HC Deb 17 February 1949 vol 461 cc1342-4
52. Mr. Erroll

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many guests have been entertained at the Government Hospitality Centre, at 2, Park Street, W.1, during the most convenient accounting period; and what was the total cost and the cost per guest.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Ninety-six guests from overseas received hospitality from His Majesty's Government during the period 3rd May to 31st December, 1948, for a total of 2,351 nights. The cost of their accommodation, food, drinks and smokes, was £12,600, the appropriate share of the overheads £15,400. These two figures give an average of £5 10s. and £6 10s. per guest, per night, respectively.

Mr. Erroll

Is not this a disgraceful example of Government waste?

Mr. Stanley

Has the right hon. Gentleman made any inquiries of London hotels to see whether it would have been possible to accommodate these gentlemen in just as much luxury for about half the cost?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The Government Hospitality Fund did, of course, make such inquiries. The House must remember that during the last few years hotel accommodation has been very difficult to get.

Mr. Stanley

Is it not a fact that it is now much easier? Is not the cost per night in capital and income, something like £12, which is vastly in excess of anything that would be charged by private enterprise?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It is not vastly in excess of what comparable hotels charge at the present time.

Mr. Cecil Poole

Has my right hon. Friend any comparable figures for the cost of entertaining notable people of this country outside this country?

Mr. Bossom

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman allow hon. Members of this House to have the same amount to spend when they go abroad?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That question does not arise out of the Question on the Order Paper, but I would assure the House that this country is a great country and it has to accommodate distinguished guests in a proper manner.

Mr. Stanley

While fully agreeing that distinguished guests have to be properly entertained, is the right hon. Gentleman really satisfied that in present circumstances, the cost revealed in this answer is not grossly in excess of what could be done by trusting to private enterprise to do it?

Mr. William Teeling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of the visitors who went to that centre complained afterwards that they were not properly entertained and should have been better entertained? [HON. MEMBERS: 'Oh."] I could give the House the names of certain Government guests who complained.

Mr. Keeling

Mart from the question of extravagance, is the Financial Secretary aware that many guests who are put up at 2, Park Street get the impression, rightly or wrongly, that they are being lodged in a Government establishment because the Government want to keep an eye on them? Would it not be much better to get rid of this lease and use hotels?

Mr. Wilson Harris

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that anyone who has visited 2, Park Street must be deeply impressed at the admirable way in which the arrangements have been conceived and carried out and that official overseas visitors have expressed warm appreciation of the accommodation provided?

Mr. C. S. Taylor

Are there in this establishment any hosts representing His Majesty's Government, and do they share in the entertainment?

Hon. Members


Mr. Glenvil Hall

I did not catch the whole of the question, but if I understood the hon. Member aright, he asked me if Members of the Government——

Mr. Taylor

No, I asked, were there any hosts there representing His Majesty's Government who shared in this entertainment? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] If dinners or lunches are given at No. 2, Park Street, obviously someone on behalf of His Majesty's Government has to act as host.

Mr. Erroll

In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.