HC Deb 17 March 1949 vol 462 cc2341-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £60,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for a grant in aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.

Captain Crookshank

I hope that the Financial Secretary will give us some defence of this Vote.

6.19 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

In this Supplementary Estimate, we seek the approval of the Committee to the additional sum of £60,000 this year to meet the expenses of the Government Hospitality Fund. Most of this, as has already been well published, is due to the fact that No. 2, Park Street, has been set up by the Government as a place where Government guests from overseas can be accommodated. The Committee is well aware that, during the war, and since, the pressure on hotel accommodation in London has been very heavy. Unless one is a favoured individual well known to managements, or unless one has booked a long time in advance, it has been difficult to get a room. Obviously the Government could not find themselves in the situation where they had important people coming from overseas and no accommodation to offer them. It was, therefore, decided to open No. 2, Park Street.

We have had a large number of delegations in the last 2½ years, as the Committee will understand. The world has been in a state of turmoil; there has been a good deal of coming and going between governments; there have been delegations on financial and other matters. We have had the Empire Prime Ministers here. We have had visitors and highly-placed officials from India and Pakistan. That has been the situation. I agree that more recently conditions have eased a good deal and that there have been periods when it was quite possible to get accommodation fairly easily in the larger and better known hotels.

We have, however, taken some advice on this matter and we are assured by those who keep hotels and watch the seasonal changes which occur that the pressure on West End hotel accommodation will soon increase. Moreover, when the 1951 Festival occurs, it will put a considerable strain on the accommodation that is available. That being so, the Government have decided that the time has not yet come to close down No. 2, Park Street, which has undoubtedly filled a useful, important and necessary niche during the last few months.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Has No. 2, Park Street, a licence?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I have not had stimulants of that kind there myself, but I believe it is possible to get intoxicating liquors at No. 2, Park Street. My information is that it has a licence.

However, the point I am making is not whether No. 2, Park Street, has a licence or not, or whether it sells or provides intoxicating liquors or not; it is that the establishment has fulfilled a useful purpose. The question then arises whether its function has now come to an end. It is the view of the Government, and I hope the Committee will share it, that it is a little too early yet to say whether No. 2, Park Street, should or should not be closed down. A large number of overseas visitors are likely to arrive this year. We are told that the pressure of accommodation in London will increase again and that, in 1951, the pressure will be particularly heavy. For those reasons I hope the Committee will accept the expenditure as reasonable in the circumstances, and will understand that the Government are watching this matter closely. I am, however, unable now to say that they have come to a firm decision that No. 2, Park Street, should be closed down.

6.25 p.m.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

The Financial Secretary has defended this Vote by explaniing to us what in his view is the importance and use of No. 2, Park Street. If there should at the present moment be any Government guests there, and if they were to be provided with the OFFICIAL REPORT as bedside reading—which might not be a bad idea in general—I hope no one will take any offence at the matter being raised, because it is obviously a thing in which the House of Commons must have its say, and it is the first time that it has come before us. I should like to know more about the Vote than the right hon. Gentleman has told us, because while it is quite true that the Supplementary Estimate which we are being asked to pass today obviously deals largely with the hotel, it is an extraordinary Vote, as I will show the Committtee.

The original Estimate for this year was £20,000; the Supplementary Estimate is for £60,000, making a total of £80,000. I do not know whether all hon. Members have spotted the fact that this Vote started the year with a credit balance of £40,832, all of which will be expended this year. Therefore, the real total which we are being asked to allow the Government to spend in this year on Government hospitality is not merely the extra £60,000 here, it is the original £20,000, plus £60,000 plus £40,000 odd with which it started the year, which is a much larger sum than one would guess from the right hon. Gentleman's speech.

It may be that there has been a great extension of the general work of the Hospitality Fund, apart from the hotel. It is true that we would all wish those persons who are invited to this country as guests of the Government to be treated with the dignity and decorum which recipients of such an invitation should have. Unless, however, the policy has been changed entirely in these post-war years, the number of persons who are invited to be Government guests are few —at any rate they were in the past—possibly Prime Ministers or leaders of delegations at international conferences. But, after all, conferences of Prime Ministers do not happen all the time; indeed, it has been one of our complaints in this Parliament that this one was so long delayed, and it certainly has not been an annual event in these years. I find it hard, therefore, to understand how it is that so much will be expended on this service. If it is part of the case that during this year the centre—I do not like to call it an hotel, I do not know what the right word is, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman had told us what it is called ordinarily in Government circles—

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)


Captain Crookshank

Anyhow, whatever the place is called—I do not like to call it Park Street because we know who had an eye on it at one time as No. 2, Park Street—it was opened only in May, 1948. Therefore, the expenditure which we are being asked to vote may include the equipping and furnishing of the premises. I hope that one of the Ministers will answer this. If this is so, it is really rather startling and alarming to find in the Estimates for the coming year—to which, of course, I cannot refer in detail—under "Government Hospitality" the figure of £110,000, which is very nearly as high as the cumulative figure for the present year.

We have been able to elicit a certain amount of information from the right hon. Gentleman by way of Question and answer. According to his replies, between May and the end of December, 1948, 96 official guests of the Government have been put up in the hotel. They are the people for whom the establishment exists. Anybody else who stays there applies to go or, as I understand it, is sent by some of the hotels who have access to some of its rooms. That, I suppose, is to help put it on a more sound financial basis. The purpose of the building is the entertainment of official guests, but only 96 stayed there between 3rd May and 31st December, which is an average of only 14 per month.

The accommodation, however, must be on a very much greater scale than that. We have had no official information about it, but have seen a certain amount in the Press. On one occasion, apparently, reporters were welcomed and shown everything, and if I say that there are 60 suites I do not think I am far wrong. That being so, and as there have been only 14 Government guests each month since it was opened, hon. Members can see once again what a great miscalculation there has been in this affair. In his reply of 17th February the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the expenditure involved for these 96 Government guests was £12,000, which gave an average of £5 10s. as the appropriate share of the cost of accommodation, food, drinks and the rest of the hospitality afforded to them, and £6 10s. as their share of the overheads. Therefore, each one of those guests cost £12 a night. That is a very high charge and very much greater than that for which these guests could have been accommodated at any hotel in London.

The right hon. Gentleman says that there is a shortage of hotel accommodation and that the shortage will continue to exist. One of the reasons for it is that the Government continue to keep hotels under requisition and not allow old hotels to be reopened. Be that as it may, during the last year the Government, as was stated this afternoon in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd), have paid reservation fees to certain hotels in order to have options on a certain number of rooms. Is this correct?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It was more than an option. Mostly, the rooms were, in fact, actually occupied. The question was how many rooms had been reserved—not how many had been reserved and not used—and I answered that Question.

Captain Crookshank

I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has made that clear. I had not appreciated whether it was that they were reserved and used, or reserved, so to speak, until 6 o'clock at night, as sometimes happens, and then released because whoever was likely to use them was not coming. Apparently the word "reserved" was used not in this way but in the sense of the rooms actually being occupied by guests on the particular days and nights.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Some of the rooms might not have been occupied. Things happen to prevent guests from turning up, but they were rooms which were booked for the occupation of guests. Mostly, the guests occupied the rooms.

Captain Crookshank

Anyhow, a charge was made and fell upon Government funds and is, therefore, to be taken as being over and above the expenditure of the hotel for the 96 official guests.

We found further, in response to more questions, that during the period from May to the end of December, 542 visitors other than Government guests were accommodated. Of these 467 were sponsored by the Government directly or by Embassies and High Commissioners' offices. I do not want to ask impertinent questions, but what sort of people were these? I can quite understand the official Government guests, such as Prime Ministers and so on, but what are "visitors other than Government guests sponsored by the Government?" Does this mean a trade delegation or someone who is coming over to inspect one or other of our national activities—for instance, coalmines, factories or the Post Office? Is this hotel provided for people of this kind? They are not given the free accommodation of the Government guests. As I apprehend it, this group of persons makes a payment. The Press said that they paid rates varying between £2 2s. and £2 10s. per night. If this is correct, it means that we have this building, which is far too large for its professed purpose of entertaining Government guests, but that we try to save something from this extraordinary expenditure—it is extraordinary; it has never happened before in this country—by having another group of people who can pay to go there.

Then there is a third group of persons, apparently 75 in number, who during this period were accommodated at Park Street at the request of neighbouring hotels. That seems to be a very odd category of persons. This is done, I suppose, to help Claridges or the Ritz. I imagine they must be people who are accustomed to staying at hotels of comparable price, and not people who would go normally to a comparatively modest hotel or boarding house. I imagine that they are going to be charged by the Government first-class luxury hotel rates. They are people, presumably who turn up at first-class luxury hotels but are told, "There is no room. We will ring up Park Street and see if they will put you up." Is this what happens? Is there any check upon these people? Again, I quote the Press—I think it was a "Daily Mail" reporter who elicited this information. I mention this for what it is worth, because we have not had an official invitation to inspect this building. The report, after describing the place in interesting language, ends up by saying there was at that time—the date, I believe, was 18th February— one paying guest—a Burmese multi-millionaire, who owns a chain of stores in Burma. If he could not be put up anywhere else, I have no doubt, from that description, that he could afford to pay at Park Street.

This seems to me a very queer use, to put it no higher, of this Government building. There may, of course, be persons in official positions who have not gone to this hotel at the invitation of the Government as State guests, but foreign or Dominion Prime Ministers may not be very keen on having casuals turn up for the night who have been unable to get accommodation in one of the luxury hotels of London.

They may not care to have them there, yet something of the sort must have happened to fill up the total of 75 accommodated, as we are told, at the request of neighbouring hotels. This is the picture as we have had it from answers to Questions and reports in the Press, and it seems a very queer venture, to which we do not give our approval. I hope that no one takes it from that that we do not approve of having Government guests. As I said at the beginning of my speech, there are many people whom it is only right and proper that this country should entertain and if it entertains them it should entertain them properly; but £12 a night is far more expensive than it would be to put the visitors up at the most expensive luxury hotels. For that reason, if for no other, we have to protest against this establishment.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer a few questions which must be put. In whose control is this affair? I can quite understand that when we are inviting Dominion and foreign Prime Ministers and real State guests, the arrangements are made through the diplomatic channels or through the Commonwealth Department, and it is all settled before the persons come. They are met and put up. But who decides that all these other people who make up, in the first category 96, and in the second category 542, should come to this hotel?

Dr. Morgan


Captain Crookshank

He would have liked to decide, but he did not have the opportunity. The conversations broke down. Does any Minister accept personal responsibility for who goes to this place, how they are charged and how they are looked after? What happens supposing one of these distinguished visitors is told, "Park Street is where you are to spend your two or three days in this country," and he or she says, "I do not want to go to Park Street "? Does the Department say "In that case we will arrange for you to go to Claridges, or the Ritz"?

How big is the staff? Is it true, as the reporters tell us, that this place is on a most lavish scale and that the dining rooms of this establishment are used for ordinary purposes, as well as for Government hospitality and that all sorts of other functions take place there? If so, it may be a good way of getting down some of the overheads. Again, is that entirely under the control of the Secretary of the Government Hospitality Fund? In the "Daily Mail" of 18th February there was a report of a banquet in this establishment, a Government banquet, apparently, for groundnut officials. We have already had a Debate on groundnuts once this week, and far be it from me to say anything more on that subject. But are they official guests, or sponsored missions?

The right hon. Gentleman will see that by embarking on this venture he has left himself open to a lot of questioning and, obviously from the approval which I can see, but he cannot see, of hon. Members who sit behind him—

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

Do not take too much for granted.

Captain Crookshank

I should not take the hon. Lady for granted at all. I was not looking in her direction, but at the approving nods which came from behind her and which she will not have noticed, either.

Dr. Morgan

Not necessarily nods of approval of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying but admiration of the way in which he is opposing sound policy. We are learning something which may be of use to us, if ever we are in Opposition.

Captain Crookshank

If I can teach the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) anything, I shall be happy and if these are the first steps in his education, I am sorry he has postponed it so long. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that he has got into great difficulties in this matter and that it is extremely hard to justify to this Committee, let alone to the country, the running of the establishment on these lines. There are plenty of difficulties in the catering trade and the hotel business and certainly money will not be saved. Of course, the object is not to make any money, but it will be lost in large quantities if we run an hotel on the basis that at any particular moment it will not be more than about one-third full and sometimes less than one-third. That will not do. It would be very much simpler for the right hon. Gentleman to take an option on a certain number of rooms in one or two hotels and, when they are not occupied, to hand them back, and when the option has expired to pay for them.

Because the right hon. Gentleman concentrated on Park Street, I have done so also, but I should like to know also whether there has or has not been a very great extension of the use of the Government Hospitality Fund in the last year or so. There are occasional notices in the Press and it would seem that there have been far more opportunities for Government entertaining than ever before. I am not necessarily quarrelling with that, except to the extent that in the past it was always considered that those functions should be in connection with important delegations, and if we look back to the records before the war we find that they were comparatively rare occasions. Now one sees rather a tendency—again I may be wrong; I can only go by descriptions in the Press—towards entertaining by the Government, which means the relevant Minister. I do not quarrel with this, but the Government seem to be entertaining buying missions and trade missions which in the past were entertained by business connections rather than by the Government. I wonder whether the Government have not rather widened the scope of the original Government hospitality.

I was a long time at the Treasury and I know something about the Government Hospitality Fund. We all recognise that it has to exist and that there are occasions on which it must be employed, but the whole question is how far we are to extend this. If we start having a private hotel at 2, Park Street, it may be that a lot of foreign guests and Dominion guests would like a weekend at the seaside. Are we to have a sub-branch at Brighton, for example?

6.48 p.m.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

Some of the questions which the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) has put are entirely legitimate and we should not be doing our duty as a Committee if we did not scan with the greatest care every aspect of Government expenditure. In regard to a novel and in many senses a pioneer venture like 2, Park Street, I am not in possession of information which would entitle me to give an answer to all the questions raised by the right hon. and gallant Member.

Captain Crookshank

They are for the right hon. Gentleman to answer.

Miss Lee

The Minister will do so, but in the meantime I will give my point of view, which is rather different from that of the right hon. and gallant Member. When I saw the original Estimate, Government Hospitality Fund Grant £20,000, and then the revised Estimate bringing it up to £80,000, I was disturbed and rather ashamed. I was a little comforted when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman reminded us that there was an additional £40,000 to be added, bringing the total of official Government hospitality expenditure for the year to a round figure of £120,000. What we find in these figures is a picture of a changing world. There was a time when in this country, wealth was concentrated in a few hands, and the majority were bitterly poor, when it was extremely easy for people with large country houses and large town mansions with great staffs and unlimited food and resources to entertain in pomp and circumstance, guests who were in this country either on official or semi-official business.

I hope that the House will have a proper sense of the place of this country in the world and the dignity of the House and the Government, whatever the political complexion of that Government might be. The days are gone for ever when guests coming to this country can be entertained on any scale round the private dining tables of Members of the House or their associates outside the House. When I visit the dentist or go to have my hair washed, I occasionally see from the illustrated society news that there are still houses in London at which entertainment can be offered in a most lavish way, but there are not many of them.

I hope we shall remember that when we are talking about Government guests we are referring to guests from Canada, Australia, and the other Dominions, guests from every part of the world, not only from inside the British Commonwealth. There are many people even outside the Commonwealth who come to this country as if they were coming home, people who feel that they have their cultural roots here. There is nothing in the world more pleasant than when one finds that the guests of this country—and I am including semi-official as well as official guests—find our people pleasant and gentle, and find our entertainment and our way of life commendable. By that I do not mean plutocratic. We are not a glossy, ostentatious people. There is no representative British family or representative group in our society which likes vulgar ostentation. If any Member can point out undue vulgarity in the case of 2, Park Street or anywhere else, I shall be the first to censure it and vote against it. But let us first get the main principle clear.

We must now provide from State funds hospitality much of which was formerly provided—

Dr. Morgan

Not at £12.

Miss Lee

I suspect that some of the hostility of Members opposite is accounted for by the fact that they would prefer hospitality in this country to remain cosily centred round the dining tables of Tory families inside and outside this House. One of my colleagues has just observed "Not at £12." Like other Members I want an explanation of that £12. I am wondering—and I put this idea forward for examination—whether part of the explanation is not too much timidity on the Government's part. Have we had too few guests? Has this place, been under-used? Has the Park Street establishment been fully used? For economic, social and cultural purposes, and for indeed scores of different reasons. people are anxious to come here to see something of our way of life and our values. I ask the Minister whether we have been too timid, whether we have been looking over our shoulders too much, whether the cost per head in Park Street would not have been less if it had been fully occupied?

On one point I agreed whole-heartedly with the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough. Any house of this kind must be a private place. It is almost the substitute for a private home. If the purpose of this place is to provide somewhere to entertain Government guests, it is quite improper that any person should be able to come along from a commercial hotel simply because they happen to have the money. They might be first-class people whom we should be proud to entertain, but on the other hand, they might be the scum of the earth. If we are to depart from the custom of having Government guests in commercial hotels, let the alternative be a Government hospitality centre, and let it be only Government guests who are entertained there.

I ask the Minister to explain why, although the Government Hospitality Fund is dealt with on page 12, one can turn to "Miscellaneous Expenses," on page 14, and find an item of £25,000 for the Anglo-American Council on Productivity. I wonder if the Minister could explain whether that figure included their expenses when they were living at Claridges? Some of our American guests were not impressed by Claridges. If guests are drawn from Americans of a very high income group, they are quite likely to be bored to tears by a standard super-luxury hotel, which is the same whether it be in London, Paris, New York or anywhere else. It is no treat to them to be put up at a place like Claridges. One good friend of this country said jokingly that all we needed to do was to put one more floor on Claridges and we could dispense with American grants or loans. He was referring to the charges there.

While guests of a high income level are not in any way charmed by the standard super-luxury hotel, there is at the same time an increasing number of our visitors who are poor people or who belong to moderate income levels, and who are liable to be shocked by hotels like Claridge's. Again, one member of the same group to which I have referred, expressed to me just how much he disliked the entire atmosphere of Claridges.

Earl Winterton

I should like to ask a question, because I propose to take the matter up later if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Bowles. Is the hon. Lady's argument that hotels like Claridges are of such a poor character that the guests of whom she speaks would like to go to 2, Park Street, or alternatively that the latter accommodation is of such a meagre kind, so in accord with the democratic views that she holds, that they would like to go there?

Miss Lee

I am indebted to the noble Lord for his interruption, which helps me to make my point clear. So far as Claridges is concerned, I found two attitudes. One was that the very high income guests were so bored with it—they can go to that type of hotel in any capital in the world—that it contributed nothing distinctively British. So far as some poorer guests were concerned, they were rather shocked because they thought it was unnecessarily plutocratic. I suggest that we ought to have in London and in the countryside or at the seaside—the right hon. and gallant Member talked derisively about sub-branches of Park Street—guest houses equipped with the best types of English furniture. [Interruption.] Let Members of this Committee think carefully about the line which they take in these matters, because I suspect that some of them are so anxious to cheapen this Government that they do not mind if they cheapen their country at the same time. When I was interrupted, I was about to suggest tentatively to this Committee that we should ask for guest houses in London and in the country. I should like to see those guest houses equipped with the very best English furniture and English glass and the best English service.

For myself, I am very old-fashioned kind of girl. The best of the Georgian period is good enough for me. Those who like it, can have the modern stuff. I repeat most seriously to this Committee that we have not only political and diplomatic responsibilities to the rest of the world, but we have cultural responsibilities as well. We paid a high enough price for some of our most beautiful Georgian homes and Georgian furniture and the rest. A good deal of it was bought by people like Lord Holland in the 18th century, who stole their money from the public purse. George the Fourth as a Monarch had one or two virtues although most people do not give him credit for any. One objectionable thing he did not hesitate to do was to keep those who supplied him with furniture and with beautiful silver, and other goods, waiting year after year for their money; and he always outspent his allowances from Parliament. But however we came by some of our national treasures, let us make the best present-day use of them. I say it would be money well spent if we equipped in London and elsewhere homes that are gracious and beautiful, that have no vulgarity about them and no crude commercial ostentation, but do enable—

Earl Winterton

On a point of Order. I am anxious not to interrupt the most interesting speech of the hon. Lady. In these days we have a very wide margin in the Debates on the Supplmentary Estimates, but would it be in Order to follow the hon. Lady in what seems to be an entirely new policy, namely, to provide some place in London where old furniture and things of that kind can be put? I wish to safeguard my own position and to know whether it will be in Order to follow her and discuss at considerable length the most interesting points which she has put.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Bowles)

The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who spoke earlier, referred to the possibility of the Government opening sub-branches in places like Brighton. That also was not on the Supplementary Estimates, but, it having got across, I think that the hon. Lady is in Order, and so, no doubt, does the noble Lord.

Earl Winterton

My point of Order was of a slightly different character, namely, whether it would be in Order to follow the very interesting historical argument put forward by the hon. Lady? It is very interesting to hear her desire to provide 18th century furniture and silver and things of that kind in such places as these guest homes.

The Deputy-Chairman

If the hon. Lady gets out of Order, she will be informed.

Miss Lee

I am not so narrow-minded as to confine myself to the 18th century. I mentioned it, because from that period we have an exceptionally beautiful heritage. I meant precisely what I said; that is, that I would like to see, in this post-war period, gracious guest homes in London and elsewhere equipped with some of our best treasures both of the past and of the present.

I was brought up in the tradition of hospitality and of always putting the best before visitors and guests. That was the tradition in which I was brought up in a very pleasant miner's cottage in 'Scotland. I think it a good tradition, and I am talking entirely in that spirit today. Those of us who have been to America and Europe and made friends there, sometimes feel embarrassed that in our private capacity we have neither time nor means to give as much hospitality as we would wish. In present conditions an extension of Government hospitality is essential.

Perhaps I may be permitted to enlighten hon. Members opposite about some of the types of guests that are entertained at 2, Park Street. I, personally, have deliberately not gone to 2, Park Street. I shall go after this Debate. I did not go before, because I felt that the impression I might gain about 2, Park Street was not important. What I thought about the staff and the atmosphere did not seem to be important. What did matter was the impression that the hospitality provided at 2, Park Street made on people from abroad who were coming to this country.

I was charmed and delighted with the impression made on one particular delegation which was connected with the Ministry of Pensions. In it there were four foreigners, all without hands and arms who came from their Government to examine the work that we are doing at Roehampton. Incidentally, if there is one place in the whole of Britain of which this House should be proud, it is Roehampton, where artificial limbs are fitted. One of these armless men was a Resistance leader, but I do not wish to go into their politics. They were a mixed group of all parties. I am thankful that they were not in an ordinary commercial hotel. I am thankful for the delicate and sensitive reception which they received at 2, Park Street, because things have to be made easy for strange men in a strange country, who are armless.

I consider that was an ideal type of delegation to be entertained at 2, Park Street. They came to this country to see what we were doing at Roehampton, to buy from us and to learn from our example. We sent them home, not only with an appreciation of Roehampton and how we could help them in that way, but also with a feeling that there was still gentleness and beauty and graciousness left in the world.

I have spoken longer than I intended, partly due to interruptions for which I am grateful. We must remember that there are in the world a great many frightened people, indeed a great many frightened countries. In these modern days there are vast areas where any hope of tranquillity and beauty has been lost. We should be very careful therefore, that our criticisms are not nagging criticisms. If there has been stupidity, waste and extravagance by all means let us go after it and have it corrected, but that is a different matter.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself a great love for beauty. He is referred to in some sections of the Press as a man who has no love for anything except austerity. But no man who has not a feeling for beauty could have done what he did in saving a corner of the Cotswolds from vandalism. Occupants of cottages in one part of the Cotswolds would have found it impossible to have their cottages built of beautiful stone had the Chancellor himself as a private citizen not paid the difference between raw inferior cottages and beautiful stone ones. I agree he is not the only person who has done such a thing. I am sure that there are hon. Members opposite who have done the same. We are a great nation. I agree with what was said in an earlier discussion on the Estimates, that ours is the greatest House in the world. I hope therefore we shall be proud to share with a large number of guests, drawn from all income groups, the very best we have to give in British hospitality.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

The provision of 2, Park Street has attracted a considerable amount of publicity to that place and to Government hospitality in particular. I should hate it to go out from this Committee that hon. Members in any quarter are against Government hospitality as such. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) made that amply clear, and I hope that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are seized of the point. However, there are one or two matters which one must bear in mind when discussing Government hospitality. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) seemed to suggest that when visitors came to this country the one thing they wanted to do was to get into a Government-sponsored institution because it would reflect the general outlook and the general life of this country. I do not think that is true. She suggested that Claridges was not to the liking of everybody. That is perfectly true, but I do not think that she would find a true reflection of this country in any Government-sponsored institution.

There are, after all, many types of hotels, inns and public houses in London and in all parts of the country where people can see Great Britain as it really is. The hon. Lady should not forget that point. We want to provide Government hospitality where it is necessary. I have not got the experience of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough to enable me to say what hospitality should or should not be given. Therefore, I will not pursue that line any further. I am sure that every Member of this Committee is certain that in some cases Government hospitality is not only desirable but absolutely necessary. When that hospitality is provided it should be given on a full and generous scale, and no form of austerity or anything like that should be applied.

We consider that in the provision of 2, Park Street there has been a lack of economy. The Financial Secretary in reply to a Question some weeks ago, said that 96 persons had been given hospitality as Government guests during a period of, I think, 10 months. I do not suggest that there should be any cutting down in the number of guests, but I consider that the amount of £12 per night—which in reply to a Question was the amount said to be spent—is a little excessive. I appreciate that that amount covers the provision of drinks, cigars and cigarettes. I do not think that point has been mentioned. The main question is, should this place be carried on as it is at present? The Financial Secretary gave his reasons why it should be carried on in its present form. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said recently that it would cease at the earliest opportunity. He has given that undertaking and we have accepted it. It is my contention that that moment has come.

I have said that the Government must provide hospitality. There is no argument about that. One of the main reasons why there is an insufficient amount of normal accommodation in every type of hotel, be it Claridges or the smaller, more intimate type, is that the Government themselves hold a very large amount of accommodation. The Minister of Works himself holds no fewer than 10 hotels in the Central London area. I do not include blocks of flats. There are persons in London living in hotels because they cannot get suitable flat accommodation. Even the right hon. Gentleman's retention of blocks of flats influences the amount of room available in hotels of all types. I do not suggest that the Minister is retaining the big hotels, because in the main he is not. He holds what one might call the second-class hotel which presumably would fall into the category for which the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock was looking when she said that Claridges was not suitable for a certain type of individual.

The cost of £12 per night incurred at 2, Park Street must be vastly in excess of the cost which would be incurred if an arrangement were made with an hotel, even including drinks and smokes. The hon. Lady mentioned a delegation which stayed at 2, Park Street and appreciated the atmosphere there. There was another delegation which came from overseas, and the members of that delegation did not like what they found at 2, Park Street. They had the impression, quite wrongly as we all know, that the sole reason they were placed there was so that they could be easily watched by the police. That is a fact, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know it. I do not think it is my duty to say from where they came, though I will if any hon. Member wishes to challenge me. The members of that delegation requested that they should be removed from 2, Park Street, because they felt that they were put there so that they might be easily watched.

Many hon. Members have visited other countries and many of them prefer to experience the normal amenities which ordinary citizens of those countries enjoy. I do not think that they wish to be put into some special glass house—I do not use that term in the military sense—or into some specially provided cage. I ask whether the Government have seriously considered the alternative to 2, Park Street. The Financial Secretary told us that, for the most part, this building is, and has been, less than half occupied. There must be a large wastage of room accommodation which can ill be afforded today. Is there not some arrangement whereby the Government can receive help from the hotels at a price to be agreed upon? Is there not a percentage of rooms which they could hold by reservation. Certainly that would be cheaper than continuing to maintain the whole of this very large establishment as they are doing at the moment.

We have focused our attention on 2, Park Street because we are not arguing about other phases of Government hospitality. I consider that this place has served its purpose. I am not sure whether its object today is not liable to misinterpretation. I am convinced that it is over-expensive for the service it provides. There is still a need for that type of service, but 2, Park Street is not the place in which it should be provided.

7.18 p.m.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

I am a little perturbed by this discussion. I should like to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) on his very tricky obstructive Parliamentary speech. I have always considered him to be a model Parliamentary debater. I have always seen him at his best not in brilliant administration on a Government Front Bench but rather in fine strategic work as what I call an obstructionist on the Opposition Bench. I do not use the word "obstructionist" in any bad sense. Tonight the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was particularly brilliant. He handled his subject with finesse. He was really very good, and he did it in a way which, among my own constituents, would cause them to think a little bit.

Captain Crookshank

They all came to listen to me: it is more than they would do for the hon. Gentleman.

Miss Lee

They did not vote for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Dr. Morgan

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's remark is not quite true, but I am sure that if I answered him I should be out of Order. There is a perfect answer and if I gave it to him it would show that he was under a delusion if not a hallucination. I do not want to be out of Order, and therefore I cannot follow him, but, if he likes to come to my constituency and have a debate with me on any subject, I will take him on at any time. I like fine surroundings, too, and cultured surroundings. I know that the Government necessarily have to do a certain amount of entertaining and providing hospitality. No Government escapes that sort of thing, but, when I am told that the total cost per night for a visitor staying in that particular establishment is about £12, I think it calls for some analysis and explanation. It may be that it is mainly due to overhead charges. If some Government guests come to Great Britain for a very good purpose, whether business or consultations, and have to be accommodated at a cost of £12 per night, at a time when there is a world shortage of many things, when the electorate of Great Britain are undergoing a great strain from difficulties arising from food shortages and rationing, I think that stivation calls for some comment and for more supervision by the Government.

This is a serious matter. After all, we have to think sometimes of what the common man outside is thinking about us. I would not mind the hospitality being lavish at any time if it was necessary, but I think this requires examination, and I want the Financial Secretary to try to give us some explanation of the situation. The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) rather left me in the dark. She said she would take up my point.

Miss Lee

Will my hon. Friend allow me? I do not see why he should say that. I said that possibly this establishment had been under-occupied, and that if it had been more fully occupied the cost per head might have been less, but, naturally, I am leaving the explanation to be given by the Minister.

Dr. Morgan

The hon. Lady thinks she has answered me, but she did say that she was going to come back to the point I made, and, with due respect to her, I say she has not done so. Instead of doing that she indulged in a great historical account of the peculations of some public man in London who did something which he should never have done, and which did not seem to have much relevance to the subject under discussion. It seemed to me to be a long way from the subject of this Debate.

This problem of Government hospitality has to be met. We are entertaining more and more people from overseas than was the case in the past. Colonial visitors are coming here more frequently, and more international visitors are coming. Arrangements must be made for their entertainment. I think that the Government should have a certain standard of hospitality, which is necessary, but I also think that there is a limit. At the present time and in the present state of the world, to expend an amount which is rather showy, glamorous and impressive would appear to the ordinary textile worker in Lancashire as extravagance. I am not saying that it is. All I am saying is that this matter requires some explanation, and I therefore hope that a very complete analysis will be given to us either tonight or on some other occasion.

7.24 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

I agree that there is a more serious side to this matter than has sometimes been exhibited, but we have had tonight a really brilliant speech from the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), the only disadvantage of that speech being that it had nothing whatever to do with the subject of the Debate. That was not intended to be a reflection on your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Mathers, because under modern conditions, one has a very wide margin in these Debates. You, Mr. Mathers, were not in the Chair when I raised a point of Order and received, more or less, an assurance from your predecessor that, as the hon. Lady had been wandering rather widely, I should be permitted, though only in a metaphorical sense, to wander after her.

I should like to say that I am in complete agreement with her that nothing could be better for our prestige than for our visitors to see the best possible collections of English furniture, English china and examples of what may be called the classical period of British architecture and internal decoration. But they can see these things already. There are thousands of places where they can see them, and London is very well supplied in that respect. We have no reason to suppose that this particular establishment in Park Street has any of the qualifications which the hon. Lady would like to see applied in the case of foreign visitors. There is no reason to suppose that the atmosphere there, is more homely than that of Claridge's. I understand that one particular resident in this place is a Burmese millionaire. I have nothing against Burmese millionaires, but you can see Burmese millionaires in the hotels, and there is, apparently, also one at 2, Park Street. The hon. Lady possibly thinks that the atmosphere of 2, Park Street would have a different effect on foreigners and make them feel that they were in a more homely atmosphere.

I do not want to make a party issue of this, because, for the first time in my life, I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I think there is a great deal in what he said. I make what is a very obvious observation—that there are quite a lot of people in this country, whether Tories or Socialists or whatever their political opinions, who will resent the Government keeping an hotel or establishment where it costs £12 per night for every person to stay at the expense of the taxpayer. If I wanted to make a party point, would say that there is a curious atmosphere about this place. Here we have the first Socialist Government in Great Britain running a luxury hotel for a Burmese millionaire and others, apparently, at a public loss; in fact, at a cost of about £12 per night. The only thing that is not Ruritanian about it is that no one would accuse the Financial Secretary to the Treasury of representing Rupert of Hentzau.

I want to ask who is responsible for running this hotel? Is it left to the very competent gentleman who is the Departmental head of the Government Hospitality Fund, who is an old friend of mine, a man whom many of us have known for years, and who runs Government banquets—Colonel Sir Eric Crankshaw? Is it left to him? Which Department is responsible—the Treasury, the Office of Works? Who takes responsibility for the running of this hotel? I am not asking for the name of the actual manager, but I want to know who in the Government is responsible. My next question is whether the hotel is ever likely to pay? It is quite legitimate to ask that. Or will it always be run at a loss for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman gave?

I think the right hon. Gentleman, who commends himself so frequently to the House by his candour, was rather less frank than is normal with him. He said he understood that there was less pressure on hotel accommodation than there has been in the recent past. My information—it may be wrong, of course—is that there is a whole floor of one of the socalled luxury hotels in London empty at this moment. I see the Financial Secretary nods his head. I understand that there is a slump—

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to clear up that point as we go along. I may have dropped my head, but I was not nodding agreement. I do not know if what the noble Lord says is correct, but I shall find out.

Earl Winterton

I was very anxious to appear in the role of pacifist and conciliator in this Debate, but is it not an extraordinary thing that the right hon. Gentleman should come down here and ask us to involve the public in a very large sum of money and yet not be in the position to tell us whether or not the hotel is needed?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I think we should argue in a commonsense way. It is quite likely that, at the moment, there is accommodation available in some hotels in London; I am not denying that. But does that mean that we have to close No. 2, Park Street because there happens to be hotel accommodation free at the moment, when we know full well that when the season starts we shall not get a room for love or money unless we have booked it?

Earl Winterton

I do not think the situation is quite as simple as that. Before the war a large number of visitors used to come to this country, and it was always possible to find accommodation for them in hotels. But today, owing to the fact that many hotels are requisitioned, there has up till now been a lack of accommodation. I am told on good authority that at the moment there is something like a slump in the hotel trade. I think that the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure he will agree to do this—ought to make the most careful inquiries through the Hotel Managers' Association and other official bodies to see what accommodation they are likely to have for Government guests during the Summer. There is something slightly sinister in the political sense about this proposal. It is quite obvious from what the hon. Member for Cannock said, and from some of the speeches made in the country, that some supporters of the Government think it a good thing that hotels should be run by the Government. It is easy to see that a subsequent Government might go further and say, "We have made a success of these hotels; we will now take over all the luxury hotels in London." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite say, "Hear, hear." I cannot think of anything more calculated to lose them votes for the very reason mentioned by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) who suggested that the wage-earner will say, "What are the Government doing running a luxury hotel at the cost of £12 a night per visitor." That is the safeguard we have at this moment.

Surely, this hotel must be run in an astonishing manner if it costs £12 per night per person. I understand that cost is higher than the cost for similar accommodation in any of the luxury hotels. It was not clear from the right hon. Gentleman's opening speech what exactly is being done to bring down the cost. He said that when the accommodation is not required for Government guests, ordinary members of the public or selected persons are allowed to stay there. What is done to fill the rooms when the hotel is half empty?

Dr. Morgan

They go out into the street and ring a bell.

Earl Winterton

I cannot think that even this Government would be quite so eccentric as that. I do not know whether they do that in the hon. Member's native West Indian Isles, or whether Lord Baldwin of Bewdley does that in Antigua. I seriously contend that we ought to have more information on this matter. There should bean understanding on both sides of the Committee that nobody objects to reasonable hospitality, but we do not like the idea of this expensively run place, about which there is very little information, and about which the right hon. Gentleman, with all his competence as a Minister, finds it very difficult to answer questions. If we cannot get some satisfaction on the matter my right hon. and hon. Friends will have to vote against this Estimate.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I listened as I always do, with the greatest attention to the Financial Secretary. because he is usually desirous of helping the Committee in these matters. However, I found it extraordinarily difficult to follow the reason he gave for the retention of Park Street. He admitted, in exchanges with the noble Lord, that there might be hotel accommodation available at the moment, but he suggested that the hotels in London would be likely to be crowded in 1951. I wonder whether it has ever crossed the right hon. Gentleman's mind that, in the light of that possibility, he could make a block booking now for two years ahead. Is there any hotel in this country which, at the request of the British Government, would not be prepared to put on one side certain accommodation at various values to be released when we knew what visitors we were going to have in 1951? Of course, every hotel would be most happy to cooperate. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, of his own personal knowledge, will know how co-operative and helpful certain hotels have been in the accommodation of members of recent conferences who have visited this country. If he can see this shortage so far ahead, he ought to realise that here is a chance to sell Park Street, and to book the accommodation, and not take the risk.

There was one phrase used by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), who spoke so attractively, which I could not understand. She suggested that this increase in the Estimate was due to the fact that people were unable to entertain their own friends in the way they used to do. Does anybody in this Committee suggest that there has been any reduction in private hospitality because the Government are 'doing more entertaining? The hon. Lady said that in the past they used to entertain cosily round the tables of their toadies. I do not know what that phrase means, and I have tried to think of the gathering to which it could be accurately applied. The only one I can think of would be an extremely Left-wing Communist gathering.

Miss Lee

I particularly did not want to introduce names, but it is common knowledge that before the war a great deal of political entertaining was done round private Tory dining tables. I am not objecting to that, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that some of us are extremely embarrassed when friends come from abroad. We would like to entertain them at home, but that is not always possible because of the rationing difficulty. If he knows a way to get round rationing I do not.

Mr. Butcher

Let me give the hon. Lady a little bit of advice. She should take them along to the British Restaurants.

Then we come to the phrase which the right hon. Gentleman used. In this, I find myself in the fullest agreement with the hon. Lady. I do not like No. 2, Park Street, for which we are responsible, being used for the "overspill," for the people whom the ordinary hotels prefer not to have or are unable to accommodate for one reason or another. The right hon. Gentleman told us how expert hotelkeepers were in estimating the pressure of accommodation in 1951. I understand, too, that hotel-keepers, in some peculiar way which I have never been able to understand—it is one of the secrets of the ancient and honourable profession—can spot people who are not of the most innocent type or whose credit is not wholly satisfactory. How they make those tests, I do not know. It may be by an examination of their luggage or by the way such people ask for their rooms. One of these experienced hotelkeepers should advise the Financial Secretary on this matter. I can imagine a hotel manager saying to his receptionist, "If you get people who are, in your opinion, throughly straight and above-board, put them on the third floor. If you think they are going to pay well, put them on the first floor, but if you have any doubt about them, send them round to Park Street, because we shall fill up before the evening is ended."

This is the thing that really worries me, and here I entirely share the thoughts of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I do not like the idea that we are entertaining visitors from overseas, except in a few limited cases, on a standard of life which is quite out of the reach of the vast majority of the people of this country. We are spending this large sum on their accommodation. We are spending it either wisely or unwisely, but if we are getting good value for money we are letting our visitors live at a rate of income of £84 a week or more than £4,000 a year, free of tax.

What must be the gross income? The expert sits on the Government Bench and he could tell us what gross income must be earned so that a man can live even for a short period at the rate of £4,000 a year. It is an astonishing thing that Socialism has come to this, that the first Socialist Government is justifying an extravagant expenditure on these things. If this recognition of the variations in income and standards of living and standards of comfort between the ordinary working persons of this country and their visitors from overseas is so marked, then Socialism seems to be only the old Capitalism with far more officials to administer it.

I should like to see our guests entertained more economically. If we have such visitors that they should be accommodated in luxury hotels like Claridges, then let them go there, but the better thing to do would be to say, "You will probably be very bored there, because one hotel is very much like another, and we are offering you something more simple which will give you an insight into the life of our people."

7.42 p.m.

Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

My reason for intervening in this Debate is because I have had experience of running these guest houses, and to a certain extent I sympathise with the Government in the problems which they have to handle. In the war, during the period of dispersion, we had to handle factories in different parts of the country. It was impossible to put up the staff in hotels, so we had to take a house, furnish it, and make arrangements for the accommodation of those who had to make visits in order to keep the places going in different parts of the country.

In Birmingham, at the end of the war, we were very pressed for hotel accommodation and we took the opportunity of acquiring a house so that our guests from overseas and from different parts of the country, might not have to leave at night, before they had finished, on account of the fact that there was no hotel accommodation. I well understand that this sort of thing cannot be done exactly on the same economic basis as if one were running a hotel which is always filled. The value of such a place is that you have it available. You have to weigh the convenience of having accommodation when you want it, against the cost. You will never be able to run a guest house, large or small, for the purposes for which we had to run them and for which the Government have to run them, on exactly the same basis as if you were running a hotel. It is not a fair comparison.

Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)

Having had the pleasure of staying in my hon. Friend's guest house—incidentally very luxuriously—may I ask him to tell the Committee how much it cost per night for the guests?

Sir P. Bennett

I have not the figures with me, but it is more expensive than it would be to put people up in a hotel, because one pays for the convenience of having the accommodation at one's disposal. That is understandable. I have said all this in order to show that I understand something of the problem.

Turning to Park Street, I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) that our friends, particularly our American friends, are not impressed when we put them up in our first-class hotels. They are pretty much the same all over the world and the food always seems the same to me. If we could put them into the ideal guest house which the hon. Lady sketched, they would be delighted. If we were able to get them away into the country and take them into some of the Cotswold houses and inns, that would be better still. We must bear in mind, when we are accommodating guests, that we cannot put them into second-rate places. They would say, "Why have they done this? Do they regard us as second-class?" It is a difficult problem. We have to do the thing properly if we are doing it at all.

I happen to live in the district of Park Street and I can assure the Committee that it has been looked at, watched and talked about. Rumour is a very unkind thing, and rumour is that the Government have made a mistake, that they took the place without really understanding how to do it, they furnished it and laid it out regardless of everything and now it is not exactly what they expected, but because it is public money it does not matter. I do not say that is the true story, but it is the story that is going round. They say that because it is public money, nobody worries very much and, therefore, the costs go up. I believe there has been a mistake and a miscalculation. There is no harm in the Financial Secretary admitting it, saying that it has not worked out as well as they expected and because they have not been able to utilise it as they expected they have adopted other means of trying to share the loss.

This Committee is always very generous. We do not expect the Government always to do everything right the first time, but we should like to know that, if there has been a miscalculation, it has now been gripped tightly, that there will be no more drift and that the mistake will not continue. I do not like the suggestion which has been made that this was a very fine idea; that the Government had to make this decision and that they would make this kind of decision again. I do not believe the Government would. I ask the Financial Secretary to tell us the story and to let us know that, if there has been a miscalculation, they are fully aware of it, that they are alive to it, that they have a grip on it, and that there will be no more public money wasted simply because somebody made a mistake some time ago.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I can assure the Committee and, in particular, the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) that the Government did not make a mistake when they took No. 2, Park Street. I would resist with some heat the suggestion that we have really overdone it, that we did not know what we were doing when we took it, or that any other method was, in fact, open to us except the one which was adopted—namely, to open a fairly small house of character in the area, temporarily, for the purposes which we had in mind.

Much has been said during this Debate as to whether or not it is true that accommodation can be found in London hotels. But I think it is beyond dispute that, in the months which have gone by, certainly in the years immediately following the war and for a fairly lengthy period last year, it was impossible to be quite certain that one could get accommodation in reasonably good hotels in the West End for a number of people at fairly short notice. When a Government of the importance and prestige of the British Government have delegations of all kinds coming over, it is essential that those who run Government hospitality should know with reasonable certainty where the visitors can be placed. I ask the Committee to face that fact, because it is the basic fact underlying this supplementary Estimate. The Government had to do something of this kind. It may well be that some people may think they should not have done it or, having done it, that the cost is too much. But I think that ordinary sensible people must realise that there was no alternative. It is a fact that in the past, nothing of this kind occurred. Circumstances are different today from what they were before the war. Owing to the gross upset of world economy occasioned by the war, an increasing number of delegations and individual official visitors are coming here. Any Government which did not recognise that fact, and make some provision for them, would be criticised—I think, very legitimately—by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) asked me how we got to know that there was likely to be a shortage of hotel accommodation in the months ahead. We have consulted the Hotels and Restaurants Association and the managers of the better West End hotels. They have assured us that it is their view that the pressure on the hotel accommodation in the months to come will be greater than it was at the same time last year. Either they are telling the truth or they are not; but I think we must all agree that they are experts, and ought to know if anybody does. In the light of their advice, I think it would be foolish of the Government not to keep No 2, Park Street in existence, at any rate for the time being.

It has been suggested by more than one hon. Member that we ought to make block reservations at various hotels. I speak in the light of what I am told, for I am not in the hotel business myself. I am told that if the Government did this, the cost would, in all probability, be more than that of keeping No. 2, Park Street, open for the time being. The other course was, in fact, considered last year. Fairly considerable space at a number of hotels was booked for various datess; but it did not work out too well. It was often found that the people who were being catered for came just at the time when it was thought the accommodation would not be wanted. The only way to make sure the accommodation is available is to have the accommodation all the year round. And rather than have it at a number of West End hotels, we may as well do what, in fact, the Government have done, and that is, open temporary accommodation ourselves.

The noble Lord asked who was in control. Control of the Government Hospitality Fund is in the hands of Sir Eric Crankshaw. I was delighted to hear the tributes paid to him by the noble Lord. On behalf of the Government, I should like to say that we share in what he said, and that we appreciate the tribute paid to him. He works in close association with the various embassies, and with the Government Departments that have visitors coming. In addition, the manager of No. 2, Park Street, under Sir Eric's supervision, has authority to accommodate overflow guests from certain hotels from time to time.

I am sure the Committee will be glad to hear that the figure of £12, given in answer to a question some days ago, was an over-estimate. I think I indicated at the time that it was given provisionally. We were extremely anxious to give a figure that might turn out to be too great rather than too low, because otherwise we could and should, very properly, have been shot at when the actual figure was given. The actual figure, including overheads, for the Government guests who have used this accommodation works out at £9 5s. per night. That figure compares quite favourably with the amounts that are charged by and the costs that are incurred at leading West End hotels such as Claridge's, the Grosvenor, and the Dorchester.

Earl Winterton

I must disclose my interest here, for I am a shareholder in some of the hotels, although I am not on a board. That comparison is not a fair comparison at all, for the hotels have to pay for licence duty, while this Government hotel does not. I should be very much surprised if it were true that the charge is as high as that. I think it must be a pound less. It cannot be as high.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I do not want to detain the Committee because I understand that some hon. Members are anxious to get on with the next business, but I have here a great pile of figures, and I can assure the noble Lord, from the information supplied to me, that the average cost does work out at something like £9 to £9 5s. a night for comparable accommodation at the leading West End hotels.

Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)

Does that include depreciation, or take into account capital expenditure on the building?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The figure for No. 2, Park Street includes overhead costs, plus food and attendance. Capital depreciation does not, so far as I know, enter into it, but rent is included. The building, I understand, is under requisition.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) put a question to me about another Vote, to which, I take it, I cannot refer to without being out of Order. It is one that we shall not reach tonight, in any case. But I would tell her that the expenses to which she referred are for staff, for accommodation and other expenses of the AngloAmerican Productivity Council, and that the Government bears 50 per cent. of the cost, while the other 50 per cent. is borne in equal proportions by the F.B.I. and the T.U.C. None of these expenses has been incurred in connection with the Government Hospitality Fund, and certainly not through Park Street. Certain of the expenditure concerned falls in any case within the Special Account.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) asked me if I would give an indication of the kind of guest who stays at this hotel and the kinds of function that are held there. In the five or six months ending last December, we have had members of the Indian and Pakistan sterling balance conference staying there. The Norwegian Minister of Defence was a guest. There was a delegation from Argentina, and a Portuguese air mission. A Finnish parliamentary delegation too stayed there, as I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will know. There was also a delegation from Pakistan, another from Australia, and another from Austria, and then, as I have already indicated, we had the Commonwealth Prime Ministers here.

Earl Winterton

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but this is very interesting information. I happen to have been on more than one occasion a representative of the Government abroad, when the British Government paid for our entertainment. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that alt these delegates who come here have to be paid for by the British taxpayers? Do not their own Governments pay for them? That is what we always did—always.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The expenses of some of those who come here are borne by the Governments concerned, but when people come here from the Commonwealth at our request—for example. highly placed officials and Ministers from Pakistan and India—I think it is only, right that we should entertain them.

Earl Winterton

Does it happen the other way round?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Yes. Those who have been on visits abroad will remember how they are overwhelmed by the hospitality lavished upon them. It is quite obvious that the Government should not be behind other Governments in this direction.

Captain Crookshank

Do I understand that if the Foreign Secretary goes to some capital in Europe, his expenses are always paid by the Government concerned? This is a rather delicate matter, but the right hon. Gentleman said that the Norwegian Minister of Defence was entertained here. In pre-war days the Norwegian Government would have paid, whereas on this occasion we paid, although there may have been very good reasons for that. I merely wish to ask whether the Foreign Secretary, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is constantly going to France, has his expenses paid by the French Government?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Of course not. It all depends on who gives the invitation. Where an invitation is issued by one Government, that Government quite obviously bears a proportion of the cost of the visit. I am saying no more than that.

I have here a long list of functions of all sorts that have been held at No. 2, Park Street, and it is quite likely that Members opposite have been to some of these functions. On occasions when we have visiting delegations, it is right that there should be some entertaining at the expense of the Government. What my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) has said is quite true. Conditions have altered. In the old days, when distinguished visitors came here, they were largely entertained by people of some political renown, and often by Ministers who could well afford such entertaining. Conditions are different now. For one thing, very few people can afford to entertain lavishly today, and certainly they cannot afford to do it on a sustained scale. As I have said, social conditions are changing, but it is still necessary that a great nation should entertain visitors coming from abroad. The cost is relatively small. I hope the Committee will realise that and grant us this Estimate. I can assure the Committee that the Government and my right hon. and learned Friend are watching this matter very closely; but, as it is necessary to have a place of this kind for a little longer, the Committee will realise that it would be bad policy to close it down now. I can assure the Committee that in so far as we can keep the costs down, it will be done.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)

The right hon. Gentleman has failed to address himself to the point. He goes through the process of arguing that there must be Government hospitality and therefore we must have No. 2, Park Street. That is a fallacy. When we try to counter that argument we are met with the charge that we are opposing Government hospitality. That is not so. We fully agree with the principle that there must be some Government hospitality, but it does not follow that it has to be in a place of this sort, which apparently stands empty half of the time. Obviously, the proper thing to do is to measure the extent of the service which has to be given, and then to provide something which meets that need. Apparently the position is that the Government give hospitality for 50 per cent. of the people for whom they make provision. Therefore, they should halve the size of No. 2, Park Street and provide just that accommodation they want, thereby lessening considerably the cost to the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government will watch the position carefully, but that they cannot see any way of cutting down the expenditure.

Let me suggest to the right hon. Gentleman one way in which the expenditure could be cut down. If this place is half empty for most of the time, why not contract it out to someone who can fill it? The Government must know at least 24 hours beforehand when their guests are coming, so why not contract it out to some one else to offset part of the expenditure? The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have thought of that method. This is true Socialist doctrine in practice; it does not matter what it costs because it does not immediately concern anyone's pocket—it is the taxpayer who will have to bear the cost. I suggest that as a practical way of cutting down some of the costs of this place, if it is necessary to have a place of this size.

But the right hon. Gentleman also seems to have overlooked the fact that the Government are hotel owners in a big way. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has nowhere else to put these guests. Has he forgotten that the Transport Commission have taken over all the railway hotels, which could be used for this purpose rather than this lavish place that is half empty? The right hon. Gentleman must know the size of some of these Victorian constructions at most of the railway termini. Is he prepared to tell the Committee that there is not enough roof in these places to accommodate these guests? The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) wants the guests to see something of the true England. Well they will see it well enough there.

Miss Lee

She does not want to start another war.

Mr. Marlowe

I think they would get a far better idea of the England we live in there than at No. 2, Park Street. The hon. Lady's argument appears to be inconsistent. She said that she wants the guests to see the best we have to offer in the way of accommodation, glass, silverware and so on, but I can assure her that the guests do not get Georgian furniture in Park Street. I hope she is not suggesting that the Government should increase this vast expenditure by furnishing Park Street with Georgian antiques.

Miss Lee

We are now in possession of some very fine houses that have been given to the nation, many of which are furnished. I am saying that we could make use of these houses to entertain our guests.

Mr. Marlowe

That is a practical suggestion, but it does not deal with the matter we are now discussing, which is No. 2, Park Street. The other argument she advanced was that the Government are justified in keeping this place running at a loss because it is an improvement on the old days when guests were entertained privately in private houses. I did not follow the argument, particularly as the hon. Lady wanted these guests to get an idea of what private English homes were like, and the way in which English people live. Surely, as a choice of the two systems the better one was the one she referred to as being a custom of the bad old days—

Miss Lee

There is no substitute for private hospitality, but I do not think that either the hon. and learned Member or I would undertake, possibly at a minute's notice, to feed and bed delegations of

guests coming to this country. We must show a little common sense in this matter. Let us have private hospitality to the limit of our means and Government hospitality when, obviously, we must put our best foot forward.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Lady is referring to political private parties and to houses in which people were accommodated before the war. She has a far better knowledge of post-war conditions than I have, because it is Ministers nowadays who can afford to do these things much better than anyone else.

Miss Lee

Would the hon. and learned Member like to tell the Committee how many servants he employs?

Mr. Marlowe

That is a very personal question.

Miss Lee

The remark which the hort. and learned Member has just made was very personal.

Mr. Marlowe

Well, if the hon. Lady really wants to know the answer is one servant for three hours a day, but—

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Bowles)

That is out of Order, and the hon. and learned Gentleman must not pursue it. The hon. and learned Gentleman's servants are not on this Vote.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Lady's argument was quite inconsistent. She wants people to be entertained in private houses, but prefers that this vast expenditure should be met by the Government at the taxpayers' expense. I cannot help feeling that my suggestion should be investigated by the right hon. Gentleman. The rooms of this hotel should be filled by paying guests, which would help to offset the cost, and the Government should consider whether much of the demand cannot be met by the enormous number of hotels that they already have under their control, through the Transport Commission.

Question put.

The Committee divided: AYES 224; Noes 97.

Division No. 84.] AYES [8.13 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)
Allen, A. C. (Boswortn) Bacon, Miss A. Bing, G. H. C.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Balfour, A. Binns, J.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Barstow, P. G. Blenkinsop, A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Barton, C. Blyton, W. R
Attewell, H. C. Battley, J. R. Bollomley, A. G.
Austin, H. Lewis Bechervaise, A. E. Bowden, Flg, Offr H. W
Ayles, W. H. Benson, G. Braddock, T. (Mitcham)
Bramall, E. A Hobson, C. R. Richards, R
Brook, D. (Halifax) Holman, P. Robens, A
Brooks, T J. (Rothwell) Horabin, T. L Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hoy, J. Robertson, J J (Berwick)
Brown, George (Belper) Hubbard, T. Robinson, K. (St. Pancras)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Royle, C.
Burden, T. W. Hughes, H. D (W'lverh'pton, W.) Scott-Elliot, W
Burke, W. A. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Segal, Dr. S.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A Shackleton, E. A. A.
Callaghan, James Jay D. P. T. Sharp, Granville
Carmichael, James Jenkins, R. H. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Johnston, Douglas Shurmer, P.
Chetwynd, G. R Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Cluse, W. S. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Simmons, C. J.
Cobb, F A. Jones, Jack (Boiton) Skeffington, A. M.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin) Skinnard, F. W.
Collins, V. J. Keenan, W. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Colman, Miss G. M. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Cook, T. F. King, E. M. Solley, L. J.
Cooper, G. Lee, F. (Hulme) Sorensen, R. W.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Daines, P. Leslie, J. R. Sparks, J. A.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Steele, T.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Lindgren, G. S. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lipton, Lt.-Col, M. Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Longden, F. Stross, Dr. B.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lyne, A. W. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Deer, G. McAdam, W. Swingler, S
de Freitas, Geoffrey McAllister, G. Sylvester, G. O.
Delargy, H. J. McEntee, V. La T. Symonds, A. L.
Diamond, J. Mack, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dobbie, W. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Dodds, N. N. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Donovan, T. McKinlay, A. S. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Driberg, T. E, N. McLeavy, F Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Dumpleton, C. W. MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles) Thurtle, Ernest
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Tiffany, S.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Titterington, M. F
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.) Turner-Samuels, M
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Ungoed-Thomas, L
Ewart, R. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Fairhurst, F. Messer, F Viant, S. P.
Farthing, W. J. Middleton, 'Mrs. L Waliace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Ferayhough, E. Mikardo, Ian Waliace, H W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Follick, M. Mitchison, G. R. Warbey, W. N.
Forman, J. C. Morgan, Dr. H. B Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Freeman, J (Watford) Morley, R. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Gailskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.) Wells, W. T. (Waisall)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mort, D. L. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gn, E)
Gibson, C. W Moyle, A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.
Gilzean, A. Murray, J. D. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Glanville, J E (Consett) Naylor, T. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Grey, C. F. paget, R. T. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Grierson, E. Paling, Rt. Hon.Wilfred (Wentworth) Willis, E.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Palmer, A. M. F. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Guest, Dr. L. Haden Pargiter, G. A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Gunter, R. J. Parkin, B. T. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Paton, J. (Norwich) Woods, G. S.
Hale, Leslie Popplewell, E Yates, V. F.
Hall, Rt. Hon Glenvil Porter, E. (Warrington) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R Price, M. Philips Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Randall, H. E Zilliaous, K.
Harrison, J. Ranger, J.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Rankin, J TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Reeves, J Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Wilkins.
Harbison, Miss M. Reid, T (Swindon)
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. CPollok)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Baldwin, A. E. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H Digby, Simon Wingfield George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)
Bennett, Sir P. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A
Bossom, A. C. Drayson, G. B. Granville, E. (Eye)
Bowen, R. Duthie, W. S. Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)
Bower, N. Eccles, D. M. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Erroll, F. J. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.
Bullock, Capt. M. Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Headlam, Lieut -Col. Rt. 'Hon Sir G
Butcher, H. W. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale.) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Byers, Frank Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M Hogg, Hon. Q.
Challen, C. Gage, C. Howard, Hon. A.
Hudson, Rt. Han. R. S. (Southport) Marlowe, A. A. H. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Hurd, A. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W) Mellor, Sir J. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Jeffreys, General Sir G. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Keeling, E. H. Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Turton, R. H.
Lambert, Hon. G. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Vane, W. M. F.
Langford-Holt, J. Nicholson, G. Wadsworth, G.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Walker-Smith, D.
Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Wheatley, Cotonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Linstead, H. N. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Lipson, D. L. Ropner, Col. L. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry) winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
McCallum, Maj. D. Smithers, Sir W York, C.
Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Snadden, W. M. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Parlick)
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Spearman, A. C. M
Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Stoddart-Soott, Col. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Strauss, Henry (English Universities) Mr. Studholme and
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport.
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £60,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1949, for a grant in aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.

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