified differently with regard to building licences?

On the subject of electricity, the British Hotels and Restaurants Association recently made strong representations to the Ministry that they should be one of the bodies to be represented on the consultative councils now being set up under the Electricity Act. In reply to a question of mine in this House, the Minister of Fuel and Power said that among other bodies, the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress, the standing Joint Committee of the Working Women's Organisations, the Women's Voluntary Services and the Electrical Association of Women have been invited to submit nominations for the consultative councils. They may all be admirable bodies. I do not know what the Electrical Association of Women is, but it may be that it is an association to give shocks to men. Why is it that one of the biggest users of electricity throughout the country has not been invited to send a representative?

I now turn to petrol. With regard to the small basic allowance which was all that was available to holiday-makers last year, and which reacted so severely on hotels in the more remote holiday districts, the industry feels that it is wrong to prevent someone from going to one of the outlying holiday destricts because he cannot obtain sufficient petrol to get there and back. I believe that some of my Scottish friends, who will be speaking later in the Debate, will have very much more to say about that subject. A suggestion which I submitted to the Minister was that British citizens who did not take up their £35 allowance for travelling abroad should be given additional petrol for use in this country. That seemed to me to be a very fair thing to do—when one goes abroad one spends foreign currency; if one stays in this country one spends the equivalent amount of foreign currency on an additional petrol allowance. The Minister told me that the scheme was impractical but I do not believe that he had looked into it as much as he should have done, or that it is beyond the wit of man to evolve such a scheme.

I now turn to what is perhaps the most important part of my story—that is the Wages Regulation Order to which I have already referred, and which came into being in March of this year. This order is not working satisfactorily; in fact, that is putting it mildly. It is creating chaos and havoc in the industry, and I do not believe that, generally speaking, it is acceptable to the management or to the staff. It has dealt the hotel industry one of its most severe blows, if not the severest blow it has ever received. Everyone wishes to see the workers in the hotel industry protected from exploitation, but the only effect of this order has been to make it necessary for hotels to close, thereby creating unemployment.

I should like to give examples of some of the anomalies arising out of this order, and also some of its effects. In the first place, in a few instances the extra cost of operating the order has been passed on to the guests without any reduction of service—but I would remind the House that this cannot be done in the case of meals. In other cases efforts have been made to maintain the services by managers relieving the staff and working very long hours themselves. Many establishments have been very reluctant to lose the good will of their visitors, with the result that many places have decided to keep open for this year, at any rate, at a loss. In the majority of cases the services have been very drastically curtailed in one or more of the following ways.

The establishments in some cases have closed down altogether during the winter, and in other cases it is intended to close down during the Christmas and Easter holidays, or to give only a token service at these times. The period during which meals can be served is to be reduced. Afternoon teas are no longer to be served, and no light refreshments are to be given after a certain time in the evening. Early departures and late arrivals cannot possibly be served. Bedroom services are also to be drastically reduced, and the holding of functions, such as dinners and so forth, will be either suspended altogether or greatly reduced.

The position of the small seasonal hotel is particularly difficult. The employment of additional staff is probably not practicable, which means that the existing staff have to work longer hours on overtime and "spread over" duties. The cost of the overtime has to be passed on to the guests, or the service has to be very much reduced. Many of these small hotels cater for people with small means, and therefore the cost of holidays for the middle-classes and the workers will be greatly increased.

I now wish to turn to some of the anomalies. The first example I wish to give, which is a true case, is that of a waiter normally working eight hours a day, who starts at 7 a.m. and finishes at 9 p.m.—during that period he actually works only for about seven or eight hours. If a guest arrives a quarter of an hour late because his train is late or his car has broken down, it will cost the employer 17s. 2¾d. extra to retain the services of the waiter. I also know of a case of a restaurant which served a late meal sitting on a Bank Holiday, with the result that the manager had to pay £25 in additional wages which meant that he made a substantial loss.

In addition, there are complex calculations to be made. The rate of pay for a stillroom maid works out at something like 1s. 6d. and one-eighth of a penny per hour. If she works overtime the first two hours work out at 1s. 10d. and 21/22nds of a penny. The next three hours work out at 2s. 3d. and 3/16ths of a penny, and any other at 3s. 0¼d. If it is spread over more than 12 hours, although she actually works only eight hours, there is an extra amount of 1.13/16ths of a penny for each hour worked, and if the duty is spread over 14 hours the pay is doubled. The effect on the hotels has been disastrous, and I have here one or two comments from hotels as to how the position affects them. One considerable tourist centre receiving visitors from overseas says: We cannot pretend to give service nowadays—as the overtime to staff plus the high wages make the work impossible. Therefore, we have now no hall porter, no page, no room service, no maids after 8 p.m., no early breakfasts and no one to meet the trains. I have a comment from my own constituency which says: The payment of treble wages for bank and customary holidays will stop us from offering any facilities to 'chance' customers for meals. It is not desired by any member of the staff, who consider treble wages stupid and unfair, because of course they know these treble wages are going to force the hotels to close down on Christmas and bank holidays.

Another tourist centre writes: Tourists and overseas visitors have on many occasions been turned away because I have had to send my staff off duty, and as the next nearest hotel is 10 miles away their chances of a meal have been very poor. He writes that in spite of the common law obligation which imposes upon an inn-keeper the duty of serving a meal if he can. Another comment from my own constituency says: The staff generally, whilst perfectly willing to give service as in the past, have often to be forcibly sent off duty, and resent this very much. Finally, there is one other comment I should like to give. It says this: This year we are closing for Christmas, the first time in over 100 years. I had a party of chance people who required a dinner at 8.30 but unfortunately they were late, resulting in a cost of £15 extra in wages to serve them. In conclusion, I suggest that the Government have given scant or little consideration to the hotel catering industry, and in view of the fact that it is the third or fourth largest industry in this country I cannot understand why the Government do not give the industry more assistance. I should like to give one other example of the way in which this great industry is treated by members of the Government themselves. Recently the British hotels and Restaurants Association had their first big conference, and although many Members of the Government were invited to attend, not one member of the Government was able to accept; whereas, if any of us go to a film premiere we will see more Cabinet Ministers than film stars.

Mr. Bottomley (Secretary for Overseas Trade)

I accepted.

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry; it may be true that the hon. Gentleman accepted, but he was nevertheless not able to attend. I repeat that this industry is one of the biggest earners of hard currency in the country and we hope that its capacity for earning dollars will be increased. It will not be increased until some of the over-burdening handicaps which have been imposed upon the industry are removed. I can only assume that it is the Government's intention to bring this industry down to such a low level that they will be able to turn round and say, "Because you have not been doing your job, we will now nationalise you."

3.15 p.m.

Sir Stanley Holmes (Harwich)

We have just listened to a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) which has with great cogency set out the difficulties and tribulations under which the hotel and catering industry has been suffering for the past three years. It is well that he gave details of so many of their difficulties, it is well to call the attention of the Government to them, and it is well that the public should know. If it is correct that we want to encourage as many visitors as possible to come from overseas to our shores, especially from hard currency countries, then something more must be done to assist the hotel and catering industry.

My hon. Friend referred briefly to what will happen in this country at Christmas. I want to devote myself, therefore, entirely to this domestic matter, because it is affecting not merely the hotel and catering industry, but also the public. In the days of our grandfathers and grandmothers it was customary for the family gathering to be held at home at Christmas. Friends and relations all went to these, and there were few Christmas dinners sought at hotels and restaurants. However, during the past two generations the tendency to have family parties or parties of friends at hotels and restaurants has grown steadily. It has grown all the more in the past three years owing to the difficulty of getting adequate provisions at home for the family party.

Furthermore, besides going to a restaurant or hotel in one's own town on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Eve, many people have taken advantage of the opportunity at Christmas time of going away for a few days, particularly to hotels on the sea coast. Indeed, last year it would have been difficult for anybody to find a room in any of our seaside towns at Christmas time. Another reason why people are going to hotels and restaurants, or away for the Christmas period, is to give the housewife a chance; to let her off one or two meals without having to organise them, to find the food, to cook them, to do the washing up. Still more does that apply if the family can go away to the seaside for three or four days and she has a complete rest from her family duties during that time.

This is being made quite impossible this year by reason of the increased wages which are battened down upon the hotel owner and the restaurant keeper as a result of the wages scheme which came into force at the beginning of April this year. Treble wages have to be paid in hotels and restaurants during the Christmas and the New Year periods. It is quite impossible for the hotel keeper to pay those wages and to pay his way when he is not allowed, even although he has to pay treble wages, to charge more than 5s. for a meal.

Last week my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne asked a Question on this matter. Following the Minister's answer I ventured to ask a supplementary question—whether he did not think that the public, knowing that hotels and catering establishments had to pay treble wages, would not be willing themselves to make an extra contribution to the cost of their meal in order to meet the extra charges? The Minister answered, That is a matter of opinion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 1244.] I hope that answer did not mean that, while I was of opinion that the public would be agreeable, the Minister was of the opinion that the public would not be willing to do so. I hope he will reconsider this matter. He said—I think it was in his constituency—last week-end that he was going to try to do something but that it would not be very much. All that he told us here was that he would try to do something about crackers. I could not help feeling that that was an excellent word adequately to describe the Minister's attitude on this matter.

The people of this country have been worn down by the life they had to lead during the war—that was compulsory and accepted generally—and the life they have had to lead during the past three years. They have got used to controls. They do not seem to have the spirit to fight against them. They have become used to ever-increasing prices. I cannot believe that, in order to have a family party or to have a party of friends for Christmas, Boxing Day or the New Year, the public themselves would not be willing to pay a little more so that the hotel keeper, whilst, probably, not making a profit, might at any rate be able to make ends meet by getting something extra.

I venture to hope that the hon. Lady will be able to tell us that the thousands of men, women and children throughout the country who would like to go to hotel or restaurant during the Christmas season will be able to do so by some concession on behalf of the Minister of Food.

3.23 p.m.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) about the plight of hotels now that they have to pay a living wage to their workers. I can quite understand his feeling. But there is a mighty differ- ence now from the pre-war days, when hotels could get aliens to work for nothing and to depend solely on tips. What has happened is that the Catering Wages Board was set up. With its representatives of the employers, on the one side, and the workers, on the other side, were two independent members. Surely, they have the means in their own hands to decide what rates of pay should operate. This is not a question in which the Government should interfere, but a matter for the Wages Board, upon which the hotel proprietors are represented. The remedy is in their own hands.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

They will all be shut by the time that machinery has been gone through.

Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)


Mr. Leslie

They are closing because they have to pay a wage now which they did not have to pay before. That is the real reason. They have the solution in their own hands. All they have to do is to put before the Catering Wages Board the fact that they cannot pay these rates of wages, and try to get them amended. It is a simple matter.

3.25 p.m.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I wish to support the very energetic and inspiring plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor). Let me at once disclose the fact that I am associated with the hotel industry, in a very modest way, as director of a group of hotels on whose board I represent debenture shareholders. The hotel industry is being crippled from week to week by restrictions imposed upon it by His Majesty's Government. No one realises the difficulties of the industry more than the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, and with every representation I and other hon. Members made to her, she has expressed sympathy.

We are trying to bring people from all over the world to this "green and pleasant land." It is a curious paradox in our social life that the Government are inviting people through every kind of organisation to visit us and yet are crippling those who have to provide accommodation for those visitors. I suggest that the hon. Lady ought to hammer some common sense into her colleagues. She has all the constituents of common sense. I am always pleased to see her in this House and admire the way in which she tackles her duties as one of His Majesty's Ministers. Here is a great opportunity for her to do something for an interest which can make a substantial contribution to the dollar-earning capacity of the nation, and which itself as an industry has far-reaching consequences to the employment of large numbers of people.

Apart altogether from the seaside hotels, we have our residential hotels. I lived half my life in the Queen's Hotel, Birmingham. The difficulties in the management of that hotel and other hotels which have come under the Transport Commission have increased tenfold because of the operation of the various restrictions imposed by legislation and Departmental orders in this House. The trouble with staff, difficulty of arranging holidays, and so on, and the limitation placed on the opportunity for giving free play to the development of an hotel to attract visitors is one of the scandals of our time. I see two representatives of His Majesty's Government sitting side by side on the Front Bench. "They grow in beauty side by side." Can they not do something to bring some sort of help to this industry to get it out of the morass into which it has fallen?

3.28 p.m.

Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)

The trouble with hon. Members opposite is that they assume that there is a high technical level among the people who run the hotel industry of this country. I can testify from rather bitter personal experience over many years that that is a long way from being the case. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who ought to know better, in talking of these things wants the House to believe that hotels are unable to pass on to the consumer added costs involved as a result of recent legislation.

In this country there is a very unhappy institution known as "bed and breakfast." It is an institution which is universal in our country. They charge for bed and breakfast and there is nothing whatever to prevent them increasing, and increasing very substantially, the bed and breakfast charge, without giving a better breakfast at all. I often pay anything from 18s. 6d. upwards. It depends on the hotel to which one goes, but it is as much as 27s. 6d. for a bed which is just the same as it was before these added charges came into effect and for a breakfast which is sometimes worse. The trouble with some hoteliers is that even if one gives them a perfectly good, succulent kipper—and a kipper is one of those articles of food which is special to this country, and we know how to produce it better than other countries do—they cannot prepare it and bring it to the table decently. Let the hon. Gentleman encourage his constituents to learn the technique of their trade.

It happened that quite by accident, when I was a very impressionable young man before the first world war, I took a job in Belgium. I did not know what was going to happen to me when I did so. I had not been there for long before I found that my poor dear mother had not known all the ways of preparing fish. I discovered that there were other ways of eating fish as well as having it boiled. I discovered in Belgium at the age of 22 that there were other sauces as well as what is known in this country as melted butter.

The trouble so far as some constituents of the hon. Member for Eastbourne are concerned and the trouble with their industry generally, is that they do not all know their business. Since I took that job in Belgium as a young man I have wandered many miles off the beaten track in the Western part of the Continent of Europe. Do I not know how much better they do these things on that side of the Channel—as they did in the eighteenth century—in all that pertains to the day to day management of hotels? It is no use the hon. Member for Eastbourne coming along and pleading, with tears in his eyes, for these people when what is really the matter with them is that they need teaching their trade, just that.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not give the hon. Member for Eastbourne any change in this matter of the 5s. I will tell the House why. I represent an industrial constituency in which the ordinary electors are very good dollar earners, skilled mechanics and techni- cians. I sat down with 50 of them and their wives last evening at a smoking concert in a room over a public house. The occasion was strictly non-political. We get on very well, those skilled technicians and their wives and I. In the course of my political work I have represented to them that our country is more or less in the position of a city in a state of siege. I wonder what hon. Members opposite would think if there was a siege, and it was suggested that the officers' mess, and only the officers' mess, should have additional rations for Christmas? How would they feel? Hon. Members opposite would recoil with horror at the bare idea. They would resent it very much. There is not an hon. Member opposite to whom such an idea would ever occur. Every one of us would be much too decent to suggest or even to think of any such thing. But that is how this suggestion sounds to those skilled technicians and their wives with whom I had cheese cobs and pints of ale last night.

If I went to Nottingham and attended an event of that kind after the Parliamentary Secretary had said "All right, they shall charge more than the 5s. for a meal," what would they say to me? They would say, "Have you not told us that the country is in a state of siege? We cannot spend 5s. on a meal." Some of us on this side of the House go to much trouble, at the risk of damping the enthusiasm of our supporters, to induce the industrial classes of this country to collaborate wholeheartedly with the Government in operating the wage stop and all that it implies. It will make it much harder for us to do that—especially when we have people who, not in good faith, are stirring up trouble behind our backs and on our flanks—if the Parliamentary Secretary gives way to the hon. Member for Eastbourne.

I do not believe in austerity. There is no hon. Member of this House who likes austerity less than I do. I am not in the least ashamed to say that I like eating, and I get pleasure from good food. I am humbly thankful that I married a wife who is a good cook. But really it is a complete fallacy to suppose that the excellence of the meal is a mathematical function of the amount of money spent on it. It is not. An excellent meal can be obtained without paying more than 5s. and I think it is rather indecent to suggest, at a time when we are asking people to work very hard and accept austerity that a few people going from one Grand Hotel to the next Grand Hotel should be allowed to spend more than 5s. on a meal.

I could get a meal for 5s. Give me 5s. to spend and let me select the ingredients and, with the aid of my wife, I will give a repast fit for anyone. I can go to restaurants in London and in this country where I can get a meal for less than 5s. and I think it is a little disgusting to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to lift that 5s. limit. I have had little change out of her in the past. She has never done much for me but I hope that on this occasion she will listen to my plea. The speeches from hon. Members opposite, if they mean anything, are a plea for the continuance of as much ostentation as possible in all that pertains to public eating, and to hotel accommodation. I would rather see the development of really efficient hotels which do not seek to give differential service for differential charges. I would rather see the development of hotels concerned not so much to give scope for ostentation as to provide comfort for people who are reasonably capable of looking after themselves.

I am wholly out of sympathy with the views expressed by hon. Members opposite. They are based on a misconception and on the existence of a general low standard of knowledge, particularly of the culinary art, in this country, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will get no change from the Parliamentary Secretary.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Gandar Dower (Caithness and Sutherland)

I wish wholeheartedly to thank the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) for raising the difficulties of the catering trade. I was fortunate in March to be able to draw the attention of the House to the difficulty of the hotel trade in the rural districts of Scotland caused by paucity of petrol allowance. Therefore, if I confine myself to the effect of the Catering Wages Act on Scottish rural hotels I hope I shall be forgiven.

I do not think the Act was one of the brightest pieces of legislation which has passed through this House. It endeavoured to standardise from Piccadilly to the rural districts of Sutherland the same rates of wages and hours. I learnt the effect of this hopeless doctrine in 1933, when after the collapse of American economy, N.R.A. tried to standardise the cost of haircuts from Fifth Avenue to Calgary.

Hon. Members will remember that Lord Hacking, though under the stress of war, fought vigorously to prove by commonsense arguments that when this Act was applied it would fail to work. However, I feel that its future effect was not then fully realised. Every hon. Member must know and consider the effect of legislation on his own constituency. Therefore, if on behalf of Scotland—I do not think that any Scottish Member has yet spoken—I draw the attention of Members to what that Act has done to the rural districts of Caithness and Sutherland, I hope I may be forgiven. In that part of the country, hotels are often 10 or 15 miles apart and conditions are quite different from those in-the West End of London. I say with sincerity and without exaggeration that we find a great falling off in standards despite the fact that hotel proprietors are sacrificing their health in order to maintain comfort for their guests. In the season they work 16 hours a day and sometimes more. The highest credit is due to these proprietors who without consideration of the effect on themselves are endeavouring to maintain past standards and find it impossible to do so.

Where there is a seasonal trade there must be give and take on hours of labour. Some hon. Members will know Switzerland. They will appreciate that in the season the Swiss staff do not mind how hard they work, because between the seasons they are allowed to take things easily. That kind of condition must be applied to seasonal hotels in Scotland and to a less degree to England and Wales. The Scottish hotel season lasts from 15th June to 15th September, and the winter season from eight to nine months. What happens to the hotel staffs in the winter? They cease to be employees waiting on guests. They become more or less members of the family waiting on the family. There is little entertainment in Scottish villages except dances, a high standard of local theatricals and the B.B.C. Also, of course, there are the inevitable football pools which are disturbing this House sufficiently without any further reference.

We all appreciate the importance of attracting American tourists to this country so that we can secure their invaluable dollars. Hon. Members know that Americans inevitably have Scottish ancestry. That is one of the reasons why America is so great. As an Englishman who has lived in Scotland for 18 years, I hope that this House will not provide any sop to Scottish Nationalism and will not give any other example of English stupidity applied to Scottish conditions. In the season many people go fishing. I do not know why it is, but fish often bite late at night. When one comes back at midnight with a couple of fish—the largest the hotel has ever seen—there is an unhappy atmosphere when one is told that the late hour has cost the management an extra pound. Then, there is no consideration for unpunctual arrival, due to roads. I have known motorists happily consider that they can take Sutherland roads at 20 miles per hour, but I discovered, during an Election tour, that 12 miles per hour was sometimes the limit. There is also the question of breakdown, with garages five or 10 miles apart, and the question of late trains, and I would ask the House to examine the unpunctuality of trains running to Wick or Thurso.

It is usual to wind up with a peroration. I would like to remind the House of the picture drawn by Dickens of Pickwick—that wonderful paunch, which I have tried to emulate. The Minister of Food has done much to reduce that paunch. I beg him however not to introduce a new kind of hotel welcome—"Get up those stairs—lights out—or pay £1 to the night porter."

3.47 p.m.

Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

Like the other hon. Members who have spoken, I should like to express my gratitude to my hon. Friend who opened this Debate for giving us an opportunity of placing certain facts before the Parliamentary Secretary, in the hope that she will take some notice of our grievances and do something to put them right. Like other hon. Members, I was horrified the other day when I heard the Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), answered in the way it was answered by the Minister of Food. My hon. Friend asked what provision was being made for an increased charge for meals at Christmas and the New Year, and the answer of the Minister was that no extra charge would be allowed for meals, because that was a horrifying thought to him. The Minister did say, however, that he might be able to allow an extra charge for crackers.

I think that is the most hypocritical thing which I have heard in this House for a very long time, and it is typical of the sort of thing that is going on, which is leading to wangling at all levels in this country, bringing the law into disrepute and discrediting this great nation. This hypocrisy runs through the whole of our system, and it is due to the attitude of Government Departments towards these regulations. First, they impose impossible regulations, which they refuse to revoke, and then they employ snoopers to go round prosecuting people. Then, we even hear of snoopers prosecuting snoopers, and that sort of thing goes on until the whole Government is in disrepute.

I cannot understand why the Minister sticks so rigidly to this 5s. limit on meals. He has told us that the catering industry can put the facts before the Catering Wages Board, and that they would be considered, but that has been done for years. This 5s. rule was imposed in 1942, and, practically ever since, the industry has been trying to convince the Catering Wages Board that they cannot possibly provide 5s. meals today in any of the first-class hotels in the country and make a profit. Why is it possible for the Board of Trade, for instance, to subsidise the tourist board, which has high officials who are sent to America to encourage dollar tourists to come here? They come here on luxury liners like the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth," which, I am glad to say, are beautifully fitted out in great luxury, on which no Purchase Tax is paid; they are served with magnificent meals, and then are placed on special trains for London and taken to hotels whose proprietors have to pay Purchase Tax on all their equipment, furnishings and linen and everything that goes into the hotel and catering industry.

We have here a representative of the Board of Trade. He must know that it is utterly useless to subsidise the tourist industry in this country, if tourists are to be treated in that way by the Board of Trade and by the Ministry of Food when they come here. I hope that they will do away with the anomaly which imposes such heavy restrictions on the hotel and catering industry as-distinct from the shipping and transport industry, although both industries are doing the same job. Where is the fairness and justice in that differential treatment?

What the Tourist Board is doing today, because of this limit of 5s. the Ministry of Food imposes on the price of meals in hotels, is to subsidise tourist industries in Continental countries. Americans are not going to come here under these conditions. They will go to the Continent where they can get 100 litres of petrol on arrival and live in hotels that are generally subsidised by governments in re-equipping themselves, and where they can spend as much as they like on food or drink at any time of the day or night. The average American or Canadian, or visitor from some other dollar area, wants to have a holiday when he comes to Europe. He will not find it if he comes here at Christmas or at the New Year. He will find the hotels and catering establishments closed in his face.

That is certainly the case in my constituency. We had hotels opened last year which had not been opened for years because of the war. They were full of visitors last Christmas, and they all enjoyed themselves. What is to happen this year as a result of these crippling and stupid wages regulations? I am not opposed to good wages in hotels and restaurants, believe me; I am opposed to the stupid way the regulations are composed. Many hotels in my constituency are to close down this winter, if they have not already been closed. Only the other day in my constituency I went to an hotel where they pride themselves on giving first-class service. They had many guests there. I went to have some tea before going to a meeting, but when I asked for tea I was told, "We are very sorry, Sir, but we no longer serve tea." When I asked how the visitors got on I was told, "They have to take it or leave it, because we cannot, owing to the new wages regulations, keep a staff on in the afternoons to serve tea." That is only one example out of dozens.

It is time that the Minister of Food and the Government generally faced up to the realities of the situation and did something about the Catering Wages Board. When we examine the membership of the Board we find people on it who know nothing about the hotel and catering industry. I was one of those who were opposed to the Catering Wages Bill when it was rushed through this House during the war in the absence of our own leader who was abroad. It was rushed through at the behest of the then Minister of Labour who is now the Foreign Secretary. We regarded it as a breach of faith, which is what it was. We then warned him what the effect would be. We warned him that the Board would be placed in the hands of people who knew nothing about the industry.

That is what has happened. We said it was a ramp to get the 500,000 people in the industry into trade unions. That is what has happened, and that is why these crazy regulations are being imposed on the industry today. The people on the Wages Board who represent these trade unions are pressing for conditions which they know full well are impossible, in order to encourage people in the industry to join those unions. In my constituency there are hoteliers who say that their summer staffs are today walking the streets idle because those hoteliers are not allowed to employ them for anything below summer wages.

A short while ago reference was made to class distinction and the provision of better food in an officers' mess than in other messes. I do not know what the hon. Member knows about stations, but not so long ago I was on a station where I was responsible for the administration. There was no distinction at all on that station. We all had very good Christmas fare. The men's mess had turkey and all the things which people expect at Christmas. The sergeants' mess was equally well served, and the men's mess was served by the officers, which is a custom in the Service. There is no question of distinction whatever. It is a question of everybody being given a little extra at Christmas or New Year which they do not normally get during the rest of the year.

I hope, that now, nearly four years after the end of the war, that the Govern- ment will consider making a statement at an early date in order that these people may make up their minds whether they can provide any additional fare for the Christmas season. I hope the hon. Lady will be able to make a statement so that these people know where they stand.

3.58 p.m.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

The effect of these regulations on the tourist trade from abroad has been adequately dealt with today. I want to refer to the effect on the holiday-making public in this country. I have always taken the view that the cost of living includes the cost of reasonable holiday making and the cost of reasonable happiness. The cost of short holidays is increasing, not just because wages have increased but because in certain parts of the country wages rules have been applied which are entirely unsuited to the needs of that part of the catering industry.

Blackpool hotels—and I speak about them particularly—have not the same conditions or the same aims as the big hotels in London. They have not even exactly the same conditions and aims as the big hotels in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor). It is ridiculous to have a set of wage regulations which are applied overall to achieve the same flat average to deal with all the different conditions in the different hotels. I wish the hon. Lady would ask the Minister of Labour to have another look at this point. I do not object to fair wage regulations, but the wage conditions of people working in the hotels of which I know were very good before this order came into effect. That is the point. It is useless trying to impose the same wage conditions in hotels all over the country. That way will lead to the disorganisation of the hotel industry.

It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]

Mr. Low

That way will lead either to the raising of prices or to the lowering of services, neither of which I believe the hon. Lady or the Government want to see and neither of which I want to see. I want to see an increase of services and a lowering of prices.

4.1 p.m.

Major McCallum (Argyle)

I want to plead with the hon. Lady for the Scottish hotel industry in particular. I think that she will know that the Scottish Tourist Board, through their chairman, Mr. Thomas Johnson, have made very strong representations on the effect of this Wages Catering Regulation on the remote Scottish hotels on which the Scottish tourist industry must obviously depend. When I heard the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) talking about the hotel industry, I gathered that he had not the vaguest idea of how the greater part of the hotel industry works in the Scottish islands. He may know something about the city hotels but, on the islands of Scotland, there are hotels which have of necessity to be open during the middle of the night. Small boats arrive with people during the middle of the night, and the hotel keepers today, in view of the wages which they have to pay and the restrictions on the hours of work, cannot keep going. They have to close down the hotels, and travellers are stuck for anywhere to stay. I know from my own experience, in my own constituency, that I have had to beg accommodation from private individuals because hotels have had to close down. I ask, therefore, that special attention be given to the question of the hotel industry in the North of Scotland.

4.3 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)

In his desire to help the tourist industry, the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) made an astonishing suggestion which I think is hardly likely to appear in the official programme of the Conservative Party. He said that in order to encourage tourists to travel to this country, the Government should, if necessary, subsidise the hotel industry.

Sir P. Macdonald

I did not say anything of the sort. I said that the tourists should have the same facilities in the hotels as they have on the ships, and that there should be a reduction of Purchase Tax.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

The position in connection with the various pleas put forward by way of encouraging tourists to come to this country, especially those tourists who spend hard currency, is this: First of all, tourists who come to this country—and we are all pleased to see them—are already getting valuable concessions in the way of petrol, exemption from coupons, Purchase Tax and things of that kind. I ask myself whether they are to be given further concessions and the privilege of having meals not available to the general public. That is really not going to make the tourist traffic in this country at all popular, because 99.9 per cent. of the people of this country cannot afford to spend anything like 5s. for a meal. The arguments which have been adduced in favour of a very small and limited class, and for the extension of special privileges to tourists from abroad are not likely to commend themselves, if carried to the extreme limit advocated by hon. Members opposite, to the general opinion of this country and to people who are finding it extremely difficult to make both ends meet.

4.6 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

In view of the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite, I should like to know whether the Government are in agreement with those speeches. Judging from the speech of the hon. Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), it would appear that the last thing that we want to do is to make British hotels of such a character that people from overseas will visit them.

I understood that it was an important part of Government policy to attract overseas visitors to this country, especially from America, and to see that as many as possible of the British people with the necessary wealth to afford to pay for holidays overseas, spend their holidays in this country, and spend their money here rather than spend it overseas. I ask the Government to state whether that is their policy or not. If it is their policy, I hope that the hon. Lady will say a word in rebuke of the speech to which we have just listened. I cannot imagine a speech which is more likely to deter foreigners from coming to this country. In effect, the hon. and gallant Member said that we did not want them; they are wealthy people; they will annoy the people of this country; let them stay away. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will entirely repudiate the view put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton).

I want to put three very specific questions to the hon. Lady. I want to ask her, in view of the evidence brought forward by my hon. Friends who represent constituencies where the hotel industry is important, and particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) in his very admirable speech, how if we are to compete with foreign hotels—and every hotel above a certain standard in this country is competing with foreign hotels for tourist traffic and to prevent people from this country going overseas—they can possibly compete if they are to provide a 5s. meal, if they are not allowed to have any new equipment—and I can give personal instances where hotels have been forbidden equipment—and if they are to have this fantastic regulation imposed on them? I challenge the hon. Lady to tell us whether there is a single country in Europe, which is in competition in the hotel industry with this country, where these three formidable handicaps are imposed.

In my opinion, the British hotel industry is being abominably treated. Many ex-Service men who put their money into it arc losing their money because they cannot carry on, and many members of the catering trade, cooks, waiters and so on, are being thrown out of work, or will be thrown out of work, because of the conditions which are being imposed. I would go further and say that the British hotel industry is more handicapped, harassed, interfered with and spied on by Government Departments, local authorities and the police than the hotel industry of any other country where catering for foreign visitors is an important invisible export. I challenge the hon. Lady and her supporters in this Debate, or in any future debate, to tell me of any other country in Europe where the law, the regulations or the interpretation of policy is so severe as in the case of the hotel industry of this country. It is only fair to say that to some extent this has always been the case, and to say that it is not entirely the fault of the present Government.

I must say that most of the enactments in regard to British hotels are simply fantastically out of date. Take the question of the ventilation regulations for bathrooms and w.c's. One of the main reasons why it is impossible to provide bathrooms and w.c's. for every room, which is what every tourist and visitor demands, is because this ridiculous regulation has been imposed on the hotel industry. Far worse than that, and far worse than the regulations imposed by the Government on the hotel industry, is the attitude of the law. As one who usually supports the police, I take this opportunity to say that many police authorities show a most fussy attitude towards the licensed trade generally. If I all the time they take to detect the slightest infringement of the law by hotels was devoted to preventing more serious I crime, there would not be so many criminals abroad today. That is the advice I give to a number of chief constables.

While the situation has always been bad, I consider that this Government, by its statements and its policy, has made the position infinitely worse. Obviously the Government hate the type of hotel which caters for the most valuable foreign tourist—the rich man. It hates the so called luxury hotel and always gets in sly attacks on these hotels, not forgetting those by members of the Front Bench including the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, except, of course, at the time of their official conference when it appears that hotels are useful, judging from recent information.

I end by making a specific charge which I commend to the notice of the hotel industry and that is that this Government are steadily and deliberately trying to denigrate the big hotels, suggesting that they are the resort of the worthless, and idle rich, and handicapping them and indeed all other hotels which are in competition with our rivals for the tourist trade overseas with their absurd and inadequate price limitation for meals. One hon. Gentleman on the other side asked what about other businesses where the cost of labour has gone up. The answer to that is simple. In such businesses where the cost of labour has risen there is nothing to prevent them charging more for the goods they manufacture, but hotels are not allowed to charge more for their meals. Wages and costs and indeed everything has gone up to a large extent but this limitation is still imposed upon them.

I further charge the Government with the ultimate determination, in accordance with their long-term policy which is becoming more and more apparent as we go on, to nationalise the whole licensed trade. That is the long-term policy, and speeches such as we have heard from the two back bench supporters of the Government today are admirable preparation, what I might call ground furrowing, for that scheme. For a series of years they have denigrated the industry. They say that it is a rotten industry run by capitalists for capitalists and that it treats its workers badly. There will be a few Ministers' speeches which will call attention to this matter and finally in a King's Speech will come the determination to nationalise.

Through this House I say to the licensing trade that they had better be aware of the intentions of the Government, as shown in another Bill recently presented which we must not discuss today but on another occasion, and when this matter comes before us we shall discuss it very fully indeed. Meanwhile I beg the hon. Lady to take heed of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne and answer his speech. Perhaps she will tell us how she supposes that in present conditions the hotel industry could possibly carry on and prosper.

4.14 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summerskill)

I have listened very carefully to every speech that has been made. Most of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken represent seaside resorts and, therefore, I can quite understand that they feel very strongly on the question of conditions obtaining in the hotel industry. I must confess that 95 per cent. of the speeches that have been made have been criticism of the operation of the Catering Wages Act, an Act which was passed by the Coalition Government. When the right hon. Gentleman the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) rose just now and asked me questions, challenging me and attacking the Government, I again listened carefully, but not one of those questions of his really related to what, after all, is the concern of my Department in this Debate—whether the 5s. maximum charge for meals adequately covers the cost of food. I was very much surprised at the noble Lord with his experience of this House not realising that I cannot encroach upon the province of another Department. Does he not realise that that is what it means when he gets up here in this emotional condition and asks me to reply for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is responsible for operating the Catering Wages Board.

Sir P. Macdonald

We asked for him to be here. Why is he not here?

Dr. Summerskill

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who gave notice to raise this question on the Motion for the Adjournment, invited me to be here. I tried to contact him on many occasions so that I might coach him for this occasion. I realised that probably he was going to put his foot in it. During the last 24 hours he has been running round different Government Departments—I would not have revealed this if the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) had not intervened—asking Ministers at the last minute, all of them, to come along here in order that they might hear what has been said.

Mr. C. S. Taylor rose—

Dr. Summerskill

I must have time. If only he had responded to my frequent telephone messages to his home, to the House, if he had responded to my P.P.S.—I have done everything except run after him round the Library—we would have had a quiet chat and I would have explained to him carefully the operation of this Act, about which everybody feels strongly. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Gandar Dower) honestly said that he was going to devote the whole of his speech to the operation of this Act. On an Adjournment it is right for hon. Members to discuss any question they like, and they cannot be ruled out of Order. Therefore, I sat back and listened to them, but it would be quite improper for me to encroach upon the work of another Government Department.

Mr. Taylor

May I answer——

Dr. Summerskill

The hon. Gentleman and his Friends have had an hour and a half and I have only 12 minutes.

Mr. Taylor

But the hon. Lady—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Lady has made certain accusations against me, and I want only to put her right in the nicest possible way.

Dr. Summerskill

I do not want to encroach upon your preserves, Mr. Speaker, but I do not think that is a point of Order, and I think I am justified in demanding 12 minutes. I fully realise that when hon. Gentlemen opposite think of catering, they probably think of my Department but, as I have already said one part of that work is administered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. The operations of the Tourist Board are administered by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. Another hon. Member said he wanted to devote himself to the need for petrol. Petrol, of course, is the concern of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power.

Mr. Taylor

What about the questions on food?

Dr. Summerskill

Therefore, I must ask hon. Members opposite to understand why I can only devote myself to the limited question of food and why, in our opinion, at the moment it would be unwise in the interests of the people of this country to increase the maximum price of meals.

Hon. Gentlemen have talked about the prices of sheets and blankets and so on, and they have pleaded that the maximum price of meals should be increased in order that hotel proprietors can buy these goods. They must realise, however, that if the maximum price were increased there is no guarantee that that money would be spent on necessary sheets; it might well be spent on other food, with the result that hotels would tend to buy up the un-rationed food which housewives need today in order to supplement their rations. That is why, in the first place, we tried to stabilise the price at 5s. and in some cases to reduce the price of meals, if possible. In order to help the hotel proprietor we limited the number of courses to three, so that customers would not demand an extravagant meal. And again in order to help the hotel proprietor, we limited the amount of food he could serve by limiting our allocations.

I am surprised that hon. Members representing what might be regarded as hotel constituencies have not raised the matter of house charges. I must remind the House of these charges. So far as service is concerned, hotel owners may charge 6d. for every 5s. spent. For a private room, an additional charge of 2s. 6d. can be made for every person. A further 2s. 6d. can be charged for dancing and cabaret, and 4s. more for the service of not less than six oysters. Further—this is very important—any charge can be made for coffee or for drinks with the exception of beer. My hon. Friends behind me asked whether hon. Members opposite thought that hotel owners were not aware of these charges and powers which they possessed, and that they did not put a little extra upon these particular items. I think that my hon. Friends were right—hotel proprietors are fully aware of what they can do.

Furthermore, during the last two or three years the number of hotels able to make house charges had been increased. I want hon. Members to listen to what the most exclusive type of catering establishment can charge today. For lunch in a private room they may, if they wish, charge 15s. and, if oysters are served, another 4s., apart from the charge for coffee or other drinks. For dinner in a similar establishment they can charge 18s. plus, again, 4s. extra for oysters and anything they like for coffee or drinks.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

And do not forget the paper hat charge.

Dr. Summerskill

I suggest that if the most exclusive restaurants in the country can charge these amounts, the hon. Member for Eastbourne should realise that we have met their point.

Before I came to the House I asked what could be charged by the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne. The hon. Member who asks that people should go for Christmas to the big hotels in Eastbourne might like to hear those prices. In the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne lunch served in a private room with music would cost 11s.—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite have raised the question of parties at Christmas. They are asking for people to be bright and cheerful, to introduce the Christmas spirit and to encourage people to come from abroad. Is the hon. Member for Eastbourne laughing at music in the Eastbourne hotels?

Mr. Taylor

No, I am laughing at the private room with music. Do not forget the paper hats and crackers.

Dr. Summerskill

I do not know what is the hon. Gentleman's conception of a private room. We probably differ on that important point.

But I want to approach these problems in quite a different way. When I think of a private room with two or three people and soft music I imagine I am thinking of the kind of party for which hon. Members opposite are asking for Christmas. Referring again to the prices which can be charged in Eastbourne, the price for dinner can be 14s. 6d. plus the charges I have mentioned. I suggest, therefore, that if hon. Gentlemen feel that the hotels are being dealt with perhaps harshly they should consider these facts a little more thoroughly and will realise that our most exclusive hotels are doing exceedingly well.

I understand that these requests for consideration are made for the coming Christmas holiday. I appreciate that the hon. Member's office is an honorary one, but does he know that my Department asked his organisation to let us know their costs to enable us to consider this question? We never turn down a request of this kind without carefully considering the situation. Time after time we have asked them to allow us to have their costings so that we could carefully consider their case. No hon. Member opposite would be willing that my Department should increase the maximum price before assuring ourselves that that price was justified. The hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), who said such nice things about me is an astute businessman. Would he blame my Department for asking the hotels for their costings in order that we might consider this in a businesslike manner? We have asked time after time, but these figures have never been forthcoming. The hon. Member for Eastbourne said that food costs 1s. more. Why have these details not been given to us when we have asked for them? Why does he come on an Adjournment Debate and ask for this extra money? We are quite prepared to look at the question——

Earl Winterton

That is something.

Dr. Summerskill

Certainly, the noble Lord should know——

Earl Winterton

I was agreeing with the hon. Lady.

Dr. Summerskill

He may not like the Government, or my party, but he should know that my Department endeavours to be as fair as possible and never refuses to receive a deputation. I believe he is coming to see me on Tuesday and I shall have the great honour of entertaining him—

Mr. C. S. Taylor

In a private room?

Dr. Summerskill

Yes, in a private room which holds 20, so the noble Lord will be quite safe—and there will be no music.

Coming to the question of tourists, I fully appreciate the point that has been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) suggested—I must confess I was looking at some notes at the time—that when people came here from abroad our people must be disgruntled. I think he was misrepresented by hon. Members opposite. We recognise that the tourist trade is very important. I want dollars and I do not hesitate to say so. I even tell American friends that, and when they ask why they do not have to surrender coupons at hotels, we tell them, "We want your dollars." We want dollars because we need their canned fish and all the nice things they can sell us. We therefore welcome them.

The phrase "the matter is under active consideration," has often been used in this House. This matter is under active consideration. We are trying to see how we can make this country more attractive to tourists and I am taking note of every point which has been raised this afternoon. But I want hon. Members opposite to realise that at this moment, particularly for Christmas, it would be quite wrong, in the interests of the ordinary consumer, to raise the maximum prices, because that would inevitably mean that poultry, turkeys and all those things which the ordinary housewife wants to see this Christmas, would find their way into hotel kitchens. Therefore, we are refusing the increase at this stage. We will consider all the points that have been made, and, perhaps later on, next year, some statement can be made.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

May I put a point which is very widely felt by workers in Birmingham and places of that kind. We do hope there will not be an increased allocation of meat or food to restaurants, whatever views the Minister may take on the case which has been made today.

Dr. Summerskill

In the allocations made to restaurants we are guided, to a certain extent, by the amount we give to the domestic consumer.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes past Four o'Clock.