HC Deb 16 July 1974 vol 877 cc272-88

element of retrospectiveness, at any rate, I hope will commend itself to hon. Members in all parts of the House.

At this stage it would not be appropriate for me to speak for long on the subject of the new clause. I am sure that the sense of it is clear to all hon. Members. It arose out of a very valuable debate initiated in Committee by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), following on suggestions made also by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees), to which I undertook to respond at this stage of the proceedings on the Bill.

I want to make one or two comments on the other new clauses. Concerning new Clause 7, in the name of the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) and new Clause 31, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) and his hon. Friends, our proposals are somewhat more generous than the proposals of the hon. Gentleman's new clause, in that that would apply only the industrial buildings allowance to expenditure of this sort, and this would afford relief of only 44 per cent. in the first year and 4 per cent. in each of the following years. Our proposal would give 100 per cent. relief for the first year and would allow that relief to be carried forward if all of it could not be used in the first year.

Regarding the amendment to new Clause 10 in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and his hon. Friends, on page 108, this would widen the scope of relief very considerably to cover expenditures on extensions to existing buildings. It is our view that this is a relief of an entirely different type. I recognise the arguments that lie behind it, but it would be our view that where a hotel owner or restaurant owner was contemplating a wholly new extension to his premises he would naturally take into account the proper cost of incorporating adequate fire precautions in those premises. What we are trying to do in new Clause 10 is to address ourselves to the situation in which premises are in existence and an owner suddenly finds that he has to expend money—and probably a disproportionate amount, because conversions cost more than would these provisions in new properties—in order to bring his premises in line with adequate safety requirements.

I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North will accept that the Government have met him in a reasonably generous way and that the relief that we propose in new Clause 10 will meet the requirements of his constituents and the industry generally.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Lymington)

I declare an interest in the hotel industry. Many of my hon. Friends and many members on the Government side will be aware that the subject with which we are now involved has been of great and indeed grave concern, particularly to keepers of small hotels for well over two years. I congratulate the Government without reservation on the way they have accepted the proposal which has been put to them for a long time. It is a matter of considerable pleasure to see how the Government have now dealt with this question.

I would like confirmation that the words "carrying on a trade" in new Clause 10 includes hotels and boarding-houses. Such confirmation need hardly be necessary. I am merely seeking to get the point on the record, and I am grateful to the Financial Secretary for now indicating assent.

In moving the Government's new clause the Financial Secretary raid that it was more generous than new Clause 31. It leaves me almost speechless to recognise that this is so, and we are extremely grateful to the Financial Secretary.

It would be ungenerous of the Financial Secretary and myself, as Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee which deals with tourism, not to record our thanks to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has carried our views to the Treasury, clearly to great effect. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will not mind my making the point that this issue was not first raised in Committee during our consideration of this year's Finance Bill. It has been of concern to many of us for a long time. On 25th April 1972 I suggested to the then Chief Secretary that what is now being done should be done. I received the reply: I do not think I should be justified in singling out this particular form of expenditure for special treatment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April 1972; Vol. 835, c. 1264.] I do not wish to labour the point. At that time the then Government said that they needed proof of evidence that the Fire Precautions Act would impose severe hardship on small hotels. I think that that proof has been more than adequately provided and I hope that in future, whatever Government are in office, the views of a much neglected section of society—the small hotels and boardinghouse keepers—will be heard. I am sure that the Financial Secretary and many of my hon. Friends will not mind my paying tribute to a former member of the House—Dame Irene Ward—who took a tremendously active part in pursuing this question. She was one of the most outspoken members of the group of 20 Conservative Members who went to the Treasury two years ago and raised the point with the then Government.

I hope that the Government's new clause will provide the relief required, but I fear that there will still be many small hotel keepers, who are not making a profit, for whom the clause will not do as much as we would wish. We all support the Fire Precautions Act and we want to see as many hotels and boardinghouses as possible undertaking the work required under that Act at the earliest opportunity The Government's proposal means in effect that a tax on safety is now to be removed. However, if it is proved that the proposal is not as effective as we all hope, I trust that the Government will keep their minds open towards providing grants for small hotels and boarding-houses, to ensure that the work required to be done under the Fire Precautions Act is carried out at the earliest opportunity.

I am also concerned with the way successive Governments and the House have dealt with the tourist industry. The question arises whether the Department of Trade is the best Department to he made responsible for the tourist industry, or whether the Department of the Environment might become more involved, as well as, certainly, the Home Office, with the tourist industry and the representations it makes.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

I notice that in your wisdom, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have selected an amendment in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the proposed new clause in line 5, after "notice", insert "or written recommendation", to be debated separately from this new clause. I wonder whether it would be helpful if I may refer to that amendment now. I am in your hands, and in the hands of the House in this point.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Anything that will save time will find approval, but in this case it depends on whether the Government Front Bench, the Opposition Front Bench and the House agree. It seems that there is agreement.

Mr. Pardoe

I do not wish at this stage to move the amendment to which I refer. I first wish to thank the Government for what they are proposing. They have gone further than I expected and, I suspect, than the Opposition expected. The matter with which we are all concerned has been considered in the Finance Bill in Committee and in the House on several occasions.

In 1972 the present Chief Secretary and I both had separate amendments down when the Finance Bill was being considered and the matter was debated extensively. The arguments were knocked down by the then Chief Secretary on behalf of the Conservative Government, and I am glad that amends have at last been made. I congratulate the Government on defeating the Treasury brief and winning through.

I do not propose to go into the basic problems of this matter, but I shall summarise the background. There was a great deal of support on both sides of the House when the Fire Precautions Act was passed but, as I have indicated in Committee, this Act has been a partial failure up until now. I do not say it has been a total failure. It became operative on 1st June 1972 and its aim was to bring existing buildings up to a satisfactory standard in regard to fire safety. All hotels and guest houses with accommodation for six people or more, including residential staff, have to be registered with the local fire authority. The Act requires not only that the premises be registered but that applications be made for fire certificates for the premises, as well as inspection by the fire authorities. Unfortunately, remarkably little progress has been made, for a variety of reasons.

First, the building industry has been extraordinarily drawn out, in the sense that an immense amount of work has been available for it in the period since the Act came into force. Many hotel keepers, with the best will in the world, have wanted to get the work done but have simply been unable to get it done. Secondly, there has been a drastic shortage of inspectors in the fire service. Perhaps all of us in the House were to blame, when we passed the Act in 1972, for not recognising how much administrative work was involved in the full implementation of it. That is still a problem.

The new clause will mean a fairly handsome financial incentive, but there will still be a shortage of inspectors. Unfortunately, because of the reasons I have mentioned, and other factors, only 1 per cent. of all hotels and boarding-houses in this country have fire certificates. That is a terrible situation, which no hon. Member would wish to continue. Since I moved an amendment in Committee on which the Government gave an undertaking that they accepted the principle, and as a result of which they have brought forward the new clause, a hotel has been closed in my constituency because it failed to measure up to the requirements of the Act. It was unable to get the work done in time for this summer season, but I hope that the job will be completed in time for the season after, and I am sure that the measure, in the clause will provide an incentive and an encouragement for it in that task.

We do not know exactly how much money is needed to bring hotels up to the required standard. The industry's economic development council has conducted a survey of 1,200 of its members to find out the expenditure involved and to discover the problems. Although the survey is not complete, the council estimates that it could cost as much as £10,000 for a small hotel and substantially more for a larger one.

I hope that we shall be able to get through these problems without Government grants. It may be that we shall all have to reconsider the situation in a year's time, but at present it is best to leave everything to the workings of the clause and hope that we shall pull through.

The two amendments which stand in my name are not offered in any sense of dissatisfaction with the Government's gesture. They fill a not expensive hole, but a hole that needs filling. Only those hotels which have been inspected and certified will be eligible retrospectively to claim the tax. What is to happen to the hotels that were efficient and enterprising enough to carry out their structural alterations without officially approaching the authorities? The Hotels Restaurants and Caterers Association has evidence of hoteliers who have unofficially approached fire officers, avoiding the formal procedure of obtaining a certificate and thus avoiding the complications which arise for the hotels and the fire authorities.

The fire authorities do not have sufficient manpower to inspect all the hotels. Many of the hotels have gone ahead with alterations without contacting the authorities because the inspectors are not available. It would be wrong to limit the retrospective element to hotels that have done these things formally and it would be equally wrong to adopt that approach in the future. Any hotel which wishes to do the work without going through the whole panoply of inspection should be encouraged to do so, but the clause would deny it the tax relief that it gives to others.

I thank the Government for the clause, therefore, which I hope will work substantially to improve fire precautions in hotels, but ask them to think again about my fairly minor amendment.

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)

Since the Financial Secretary was graceful enough to acknowledge that I played some small part in the debate on these matters in Committee I propose to intervene only briefly. The clause had a mixed parentage—the Financial Secretary, the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) and I all stand in something of a parental relationship to it, and I suppose that makes it an odd clause. Nevertheless, I hope that it will be welcomed by the hotel and boarding house keepers in my constituency. I hope that those who have been perhaps a little laggardly in meeting the fire precaution requirements will be encouraged by the clause.

Will the Financial Secretary say over what period depreciation will be allowed, and how long it will take to write down the cost of these improvements? I say that not in any grudging spirit, and in spite of anything I may say subsequently on Clause 5 I welcome unreservedly the retrospective element in the clause.

I support the amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, which seems to have a great deal of good sense to commend it. I hope that the Financial Secretary will not stand too formally on the lines drawn up in the clause but will accept the amendment, which will provide an added stimulus for hotel and boarding house keepers to anticipate rather than to wait for the requirements of the Fire Precautions Act.

Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis (Morecambe and Lonsdale)

I first declare an interest as a director of a company which owns hotels, although perhaps not those which face the gravest problems from this legislation. I did not serve on the Standing Committee but I express my appreciation of the clause. The hotel industry, however, will still consider that it is less than it deserves. The background to the industry's complaints is that the Fire Precautions Act was introduced between legislation which gave comparatively generous grants for the extension of hotels and legislation providing comparatively generous grants for the improvement of housing. The industry has always taken the view that expenditure to ensure safety of guests in hotels was as worthy of Exchequer support as expenditure to add to hotel accommodation or to improve domestic accommodation.

The scale of the burden has not been widely appreciated. Expenditure required from some small establishments under the requirements of the Fire Precautions Act is the equivalent of a year's gross receipts in those establishments. I have substantiated this, and to put the matter into perspective one has only to consider what would be the reaction to legislation which required the top 20 companies in Britain to incur within one or two years expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds.

The small hotel keeper still faces the problem of finding the finance to undertake the work. I have no doubt that my hon. Friends raised this issue in Committee, but there is an unanswerable case for the Chancellor of the Exchequer discussing with the Governor of the Bank of England whether he could not indicate to the joint stock banks that expenditure to meet fire precaution requirements should come within a priority category of expenditure. We all know that the banks pay great attention to the Governor's indications on these matters. Judging from other categories which enjoy priority there seems to be an unanswerable case for extending that facility to expenditure on fire prevention.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

In these days when written records are so very hard to come by and when it has been difficult for those of us not serving on a Standing Committee to know what is happening there, one of the functions of a debate like this is to bring home to our constituents and those interested in these matters the wholly welcome decision of the Government. The only point I make, and in it I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) and my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis), is that, expenditure incurred on fire precaution will, in many instances, be considerably greater than total profits and often higher than total turnover. Therefore, I support the plea which is made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal for a clear indication from the Government as to exactly how many years forward this expenditure may be rolled so as to be set off against future profits.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)

I urged my own Government to do something more for the small hotel keeper and welcome the fact that in Opposition we have been able to press this amendment on the Government. I welcome the Government's action in helping small hotel keepers and guest house keepers.

First, I support what was asked by the lion. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe)—what about the hoteliers who have already done the job? Is anything going to be done for those people? Secondly, I echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis)—namely that the banks should look favourably towards helping with the financing of this operation. I have no doubt that some of the small hotel keepers and guest house keepers are having difficulties in meeting the necessary finance.

It was a pleasure to walk into the Chamber and to find that the House had been converted to being prepared to give help to hotels and guest houses. It was more of a pleasure as we have not been able to read the records of what has been happening in Standing Committee.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

As a signatory to new Clause 7 and new Clause 31, and as I represent a predominantly tourist constituency, I greatly welcome the Government's new clause. It incorporates most of what I had in mind. It will be welcomed by hoteliers and boarding house keepers who are at the moment reeling from the effect of the high increases in their commercial rates. I had a letter only this morning from some hoteliers in my constituency strongly protesting against the increased rate. I am sure that the news of the contents of the new clause will help to alleviate their problem to some extent. It should also give new heart to hoteliers who were seriously wondering how they could survive and who were even considering giving up the business.

I am concerned about those hoteliers who anticipated the Act and who did a great deal of work in that anticipation. should be grateful for consideration of that point from the Government Front Bench. I hope that just because of the new clause the fire authorities will not exert undue pressure on hoteliers to carry out their fire precaution works under the Act. Despite the clause, which is extremely favourable to them, there is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) said, the general difficulty in the small hotel and boarding house business of obtaining finance for such works.

Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)

I represent a tourist constituency and I was naturally delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) and not myself opposed amendments of this nature which were tabled by my colleagues when we were in office. I naturally welcome this significant measure of tax relief which will alleviate the financial burden on hoteliers and guest house keepers in meeting expenditure under the Fire Precautions (Loans) Act. It seems to be a novel concept which runs contrary to the broader rules that we have so far adopted on the industrial buildings allowance. This seems to be the first industrial buildings allowance for which 100 per cent. first-year write off is available.

I am also interested that we are financing for the first time, as far as I am aware, a 100 per cent. first-year write off to a particular statute. That may be a novel concept. I imagine that the Government will now wish to go ahead and grant a similar first-year write off for expenditure on safety at sports grounds and similar forms of expenditure. That would be a logical follow-up.

I have never been a purist. I consider that this measure is a rather ingenious way of getting round a difficult problem regarding the setting of new precedents. In retrospect, that which the previous administration offered to hoteliers proved inadequate and too narrowly based, and small guest house keepers and hoteliers are having a difficult time. That is particularly so this year. Many of them fixed their tariffs earlier in the year, not anticipating the high rate of inflation which has come about. This measure will be a significant help to them.

It is also true that the scale of expenditure involved in fire precautions is very large in relation to the amount of cash which a hotelier or guest house keeper generates. This is a novel, ingenious and interesting new tax measure which I do not think has any precedent. I welcome it and I am glad to see that the Government, in this sense, have been consistent in office in relation to what they said in Opposition. With this excellent precedent behind it I have no doubt that the Treasury Bench will go forward to introduce further measures which were advocated in Opposition.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis), I have a special interest in the small hotel keeper and boarding house keeper, of whom there are hundreds along the Fylde coast in my constituency. Since the passage of the Fire Precaution [Loans] Act I have had a continual stream of letters from people who have found themselves unable to undertake the necessary capital expenditure to introduce the fire precautions that they were called upon to provide. They will welcome, as I do, the provisions in the new clause which give them tax relief.

I ask, in common with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), that these allowances should be extended to hotels and other properties which adopted fire precautions before the operative date which is referred to in the clause. I further urge the Government to consider making as sure as can be that small hotel keepers and boarding house keepers who wish to raise loans and who have to do so if they are to pay for these works are given priority. This kind of work is essential, and the scale of expenditure involved for a small hotel is about £10,000, which could be more than the gross takings for a whole year.

I hope that it will not be necessary, but we may have to consider making grants to enable these small business people to carry out this expensive work. In the meantime, I hope that the tax relief that they will receive from the new clause will go some way towards encouraging them and making possible this essential work.

Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)

I wish to speak briefly and solely to the amendment to the proposed new clause in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself which is set out on one of the dreadful pieces of paper which we are obliged to use—the insertion of "or written recommendation".

I endorse entirely the cogent argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). My hon. Friend was responsible for the origin of the new clause which is the substance of the debate. I endorse all the arguments that he put forward in favour of the amendment relating to the hotel, boarding house and guest house industry. However, I shall try to take the House a little wider than that. I hope that before the House passes another full-scale Finance Bill we may extend the scope of the Fire Precautions [Loans] Act as it relates to other kinds of non-industrial buildings.

I am anxious that there should be no inadvertently disincentive effect to cause traders who use non-industrial buildings for their trade to defer fire precautions because they are awaiting a certificate under the clause. There is an urgent need in the older industrial parts of the country for ancient mills which are now used for non-industrial trading purposes to be properly adapted in the interests of safety. If firms who are operating in these buildings are advised by their accountants that they would be wise to defer precautions until orders are laid before the House to extend the Fire Precautions Act and until certificates are issued, there will be a positive and serious disincentive to take early fire precautions action.

There are two amendments proposed by my hon. Friends and they would go some way towards shortening the period of possible disincentive effect by cutting out the waiting period for a formal certificate and enabling the Inland Revenue to accept a written recommendation. I hope that the House will bear in mind that the clause has a potential scope far exceeding the hotel industry.

Mr. Robert Carr (Carshalton)

In considering the amendments of which he is speaking, has the hon. Gentleman contemplated what happens in the case of a new building? Someone planning a new building could claim for a large amount of money and that would enable him to spend much more on the building than he would have done otherwise. I cannot believe that that is the purpose of the amendment.

Mr. Wainwright

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), who devised the first amendment, may wish to say something about that if he has an opportunity to do so.

I have a little experience in negotiating industrial building allowances with the Inland Revenue. An architect's certificate which certifies that designing a new building to comply with the Fire Precautions Act 1971 has cost a certain additional sum should be acceptable to the Inland Revenue in these enlightened and more permissive days if it is the serious purpose of the House to advance the cause of safety. I see no difficulty here, either for Ministers or for prospective Ministers of any Opposition party.

I do not think that the Financial Secretary will attempt to deny that there is an inadverent disincentive effect in insisting that only by waiting for bureaucracy to produce an official certificate shall a potentially enormous tax benefit be conferred. I hope that the Financial Secretary will consider the serious consequences to fire precautions in warehouses and other non-industrial buildings if he insists on taking a literal view.

5.45 p.m.

Dr. Gilbert

With the leave of the House, I will attempt to answer the questions which have been asked. The compliments which have been paid to the Treasury Bench almost cause us to blush. It is a pleasant change from the atmosphere which prevailed in the Chamber not long ago. I just shows how sensibly we conduct our affairs when we consider Finance Bills in the House. I wonder, however, whether we should be quite so forthcoming. The making of a concession has been followed by a dozen speeches from the Opposition benches—but I do recognise, of course, that all who have spoken have a serious constituency interest and also the wider national interest in mind.

I understand the point put by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davies) and several of his hon. Friends about finance, and I will convey his constructive suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) asked for how long the relief would be available. I am advised that it can be rolled forward indefinitely to be set against future profits.

Mr. Peter Rees

I could not have made myself clear. I know that if a trader cannot absorb the capital allowance in a year he can carry it forward to the next year, but over what period are the improvements to be depreciated for capital allowance purposes?

Dr. Gilbert

I am informed that they can be rolled forward indefinitely until they have been exhausted.

Mr. William Clark (Croydon, South)

With plant and machinery it is possible to have full depreciation in the first year. If the company does not take advantage of that and writes off only 50 per cent., whatever is left is subjected to the normal rate of depreciation, wear and tear allowance or capital allowance for that particular type of machinery. Is the Financial Secretary saying that the concession on fire precautions is true free depreciation, in that it is up to the hotelier to write off so much in the first year, so much in the second and so on, or is he saying that if the fire precautions cost £10,000 and the hotelier makes a profit of £4,000 he writes of £4,000 in the first year, £3,000 in the next year, and so on, depending on his profitability?

Dr. Gilbert

If I understand him correctly, the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Clark) was right the first time. The 100 per cent. allowance is available in the first year. If it is not used in the first year the normal rules apply and it may be carried forward indefinitely.

Mr. Clark

At what rate of relief can the hotelier write off the balance of 10 per cent., 20 per cent. or whatever it is?

Dr. Gilbert

He can take 100 per cent. in the first year. If he does not take 100 per cent. in the first year, the balance can be written down at 25 per cent. per annum on a reducing basis. It is available indefinitely until the full amount is exhausted.

The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) asked whether the words were intended to cover hotels and boarding houses, and I give him that assurance.

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) was good enough to compliment Treasury officials on their ingenuity in devising the clause. In parenthesis he raised the relevance of these matters to sports grounds. I am happy to tell him that if and when the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill is enacted, we intend to apply provisions of this sort to sports grounds in precisely the same way as to hotels and boarding houses.

The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) made an extremely significant point in connection with the Liberal amendment. I am sure he recognises that the amendment goes wider than is the Government's intention. His hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr.Pardoe) recognised that the clause was the right way in which to proceed at this stage. I understand the suggestion of the hon. Member for Colne Valley that there might be an unintentional disincentive effect in the clause and I should like to look at it again. If there is no dramatic political change in the next few months, another Finance Bill may be presented before the year is out, and that might be the appropriate time at which to consider the point.

The Liberal amendment bypasses the provisions of the Fire Precautions Act and we should be reluctant that that should happen. The amendment, as drafted, has the effect, though possibly not intentionally, of widening relief to cover extensions rather than alterations, which is the purpose of new Clause 10.

I hope that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North will accept that new Clause 10 is a considerable step forward. It gives retrospective relief to everybody who has been served with an order by a fire authority. Therefore, it is a considerable benefit. If we find that further progress is needed at a later stage, our minds are not closed to any such suggestion. I hope that the clause will commend itself to the House since it takes the matter as far as we can reasonably go. As for the substance of the Liberal amendment which has technical defects, questions arising from it might be considered at a later stage.

Mr. Pardoe

Before the Minister completes his remarks, can he say what he intends to do'? He said that he will look at the matter at a later stage or in some months' time. I accept that amendment would cover new hotels, and there may be reasons why the Treasury do not wish to go along with the proposal. Will the hon. Gentleman undertake to bring in in another place an amendment which limits the provision to existing hotels? There is no need to stand by the bureaucracy in respect of the Fire Precautions Act since it is possible to take action on the basis of a written recommendation. I am not saying that I do not take the amendment seriously or that I would not press it to a vote.

Mr. R. Carr

I thought the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) was proposing another fundamental amendment—namely, that another place was suddenly to be given power to amend the Finance Bill. No doubt if we sought to proceed on those lines it would occupy the House of Commons for many hours.

I should like to say how much we welcome the new clause and, as an ex-Horne Secretary, I feel deeply about the need to do everything we can to speed up the implementation of the Fire Precautions Act. We took legislative power to enable hotels to be given loans. We knew that we would have to watch how the situation went and, having seen what has happened, I believe that some other fillip is needed to assist hotels and boarding houses to implement the Act. Therefore we welcome the new Clause. I am glad that, with the help of hon. Members on both sides of the House, our efforts have been rewarded in this way.

I cannot advise my hon. Friends to vote for the amendment. I see its point and I have considerable sympathy with it but, as drafted, it goes very wide. Surely the right course is that proposed by the Financial Secretary. The hon. Gentleman said that he, too, saw the point of the amendment. Therefore, I believe that we should accept the new clause with gratitude and watch how the situation goes between now and the next Finance Bill. I assure the House that when we introduce that Bill, we shall have given the matter a great deal of thought.

Dr. Gilbert

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his constructive remarks. I did not mean to suggest that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) was not taking the amendment seriously. There are implications for all sorts of new buildings as the ramifications of the Fire Precautions Act are extended in future years. We feel that the need for relief is greatest in regard to hotels and boarding houses. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we do not look at this matter with closed minds. We recognise a need, and that is why the new clause was introduced. I hope he will accept that it is a reasonable way in which to proceed.

Mr. Pardoe


Mr. Deputy Speaker: (Mr. George Thomas)

The hon. Member for Cornwall, North, has exhausted his right to speak. I understand that he does not wish to move Amendment No. 108.

Mr. Pardoe

That is correct, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause accordingly read a Second time and added to the Bill.

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