§ 11.11 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Mathew (Honiton)
I beg to move,That this House, recognising the need to extend and adjust the holiday period so as to relieve congestion at the peak period, asks Her Majesty's Government to set up a Committee to examine this question urgently with special reference to the educational, tourist trade, and transport interests concerned, and the problem of summer-time, with power to recommend early action.A number of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have informed me that the subject of my Motion is "longer holidays for everybody." I should like straight away to disillusion the House on that point. The subject of the Motion is sometimes referred to as "staggered holidays." I am told by many in the tourist industry and in organisations connected with the campaign for extended holidays that they do not like that term, I do not know why. I do not know whether it is thought that the idea of staggering on to some pier at a seaside resort would act as a deterrent to a potential holidaymaker. However, I am in very respectable company in advocating extended holidays and the change in the dates of specific public holidays and bank holidays in this country because, as you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, the suggestion for a fixed Easter and the advantages which would flow from such an arrangement were first voiced as early as 687 at the Synod of Whitby.
This is a plea to my hon. Friend to take some action in a matter which has been threshed out for some time now. It has been the subject of a special resolution of trades councils and the tourist associations throughout the country. As a result of the social development of the last few years, of which we are all aware, the volume of holidaymakers in this country has increased enormously compared with the number before the war, and it is increasing year by year. That is a development which all of us must welcome.
In a recent debate in another place Lord Gifford gave the figure of people in this country who take holidays as being something over 50 per cent. According to a later figure which I have 821 —of course, it is only approximate but I believe it to be accurate—about 30 million of our population take an annual holiday of one week or two. In addition, there is the overseas tourist trade which brings valuable foreign currency to this country. That has increased enormously in the last few years and is still increasing. Hon. Members will have seen the figures published the other day showing that in 1959 the total of overseas visitors to this country was no less than 1,390,000, which represents an increase of 10 per cent. over the figure for the previous year. The figures reveal the significant fact that even in December, a winter month and not a usual holiday month, there was a substantial increase in the number of foreign visitors from almost all the European countries, and also, of course, from the United States.
The vast majority of people in this country take their holidays during the peak holiday period, from the end or perhaps the middle of July until the third week in August, because of a number of reasons which I will come to in a moment. It is not because of the weather. We who are normally in recess during August have a very good idea of what constitutes the normal British weather in that month. The records for the past few years show clearly that there has been a greater amount of sunshine in a areas of this country, and less rainfall, during the months of May, June and September than in July and August.
I wish now to mention some of the research and work which has already been done on the problem of extending the holiday season and encouraging British people to take their holidays during the early summer, or in September or even October. As I say, a number of chambers of trade, tourist organisations and local authorities have discussed this matter and passed resolutions urging that action should be taken. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Board of Trade, in conjunction with the British Travel and Holidays Association, held a conference to discuss tourism generally in May, 1958. A whole session of the conference was devoted to the problem of extending the holiday season and every speaker strongly supported the idea. I should like to mention that the conference was held under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for 822 Hastings (Sir N. Cooper-Key) who, unhappily, is unable to be present today. I understand that he is unwell.
My hon. Friend stressed the importance of regarding the tourist industry, with its big capital investment, in the same way as other industries and from the point of view that the more capital investment which is made, the greater the necessity to work a factory full out, in order to pay for the ever-continuing expansion. We should realise the advantages of what in heavy industry would be called the shift system and its application to this industry.
Mr. Victor Feather, the assistant secretary of the Trades Union Congress, who spoke, gave strong support to the plan for an extended holiday season and expressed the view that industry would welcome it. He said that industry would support the idea of the Trades Union Congress that the holiday season should be extended over June, July, August and September rather than that it should be necessary to grapple with the problem in the last two weeks of July and the first three weeks of August. Mr. Feather thought it would be possible;to arrange wakes weeks in the industrial areas so as to fall in with an overall plan. I mention this only to give the view of industry. I hope that other hon. Members who represent industrial areas will give the view of what I might call the customers or consumers—that is, holiday-makers who go to areas, such as the area which I represent, which have a big, expanding and thriving tourist industry. The Industrial Welfare Society, which has, I think, about 3,000 companies as members, is also extremely interested in this subject. I understand that it is publishing a pamphlet at the end of this month supporting the principle of extended holidays which will go out to all members of the Society.
The result of the concentration of holiday-making during a period of five or six weeks is threefold. The growing tourist industry in the holiday areas is becoming appallingly overburdened. I would even go so far as to suggest that at certain times it approaches saturation point. The whole organisation—hotels, catering establishments, holiday transport and other holiday amenities—suffers, unlike most industries, from 823 being seasonable in any event. The result of the holiday season being compressed into this sort period is not only that the industry's employment, administrative and other activities are dangerously overburdened, but the holidaymakers themselves receive much less satisfactory service than they would if they went on holiday at the off-peak period.
I do not think that I need stress to the House the effect on public and private transport. I need not remind hon. Members of the appalling road and rail conditions on all main routes leading to holiday areas, especially in the first two weeks of August. Conditions on the roads in my area in the South-West, especially at weekends, during late July and August are truly chaotic. I say "especially at the weekends" because, as the House will be aware, what I might call the change-over takes place on Saturdays and Sundays. Private motorists on the main roads coming back from holiday are met by new holiday-makers setting out for their fortnight's holiday.
The main road, A.30, runs through my constituency and I have some fairly grim experience of what can happen at peak weekends. I might say, on behalf of my constituency, that the traffic trouble does not originate in the Borough of Honiton or along that particular section of the A.30. The trouble is that the traffic which comes from the Midlands and from the North via Bristol, from the East of England and Salisbury, Andover and the South is channelled into this small road and, after the Exeter by-pass, branches out to go to South and North Devon or to Cornwall. Also, there is a narrow bridge on the Exeter by-pass. The result of all this is that there are the most appalling traffic jams, which were, in fact, the subject of a number of main articles in the newspapers this summer.
I am always very distressed, when I am asked which constituency I represent, to have people say "Oh, that is the place where you have the traffic jams". I would like to take this opportunity of saying that we are not to blame. It originates in other areas. I am severely hindered in the summer in moving about my constituency. If I want to cross over from the south of the A.30, where I live, to the northern part of my constituency, 824 I often have to wait up to half-an-hour to cross A.30. I have had many anxious moments when I have had an appointment for a particular time.
The Ministry of Transport is carrying out in the West along the A.30 a number of extremely expensive road improvements. I hope that one day the whole holiday area of the South-West will be fed by a motorway carrying all those going to Devon and Cornwall for their holidays. I had reason in the House to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport to the fact that the tourist industry was vital to our area, that it was a thriving industry which brought foreign currency to this country and that it had as much claim to priorities in road building as other industrial areas. However, while we are waiting for the major road improvements, if a real effort can be made to encourage the public to take their holidays over a longer period, I am certain that it will make a contribution towards relieving some of the catastrophic road congestion during the peak summer months.
One of the most tragic things in British life today is that every bank holiday, every August, we wait to see in the newspapers and listen to the wireless to hear the toll of road casualties at the peak periods. Every year the record is broken. This is a most appalling thing. I think that my plan for extending holidays will make a contribution towards lowering that shameful toll. I do not think that I need remind the House of the burden of passenger traffic with which British Railways have to deal during this period. The main line stations in all our great cities are the nearest approach to Bedlam on earth during August. I sometimes feel that holiday-makers themselves, after a fortnight's refreshment, often lose all the benefit of their holiday in the few hours of torture which they have to endure if they return home by train.
Those of us who represent constituencies in the West and have to travel to and from London during August know only too well how difficult it is. Here I should like to take the opportunity of paying tribute to the job Which the Southern Region carry out. The members of the region make very great efforts during the summer months to cope with the appalling problem which is, from 825 their point of view, almost insoluble during peak weekends in August. Extended holidays will enable the railways to move their passengers more efficiently, in far greater comfort and with the service to which the public is entitled.
I have touched on the effect of the concentration of the holiday season on employment in holiday areas. The problem everywhere in the tourist industry is seasonal demand. Even hotels, boarding houses and guest houses which remain open throughout the year have to do so on reduced staffs. This creates an off-season employment problem which all hon. Members representing holiday areas know only too well. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will know that on many occasions we have made representations to try to get something done to introduce light industry into these areas to relieve this chronic problem.
I should like to say a few words about the problem of residents in holiday areas and who live in them, as I do, all the year round. To illustrate the point, I should like to tell the House the story of a man, a very good man, who died and went to Heaven. When he got to Heaven, I regret to say that he found it extremely dull. He did not know what to do with himself. It was all very pleasant, but dull, So he decided to have a holiday. He took a first-class ticket to the other place and he had the most splendid holiday he had ever had. He was well treated and there was plenty to eat and drink and all the amenities that one required from a first-class holiday resort.
Eventually, at the end of his holiday, he returned to Heaven. After about six months, he was so bored that he asked for a transfer. His request went through the various ministries and in due course he was transferred permanently to Hell. As he came through the doors, several little devils with forks advanced upon him and he was put on to sewing mailbags and was fed only on bread and water. As can be imagined, he felt very unhappy and he complained to the Devil himself. "It was altogether different last August", he said. "Ah", replied Mephistopheles, you were a tourist then. Now, you are a resident." This is a story which has meaning for those of us who live in these holiday areas.
826 The various services provided by the local authorities have to be adjusted to meet a big increase in the population during the holiday season. The fact that the holiday season is so short means a tremendous expense in the rates and in other ways to the normal residents of the area. The community planning officer of the Devon Councy Council has studied the position in our county. The normal resident population of south Devon, the area for which I have figures, is 236,000 in the area between the River Exe and the River Plym. By 15th July each year, the population has increased by approximately 60,000, or nearly 25 per cent. During the August bank holiday week, it has increased by 100,000. That is a staggering figure.
The pattern is the same in all the holiday areas, at least in the south-west of England. Every holiday resort must gear its services to this considerable increase in population and the expenditure of the local authorities on water, roads and other services must be maintained at a much higher level than would be normally required. The cost of this additional service must be met by a higher general level of prosperity.
I have indicated that during these peak periods the tourist industry is almost at saturation point in many places, but we must expand in order to bear this burden. We can only expand if we get the spread which I am advocating of the period during which holidays are taken.
For a number of reasons, the industry is coming near to saturation point. The difficult travelling conditions may additionally act as a deterrent. The industry must expand during the next few years, but the man who goes for his holiday down to the South-West, to Cornwall or to Devonshire in his motor car and who is stuck for 50 minutes or an hour in a traffic jam on a Saturday on the Exeter by-pass may well say, "I am not coming here next year." This is a real fear. Unless we can make a concentrated effort to ease the situation, I am certain that in the long run the tourist industry in Britain will suffer and more people will take their holidays on the Continent.
If July and August are not the best months from the point of view of weather, why do the British people remain so loyal to the last two weeks in 827 July and the first three weeks of August? Undoubtedly, conservatism plays a great part in the habits of the British public. Tradition and custom play their part.
There are two main factors to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. One is school holidays and the other is the August bank holiday. The researches of the British Travel and Holidays Association and of other interested organisations show that a large number of people like to include the actual August bank holiday in their summer holiday period. It has been suggested on a number of occasions, and it was raised in another place on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, in November, that it would be a great advantage to all concerned if the bank holiday could be moved to the last week in August. Its present position the first week of August adds to the rather illogical distribution of public holidays throughout the year and the period from the first week in August until Christmas, which is the next public holiday, is a very long one. It would bring some order into the illogical distribution of public holidays from which we suffer.
It must be admitted that the whole problem of bank holidays is bedevilled by a movable Easter. This has been under practically continuous discussion since the year 687 and I do not want to go into this old controversy in detail, but the time is rapidly approaching when we will have to grasp this nettle and try to fix Easter.
§ Mr. Mathew
We cannot afford to wait another thousand years.
The other factor, which is by far the most important in influencing people to take their holidays in August, is the problem of school holidays. In nearly every family, even when people desire to vary their holidays, for school reasons August is the only practicable month. No doubt, other hon. Members have felt, as I have done, that it would be pleasant to take their family holidays during the Whitsun Recess, but that is not possible owing to the structure of the school terms.
828 A solution would be to persuade all schools, whether local education authority maintained, direct grant or the various types of independent schools, to adopt the four-term year. I understand that this is already possible for local education authority schools under the 1959 regulations, which provide that the school year must be divided into not more than four terms. The present practice is to have three terms. There is, I believe, a growing body of opinion in educational circles in favour of this reform.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
Does my hon. Friend mean that there must now be four sets of examinations instead of three?
§ Mr. Mathew
I did not intend to dwell on the horrors of the examination period, but, clearly, my hon. Friend has raised an important aspect. The examinations, especially the extra-mural ones, which are held at the end of July, are another factor in determining the holiday. I would always be in favour of reducing the number of examinations. For the purposes of the Motion, however, I would like them to be moved away from the times when they impel people to take their holidays during the short peak period.
Clearly, the solution as far as the school term structure is concerned would be for the committee which I have proposed in the Motion to examine the situation in detail. One of the proposals which has been made is the four school holidays should be from mid-March to the first week in April, during June, then September, and two weeks over Christmas. In addition there would have to be a good deal of elasticity between various areas in the country. I can see difficulties occurring in industrial areas where whole factories close down and even whole towns, choosing the same period for holidays. There would have to be elasticity in applying the four-term year and also of course whole school holidays at Easter, Whitsuntide, and the August bank holiday which, I hope, would be fixed at the end of August. I think that this would be the greatest single step forward that we could take in achieving the object of extending the holiday season.
I am not going to enter into the mysteries of summer time. Perhaps I should be a very brave man if I did, 829 as I am engaged in agriculture myself and am surrounded by farmers. However, I hope that the Government will not delay too long in an investigation which is being carried out at the moment and in reporting on it. I would only issue once again what I think I may call the farmers' warning. We are not very enthusiastic. I understand that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has some very constructive ideas on this matter, and I hope that we shall hear from him in due course, but on behalf of the agricultural community I would say that the National Farmers' Union has taken a very generous attitude towards this question and has stated that it is ready to accept extended Summer Time for two or three weeks in October if the Government think this would in fact be in the public interest. That is a very generous attitude on the part of the farmers.
In conclusion, I would say to my hon. Friend that there is a very considerable body of opinion in this country which would welcome the introduction of an extended holiday season. It would relieve road and rail transport and be of immense advantage to the growing tourist industry, which could work more proficiently and plan greater expansion for the future. Chambers of trade, tourist associations, education associations and other interested bodies have during de last few years discussed this and passed resolution after resolution. We had the conference in 1958 under the aegis of the Bord of Trade. But we have had no action.
I am suggesting to the House that the time has now arrived when a body should be set up to co-ordinate all these interests and efforts with the object of achieving an extended holiday period in this country, and at an early date. For the tourist industry this is urgent. Everybody has been passing pious resolutions, everybody has been giving lip service to the principle—everybody on both sides, the tourist industry itself in the areas in which the tourist industry works, and the areas in which the holidaymakers, the customers and the consumers, live. Nobody has tried to co-ordinate all these various interests, and nobody has proposed action, except in detail, such as the proposal for a fixed Easter and the proposal for moving the bank holiday, and the various proposals 830 for changing the shape of the school year.
Therefore, I move this Motion, which I hope the House will accept, to urge my hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to take the initiative in this important matter, to set up a powerful committee to do this. Time, as I say, is not on our side, and the matter is now urgent. I should like to see the first steps taken before the coming summer season. I ask my hon. Friend to take note of all that is said in this debate, and to recognise that the time for talking, the time for soothing assurances is long over. I suggest that in the first instance a committee should be set up with representatives of all the interests concerned to examine the matter urgently and to report at a very early date, with, I hope, a recommendation for a scheme to be introduced which will be on the basis of altering the Bank Holiday and of a change in the school year.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I beg to second the Motion.
First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) on choosing this subject for debate, and I should like to thank him for asking me to second it. I represent the consumer, the man who goes for a holiday from an industrial city in the Midlands to areas such as that of the hon. Gentleman.
The City of Lincoln is unique in many ways and in its beauty and quality of its products. But it is typical in other ways of the cities of the North and the Midlands, especially in that we have trip week—wakes week, it is often called elsewhere—which induces a large proportion of my constituents to take their holidays at a time of the year when the seaside resorts are most crowded and most expensive and when they are liable to have the worst of the summer weather. That is the period of the end of July and the first half of August.
The British Travel and Holidays Association put out a pamphlet recently on facts about holidays, and I shall quote from it:The popularity of the August Bank Holiday period for the annual break has developed owing to the fact that the holiday prior to 1938 meant to the average worker a holiday without earnings which resulted in its being 831 taken when in any case a short week was inevitable owing to the statutory August Bank Holiday. Holidays with pay have now removed the original cause of the concentration on the August Bank Holiday period, but the habits of holidaymakers have not varied, and the extreme peak holidaying time in the week preceding and the week following August Bank Holiday still persists.How strong this habit is—and that is the word used here—is shown by the survey which was conducted, which showed that of the number of people who went away from home for holidays during this period one-third were under no necessity to go at that period, no necessity whether of family reasons or work reasons. They went then because that was the habit into which they had fallen. I have said that this is the period when the holiday resorts are most overcrowded and most expensive and liable to have the worst summer weather.
How overcrowded the coastal resorts are at this time can be shown by this figure. One-third of all the people in this country who go away for summer holidays begin their holidays in either the last week of July or the first two weeks in August—one in three of all those who go away for a holiday.
It is a national problem, but it is a particular one for the Midlands. It so happens that the proportion of people who go away from home for summer holidays is far higher amongst people in the Midlands than amongst people in any other region of the country. We have our own coastal resorts—Skegness, for instance. I am the proud possessor of a model of the Skegness fisherman given me by the Corporation of Skegness, and I would be the last to say that there is anything wrong with Skegness. There is not; but, of course, it cannot hold all the tens of thousands of people from the Midlands. Many of them go to enjoy the beauties of the constituency of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Honiton and create the traffic problem in doing so I have a fair idea of how many go there, because I have been there for my own family summer holidays and I have had scores of my constituents greeting me as I have been digging sand castles for the amusement of my children. On one occasion, when the family was bored and had gone away, and I was left there building a fortress against the oncoming 832 tide, I was surprised by a coachload of my constituents who were delighted to find how I spent my summer holidays.
A few years ago, when we were on holiday in Cornwall, we ran out of water. There was no water there at all and it was very difficult for many people. One man told me that he found it an expensive holiday. When I asked him why he said that he had a great thirst and that gin and tonic was the only thing he could find to drink. As a result, his holiday had proved much more expensive than he had expected.
Secondly, this period is not only overcrowded, but, apart from difficulties with water shortages, which I agree are unusual, it is expensive. Every survey shows that the further one moves away from August the cheaper a holiday becomes. There is a difference of 18 per cent. between the cost in August and the cost in May or early June.
Thirdly, August is also a bad month for weather. Michael Flanders and Donald Swann have written of it:August cold and damp and wetBrings more rain than any yet.That is wrong scientifically in one respect. August is not a cold month, but it has a rather bad record. Statistics covering the last thirty years for the coastal areas of this country show conclusively that August has less sunshine than July and far less than June. It has also more rain than July and far more than June.
The hon. Member for Honiton referred to our tourist trade. The striking thing is the enormous increase of 10 per cent. last year over the previous year in that trade. Most tourists from overseas naturally spend much of their time in London and they tend to visit six smaller towns and cities, Cambridge, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon and Windsor. But most of these are day trips. Visitors are noticed in these cities because they are there in large numbers during the day. They are not noticed in London because these large numbers can be absorbed. But few people realise that a quarter of these visitors spend time in seaside resorts. Because there are over 200 seaside resorts in the country we do not notice them, but the British Travel and Holidays Association says that people are not coming to the country because they cannot get accommodation during the peak period of the summer.
833 What are we to do? I want the proposed committee to inquire into the problem and there are three points which I want the committee particularly to look at. They cannot be dealt with in isolation. The first is the moving of the town holiday trip or wakes week. Some study was made of this in 1945 when the Catering Wages Commission reported to the Minister of Labour under the Catering Wages Act on "The Staggering of Holidays." As an illustration of what can be done, I shall quote paragraph 26 of that Report:The general question of the voluntary machinery"—for moving holidays—will be discussed later. … We are, however, encouraged to believe that holiday weeks can be moved to more suitable times by the experience of Leicester and Northampton. In both cases a ballot was taken on the initiative of the employers and Trades Unions which resulted in a decision (a) to transfer the holiday week from the August Bank Holiday week to the second full week in July.I suggest that that is good guidance on the method by which these changes can be made.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
But did those two cities keep to that arrangement? The difficulty was that immediately after the war the many cities which had experimented with this arrangement reverted to their former bad practice.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I cannot say whether they maintained it. I should regret it if they went back to the former practice. It is the method of consultation which I stress.
Secondly, what can be done to move the August bank holiday? It was established only in 1870, but surely the last ninety years have shown the desirability of moving the bank holiday. One of the important points is that there are 20 weeks between August bank holiday and Christmas and the United Kingdom is alone among Western European countries in not having had a public holiday during that period.
I have mentioned moving the trip weeks by agreement, and moving August bank holiday, and the hon. Member for Honiton has suggested changing the school terms. I have not given much study to the idea of four terms. I am rather alarmed about that, not so much 834 from the examination point of view but from others. We have to think about the school teachers. Since the war, public examinations have been held earlier in the summer. There is no reason why they should not be held a little earlier and we should seriously consider adopting a practice more like that on the Continent of having shorter holidays at Easter and Christmas and ending the summer term in June. That is another matter which should be discussed.
The hon. Member for Honiton said that the Motion also refers to Summer Time. Daylight-saving generally is directly relevant to holidays. Hours of sunshine are lost early in the mornings because people stay in bed. I do not blame them, but what a pity that we have not looked at this problem, for example, from the point of view of Benjamin Franklin. In 1784, when he was United States Minister in Paris, he wrote a letter to the Paris Journal which was headed "An economical project."
In this letter he related that he was in "grand company" one evening where a newly invented lamp was introduced. He said:I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject.Suddenly, awakening at six in the morning, he was "astonished" not only to find that the sun was shining, butthat he gives light as soon as he rises.But for the accidental awakening, he says,I should have slept six hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by candlelight.Benjamin Franklin added that as an act of policy the French Government should save time and the people shouldconserve tallow and enjoy more daylight.We have no need to save tallow today, but it would be a benefit to the whole community and not only to holidaymakers if we had double summertime all the year round. It is nonsensical that in sleeping we waste so many hours of beautiful sunshine.
Since the time of William Willett the greatest opponents of Summer Time have been the farmers. It is understandable, especially on dairy farms where the cows are used to a certain 835 régime. Harvesters are also accustomed to wait for the sun to dry off the dew, but the evidence in farming journals published from time to time shows that branches of the National Farmers' Union are increasingly going on record in favour of greater daylight saving. It is a gradual process. The opposition to it is far less today than it was at one time.
I will summarise it in this way. Unless we spread the summer holiday period we shall have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that if we are in motor cars we shall breathe more diesel than ozone, and if we are on foot we shall have to stand in queues all day for ice cream and a swim. Indeed, we may come to bathing in the sea on a shift system. The hon. Gentleman's reference to the descent from Heaven reminded me that unless we solve the problem we may have to rewrite Bernard Shaw, who said that a perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell. Unless we do something about this problem we may have to say that perpetual hell is a good working definition of a holiday.
§ 12.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) was diffident about what I have adways suspected was one of his achievements, namely, succeeding in attracting all the inland waterway enthusiasts to Lincoln two Augusts ago. This leads me straight to my first point, that it is no use my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) merely talking about staggering the holiday period; we must produce attractions.
This point is recognised by the British Travel Association, because in its excellent pamphlet which I have obtained from the Library a list is published of all the current attractions throughout England and Scotland. Looking at the one published for Scotland, I am forced to admit that during the spring and early part of the winter the association is hard put to find amusing attractions. I cannot see that the bull sales at Perth, important though they are, can be regarded as a function to which a vast number of tourists would be drawn. The necessity for increasing attractions for people who want to go on holiday has been recognised by Mr. Butlin. Indeed, that is the 836 explanation of the great success of the Butlin camps, that there is something going on for people to do all the time.
The explanation of the great success of Switzerland is also that there are many things for people to do during the three or four months of the winter if they are fortunate enough to be able to go there. The extraordinary thing, as the hon. Member for Lincoln will know, is that one can go to the most outlandish and coldest and bleakest part of the Lincolnshire coast in the middle of the winter and find a small pub doing a roaring trade because of the people who are taking a week's holiday in the winter in the hope of shooting the odd goose.
It is all very well to say that accommodation is lacking, but if we are to ask people to provide more accommodation by enlarging hotels and building more bedrooms in them, we must do something to extend the time in which people will want to stay there. Here I should declare an interest because I own a holiday hotel in the north of Scotland. Since I have been a Member of this House I have been unfortunate—or perhaps fortunate—to have it burned down. So I have had the pleasure of rebuilding it and planning it with the best advice obtainable from the British Travel Association and from the best architects. I appreciate, therefore, the large amount of capital expenditure needed to provide even the most modest accommodation. We must face the fact that even to get a limited return on the amount of money sunk in building a hotel these days it is necessary to charge a tariff of between 12 guineas and 14 guineas a week. This is a large sum of money for people who have a wife and children to take on holiday.
I am rather doubtful about the report by a Mr. Hugh Fraser—I do not think it was the Mr. Hugh Fraser—which appeared in the Scotsman on 14th October. This put forward the idea of encouraging the crofters, and others living in out of the way places, to provide more facilities for people to go there on holiday by building extra rooms in order to increase the amount of accommodation available. I think it is unwise to encourage people to sink their savings in expensive extensions, unless we increase the amount of sailing, bathing, fishing, and provide better places for drinking, as well as other facilities.
837 I will make one more suggestion to my hon. Friends the Member for Honiton and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. It is that we should ask the Nature Conservancy to come to our aid. I am not a great admirer of the Conservancy in many of its activities, but I believe there would be a chance here for it to carry out constructive research and make constructive suggestions. Also I should like to see what can be done to extend the fishing season. There is a vast amount of unfished water particularly in Scotland and on Dart-moor consisting of lochs and tarns from which few people get pleasure at the moment. It is not worth the while of anyone to stock them and to develop fishing because, as the law stands, anyone can drive up and fish them and take out all the stocked fish, without paying any money towards the maintenance of the tarn up to a reasonable standard.
I would like to see the Nature Conservancy experiment with some of the derelict lochs, feed them and change the breed of trout, making them a pleasure to fish from May to October instead of being limited, as they are now, to June and July. Certain experiments have been carried out and so I believe that this would be successful. However, this will be of no use unless we change the present rules and regulations which allow people to draw up in a motor car and fish without making any contribution to stocking.
It is not difficult to appreciate the attraction of fishing. There are about four million people in the Midlands who are really keen anglers and are prepared to motor great distances for the purpose. I know of four miners from Doncaster who, two weekends a year, motor 490 miles to the north of Scotland for a long fishing weekend. They catch about 200 rather miserable trout because nothing is done to improve the feeding and the stocking of the lochs. They admit that they do not want to waste their money on holiday accommodation. They bring their own tent but, because they want to use a boat and enjoy the fishing, they are prepared to pay ten shillings a day, or some other small sum, to the local hotel for the privilege of using its boats and having the right to fish on that water.
838 I am not suggesting that all those who want to make use of fishing facilities should have to pay a large sum. I do not suggest that they should have to stay in the hotels which own the boats. I want them to bring their caravans or tents and camp in the vicinity, obtaining permission to fish and to use the hotel boats on paying a modest fee. The money should then be used for stocking and improving the loch.
I am certain that if we could have a lead from the Nature Conservancy on this matter, and a promise from the Government that in the event of the Nature Conservancy producing constructive suggestions the rules and regulations on fishing upon the shore of any loch in Scotland would be amended, this would be a valuable step in the right direction. Today the maintenance of a boat, its painting and general upkeep, is expensive, apart from the purchase price. So people will not put boats all round the lochs in the north country for the sake of permitting people fishing. I suggest that as soon as a boat is put on a loch, the fishing there should be restricted.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Would my hon. Friend apply that argument to sea lochs, such as Loch Fyne?
§ Mr. Kimball
Certainly not, because sea lochs cannot be stocked and improved. I am certain my hon. Friend knows that the natural food is there. The trouble with the sour, peaty ones that abound in the West Country and all over Scotland is that they are not fed, but it is easy to feed them artificially at limited cost and so extend the fishing season.
I would add to that that the people who go on holiday nowadays are armed with the most devastating tackle, such as the new threadline fishing gear. With this kind of gear, fishing from the shore is as punishing as fishing from a boat. It did not matter so much when people used to fly and fished only from one shore, but with the whizzers of today people can damage a loch from the shore just as easily as it can be damaged from a boat. I hope we shall see some action taken in this respect.
839 I agree with everything that my hon. Friends have said about the need to fix Easter and Whitsun. This applies particularly to the Highlands of Scotland, for it is not much use having an Easter Holiday in Scotland in the last week in March when the roads are still blocked with snow. A great service would be done to the extremities of these islands if Easter could be fixed at the end of April, as it is this year, and Whitsun in the middle of June or slightly later.
Whatever we or a committee may say, we shall not get the holiday season extended unless we can get the leaders of industry to support us. I think I am right in saying that the Leicester experiment, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Lincoln, has, alas, not been carried on. Last year, we had a vast exodus from Nottingham, Birmingham and the Midlands generally all over the August bank holiday. I believe that all the Midland cities clashed over their holidays. This situation will not be improved until the leaders of industry appreciate the problem. After all, not everybody wants to drive along crowded roads when going on holiday; large numbers of people want a holiday to sail, swim, fish or occupy themselves in some other pleasurable way during the daytime.
I hope that throughout the United Kingdom the Act introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), which attempts to stop the pollution of some of our inland waterways and rivers, will in itself extend the amount of countryside in which people will want to spend their holidays. My constituency is right at the mouth of the Trent, and one has to be a very brave man, particularly during a dry summer, to bathe in the Trent or sail a boat on it today. It is extraordinary that in this overcrowded island we should still persist in polluting what can provide one of the healthiest and cheapest means for people to enjoy themselves and holiday facilities nearer the industrial towns of the Midlands so that people from that area do not have to go all the way down to Devonshire, which can be very expensive, or all the way up to Scotland, which is even further away.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) upon introducing this extremely useful Motion, in spite of the fact that I look upon him as one of my keenest commercial competitors. I was relieved to hear his explanation for the Honiton bottleneck. I thought it was a device intended to exhaust travellers wishing to visit north Devon so that they would go south instead.
The reason why this is an extremely difficult subject and why it will be very difficult to achieve a change is that it will mean changing the habits of the British. We are one of the most hidebound, conventional nations in the world, which is, I am told, one of the reasons why we are so attractive to foreigners. That is, however, no reason why we should not tackle this problem. I can see no disadvantages at all in staggering holidays, and think that the benefits which would flow from so doing are limitless.
In August the traffic is appallingly congested, cars travelling bumper to bumper. It is nothing for people to have to wait outside Salisbury for two hours in order to travel twenty miles. The railways are also overcrowded. Had the human beings who travel on the railways had the good fortune to be cattle, they would probably be protected by Acts of Parliament and the railways would be committing an offence in crowding them in the way that happens during the summer holiday period.
Accommodation is overcrowded. People sleep in the hedgerows. In one part of the country a farmer lets out his chicken houses for people to sleep in. As the hon. Member for Honiton said, one of the effects of all this is that people will not return to the same area in the following years. Therefore, I believe there is everything to be gained by staggering holidays.
We can try to relieve congestion on the railways. We can make the roads safer. We can spread the rate burden. At the moment, many authorities have to levy rates in order to provide services which are used for a period of perhaps only four or five weeks in the year, and that places a very great burden on the people who live in a small area.
841 I suggest that staggering holidays would also benefit industry. In this country August is practically a dead month. Although there are certain small works which close down completely for the holiday period, I suggest that there would be very great advantages indeed if in the industrial centres holidays were staggered.
The first Measure discussed in this House last October was the Local Employment Bill. If we take the holiday towns which are suffering from unemployment we see that the moment the holiday season ends the unemployment graph rises. In my constituency we have virtually full employment. Yet within a fortnight of the holiday season ending the unemployment figures in Ilfracombe rise not by tens but by hundreds. If we could stagger holidays and have a longer holiday season, that would do far more to cure local employment than the Local Employment Bill. In fact, it could be the greatest single factor contributing to relieving unemployment in the holiday areas. On that ground alone the proposal is of tremendous sociological importance.
We accept that this will need the co-operation of local authorities, the tourist industry, the railways and industry generally, but the real nub of the question is whether or not the President of the Board of Trade is prepared to try to change the hidebound traditions of the British public. I concede at once that it is an extremely difficult task. If it were done, it would have tremendous economic benefits for the holiday areas, particularly in the West Country, which suffer from high unemployment rates.
We are merely asking for a committee. It may report that it is impossible to do this. However, I am sure that the hon. Member for Honiton will ensure that, if a committee is set up, its chairman will be given a week's holiday in turn at Sid mouth and Ilfracombe and probably end up doing a little fishing with the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball).
Seriously, this is a matter which vitally affects the economic life of the holiday areas. In my view, everybody will gain if holidays are staggered—the people who live in the holiday areas, those who are going on holiday, and those whose employment depends upon a long holiday season. For these reasons, I urge the Government to set up a committee. If 842 they do so, they will earn the gratitude of hundreds of people whose livelihood depends upon the holiday industry.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
It is appropriate that the House should be discussing the question of staggering holidays just at the moment when British Railways seem to be about to introduce their own system of enforced holidays for many. I hope that the recommended committee will be set up, but I admit that I disagree with at least 50 per cent. of the specific proposals put by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) in his eloquent speech. However, having driven down the A.30 this summer, I join with him in hoping that road improvements will soon make their effect felt.
I have two specific proposals to put to the Government on steps which I should like them to take. I join with the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) in emphasising the importance and the rôle of local education authorities and I believe that Christmas and Easter holidays should be shortened and summer holidays lengthened. The proposal of the hon. Member for Honiton was for four terms, cutting the length of the holidays, but that is an entirely retrograde step and it would be wise to extend the summer holidays as much as possible.
I have never been able fully to understand why the school year in this country should be split up as it now is. I have been told that one reason for the length of holidays is that in the eighteenth century it was very difficult for boys at Eton, Winchester, Rugby and Harrow to travel to the North and to Scotland by stage coach, and that if there was to be a holiday at all it had to be fairly lengthy, with the result that there was a month at Christmas and a month at Easter. But that is a very poor basis for the school year in the twentieth century.
For a time, I was educated in the United States of America, where there are short holidays at Christmas and Easter and a very long holiday in the summer. As a boy, I found that that was exceedingly pleasant. I believe that parents liked it and I am certain that teachers liked it, too. I believe that many teachers in this country would 843 welcome a reorganisation of the school year and that the National Union of Teachers would certainly not stand in the way of a partial reorganisation.
For one reason, the teachers could then devote longer summer holidays to useful work and to the so-called "refresher courses", which are becoming increasingly popular among teachers—a fact which we welcome since it is of great value to the whole education service. Slightly longer summer holidays would do much to increase still further the popularity of such courses.
It may not be possible for many education authorities to do much unless there is a change in the organisation of external examinations. The recently published Crowther Report suggests, for quite independent reasons, that the organisation of external examinations must be investigated and revised. I hope that when that happens—and I hope that it happens soon—the problem of extending summer holidays will be considered.
Altering the dates of the August bank holiday has been mentioned. I believe that that would be disastrous for any Government which suggested it. I have a much better proposal, which is that we should have not a movable bank holiday but another bank holiday, at the beginning of September, preferably on the second Monday in September. It would be well to call it, "Battle of Britain Day."
At the moment, oddly enough, we lag behind almost every other country in the free world in the matter of holidays. In England and Wales we have six, but the Commonwealth has far more. In Canada, it is largely a provincial matter, but the province with the smallest number of bank holidays has ten. South Africa and New Zealand have 12 each. In Australia it is a State matter, but New South Wales, which is representative in this matter, has 11. The situation in India is a bit complicated, but if one has the good fortune to live in the State of Madras, one has no fewer than 29 bank holidays.
The Colonies do substantially better than we do. Gambia has 11 bank holidays. For some reason Gambia celebrates the fall of the Bastille on 14th July—why, I cannot imagine. Sierra Leone, almost next door, has 12. One 844 finds no uniformity in East Africa. Kenya has eight; Uganda, nine; Tanganyika, 10. Malta and Hong Kong have 16 each. Naturally, we lag a long way behind America. California has 14, Texas, 12, Now York, 11. There is not one of the 50 States which has fewer than 10 as opposed to our six.
Next week, we shall be discussing the European Free Trade Association Bill. How do we compare with our partners in the Outer Seven? Naturally, we are behind them all. Denmark, Norway and Portugal each has eight, with some other bank holidays, although the whole of industry and commerce does not close down on those days. Sweden has nine national holidays and three more bank holidays, while Austria has 10 plus three. In Switzerland, it is somewhat complicated and depends on the Canton in which one lives. If one has the misfortune to live in Geneva, one has only seven, but if one lives in the Canton of Schwyz, it is 14.
Then there is the Common Market, which the European Free Trade Area cannot ignore. Again, those countries have far more than we have. Belgium has eight, Holland eight, Germany nine, with an additional six if one happens to live in the right provinces. France has 11, Luxembourg 13, and Italy 14.
Most of the less developed parts of the world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, also have vastly more bank holidays than we have, although, of course, those countries do not have our system of paid holidays. In Oman—I did not know that they had banks in Oman—there are 23 bank holidays.
Only one part of the world has as few bank holidays as we have, the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union has five, Poland has eight; so, once again, we would be lagging behind.
The best way of swiftly extending the holiday season would be to have a new bank holiday on either the first or second Monday in September, thus taking the whole holiday season well into that month. Such a move would benefit the tourist areas, as we have heard in a most eloquent plea from the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). We can afford to extend the holiday period thanks to the wise economic policies of Her Majesty's Government. It is ridiculous to suggest that we cannot 845 afford an extra day off, and it would be right if the great Battle of Britain could be commemorated by having another holiday in September.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Johnson (Lewisham, South)
I join with other hon. Members who have thanked the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) for introducing this important topic for discussion today and for the persuasive and moderate case he put forward. He demonstrated that the position had now arrived when, unless the Government took action, little could be done to resolve the problems to which he referred.
The problems stem from the simple fact that there has grown up in this country a pattern of holiday behaviour whereby two-thirds of our people take their holidays in July and August, and, of those, one-third concentrate their holidays in the last week of July and the first week of August.
The point has been reached when everyone concerned with the provision of these holidays is facing a task which grows worse year by year. We remember the situation last year, when we had such an excellent summer, but it must be appreciated that even today only 50 per cent. of the people of this country take their annual holidays away from home. That shows that there is an enormous untapped reservoir of holidaymakers who, if they joined the crowds at our holiday resorts, would make the situation intolerable. Year after year we see traffic paralysed on the roads. There would be increased pressure on the accommodation available for holidaymakers. The seaside towns would be packed and our countryside invaded. At present it is almost as though there is an annual descent of locusts. When one sees photographs of some of our seaside resorts at bank holidays it looks like gregariousness gone mad.
It may be that the difficult conditions under which people take their holidays will induce more and more people to turn their thoughts to holidays abroad. Our seaside holiday resorts would view with alarm such a change in the holiday pattern.
This problem has developed during the last quarter of a century. It is corn-manly agreed that it received an enormous stimulus from the Holidays 846 With Pay Act, 1938, and was further accelerated by the wartime Measure adopted in 1940. It started a movement which has grown to the point at which almost all the organised workers in this country have two weeks' holiday with pay.
§ Mr. Johnson
With some pay towards their holidays.
If one looks ahead, it appears that within the trade union movement we shall be faced not so much with demands for increased wages as with demands for shorter working hours and, in due course, increased annual holidays. If the annual holiday period is extended from two to three weeks the problem will be intensified.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). He airily waved away the importance of August bank holiday. It is the nub of the problem. If one looks back to the development of holidays in this country, one sees clearly that the concentration of holidays in the last week of July and the first week of August grew from the simple desire of workers to add a few days' holiday to the holiday provided for them in August. I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham that in this country we are thrifty about the provision of bank holidays. As the hon. Member said, we have six, but the Scots are even more thrifty—they have five. When we look at the rest of the world it is regrettable that, with the U.S.S.R., we share the position of being the most niggardly country in the world.
I should like to feel that there is some hope for an additional holiday being provided at the end of August, or at the beginning of September, but that hope is small and we should be well advised to concentrate on moving the August bank holiday from the first Monday in August to either the end of the month or the beginning of September. It would be easier to move the August bank holiday than any other holiday because it is unconnected with any religious festival, which is one of the factors connected with the Easter holiday.
There is a simple case in favour of moving the August bank holiday. When it was introduced a century ago it 847 was designed to afford a little relief between Whitsun and Christmas. If one looks at the calendar, one sees that it was a bad choice, because the August bank holiday comes very much nearer to Whitsun than to Christmas. On rational grounds there is, therefore, a case for taking it later in the year.
The problem of the concentration of these two weekly periods in July and August is serious. That is demonstrated by an inquiry into holiday arrangements which the British Tourist and Holidays Association conducted in many of our towns and cities. The House might be interested to hear the figures of potential holidaymakers during this year. The inquiry covers the period 25th June to 24th September, but I will give the House the figures for only four of those weeks. For the week ending 23rd July, in sixty-eight towns factories will either close, or there will be wakes weeks or the like. The population affected will be 2,164,620. In the following week, 30th July, 192 towns and 8,390,901 people will be affected. The week after that, 6th August, 213 towns and 9,169,455 people will be affected. The next week, 13th August, the figures drop to 79 towns affecting 2,732,547 people. That shows, in a very real way, the importance, the gravity, and the substantial character of the problem.
Some of the people in these towns are becoming increasingly concerned about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) referred to some experiments in these towns some years ago, but it is a fact that quite recently in the motor industry in Coventry there was a meeting of the workers at which they decided that they would prefer to change the holiday arrangements and to take the first two weeks in July. A similar view has been expressed by organised workers in Birmingham. Changes of that character are, of course, very desirable, but it is surely undesirable that this should be done in a piecemeal fashion, without seeing the effect on the country as a whole. That is why it is so important that the Government should set up the Committee for which the Motion asks.
The Evening Standard recently conducted an inquiry among its readers as to their feeling on this matter, and it is interesting to note that seven out of every ten people who took part in that 848 inquiry voted for switching this holiday from the existing date at the beginning of the month to the last Monday of the month. A number of interesting arguments were used in support of this, although I will not refer to them in detail.
A good deal has been said about the other important factor in our existing holiday pattern—the school holidays. Until we deal with the problem of school holidays we are unlikely to ameliorate the holiday problem, because it has been estimated that no less than 43 per cent. of all the people who go on holiday take children with them. The period during which children can take their holidays dictates when the parents will go on holiday.
For this reason I am interested to see that the Motion refers to consultation with educational interests, many of whom have been very much concerned with this problem in the past as it affects them in their own localities. I believe that there is now a consensus of opinion that if some stimulus is given from the centre the education authorities will be prepared to give serious consideration to the matter.
Reference has also been made to Summer Time. I think it is unfortunate that it is only in one year in three that we have extended Summer Time at Easter, because it is a movable feast. Reference has been made to the desirability of fixing Easter, and the Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt be able to say whether it is a fact that there is on the Statute Book the Easter Act, 1928, which provides that Easter Sunday will be the second Sunday in April, except when 1st April is a Sunday, when Easter will be the 15th. That Act can come into force when both Houses of Parliament authorise an Order in Council after hearing the opinion officially expressed by a Church or other Christian body. I very much hope that if this committee is set up the question of the fixing of Easter will be discussed by it.
The problem of the concentration of the holiday period is not restricted to this country. Everybody who has been to the south of France, especially in the first two weeks of August, will know that there are comparable problems in that country. The O.E.E.C. recently 849 discussed this very problem of how to extend the holiday season. I believe that the Governments represented there were asked to consider ways and means of staggering holidays in their own countries. If the Minister today can indicate his acceptance of the Motion, and if the committee can find a solution to the problem, they will be helping not only to solve the difficulties in which we are placed in this country but also to make some contribution to what has become an international problem.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
We have been talking about the staggering of holidays for years and years and years. In spite of the fact that many suggestions have been made for consideration both in the House and elsewhere, nothing has happened to make the situation any easier. For that reason, I welcome the proposal that a committee should be set up, and I hope that if the Motion is carried the committee will be set up very shortly—indeed, in a matter of weeks. It must be a high-powered committee, including representatives, in particular, from the Ministry of Education.
In the seaside resorts the seasonal hotels are grossly overcrowded during August. During many of the other months of the year they are very nearly empty and run at a loss. This is why very high prices have to be charged by the hotels and boarding houses for the holiday season. It is the only way in which these establishments can make a profit over the year. The problem of overcrowding during the holiday months cannot be solved by building more hotels in the holiday resorts. That would make the problem even worse and the profits of the operators even less than they are today.
In some of the seaside resorts we have tried the idea of reducing hotel and boarding house charges during the off-season months, in an attempt to persuade people to take their holidays in other months than August, but that has not worked. To begin with, very often some of the holiday resorts cannot afford to have the right kind of amenities all the year round. For example, if hon. Members go to some of the resorts in the spring they will find none of the boats on the seashore which normally 850 take them out fishing. They will not find the seaside concert party on the pier, and often the theatre is not open.
I do not say that this applies in the constituency which I represent. The theatre there continues all the year round, and we are fortunate in that, being near London, we have quite a good off-season holiday trade. But there are many resorts which cannot afford to keep these amenities going during the off-season. If some attempt were made to stagger holidays and to bring people to the resorts for holidays during the off-season period, the seaside towns throughout the country could perhaps afford to keep these amenities going much longer.
I have one suggestion to make for consideration. Too often we notice that bookings in hotels and boarding houses are from Saturday to Saturday. We know very well that, particularly in the spring and the summer, the roads at the week-ends are crowded with people who want to go to the seaside, perhaps for the day. They leave London in the morning and they go in their motor cars to one of the South Coast resorts for the day. They run into all the people who are starting their week or fortnight holidays on a Saturday and all those who are returning from their holidays, also on a Saturday.
Every week-end, as a consequence, we see this ridiculous, crawling mass of motor cars, bumper to bumper, all the way down the roads to the South Coast. I do not think that it would be very difficult to arrange for holiday bookings at hotels and boarding houses from, say, Wednesday to Wednesday instead of from Saturday to Saturday.
The main problem in this question is education. Unless the education authorities agree to stagger holidays we might just as well give up the discussion, because it is only when children are either too young to go to school, or have left school, that one has the opportunity, if a family man—and I have the honour of being a family man—to take a holiday in June or July, or in the latter part of September and October.
I have had many people ask me, "When are you going away for your holidays?". and I have to say, "I must go in August, because of the children's 851 holidays." They have often replied, "Yes. We are lucky now. Our children are grown up, so we can take our holiday in June, July, or later in the year if we want to." I think that they are lucky.
We have heard enough today about the bad weather that is experienced from time to time in August. Very often it just rains and rains in August whereas in early October we often get brilliant sunshine, and the sea, having had the benefit of all the summer months, is often warmer for bathing at the beginning of October than it is in August. There are all sorts of things that one can do in October in a less crowded seaside resort than one can do in August when the beach may be overcrowded with people lying about, I was going to say, almost bumper to bumper.
Coming back to the problem of education, I know that the suggestion which I am going to make today may cause all sorts of inconveniences to a number of people, but surely it is not beyond the wit of man, as it were, to divide the country into two and to say that, so far as schools, universities and examinations are concerned, the people in the northern part of it should take their summer holidays one month earlier than, perhaps, those in the southern part. I believe that that could be done, even though it might involve some inconvenience. I believe that the education authorities should try out that suggestion. It would be invaluable from the point of view of employment in the seaside resorts, because even in a place like Eastbourne we get some seasonal unemployment.
I do not believe that we should ever allow a resort such as Eastbourne to be ruined by the introduction of large factories with large chimneys, and so on, which, unfortunately, has happened to some other seaside resorts. Holiday resorts are very important to the community, and we have few enough really good ones in the country as it is. I do not want to see the existing ones spoilt.
We have done our best, of course, to introduce light industries in discreet places, not on the sea front, and that has, to some extent, helped the problem of seasonal unemployment. But it is not really the answer. The answer is to see that the amenities provided by holi- 852 day resorts are used more fully throughout the year.
I very much hope that the Minister will agree to the appointment of the committee and that it will be a high-powered committee. I hope, too, that the members of the British Travel and Holidays Association, who have done so much work—and I gladly pay them this tribute—on this and allied subjects will be given every opportunity to play their part in that committee.
We owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) for raising this very important subject today, a subject which affects not only the holiday resorts and their prosperity, but every person in the country who takes a holiday.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) that we owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) for using his good fortune in the Ballot for such a useful purpose as the raising of the subject which we are discussing today. All of us who represent holiday resorts in this country are particularly pleased that he should have done so.
My interest in the matter is, perhaps, even greater than that of some other hon. Members, because I might almost describe it as being a fatherly interest, in that I was the first hon. Member to bring the question of the need for a spread-over of holidays before the House. About twenty-two years ago I introduced a very similar Motion on the subject. I then urged the Government to take all possible steps to facilitate and encourage an even distribution of holidays throughout the summer months.
At that time the holiday pattern of the country was changing. It was the time when the movement for holidays with pay really began and when it was going forward at a great pace. We had to consider what could be done to cope with the demand for holidays which we knew was coming along. Then, as now, every hon. Member who spoke on the subject was in favour of the principle of a spread-over of holidays. From that date on I as the Member for one of our greatest holiday resorts in the 853 country have followed the subject with interest.
It is not just a matter of one holiday resort, but of every holiday resort in the country. They are all keenly interested in the subject. It has been my privilege for a long time to be the president of the Association of Health and Pleasure Resorts. Year after year, when I go to the meetings of that association the question is asked, "Why is something more not done to secure the spread-over of holidays?"
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friends in saying that in twenty-two years very little has been done to make this idea a reality. We in this House have a chance of doing that. What earthly reason is there for this House finishing its Session in the summer so as to enable us to get up in time for August bank holiday? That is the date on which we have to finish. If we were looking after our own interests and those of the country we should be taking our holidays in July and returning earlier in October, thus achieving a proper balance in our own lives.
§ Sir C. Taylor
I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that we should have our holidays in July, when my children do not start theirs until August.
§ Sir R. Robinson
If we could have what is now proposed my hon. Friend's children would be able to take their holidays with him. It would be a good influence, I am sure, for the children and it might, at the same time, be a good thing for the father to have the children around.
The problem is that so little has been done. This was pointed out by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) when they referred to the recent debate on the Local Employment Bill. It is a striking commentary on the position of holiday resorts in this country that so many of the leading ones are suffering from unemployment to such an extent as to be designated as Development Areas in that Measure. That is a very serious matter. It means that in these great resorts which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne said, are performing a real service, we have unemployment by reason of the fact that they 854 have not the opportunity of rendering enough of the services for which they are well equipped.
I agree with what has been said many times. This question is important to all, not only to the resorts themselves. It is vital to the transport industry. It is a matter of the utmost concern to employers and workers alike and it is important also in the sphere of education. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne strongly on that. The education authorities have not yet done enough. They have been on notice of this problem for more than twenty-two years. Year after year representative bodies have asked if we could have a change in the school examination system, but we are no nearer to that today than we were twenty-two years ago.
The only concession the education authorities have given is that two weeks' holidays with parents is an adequate reason for absence from school. That is not enough, because parents with a sense of responsibility do not like to take their children from school while classes are still going on. To tackle the whole root of the problem there must be a change in the date of the examination, and that can well be made.
I think it fair to say that paid holidays are now recognised as an essential part of our national life. The whole system has changed. Holidays are the prerogative of the millions rather than the privilege of the few. Yet, in spite of that, we are tied to an old system, which was good enough when only a few took a holiday. In this House we should take the view that it is our duty to see that everybody in the country gets as good a holiday as possible under the best conditions and at cheapest possible prices. I say, let us drive to get away from the old system, which probably worked well fifty years ago when only a few took holidays.
There is need for the spread-over which has been so well and adequately urged by hon. Members on both sides of the House, I cannot understand why our people do not recognise the glories of spring and early summer. At that time, probably this country is the most beautiful in the world. Happy the man who can take his holidays in June or early July, when daylight is longer, the country is greener and fresher, and he 855 can spend them in a cool and much more bracing atmosphere, a time when he will get more sunshine and less rainfall.
What a wonderful thing it is to consider that all these advantages are given to us by Nature at a time when travel is easier, hotels are less crowded and, in many cases, tariffs are lower. A system by which everyone takes holidays during a brief period of six weeks is one of the most uneconomic things in the life of the country. How ridiculous it is that our hotels should be overcrowded or deserted and local authorities in the seaside resorts have to provide utilities which are either strained or unused. How senseless it is that the workers in the resorts find themselves overworked for a short period, or out of work for the greater part of the year.
I suppose that, as a northerner, I can take pride in the fact that the best example of good sense came from the north of England when the people of Lancashire and Yorkshire got together and organised their wakes weeks. That was a great improvement. We can fight hard at cricket, but when it comes to a thing like this we can get down to the hard facts, and we have enough sense to get together and do something helpful. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, South so rightly said, this good idea is adopted elsewhere. I commend the workers of Coventry for bringing their holiday period forward two or three weeks earlier. That, I believe, will be of great benefit to them.
I think that we are all agreed on the general principles. The main question is: how can the Government help? In my opinion, the Government can help a great deal. I think it wise and sensible to set up the suggested committee. I say straight away, however, that the mere setting up of a committee is not enough. We have had twenty-two years of words, but we need twenty-two months of action. We have had so many committees which have led to more and more talk without action being taken. As my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne said, we want a powerful committee and, as is foreshadowed in the Motion, we want one which can move quickly and take action. We want one which will state publicly its position and its recommendations for the tourist industry and holidays generally.
856 My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) cannot be here today. Unfortunately, he has been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in court. He is on the side of the angels, not appearing in the dock! Some time ago he and I pressed on the Board of Trade the necessity of having a committee to deal with this matter. Nearly two years ago now, the Board of Trade set up an ad hoc, inter-Departmental committee to look into all the problems arising out of the tourist industry. Has that committee yet reported? We are not told, but I believe that it has. If it has reported, why are we not told the results of its deliberations?
I sometimes wonder whether some of the recommendations made by a committee are perhaps inconvenient to Government Departments. Let us forget whether they are inconvenient or not. If we have an inter-Departmental committee on an important subject like this, let us see that the Members of the House know what its recommendations are so that we can consider them and, if necessary, press the Government to bring them into operation. Perhaps when the Parliamentary Secretary replies to the debate, he will be good enough to tell us what has happened to that committee, where its report is and why it has not been published?
Other things can be done. One thing to be considered is the question of extending Summer Time. I agree with what has been said by many, that it should be extended to the last Saturday in October. Let us start earlier in spring and in such a way that, whether Easter is fixed or not, we always have Summer Time over the Easter holiday.
Another thing which I support very strongly is an alteration in the date of August bank holiday. It is not so much a question of how many bank holidays we should have in the year. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, South said, the August bank holiday is the nub of the whole problem. People come to feel that that is the time when they must be away. If we could shift August bank holiday to the end of August, or the beginning of September, we could have flexibility, which would be a great blessing to all concerned in the holiday industry and to all those who take holidays.
857 I have another question to ask about the holiday industry. Many of us have been pressing this case on the Government year after year. The Government, wisely, set up the British Travel and Holidays Association, which has publicised abroad, with tremendous success, holidays in our country. As a result of all that has been done, we now have an industry which is the largest earner of foreign currency and second only to the motor car industry in earning dollars. Last year, we were able to attract to oar shores about 1,350,000 people. The holiday industry ranks as one of the greatest export industries of the country. Everyone who has been interested in industry has always taken the view that one cannot have exports alone unless they are backed by a prosperous home market. That principle applies to the holiday industry as much as to any other industry.
Is it generally realised that in London alone there are 36 overseas tourist offices advertising the benefits of holidays abroad to our own people? They are selling holidays as a commodity and are interesting Britons in them. There are still a great many people in this country who do not take holidays and could be interested in them. We had hoped that with the coming of holidays with pay the workers as a mass would go out and take holidays which they knew were beneficial to them. Yet after so many years, about 46 per cent. of the workers in industry stay at home for their holidays.
This is the greatest opportunity the holiday industry has ever had in the whole of its existence. If, in some way, we can capture the imagination of those people, sell them the necessity of having holidays, sell them the necessity of spreading their holidays over a longer season, and convince them of the glories of our country in springtime, the future of the holiday industry will be assured and there will no longer be the need to designate holiday resorts under a Local Employment Act. We have a chance to do it. I believe that today we have the means to do it.
The British Travel and Holidays Association has had tremendous success in selling holidays in England to foreigners. If the Government and the Board of Trade now ask the association to extend its sphere of operation and sell home 858 holidays as a commodity to our people, the chances of success will be spectacular. The association would need money behind it. I ask hon. Members not to think that its success in attracting people to Britain has been achieved without tremendous advertising and a very large campaign. We want the like at home. If the Board of Trade would make available as much as £100,000 to the association for this purpose, it would be able to achieve one of the most spectacular successes which we have seen in this country for a long time.
A great opportunity lies before us. I hope that the committee will be set up and that it will not remain as a committee of talk, but will be a real committee of action.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
I have been constrained hitherto in the debate, as a Scottish Member, to take a detached view of the discussion, although one appreciates that the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) and his hon. Friends who have spoken so far are speaking on a subject which is exceedingly close to their constituents' wishes and interests.
It is very easy for anyone who has taken a holiday in England, as I do occasionally, to discover that a holiday season that is crowded into six weeks creates problems of all kinds. When talking to people who run hotels and boarding houses in English resorts, particularly in the south of England, one hears repeatedly the complaint that they have to make enough in six weeks to last them for ten-and-a-half months. Obviously, that is a ridiculous way of running the vacational organisation of the nation.
The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson), who has spoken on this subject, during so many years, said that in the North they have a more realistic approach to this problem. The further north in this island one goes, the more sensible is the method of tackling the problem. In Scotland, we have a way of handling it which it may be of interest to the House to consider for a few minutes. I do not approach this in any sense of saying, "Here's tae us, there's nane like us". I make these statements as matters of fact. Like wakes weeks in the north of England, 859 no two large cities in Scotland take their holidays at the same time. This eases the strain on the holiday resorts, on the roads and in every other way.
Bank holidays are similarly treated. No two neighbouring towns in Scotland have their bank holidays, except Christmas and New Year's Day, on the same day. We call them spring holidays or autumn holidays. The spring holiday usually takes place in April or May. No two contiguous districts in one county have their spring holiday on the same day. Therefore, if one town has the holiday its neighbouring town has not. The Glasgow spring holiday is never on the same day as the Edinburgh spring holiday Consequently, people on their spring holiday in Glasgow can go to Edinburgh and find all the restaurants, shops, theatres and every other place of amenity open. Therefore, having the holiday spirit, they have the greatest joy of the holiday-maker, that of seeing other people work. This system is very useful because there is no overcrowding on the roads. It should be at least considered by the committee which I feel sure the Minister, after all this advocacy, cannot resist setting up any longer.
It has been said more than once that it might ease the problem if August bank holiday was moved from the beginning to the end of August. That might to some extent ease the problem, but it would not ease it to a very appreciable extent. It would be a move in the right direction. Many people take their holidays so that they end on the Saturday before August bank holiday. They thus have an extra day added to their holiday. If August bank holiday was moved to the last Monday in August instead of the first Monday, the only effect would be that people would postpone their holidays for a fortnight so that they would still have one extra day at the end of August instead of at the beginning of August.
We should still have a very large conglomeration of congested roads, over-full boarding houses and the horrible spectacle of those people who cannot organise anything and who take their holidays without previous booking, going to seaside resorts and sleeping on bathchairs on the sands. Moving August bank holiday to another week 860 in August would not have the entirely beneficial effect which has been advocated. The Scottish system may have some disadvantages, but on the whole it spreads out bank holiday traffic and trade to the advantage of shopkeepers, hotel proprietors, boarding house keepers and the public at large.
I realise that if any hon. Member would feel the urge to put this Motion on the Order Paper it would be the hon. Member for Honiton. I am one of those who have suffered that disastrous queue in the town which is the centre of his constituency, and which gives its name to his constituency. This kind of traffic jam is spreading. This is a matter which is now becoming urgent. Certain bottlenecks in roads leading to holiday resorts in other parts of the country, as well as the approaches to London, are becoming seized up on successive Saturdays for six weeks every year.
So that we may apply normal, ordinary common sense to this one aspect of the problem, surely the committee which we hope will be established as a result of this debate will go to its work speedily and will be powerful enough to make recommendations which not only the Government, but the trade unions, the employers and the education authorities will listen to with respect, and upon whose recommendations they will take action.
I hope that the Committee will be established. If it is, I am sure that every hon. Member of the House will wish it to make a speedy start on its work and a speedy presentation of its report.
§ 1.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I have listened with great interest to the case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) in support of his Motion. Representing, as I do, Harborough, in Leicestershire, I do not represent a constituency which has an interest from the point of view of attracting tourists. It is true that we have what is perhaps the best hunting country in the world there, but, strangely enough, we are not inundated either in summer time or in winter by a large number of visitors. Instead, the opposite thing happens. Many of my constituents take the opportunity of 861 visiting, for instance, Honiton, Eastbourne, or Scotland for their summer holidays.
My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton advocated three or four striking proposals. He recommended, for instance, that we should have a fixed Easter. He recommended that the August bank holiday should be postponed, and that our schools should enjoy four terms instead of three. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree with me when I say that the whole problem of the staggering of our holiday time would disappear if we could arrange for our people to have holidays without any reference at all to the type of weather which they would expect to enjoy. We have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) say that in Eastbourne, of all places, in October one can bathe in the sea in water that is warmer than it is in August.
We have also heard it suggested by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) that in Lincoln one of the reasons why people seem to prefer to go for their annual holiday round about August bank holiday time is that it is rather a matter of habit, going back many years. For many years, people there have been accustomed to go on holiday about that time. My submission is that the chief reason why people go or holiday in the peak periods of the year is not because of a habit formed over many years, but because they are struggling to choose the time when they will enjoy the best weather.
The British summer is occasionally a very brief one indeed, and people like to choose their holidays to coincide with the few weeks or even days when we hope for real summer weather. It is a fair conclusion that during the peak months or weeks of July and August, when people can expect to get the warmest weather, the longest days and possibly the most sunshine, we must expect to have chaos on the roads, the railways, in the hotels and at the airports.
My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, in his Motion, asks for early action. I wonder whether he was possibly a little influenced by the "Indian summer" which we enjoyed last year. As a cricketer, I well remember myself looking at a deserted cricket field 862 towards the end of October, when it was baked brown, with a fixture list which ended the month before. I would point out to my hon. Friend that one swallow does not make a summer, and that one hot summer does not mean a succession of hot summers.
There are two points in my hon. Friend's Motion on which I should especially like to comment. One relates to something included in it, and the other to an omission from it. My hon. Friend refers to the tourist trade, and that could mean either tourists in or tourists out. In this country, both are very important, but more especially tourists coming in. As we have heard, our latest figures show that the British tourist industry attracted a record number of over 1¼ million visitors to these shores last year. The total value of that tourist trade was nearly £200 million. The greatest increase in visitors, represented by their national groups, was in the increase of 22 per cent. of American dollar-bringing visitors. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here today, he would say that the British tourist industry and the valuable revenue which it brings into this country from these foreign visitors is essential to our economy.
The point that I want to make is that these visitors must be allowed to come to this country when they want to come here, when they think it will suit them best and when they will get the best weather for their particular purpose. It is useless for us to try to put out a lot of propaganda encouraging them to come and enjoy picturesque Britain in March or October, when perhaps the weather will be very bad. We want them to come again and again to this country, and they will only do that if, when they come, the weather is fairly warm and suits their purpose.
The other part of my hon. Friend's reference to tourists concerns tourists out. I would say that it is a very good idea to stagger the travel journeys of those people to the stations, ports or airports as much as we can, because it can be fairly said that travellers going from Britain to visit the Riviera have a very good chance of getting good weather there at most times between April and October.
863 The other point which I wish to single out concerning my hon. Friend's Motion is an omission from it. I see nothing in his Motion which refers to agriculture. I had the pleasure of listening to my hon. Friend's speech, and, while it is true that he mentioned agriculture, I would remind him and all hon. Members that the tourist industry may be one of Britain's biggest, but the agricultural industry is by far the biggest industry in Britain. The views of the National Farmers' Unions, the two organisations representing England and Wales and Scotland, were quite clearly expressed in this House a year ago by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he informed the House that both unions expressed their opposition to the extension of Summer Time.
My hon. Friend's Motion starts by calling attention to the need for a national plan. In this country, most of our affairs are planned, and we live in a planned economy. Our birth is planned, our life is planned, our future is planned, our death is planned, but only when we can plan the rain and the sunshine, the cold and the wind—a day I hope never to see—can we have an effective planning of our summer holidays.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Hon. Members have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) on moving this Motion and giving us an opportunity to speak on this subject. As this is my first post-maiden speech, may I be rather selfish and say how much I welcome the opportunity to speak upon a subject which is uncontroversial, one upon which the whole House is in agreement and a subject about which I feel strongly.
This is a matter which affects my constituency, Folkestone and Hythe, where we have made special arrangements to emphasise the advantage of holidays in the off-peak season. We enjoy good spring weather, in fact the sunshine record for April, May and June shows that there is more sunshine then than in July, August and September. The average for the last twenty years indicates that in the early spring months we have 50 hours more of sunshine, and 864 hon. Members know what a beautiful county Kent is at that time.
However, I am not here to extol the benefits of my own constituency because this is a national matter. Particular reference has been made to problems arising over school holidays and I wish to direct my remarks now to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. I believe that we should follow the example of other countries and that it would be an extremely good thing if we could have four school periods. As an industrialist, I know that it would be a great advantage if the school year ended in June. That is the time of peak employment and it would be much easier for industry to absorb school-leavers then. Equally, it would allow us to have a shorter spring term.
As I am connected with children's homes, I know how the matrons sigh with relief when the early Christmas term is over. That is the time when school children contract infectious diseases and if we could shorten that period I am sure that educational facilities would be enhanced. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear this in mind when considering the question of examinations. The only excuse for the present three-term school year is the examinations and it is not always necessary to have an examination at the end of each school term.
The automation in industry which is a feature of our expanding economy results in a greater desire and a greater need for holidays. I feel that we should ensure that when those who have done so much to deserve a holiday take one, they should be enabled to do so in comfort. It is only possible to ensure that if holidays are spread over a greater period which would ease the congestion on the roads and at the seaside resorts. If we could spread the holiday season over a longer period, we should increase the turn-over and lessen overhead expenses. By that means we should be able to provide cheaper holidays. Every hon. Member is anxious to reduce the cost of living and an alteration in the holiday period would, I suggest, make a real contribution to that end.
The older members of the House—I hope that I shall not be considered impertinent in speaking in this way—will recall the perfect weather which we 865 enjoyed in October. The fortnight before 8th October was not a holiday period for me and I do not expect that it was for many other people. But it proved what wonderful weather one can experience in this country at that time, aid I suppose the reason why more people do not take a holiday in October is that the period of the school terms does not allow it.
In Folkestone, we are proud of our efforts to extend the holiday season. We have made special arrangements for old-age pensioners to whom the opportunity of a holiday means a great deal. British Railways have co-operated, and in conjunction with Eastbourne we have devised a scheme to enable old-age pensioners to enjoy a holiday which does not cost much. For £9 it is possible to have an eight-day holiday, including the cost of the fare from the Midlands. I suggest that hon. Members endeavour to ensure that these facilities are available to their constituents. Some councils are assisting by making provision for further subsidising, and it does a great deal to help these most deserving people.
Reference has been made to the fact that a large number of people spend their holidays abroad. Very good programmes showing the merits of holidays abroad are introduced by Richard Dimbleby on the B.B.C. I believe that an interchange of populations between countries is the best thing that could happen, and I am glad that this type of programme appears on the B.B.C. But, in fairness, I think that the same should be done for British resorts. Our friends overseas may appreciate what we are doing to encourage our citizens to visit their countries, and we might ask them to give similar facilities on their television programmes in respect of British resorts. That would provide a better chance of interchanges and providing the fellowship and companionship which we need so much today.
The Motion proposes that a committee should be set up. Many committees have been formed in the past. In 1955, there was one in my town and resolutions were passed so similar in content to resolutions passed by other committees that I will not repeat them. This time, cannot we set up an effective committee and ensure that positive action is taken? We must be certain that the consumer is represented. He 866 is the man who matters in every industry. I do not think that there is sufficient consumer representation, and when it comes to holidays, which are very personal affairs, I think that we should see that the consumer interest is properly represented on any committee which is formed.
Hoteliers and those whose job it is to help the holiday-makers would welcome criticism. The members of my own hotel association are only too anxious to receive helpful advice and criticism. We have done a great deal to extend our holiday season, and with the help of a committee such as is envisaged, and with assistance from education committees and bodies connected with industrial welfare, we hope that by extending the holiday season we shall increase the number of overseas visitors.
§ 1.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth)
I think the number of debates that we have had recently in the House on this subject shows that we are well aware of the vital importance of the tourist industry to the economy of this country. It has been underlined on a number of occasions. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were here today, he would certainly emphasise that fact, as he has done on a number of previous occasions. I do not think, therefore, that there is need for us again to emphasise the vital significance of this industry to our economy.
I should like to see, as a result of the passing of this Motion and as a result of the debate, industrial concerns and big employers of labour give serious consideration to encouraging their employees to take their holidays over a much wider period. I have a great deal of sympathy with the objective of the Motion, but I am not particularly happy about some of the things for which it calls. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, if I understood him correctly, I take exception to the apparent desire for a national plan. I do not think that we want a national plan, nor, if I may go further, the setting up of a Government committee to inquire into and report on this matter. As my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) 867 said, there is a super-abundance of Government committees at present.
Surely this is a matter more for those principally concerned in the industry. If they feel so strongly about this matter, then let them set up their own inquiry. There are many organisations in the industry which are wholly competent to deal with this matter without the interference or even benign assistance of Government Departments. This is a matter principally for the enterprise of the private individuals concerned with the holiday industry. They have a commodity to sell—a holiday. Their accommodation, the seaside resorts and the beauties of the countryside are the means by which they attract the holiday-making public to their localities. If this is what the holiday industry desires, then let it be more dynamic and try to achieve it.
As hon. Members know, I speak from only a very short experience of representing in this House a holiday constituency.
§ Mr. Eden
I am glad to have the hon. Member's endorsement. I am sure that he will be interested to hear this extract from a small booklet of the British Travel Association, entitled "England". It is interesting in that it shows how the British Travel Association, one of the important bodies trying to attract tourists to this country, is doing its best to bring to the attention of prospective visitors the advantages of some of the outstanding places of beauty and pleasure in our country. I should like to read a short paragraph on page 7 of this booklet which refers to my own constituency:On the western side of the New Forest is Bournemouth, one of the leading seaside resorts on the South Coast. It stands on a sandy soil and is surrounded by pine woods, and, although it is a health resort par excellence, it is also an up-to-date and enterprising holiday centre, which attracts each season large numbers, The beach is sandy and the bathing is excellent."—
§ Mr. Eden
The town has established a reputation for high-class concerts, and possesses the renowned Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The hotel accommodation is of the highest quality.868 That is the end of this quotation from the booklet which, quite cunningly, in a short paragraph sums up some of the principal attractions of a seaside resort of renowned standing, like my own constituency.
I want to draw particular attention to the words "each season". If any seaside town is a year-round resort, it is Bournemouth. Throughout the year it attracts large numbers of people and it is with particular reference to the Motion that I want to comment on why I think that that is so. It is nothing to do with the weather. We have heard a lot about how difficult it would be to alter the holiday season because of the possibility that outside the accepted holiday months the weather will not be particularly fine. But there are many people enjoying their holidays in Bournemouth right now, today—and it is snowing there. What would be better than to go to Bournemouth for one's winter sporting holiday? This underlines the chief attribute of a leading holiday resort. It is able to offer throughout the year attractions of sufficient interest to inspire people to decide to go there for their holiday, whatever the time of year.
Reference is made in this paragraph to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which is one of the leading orchestras in the country. It has played in the Festival Hall here in London. It is an orchestra of exceptional merit, although, like all orchestras, it is, unfortunately, struggling due to an insufficiency of funds and, indeed, to an insufficiency of Government financial support. I hope that this might be directed to the attention of the Arts Council.
§ Mr. Eden
Not by the municipality of the Bournemouth Borough Council, and, I am glad to say, to a less extent by neighbouring authorities. However, since the Motion has been moved by a Member from the West Country, I should like to take the opportunity of supporting what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has just said, that many more neighbouring local authorities could do a little more to support the activities of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. It is not exclusive to 869 Bournemouth, although it certainly started in Bournemouth. It is carrying oat a valuable educational service in and around the West Country.
I have strayed from the point of my reference to Bournemouth, which was that this is merely one of the additional attractions which encourage people to go to Bournemouth for their holidays. They go to hear the orchestra, whether it is raining or snowing or whether the sun is shining. There are other things, such as skating rinks, theatres and the pavilion, which operate throughout the year and, therefore, attract people throughout the year.
My point is that areas which wish to attract year-round visitors must themselves be prepared to provide year-round entertainment. It is no good their concentrating all their efforts and endeavours on the few months which have become recognised as the holiday season. I cannot begin to understand why on earth people want to confine themselves to this narrow period in the year for their holidays. It causes to some extent acute discomfort through delays on the roads, which my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) has mentioned. People suffer acute discomfort from overcrowded hotels and boarding houses, from crowded resorts and even from overcrowded beaches. I should hate the idea of being sandwiched between a whole lot of people on the beach when, by changing the time of year to go on holiday, I could have a much larger expanse of sand to myself, which would be much easier and more relaxing. This, however, does not seem to be universal, because people have an extraordinary desire to come together in great crowds and always to cling together in groups.
There is little of the spirit of adventure about our holiday-makers today. Very few go out into some of the less well-known areas. Very few indeed of the many thousands of people who come to Bournemouth venture to look at some of the beautiful surrounding landscape of the New Forest or of Dorset, for example. They are lacking to a great ex tent in enterprise. Therefore, it will be doubly difficult to force people to take their holidays at other times of the year. That is another reason why I do not particularly like the idea of a national plan.
870 I do not know the views of the hotel industry on this subject. I should imagine that whilst welcoming it, the industry would make one or two provisos or draw our attention to one or two likely difficulties. I think first and foremost of the labour problem in the hotel and holiday industry. Because holidays have come to be concentrated, in practice and habit, around a peak period of the year, it has been necessary for those who cater for the needs of holidaymakers to draw their labour force from other industries and activities to work for them as a temporary measure at a particular time. Immediately the season comes to an end, this temporary labour force finds itself disbanded and has to disperse and go elsewhere, usually outside the town or area in which it has been employed temporarily, to find employment for the rest of the year.
I know that we in Bournemouth attract a great number of university students, for example, and it is a useful means by which they can earn some of the money to pay for their education. It is one which I strongly recommend. The pay is quite good and tips are even better, particularly during the holiday season. It would, however, be difficult to get this temporary labour force expanded too far into a more permanent feature. There would not necessarily be the men available to call upon. One would probably have to try to find assistance from other countries, notably Italy, Spain or Malta, for example, to try to draw in a more permanent hotel labour force from outside the country rather than draw the temporary labour force from within our own ranks. The labour problem in the hotel industry would, therefore, deserve a great deal of consideration if the spreading of holidays over a wider period were to become universally adopted.
There is, obviously, a need for the extension of the holiday season, but I cannot feel that the right way to encourage it is for the Government to set up a committee the result of which might be a national plan. This is essentially a problem for the industry itself. I have tried to indicate how one thriving holiday resort has surmounted the difficulty of the seasonal restriction. I have tried to indicate one or two of the problems to which an extension of the holiday industry might lead, but I conclude by saying that it is with the 871 industry itself that the solution lies. If those in the industry can be still more dynamic and enterprising, if they can provide still better year-round entertainment, they will certainly—with the co-operation of industry, it is true—attract year-round holiday makers to their localities.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) on having been fortunate in the Ballot and being able to move a Motion on the extension of summer holidays. If one may judge from the attendance of the House today, there is great support on all sides for extending holidays. Indeed, some of our colleagues would seem to have thought that it was a good thing, by example rather than by preaching, to pay their tribute to what my hon. Friend is proposing. Nevertheless, those of us who are here are grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this question.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on having been elected to Parliament only in the post-war period. Had he been elected pre-war, the likelihood of his tabling a Motion of this kind would have been slim. It is a matter of congratulation from all sides that we have heard from my hon. Friend and from others who have spoken of the great social changes which have come over our country since the days when most of us were young and of the great facilities that are available to so many people today to take holidays, both at home and abroad, which were not possible in the 'twenties and 'thirties. When I was young, if I managed to get to Epping Forest I thought I had gone a long way. The idea of going any further for a summer holiday than an occasional day trip to Epping Forest was beyond my wildest dreams.
My constituency is part of Southend-on-Sea, on the borders of which there is an airport, and nowadays I see thousands and thousands of ordinary working people going off by air with their cars and motor cycles to enjoy holidays on the Continent. Regrettably, however, those holidays are crammed into a limited period of weeks. This imposes an enormous strain, both upon 872 the aircraft companies who provide the service and upon the transport undertakings which are responsible for getting the people from various parts of the country to this very convenient point of departure for the Continent, thus building up many of the problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has rightly drawn attention.
And yet I am not sure that the House of Commons is right to lecture industry on what it should do to put this matter in order. We have had a great deal of reference to the fact that the problem is accentuated by the fact that people like to take their holidays when their children are at home from school and that, consequently, the telescoping of the period of holiday-taking into the month of August and the early part of September is due largely to this fact.
This school here breaks up at the same time as all the other schools. If we are to say that somebody else should give an example, perhaps we should give thought to giving an example ourselves and revising the Parliamentary time-table so that we do not add to the congestion in August and September, which it is the purpose of the Motion to seek to avoid.
§ Mr. McAdden
I am always pleased to listen to any reasonable and friendly suggestion, especially from my hon. and learned Friend, who, I know, would be willing to play month and month about with me so that the two of us are not here at the same time. It would, however, be possible to canvass suggestions of that kind.
I would ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to be good enough to make some inquiries between now and the time when he speaks to find what sort of lead is being given in this matter by the Board of Trade. Are there staggered holidays at the Board of Trade? Does the Department start its holiday period about the beginning of May and continue it into October and so encourage everybody else to do the right thing? I would ask him not to confine his researches to the Board of Trade but to make inquiries generally throughout the whole of the Civil Service to see whether what is thought to be good for other people is being practised 873 by Government Departments. Some information on this matter would be extremely helpful.
I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education in the House now and to know that he has paid some attention to this debate, and I hope that some of the words which have been uttered in this debate will be borne in mind by him. It has been urged from both sides of the House that some consideration ought to be given to dealing with the fact that practically all our schools break up at the same time so that the holiday period is concentrated into a limited number of weeks. I should not have thought it beyond the bounds of possibility to stagger the school closing period by local education authority areas so that the schools are not all away on holiday at the same time, and so to help to bring about a spread-over holiday period.
Reference has been made to the enormous increase in costs which results from concertinaing of our holidays into this limited number of weeks. Inevitably the hotel, the restaurant or amusement arcade and so on has to cover its costs in a matter of six or seven weeks. It is inevitable that charges which they make must be higher. This applies not only to the hotels and restaurants and amusement catering, but to transport.
The General Steam Navigation Company runs day trips from Tower Bridge, calling at various places en route, including, of course, Southend, and Margate, and across to France. I am quite sure that the cost of these day trips could be brought down very considerably if they could be spread over a longer period of months than they can be today.
I am sorry that it has been necessary for the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was sitting on the Front Bench a little while ago, to go, because I should like to put to him another point. One of the difficulties in extending the holiday period is the fact that we make it very difficult for people abroad to come here at all. There are many Members of the House who remember that it was the ambition of the late Ernest Bevin that people should be able to travel at least around Europe without a passport at all. People who live upon the Continent of Europe are able to cross their different country 874 boundaries in many cases without passports. I cannot understand the attitude of the Home Office, which seems to insist upon everybody having a passport before he can get into this country, on the ground that if it does not do that, we shall have all kinds of undesirable people getting here. They get here anyway.
§ Mr. McAdden
I hope that my hon. Friend who replies to the debate will give some indication that he is prepared to talk to the Home Office about its refusal of facilities for no-passport day travel—or even no-passport travel for longer periods than a day. Surely he could have a word with my right hon. Friend to find out why it is possible to travel by steamer without a passport but one must have one if one travels by air. We live in a modern age and people like to use air transport. Surely my hon. Friend could urge upon the Home Secretary the importance of having a look at this matter.
I would call attention to the fact that there is an ever-widening section of the population which participates in the joys of the seaside, and not merely in the more obvious relaxations which people enjoy when they go there. Some of us will remember that a week or so ago there was held in London the great Boat Show. The fact that thousands and thousands of people are interested in boating in various forms and in yachting was manifested by the enormous attendance at the show. Sailing, which used to be thought a prerogative of a comparatively small number of wealthy people, is now being enjoyed by an ever-increasing section of the population. I hope that it will be possible for seaside resorts to stimulate even further activity in this healthy and adventurous exercise.
I support to a great extent what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden), when he said that a great deal might be done by local authorities if they want to continue to attract out-of-season visitors who are not at present going to holiday resorts. One of the difficulties of dealing with seaside resorts—I cannot speak for them all, but I think most seaside resorts are pretty well the same—is that there is a conflict of interest between the 875 residents there, who do not want any visitors anyway because they clutter up the place and make themselves a nuisance, and the legitimate traders who desire to get more and more people so that their businesses may thrive. Very often, there is a conflict of interest between the residents and the other sections of the population, and between the interests of the residents and the interests of the visitors.
This is a problem which, I feel, local authorities might tackle more resolutely if they recognise that a great deal of the prosperity of the resorts which they are responsible for managing depends upon the number of people who are prepared to go and visit there. Too often is it the case that one finds local authority representatives concentrating their attention upon the needs of the residents—which, of course, are important—but failing to pay due attention to the fact that the prosperity of the town over whose finances they rule is very largely contributed to by the varied attractions which their town offers as a seaside resort or a tourist holiday place. Nevertheless, there are some municipalities which do go out of their way to try to extend the limited holiday period of six or seven weeks.
I am sure that the fame of the illuminations of Southend has reached even the dark recesses of the North and and I am sure that many people have taken the opportunity to go there to see them. As a result of this initiative upon the part of the local authority, aided by the amusement trade, the licensed victuallers, and the other people interested in getting visitors there, we have almost as many visitors in October as we do in August, but the fact is that a large number of people are persuaded to go to the town to enjoy the undoubted benefits which they can have by going to that part of the country which I have the honour to represent.
I am a little worried at seeing here the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), because I am frightened that he may take the chance to point out some of what he may think are the dangers which exist in the East Anglian resorts—at any rate, other East Anglian towns—and that he may suggest people should not go there. I hope that he may be dissuaded from that course, but he 876 will fall far below his usual form if he does not take the opportunity. I hope that he will not try to detract too much from the undoubted delights of the part of the country with which I am associated.
I want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton on having taken the opportunity to raise this important subject. I hope that all the various Government Departments which are interested will play their part. I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education will report to his right hon. Friend how strong is the feeling which has been expressed in this House about the desirability of arrangements with local education authorities so that as many as possible of the schools are not on vacation at the same time. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will make research into what is happening in various Government Departments, and that we may perhaps have not a committee set up but very real action to ensure that the objects which my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton seeks to secure are secured in the earliest possible time.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I do not wish to disappoint the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), but I fear that if I remain silent my silence might be misinterpreted. I certainly have no prejudices against East Anglia. The hon. Member made one reference to licensed victuallers about which I was not quite so enthusiastic, but I can well understand hon. Members who represent seaside resorts in the South using this opportunity of putting the case for their constituents.
I know where the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) found his inspiration for the Motion. He was my election opponent at South Ayshire on two occasions. I am always gratified to see the inspiration which he then received expressing itself on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Hughes
We have departed from the 25th of January though that, of course, is a very inviting subject.
877 In the years since the war there has been a great extension of the idea of holidays with pay. Now that a very large number of people are able to have holidays with pay and to travel there is need for the tourist industry to adjust itself to these new conditions. I would welcome any Government inquiry which would focus public national attention on the idea that the holiday period should be staggered in such a way as, for example, to enable miners in South Ayrshire to visit all these places whose attractions are being spoken about by hon. Members, without having to live in overcrowded and unpleasant conditions. To that extent, I believe that a committee should be set up to take same kind of long-term view of the tourist industry.
Scotland is vitally interested in the tourist industry and I am surprised to note that a Scottish Minister has not been interested enough to be here today. I certainly do not wish to state the case for the beauties of south Ayrshire. It has already been expressed in poetry by a person much abler than I am. We would certainly stand to benefit in Scotland if the Government took the Motion seriously and set up a committee to see whether the tourist industry could be rationalised and encouraged and developed in every way.
This time last year, I believe, Mr. Randolph Churchill had ideas about becoming the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch. I discussed with him the future of Bournemouth in a rather curious place—in an hotel in Kiev. I suggested to him that the way in which he was most likely to secure a large majority there was by—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I hope that the hon. Member will not allow himself to press too far in the direction in which he is now proceeding.
§ Mr. Hughes
G. K. Chesterton went to Birmingham once by way of Beachy Head, and I am trying to get to Bournemouth by way of Kiev.
878 I suggested to Mr. Randolph Churchill that his best method of ensuring that he would become the Member for the constituency was to encourage visitors from the North, but when I said that Bournemouth might be prepared to welcome the proletariat of south Ayrshire this was received in a very frigid way indeed. Seaside resorts should be prepared to welcome—
§ Mr. Hughes
I was agreeing that this is a progressive Motion, and saying that I want to send the miners of south Ayrshire in large numbers to Bournemouth in the off-season.
§ Mr. Eden
Already the National Union of Mineworkers is very much in the habit, I am glad to say, of having its annual conference in my constituency. One of the difficulties is that the conference cannot be accommodated during the peak period, because there are already so many people in Bournemouth, but I am glad to say that miners come there in large numbers during the out-of-season period.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am delighted to hear that.
I was explaining to the House that I was trying to persuade Mr. Randolph Churchill that when he became the Member for a Bournemouth constituency he should advocate a programme by which we could have a united front. I am glad to know that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) would welcome the infiltration of large numbers of people from south Ayrshire into Bournemouth. I am glad that the suggestion has been received in this truly public-spirited way. It would do a great deal of good to the tourist industry in Bournemouth. Indeed, the miners who went there might 879 afterwards be inclined to settle down there and that would change the political complexion of Bournemouth completely.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade should look at the possibility of helping the tourist industry in Scotland. We need more money for the tourist industry there. If the Motion will have the effect of securing that money, directly or indirectly, I submit that my short intervention in the debate will have been justified.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
It would hardly be fitting for me to argue with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) about the merits or demerits of the tourist industry in Scotland. Perhaps I may be allowed to go back to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who suggested that in a great many cases there was a conflict between the people who lived in these areas and the tourist industry. He suggested that the people living in some areas were not particularly pleased to see the visitors.
I should have liked to have told my hon. Friend, who is not now in the Chamber, that only last week I had the privilege of being at a dinner when the Bexhill Hotel Association had the pleasure of the company of the mayor of the borough. There was no evidence of such a conflict. If there are conflicts of this kind elsewhere, I assure my hon. Friend that my constituency is one place where that difficulty does not arise.
I have been impressed by the appeals made by various hon. Members and the high level on which they have based their case. For example, several hon. Members began their speeches by saying that they would talk about the problem as a national one and would ask us to reach decisions at a national level. The hon. Members in question are not in their places, so perhaps I should not name them. However, they managed, after saying that, to introduce a certain amount of matter relating to their own constituencies.
I shall start from another aspect. In the constituency which I have the privilege to represent there are many people 880 living on small fixed incomes. We have no industries, we have no factories, and therefore my constituents realise that the financial standing of the area is based largely on three things. The first is agriculture, since we have excellent farms and good farmers. Secondly, we have a large number of independent schools. The third way in which revenue is brought into my constituency is through the hotels. There is no conflict and no difficulty in appreciating the importance of the work done by the hotelier in attracting visitors from other parts of the country and from different parts of the world. It is clear to us all that those who are carrying on the hotel industry are fighting a difficult battle, because in such an area as mine, they are trying to make their annual income over a period of about six weeks. Therefore, I welcome the Motion today because it enables us to discuss the real problem facing so many of my constituents.
The first point which is clear to me in this respect is that we have in our lifetime regarded August bank holiday as the peak holiday period. Yet there is no logic and no magic in the belief that August bank holiday should be the time when everybody is away. The August bank holiday became a national institution only as recently as 1871, so there should be no difficulty in looking at the matter in a different way.
A friend of mine came to this country from the United States last year, as he does most years, in the month of May. In reply to my question, he explained that in his opinion May was the best month in which to come. Other friends of mine are coming from South Africa this year in May because they take the same view. So there is no real reason why we should regard August as the time when people must have their holidays. This realisation is spreading to different parts of the country. I noticed, for instance, not long ago that workers in a car factory in the Midlands had asked to have their holidays in the first two weeks of July. I presume they had good reasons for making the suggestion.
There is another reason why August bank holiday need not necessarily be the peak of the holiday season. In this country we are used to having variable dates for Easter and Whitsun. For ecclesiastical reasons these vary each 881 year and most of us manage to get ourselves on holiday at those times without great inconvenience. Again in this country it is a long period from the August bank holiday until Christmas, whereas some other countries have a national holiday towards the end of the summer holiday season. I am thinking particularly of the North American continent, where Labour Day takes place at the end of the summer holiday season. There is a great deal to be said for extending our holidays so that they end a little nearer Christmas than is the case now.
What are the reasons that have led us to take this view? Previous speakers have referred to the effect on education and the fact that when children go back to school their parents are unwilling and in many cases unable to be on holiday. Anyone who is on holiday when the schools return knows how many people disappear from seaside resorts. That phenomenon is common to other countries. For instance, anyone who is in France on 2nd January will find the hotels emptying rapidly because the off-season has started. Again, if one is in Scandinavia in the early part of August, one finds exactly the same thing happening and the hotels closing. This is not because the weather is bad or because the beaches are less salubrious but because the schools have returned and the parents can no longer be on holiday.
The kernel of this problem may be contained in the question of education, as previous speakers have realised. In West Sussex there has been an experiment of staggering school holidays, the local education authority having arranged for different schools to close at different times. That point might be looked into, and with the assistance of the Ministry of Education perhaps further inquiries might be made into such experiments. I believe that we cannot get anywhere with this Motion unless something is done to overcome the difficulty of children returning to school.
On the other hand, even if the children are not at school, it is not much use hoping that the family will go on holiday if the father has to be at work. So there should also be investigation into the possibility of enabling people to be away from their work at different times of the year. I wonder if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has thought 882 of investigating the problem industry by industry? Having done that, would it be possible to look at it area by area? It may be that there are factors in certain areas which would assist him to achieve the object, which I hope he has in mind, of making it possible to have a longer holiday period.
Some firms try to solve the problem by spreading the holidays of their work-people over a longer period. There are, for example, firms in North America known to some of us which give a bonus to employees who take their holidays outside the peak period of two days' extra holiday if they go a little earlier or a little later than the majority. Those are some of the things which my hon. Friend might help members of the Government to investigate. What can the hotel industry do?
Some hon. Members have suggested that this is, after all, a matter in which the hotel keeper might be expected to try to help himself. He does so in many ways. Hoteliers regularly offer off-season rates to encourage visitors at other than peak periods.
There are two things which I have noticed when I have stayed in hotels in other countries which I have not seen here, and they may be worth examining in trying to get people to make use of off-peak periods. One is that in some countries no charge is made by the hotel for children provided that they are under a certain age and do not require an additional room. That might encourage more people to take their holidays at different periods.
There is something else, and I have never been able to understand why it should be applied, or work, in other countries. That is that the charge for a double room is never anything like double the charge for a single room. The charge for the single room is probably two-thirds of the charge for the double room. If it is possible to bring your wife and child at very little additional cost above that of a single room families might be encouraged to take their holidays at other than the usual times, and perhaps they would stay longer than they would otherwise do.
The best way for hotel keepers to encourage people to come to their hotels is to give them the very highest standard 883 of service and the best quality accommodation and food. The higher the standards offered, the more certain it is that people will come and will return. The standards which are applied in our homes are constantly rising in these days, and a valuable lesson can be learned by comparing the standards in hotels in this country and abroad. The hotel keeper must ensure that his standards are constantly being improved in order to retain the business which he has.
In order to encourage visitors, it is necessary for hotels to be modernised and to be provided with better equipment so that people may be made more comfortable. I have often wondered whether it would be possible for the Government to look at this aspect of the matter. We have had some very successful legislation which has enabled houses to be modernised—this has had a dramatic effect in many parts of the country—and I should have thought that the Government might have been of some assistance in giving hoteliers real encouragement to keep abreast of the standards which are found abroad.
When we sum it all up, it comes back to the person who is in charge of the hotel. If he sets a good standard and provides good quality food and accommodation people will learn that if they go to his hotel they will get good service, and if they do, they will return.
I am glad that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is present to hear my next remarks. A year or two ago I was staying in a not particularly fashionable hotel, certainly not the highest price hotel, in a smallish village in France and I suddenly found myself surrounded by an international congress of gastronomes. They had come from Stockholm, Madrid and many other parts of Europe, and they had come to that rather inaccessible part of France in order to enjoy a meal. I asked them whether it was ever possible for them to make a similar visit to Great Britain, and they assured me, with one voice, that it was. They told me that there was one place which they could visit and that it was in Stirling. I realise that Stirling is not in Ayrshire, but the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is the Scottish hon. Member present whose constituency is nearest to Stirling.
884 The point of this is that if one provides the highest quality and standards, the news gets about, and people will keep on coming to the hotel. The people of whom I have spoken went to that little French hotel out of season. If people can be given by the hoteliers good grounds for an off-season visit, that will probably be of as much assistance in prolonging his season as anything the Government could do.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I rise to support the Motion, with one exception to which I shall refer in the course of my speech.
It is a most important Motion. As the years have gone by, particularly the years since the war, the tourist industry—it is an industry—has been becoming larger and larger. I think I should not be very far wrong if I said that approximately £65 million is spent every year by foreign visitors to this country aid approximately the same figure is spent by British subjects who go overseas. Consequently, we can see roughly what figures we are considering.
But it is not only a question of finance. It is also a question of human enjoyment. Since the war, with the increase in prosperity, the increase in motor cars and aeroplanes and the increase in holidays with pay, the possibilities of holidays—and extended holidays—have been vastly increased.
Particularly at this time of the year, one sees in newspapers and periodicals pages of advertisements by not only tourist agencies but countries themselves to persuade people to visit certain places and hotels. What is the reason for that? It is because it is from Christmas to about this time of the year that the vast majority of summer holiday plans are made.
Just outside Victoria Station there is a huge new booking office being built by British Railways solely for the purpose of booking cars travelling to and from the Continent, an enormous traffic these days. British Railways are to be congratulated on having built some very fine steamers to carry that traffic. They have competition from the air, for there are now one or two companies which carry cars quicker by air, though rather more 885 expensively. Nevertheless, British Railways have done a good job in building their steamers.
One cannot help noticing how much easier it is to cross frontiers abroad than it is to cross the English frontier at, say, Dover. Abroad it is a question of almost momentary delays and then one is in the next country. But in England each single car, certainly on arrival, is dealt with individually in its own little space and with its own Customs officer. I am not criticising the Customs officers in any way, and I am sure that they carry out their work efficiently and courteously. It is the system that I criticise. Surely these days, when so many thousands of cars are involved, a more rapid means could be found of dealing with this traffic than calling up the cars one by one into a cubicle where they and their occupants—no doubt most politely—are examined—I will not say "and searched" because they very seldom are, but at any rate they are delayed, and so are those behind them. In these modern days, that system should be changed, and I hope that the Government will see whether we cannot copy some Continental countries and enable cars to come in and out much more quickly.
Although I heard most of the speech of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew), I have been absent from the House in the meantime. I have been seeing off my family on their holidays abroad, for which reason the House will excuse my absence from this particular debate. Because of my absence, I do not know whether what I am about to say has already been covered.
We have to try to deal with an enormous increase in travel and with what is now an enormous and expanding industry. We have economy fares across the Atlantic, and we will see thousands more foreign visitors arriving in this country. Are we giving the facilities and comfort which they expect and for which they have probably paid before leaving home? Our facilities are improving and increasing enormously and there is no question but that catering in this country is far better than it was before the war. Our standards are far higher, but we still need more hotels for tourists and visitors.
886 I come to the real crux of the situation, with which the Motion deals fairly and accurately, congestion at peak periods. It is no good pretending that any Government can alter the weather. Because holidays are largely controlled by the weather, if people have to take their gamble late or early in the year, they will naturally book for the months of July and August. Because of the way factory and office holidays are arranged, holidays nearly always start at weekends.
British European Airways take a large amount of this traffic and have done something which the railways could well copy. B.E.A. say, "Our fares are so much: if you travel at weekends, which is a peak period, you will have to pay a little more" or, putting it the other way round, "If you are prepared to travel in mid-week, we will take you for a little less." That encourages more travel in the quieter times and if one travels at night instead of in the daytime, it is cheaper still.
To try to avoid this terrible congestion on railway stations at summer weekends, would it not be a very good idea not to increase fares during weekends, but to decrease fares for the middle of the week, thus transferring some of the overcrowding and congestion at the weekend to a time when it would be easier to handle?
I hesitate to speak about school holidays, but much of the decision about the timing of holidays depends on school holidays. This is a matter which the Ministry of Education could consider, although not this year, because I have not the slightest doubt that most holiday plans are already made.
I now come to a matter on which I am not in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, that of Summer Time. It used to be that for an hour before breakfast time we had fine weather with the sun shining—at least, so I am told. We had Summer Time to take advantage of that extra hour. The dates at which Summer Time begins and ends do not appear to be in dispute. Summer Time ends when the holidays are over and the autumn begins and it begins again during a reasonable part of the year. There is no earthly reason for changing that system. Are we to 887 have to get up an hour earlier—because that is what it comes to—in non-holiday periods of the year? Are we to have to get up in the dark? That seems to be not only a pointless but an objectionable idea and I hope that the Government are not considering making changes in Summer Time. I hope that we shall continue to have it in the summer, but I should object to any extension.
It would be very interesting for a committee to be set up. It would have a great deal into which to inquire. It would have to have all the transport interests before it to explain the habits of travel movements in this country and other countries, particularly the United States, whose citizens come here in such large numbers all the year round, particularly in the summer. It would have to have before it the interests of the caterers, those who run the hotels and boarding houses to which so many people go in summer and which are crowded out at peak periods. It would have great difficulty in making a report, but that report would be interesting and attractive reading.
In a short speech, I have had neither the time nor the inclination to refer to the licensing laws, a matter which I hope will come before the House in the course of this Parliament, although, perhaps, not in this Session. Those laws require investigation. We may be used to them in this country, but I assure the Minister that visitors from overseas are not used to them and find them something of an anachronism.
I welcome the enormous increase in the number of people travelling inside their own countries and to other countries as tourists. That is healthy, sound and good for them and for the country concerned. Travel broadens people's outlooks and their interests in life and I hope that it will increase and not diminish. But, owing to the tremendous congestion in accommodation and in travel facilities, we must not let it go haphazard, crowded into a few weeks of the year. We must try to spread it over the summer months—beyond that I cannot go—and see whether, by quoting more attractive prices and altering our habits—and I know that that is difficult—we can make our holidays cheaper and more comfortable.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope that the House will consider that this is a convenient time for me to intervene in the debate. Although I find myself temporarily in the most unaccustomed position, my back bench instincts lead me to the view that on a private Members' day, on a Friday, it is a great pity if we cannot debate more than one Motion, particularly when the first one on the Order Paper, like this, is not very controversial.
It is an agreeable duty to congratulate the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) on both his good fortune in the Ballot and having chosen a subject such as this. This is an admirable example of a private Member's subject, because the difficulties are so great that it is unlikely to have been put forward in this form by either Front Bench. I also congratulate him on having achieved a temporary truce in the County of Devon by having aligned north and south Devon behind the Motion.
While one admires the hon. Member's very constructive approach to the subject, he and several other hon. Members have tended to underestimate the difficulties involved. It was encouraging to see a reference to a national plan in a Conservative Motion. Unlike the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, (Mr. Eden), I believe that there must be national planning if we are to make progress. In parenthesis, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that if Bournemouth wants to encourage the working-class type of visitor it must be more hospitable than it was on the last occasion when the Trades Union Congress met in that resort.
This is a new post-war problem because holidays with pay were the exception rather than the rule before the war for the vast majority of workers. My own experience was such that I never saw the sea until I was 15, and then only on day trips. I do not remember my father ever going away for a summer holiday. Happily, the increased standard of living which we have enjoyed since the war due to the initiative of the trade unions immediately after the war has remedied the position and paid holidays—and one is pleased to note for two weeks more often than one—have 889 become usual. In that sense the problem that we are debating—and we are very glad that it should be so—arises from an improvement in the standard of living.
Another surprising thing about this debate is the great faith which the hon. Member for Honiton seems to have in what can be done by a committee. The present Minister of Education will he largely concerned with the success or otherwise of this project. In a flush of enthusiasm when he first went on to the Front Bench, in 1951, he said that he did not believe in committees, and that if a Minister could not do the job himself he should get out and let someone take over who could and would. I have noticed that in the intervening years the Minister of Education has not shown that confidence in Ministerial as compared with committee government.
We on this side of the House welcome the possibility of a committee being set up and getting on with the job, but the hon. Member for Honiton, and other hon. Members who have spoken, did not stress the need for industry and the trade union movement to be associated with the discussions held by the committee.
The problem of Summer Time need not be within the purview of the committee. There is a strong enough case for Summer Time to be extended at least to the end of October this year. I recently had representations about this from members of my constituency. I met an employer of labour who, in addition to his normal job, farms 2,000 acres of land in an area not in my constituency. He made a strong case for continuing Summer Time to the end of October. Summer Time is in the consideration of the Home Secretary, and I hope that we can separate this from the other problems and get a quick decision on it.
The history of this matter is longer than hon. Gentlemen have so far realised. In 1946, 1947 and 1948 both the Ministry of Labour and the Trades Union Congress dealt with staggered holidays. There was a strong move to get something going on the lines that are now suggested. Looking at the Trades Union Congress General Council Report for 1949, one notes that the Minister of Labour consulted the National Joint Advisory Council not only on the desirability of 890 staggering holidays, but also on the suggestions that have been put forward today as though they were new, that the August bank holiday should be transferred to the first Monday in September, and that in place of the present Whit Monday a fixed bank holiday should be substituted on the second Monday in June.
The National Joint Advisory Council approved those recommendations in 1949 and said that the Minister was consulting religious bodies and educational authorities before taking any further steps. The idea of making those changes must have been opposed by educational and religious bodies, because in 1950 the Ministry of Labour reported that the Minister had given up the idea of promoting staggered holidays and that the publicity involved would in future be conducted by the Travel and Holidays Association.
There is no quarrel about the principle involved. As one who is obliged to take holidays within the narrow compass of the month of August because of the demands of the House, on the one hand, and the school holidays arranged by local education authorities, on the other, I feel strongly about the great attractions of holidays in June. July and September. At the risk of my temporary presence here appearing like that of a foreman who was once defined as a man who has a difficulty for every solution, I think that it would be right to stress some of the difficulties involved.
The short summer season provides the best example of the most uneconomic use of capital and labour. Also, one must recognise that the monstrously high charges made by some of the hotels and boarding houses in some of the constituencies represented by hon. Members present today are probably due to the owners having to make a living in six weeks instead of 52.
As the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said, there might be something in extending the holiday period if the charges were substantially reduced, because even with paid holidays many workers are not able to go away for a week, let alone a fortnight. There is often a feeling that in seaside resorts they do not get value for money. There is a feeling that they are wanted only because money can be extracted from them, not 891 necessarily in the boarding houses, but in the amusement arcades, and so on. One would hope that if the holiday period were extended the cost to the holiday maker would be substantially reduced.
§ Mr. de Freitas
So they are. The figures are quite clear. I quoted figures given by the British Travel and Holidays Association. They go down as much as 20 per cent. There are considerable reductions.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am obliged for that intervention, but I often feel that even if we managed to extend the peak over a wider period, the extra charges in July and August would still be made. There is a reaction on the part of the holiday resorts against reducing prices.
§ Mr. Doughty
I am sure that the hon. Member has in mind, as I had, that if we spread the peak over a longer period it would not rise so high.
§ Sir. Mulley
I hope that if we spread it over six weeks instead of two or three weeks the premium for August would be reduced.
§ Sir C. Taylor
If the hon. Member looks at the prices of holiday accommodation in this country and compares them with those of holiday accommodation abroad, he will find that even at peak periods they compare very favourably.
§ Mr. Mulley
My own experience is to the contrary. I know many people who go abroad simply because they get much better value for money. They often cover the additional travelling cost out of the more reasonable charges for accommodation. I should, however, go rather wider than the Motion if I were to be sidetracked into that economic discussion.
The most substantial difficulty in staggering holidays arises from education. While I think that it is proper that the need of spreading the holidays more evenly through the year should be seriously considered by the Ministry of Education and the school authorities, to organise the school year solely in the interests of holidays and the resorts would be wholly bad if it arrived at a timetable and a holiday arrangement which, on purely educational grounds, 892 were thought to be undesirable. In assessing this problem the educational needs must have priority.
While it is obviously convenient if all the schools in a local education authority area are closed in June or September, or at any other time, it is extremely difficult to arrange a school programme so that anyone can take holidays between June and September without detriment to his children's education. While it might not seem serious for a child to be away from school for two or three weeks, in addition to fortuitous absences through illness, I know that many parents are most reluctant to take their holidays at a time which would be disadvantageous to their children's education. To encourage people to regard education and school timetables purely from the point of view of their own convenience, rather than giving them priority in their arrangements, would be a mistake.
Another problem concerns the General Certificate of Education, the examination for which is held at a most inconvenient time from the point of view of this Motion. It takes place between the middle of June and the middle of July. No parent would want to take his children away on holiday at the time when this examination was taking place if the children were entered for it. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) pointed out that this question has been put into the melting pot by the Crowther Report, with the request that the whole system of examinations be reviewed, and I very much hope that it will be possible to remove at least the General Certificate of Education from the school difficulties involved.
If we want to make a substantial contribution towards the solution of this problem, we must do it through industry and the trade union movement. Clearly, it is not possible to stagger holidays in a large factory or works where, for economic reasons, the whole works must be closed at the same time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) said, immediately after the war a great effort was made to persuade towns, districts and industries to stagger their holidays by local agreement. In many cases the experiments were not successful, or at least not so successful as to make the staggering a 893 permanent feature, and a number of towns and cities which experimented with earlier holidays have since reverted to the tradition of holidays in late July or early August.
While we may criticise and tend to laugh a little at this tradition of the working class, and while it may be stupid, in a sense, for them to want to take their holidays at the most expensive time of the year and under less attractive weather conditions, we must remember hat we have a lot to be thankful for in the traditions of this country. We should not make fun of them, as some hon. Members have tended to do today. The qualities which make someone put up with a day at the seaside on bank holiday have stood us very well indeed in other fields.
That is why I stress that it is all Very well for hon. Members representing catering, holiday and hotel interests to suggest how the holidays should he arranged, but that the last word must remain with the people who want to go on holiday. If, for no reason that we can see, the great mass of the ordinary manual workers want to continue as they are, then all the commissions and committees that are appointed will make no difference to that.
§ Mr. de Freitas
May I interrupt my hon. Friend? Surely he is not suggesting that the working class are so utterly unimaginative and conservative as he is now implying?
§ Mr. Mulley
I do not take the view that they are utterly conservative at all. All I am saying is that if they wish to take their holidays in July and August then, whatever we or anyone else may do, they will continue to take them then, come what may. The fact is that in a number of factories in my constituency ballots are held every year to decide when holidays should be taken, and the workers still do not come down in favour of taking them at the end of July or the beginning of August.
Very often the deciding factor in the ballot are the people who have no intention of going away at all. They tend to find, because of the excellent cricket matches, and so on, which are available in August week, that they prefer to spend August bank holiday at home and to have the extra day in lieu of the bank 894 holiday. They are not inconvenienced by the crowds, the travel and the expense.
If we could get away from this premium on August weeks and the extravagant costs, people might experiment and see for themselves the great desirability of taking a holiday earlier in the year. But, of course, it is not impossible, by voluntary arrangements, to make substantial progress. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) told us about Scotland and explained that, by agreement, Glasgow, and Edinburgh take holidays at different times. Although they are in the month of August, that, clearly, is a great advantage.
On the subject of Bank Holidays, about which the hon. Member for Beckenham and others have spoken. I have noted that Glasgow seems to have a bank holiday at a time when everything except the banks have closed—in the middle of September. Immediately after the war, when an attempt was made to deal with this problem, Lanarkshire, for a year or two, had a fortnight's holiday in June, but I understood that that experiment, also, has failed. Because experiments and efforts made after the war did not succeed as well as we would have liked is no reason why we should not attempt once more to make progress in this field.
I am not persuaded that the setting up of a committee is enough, because it seems to me that the problems involved in education may well be of a completely different character from those involved in transport. Certainly, I could not accept the Motion in the terms in which it has been moved unless it were understood that industry and, in particular, the trade union movement would be associated in the discussions.
Because common sense and the most economic use of our resources, as well as the greater possibilities for the enjoyment of their leisure by the people, lie along the road chartered by the hon. Member for Honiton in this Motion, I hope that we shall hear from the Government that they are prepared to take steps to put the matter in a more satisfactory condition than, clearly, it is at the moment.
§ Mr. Mathew
I assure the hon. Member that what I envisaged in the Motion 895 was that industry and the trade union movement should be fully consulted so far as they represent consumer interest. To argue, as the hon. Member has, that the intention is to remove the free choice of the ordinary British citizen is utter nonsense. The intention is to remove factors which force certain people, parents, to go on holiday at certain times of the year.
Those factors are the fixed bank holiday and the rather illogical structure of public holidays, including the wakes weeks, which are almost universally at the same dates in certain areas. If we could tackle that, there would be a really free choice and a large number of people would be able to go on holiday in the better months.
§ Mr. Mulley
I was not in any sense getting at the hon. Member, but his Motion will be read outside and not with the speech he has made and it does not give the intention to consult industry in the way in which we should like it to be consulted. I do not quarrel with that. I was saying that this must be a voluntary and often a local matter. I knew that the hon. Member took note of that, but a number of his hon Friends who spoke after him have not been so clear in intention and so constructive in ideas as he was.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. John Rodgers)
I am sure everyone will agree that this has been a most useful debate. It has been a real joy to take part in debating a subject which is entirely free from the rancours of party politics.
I think this is the first occasion on which the hon Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has spoken from the Opposition Dispatch Box, and I congratulate him. We enjoyed hearing him and hope to hear him again speaking from that Dispatch Box. Many ideas have been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Obviously these will have to be carefully considered. I hope, if there is any time after I have sat down, the House will be able to go on debating the subject and that we shall have more interesting ideas put forward which can be considered in due course.
Before dealing with the main theme of the Motion, I should like to make 896 reference to points that have been made by hon. Members, more in the nature of enlightenment than of dealing with the actual Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) asked if we could suggest to the Nature Conservancy that it should take action to stock certain lochs with fish. I am glad to assure him that the Scottish Tourist Board and Mr. Hugh Fraser have agreed to this and the Government have promised a special grant to help tourism in Scotland in areas where there has been unemployment, so some of this money can be spent on stocking with fish.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) asked why we had not been able to arrange for day trips by air without passports as there were day trips by sea without passports. He asked me to take up the matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I have to tell my hon. Friend that there are these day trips and, since Easter, 1959, there have been facilities for no-passport day trips between Britain and France by air. Originally, they were introduced for the period ending October, 1959, but that was extended to cover the summer season of 1960. These arrangements were the subject of a bilateral agreement between the two Governments concerned.
§ Mr. McAdden
Of course, I knew that there were these trips to France because they start at Southend, but I wanted to urge the desirability of extending the trips to other countries of Europe, to Belgium, Holland and Germany.
§ Mr. Rodgers
My hon. Friend will appreciate that that requires bilateral agreement, but no doubt the Home Secretary has that point well in mind.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) mentioned the amount of money expended on the tourist industry to show the magnitude of the problem which we have been discussing in this debate. He said that he thought the amount of money spent by overseas visitors was in the region of £65 million. Actually it is a much larger sum. The most careful estimates we have made at the Board of Trade show that the amount is nearly £150 million. There is no doubt that the tourist trade today is a big business 897 and one of the most important earners of foreign currency.
There are a great many other points which have been made by hon. Members and which are not entirely germane to the major subject of the Motion. If I have time, I shall refer to them at a later stage.
I think we would all agree that the luck of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Mathew) in first winning the Ballot and then selecting this subject for a Motion has provided us with an opportunity of demonstrating how many advantages can be derived from a staggering of summer holidays. I should like to say at the very outset that the Government are anxious to see the holiday season extended and are very much aware of all the advantages which would accrue from such a course.
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend so ably in the arguments he used in moving the Motion, the arguments for extending the season include the easing of congestion on roads and railways and the relieving of overcrowding in hotels and boarding houses, as well as on caravan sites, and so on. To my surprise, no one mentioned the extension of caravanning. However, there are other ways of taking a holiday than at hotels and boarding houses, and caravanning provides a great deal of freedom. One hon. Member said that he thought that we were less adventuresome now in taking our holidays than we were in former times. I do not want to enter too deeply into that debate, but the younger generation in particular show a great deal more adventurous spirit than my own generation did.
The extension of the holiday season would also have great economic advantages for hoteliers and boarding house keepers whose problems are enormously increased by the seasonal nature of their trade. A great many of the pockets of unemployment which cause the Government a good deal of concern are to be found in these resort areas and derive, in part at least, from the seasonal nature of the trade in these resorts. An extension of the season would do something to help, but at the best it could only mitigate the difficulties. It would never solve them.
898 The last two years showed a remarkable rise in the percentage of the population who took their holidays away from home. It remained at about 50 per cent. for some years. Half the people took their holidays away from home and half stayed in the places where they worked. In 1958, it rose to 54 per cent. and last year it had risen to 60 per cent. No doubt last year's figure was due in some measure to the exceptionally fine weather, but that cannot be said of 1958.
I think it will be generally conceded that the increased pressure on our tourist resorts, which is a very happy development from their point of view, is another aspect of the rising standard of living which we are all enjoying in this country and have been since the end of the war. I do not want to introduce any party political points. All parties have played their part, and I was very glad that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park referred to the very large part which the trade unions played after the war to extend holidays with pay, which were introduced by a Tory Government. All parties have done their best. The more we can extend the universality of holidays with pay, the more we shall all be pleased. It is essential for the wellbeing of people that they should get away from time to time and have a change of scenery and companions.
Unfortunately, however, the 4 million extra holiday makers in the United Kingdom last year as compared with 1957 mostly took their holiday in the old peak period of July and August. Indeed, if one looks at the figures on a percentage basis one finds that, whereas in 1957, 31 per cent. of home holiday makers started their holidays in July and 34 per cent. in August, the figures for last year had risen to 33 per cent. and 35 per cent. respectively, while an even worse feature of the figures is that the percentage starting their holidays in June and September had dropped in each case by 1 per cent. I should perhaps explain that these figures are not based on precise Government statistics but on a sample survey carried out in December last year on behalf of the British Travel and Holidays Association.
The pressure on our resources is further increased by the mounting number of foreign visitors to this country, but 899 for the most part they do not impose a strain on the small seaside resort, and the figures suggest that overseas visitors do not represent more than 5 per cent. of the guests at hotels and boarding houses in our holiday resorts.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am sorry to interrupt the Parliamentary Secretary in the middle of his speech on behalf of the Government. I may be incorrect, but it seems to me that he will be going on until about four o'clock. This morning we were promised by the Leader of the House that a statement would be made about the railway dispute.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order, order. I am not clear on what point the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has risen. He is in the middle of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. When I gave leave to the right hon. Gentleman to interrupt, I assumed that his interruption was to deal with the subject of the debate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am dealing with the fact that the Minister is making a speech and that I think he proposes to talk out the Motion, I want to know whether, in accordance with the statement and the promise made this morning by the Leader of the House to make a further statement on the threatened railway strike, we are going to have that statement, or whether the hon. Gentleman is just going to talk out this Motion and prevent us from having the statement. Will he be good enough to send a message to the Leader of the House informing him that we are waiting to hear whether a statement is to be made?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am very grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's advice, and I am sorry to have to reject it. [Interruption.] I am glad that that is his point of view, but it does not happen to be mine.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Further to that point of order. I am as well acquainted with the rules of the House as anybody in the Chair, if I may say so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I shall say what I think is necessary so long as I am not transgressing the rules of the House. May I remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we are on the eve of a crisis, and that this morning the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House promised to make a statement before the House adjourned this afternoon? I do not know whether a statement can be made or not, but at any rate a promise was made, and I want to know whether that promise is going to be fulfilled. I think I am justified in asking that question.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
May I deal first with the point of order already put to me? There might be an opportunity of doing that at four o'clock. I am no more in possession of the facts than is the right hon. Member, but if the Leader of the House asks permission to make a statement, no doubt that permission will be granted. I am concerned during this debate to keep the subject of the debate before the House.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Could we not make an appeal, for the convenience of the House, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to convey to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that it would be a great service to the House If we could be told whether a statement is to be made or not?
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
Further to the point of order raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). This is a very serious matter. Many of us in this House represent railwaymen, and a statement has been made that another statement 901 will be made to the House. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade goes on until the appointed time, he knows there will be no opportunity for those of us who wish that the House should have another statement, and there will be no further opportunity to discuss the matter before the strike has been called. This is a very serious matter.
§ Sir C. Taylor
Further to that point of order. I was here at the time when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made the statement that if there was anything to communicate to the House—if there was news in any form to communicate to the House—he would ask for permission so to do. It may be that there is no news to communicate to the House at the moment, and it would seem quite ridiculous to interrupt this debate and not allow the Minister to go on answering the various points that have been put to him during the debate, if there is no more news to be communicated to the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
What has been said on this subject will, of course, be taken note of, but at present we are debating the Motion before us. I think the Minister should be allowed to continue with his speech. We have not yet got to the end of the day's work.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
On a point of order. May I ask you. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in the event of the Minister going on to four o'clock, if we can have your assurance that a statement will be made to the House in accordance with the promise made this morning?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that a statement can be made. I do not know whether a statement is going to be made.
§ Mr. Rodgers
May I inform the House that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does intend to make a statement at 4 o'clock. Anything which I say between now and 4 o'clock will not affect that: statement. Therefore, perhaps I can proceed with my speech.
Before the interruption, I was referring to the number of overseas visitors to our shores. I am sure that we all 902 welcome the great number of visitors and their expenditure in this country which is an extremely valuable contribution to our balance of payments. Nevertheless, the need to leave adequate room to receive our friends from overseas is an added reason for staggering our own holidays to make the most of our resources of accommodation and transport.
The British Travel and Holidays Association figures show that in previous years about 8 per cent. of all holidaymakers began their holidays in each of the July weeks and in the second and third weeks of August, while during the first week of August the figure went up to 12 per cent. Last year, however, showed a total volume of traffic in the third week of July approximately as much as that recorded in previous August bank holiday weeks, while in August bank holiday week itself 15 per cent., or a record total of 3¾ million holidaymakers set out.
The House has been made painfully aware today of the congestion of traffic which this involves and no doubt hon. Members on both sides of the House will be sympathetic to any sensible proposals for improving the position. But what practical steps can be taken to achieve what we should all like to see?
In the first place, let us look at what is being done now. So many interests are involved that it must be clear from the outset that the main task is one of persuasion. The British Travel and Holidays Association which, as the House will know, obtains four-fifths of its revenue from a Government grant, co-operates with the resorts in a campaign to encourage people to take their holidays in May, June and September. A good deal of space is devoted to this theme in its publication Holiday in Britain. The campaign includes the provision of posters at railway stations. The co-operation of the resorts in this form of publicity is welcome, but could not they do more?
No one can be more keenly aware of the need to extend the holiday season than the resorts themselves, but in the light of the importance of this from their own point of view, do all the interests involved practice enough self-help? Some resorts have experimented a good deal in ways of extending the season 903 and some, particularly in Scotland, as was said by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) have achieved an astonishing measure of success. Individual hoteliers and boarding houses have sought to play a part in reducing the congestion on the roads and railways at weekends by booking from mid-week to mid-week instead of from Saturday to Saturday.
Efforts of this sort are extremely valuable and to be encouraged, but do they go far enough? For example, do the carriers and the resorts give the incentive they might by means of a differential tariff? I know that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) thought they did, but my sympathies lie with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park.
§ Mr. Rodgers
No, but it only applies to the hotels and boarding houses. There is no differential on amusements or anything like that so far as I know, and they all benefit from the tourist trade.
I ask myself, do the resorts carry out sufficiently vigorously an advertising campaign calling attention to the advantages of off-season holidays? These are not things that the Government ought to be called on to do for them since it is in their own selfish interests to spread the season. Although the British Travel and Holidays Association plays its part in this campaign it would not be right for the Association to spend any larger part of its revenue in this way since the Government's grant is directed primarily to promoting the flow of tourists to this country from overseas. A great deal of its effort overseas is directed by the Association to encouraging visitors to come to this country in the spring and autumn rather than in the high summer.
I wonder what is the aggregate amount spent by the resorts in persuading United Kingdom patrons to spend holidays in the less crowded months? The estimated expenditure by 904 holidaymakers in this country, according to the British Travel and Holidays Association, is £410 million a year. Surely it is worth ploughing back some of this money in an effort to extend the season in which people take their holiday.
Another way in which the holidaymakers and resorts can help themselves is by paying more attention to the problem of adapting their resources to rapidly changing social conditions. Some resorts are old-fashioned and are selling an old-fashioned product which is not fully competitive with foreign travel or with the desire for expensive consumer goods which compete with holidays. We have a mobile and more wealthy population today which is tending more and more to take trips away from home at weekends and Bank Holidays in addition to an annual holiday. Now, some lucky people take two holidays a year.
The history of holiday camps shows that this enormous trade can be profitable if the product or holiday service meets the modern demand. The well-known Butlin camps are open from mid-May to mid-September. Naturally, they are not so full in the early part of the season, but every week pays, although they allow a price differential of as much at £4 5s. a week between the peak season prices and those at the beginning of the season.
How do they manage to do this and still make a profit each week? It is the result of vigorous selling and price incentive for the off-season and plenty of attraction which they provide for the people going to the camp. It is no use resorts, whose only appeal to the visitor is their location on a bit of sea coast and whose amenities are much the same as they were in the days of Queen Victoria, thinking that the Government can, in some mysterious way, extend the season by legislation or administrative action. Nor is it any use boarding houses complaining at the emergence of the holiday camp at the end of the road with its longer season.
The British Travel and Holidays Association survey suggests that unlicensed hotels and boarding houses, for the last ten years, have been losing trade to licensed hotels and holidays camps. This is an expression of the choice of the people. It is not as though the holiday 905 market were shrinking. It is expanding. The fact is that year by year more people are taking holidays away from home—23 million in 1956, 24 million in 1957, 25 million in 1958, and, last year, 28 million. I am sure that we are still far from saturation point. As has been said by, I think, the hon. Members for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) and Sheffield, Park, 40 per cent. of the population have not yet acquired the habit of taking holidays away from home.
On a rising market of this sort, there should be good possibilities for any resort which is prepared to study the market and give the holiday-maker what he wants to attract a larger and larger number of tourists. Although it is true that the numbers going to the Continent year by year increase and went up from 1.6 million in 1955 to 2.4 million last year, there is no need for the trader to imagine that foreign competition for their patrons is at the root of the trouble.
A glance at the figures suggests that the percentage of holiday-makers who go abroad has dropped from 9 in 1955 to 8 last year. In other words, although more people are going abroad for their holidays, the increase in home holidays habit is running at a faster rate than the increase in the habit of going abroad. Moreover, we must not forget that against the 2.4 million who left these shores for Europe last year we must set off 1.4 million overseas visitors who came to enjoy our own hospitality.
In the years since the war, we have, I am very glad to say—and I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree with me—gained a tremendous reputation as a tourist resort country. It is said that we have the worst weather, at least in Europe, but it is also said that we have the best climate. Sometimes I think that the English weather gets a little too much in the neck, but perhaps I am being optimistic and remembering last summer which is still fresh in our minds and hoping that the coming summer may be equally as good as last summer.
We shall attract more and more overseas visitors only if all hotel keepers and boarding house keepers and the like study the needs of their customers and do not adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, which is still apparent, unfortunately, in far too many establishments. If they want to capture the trade in a 906 keenly competitive market, they will have to go out to secure the traffic by all sorts of devices and ensuring that holidaymakers are not bored when they arrive at their hotel or boarding house and provide these facilities for them if they are not provided in some other part of the town.
A great deal of the credit for the increase in holidays at home and in the number of visitors to these shores should go to the British Travel and Holidays Association, whose overseas tourist promotion effort has won acclaim in many lands. The home holiday trade must set out its stall in the same way to catch the home holidaymaker and to lure him away from his habit of taking holidays in July or August.
No action of the Government can be nearly as effective as a real, organised campaign by the interests concerned. Although it is in the main for the travel trade to attract holidaymakers to enjoy their leave in the less crowded months, it has been said that there is an area in which the Government can play an important part, for example, in extending Summer Time or in altering the date of the August bank holiday to the end of the month or even to the first week in September.
I would like to say a word or two about Summer Time and its possible extension. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department told the House on 5th November last year that the Government proposed to seek the views of a wide range of bodies concerned with industry, including the tourist industry, commerce and agriculture, on the desirability of a permanent extension of Summer Time. The House will also recall that, on 28th January, my right hon. Friend told the House that a questionnaire had been issued to 135 interested organisations, but that it would be some time before replies were received.
The House will appreciate that an extension of Summer Time would have different effects in different parts of the country and on different trades and industries. Everyone who has given serious consideration to the subject would agree, therefore, that it is most important that the people concerned should be given the opportunity to express their views on a regional rather than on a national basis. 907 This means that a great number of people will be expressing their views. Inevitably, the analysis of all these views will take a considerable time.
Organisations consulted to date include the National Farmers' Union, the British Travel and Holidays Association, the British Employers' Confederation, the Trades Union Congress, the National Chamber of Trade and organisations concerned with transport and the building industry. The Government are quite willing to consult any organisation which has a legitimate interest in expressing a view on the subject.
No replies to the questionnaire have yet been received, so I am not in a position today to say where the balance of opinion lies. We expect, however, to have the majority of replies by the end of March. We are also taking note of the views of individual members of the general public who care to write, but it is evident from the letters so far received that there is a wide diversity of opinion as to whether it is a good or a bad thing for Summer Time to be extended permanently. Indeed, this division of opinion has been amply expressed in the debate today. From both sides, hon. Members have advanced the claims of a permanent extension, while others have expressed horror at the mere suggestion. This, I believe, is the position which is likely to be found when the investigation is concluded from among all the various organisations throughout the country.
Any alteration to the operation of Summer Time arrangements would require legislation—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Undoubtedly, if the growl is so loud as to attract the attention of the Chair, it would be out of order.
§ Mr. Griffiths
You will also have heard growls from the other side of the House, too, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I was saying that if we were to make any change with regard to the operation of Summer Time this would require legislation, and that could not be promised at all easily.
908 I should like to say a word or two about August bank holiday, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and by various other hon. Members, too. I do not wish to get into the question about Easter. This seems to be a theological argument on which I am quite incompetent to express a view. I would rather just stick to the question whether August bank holiday should be moved, rather than the subject of the date of Easter, about which there seem to be many great experts, who have been quoting all sorts of Acts and took us back to the Synod of Whitby in 687. Apparently this subject has been discussed for a thousand years and I have a feeling that for a thousand years more it will be discussed, whether or not Easter should be a fixed or movable feast. It is not for me today to add to that debate, and I do not propose to say a word at all in favour of or against the fixing of Easter Day.
I want to talk for a moment, if I may about August bank holiday.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am perfectly certain that the bishop would have more fixed views than I.
It is true, as hon. Members who referred to this question of August bank holiday have said, that the weeks on either side of the August bank holiday show the heaviest traffic, but it is not at all certain that this nowadays is due to the extra day given by the bank holiday. I was most enlightened to hear from hon. Members the history of this, and it may well be that the conservative habit, as it now is, of taking one's holiday just before or just after August bank holiday grew up because this was the best time to take a holiday before holidays with pay came in, but that is no justification for an extension of the habit. I think that nowadays the significance of the August bank holiday may have changed. It may be due now—
§ Mr. C. Johnson
Nowadays we have the curious fact that, in addition to people taking their annual holidays at the time of August bank holiday, people who do have the extra day, the August bank holiday, swell the number of holiday-makers at that time.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Yes, I think that is a very good point. I certainly think—indeed, I am convinced—as I was going to say, that this whole question of August bank holiday wants looking into, but the fact that it is the peak period may be due to the fact that many firms choose this period to close, and that it marks also the beginning today of the main school holiday season, too.
If the bank holiday were moved merely to the end of the month, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, it would not contribute, I believe, notably to extending the season. It would have to go further than that. I think it would have to go into September or some other time.
§ Mr. Mulley
Can the hon. Gentleman explain this? It has already been decided by the National Joint Advisory Council, at the request of the Ministry of Labour, and the trade unions concerned, that they would be agreeable to the moving of both the Whit bank holiday, to the second Monday in June, and the August bank holiday, to the first Monday in September. What happened to that decision after it got into Ministerial circles about 1950?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am grateful for that intervention, but I am afraid I am not sufficiently briefed to be able to say what happened to that recommendation. However, it is a point I should be only too happy to look into because the subject of tourism is my responsibility in the Board of Trade and I am very interested in anything which can be done to promote it.
If we were to move August bank holiday to the end of the month there might also be difficulties for the banks. If the bank holiday were to fall on the last day of the month there would be real difficulties, and there might be opposition from that quarter.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Hon. Members have made reference to what was said when the subject was discussed in another place last November. The Government at that time did undertake to consider whether, in the light of any interest shown in the question as a result of that debate, a survey of public opinion was justified. I am sorry to have to inform 910 the House that there was very little public reaction indeed to that debate. Perhaps we shall have a bigger public reaction to this debate and have some expression of opinion as to whether the majority of people do or do not favour the moving of August bank holiday, but it may interest hon. Members on both sides of the House to hear of the interesting facts which were elicited by the British Travel and Holidays Association by means of a sample survey which it recently conducted.
This sample survey which they conducted among various typical groups in the country showed that 32 per cent. of the population were in favour of a change, 28 per cent. expressed themselves as being against any change, and 40 per cent. either did not know or expressed no opinion. Therefore, this pattern as expressed in the debate and in the figures produced by the research work carried out by the Association shows that public opinion has by no means crystallised on whether or not it would be a good thing to move August Bank Holiday.
I am not suggesting that the Government are themselves necessarily opposed to a change but I would point out, as in the case of an extension of Summer Time, that it would involve legislation and I am sure that all hon. Members would agree that it would not be right for the Government to introduce such legislation unless they felt absolutely confident that they were acting in response to a widespread demand and that there would be a clear balance of advantage in making a change. Obviously this is one of the things that might be considered.
Another matter in which it has been suggested that the Government might intervene is school and industrial holidays. On reflection, I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members would agree that these are fields in which it is not possible for the Government to play the decisive rôle. The timing of school holidays and indeed the whole arrangement of the academic year are matters more for the local authorities than for the Ministry of Education. Indeed, the Government have no power to dictate to these authorities the way in which they shall organise school terms and holidays in the areas for which they are 911 responsible. In the same way, the timing of industrial holidays is very properly the prerogative of management and the trade unions in the industries concerned. The hon. Member for Lincoln suggested that we should do something to change the dates of wakes weeks.
§ Mr. de Freitas
The method I suggested was by consultation with the employers and ballot among the trades unions.
§ Mr. Rodgers
We would welcome anything that management and trade unions could do to change wakes weeks and similar periods of fixed holidays in industrial areas.
The precise timing in individual firms and industries is already settled by discussion between the two sides of industry and I think that it would be wrong for the Government to try to interfere with the normal process of these discussions and impose their will on industry in this matter. As the hon. Member for Lincoln said, there are signs in some parts of the country that industry is beginning to appreciate the advantages of holiday-making away from the peak period of the year.
I believe that it was the hon. Member for Lewisham, South who pointed out that 75,000 workers in the Coventry motor car industry voted in favour of taking their holidays at the beginning of July instead of during the last week of July and the first week of August. More recently it has been reported that 63,000 workers in Birmingham engaged in making motor cars and components for cars have followed suit. They now intend to ask for the co-operation of employers and local education authorities in making it possible to implement this decision.
On Tyneside also a significant step has been taken towards extending the holiday season by the recent decision of the ship repairing yards to spread the holiday season over a period of three months instead of six weeks and the shipyards have announced that they will not close for the August bank holiday period. These are all ways in which the public can take steps to spread the load on holiday resorts and to make conditions in which holidays are taken more pleasant and enjoyable. The Government truly 912 welcome the initiative taken by those employees and employers and hope that others will follow their example.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East what lead the Board of Trade have given in this matter. Government offices have a good record because most civil servants are free to take their holidays at any time in the year, subject to the exigencies of public business and the agreement of their seniors. Whilst this can be done in Government Departments and perhaps in offices as well, it may not be an easy system to apply to factories, since it is perhaps too flexible to operate successfully in industrial premises.
There are also signs of fresh thinking about holidays on the educational front. I understand that the Devon County Council has given considerable thought to the question of rearranging the dates of school terms and holidays so that there would be four terms and four holidays in the school year. Under this arrangement summer holidays would probably be split into two periods of four weeks, the first in June and the second in September. Clearly a decision with such far-reaching consequences cannot be taken in isolation I am told that the county council is seeking the support of the County Councils Association and of the Ministry of Education in a campaign to secure the re-organisation of the school year on these lines throughout the country.
The hon. Member for Lincoln expressed great dissatisfaction at such a scheme. He suggested that it might be better to shorten the holiday period at Christmas and Easter and have a longer summer holiday. There is much to commend in that suggestion, but I will not take sides today. I only mention the views of the hon. Member for Lincoln and the Devon County Council to show that there is fresh thinking and that the educationists are as well aware as are the hoteliers and those in charge of transport that it would be an advantage to find a method of staggering the holiday period.
Whilst I welcome the fresh thinking on this subject, there are obviously serious problems to be solved before a decision to reorganise the school year in this way could be taken. For example, it would upset the present 913 arrangements for university examinations and for those school examinations conducted by independent examining bodies. This point was made by the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Sheffield, Park, who referred to the G.C.E. I share his view that this is a major factor in making it difficult to introduce any changes in the school year. However, according to an estimate made by the Secondary Schools Examination Council in 1955, households containing children taking the G.C.E. examination are not likely to number more than 2 per cent. in any one year.
§ Mr. Mulley
The fact that the school would have to be kept going for the G.C.E. form would make it difficult to close the other classes for the purpose of extended holidays.
§ Mr. Rodgers
That is a pertinent point which must obviously be taken into account when we study the subject. All the problems we have been discussing today—extending Summer Time, the possibility of moving the August bank holiday, of rearranging the school year, of making new arrangements about industrial and office holiday periods—I am convinced are capable of solution, but a solution will not be quickly or easily found.
In the meantime, the amount of school attendance required is fixed in general terms which leave the local authorities with a wide discretion. The terms are so wide as to enable them, as the hon. Member for Honiton told the House, to decide whether the school year should be divided into three or four terms. In addition, leave of absence is given during term time for children to accompany their parents for a period of up to two weeks. So it is possible to overemphasise the effect of school holidays in determining the date of the family holiday.
I have listened with great sympathy and interest to the various ways in which it has been suggested that we might achieve a more rational use of all our very excellent holiday facilities. But I am convinced that the field for effective Government action is limited.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
Before my hon. Friend leaves the point of education, would he not agree that, as he so concisely says, so far as holidays are concerned this is not the responsibility of the Minister of Education and that any evidence that could be brought before a committee by local education authorities would be of great assistance to the Government in dealing with the whole problem?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I am very glad indeed that my hon. Friend has made that intervention. It has made clear that if a committee were to be set up such evidence would be extremely valuable.
There are limits to the restraint which individuals will accept on their liberty, and certainly on their liberty to choose for themselves when they will take their holidays. It remains the policy of the Government to encourage people as far as practicable to take their holidays outside the peak periods, but many people are of a gregarious disposition and enjoy the milling crowds of the holiday peak and would not have it otherwise. Members of this House, exhausted from their labours, might seek out somewhere… far from the madding crowd",but we must remember that one man's meat is another man's poison and many people would feel cheated out of their summer holidays unless the crowds were much in evidence.
The Motion proposes a national plan and a committee to work it out. A national campaign, which is perhaps rather a different conception from a plan—might be a more acceptable idea—a campaign to persuade and encourage. The Government are, as I hope I have made clear, extremely anxious to see an extension of the holiday season and willing to play their part in bringing it about.
As a result of the debate, I will undertake further to set in motion an ad hoc committee of officials to review the problem and report on whether there are any further steps which might profitably be pursued by the Government to extend the holiday period. I agree, however, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) who said that, while he sympathises with the objects of the 915 Motion, he would rather have a committee of private interests than an official committee. There is, I think, no reason why the two committees should conflict, and if commercial interests care to set up their own committee, the Government will be glad that they have done so.
Once again I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and the hon. Member for Lincoln for putting forward the Motion in so able, so non-partisan, so interesting and so witty a manner, and the Government have pleasure in accepting it with the reservations that I have made about the composition of the official committee.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That this House, recognising the need to extend and adjust the holiday period so as to relieve congestion at the peak period, asks Her Majesty's Government to set up a Committee to examine this question urgently with special reference to the educational, tourist trade, and transport interests concerned, and the problem of summer-time, with power to recommend early action.