HC Deb 18 November 1959 vol 613 cc1159-60
13 and 14. Mr. J. Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what official arrangements were made for the reception, entertainment and enlightenment of a road transport productivity team recently sent here by the National Productivity Council of India; and if he will make a statement;

(2) whether he is aware that a road transport productivity team, consisting of some of the leading personalities in the national and private sectors of transport in India, were, while on an officially organised visit to the United Kingdom, accommodated in an hotel in which sharing accommodation of four persons per room was provided for them; and why this was done.

Mr. R. Allan

The road transport productivity team was one of six Indian teams which have come here in the last two months under the United States Third Country Training Scheme, for which the British Council acts as agent in the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government were not directly involved.

This team, which had asked for double rooms, arrived at very short notice during the Motor Show. It was difficult to find any accommodation for them but eventually three-bedded rooms were booked. On the morning after the team's arrival the British Council learned that the hotel had, without telling them, allocated four to a room. They immediately protested and were able to make arrangements to move four of the party to another hotel. From then on all the team were accommodated in single or double rooms.

Mr. Harvey

Has my hon. Friend seen the special booklet that was printed regarding the quite high-powered delegation that this team comprised? Is he aware that they certainly thought they were here as official guests of this country and that they drew the most unfavourable comparisons between the treatment they received here and the treatment they received in Germany? Does he not think that the terms of reference of the British Council need to be overhauled if it is to do this sort of thing for us, and will he say whether, indeed, if it can entertain our guests only on a shoestring budget, the British Council is the right body to do this sort of thing at all?

Mr. Allan

I am glad of the opportunity to make clear that the members of the team were in no way official guests. Their trip and everything concerned with it was paid for by the I.C.A. The British Council was merely acting as an agent and under instruction. I am, naturally, very sorry that there were reasons for complaint, but, as I said in my main Answer, Her Majesty's Government are not directly involved.

Mr. Driberg

Can the hon. Gentleman say which was the hotel which behaved so disgracefully?

Mr. Allan

I should have to have notice of that supplementary question.

Mr. Shinwell

Are we to understand that guests have to be officials in order to be properly accommodated in this country?

Mr. Allan

The members of the team were not guests of this country. There are many people who come to this country and cannot get proper accommodation.