HC Deb 23 June 1969 vol 785 cc1012-171

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have not selected new Clause No. 2, "Financial assistance for provision of theatres, &c.". I wonder whether I may ask you, Sir, whether your decision in that matter is subject to reconsideration.

Mr. Speaker

May I answer the hon. Gentleman generally? Mr. Speaker and his advisers devote great pains to the selection of Amendments for the Report stage. Obviously, the non-selection of Amendments is bound to disappoint one hon. Member or another. From time to time, I do hear representations, but, so far as I am aware, my mind is fairly well made up on today's selection.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With great respect, there are three—or possibly four—particular omissions from your provisional selection which, I think, many hon. Members would be very grateful to have reconsidered, if you found that possible. Two of them involve completely new points.

First, I take Amendments Nos. 89 and 90. No. 89, in Clause 2, page 3, line 16, at end insert: (4) The British Travel Association shall, in consultation with the English Tourist Board, the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board, establish machinery to co-ordinate the activities of all four Tourist Boards mentioned in this paragraph on matters affecting Great Britain as a whole. No. 90, in page 3, line 16, at end insert: (4) The British Travel Association, the English Tourist Board, the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board shall in the interests of economy and efficiency establish common services in appropriate cases and such common services shall be administered by the British Travel Association. Those two Amendments address themselves to the question of co-ordination between what are now the four tourist authorities. This point was not raised in Committee, and I believe that many hon. Members, including, perhaps, the Minister of State himself, will agree that, with four tourist authorities, there is need for the House to address itself to the question of co-ordination.

The next Amendment to which, with respect, I draw your attention is No. 95, in Clause 17, page 16, line 1, leave out subsection (6) and insert: (6) No Order shall be made under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by a Resolution of each House. This Amendment asks the Government to amend the Bill so as to make the introduction of a registration scheme subject to affirmative instead of negative Resolution. This, also, is a new point. Those are the two new points.

I come now to Amendment No. 24, in Clause 2, page 3, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert— (3) In discharging their functions under this section the English Tourist Board, the Scottish Tourist Board and the Wales Tourist Board shall have regard to the desirability of fostering and, in appropriate cases, co-operating with organisations discharging functions corresponding to those of the Boards in relation to particular areas within the countries for which the Boards are respectively responsible; and, without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, each of those Boards shall have power to provide such organisations with financial or other assistance. (4) In discharging its functions under this section each Tourist Board shall have regard to the desirability of undertaking appropriate consultation with persons and organisations, including those mentioned in the last foregoing subsection, who have knowledge of, or are interested in, any matters affecting the discharge of those functions. With respect, we seek a separate debate on the first four words of this Government Amendment. Those four words appear to be completely innocuous, but, in fact, they succeed in eliminating the reference in the Bill as amended to Scotland and Wales.

Finally, I come to the group of Amendments Nos. 60, 62 and 66: No. 60, in Clause 17, page 14, line 33, after 'section', insert— 'will only be made after a request has been made to the relevant Minister by the British Travel Association or the Tourist Board and'. No. 62, in page 15, line 15, after 'Order', insert— 'which will only be made after a request for such an Order has been made to the relevant Minister by the British Travel Association or the Tourist Board,'. No. 66, in page 15, line 31, after 'section', insert— 'which will only be made after a request for such an Order has been made to the relevant Minister by the British Travel Association or the Tourist Board,'. These Amendments relate to what I may call a near-undertaking given by the Minister of State, in Committee, that the registration and grading procedure would be introduced only after a request to the Government by the tourist authority. This is the weakest of the four points which I make because, although we discussed the matter in Committee, the Minister did not go so far as to give an undertaking, although he went some way towards it.

On the three other points, I ask you, Sir, with respect, but with some feeling of strength, whether it would be possible for you, during our proceedings, to reconsider your selections.

Mr. Speaker

I deal, first, with, so to call it, the most important point, the one on which our minds reach out together, namely, the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman on Amendment No. 24.

I was aware that the Opposition set some store by subsection (3) and were not too happy about its replacement by the new subsections (3) and (4). I had already decided that, when we come to that, I shall be willing to accept a request from the Opposition that we split Amendment No. 24. The first Question I shall put will be that the Amendment to leave out subsection (3) be made. The second Question I shall put will be the Amendment to insert words as they appear on the Paper. That will meet one of the right hon. Gentleman's points.

On the others, I must be quite noncommittal at the moment. I have listened with care to everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

May I raise a further point of order with you, Mr. Speaker? The whole structure of the Bill was altered in Committee, and, with the new English Tourist Board coming in, there were several points which the Committee decided not to discuss because there was very little opportunity, while the Committee was proceeding, to raise those matters. It was agreed between the two sides that we should not go ahead with them then.

May I, Mr. Speaker, refer particularly to new Clause No. 7—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that this is not a growing habit. The hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee. I remind him that it met on very many days and sat for very many hours, and a great many words were said. We cannot regurgitate the whole of a Committee stage on Report.

Mr. Emery

I realise that, Sir. I attended all but one of the 18 sittings, and no one was more conscious than I of the time we took. However, because of the way matters went, it was agreed by both sides that it would be inappropriate to deal with these matters in Committee and that we should wait till Report to deal with some of them. One such matter is raised by new Clause No. 7, which would provide for appeal against classification or grading, a selective judgment. This was not discussed as such in Committee at all.

We discussed appeal regarding loans and other matters, but appeal on grading was not dealt with. This arises when someone is subjected to a classification or grading of a hotel by a Ministry official, and we should be most grateful if you could reconsider your selection in that respect.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must know that the Chair has read the Amendments and new Clauses and

New Clause 1
(1) Her Majesty may, by an Order in Council applying to, or to any class of, hotels and other establishments in Great Britain at which sleeping accommodation is provided by way of trade or business, make provision for requiring the display at the establishments of information with respect to the prices charged there for such accommodation as aforesaid or otherwise for securing that such information is brought to the notice of persons seeking to avail themselves of the accommodation.
(2) Subsection (2)(e), (f) and (g) and subsections (4), (5) and (6) of section 17 of this Act shall apply to an Order under this section as they apply to an Order under that section.—[Mr. William Rodgers.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. William Rodgers)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that it would be convenient to consider, at the same time, the following Amendments:

Amendment (a) to the new Clause, leave out 'the display at the establishments of' and insert 'that'.

that he understands the issues raised by them. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I give no commitment.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

May I make a point, Mr. Speaker, with general reference to the points of order already raised? There is a growing feeling in the House that, on Report of many important Bills of great complexity, we are engendering an atmosphere in which there is a regurgitation of the Committee proceedings to such inordinate length that a great deal of time and the patience of the House are wasted.

May I submit, rather in support of the Chair than in criticism, that a great many of us would welcome the greater vigilance of the Chair to prevent the regurgitation of ancient debate—the regurgitation of ancient vomit, as some might call it—keeping the House sitting at inordinate hours late at night on matters which have been adequately discussed in Committee.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman pays me the compliment of quoting an unhappy word which I used, the word "regurgitation"—a little too physiological, perhaps. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. I realise that the Opposition always want to discuss more on Report than the Chair wishes them to do, and the Government always want less discussed on Report than the Chair permits. This is the classic duty of Mr. Speaker, as an unhappy Solomon in the midst of two contending forces.

Amendment (b) to the new Clause, leave out 'or otherwise for securing that such information'.

Amendment No.88, in the Title, line 10, after 'business', insert: 'and for securing that the prices charged there for such accommodation are brought to the notice of persons seeking to avail themselves of it'.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If my hon. Friends and I wish it, would you permit us to divide the House on Amendments (a) and (b)?

Mr. Speaker

Amendment (a) is the key Amendment of the two, the lead-in Amendment, as it were. If the Opposition, after hearing the debate, ask for a Division, I shall be willing to concede one.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. William Rodgers

I think that we can start our proceedings on a harmonious note, since this is a genuine effort on our part to meet, as we understood it, the expressed will of the Committee as a whole. The Clause is designed to enable provision to be made by Order in Council for requiring hotels and other establishments providing tourist accommodation to display or otherwise notify their room charges, and for securing compliance with the Order.

Hon. Members who were present in the Committee will remember that this proposal arose rather obliquely on an Opposition Amendment. The general view then expressed was that it was desirable to make provision of this kind requiring hotels to display their tariffs. It was, for example, the view of the hon. Members for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), Barry (Mr. Gower), Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and Honiton (Mr. Emery). I hope that in framing the new Clause I am meeting their wishes and those of everyone else who joined in the preliminary discussion in Committee.

At this stage it may be helpful if I set out again the background against which we should see both the new Clause and our discussions on the Bill today. I emphasise again the importance of inward tourism to this country, with almost 5 million people coming here in 1968. Up to April this year the number of foreign visitors was 21 per cent. greater than in the same period last year. There was an especially large increase in the number of visitors from France.

During the first quarter, overseas visitors as a whole are estimated to have spent 18 per cent. more in Britain than during the same period last year. These encouraging figures give us grounds for expecting another record for tourist earnings this year, and an appreciable balance of payments surplus on the tourist account. This is a very satisfactory position, but there is no reason for complacency. We should build on this and ensure that the growth continues, if possible at an accelerating rate.

I am glad that it is not only the tourist industry in general but the hotel side also which is in an improving position. For example, last Friday's Investor's Chroncile referred to buoyant reports from the hotel and catering industry, and I was interested to read the "Lex" column in the Financial Times, last Tuesday and and Wednesday, dealing with company reports from Trust Houses and Grand Metropolitan Hotels. In the first case, there was a reference to the extent to which Trust Houses was benefiting from what was described as the foreigner's whim, meaning the increased numbers of tourists coming to this country. In the second, there was a reference to the boom in United Kingdom tourist figures as one obvious source of strength at home. In the case of both these important hotel groups the performance is good and the prospect is better.

I think that what Lex was saying was that if one wants to buy cheaply some shares which will show a good record later one should get in on the hotel industry, or certainly on these two groups. Therefore, our discussions on the new Clause and the rest of our debate should not be against a background of a sickly hotel industry. I shall not enter into the question whether or not the industry has problems. It will no doubt be argued that it has. All I hope is that the message from the House as a result of this Report stage will not be that British hotels are on their knees and not capable of catering for increasing numbers of foreign tourists and providing them with very satisfactory accommodation.

It is not a depressed sector of our economy—not that there are any depressed sectors of our economy—and we should see the provisions of the Clause against that background. It is not a depressed sector because of the high standards in many of our hotels and the fact that the standards of almost all of them are rising. But it is desirable to have the new Clause to make even the best more attractive to consumers and as a safeguard against the very occasional black sheep. It is a desirable measure of consumer protection.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

As the Minister emphasised the number of visitors from abroad, including, presumably, a number of people from various continental countries, does this mean that the Orders are likely to require publication of information in more than one language?

Mr. Rodgers

The hon. Gentleman may care to wait to hear what I have to say further about that, but it is an interesting suggestion. Although it is not necessary to prescribe that in legislation, it is certainly something to which hotels should give attention. I would hope that hotels catering for foreign visitors will increasingly bear in mind that not all of them speak English, and will not only word their notices accordingly but have staff who speak other languages as well.

Where there may be some differences of opinion—and this is borne out by our preliminary discussions with the trade—is in the form in which the information to which I have referred should be brought to the notice of intending guests. Some favour a notice in the bedrooms of the sort we find in French hotels and those of some other European countries, something that I always find exceedingly convenient and helpful. Others prefer to see a notice at the reception desk, while others feel that hotels should be expected to notify the price in writing to guests at the time of booking.

It is clear that we should have further discussions both with the trade and with tourist and consumer interests before deciding on the best way of publishing tariffs. For this reason, I thought it right to provide in the Bill simply an enabling power.

Accordingly, subsection (1) gives powers for an Order in Council to be made requiring hotels and other establishments providing tourist accommodation to display their room charges. The subsection is worded in such a way as to enable the Order also to specify other means of bringing the price to the notice of intending guests. This will provide a measure of flexibility which will make it possible to select the best system when we have had the opportunity of further discussions with the interests concerned.

If the system is to be effective there must be the means to secure compliance with the Order. Subsection (2) therefore attracts the provisions of paragraph (e), (f) and (g) of Clause 17(2) relating to inspection and penalties.

We also envisage the possibility that it might prove desirable to make different provisions for different categories of accommodation. For example, it might not be considered reasonable to require establishments which let accommodation only on an inclusive weekly basis to provide a nightly tariff. It might prove desirable to bring an Order into force at different times in different parts of the country, and to have power to provide for exemptions. Subsection (2) therefore contains provisions covering these possibilities. It also provides for the annulment of the Order by Resolution of either House of Parliament, and for revocation or variation of an Order by a subsequent Order made under the new Clause.

I am sure that I do not need to emphasise that nothing in the Clause would enable any form of price control to be introduced. I was able to give a quite unreserved answer on this point in Committee. Our intention is simply to ensure that visitors to this country have available the sort of information which they are accustomed to finding when visiting hotels in some other countries, and that our own people will be able to know what they will have to pay for their holiday accommodation or for hotel rooms in which they have to stay when travelling on business.

I make that point because, although we see the Bill against a background of more and more foreign visitors coming to this country, it was frequently said in Committee that we should also provide for accommodation used by many people in this country taking holidays at home or travelling on business or for pleasure.

We have taken some preliminary views in the industry. It is no surprise that some sectors of the industry are not at present enthusiastic about the new Clause. It was not in the Bill as originally drafted: they may reasonably wonder what its full implications may be, and may not have had time to consult all their constituent parts. The B.T.A. sees the case for this enabling power, although—and I think that this is in line with the B.T.A. views on Part III of the Bill—it favours the publication of tariffs as a result of a voluntary agreement. The Consumer Council, on the other hand, has said that the new Clause has its full support.

This is a useful new Clause. It represents an improvement to the Bill and it is a direct result of our discussions in Committee. I hope that it will commend itself speedily to the House.

Sir C. Taylor

It is right for me first to disclose the fact that, for many years, I have had interests in the hotel industry, as hon. Members may know—but perhaps, in consideration of the Bill, that may be something of an advantage.

I thank the Minister for the new Clause. It shows the measure of co-operation which he gave us during Committee that he was prepared to consider the representations made by the Opposition about these matters, particularly, of course, by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who originally put forward this suggestion. But I regret to say that this was discussed at one of the two meetings of the Committee at which I was not present. I had to be in Dublin for a meeting of the Council of the International Hotels Association, where I had to explain various things which had been happening to delegates who had come from all over the world. Otherwise, I would have done my best to persuade my hon. Friend that it is not desirable to have notices in hotel rooms giving the prices.

In Committee, the Minister said that the formula used—which was to agree a reasonable sum—was in Section 3 of the Hotel Proprietors (Liabilities and Rights) Act, 1956, and was well understood. But I do not believe that anyone wants to see, in a nicely furnished hotel room, a notice on the wall showing what the price of the room it. It reminds me of my younger days, when I used to go to the seaside with my parents and the walls were filled with notices like, "No towels to be taken on to the beach". I remember one remarkable notice I saw in a Jamaica hotel before the war, "Visitors are requested not to entertain members of the opposite sex in their rooms as public rooms are provided for this purpose."

One could put all sorts of notices on the walls of hotel bedrooms which would completely destroy the decor of the room, and I suggest that in any case, a notice in the room itself giving the price of the room is actually much too late for the guest. What is really needed is rather like what happens in the United States and other countries. There, when the visitor applies for a room, he is given a card which, in effect, says "Welcome to our hotel. The price of your accommodation is so-and-so." That is surely all that is really necessary. When the visitor enters the hotel and asks whether a room is available, he is told immediately how much the accommodation will cost. He can inspect the room and if he does not like it at that price he need not take it. I feel that that is all that is necessary.

It has been said that displaying price notices on hotel bedroom doors is compulsory in France, but I understand that the de luxe hotels are exempt from that provision. I do not see why anyone should be exempted from a general law and I cannot believe that it is really necessary to have a notice in the room itself which, as I have said, is too late for the customer anyway. I would rather see the visitor being notified of the price of the room when he goes to the lobby to book it.

Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)

I am a little puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's assertion that the notice, if it is on the bedroom door, is too late. If one is staying in France or Italy, if one is out of season one may be offered the room for much less than the sum displayed—in which case it is a source of pleasure—and if one is being overcharged at the end one can desist and ask for a reduction. I fail to see any objection to prices being displayed in the rooms. There are distinct advantages.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a speech disguised as an intervention.

Sir C. Taylor

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Dr. Gray). It is too late to have a price notice in the room. Far better if one sees the price in the foyer, so that one can either accept or reject it there and then.

I would like to tell the House the story of a great friend of mine who runs a hotel in Austria. She advertises the hotel as being the most expensive in Europe. When anyone goes there and asks for a room she says, "Do you know how much you have to pay for this room? I want you to know. It is so much and it sounds and is a lot of money." When she sees a rather droopy look in the customer's eyes, she says, "I can probably get you much better accommodation at a much cheaper price elsewhere, but this is the most expensive hotel in Europe." Where-upon the customer says, "No. I will stay here with you. I have heard about this hotel and I want to pay the additional price."

Hotel prices vary from time to time. Some hotels charge different prices at different seasons and, of course, there are such things to be taken into account as changes in selective employment tax, in the wage structure, and so forth, all of which affect the tariff of a hotel. Indeed, I know that many hotel companies, which had already circulated tariffs to the public through a booklet, were distressed to find that the recent increase in selective employment tax put all their prices out of the appropriate range.

I have here a copy of the International Hotel Guide and I see that a number of London hotels say, "Tariff on application". They include Claridge's, the Dorchester, the Savoy, the Connaught and the hotel at London Airport—which says "Prix en demande" for the benefit of French people. This is the publication of their prices and it means that, before one books a room, one has to write to the hotel and ask what the tariff is. That would be a publication.

I am very much in favour of parts of the new Clause, for no one should be under any misapprehension about what he is to have to pay. He must not be kept in suspense until the bill arrives at the end of his stay. But as long as he is told exactly what price he is to have to pay and sees the room and is able to decide whether it is worth the price, what I have suggested would be fair.

The British Hotels and Restaurants Association and the Caterers Association both support my Amendment. I should be only too happy to support the Clause if the Minister would accept the Amendment.

Mr. Gower

I am in a sort of half-way house between the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor). The Clause may result in many new procedures. This is the weakness of enabling legislation. No doubt, like many of us, the Minister will have seen the many orders published by successive French Ministers of Tourism about matters of this kind.

I am surprised that the Government have not taken the opportunity to include restaurants. I imagine there is far greater need for these provisions for poor quality restaurants than for poor quality hotels. I may be wrong, but it is my impression that the general standard of lower-priced hotels is often better than that of lower-priced restaurants. It is as much an advantage to the would-be customer of a restaurant to have an estimate of the sort of charges with which he will be confronted as it is to the would-be customer of a hotel.

What the Minister said suggested that this information might be displayed on the back of a hotel bedroom door, or on a wardrobe door, as in France, and my hon. Friend objected to that. I do not often disagree with my hon. Friend about matters of this kind, but I must say that some of the good Continental hotels have often done this extremely discreetly and not in any objectionable manner. I appreciate that an unsightly notice would give great objection, but I have seen small and dignified notices on the back of, say, wardrobe doors.

The deep anxiety felt by many people about this provision arises from their fear that it may be deemed to be the initiation of some sort of price control. I am glad that the Minister has emphasised that that is not his intention. He will recall that during the war there was an attempt at some sort of price control for hotels and restaurants. Its consequences were extremely unhappy. There were attempts to impose a ceiling on the price of meals, with allowances for having a licence, for music, and so on. In the opinion of many objective judges, the resulting quality of the meals was abysmally poor. It is, therefore, not unnatural that those connected with the industry should have deep anxiety about that aspect of the publication of prices On balance, however, I feel that advantage will accrue from reasonable publication. One would have to ensure that publication was at the point of arrival. I believe that the French legislation prescribes that publication shall be at the entrances to a hotel, the front entrance, side entrance and even the back entrance. The most recent French orders may also prescribe publication at the reception area. It would be for the tourist boards and the association, after considering the practice in other parts of the world, to decide where it would be best to have publication.

It is all a matter of dignified presentation. A notice would be somewhat undignified outside a first-class hotel, but it is possible for such a notice to be near the position where many Continental hotels publish notices of their approval by holiday and tourist authorities, automobile associations, tourist agencies, and so on. Publication in such a place would have dignity and taste. Presentation is obviously extremely important.

I hope that the Minister will be able to go a little further to remove the apprehensions that publication may be unsightly or unseemly and will give more details to allay the reasonable fears that the Clause may be a sort of stepping stone to the introduction of price control. The introduction of any sort of price control for this industry would be extremely bad and difficult to apply. As my hon. Friend has said, there are so many changes in costs—

Mr. Speaker

We may not debate price control. I heard the hon. Member's earlier reference to it, but it is not covered by the Clause.

Mr. Gower

I will not elaborate on that aspect of the matter, Sir. I want the Minister to remove the fears about that aspect of the matter and to give an assurance that no Order will be presented to the House until after detailed consideration and consultation. It is of the utmost importance that there should be consultation, so that the result will be publication which is agreeable, artistic and unobjectionable.

With those reservations, I find myself supporting the Clause, which should be beneficial.

Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)

As one who is merely a consumer of hotels, if I may use that phrase, I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing the Clause. The Bill will give considerable assistance to a vitally important industry and it is right that at the same time we should take what steps we think right to offer consumers some protection.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), whose experience in these matters I respect, does not see eye to eye with the Minister on the Clause, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is missing some of the point. Like the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), I have found that some of the best hotels in this country and abroad display all kind of notices in bedrooms, important notices which set out the kinds of facilities available to the visitor. I have no objection to this. Were they the kind of notices described in passing by the hon. Member when he referred to the rather narrow-minded bygone days when hotels were worried about what happened in hotel bedrooms, I would be on his side immediately, but this does not happen.

4.30 p.m.

I suspect that he is missing the point when he says that luxury hotels are often excluded, and that hotels like Claridge's and the Dorchester do not publicly state their prices but submit them on application. My hon. Friend is talking about the vastly greater number of tourists coming to this country and the increased amount of tourism within the country, and, in the main, these people will not be going to Claridge's or the Dorchester.

Mr. Gower

Speaking from memory, my impression is that exclusion in France is not an easy matter. It is done only if the appropriate Minister categorises the hotel as being de luxe, and in restaurants only where the menu is in the special category called gastronomique.

Mr. Gardner

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He is quite right.

The Bill is concerned mainly with young people and young married couples with families. This is where there is a vast increase in tourism. These young people may bring a motor car across from France or Germany and tour the country, not on a package tour but making their own way, and we are concerned about the embarrassment which might be caused to them. Surely it is better for them to know precisely what they will have to pay.

Sir C. Taylor

If they come over on a package tour they pay in advance for hotel accommodation, food, travel and everything else, so that they know in advance what they will have to pay.

Mr. Gardner

That is precisely the point I am making. An increasing number of people are coming over from the Continent bringing their motor cars and organising a tour of their own. The family may often arrive at a hotel late at night, it is the last port of call, they cannot move on because the children are screaming their heads off, and they have to take what is going.

Surely it is better for them to know when they go into the hotel precisely what are the charges. If a notice were displayed in the hotel entrance, people could have a quick look at the notice before making inquiries about accommodation. It is not suggested that people are getting poor value. They are not; they are getting good value. But it is important that they should know precisely what they will get for their money.

Last summer my wife and I were in Cyprus, a small country which is anxious to encourage its tourist trade. It was possible to know even in the smallest and cheapest hotel exactly what one had to pay, and one did not have to pay a penny more. The information was on a notice displayed in the hotel entrance and in the hotel bedroom.

I hope that in his discussions with the industry my hon. Friend will be able to produce a reasonable code and that, although this is a very broad enabling Clause, he will be able to include on the notice sufficient information to be helpful. Many hotels have a sliding scale of charges. The price of bedrooms may vary between, say, 32s. 6d. and 42s., and it would be helpful for a family to know precisely what kind of bedroom they will be given for the money which they pay.

Secondly, would it be possible to include in the notice the charges made for extras? It is my impression that this is where much of the embarrassment and disappointment arises. I hope that there can be included on the notice the charges for morning tea or coffee, for serving meals in rooms, baths, arrangements for tipping and the cost of heating and air conditioning.

Finally, if we are to encourage younger people and those of moderate means without vast educational resources, it would be helpful if the notices could be displayed in one or two European languages in addition to English. This would encourage visitors to feel at home in Britain and do the hotel industry and the consumer a great service.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I am delighted that the Minister has introduced this Clause. It makes the Bill much more valuable, it is the greatest single item of consumer protection in the Bill, and I welcome it wholeheartedly.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor). The notice must be displayed at the point of sale. The days have passed since "milady" inspected the bedrooms before determining her requirements. The representative who books the hotel accommodation will not have seen it. Therefore, the point of sale at which the notice should be exhibited is where the reservations are made, which is at the reception desk. This is undeniably where the notice should be exhibited.

I take the point of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner). If a notice is to be informative, it must be comprehensive. One wants to know whether heating is included for two reasons: first, it indicates the final demand on resources; and, secondly, if heat is not included and is supplied by a coin-operated device, it is necessary to have a coin of the right denomination before one can avail oneself of it. Many more people are afflicted by this inconvenience than by not being able to afford to pay for the heat.

I would be out of order in discoursing upon the inconvenience caused to the public, for instance, by parking meters, which may cost 6d., 1s., or 2s., and the same applies to hotel heating meters. The notice should, therefore, state whether or not the price of the room includes heating and, if it does not, that there is a coin-operated meter and the denomination of the coin which is required.

The notice should also state whether or not a service charge is included. The service charge sometimes creeps up to as much as a 12½ per cent. loading on the initial charge. The object of the notice is to convey comprehensive information and not just to fulfil the requirements of an Act of Parliament.

Many of us wish to see flexibility of charges. There are arguments in favour of a rigid charging system, but if we want fuller utilisation of hotel resources by extending the holiday season and making accommodation available at times of the year when previously it has been closed, and if we are to tap a new market, it will have to be done principally by flexibility of charges, in the same way as tour operators and charter operators of aircraft capture new markets by attracting people of varying economic capacity.

The notice should be attached to a location near the reception desk. It would be inconvenient for a hotel which had a large number of bedrooms to have to send someone rushing round all the bedrooms sticking on bits of paper altering the charges, and then tearing them all off again at the weekend. It is reasonable for the charge to be higher at the weekend when the demand is greater. It is also reasonable in hotels catering for commercial travellers to charge less at weekends when the demand is less. This, surely, is how to make the best use of our resources.

Whatever is done about notices, it is most important that accommodation is clean and comfortable. We must not imagine that the mere exhibiting of a notice setting out the price will ensure that the potential consumer is put in possession of every relevant piece of information. The Minister made no such claim for this Clause which sets out to do something that is very necessary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) prayed in aid the goddess of dignity. Far to much outrage is perpetrated in her name. We need not worry too much that any Minister of any party will force upon the industry huge, unsightly notices which are totally unsuitable for many types of building. We are told that the Minister will undertake consultation before the form of requirement is settled. Many establishments do not lend themselves to a large area of display by the reception desk, particularly the old country pub type of establishment.

I take the point about restaurant charges. I am all for the consumer knowing what will be charged before the moment of commitment arrives. Few things infuriate me more than ordering from a menu that reads "Bacon, sausages, tomatoes and kidney" and getting a slice of bacon, one sausage, half a kidney and one tomato. The sheer indignation with which one is greeted when asking for a quantity to be supplied not less than that specified in the menu has to be experienced to be believed. There is a bad habit of using the plural for what is singular or even part of the singular.

But that is not what we are discussing. We are discussing a recognisable commodity, a bedroom, so that misunderstandings of that kind do not arise. It would be ludicrous in pursuit of consumer protection if we sought to specify that the notice must show the width and length of the bed, although if a bed is inadequate it can be extraordinarily uncomfortable for everybody concerned. I have suffered inconvenience when abroad, as no doubt have many other inexperienced travellers, at the massive charge imposed for a bath.

I have also been amazed at the point at which the expenditure is demanded of me, namely, on entering the bathroom, since I do not normally carry my total funds with me in my dressing gown pocket. A charge of 7s. 6d. demanded by a concierge on entering a bathroom in Luxembourg is a most unnerving experience. If a room does not have a bath and does not include the free use of a bath, this should be stated. I am endeavouring to distinguish between all the matters which could possibly be stated but which it would be unreasonable to require and the minimum which it is reasonable to require. We would not thereby be laying an unreasonable burden upon the industry.

This is not a theoretical discussion. Since such information is already given in hotels in Britain today; its practicability is amply demonstrated. Where establishments do not display notices, one is entitled to ask why they do not. I would take a lot of convincing that aesthetics is the prime reason for failure to exhibit information of this kind. A good deal of the lack of such notices occurs simply because it has never been done before, and so long as there is a reasonable turnover no reason is seen to alter the almost inherent inertia. The more that a potential purchaser is informed, the fewer the angry scenes, disputes and subsequent unpleasantness. Therefore, it is to everybody's advantage that there should be sufficient information.

I am glad to see this example of the Minister's having digested thoroughly points which were raised in Committee on the Bill, and I commend the new Clause. I hope that when the Minister comes to formalise the requirement under the Clause it will not be in the form of a large notice in the bedroom, but will be at the point of sale. I agree that it is too late once a person has entered into the contract and entered the room, even if legally it is not too late to quibble about it. The number of people who, at that point, are at liberty to collect their luggage and drive away in search of accommodaion, which, late at night, may well be difficult to find, is a proportion of the consuming public with which we need not trouble ourselves too much, since it is insignificant.

4.45 p.m.

Having said all this, I appreciate that there still will be misunderstandings where information is given over the telephone, certainly when it is given in a language that is not immediately recognisable as English. A large proportion of the hotel industry now employs people who are not English. I was not thinking of the Welsh. I was thinking more of the Spanish. It would be out of order to discuss whether or not General Franco intends to withdraw Spanish labour from Britain as well as from Gibraltar, but misunderstandings easily arise. It is lamentable that to stay reasonably in some English hotels, one needs a good command of foreign languages. We all have experiences of this kind, and I am not thinking of hotels which are particularly expensive or inexpensive.

With that sincere welcome to the Clause, I look forward to seeing it embodied in the Bill.

Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)

I intervene briefly to support the Clause and to express the hope that it will enable, and even persuade, hotels to display separately the charges for breakfast and board. I frequently suffer indigestion through annoyance at having paid for breakfasts I do not consume, or from the fact that I eat the breakfast I have paid for but do not want.

It is a bad British custom that most establishments insist on making a charge for breakfast, whether or not the visitor wants it. Some British Transport hotels show these charges separately. Such a practice would not inconvenience establishments a great deal, since food for breakfasts which were not required could be kept for other occasions. In these days food can be kept for a long time. In fact, it seems to me that some of the bacon I have eaten is kept indefinitely. I hope that one thing the Clause will bring about is the separation of charges for bed and breakfast.

Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)

I was not a member of the Committee which considered the Bill, and I have listened with some interest to the discussion on the new Clause. As I understand, all that the Minister is trying to do is to make certain that the price for accommodation is set out clearly, rather than all the other matters which have been mentioned.

I disagree strongly with the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. R. Atkins) about breakfasts, certainly in respect of Scotland. I have enjoyed Scottish breakfasts for the best part of 50 years. There must be few people who normally breakfast in Scotland who do not enjoy enormously the magnificent breakfast fare supplied there—as I am sure the hon. Member for Aberdeen. South (Mr. Dewar) will confirm—with kippers, haddock, and so on.

In the more outlying parts of Scotland, hotels for a long time have made a reasonable charge for bed and breakfast. The type of breakfast served is rather different from that normally served in the larger London hotels where it is possible to have Continental, semi-Continental and other types of breakfast—right down to a plain "Bloody Mary" if one's hangover is sufficiently bad.

In considering the Clause, I would like the House to bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) has said. We are trying to make sure that people arriving at hotels have a fair chance of knowing what they have to pay for a room and breakfast, if required. It is far more important to follow a practice which is becoming more common. During my travels round the country I go to a great number of hotels, and it is now quite commonplace to be given with one's key a small slip which states the price of the room.

I do not care whether a woman has arrived late at night with a number of squawling children and may not know of anywhere else to go. If she knows what she is in for, she can say "Yes" or "No". If she has a reasonable amount of gumption and finds the bedroom intolerable, she can ask for something better. If it is no improvement on the first, she will move out. She knows when she arrives what she is in for, and that is all that the Minister is trying to do.

If we drag in other matters, such as the amount of S.E.T. being added, we shall finish up with an Order in Council which will be intolerable to the hotel trade and of very little use to the ordinary person. Inevitably, if one is faced with a mass of information of that sort, one does not bother to read the small print.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

But surely no one is given a key until he has signed the register and already entered into the contract. Surely the information is required before one decides whether to enter into the contract.

Mr. Noble

I have never regarded signing a register as any sort of contract. Having signed the register, if I do not like the room, I say so, whereupon either I do better or I get out. I appreciate that if a woman arrives with a number of squawling children, that may be different, but I do not agree that signing the register represents a legal contract.

I simply want the ordinary traveller arriving at a hotel to know the cost of the room which he is offered. Most people who travel are reasonably intelligent, and we all know the normal form. Provided that we know the basic price of the room, we shall make sure that we do not have 15 large dry martinis and so double the bill. We need something simple, and I suggest that it should be made compulsory for a hotel, at the time of handing over a key, to give a card showing the price of the room. That is what is needed, rather than more complicated regulations about having to look behind the door to see the price.

I would advise the Minister to make the Order in Council provide for a simple, clear, notice which is handed over with the key to each bedroom.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

I apologise at the outset for not being present to hear the Minister's speech. I support the Clause and have some reservations about the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), although I share his feeling about the importance of the hotel trade.

The first question that we have to ask is how the information will be brought to the notice of persons under the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. If the Amendment is incorporated in the Clause, the position is left extremely open for verbal or written notice, which is too wide a choice to allow. If it is not by written notice, I do not see how it can be made clear to the holiday-maker.

Sir C. Taylor

I thought that I had made it quite clear that in the United States and other countries, on arrival at a hotel one is given a card stating the price and the type of accommodation.

Mr. Pardoe

I am grateful for that intervention, and I will come to that point later.

The understanding of the spoken word, over the telephone or otherwise, is extremely uncertain, even in one's own language. One or two hon. Members have said how difficult it is when people speak in a foreign language, but it can be equally difficult sometimes for a North countryman to understand a Cornishman.

It is important to have a clearly written notice so that one can understand what is being said. I had a mystifying experience some years ago which was solved only by seeing a notice clearly displayed in a hotel bedroom. I was in Brittany, with my wife and small baby. I had booked a room by letter in my best French. The hotel proprietor replied in his best English, which was the wrong way of doing things as both were extremely bad. However, I had looked at the price in the A.A. Handbook and thought that the price confirmed to me by the hotel more or less tied up with it.

A severe misunderstanding occurred. The A.A. Handbook did not quote the August price, but the average price for the season. It turned out in the end that I had booked for two adults and a child for two weeks demi-pension, and the hotel quoted for something very different. I thought that the prices were the same and, as a result, I misunderstood the booking.

When I arrived in my room and had time to do a small calculation I discovered not only would the bill be substantially higher than I expected, but that I would not have enough money to pay it at the end of the fortnight. Had I arrived in an English hotel and not confirmed the price, I would have got to the end of the fortnight, and my embarrassment would have been considerable. As it was, we were able to leave and find cheaper accommodation. It is extremely important, therefore, for a tourist to be able to sit down at his leisure and work out the price that he is being charged.

I also think that it is important to have the price of the booking clearly set out in writing from the point of view of the hotelier. A case in my constituency last summer leads me to that conclusion. A holiday-maker from Gorton with his wife, their child aged 4 and a baby, Karen, aged nine months, arrived at a hotel having booked accommodation for the mid-season period the previous January. He sayed for two weeks, paid the bill and, on his way home, telephoned his bank and cancelled the cheque.

Unfortunately, the case made the national Press, and he told one newspaper: I felt that there would be a concession for the baby and intended sorting it out when I got to the hotel. Five days before leaving. I mentioned it to the manager and he said that he would discuss it with his partner. When I went to settle the account I was told that the bill for Karen would stand. A great deal of adverse publicity for the resort was engendered as a result of which one or two national newspapers gave it headline treatment. Naturally, the hotelier felt sore about it. He had done exactly as he should have done. The booking was confirmed in writing. There was no question of the holiday-maker not having to pay the full bill and, in the end, he did. If there had been a clear notice displayed in his room, setting out the terms which he had agreed, I do not believe that the ensuing embarrassment would have occurred. I agree that it must be displayed—

Mr. Noble

Is the notice in the room now to include details about whether a person has a baby? This is becoming absurd.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Pardoe

I do not think that it is absurd. It is very important, because the reduction here was 50 per cent. and many people may expect that the reduction for a baby being fed on baby food out of a tin will be more than 50 per cent. In some hotels it is more, in others less. It is extremely important that the notice is not very complicated, but it should be possible to set out the terms under which the room is let.

Much will depend, obviously, on whether the room is for one person, two persons, or two persons and a child. I am not arguing that the Order in Council should lay down exactly what these things are, but for the protection of hoteliers, as well as tourists, it is far better that these things are set out. I agree that the display of the notice should be at the point of sale, but the trouble is where is that? With an advance booking in writing I imagine that it is in a person's home, so obviously the notice cannot be displayed then. Perhaps the best way would be to have some standard form for booking which everyone would understand.

There has to be a distinction, and this brings me back to the Amendment, between those who arrive having booked in advance and those who arrive "off the road". In the latter case what normally happens is that a member of the party, usually the man, goes into the hotel and finds out the terms. He makes up his mind about them and says "Yes" or "No". If someone books in advance he does not necessarily, if there has been correspondence with the hotel, tie up loose ends when he arrives. Usually, people go straight upstairs, have a bath and tumble into bed. It is only afterwards that the tourist has time to consider whether the accommodation adds up to what he has been led to expect. There is a need for display at the desk and in the bedroom.

Dealing with the problem about foreign languages, a constituent of mine devised a remarkable scheme, under the heading of "Mrs. B and B". I have had correspondence with the Board of Trade about it and had hoped that it would be fairly generally accepted. It was a system of symbols advertised on a very attractive poster which now hangs outside many bed and breakfast houses in Cornwall, indeed the north coast is littered with these signs. There are six circles, one is the symbol for a telephone, another for two taps, and so on. Even if someone does not understand Cornish, they can see what the symbols mean. It is a useful scheme, but it should not be forced down people's throats. I hope that the new tourist boards and the Tourist Authority will consider this favourably.

Mr. Emery

I thank the Minister for introducing this Clause, particularly since he will remember that in Committee I drew attention to the fact that there were a few black sheep in the industry who went out of their way at busy weekends, or during the high season, when arrangements had not been settled beforehand, to attempt to maximise their takings. Instead of setting out what tariffs were, they would suddenly decide at the end of the stay that they would charge what they thought they could get out of the resident. No one would do anything other than condemn this, and I am glad that the Minister has gone some way towards dealing with it.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider seriously the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor). There are two points about it which need to be emphasised. A number of speakers have discussed breakfast, which the Amendment does not mention, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) has brought in 15 dry martinis! I must say that he is more of a man than I. I could have understood it if it had been 15 Scotch whiskies. This Amendment has to do with the display of the tariff and the price a person will be asked to pay. It has been said that this should be known at the point of sale, but, as the new Clause is worded, this may not happen and it would be possible to display the sign in the room.

If my hon. Friend's Amendment was accepted the new Clause would read: … by an Order in Council applying to, or to any class of, hotels and other establishments in Great Britain at which sleeping accommodation is provided by way of trade or business, make provision for requiring that information with respect to the prices charged there for such accommodation as aforesaid is brought to the notice of persons seeking to avail themselves of the accommodation. "Seeking to avail themselves." That is the important point, because that would mean that the information had to be provided before the person got to the hotel bedroom. This is often done by handing a person a small card, which often carries other information about services, with the room key.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) said that if this was in the hotel it could be discreetly displayed, and mentioned how he had sometimes seen it on the back of a wardrobe door. This seems to be avoiding the whole point. There is no point in hiding it under the basin or having to make it a major part of the display over the mantelpiece or at the side of the bed. If it was done on a piece of paper when the person takes the room, it would be much better.

It has been said that it would be helpful if tariffs were displayed outside, but this is going too far, because the price will depend on the room, whether it has a shower or a bath, whether, to break into song, it is "A room with a view", whether it is at the back of the hotel, on the direct lift instead of the staircase. The information cannot be given to a potential resident unless his precise requirements are known. Therefore, again it seems to me that the Amendment makes sense.

The British Hotels and Restaurants Association, which discussed this matter after we left it in Committee, said that there were many objections to having to display tariffs. It went on to say that until the introduction of the Bill the words pay a reasonable sum for the service and facilities provided which the Hotel Proprietors Act of 1956 had laid down had, on the whole, been fairly useful. We discussed whether the display of tariffs should be confined to establishments benefiting under the incentive of this scheme. I am glad that the Minister has not taken that more limited point, because I believe that if this is done properly we can go on to have the direct information made quite clear.

The Hotels and Restaurants Association considers that the right solution is that when hotels make bookings, either in advance or on the spot, they should indicate in writing, in unambiguous terms, the prices being charged, and exactly what those prices include—room and breakfast, Continental breakfast, service charge, or inclusive tariff. I have taken that from the memorandum put out on 10th June by the association, because it is most relevant to our discussion, and provides direct support from the practitioners in the industry for what my hon. Friend is suggesting.

I again thank the Minister for going as far as he can, but I wonder whether he can make our pleasure even more definite by considering the matter further. If he is not willing to consider it now, will he undertake to consider it again in another place and deal with it by introducing an Amendment of his own if he thinks that our Amendment is inadequate? The point at issue is fairly clear, and I hope that we can have a direct answer to it. I shall, if necessary, support the Amendment in the Division Lobby.

Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)

I support the view that the Minister should accept the Amendment. I cannot help feeling that while we have been engaged in this discussion we have overlooked the fact that a large percentage of hotels are booked through travel agents, or on the telephone, or in writing, than on the spot. I think I am right in saying that city hotels will go in for computerised central bookings, and, therefore, this question of displaying tariffs is likely to become less and less important. What people require when they go into an hotel is verification of what the charges are for the accommodation which has been allotted to them.

The Amendment is the most sensible way of dealing with the very situation which is likely to arise in connection with hotel bookings in the future, and I hope that the Government will accept it.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)

I am glad to take an interest in the Bill once more. I spoke on Second Reading, but, unfortunately, I was not a member of the Committee, although I should have liked to have been.

I was not able to be here for the first few minutes of the debate, and I apologise to the Minister for my absence. I think that the Clause will be very much welcomed, particularly in the North of England, and in the Lake District, which I represent. There is nothing which creates more distrust and leaves a nastier taste in the mouths of people who stay at hotels than the suspicion that they might be overcharged. I have not had any complaints, or heard any suspicions expressed, that any of my constituents in the hotel business have been guilty of the temptation to overcharge if they thought they could get away with a little more.

The Clause will be welcomed in the Lake District because, to a large extent, we have a different type of tourist. We get young people from all over the world who come there to climb and to walk and to see its great natural beauty. These young people tend to lack experience, not only of our country, in the sense that they come from overseas, but of staying at hotels or boarding houses.

I welcome the Amendment, because the fewer notices there are in hotels the better it will be. There is nothing which epitomises more clearly the worst in British hotel and boarding-house keeping than the whole place cluttered with notices.

Part of the new Clause talks about information with respect to the prices charged … The most important piece of information which many people who stay at hotels want is about the method of payment which will be acceptable. We are moving more and more away from the system of paying by cash, but a fairly high proportion of people still use this method, and foreign visitors often wish to pay their hotel bills in foreign currency. They sometimes wish to leave the hotel or boarding house early in the morning to go climbing. At about 8 o'clock they offer to settle their bills in francs, or Deutsche marks, or pesetas, but it is too early to ring the bank to discover the current going rate of exchange. This sometimes leads to confusion and problems. As I understand, the phrase information with respect to the prices charged technically covers the method of payment.

Many transactions are now concluded by means of credit payments. More and more people are now prepared to accept cheques in settlement of accounts. I think that we all welcome the cheque indemnity arrangements whereby the proprietor of a business takes out an insurance policy and all the cheques that he receives are honoured and guaranteed. It is a good move for the British tourist industry that we should be prepared to accept credit, whether by means of bank credit cards, or under the arrangements made through large credit houses such as American Express.

I hope that as many of our hotel keepers and boarding-house keepers as possible will go out of their way to explain to people when they arrive at their hotels the methods of payment which will be accepted. As the Minister has it in mind to make that sort of information available, I hope that he will accept the Amendment. I think that it will do exactly what he seeks to do, but in a more acceptable way, and in a way which is more in keeping with the changing and improving standards of the British hotel industry.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

Every hon. Member has welcomed the new Clause, and I do so myself. In this modern age, the hotel visitor should know what he is in for when he takes up his accommodation. The question is whether the Amendments should be made. They would not destroy the purpose of the new Clause or significantly weaken it. They would remove the emphasis on display, while retaining the emphasis on telling the prospective resident the price. The object of the exercise which the Government must have had in mind will still be satisfied—to maintain the good reputation of British hotels for fair dealing and good relations with their clients by ensuring that full information is given, before the visitor begins his stay, of what he will have to pay.

It is enough to give the Government the power by Order in Council to ensure that that information is conveyed in writing. I agree that it is unsatisfactory to rely on the telephone alone, but nothing in the Amendment would prevent the Government from insisting on communication in writing—whether by letter before the visitor arrives, or by card at the reception desk. There has been a good deal of discussion about displaying notices in rooms, a method which I do not like. Rates may vary between the weekend and the week or between different types of visitor—for instance, those on package tours and those in large groups.

These are practical reasons for the Amendment. Then there are the aesthetic ones. It is not only in the luxury hotels that people are against notices in the rooms. It is true of places like Claridge's, and, I think, of the middle range hotels which are increasingly catering for the Jumbo jet visitors. Americans will not welcome notices of rates behind bedroom doors. They would prefer a card at the reception desk if they did not already have something in writing.

Some hon. Members opposite talked about notices being in different languages and including such information as differential rates for babies and the inclusion of breakfasts, so they will be 18, rather than six, inches square. That will not be attractive. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) suggested that it might protect the hotelier if notices were displayed in bedrooms. There is nothing to prevent an hotelier from doing this. We are discussing whether the Government should have the power to compel them. I do not think that they should.

I agree with the objective of the new Clause, and it will be maintained if the Amendment is accepted. In the interests of brevity, which is always desirable in legislation, and of not giving the Government more powers than they need, it should be accepted. If the hon. Gentleman cannot accept it, I hope that my hon. Friend will press the Amendment to a Division.

Mr. William Rodgers

The reception of this Clause has exceeded my expectations. There have been kindly and generous tributes on all sides and I am glad that it largely meets the wishes expressed in Committee. It will be a useful step forward and will make our hotels much more attractive to visitors and help to avoid occasional misunderstandings. I can tell the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) that there is no provision in the Clause for the method of payment. Although there is merit in his suggestion, I do not think that he would be any more enamoured than I am of the suggestion that we should legislate in detail for the way hotels' affairs are ordered. But developments like that might be more likely with the Clause.

The main discussion has been about how this information should be conveyed. There is some misunderstanding about the Clause and the effect of the Amendments. The latter would have no effect on the terms in which the information might be required. An Order in Council could still specify display, as now, under the Clause, an Order need not specify display. Display is mentioned as one of the means of giving information and is not the exclusive method. We fully recognise the points made about the differences of opinion here and I would hope that our consultations would result in an Order which would best meet the need and provide the least inconvenience to the hotels and those who use them.

The Clause refers to display in establishments and not necessarily in bedrooms. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) seemed to think that there would be some obligation to provide notices in bedrooms, but the Clause says no such thing. It leaves the way open.

I would ask the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) to reflect carefully on his Amendments. Although they would not eliminate the possibility of an Order dealing with display, they would slightly widen the Clause, so I hope that he will leave it to the good sense of the industry and those who will consult it so to devise an Order as to meet as many as possible of the wishes of the industry and its consumers.

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

I was not successful in catching Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye and wanted to put this point. The Clause does not mention the phrase "maximum charge". What would be the position of someone who displayed a notice in the bedroom and then, for commercial reasons, decided to reduce the charge—for a party for instance? Would he then be committing an offence?

Mr. Rodgers

He would not be committing an offence. The purpose of the Clause is to enable the individual or the group coming to an hotel and taking accommodation to know how much he or they will have to pay for it. That is the total burden of the Clause.

Mr. Costain

The Minister has misunderstood me. I am not talking about the control charges—the notice on the back of the bedroom door stating that the price of the bedroom for one is 47s. 6d. or another price for two. If the hotel proprietor, in his commercial judgment, decides to reduce the charge for that particular party on that occasion, the person in the bedroom will not complain, but I want to know whether the hotel proprietor will be committing an offence for charging less.

Mr. Rodgers

No, he will not be committing an offence. There is no attempt to state maximum or minimum charges. It is a matter of displaying information. If the hotelier says, "You have stayed here for a week, so I have decided not to charge you so much", that is fair. We should have a commonsense approach. My point is that the Amendment would not eliminate the possibility of an Order in Council specifying display. On the contrary, the Amendment tends to widen the purpose of new Clause 1. In providing for enabling powers of an Order in Council, we are not saying now, and the Bill does not say, that display shall be the method of conveying information. This is one possibility which ought to be considered before an order in Council is framed.

Mr. Blaker

If the Minister is saying that the Amendment does not make much difference, why is he so keen to leave in those words? Is not the result likely to be that the emphasis on display, which, after all, is the first part of the new Clause—it is only later than we get to otherwise for securing that such information is brought to the notice of"— will lead people and a future Government to believe that the intention is that display should be the method prescribed?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think so. The hon. Gentleman, in his opening remarks, used the word "emphasis". He was probably then clear on the burden of the Amendment. There is some division of opinion in the House whether display is or is not desirable. I am not eliminating the possibility that there may be display. I am merely saying that the Clause does not require such display as there may be to be in bedrooms. It might be display at the reception counter. In other words, the new Clause leaves the position wide open. The only effect of the Amendment will be to remove what the hon. Member for Blackpool, South says is the emphasis. But the emphasis is irrelevant to any decision embodied in an Order in Council. Consultation will take place with the trade, and the views of the House will be noted. Display will not be eliminated. As now, it would be one of the possible ways of passing information over.

Mr. Emery

I should like to press the Minister on the interpretation that he is giving to the Clause if it is amended. He says that this would not limit display. I should like to ask him about the use of the word "may". The Clause states that the Order may be made, but the Order will be that … information with respect to the prices charged there for such accommodation as aforesaid … is brought to the notice of persons seeking to avail themselves of the accommodation. In other words, we are being more restrictive. We are saying that it is for the hotelier personally to bring it to people's attention, not by a notice somewhere near the reception desk. This is a definite act, so that display is not the way that this would be done. Therefore, is not the Minister misleading the House, because we are bringing this down to eliminate the general display, particularly

in the bedroom, which the Clause would allow?

Mr. Rodgers

I think that the hon. Gentleman has it wrong. I must ask him to believe me. If he and his hon. Friends wish to take this to a Division, no doubt they will do so in due course. I was seeking to help them. Whereas they may wish to divide on a number of points of substance, I doubt whether they will wish to divide on a point of no substance, least of all to widen a Clause which I understand they wish to narrow. I hope that when the time comes the Amendment will not be pressed or, if it is, that it will be negatived.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Clause: In line 3, leave out 'the display at the establishments of' and insert 'that'.—[Sir C. Taylor.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 154, Noes 218.

Division No. 279.] AYES [5.35 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gibson-Watt, David Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain
Astor, John Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McMaster, Stanley
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Glover, Sir Douglas McNair-Wilson, Michael
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Goodhart, Philip McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bell, Ronald Goodhew, Victor Maddan, Martin
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Gower, Raymond Maginnis, John E.
Biffen, John Grant, Anthony Marten, Neil
Biggs-Davison, John Grieve, Percy Maude, Angus
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mawby, Ray
Blaker, Peter Gurden, Harold Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hall, John (Wycombe) Miscampbell, Norman
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Braine, Bernard Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Monro, Hector
Bryan, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Montgomery, Fergus
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) More, Jasper
Bullus, Sir Eric Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Channon, H. P. G. Higgins, Terence L. Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Chataway, Christopher Hiley, Joseph Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Chichester-Clark, R. Hill, J. E. B. Nott, John
Clark, Henry Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Holland, Philip Page, Graham (Crosby)
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hordern, Peter Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Corfield, F. V. Howell, David (Guildford) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Costain, A. P. Hunt, John Peel, John
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Percival, Ian
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hutchison, Michael Clark Pike, Miss Mervyn
Currie, G. B. H. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Pounder, Rafton
Dance, James Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Dean, Paul Jopling, Michael Prior, J. M. L.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Pym, Francis
Kershaw, Anthony Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Kirk, Peter Rees-Davies, W. R.
Eden, Sir John Kitson, Timothy Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton) Lambton, Viscount Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Emery, Peter Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Eyre, Reginald Lee-Bourke, Sir Harry Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fisher, Nigel Longden, Gilbert Royle, Anthony
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McAdden, Sir Stephen Russell, Sir Ronald
Foster, Sir John Maclean, Sir Fitzroy St. John-Stevas, Norman
Sharples, Richard Temple, John M. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Wiggin, A. W.
Silvester, Frederick Tilney, John Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Sinclair, Sir George Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Woodnutt, Mark
Smith, John (London & W'minster) van Straubenzee, W. R. Wylie, N. R.
Speed, Keith Vickers, Dame Joan Younger, Hn. George
Stodart, Anthony Waddington, David
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Walker, Peter (Worcester) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Summers, Sir Spencer Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Walters, Dennis Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart) Ward, Dame Irene
Abse, Leo Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Albu, Austen Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Molloy, William
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Moonman, Eric
Ashley, Jack Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Hamling, William Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hannan, William Moyle, Roland
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Harper, Joseph Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Murray, Albert
Barnes, Michael Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Neal, Harold
Barnett, Joel Hazell, Bert Newens, Stan
Beaney, Alan Heffer, Eric S. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Henig, Stanley Ogden, Eric
Bidwell, Sydney Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret O'Malley, Brian
Binns, John Hooley, Frank Oram, Albert E.
Bishop, E. S. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Orbach, Maurice
Blackburn, F. Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Orme, Stanley
Blenkinsop, Arthur Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Oswald, Thomas
Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Boston, Terence Huckfield, Leslie Padley, Walter
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Boyden, James Hunter, Adam Pardoe, John
Bradley, Tom Hynd, John Pavitt, Laurence
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Buchan, Norman Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Pentland, Norman
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Janner, Sir Barnett Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jeger, George (Goole) Perry, George H. (Nottingham S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Cant, R. B. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Probert, Arthur
Coe, Denis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rees, Merlyn
Coleman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Richard, Ivor
Conlan, Bernard Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Judd, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Kelley, Richard Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kenyon, Clifford Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Roebuck, Roy
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Delargy, Hugh Lee, John (Reading) Rowlands, E.
Dempsey, James Lestor, Miss Joan Ryan, John
Dewar, Donald Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lipton, Marcus Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Dickens, James Lomas, Kenneth Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Dobson, Ray Loughlin, Charles Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Doig, Peter Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunn, James A. McBride, Neil Slater, Joseph
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) McCann, John Small, William
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) MacColl, James Snow, Julian
Eadie, Alex Macdonald, A. H. Spriggs, Leslie
Edelman, Maurice McGuire, Michael Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Ellis, John Mackie, John Symonds, J. B.
Ennals, David Maclennan, Robert Taverne, Dick
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) MacPherson, Malcolm Thornton, Ernest
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Tinn, James
Fernyhough, E. Manuel, Archie Tomney, Frank
Finch, Harold Marks, Kenneth Tuck, Raphael
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marquand, David Urwin, T. W.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Varley, Eric G.
Fowler, Gerry Mayhew, Christopher Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Freeson, Maudling Mendelson, John Wallace, George
Gardner, Tony Millan, Bruce Watkins, David (Consett)
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Miller, Dr. M. S. Wellbeloved, James
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Milne, Edward (Blyth) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Whitaker, Ben Williams, Clifford (Abertillery) Woof, Robert
White, Mrs. Eirene Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Wilkins, W. A. Willis, Rt. Hn. George TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Wilson, William (Coventry, S.) Mr. Alan Fitch and
Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Winstanley, Dr. M. P. Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)

Clause added to the Bill.

  1. New Clause 3
    1. c1049
  2. NEW CLAUSE 10
  3. NEW CLAUSE 11
  4. NEW CLAUSE 12
    1. cc1049-115
  5. New Clause 4
    1. cc1115-68
    2. ADVISORY COMMITTEES 20,399 words, 1 division
  6. New Clause 12
    1. cc1169-71
Forward to