HC Deb 21 December 1967 vol 756 cc1497-513
Mr. Speaker

I allocated an hour and a half for the first debate in the not unreasonable expectation that it might be interrupted at the beginning. I did not know that the interruption would be quite as long as it has been, but, in the circumstances, I think that we shall stick to the timetable which I have announced to the House. The first debate will end at 1.30 p.m., and the other debates will end at the time that I have set down.

12.40 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I understood that, with the agreement of all parties, the Minister was to make his statement about the loans scheme for the hotel and catering industries at the beginning of this debate.

Mr. Speaker

I have given the hon. Member leave to raise the subject which he has chosen on the Adjournment. He must be very careful. He may lose the right to speak if he does not speak now. If the Minister wants to anticipate the debate for which the hon. Member has asked, and if it makes sense to him, I have no objection.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

Perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House if I intervene during the hon. Gentleman's speech. I have only to announce that my right hon. Friend has decided to extend the experimental hotel loans scheme for a further three months, and that there will be a slight change in the scheme in that loans granted for new hotels can now be for 20 years instead of 15. The effect of this is that we shall continue to consider applications provided that they are received by the Board of Trade by 31st March of next year.

Mr. Rees-Davies

That was such a mini-mouse of a statement that it hardly surprises me that it was not made as a Ministerial statement from the Dispatch Box. Leaking it in during the course of an Adjournment debate is a good example of the Government's attitude to this industry. From Thailand and Tibet, across to the Ganges and Euphrates, across to Latin America, and up to Eire, in fact in almost every country in the world, there is a Minister in charge of tourism, and there is an active policy for it. It is only in the United Kingdom that there is no policy for tourism. Indeed, as I listened to the statement on foot-and-mouth disease, earlier this morning, I felt that the Government were treating our tourist industry as though it were an infected area, because not only is there no policy for tourism, but the Government are actively hostile to this industry in a number of ways.

With the new year coming, I want to ask the Government for three specific clear undertakings. First, that they will work out a policy for tourism, that it will be a co-ordinated policy within the respective Government Departments, and that while the Departments are considering that policy they will take into account the need for a Select Committee to study the problems.

As I listened to my hon. Friends, a short while ago, I felt that the Leader of the House might wish to discharge the Select Committee on Agriculture and have a more worthwhile one, namely, one for tourism, for at least this must be said, that whether it be agriculture, or tourism, there is far more money to be made for the benefit of this country in an easy way in tourism than in any other industry. It is symptomatic that whereas the Board of Trade issues clever and careful export statistics month by month and figures for imports which are published regularly in its yellow book, it has no similar document for invisible exports, and there is no mention of the hotel or catering industries, and no mention of the revenues derivable from them. I have often felt that an invisible export, to the Board of Trade is merely something with a miniskirt to be found in Chelsea. This is really the attitude and there is no one of whom I am aware in this Ministry, or other Ministries, with a direct brief on this subject to promote tourism.

Not only should there be a policy coordinated within the Departments, but there should be a direct policy which regards tourism as a major industry; and, furthermore, a major export industry, and it is in this context that I propose to address the House.

The public have suffered through restrictions on currency, and the national rather than the international approach to the whole question of reciprocity, which is required for the tourist industry. Secondly, the hotel industry has suffered not only because of an acute shortage of beds, but of amenities of all kinds and I shall refer to this in a moment or two. Thirdly, the country suffers because of the total absence of any liaison between the Ministries on the questions of immigration and customs control. When the new Boeing comes into commission it will take three and half hours to clear just one batch of arrivals in this country. If we imagine that they will then not switch their operations direct to Paris, the Board of Trade had better begin to understand the position of the Ministry of Aviation, and the Home Office had better begin to understand its responsibilities for expenditure control.

Unless, by next year, we have changed our system of Customs and abolished the old system of confrontation and switched to something analogous to the Swedish system and adopted a new method of Customs control, we shall lose many thousands of visitors.

The committee on invisible exports properly and rightly criticised the Government for giving no assistance to the tourist industry. The "Little Neddy", the catering industry committee, made a number of admirable recommendations and pointed out the vital need for new measures to inject investment into this industry. The British Hotels and Restaurant Association, the British Travel Association and other bodies have also made a number of good recommendations.

The matter of prime importance is the development of the hotel industry to enable it to cater for an increased number of overseas visitors, to ensure that we have more home holidaymakers, and to this extent the B.T.A., with Government assistance, is preparing an excellent home holidays campaign. This is at least a worthwhile feature. We must provide for businessmen. At present, throughout the country the needs of businessmen both in hotels and boarding houses are not met at all. It is no good trying to draw a distinction between overseas business visitors and home holiday makers. They are all part of one cognate whole and one proper policy is required for the industry. We must ensure that the requisite accommodation of the right quantity, quality and in the right location is built. We should provide industrial building allowances for those who put up new buildings. They should be similar to those which apply in Eire, Italy and other countries.

Secondly, we must provide investment grants to enable the industry to provide the equipment and furnish its hotels to the required standard. It will be found in almost every country in Europe that measures of this kind operate. Next, we should extend the development area legislation to hotels and in this way give them the priority which will enable them to obtain the earnings required.

The statement made just now by the Minister in his apologetic manner was too preposterous for words. Twelve months ago the industry objected to the terms and conditions of this scheme. The Government offered a total loan of £5 million. Only £1¾ million has been taken up, because the terms and conditions are so stringent and preposterous that it has not been worth anybody's while to take up a loan. In the outcome, only 11 persons have obtained a grant. The amounts are quite substantial ones, totalling, as I have said, £1¾ million.

Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

Perhaps I may help my hon. Friend. Yesterday, I received an answer from the Minister on this very point. The position is worse than my hon. Friend has indicated. Twelve loans have been offered, and only six have been accepted by the applicants, because the terms were so stringent. Two have been completely rejected, and we have not heard anything about the others.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am indebted to my hon. Friend for that information. I knew that there had been 11 or 12 and that was all. We now hear that only six have been taken up.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu


Mr. Rees-Davies

I want to tell the Minister the reason for this. Twelve months ago the advisers to Her Majesty's Government virtually withdrew from the scheme, because, in their view, its operation would be to no purpose.

The first thing that is necessary is to have a scheme of investment grants not exceeding, say, £50,000 to any one person or group, to enable improvements to be made by way of lifts, bathrooms and similar small modernisation improve- ments, not only inland but in the seaside resorts, so as to provide up-to-date accommodation. The Government must introduce some scheme to assist in this way if we are to secure the modern amenities which are required and which are signally absent throughout he country.

Secondly, the Government must extend their scheme of loans to larger sums of money, at fixed interest rates. This has been very effectively carried out in countries such as Eire, Italy and Switzerland. Whether the loan is made by a financial institution, and guaranteed by the Government—and it is best if it is made by a financial institution with a credit guarantee from the Government—there should be a capital payment and a moratorium on the repayment of capital for three years, with a fixed interest loan at 4 per cent, or 4½ per cent., repayable in 20 to 25 years. This is nowadays the only way to secure adequate hotel development.

The other day, in reply to Questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) and myself, the Minister stated that, whereas the Board of Trade controlled hotels, it did not control catering, and that this was dealt with by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I hope that the Minister will make the strongest representations to the Select Committee on Agriculture and will tell it in no uncertain terms that catering should be dealt with by the Board of Trade. A more stupid situation than one in which catering questions are controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I find it difficult to imagine.

We want to see, for the first time, a proper tourist policy. A neat opportunity has been provided by devaluation and the immense increase in overseas visitors to our shores—now nearly 3½ million and with a target of 5 million in 1970. There is no reason why this country should not succeed in obtaining a great deal of invisible exports if it pursues the right policy now.

In my view, and that of many of my hon. Friends, we require a Minister of Tourism who will direct his attention to this matter and this matter alone—a Minister who will secure the co-ordination of Departments and persuade the Government—I agree that it is a very difficult thing to achieve—that hoteliers and caterers are carrying on an industry and that the buildings concerned with tourism should be treated as industrial hereditaments. The Government must sweep away the iniquitous Selective Employment Tax and ensure that if there are to be no investment allowances there will be direct investment grants and loans.

The Government must see that we treat this industry as other countries do, so that Britain can emerge successfully in the future and will not be regarded as an "infected area", or Britain appear like a bulldog growling over the gate and saying, "Please keep away. We do not want you to come to our shores."

Mr. Speaker

It may help the House if I say that the Front Bench will intervene at ten minutes past one. Speeches must be brief.

12.55 p.m.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

I join with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) in expressing extreme disappointment at the Minister's most inadequate statement. What most disappointed me about the £5 million scheme which I welcomed when it was introduced is that it appears to have been restricted to London and the main provincial towns of Scotland and Wales, and that when good schemes are put up by coastal towns they are more or less turned down out of hand. Coastal towns have just as much to offer visitors, if not more, than the places to which the Minister seems to have restricted the application of his scheme.

In view of the shortness of time I shall not go into details of certain cases, but I want to refer to a hotel in my constituency which is setting out to achieve top London standards and has put forward a scheme and had it rejected just because it is not adding bedrooms. I hope that the Minister will instruct his Committee which is to consider these matters that it is more important in the first instance to concentrate on improving amenities rather than adding to bedroom space. We must raise standards. We must have a higher proportion of bathrooms to bedrooms, and provide all the other amenities which are necessary to attract American tourists.

The tourist industry is our biggest dollar earner and fourth biggest foreign currency earner, and its biggest problem arises from the multiplicity of control at the top. It is ridiculous that in respect of catering matters we must work through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whereas if we are dealing with a question of development loans we have to go to the Board of Trade, and, if questions of camping and caravans arise, we must go through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

And for building licences we have to go through the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

Mr. Woodnutt

Yes. It is quite ridiculous, and it means that effective decisions cannot be made quickly—if they can be made at all.

I sympathise with the Minister of State, because he has an appalling job. He is one of the few Ministers whom I consider to be a good Minister. He could do a very good job, given the opportunity. I remind him that in the opinion of the all-party Tourists and Resorts Committee it would be in the best interests of the tourist industry if we were to appoint a Select Committee to deal with tourism so as to service both the Ministries and the trade. This suggestion should be welcomed by the Minister, and I hope that he can assure us that he will press for such a Select Committee to be set up.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

I, too, will not make a long speech in view of the shortness of time. I wish to refer to the announcement made this morning as it compares with the practice of our two nearest international opponents. France gives 60 per cent loans for 20 years at 3 per cent., and Eire gives a 20 per cent, grant and a 10 per cent, tax allowance for depreciation. These are the kind of figures which we must consider to make our hotel industry pay. I will not go into the economics, but the Minister knows that new hotel building in London is only marginally profitable and in the country generally hardly profitable at all.

I emphasise that we must treat this industry as an industry and not just as a service industry. Unless we do, we will not make the necessary progress. One of two things must happen—either we must take all our facilities as a whole or we must look not just at the hotels but at the theatres, particularly the National Theatre. Now that the Government are to provide money for the National Theatre, I hope that they will not cut down on it. No investment is more likely to produce foreign currency.

I hope that they will seriously consider building special conference facilities for businessmen in such places as Blackpool, for instance. This is a constituency point, but why not? I hope that the Government will remember that this is the one industry in which we save foreign currency where we can discriminate and subsidise to our hearts' content without contravening G.A.T.T. Surely we should take the chance to do this at this stage in our economic history.

1.3 p.m.

Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)

Although it is always a great pleasure to hear my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), there is something depressing about the regularity of these debates and the fact that, despite our persistence, the Government's attitude towards this industry remains completely unchanged and unenlightened. Yet there is no excuse for this. Even if they had completely ignored all the views of hon. Members on this side, they how have the advantage of two admirable Reports, one from the British National Export Council's committee on invisible exports, and the other from the Hotel and Catering Economic Development Committee. Both lay heavy emphasis on the important contribution of the hotel and tourist industry now and increasingly in future to our balance of payments.

My hon. Friends have said that the industry is a prime earner of foreign currency. I agree that the Board of Trade Ministers do not seem able to comprehend that one can earn money by inviting foreigners here to spend, just as much as by physically exporting. All that the Minister has done in this grave economic situation is to inform the House of some minor alteration to a scheme which was already futile. No wonder that this hotel plan scheme has been described as "a failure, if not a fiasco". Nothing that he has suggested today alters that description.

I wonder how serious the Government are in their determination to rescue the country from the economic difficulties to which their policies have brought us. If the Minister wants to increase foreign currency earnings of industry, they must take this industry seriously and show, by positive action, that they are determined to enable it to add to the strengthening of the balance of payments.

1.6 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I agree with my hon. Friends that the earnings of this industry would in themselves, justify a Minister specially designated to take care of it. If the Minister of State were given this task and no other he could give the tourist industry the benefit which it deserves. In a Question on 20th December, I asked whether he had any announcement to make on any increase in charges for charter holidays, which the Minister has the right to raise or lower under the first provision of I.A.T.A., although it is not, of course, mandatory. Some European countries do not fix charter holidays under that provision—Sweden and Germany, for example—but others do.

The answer I received on this important matter was that a decision would be announced in the near future. I know that the Minister has discussed this for a week or so and the House goes into Recess today. Will the announcement be made during the Recess—that would be wrong—or in a few minutes? If the former, we will have no chance to probe the Minister, whereas, if it happens after we come back, it will be too late. The charter companies must advertise and the advertising season begins immediately after Christmas.

I believe that the Minister will announce an imposed increase in the prices of these charter companies, which would be entirely contrary to the Government's general policy. In this connection, referring to the basic travel allowance which I had raised with him, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote to me: I know, however, that the travel industry will do all they can in co-operation with hoteliers to reduce the cost of holidays. He expects the travel business to keep down the cost and foreign hoteliers to co-operate, yet in the next few days the Government may announce an imposed increase in the prices of these charter holidays. I hope that the Minister will give a reply on this vitally important matter. The travel industry has made arrangements with many foreign hoteliers who have co-operated to keep down prices. If the charter companies have to make more money which they do not want by raising prices, this will undoubtedly affect the co-operation which we are getting overseas.

1.10 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

I have been allotted only one minute and I will, therefore, raise only one point—on investment grants. Yesterday I asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the White Paper on Investment Incentives, Cmnd. Paper No. 2874, still represents Government policy. The reply which I received is very appropriate for this debate. The reply was: Yes. The main purposes of the investment grants scheme are to give priority to increasing investment in those sectors of the economy which can do most to strengthen the balance of payments … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1967; Vol. 756, c. 425.] All my hon. Friends have made a very strong case for the tourist and hotel industry—I declare an interest as a director of a hotel—and they have pointed out that it represents a very effective industry. Will the Minister tell us why the industry cannot receive investment grants as every other industry receives them?

1.11 p.m.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I should like to join my hon. Friends in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) on initiating this debate. I thought that in the short time available to him he put the case for the tourist industry with even greater power than he always does.

We were talking earlier this week about the Government's observance of a certain United Nations Resolution. There is another United Nations Resolution which is relevant today, and it is one for which the Government voted not long ago—to designate 1967 International Tourist Year. The Government have celebrated International Tourist Year with the £50 travel allowance, the Selective Employment Tax and its discrimination against the tourist industry, and with the tourist industry deprived of investment allowances and unable to obtain investment grants. What have they done to observe International Tourist Year? I suppose that they would point to the hotel loans scheme, and I thought that those of my hon. Friends who referred to it were unduly kind about it. We were told not long ago by the Minister of State that he hoped and expected that the whole £5 million, which was not too generous to begin with, would be allocated by the end of the year. But we learned in an Answer only yesterday how pathetic the results have been.

The truth is that the Government have clobbered the tourist industry in this country as it has never been clobbered before. Is that surprising? Let us observe the condition of the Government benches. We got used to that condition throughout the debates on the Selective Employment Tax 18 months ago. There are deserted benches opposite because the Labour Party are not interested in the tourist industry. They are interested in what they have come to believe is important from their reading of Karl Marx—heavy industry. When it comes to the more modern developments in industry and to the potential earnings of the tourist industry they are quite blind.

The Prime Minister used to be fond of international league tables. For some reason he is not quite so fond of them nowadays. If hon. Members look at the international league table showing the growth in tourist earnings they will find that Britain is well down in the basement. To some extent that must be due to the help which other Governments give their tourist industries contrasted with the penalties which the British Government impose on our tourist industry.

I hope that when he replies the Minister of State will tell us what is the Government's attitude towards the two Reports mentioned by my hon. Friends —the B.N.E.C. Report and the "Little Neddy" Report for the industry. I regard those Reports as very important, and even if the Minister cannot today tell us more about the hotel loans scheme, and even if he cannot tell us what action the Government intend to take on the very important suggestions in those two Reports, at least he can assure us that as Minister responsible for the tourist industry he is pressing his colleagues as hard as he can to recognise the importance of the industry and to act on those two Reports.

I have one important point to make about those Reports. They were produced before devaluation. We already knew that the industry was faced with a shortage of beds and had had to turn down package tours from the United States even in 1966 because of the shortage of beds. If devaluation is to have the effect which we hope it will have in bringing more visitors to this country and keeping more of our own people in Britain for holidays, we need not merely 10,000 extra beds by 1970, as was said earlier, but thousands and thousands more. This is a critical moment for the hotel and catering industry of this country. They want to know what encouragement, as opposed to penalties, the Government will give them so that they make take advantage of the opportunities presented to them now. I hope that the Minister will tell us something about the implications of devaluation for the tourist industry. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet said that the Government had no policy on the tourist industry. I would say that on past performance they have not even a clue.

1.15 p.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. J. P. W. Mallaieu)

Before I try rapidly to answer some of the questions which have been asked, may I deal with a point raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis.) I hope that this does not seem in any way discourteous to the House, but a decision was taken about I.A.T.A. fares late last night after prolonged and very intensive consultation. There was a Question on the Order Paper and a statement was made in answer to that Question at twelve o'clock today.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

This is most extraordinary. I had a Question down yesterday on the subject and I was not even informed, as one might have expected, that a Question would be answered this morning similar to that which I asked yesterday. Had I been informed it would, at least, have kept me in the picture.

Mr. Mallalieu

I am extremely sorry. The hon. Member is always very courteous and I apologise if there has been any discourtesy by my Department. I will read the answer very quickly: After consultation with air operators and representatives of the travel trade, I have decided "— that is, my right hon. Friend— that the minimum prices of charter inclusive tour holidays by air, which are governed by Provision I in the relevant air service licences, should be allowed to remain at their predevalualion levels so far as destinations in Europe, Morrocco, Algeria and Tunisia are concerned, during the coming summer season from 1st April to 31st October, 1968.

Mr. Lewis

In view of what I said earlier, when I was speaking in the dark, may I say that I very much appreciate that statement?

Mr. Mallalieu

I will proceed, like everybody else, as quickly as I can. I very much regret the shortage of time.

Like everybody else, I am disappointed that I could make only that one announcement amout the hotel loans scheme—a mini announcement as it has been called. In fact, it is not so mini. The idea that the hotel loans scheme has been a failure is wrong. It is wrong because in the last few weeks, since there have been signs of restriction of bank credit, many people who had looked at the scheme originally and had turned down our offer have come back to us and said, "On the whole, we think that this will be helpful". In those circumstances, it would certainly be stupid not to allow the scheme a further three months to see how it works.

There has been a great deal of criticism about the Government's attitude towards the tourist industry. I am told that we have clobbered the tourist industry. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker produced some figures. Let me give figures, which I find extremely exciting, for the expenditure by overseas visitors in this country in recent years. In 1964 it was £190 million, in 1965 £193 million, and in 1966 £219 million. Everyone may say that that is a very big jump and that it was all due to the World Cup, but I have this morning received estimates for expenditure for this year, 1967. The figure is not £219 million, but £240 million, a record. I think that that is a most encouraging trend.

Mr. Woodnutt

In spite of the Government.

Mr. Mallalieu

The hon. Member cannot have it both ways. This industry which I, the Government and the House recognise as of great importance, is showing a very substantial benefit to the country in terms of overseas payments.

Mr. Blaker

Can the hon. Gentleman say where we are in the "international league tables" in comparison with other countries?

Mr. Mallalieu

I do not have an estimate for other countries for this year.

In spite of the great improvement in payments from overseas, we still have a substantial net deficit, our payments overseas still being greater than those we received.

Mr. Rees-Davies

What is the deficit?

Mr. Mallalieu

The figure of payments overseas in 1966 was £297 million, so that the deficit was slightly less than about £80 million. I hope that this year that will have been reduced.

Clearly, as a result of devaluation this very encouraging movement will be still further intensified, and it is therefore obviously necessary that we do everything we can to increase the amenities and facilities which people coming here will enjoy. That means all kinds of facilities, not only hotels, but camping sites and so on, and the Countryside Bill which is now going through the House will give us power to make grants for that purpose.

Hon. Members have rightly put the emphasis on hotels. I had hoped that by now we would be able to make a comprehensive statement about the Government's proposals for the hotel industry. We have had a mass of advice, much of it extremely good, and for some time the proposals of the B.T.A. have been carefully studied. The advice is still coming in and only today I have had a request from the chairman of B.T.A. for further consultations about proposals which he would like to be included when the Government finally announce their policy.

I said that I would have liked to have been able to announce it now, but the House will be aware that, as the Prime Minister said the other day, all schemes for Government expenditure are now being reviewed. There are no sacred cows and my own sacred cow cannot be exempt. However, I hope that shortly after the House meets in January we shall be in a position to make a comprehensive statement.

Mr. Miscampbell

Will the Government bear in mind that there are cows which give milk and some which do not, and will they make a clear distinction when deciding which to slaughter?

Mr. Mallalieu

I hope that we shall get our priorities right. This cow gives not only milk but a substantial amount of cream.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance which I attach to this industry. I realise that there are defects in the Government machine, as there have been for years. For instance, catering comes under the Ministry of Agriculture, a provision which goes back to wartime legislation giving the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries control of food and hygiene. I can see the connection between food and agriculture, but it seems anomalous that catering should not come under the control of a Minister with responsibility for tourism. That is not the only anomaly, and hon. Members have mentioned several others. They go far beyond those mentioned today. If there were a Minister of Tourism charged with the responsibilities mentioned, he would not really be a Minister of Tourism unless he had charge, for example, of the National Theatre and looking after museums and all kinds of things which are amenities and attractions to people coming from overseas.

I am still awaiting the report of an Inter-Departmental Working Group on the co-ordination of the Departments with interests in tourism. It has been working extremely hard and we shall see whether from its work we can produce an adequate machine. If we decide that we cannot—this would be right outside my province, of course—I would certainly not have a closed mind about having a Minister of Tourism or a Minister of Leisure. I would welcome a Select Committee, but the difficulty there, as hon. Members know, is that it is extremely difficult to staff all the Select Committes, and if we get the sort of bother which we were given by one of them earlier, I am not sure that that would be entirely the right answer.

Hon. Members have spoken of the British Travel Association's scheme for publicising Britain's merits as a holiday resort. It is true that this industry not only directly earns foreign currency by attracting people to the country, but does so indirectly by inducing our own people to stay here. In that respect, the Association's campaign will be effective. It is the largest publicity campaign to be inaugurated by any country. Wherever we are in the league of actual earnings, we are right at the top of the league for spending money on promotion. The scheme has just started with a small trial run of television advertising and the major campaign will begin on Christmas Eve. Thereafter, there will be a continuing campaign not only to attract still more visitors from overseas, but to persuade more and more of our own people to remain here and to appreciate the delights which this country can offer.

I reject the idea that the Government regards this industry as of no importance. They consider it to be of immense importance, and that is why for so long we have been trying hard to work out the best ways in which to help it to stimulate itself and to be stimulated. I hope that when in the new year we are able to make a firm and detailed announcement of our plans for the industry, that will be yet a further indication of the importance which we attach to it.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Can the hon. Gentleman say approximately when this policy statement is likely to be made, and whether it will be made by him, the President of the Board of Trade, or the Prime Minister?

Mr. Mallalieu

I would think that it would be of such major importance as to be made by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. I would hate to be tied down to a matter of weeks, and the only assurance I give is that we shall make it at the earliest possible moment after the Recess.

Not only the Government but the people of the country as a whole are beginning to realise how important this industry is, and I hope that that belief and understanding will spread widely. I hope that more hon. Members, for example, will take part in the activities of the inter-party Committee which in my short tenure of office I have found to be extremely helpful, and I hope that we shall be able to dissipate for good any lingering belief that being in a service industry is somehow inferior to being in a productive industry. Good service, as can be seen from the sort of figures I have quoted, is vital to our economy, and it also contributes largely to the happiness of our fellow men. Service, whether that of shopkeepers or barmaids or waiters or receptionists, is not just a job, and not even only a profession. It is a work of art, and art of a very high order, and I hope that the country as a whole will recognise it as such.