HC Deb 24 July 1969 vol 787 cc2184-9

Lords Amendment No. 6: In page 6, line 43, after "provided" insert "at reasonable times".

Mr. William Rodgers

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The requirements in Clause 7(2) amount to a definition of the kind of hotel which is to be eligible for assistance under Part II of the Bill. These requirements are to apply in the case of grants for new hotels under Clause 7 and for extension and improvements to existing hotels under Clauses 8 and 9.

The requirement in Clause 7(2)(b) is that breakfast and an evening meal are provided on the premises for guests staying at the hotel. Thus, the hotel must have facilities and equipment for this purpose on the premises, which may embrace more than one building. The requirement is intended to exclude from eligibility establishments which only provide bed and breakfast or self-catering facilities or which merely make arrangements for guests to eat at a nearby café or restaurant which is not part of the hotel premises. This is something we argued about in Committee and I am sure that we do not wish to pursue it further now.

The Amendment makes explicit that the provision of meals is only required to be "at reasonable times", and its purpose is to allay any fears which paragraph (b) might otherwise mean that an hotelier could be required to serve breakfast and evening meals at unreasonable hours. Although we do not consider that any such construction could be put on paragraph (b) as it stands, this Amendment was proposed by the Government in another place to remove any further concern on the point, and I would ask the House to endorse it.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)

I never really know what "reasonable times" means. I feel that this needs some further elucidation by the Minister either by an Order or otherwise. What are "reasonable times" for breakfast or an evening meal? Some people would think that it would be reasonable to have breakfast at 6 o'clock in the morning. Other people would think 9 or 9.30 would be reasonable. There could be disputes between hoteliers and their customers about what are "reasonable times" for breakfast or what are "reasonable times" for an evening meal, which some people would think it reasonable to have at 5.30 or 6 o'clock, though some other people would think 10 o'clock in the evening an even more reasonable time. So I do feel that there has to be some elucidation of what are "reasonable times".

I dislike the word "reasonable" because the interpretation of "reasonable" is always unreasonable.

Mr. Emery

The Minister has referred specifically to the self-catering unit being excluded. I am sorry that an Amendment of mine was not selected, because then the House could have considered this matter more advantageously. The reason why the Minister is in difficulty in this matter is that today the tourist is a person who travels by car and travels by car at many different and varying hours.

A tourist will very likely have young children with him, very likely with a baby asleep at the back of the car. He frequently travels at times when the traffic is least heavy. So by one reason or another he arrives for an enjoyable holiday in the West Country at possibly a late hour at night, or, alternatively at an early hour of the morning, and, of course, he requires either a late evening meal or an early breakfast, as the case may be.

It seems that by inserting the words "at reasonable times" we are doing exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) said—putting in a limitation which is bound to give rise to widely varying interpretations.

Much of the new tourism which is growing up is represented by the person who uses his car to take his family away where previously he has taken his holidays at home. That is the kind of person who wants the self-catering facilities which are the most modern aspect of hotel improvement. It is a considerable weakness in the Bill that the Government have turned their faces against giving grant assistance for improvements or rebuilding to deal with what is the biggest single new factor affecting the tourist industry. I am more than sorry that we shall not be able to have this properly dealt with by the Government.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Blaker

The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) and my hon. Friend for Honiton (Mr. Emery) illustrate the disadvantages of the system of so-called hotel incentives which the Government have adopted, and we have criticised the system in depth in our past debates.

Assuming that the system is to be adopted, we thought that the Amendments to the Clause should go a good deal further than this one does. We did not think that it was necessary for a hotel to provide an evening meal before it qualified for aid. However, as clearly we have been unsuccessful in convincing the Government of that, this small Amendment is in the right direction, and I welcome it.

Mr. William Rodgers

I agree with much that has been said by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery). I would like all establishments to provide meals at unreasonable times. We all dislike arriving late at an hotel and being told that we cannot even have a sandwich. We hope that a generous welcome will be given to travellers at all times, because real hospitality will make tourism grow.

That having been said, and conceding that the success of tourism depends on the initiative and astuteness of those running our hotels, I believe that the tourist boards will interpret this provision wisely and that it is to be welcomed. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) said that it illustrated the disadvantages of the system. I do not say that the system is not one that cannot be improved at some time. There is always the element of experiment in any scheme. However, I am sure that the House wishes it all success.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment No. 7: In page 7. line 4, leave out "the normal hotel services (such as" and insert hotel services appropriate to the establishment (hut including in every case

Mr. William Rodgers

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The requirement in paragraph (d) of Subsection (2) was designed to exclude establishments where guests have to look after themselves. The requirement for normal hotel services with room cleaning and bed making given by way of illustration was not intended to be exhaustive. Nor was it intended to describe or enforce qualitative standards of hotel services. For example, it is not intended that a modest hotel in a rural area should be denied a grant because it does not provide all the services which are normal to a "four star" hotel.

I recall that some concern was expressed when we discussed the Bill in Committee in this House that the reference to normal hotel services might be construed too rigidly by the tourist boards. The effect of this amendment is to refer to appropriate services, making quite clear that the cleaning of rooms and the making of beds are essential services which must be provided in every case. It is a necessary part of the requirements about which tourist boards are to be satisfied so that assistance is confined to the kind of hotel for which the hotel incentives scheme is designed, whatever other reflections there may have been on the point.

I recommend the House to agree to the revised wording of paragraph (d).

Mr. Blaker

Once again, I take the view that the Amendment represents a modest improvement on the previous position. We have said in our previous debates that we think that "normal" is the wrong word to use about hotel services. It ignores the fact that there is a great variety of establishments which can be called hotels, and the variety is increasing constantly. We would have been content simply to have the words hotel services appropriate to the establishment", without including any specific services.

Subject to that comment, I welcome the Amendment.

Mr. Emery

May I ask the Minister a question? There are some hotels, especially in ski-ing areas, where the accommodation might be described as fairly rough in comparison with a four star hotel. Bunks are provided without bedding, and a visitor is meant to bring a sleeping bag. However, such an establishment is still described as an hotel. If the Minister wanted examples, I would give him two references to this type of accommodation. Does not the Amendment mean that an establishment providing that type of accommodation will not qualify for grant?

Mr. Rodgers

The answer is that the Amendment does not exclude what the hon. Gentleman calls fairly rough hotels. The sort of hotel which does not qualify under the Bill as drafted is excluded.

Mr. Emery

That is brilliant.

Question put and agreed to.

Back to
Forward to