§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Wilkins.]
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I am glad to have this opportunity of raising the question of how we can encourage Americans to come here and spend those dollars which we so urgently need. Tourism is already one of the most important dollar producers we have got. On this occasion I do not want to attack the Government but rather to point out certain things which I believe could be done and certain other things which we should avoid doing, and thus 304 bring about an expansion in the tourist trade. My American friends tell me that when their countrymen visit Great Britain and go back to the United States they are more likely to buy British goods than if they had not been here, so that an increase in tourism to this country from the United States may not only produce dollars directly but may favourably affect our export trade.
My second point—and I believe that in the very long run this may be even more important than the obtaining of dollars—concerns the good will that can be obtained by a great deal of visiting between this country and the United States. It may seem boastful for an Englishman to say this, but I believe that the more the Americans see of us and of our country, the more they like us and understand us. I can certainly say from the several visits which I have made to America, that I feel that the more I go there, the more I appreciate the qualities of that great country.
On the three visits which I have made since the end of the war to America I have been very impressed with the understanding of this country and the change of attitude which I found there when I have talked to wage earners of all sorts and kinds. Taxi drivers, bus conductors, postmen and so forth have said this sort of thing to me "Before the war we took no interest in Britain. It seemed about as remote to us as Iceland, but during the war we were stationed in England, or our fathers or sons or brothers were, and we now have an entirely different attitude to that country from which we and most of our people sprang. We look with great sympathy at the difficult times through which you are going and we are really concerned about you." I believe that has made a great difference, and for that reason, we should encourage as much as possible Americans of all sorts and kinds to come here, and as soon as we can possibly afford it, we should encourage our people to go there.
My next point is that I think perhaps we do not pay enough attention to encouraging people of the lower income groups to come here. We are very glad to have the very rich Americans, and to earn the many dollars that they spend, but even in that country there is a definite limit to the number of very rich people in these days of high taxation. If we are really 305 going to attract a large amount of dollars I am sure that we must get many more people with lower incomes to come here. I myself, for reasons which I have just given, would much rather see 10 people come here spending 1,000 dollars each, than one man spending 10,000 dollars. I believe that the majority of people of the lower income groups who come here are people who are called first or second generation Americans, and they come to visit relations over here whom they know or about whom their parents have told them. Only a minute fraction of those first and second generation Americans actually come here, so that I believe there is an enormous source that we could tap, if we were to do all we can to encourage them.
I should like to speak about the deterrents. First, let me refer to the Customs. In the "Wall Street Journal" of last week there is a letter from an American criticising our Customs officials in this country. I shall not quote that letter because I believe it is rather exaggerated, and I, for one, do not want to criticise our Customs officials whom I have always found very civil indeed. However, I do suggest that they could be instructed to take a rather easier line than they do at present. Could they not be told that any traveller might bring in all the things which he really needs for himself? May it not be perhaps that what we gain on duties on these articles, we shall much more than lose by the annoyance created? Might it not also be penny wise and pound foolish to continue with these very strict Customs regulations, however civilly they are carried out? At any rate, with regard to cigarettes, may I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that we should ascertain what is the most generous allowance that any country permits to be taken in, and, that we should at least match that allowance?
Considerable irritation is caused to people who are anxious to come here and spend money when they have these difficulties which might be avoided. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary could not influence the Ministers concerned to reduce to a great extent the formalities that are required, because all of us who travel know how irritating are these formalities, which seem so unnecessary. For instance, is it really necessary for Americans, when they get 306 here, to sign health forms saying where they have been every night of the week for 14 nights before? Could not the Foreign Secretary take a bold view and get rid of the whole passport system altogether? After all, we managed very well without it before 1914. I have no doubt that we should have undesirable people coming into the country, whom we might otherwise avoid, but, like every other country, we have a few undesirables anyway, and I am sure that the increase would not be very serious.
Next I come to the question of petrol. Here, again, I am thinking of people in the lower income groups. Rich people who want to buy a car, or hire one for £2 a day, can get all the petrol they require. But what about the less well off people who cannot afford to do that, but who borrow from friends? They cannot get petrol. Could not they be encouraged to come here and get the free use of petrol? Is it not possible to make an arrangement so that when they exchange dollars for sterling, they receive a book of vouchers which would entitle them to buy petrol up to the amount authorised?
Then there is the question of Purchase Tax, which I am sure is a great deterrent to Americans spending money here. The whole purpose of the tax is not to raise revenue, but to divert goods for export and to mop up purchasing power in this country. Are we not doing the reverse of that when we deliberately discourage Americans from buying here? I know that if they go through the very complicated process of having goods sent straight to their ship they do not have to pay the tax, but would it not be pos-possible to devise a simpler method to enable them to buy goods and use them here? After all, we want to encourage Americans to spend dollars. Could they not have a system of vouchers, such as I suggested for petrol, which would entitle them to get goods here without paying Purchase Tax? The retainer of a voucher would then regain the duty which he had paid. Another point I should like to press very much is the need for adequately publishing any changes in the various restrictions that are necessary and doing so in good time. I think I am right in saying that the last time such changes were published was in the middle of the tourist season, which was very inconvenient to tourists.
307 I should also like to draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to the amount of advertising we do in America. When I was in Washington last I had the opportunity of talking to an official there who, I think, was most able to judge the situation. He said to me, "You do not seem to understand in your country quite what we mean by advertising. You would find that an expenditure of dollars on advertising would reap a rich reward." I am not an expert in this matter, and I do not know what we are spending and what is being done, but I never saw any advertising whatsoever in America at any time. There is great need to advertise travel to Great Britain. Cannot there be emphasised, for instance, the short time it takes to get here by air from America? I am not sure that it is generally realised in America that it is possible to have breakfast in Scot- land, lunch in Iceland and dinner in New York.
An incident which I think shows how close our countries are now was described to me by the then Premier of Ontario, who planned the emigration scheme by air from this country. He said that one of the emigrants was a man who was working at Harrods, in London, and that as Harrods were shorthanded he stayed at work in their store until the morning of the afternoon in which he flew to Canada. He was working at Harrods on the Saturday morning, and as the store which he was to join in Toronto were short-handed he started there on the following Monday morning. That illustrates how close are the two countries. I think that sort of thing might be brought out more forcibly in America than it is at present.
Among the many attractions for which Americans come here are our historical buildings, great museums and picture galleries. Could not more be done to open the galleries which have been either entirely or partly closed? Surely, we would like to do that for the edification of our own people. If, in so doing it, the small expenditure entailed should be amply replaced by a further gain in dollars, it would seem the obvious thing to do.
I have been speaking mainly of those things which perhaps deter Americans from coming here. Now I want to turn to two positive things. First, our hotels. 308 I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that the reports we sometimes hear, that we do not want Americans to come here yet, because our hotels are not ready for them, are absolutely wrong. I want to destroy that idea. Members opposite may think that in my praise of our hotels I am perhaps prejudiced by the fact that I come from Scarborough, where they may have enjoyed our superlative hotels very recently. I do not, of course, claim that throughout the country we can quite attain the standard of the "Queen of watering places," but I have stayed in hotels in many parts of America and England and I can say without any doubt at all that, generally speaking, our hotels more than compare with those in America. Of course we have great shortages to deal with but, with all respect to the Americans and their great hospitality, I believe that the service we can give in our hotels goes a long way towards overcoming—indeed, more than makes up for —our shortcomings due to destruction caused by the war.
The difficulty about our hotels is not so much what we can offer, but that there are not enough of them. Command Paper 7572, setting out the long-term programme of the Government, says this about tourism, in paragraph 141:Tourism has acquired a greatly increased importance. It figures among those industries which can become relatively rapidly and at a comparatively small cost in capital investment, raw material, labour, etc., one of our major exporting trades and, moreover, one whose dollar content can be outstandingly high.We all agree that we can secure dollars from tourism with minimum expenditure of material, but we cannot do it without any at all. Paragraph 147 of the White Paper says:The shortage of hotel accommodation caused partly by the war is being successfully tackled.That is not quite in line in what the Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us only last week, when he said:Unless one is a favoured individual well known to the management, or unless one has booked a long time in advance it has been difficult to get a room."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 2352.]Bricks cannot be made without straw, and there must be a greater allocation to our hotels if we are to provide the accommodation which will earn dollars from tourism.
309 Cannot something be done to hasten derequisitioning of some of our great hotels by Government Departments? For instance, there is the Victoria Hotel, Northumberland Avenue, which is still not derequisitioned by the War Office and which would be very suitable for American tourists. I come back to my earlier point—that our hotels cater more for rich Americans. They are admirably accommodated in the "Queen Mary" when coming here by sea, and in the Savoy Hotel and other hotels of that description when they arrive. There is not in the cheaper hotels quite the sort of accommodation that they particularly like. What they really want I believe is the plumbing of the better hotels, with smaller accommodation and simpler services, at prices they can more easily afford. We cater for the more wealthy Americans, but I believe that we are not providing the sort of accommodation, either in amount or in quality that is wanted by the less well off group.
I would draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the advantages of arranging or encouraging the arrangement of inland touring. When I was in Washington talking to officials in the State Department I said: "I suppose Americans do not really want to go to the sea when they come to England because they can do that at home?" An official said in reply" That is not quite so. It is true that they want to spend some part of their three weeks at the sea, but they like seeing the country." I was more gratified than surprised when they said that Americans liked to spend a day or two in such places of historic interest as Scarborough and Whitby. I am sure that there are other such places, perhaps not quite comparable but admirable, throughout this country which would attract them also. That would mean organising motor tours. No hotel likes to welcome people for only two days, but if the visits were so organised as to produce a succession of two-day visits during a fortnight, it would give the hotels an opportunity of taking the Americans upon the best possible terms.
Finally, I come to the most difficult question of all, which is transport. There are admirable facilities for those who can afford it to come over in the "Queen Elizabeth" or the "Queen Mary," but there is not the sort of accommodation that is wanted in sufficient quantity by 310 the less wealthy people. I am told that the sort of figure that will attract an enormous number of Americans is about 300 dollars for the return ticket. They could do it for very nearly that amount on the tourist class on some of our ships, but it means sharing a cabin with other people. The Americans like privacy. Cannot the shipping lines be encouraged to produce small and simple cabins at a lower cost such as would satisfy this demand? What can be done to increase the facilities altogether? There is not nearly enough accommodation at the height of the season. It happens that the peak of the Atlantic season coincides with a particularly slack period in the shipping to South African and other parts of the Commonwealth. Would it be possible to switch over those Commonwealth lines to the Atlantic in the Summer season and the Atlantic liners to the Commonwealth in the Winter season? I do not put that suggestion forward with any confidence because I do not know enough about it. I am just asking whether it would be possible. Could excursions by air be arranged in a big way? Excursions are made at very cut rates to seaside resorts here; might it not be worth while to make excursions at cut rates to encourage Americans to come over here?
I do not pretend that the suggestions I make will solve these problems but I am sure that here is an enormous source of dollars, quite apart from the fact that it would be of enormous benefit for the friendship between the two countries to get people here. I ask the Minister to encourage all the people who are responsible to do what they can and to see whether he can co-ordinate the efforts of Government Departments in order to achieve a more comprehensive plan. If the Minister will accept it that these things ought to be done, then if there is a will to do them a way can be found. I believe that every one of us must do everything in his power to earn dollars. Only in that way can this country stand securely on its own legs and relieve the generous American taxpayer of the burden he has carried so long.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I am sure that everybody has enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), who has presented his case in moderate 311 and reasonable terms. Properly organised, the visits he proposes would be a valuable asset to this country. We are doubly fortunate in having the Secretary for Overseas Trade with us on the Front Bench tonight. Everybody knows the indefatigable efforts he has made to establish good commercial relations between this country and all countries in the world. He has shown every desire to pool ideas from whichever quarter of the House they have come.
The great advantage of the encouragement which the hon. Member has advocated is that it would be a dollar earner. It is a commercial matter, and the Americans are a great commercial fraternity, but they also like value for money. We could give them good value by letting them see something of England about which they have heard so much. Many of us knew the American troops who were here in very large numbers during the war, and we admired the manner in which they conducted themselves. When one remembers that in a city of about 9½ million people many temptations are available to soldiers and other people who are separated from their homes and are in a different environment, one can say that the conduct of the American troops was exemplary and won the respect and admiration of the people on this side of the Atlantic. When the Americans went home they told their families of the welcome they had received. There is thus a propaganda value in such visits.
I have heard criticisms, and so have other hon. Members, about the lack in America of propaganda for Britain. The finest type of propaganda is not the printing of books about our institutions and about the country, but the fact that Americans come here, and talk with warmth and enthusiasm about us when they get home. If we encourage them we shall be encouraging something which is more important than mere financial gain. The good name of Britain will become more pronounced in America than it is at the present time. America is composed of 150 million people of various nationalities. Many of them are not as warmly inclined towards us as they would be if they knew more about us.
312 I have noticed, with pleasure, as other people have done, that the lights of London will go up again. It is joyous to think that after so many years, we shall be able to go to Piccadilly in the centre of London and see those magnificent illuminations. We want material things such as good hotels, but they still leave something to be desired of this country. It is not only the rich Americans who want to come over here but the people of lower incomes, the small-town American farmer and those who do valuable jobs in the remoter parts of America. Sometimes these people come to London for a couple of days, but then get "browned off" and go to Paris. Paris is a very beautiful city. It has something to show and the cafés are open. I agree that in the nature of lour climate, we cannot have open-air cafès and a Folies Bergères in our theatres. I understand that there is to be a replica of the Folies Bergères in Birmingham. I hope that will be to the advantage of Birmingham. It should pack the house. These things are attractions to the Americans when they are presented with great skill and a degree of art which excites their admiration.
We have to do something in London. London has some great buildings. I have been amazed when Americans have come here and have shown not merely an interest in this House but a remarkable knowledge of Parliamentary institutions. They have surprised me by telling me more about the House of Commons than is known by hon. Members after 20 years' membership. They have pointed out some monument or document which might otherwise have been unnoticed. I contrast that with the fact that this evening a distinguished business gentleman who happened to be coming to the House, told me that, although he was a Londoner who had lived practically all his life in London, he had never been inside the House of Commons. I thought what a striking contrast that was to the interest which the Americans show.
There are other things, too. We do not want to send them so quickly to Switzerland, Capri and the nice places on the Riviera we want them to see not only London but all of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and also Scarborough. It was very appropriate that that distin- 313 guished watering place should have special mention, particularly because its Member of Parliament thought fit to Introduce the subject and rightly took advantage of that fact.
The cultural ties which have bound our two nations, together are deep and revered. There are the ties of language. Efforts have been made on both sides of the Atlantic to alter the structure of our language and etymology I do not know whether any degree of success will be obtained in that but I know that the ties of language and more important even than that the ties of our way of life, are exceedingly valuable. What is better therefore than that the Americans should come and see our way of life in this country?
I therefore hope that it will be possible for my hon. Friend to make relaxations. There have been relaxations in the way of extra linen supplies for hotels and the granting of extra food in certain circumstances. The railway service, although far from what we believe it will be under this Government, is better than it was six months ago. I understand that the railways are giving circular tickets, first class and third class, at a relatively cheap rate to certain resorts and interesting places throughout the country to en, courage tours. We ought to do more on those lines. Never has a country shown a greater inferiority complex than Britain in regard to tourists. We have called ourselves a nation of shopkeepers and yet our windows are the worst dressed windows in the world.
We have more to give perhaps than any other country. We have more to show, and yet we do not know how to parade our wares in a perfectly honourable and proper way because we are so modest and unassuming, and, unlike the Americans, when in doubt we do not shout and shout, but we think that it is in the national tradition to be reserved. The days of reserve are over. People must let the world know where they stand today, and Britain can proudly claim to have something to show and value to give second to no other country in the world. While not decrying other countries—it would not be our policy or desire to do so—we can speak of our own.
Finally—perhaps this is not in one sense relevant but in the broadest sense it is relevant—at a time when the world 314 is confused with propaganda of one kind or another, and when there is great perturbation of soul and agony of mind, when one single incident might cause a conflagration, the consequences of which no man can possibly foretell, it is more than ever necessary for two countries like England and America, which have a common destiny and whose roots are to a large extent similar, to come closer together. There has always been a special place for Britain in the heart of all Americans. There is no one in Britain who would say an unkind word about America as a country. For it we have great admiration and respect. We may differ in some things, and I hope we will always express those differences as between friends.
There is no propaganda or understanding as good as that which comes by personal contact, and if the Secretary for Overseas Trade can give us tonight some guidance and help as to the way in which we can encourage Americans to come here in great numbers, it will be greatly appreciated. We do not want them to live in hotels as much as in the homes of the people—to come as the guests of the people and exchange visits with us. If my hon. Friend can help us in that direction, he will have done a great amount of good not only for this country, but for the peace of the world and certainly for the enlightenment of people on both sides of the Atlantic.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) that my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) has raised a very important topic this evening. We all want to welcome as many Americans as we can to this country. For good or ill, our fortunes today and for a very long time are bound to be associated with those of the United States. The more the citizens of one country can get to know and understand the citizens of the other, the better it will be, not only for the two countries, but for the peace of the world. In trying to persuade them to come we should also emphasise that we want them to come for their own sakes, though the dollar value of their visit is important. We want not only their money, though I agree that in our 315 present economic position the dollar factor is a very important one, but themselves.
Only now are we realising what a potential source of dollars can be gained by persuading people to come and enjoy their holidays in this country. We start with the advantage that today more Americans want to come to this country than ever before. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme made the point that comparatively few Americans relative to the population of that great country have been to Britain, but a great many of them were here during the war. As Scarborough has been mentioned, I might say that during the war years a great many of them were stationed in Cheltenham. I noticed that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme did not suggest that the Americans should be asked to visit his constituency, which as very self-sacrificing on his part. Cheltenham was the headquarters of the American Supply Service during the war and we had a large number of Americans there. In fact, it almost appeared for something like two years more like an American than a British city.
Not only did those Americans form friendships but they formed still stronger bonds Many of them took home what were then called "American brides," but who were, in fact, for the greater part the very attractive Cheltenham girls. These people want to come back and bring the results of their marriages—the third generation—and their friends. We ought to do everything we can to make it easy for them to come, and make their stay in this country as comfortable and as happy as it can be. I believe that figures show that the number of Americans, who have intimated their intention to visit this country this year is greater than the number who have ever come here. Various attractions are being arranged to arouse their interest. We established in Cheltenham two years ago a festival of contemporary British music, and it has been a tremendous success. Already we have had applications from large numbers of Americans in regard to visiting the Festival in 1949.
I believe that we have great opportunities to persuade the Americans to come over here. We have a great deal in this country to show. I hope the Government will assist the efforts which a great 316 many local authorities like Cheltenham are making to attract American visitors. Anything they can do in co-operation with the local authorities will be welcomed by them, and, what is more, the Government will render a good service in the establishment of friendly relations between the United States and ourselves.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I should like to add my thanks to the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) for raising this important matter this evening. I believe everybody in all parts of the House will give a warm welcome to the opportunity he has given to us to express views about this matter. It is right to endorse some of the remarks he has made by emphasising that throughout the length and breadth of this country there is a desire for closer relations between America and ourselves. One of the greatest opportunities of improving that relationship is by visits from Americans to this country and vice versa.
I do not want to take up much of the time of the House in speaking further on that aspect of the situation. The people of my constituency, Leicester, with its wonderful scenery and because of the historic places in or near it, would welcome additional tourists with open arms, and would be glad of the opportunity of making further contacts with. Americans and of showing them what Leicester has to show. It is also very important that we should attract to Leicester men and women who will take an interest, either directly or indirectly, in the industries of that city and of the surrounding districts. In spite of the very difficult time through which we are passing, we should do everything that we can to make it possible for a long-term policy to come into operation so that ultimately—and sooner rather than later —we should be able to get our wares sold in America on a very much larger scale. The products of this country are such that if they are only known and understood, they will be extensively used in the United States.
I should like to mention a few specific points on which perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will give us guidance. Already the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby has referred to the question of Customs. I have visited 317 America on a number of occasions and there are some irritating features about the Customs position, which could be removed. For example, a person going on one of our big vessels is permitted to make a declaration on the boat itself with regard to dutiable goods. Why that cannot be final, I do not understand. Having made that declaration and the commodities having been examined, he is again, in the majority of cases, put to the inconvenience and trouble after he has landed of passing through a further Customs inquiry. That seems to me to be unnecessary. When a ship nears say, Southampton, the Customs officer on board should, as he frequently does, examine the articles in question and they should be set aside after examination. After that Customs officer has taken all necessary precautions, the passenger should be allowed to go immediately from the boat on to the train without having the exacerbating experience of going through the whole procedure again.
Then, again, it seems to me so niggardly to refuse to allow a visitor who cannot afford to buy a car here to use as much petrol as he would be allowed to use if he hired a car in another manner. He should be allowed to have petrol for use in a friend's car with whom he may be staying. I put a question in the House on this matter only a few days ago and gave a specific instance where a visitor was not allowed to have an allowance of petrol for that purpose. That seems to me to be a foolish way of dealing with the situation. I know the reason is that advantage might be taken of the petrol which is allowed, and some wrong use made of it, but I cannot understand what the difference of such possibilities is between using petrol in a hired car and using it in a friend's car. Surely the same abuse might arise in the one case as in the other?
It is these small matters which create irritations that prevent people from spending a longer time in our country, and even at the risk of some abuse it would be better for a matter of that sort to be dealt with in a reasonable way, instead of exaggerating the likelihood of abuses of such a nature. And, of course, it must look ridiculous elsewhere when an answer to a question is given in this House stating that in order to use the petrol a visitor must either bring his car 318 with him from abroad or buy one. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that that cannot leave a good impression upon those who come, or desire to come, to this country.
On another practical point, I had an experience in my own constituency of applying for a building licence to extend the accommodation in an hotel, and I had a lot of difficulty in getting permission for additional rooms to be constructed. Now Leicester is a highly congested town from the point of view of accommodation. That, of course, prevails in many other towns, but in this instance the idea was to add some additional accommodation to a certain hotel so that instead of the staff having to live away from the hotel, they could live in the additional accommodation and so reopen a portion of the hotel for further visitors. We need accommodation in Leicester, particularly for tourists who come to see our industries and are prepared to purchase in the city the excellent hosiery, boots, light engineering and other commodities the export of which is important for our trade. Yet it took months and months before it was realised that this was an important matter which ought to have been given immediate attention. Consequently, quite a number of people were prevented from coming there, either for pleasure or for business purposes, or for both.
I should like to touch on the point raised by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). The question of the parents of young English women who have married American ex-Service men being denied the opportunity of visits by their parents is one that is agitating the minds of a considerable number of people in this country. Those parents cannot get facilities for visiting their children in America. For example, they find that even if they were able to reach the shores of America, as they can purchase a ticket here to New York, or even to their destination, if they have to travel by road or by rail from New York to where that child is living, they cannot get any allowance of currency to enable them to buy food on the way. It may be asked why those parents do not fly there, but obviously the average person wishing to visit his or her child in America is not in a position to spend the extra money which a journey by air would entail.
319 Not only does this policy prevent parents from visiting their children; it has the disadvantage that as facilities are not made available whereby most parents can obtain permission to enable them to take money from this country, they would become dependent entirely upon their children if they were able to visit them in America during their stay there. The providing of such facilities would result in the preservation and extension of our good name. Other hon. Members, whose constituents have approached them on this point, as my constituents have approached me, know that in return for such facilities the relatives of the husbands of married daughters of English parentage would be induced to visit this country. The result would be a very much larger accretion of tourism to this country from America. I commend the Secretary for Overseas Trade to consult the Treasury on this very important point, affecting, as it does, thousands of people in this country. It is not a trivial matter; it is one of very great importance. It has to it a human side as well as the practical side to which I have referred. It would help in improving the possibilities of attracting people to this country in exchange for those who visit their relatives and the relatives of their sons-in-law in the United States.
Now a word about transport. I agree entirely with the suggestion made, I think, by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, that some arrangement must be made whereby facilities are provided for people in less fortunate circumstances than the rich who can afford to come to this country whatever may be the cost. Having been in contact with the shipping world for some years, I know very well the difficulties. Nevertheless, it is worth while considering the possibility of utilising shipping for this purpose, for I believe that the return which would be obtained for the space so allocated for working-clas and middle-class people to use those facilities would be extremely beneficial to this nation.
We want to encourage the best possible relationships between our two countries. We want the men and women of each country to get to know each other better. I speak again from experience when I say that some people whom we visit in America have somewhat peculiar views about us in this country. Many of those 320 views, however, are quickly dispelled by personal contact with people from these islands. Similar wrong views are held of Americans by men and women from this country before they visit America. Taking a proper view of this situation, it would be to our advantage and to America's advantage from the point of view of good understanding and relationships between the people themselves, secondly from the point of view of our financial position in regard to dollars, and thirdly from the point of view of creating a permanent relationship between the two countries, so that our commodities could be sold in America for the benefit of our industries in this country and of all concerned with them.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)
So far hon. Members who have spoken tonight have dwelt largely on the appeal of England to American tourists and perhaps, as the only Member representing a Scottish constituency present, I may be permitted to put forward a plea for Scotland. We have had Scarborough and Cheltenham mentioned, and perhaps I might be permitted to talk about the wonders of the land of Scotland, Bonnie Scotland, the glory of the glens and hills, its wonderful record in history, its romance, poetry and beauty. But more especially I would bring before the attention of the Minister who will reply the possibility of bringing direct shipping from America to Clydeside. I understand that in the coming season, for tourists coming from America to Great Britain, they have condescended to have one ship as a gesture of their appreciation of the renown and craftsmanship of the Clyde. I suggest that that is simply belittling the whole concern. Clydeside was the gateway to every centre where fighting took place during the war and more than one ship is required in order to bring the enormous number of American tourists who are, we are told, coming to this country. Therefore I hope that when the plan is unfolded, Scotland will be given a very important place in it.
There is another matter which is tremendously important in regard to personal contacts. During the war we had an enormous number of American camps in Scotland but now Scotland has been depopulated of her best manhood and womanhood. When we go to the United 321 States of America we find in every great city what is known as a clan society. The MacDonalds, the MacTavish's, the MacPhersons and the MacGregors who went there years ago have carried on the traditions of the clans of Scotland. They have the national music of Scotland—some people do not call it music, but I call it the national music of Scotland—and they carry on the national traditions. They have their societies and the Scots in America have worthily maintained their relationship. I hope that some provision will be made whereby these clans may be enabled to come and spend thousands of pounds here.
Scotland has had a wonderful past. In the Lowlands there is a beautiful countryside known as the Scott country. Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if not the most beautiful, and Clydeside has great engineering centres. The power and strength of Lanarkshire are recognised in America. At this late hour and in this thin House, I appeal to the Government that when making arrangements, which I hope will be adequate to the occasion, Scotland will not be lost sight of in the matter of attracting increased traffic from America.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Walker (Rossendale)
I hope the outcome of this Debate will not send out the impression, especially to the American people, that we are solely after their dollars. Of course we want them very much indeed, Heaven knows, but I think we ought to put our Debate on a little higher level than merely saying that we want the Americans to come here because their dollars are more welcome than they are themselves. A great deal has been said tonight about various places which would be attractive to our American cousins. I do not know whether it is a question of the spider and the fly, but we are bound to make known in every conceivable way that here in this old country we have something very valuable, fascinating and delightful to offer to visitors from all parts of the world. As we are considering Americans especially let us endeavour to envisage some of the things which we can offer to them.
The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. John Henderson) has used the opportunity to advertise his own Scottish 322 country. I propose to follow his lead, and to advertise my own part of the world as being incomparable. The hon. Member may talk about the beauties of Scotland, and I do not doubt them for one moment. But when we talk about the beauties of the English Lake District we are speaking of something which is the pearl of them all. I do not represent Westmorland but I have lived in Westmorland all my life, in the grey old historic town of Kendal where Queen Catherine Parr was born and where there are many things of historic importance. My town of Kendal is described as the gateway to the Lakes and we keep that gateway open. It is the entrance to one of the most wonderful vistas that God has created in the world, and we wish every one to see it, especially the Americans.
When an American comes to this country and enters this district through my own native town, he might stop and go into the town hall. There he will see a remarkable display of Romney paintings which will appeal to him as being as beautiful as many of the things which have been mentioned tonight. One hon. Member mentioned music as something to attract the Americans. I lay claim tonight to the fact that I come from a town that initiated the musical festival in this country. We have held them for many years. Owing to the outbreak of war, we were obliged to dispense with our festival for a certain period, but nevertheless we are the originators of what is known in this country as the musical festival. We have provided the music of village choirs, which have been quite a feature in the springtime of the year and very much enjoyed by visitors to the town. I think the Americans would find there something of real interest to satisfy their musical feelings.
In the Lake District we can also provide some of the old fashioned sports that this country knows. Take, for example, the famous Grasmere sports which have been patronised by large American contingents. We have some of the finest hotels in the country which can give the American visitor everything he requires in the way of comfort and good food, and they are set amidst surroundings of natural beauty. No part of the country has provided so much inspiration for poetry as the English Lake District. Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge and De 323 Quincey are among the distinguished writers associated with our region of the country, and the American visitor would revel and delight in "the land of poetry," as the Lake District has been called.
I do urge upon the Minister, in whatever he contemplates doing to attract American visitors here, not to forget the English Lake District. The song writer has described Killarney as the place where "angels fold their wings and rest." I could as faithfully describe our own English Lake District as the place where angels come to fold their wings and rest amid all its beauty and its grandeur, all the wonder of nature in mountain and lake. We provide places like Manchester with the purest water in the country. In the Lake District there is nothing dirty, nothing ugly, nothing to disturb the most sensitive nature. I was born in London, but I have lived practically all my life, since childhood, in this wonderfully beautiful part in the North of England, and I never tire of advertising it. I hope that we may send a message from this House tonight to the people of America to come to the Lake District, to come to see that beautiful part of this little old country of ours. I hope that people in America, reading what has been said here, will be attracted to come to England, particularly to the Lake District—not to places like Scarborough and Blackpool or even Scotland where there is all the fun of the fair—but to the English Lake District, to the beauties of nature that God has created to make men glad.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
This Debate initiated by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) gives hon. Members an opportunity not only of extolling the great historical virtues of the country and its beauty spots, but their own constituencies. Having listened to this Debate, I think that the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who is to reply to the Debate, could do worse than to send this very eloquent team of speakers to the hard currency areas to persuade the people there to visit our shores and the lovely places in our country. I suppose that, as the Secretary for Overseas Trade is to reply, the accent, as most hon. Members have observed, must again be on dollars and the earning of hard currencies. I agree 324 with the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Walker) that of course we shall welcome visitors from the United States for their own sakes, but we need not be nervous at all about seeking to attract them, or any visitors from hard currency areas, because this country is one of the finest tourist centres in the world, and we can offer tourists extremely good tourist value for money.
However, we have to be realistic about this, too. Americans and Canadians are very newspaper-minded. They read the advertisements in their own newspapers of the virtues of Bermuda, Miami, Florida and of other places. I think that we have to get more advertisements of the beauty spots of this country in the Press of the U.S.A. As well as being newspaper-minded, when it comes to making up his mind about where he is going to spend his holidays, the American is also film minded. I ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade—and I hasten to say that I have no interest at all in films—if it is not possible for us to make and to send to the screens of America some of those short historical or documentary films, as I believe they are called, of the great beauty spots of this country.
It may be that it is extremely difficult to get the U.S.A. to accept feature films from this country and to show them on their screens in considerable numbers, but I believe that there is a great opportunity to show the films of the beauty spots of Scotland, of Shakespeare's country, of Yorkshire, and the Lake District, if those films are short and well-made. I believe that there is a place for them in the average cinema programme of the picture theatres of the U.S.A., and I do not think that the pulling-power of short films of this sort to those who are looking for somewhere to spend their annual holidays can be over-emphasised.
There is another aspect of this matter to which I should like briefly to refer. Not only could we send films to be shown on the cinema screens, but television is becoming increasingly important, and I believe that a large number of films are being made in this country to be shown in the U.S.A. on the television. These will go not so much into the community centres for which the cinemas provide as into the homes the people of U.S.A. I hope that 325 the Government are recognising at an early stage the tremendous importance and pulling-power of the short historical film, well-produced and well-photographed, and also of the film which can be more particularly used as a dollar export to the U.S.A. and which can be shown on their television sets.
So far as I understand it, the tourist business is not just a catch-as-catch-can arrangement, but a vast organised business throughout the world. I ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade whether he is satisfied that the tourist agencies in this country have proper ties with the tourist agencies in the U.S.A. It is extremely important that the tie-up should be on a commercial basis because when the American would-be holiday maker is making inquiries and deciding between Miami and Manchester he goes into the tourist agency to discuss the possibilities and to hear of the attractiveness of the various places. It is, therefore, extremely important that the tourist agencies in the U.S.A. have a business tie-up with the tourist agencies in this country and are anxious to sell, so to speak, virtues of Britain as against those of other countries.
Reference has been made to excursions by air. I do not know what the British airlines are doing in that respect, but American companies are offering 30 day excursions to this country. That makes a tremendous appeal to the type of tourist who, from this country, put Switzerland on the map. It is not the people who fill the Ritz and the more luxurious hotels who make a tourist industry possible; it is the professional class, the people who are attracted by reduced terms of travel, by excursions by air and by sea.
Another point arises on the question of bookings. A great number of visitors from the United States wish to come here and to go on to the Continent. It is extremely important that we should encourage them to make their base in this country by leaving a certain amount of luggage here. To bring that about arrangements must be made for them to make their return bookings to the Continent, hotel reservations there, etc. There is tremendous competition in this respect. There is a tendency for United States visitors to go to Paris first and to make their bookings from there to this country. With a little care, advertising and the provision of one 326 or two facilities a large number of tourists would be encouraged to come to this country first and to let us arrange their return bookings to the Continent.
Reference has been made, as it always is made in Debates like this, to the importance of the smoothness of arrangements at the ports and airports. I have seen a good deal of the ports and airports of the world and on the whole the men who handle the difficult and delicate problems at our ports and airports are doing a good job of work. Their's is an extremely difficult job. Watch the "Queen Mary" or the "Queen Elizabeth" arrive at Southampton and see the enormous hive of activity which is released to get the passengers through the various forms of procedure, through the Customs, on to the train and brought safely to the terminus in London. It is an enormous undertaking, and on the whole those who are responsible for the work do it very well.
I do not know whether or not we can expedite the procedure, as has been suggested by many Members in Debates such as this and by Question and answer in the House. It will be worth doing if we can do it. Before the war consideration was given over and over again to whether it would be possible to carry out the Customs examination on the train. I do not know whether it is possible for Customs officers to go aboard the "Queen Mary" or the "Queen Elizabeth," that a declaration should be made there and the actual Customs formalities should be carried out on the train, as is the case on many Continental trains at all times of the year. I do not know whether that proposition has been looked at. It might be worth considering.
I do not know which Government set-up handles the question of the brochures which are being published in the United States, advertising quite deliberately and materialistically tourist centres in this country, but it must be remembered that when we are directing advertising to an advertisement-minded public in America such advertising must be of a very high standard. We must produce first-class brochures which give the American people all the information they want as well as provide all the illustrations which they require of the particular beauty spots in this country to which we wish to attract them.
327 The tourist industry in this country can be a great and growing industry which can attract people from the United States, Canada and the Argentine. The Government need someone with flair to handle this kind of thing. They need a Billy Butlin, so to speak. It needs somebody who will put the British tourist industry on the map in the United States; it needs the kind of technique which understands the art of selling tourism; and it would be well worth the Government's while to spend some money on getting a good professional man who understands this business to attract Americans to this country in even greater numbers and so build up a larger tourist industry to earn dollars.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
I feel some diffidence in speaking on this subject, because being a Scotsman from the West Coast of Scotland I might feel that my loyalties were concerned to try to attract American tourists to the beauty spots of Scotland. On the other hand, I have the honour to represent in this House a West Country Division, so that I look at this question from a slightly different angle when considering the more dramatic beauty appeal. At the same time, I cannot help thinking that much of the discussion and consideration of how we are to encourage American tourists is based on a proposition which is completely and absolutely out-of-date. I believe too many people consider that the American, or what might be called the hard currency tourists are confined to a group of people who are very well off, who want to go and live in the most expensive hotels, who like flashy night clubs and restaurants, and so on—the sort of thing we have been trying to deal with in the Standing Committee which is now considering the Licensing Bill—that the really strong appeal to the tourists is the opportunity to be able to sit up till three o'clock in the morning drinking what they want to drink how they like to drink it. Now, I refute that thesis altogether; it is completely false and out-of date.
The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) said that the large majority of American tourists who come over here are not of the millionaire type, but come from the professional classes. With 328 great respect, I think he is wrong. I believe that the great appeal of this country is not merely to the professional classes of the hard currency countries, especially the United States, but to the weekly wage earner. That is a most remarkable thug, and unless we appreciate it we shah lose a magnet of very great power which attracts vast sections of the community in at least North America, and certainly a considerable section of the community in South America.
If we are to attract that type of tourist we must have some specific types of magnets. It is no use merely sending out the ordinary tourist agency blurb, write-up and pictures. If people have saved a number of dollars, or some other hard currency, in order to come to this country, they will not have an awful lot to spare, and their visit will probably be one of the biggest events in their lives. and in coming to England, and perhaps from there to those parts of Europe people are allowed to see, they want some live interest which they can attach to their own lives.
I am one of those fortunate people—or unfortunate people, depending on the point of view—who have travelled over a considerable part of the globe, and being, I hope, a comparatively normal human being I cannot help remembering that, when looking at different activities in other countries the real interest was in comparing what I saw there with what I knew in my own homeland. To see a farm in the Argentine, a great estancia, brings back a picture of a hill farm in Scotland, or a dairy farm of 50 acres in Somerset; to see a spinning mill some thousands of miles away from here, is to summon up a picture of something seen in Lancashire only a few weeks or a few days before. Much of the human and live interest of the class of tourist who can and should be attracted to this country lies in comparing what they know in their own land with what they find in this. I do not believe for one moment that the reputation of this country would suffer if we encouraged that type of comparison. On the contrary, I believe that it would be to our advantage.
I would suggest, therefore, that when we are thinking of encouraging foreign tourism, and particularly American 329 tourism, we should put out of our minds the appeal to the big money tourist and start to cater far more carefully for the requirements of the weekly wage earners and those who come from the professional classes. The appeal of the beauty spots, the big hotels, the night clubs and the glamour is nothing like of the same value as the appeal of the far wider field. It is open to us for the first time for many years to appeal to people who will come to see our national activities. If we are to follow that up we have to do something to tell people about our industries and our way of life.
I have seen a certain number of foreign tourists, particularly American tourists, in this country, and I find that they have a real interest in the way ordinary people live, in the same way as when I go abroad I do not want just to stay in a hotel but to see the people of my own walk of life and other walks of life. It is of great interest to do that and it is very instructive. It is possible to compare the different ways of living, the cost of living and the comforts of living with very great advantage to ourselves, and exactly the same thing applies to foreign tourists in this country. So many tourists with whom one speaks on a ship or in a train will say how much they wanted to see our people and how they lived, and to know something more about our country. That is the sort of thing that cannot be translated into pamphlets.
We have to arrange so that people can see different facets of our national life in the same way as we make arrangements for people to see our beauty spots. Surely it should be possible to set up some sort of intelligent organisation so that people in the country and the towns can be asked if they would like to come to this country to see our light engineering organisation, or how our agriculture is worked and how the people in the industry live in this country. It is very important that people should know this, because one of the greatest dangers is that people in the United States may think that we are battening on them and demanding more of their food without doing anything for ourselves in our own countryside. If they could see the intensive activity that is going on in every field, hill and glen they would go back with a different picture and say 330 that these people are working for themselves but need additional help to enable them to carry on. What tremendous value that sort of thing would be.
Let us take another example. I remember, as probably do some other Members, helping to entertain Parliamentary delegations from another country. One of those delegations was taken to see some of our public services. It happened that we were particularly disappointed in regard to the London Passenger Transport Board and the display of their ramifications. We were given a minor glimpse of a very minor part of their activities. In fact, the whole thing was done in an unimaginative way. It is only fair to say that notice given to them was particularly short. I am not encouraging the idea that His Majesty's Government should snow to all foreigners what a tremendous success or failure nationalisation has been, but the bulk of our visitors make use of public transport in their own countries, and it is of great interest to them to be shown and to study what we are doing here. It is equally important that we should show them the tremendous progress we have made in spite of all the difficulties we have to overcome, and the tremendous spirit of our people despite difficulties and shortages.
There is another example which I should like to quote. I have never seen anybody so inspired as another delegation with which I was concerned, which was given a most fascinating visit to the London docks, where they were taken on a cruise on the Port of London Authority's excellently appointed vessel. They were shown great hospitality, and they saw the docks in full activity, with vessels from every quarter of the globe, not only delivering their produce but being reloaded with the produce and exports of England. They were impressed beyond anything I have known in any body of foreign visitors to this country, and they talked of nothing else for hours afterwards. They were not only thoroughly impressed with the scenes of activity but with the sense of drama. That is of enormous national value to this country. That sort of thing need not be organised in the official yacht of the Port of London Authority, though I envy anybody who has the opportunity of sailing down the river in it, but it can be organised by 331 other means and with other water transport.
What great value it is to our national position if foreign visitors can be shown such activity, which is, after all, the final point of departure for the goods which have been manufactured by hundreds of thousands of hands in the different factories of this country. What effort has been made to invite people to join in such visits as that? In the United States there is to be found woefully little advertisement for that sort of thing, and yet there are thousands of people interested in our economic recovery. We cannot divorce the building up of American tourism in this country from the fact that we are in receipt of Marshall Aid. Anything that we can show in this country to the American tourist which will prove we are not lust sitting back and receiving Marshall Aid because it has been offered to us, but that we are fighting our way out of our own difficulties and building up and restoring our reputation as a fighting people, will be of enormous value to us in the United States. I say most strongly that when we are thinking of encouraging American tourism in this country, we can never lose sight of that aspect of the matter.
We have to put our own case across. It may be called propaganda—I do not care; we must be blunt about it. This is a fascinating matter to people who are vitally interested in us, the staunchest stanchion of their bulwark in Europe. They want to know how we are doing. There is a wonderful picture to paint and a wonderful story to tell, and there are wonderful scenes to be shown in that regard, because of or in spite of His Majesty's Government, although we will not introduce anything controversial in that line. The docks of London; the docks of the Clyde—the shipbuilding yards of the Clyde are the finest in the world and nothing will ever beat them—the men who work there; the docks in the Mersey; they are all a tremendous advertisement of the spirit and guts of the people of this country.
Above all, let us invite people from the open countryside of the United States to come and see the way we run our land. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We should invite them to see the way we work on our land and 332 to see what we get off our land, and give them something to compare with what they can get off their land. We have something of which we can be profoundly proud, and in that connection what better part of England could they come to than the West of England?
We have tremendous opportunities, but I feel with regret that we are wasting many of them. I urge that we should take far more energetic steps to paint our own picture. If we paint it properly, we can not only double but treble those who will want to come here. We can look after them and we can send them back good friends of England and of Scotland, and possibly even of Wales.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), who so successfully initiated this Debate, little dreamed that he was setting us off on a Cook's tour of our country. He and other hon. Members who have spoken have succeeded in inscribing in our official record a eulogy of this country which is the best advertisement for which we could ask in connection with our tourism. Indeed, it has been a joy to listen to hon. Members building up this picture of Britain and of their own constituencies which is sometimes lacking in the reports which are given to our friends across the Atlantic.
I am very tempted to follow in their steps by referring to my own constituency because of the importance it held to the G.Is. and American airmen who came to this country. It was from High Wycombe that the Eighth Bomber Air Force launched its campaign against the Continent. In High Wycombe we had the very highest regard for the many thousands of Americans who came and lived amongst us. We received from them many messages and promises that they will come back one day as peacetime tourists. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I am anxious that they shall come back soon, and for that reason I am glad to support the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby in this Debate.
I am glad that hon. Members have not suggested that all we want our American friends for is to fleece them of their dollars. I am sure that once we encourage them to come here they will 333 not hesitate to spend their dollars. We shall be grateful for that, but the important part of our tourism is that we shall get to know each other better. As some of my hon. Friends have said, nothing is more needed than that at present. Like other hon. Members I had an opportunity to go to the United States about a year ago. I learned much of America, and I also learnt that the Americans need to know a great deal more about us. They are anxious to do so, and therefore if we can get them here, not the fictional type of American tourist, but the real human man and woman of America, I am certain that we can send them back knowing us and liking us better. For that reason the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. On-Ewing) was right in saying that the American type of tourist is not the nightlife seeker or the fictional American who used to come and have a 10-second look at Westminster Abbey only to say, "Tick that off." We want the type—and I am sure we shall get the type—of American who is coming to get to know us.
Therefore, I ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade if he will do something to get us away from the tourist atmosphere which, unfortunately, surrounds the tourist agency tour and get tourists into our homes. We ought to encourage the setting up in our towns and villages of Anglo-American friendship circles or bureaux where it would be possible for us to say to these tourists, "Come and spend the weekend with such and such a family" or "There is hospitality offered in such and such a house." There, indeed, they would get to know the heart of England and of our people. If we can do anything to divert tours from the well-trodden paths they have followed in the past, and get them into our villages, even into our "locals"—which were such a joy to so many G.Is. during the war—then they will get to know England.
In this respect I would put in a word for an organisation to which I belong, the English Speaking Union, which does magnificent work in offering hospitality to American visitors. If we could get this sort of club established throughout the country, that would give more the sort of hospitality I would like to extend to them. Americans are great joiners, as 334 somebody has said; they like to join clubs. I would like to think that while they are here the facilities of golf clubs, sailing clubs, working-men's clubs and so on should be open to our visitors. I know this is not something for which my hon. Friend can legislate, but it is something he could recommend.
Something in which I have always been interested is the exchange visit, and this will commend itself to the hon. Member for Scarborough I have no doubt. At the present time, for example, we have in this country a group of American housewives from the Middle West—in fact, they are leaving today to fly back to the United States. They have been in this country for some days, they have met our housewives, and I am sure they have got to know our home and kitchen problems much better as a result. I should like to feel that we are encouraging the type of tour which consists of workmen from a special industry in the United States visiting their opposite numbers in this country and living with them. And that might apply equally to teachers and students in far greater numbers than at present.
I understand that as a result of the number of G.I. brides from this country, mutuality groups have been set up in order to maintain contact between the relatives on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, indeed, is a means whereby my hon. Friend can give encouragement for exchange visits. As the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) said, some of the brides of these parents are most anxious to visit their children or to receive visits from them. If we can encourage that, I certainly will be able to satisfy many of my constituents.
The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) rightly said that the Americans are very publicity-conscious. Those of us who have been there know how much publicity is a part of their daily lives. He was quite right in saying that if we are to sell British tourism, we must have absolutely first-class publicity. Here I want to offer a word of congratulation to the British Holidays and Tourist Board for the excellent series of booklets and brochures they have issued recently. It is one thing to issue those brochures; it is another thing to have them distributed. I hope that in the United States we have 335 machinery to see that the widest possible distribution is given to them. I do not go so far as to say that we ought to go skywriting "Come to Britain," but that is the sort of spectacular thing which Americans look for. I hope that through our British Information Service in the United States we are not only telling the story of Britain, which is the point which the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare was so anxious to make, but that we are revealing the tourist possibilities of this country.
Americans will come to Britain. They will ask for good accommodation, good food, and I believe that we can satisfy them. Certainly, many of them are surprised at the quality of the hospitality which they can be given. They will equally ask for weather such as they can enjoy, but, ours is English weather, and that is something which my hon. Friend cannot control. I have not the slightest doubt, however, that, taking all our amenities together, we can offer to our American friends across the Atlantic the best possible holiday in this country.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Bottomley (Secretary for Overseas Trade)
The discussion has been most useful, and I join with other hon. Members in expressing gratitude to the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) for introducing the subject of the Debate. Anything which contributes to the establishment of good will between our friends in the United States and our own people, and at the same time helps to earn dollars so that we may begin to solve our problem of balance, is most desirable. I ought to disclose my own personal interest, since that example has been set by other Members. I sit, of course, for that great city of Rochester and the famous town of Chatham. I am quite sure that hon. Members would agree with me that the attractions which those two towns have to offer equal claims of others already established.
The Government take this matter most seriously. They have helped substantially to finance the British Tourist and Holidays Board. That Board, composed of members of the industry in the widest sense, does a very good job. They represent hotels, both large and small, and the other attractions which make for good 336 holidays and encourage the tourist to come to this country. Associated with the British Tourist and Holidays Board are the Welsh and Scottish Tourist and Holidays Boards. Those three organisations together are alive to the need both for publicity and for providing amenities when the tourist arrives in this country.
With regard to publicity, the British Tourist and Holidays Board have recently opened up much bigger and new offices in New York. Their office in Madison Avenue is a centre which is attracting great attention. From it is distributed literature of all kinds to travel agencies throughout the United States. Advertising is carried out in the Press, in magazines and on the radio. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) suggested that we ought to make more use of films as an advertising medium. I am not sure how far films are already used, but I have taken note of the suggestion with a view to seeing that this avenue is explored.
Publicity is designed to attract not only the luxury traveller, but also those from the middle and lower income groups. I agree with what has been said to the effect that the attractions that we have to offer are much wider and better than those appealing to those who want to go to what appear to be the luxury resorts or the glamour of night clubs and things of that kind. I shall suggest to the British Tourist and Holidays Board that extracts be taken from the OFFICIAL REPORT in order that the comments made by hon. Members about their constituencies might be distributed throughout the United States
Accommodation is not as we would have wished but one recognises that the war destroyed much of our seaside property where we have most of the attractive hotels in which necessary facilities are provided. To some extent, they have been re-equipped and rebuilt, and where it is necessary to build new hotels we are struggling with the limited amount of labour and material to provide houses for people and factories which must be considered alongside the need for new hotels and the re-equipping of those damaged during the war.
Comment was made on the need for de-requisitioning. I agree that that is a vital need and we have given full con- 337 sideration to it. Indeed 96 per cent. of the hotels requisitioned have been de-requisitioned and given back to the industry in order that there should be more accommodation for housing tourists. Replacement of equipment is also necessary and we hope that with increased production it will now be possible to give those facilities which make for the comfort and well-being of holiday visitors. In time of great shortages the public readily acceded to the decision to provide hotels with extra linen and extra facilities which a rationed public might have resented, but they recognised it as part of our endeavour to bridge the gap and make the economic position of the country easier.
A suggestion was made that we should try to encourage the tourist to come outside the ordinary holiday season. I entirely agree and we are doing all we can to achieve that. The problem is partly due to the travelling and holiday habits of the American citizen. We know the problem we have here in trying to stagger holidays and it is not easy, but we are doing all we can by stressing that there are attractions outside the normal holiday season such as music festivals to which the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) referred. I am glad to say that as a result of the co-operation of the promoters of such events we are securing added interest in the matter and an effort is being made to provide attractions outside the normal holiday season, which we trust will give encouragement.
An hon. Member suggested that we should try to get excursion rates and cheap rates for air travel and shipping. Towards the end of last year we introduced an excursion rate for air travel, and I shall convey to the Minister of Civil Aviation the suggestion that that idea might be further considered. I shall convey to the Minister of Transport the same request about facilities other than those which exist so that those who come by ship may have cheaper fares and different conditions from those prevailing. Another hon. Member suggested that something should be done about removing Purchase Tax on certain goods. I cannot deal with that as it is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but last year a scheme was introduced whèreby people were able to buy goods and have them sent to the ship or plane exempted 338 from Purchase Tax. I know from expressions conveyed to me from overseas visitors that that was helpful and, judging by sales, it had good results in earning dollars.
Much has been said about petrol. That is primarily a matter for the Minister of Fuel and Power. I can give an assurance that I have given the Minister no rest in my endeavour to get advantages for overseas visitors, and I must pay a tribute to the Ministry of Fuel and Power for having agreed to concessions. But even now there may be other concessions which might be considered. I have not the least doubt that the Minister of Fuel and Power will have the opportunity of reading what has been said, and it may be possible to grant further concessions consistent with good order and economy. We must remember that petrol costs dollars, and we cannot afford to waste dollars on the one hand when we are trying to save them on the other.
Currency difficulties have been mentioned. We do our best, within the necessary restrictions, to make it easy and understandable for visitors, and to see that the difficulties for them are not too great. If any hon. Member can suggest ways to help in that direction, I shall be glad to pass on the information to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I agree entirely with what has been said about the need for unrestricted passage. I consider that passports and visas and things of that kind are irksome, but at the present time there is need for some kind of control. The Foreign Secretary himself has expressed his views on this matter in no uncertain manner. He took the lead in doing away with visas, and if he had the opportunity, and could get the co-operation of other countries, he would be willing to go even further. He has on several occasions publicly expressed a wish that we could get back to the days when passports and visas were unnecessary. I think, therefore, that we can leave it to him to bring about changes of that kind as and when it is practicable.
The question of health forms and other necessary forms which have to be filled in, and the investigations which have to be carried out, is a matter about which we have to be extremely careful. The Minister of Health has considered this matter, but it would be very unfortunate if because of the outbreak of some 339 disease, tourists were prevented from coming to this country. It is in the interests, therefore, both of the visitors and ourselves that there should be some control in this way. I agree that it ought not to be irksome, and where it is possible to facilitate the filling in of these forms, or the movement of people through the necessary barriers, it should be done.
The matter of Customs has been referred to. The Customs officers do a remarkable job when we consider the difficulties under which they have to work. I have been aware of this matter and have established a working party which is going round the ports and different air centres at the present time to see whether it is possible to provide better accommodation and facilities for people coming from overseas. I consider that that working party is doing a good job and I hope in due course to be able to report that many of the difficulties have been removed. Generally the Departments concerned endeavour to make it easier for overseas visitors to come to this country, and remove any difficulty which will prevent them from so doing.
I agree entirely with what has been said by the hon. Member for Cheltenham that the local authorities must be brought in. They can be extremely useful in providing facilities which cannot be given in other ways. Many hon. Members have 340 requested facilities whereby their local authorities can introduce some scheme or get some attraction in their district renovated or renewed. On every occasion it has been possible either to assist in that direction or do something more in the way of providing extra amenities for local authorities to provide services for the overseas visitors.
As an illustration that the British Tourist and Holidays Board are doing their work really well, I can tell the House that we had the record figure of over 100,000 American tourists to this country in 1948. Of that number 75,000 stayed, and 27,000 stayed for a time and then went on to other parts of Europe. The amount earned was £10 million. I have been told by the Board that they hope that in 1949 we shall have some 25,000 more American visitors, earning for us £14 million. I think that the only things that stop us from having more are the transport facilities which are in short supply because of our economic position. We are grateful to the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby for raising this subject on the Adjournment tonight. I have taken note of points that, perhaps, have not been answered and shall report them to the Ministers concerned.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Four Minutes to Ten o'Clock.