§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, at this late hour I will not detain you more than a few minutes, and in so doing I shall ask for your indulgence for one who has never before spoken in this House. This Bill empowers local authorities to contribute, up to the amount of a halfpenny rate, towards a central organisation, approved in England and Wales by the Minister of Health and in Scotland by the Secretary of State, which is established for collecting information in regard to the amenities and attractions of the British Isles, and for the purpose of disseminating that information abroad. In a word, what is aimed at is national publicity. The immediate object is to increase the tourist traffic and all the good which accrues therefrom. Your Lordships are aware 1181 that similar organisations exist in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Spain, and it has been proved to the satisfaction of those countries that this form of publicity has very direct and satisfactory results.
No organisation existed in this country capable of carrying on this work until 1929, when there was formed the Travel Association of Great Britain and Ireland. This Association had the support of the late Government, and, has, I believe, the support of the present Government. It has as its Chairman the noble Earl, Lord Derby, who, but for a most important engagement in the North, would have been present to support the Bill. Without wishing to detain your Lordships, I want to point out that the real point is that the power granted to local authorities is only permissive. The local authorities can, if they desire, contribute towards a central organisation which will secure the results already defined. It may be argued that in these difficult times it is undesirable to authorise a scheme involving expenditure, but I think it can be shown without doubt that the expenditure in this case will be profitable. First we have the official figures of the Home Office, which show that since this organisation has been in existence there has been a continued increase in the number of tourists coming to this country, and that means not only benefits to hotel keepers, small proprietors, theatres, shops and transport companies, but also to all the manufacturers and workers employed in the industries upon which those different concerns rely.
It is because we believe that this is really doing something to foster national prosperity and increase industry and commerce in this country, that we are putting forward this Bill. It has not only the support of a great many associations, but it has passed through the House of Commons with the consent of all Parties. I commend this Bill to the House, because I think it is a real endeavour to do something towards fostering the chances of trade revival. We are convinced, and we have proof from foreign countries, that this form of publicity is doing good. If I had time I could read extracts from newspapers abroad showing the value of disseminating this sort of information. I have 1182 always been struck by the fact that visitors coming from the United States of America tend to get off the liner at Cherbourg and to miss out this country, simply because of the inadequate sources for the supply of information to show them what advantages they would derive from a visit to the British Isles. We think this organisation to which we are empowering local authorities to contribute will be able to do a great deal in that way, and for that reason I move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, I have very much pleasure in supporting this Bill. I wish in the first place to congratulate the noble Lord upon the eloquent way in which he has made his maiden speech, and to express the hope that we shall hear many more speeches from him. At this late hour I do not want to say more than a very few words. This Bill is not going to involve the ratepayers in very great expense. The association was founded, as the noble Lord has said, some two years ago, and it has already produced a very remarkable effect. We are told that this year, in spite of bad times, nearly five thousand more travellers have come from the United States. The association is due in its inception, I believe, to Mr. Douglas Hacking, formerly Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade, and he, together with Lord Derby as Chairman, has been most useful in founding this association. Its income at the present moment is about £16,000 a year, and I believe that the aim is to get £50,000 or £60,000 a year.
As Lord Strathcona has told your Lordships, it is entirely voluntary upon the part of the various local authorities whether they subscribe or not. I am glad to say that I have pointed out the merits of this Bill to that champion of economy on these Benches, Lord Banbury, and although he did not express his approval, by his absence he has shown that he does not greatly dissent. I am sure the public must be confident, if a champion of economy like that more or less approves the Bill, that it must be right. The Bill has the support of the Municipal Corporations' Association, a body with which I do not always agree, because they are rather extravagant in their aims at 1183 times; also of the Urban District Councils' Association and the Conference of Health and Pleasure Resorts. I am glad to think that Miss Susan Lawrence, on behalf of the Government, made a most able and very amusing speech about Boadicea, in supporting the Bill. As I understand that the Government are going to give it their support to-day, I trust that it will get through speedily, and that we may see some results of the benefits which it is hoped it will confer upon the public, even at the coming Whitsuntide.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD MARLEY)
My Lords, perhaps in indicating the attitude of the Government towards this Bill I might be permitted to re-echo the congratulations offered to the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading in so eloquent and so succinct a speech. I am quite sure the House will desire to hear him again, and it is to be regretted that so few members of your Lordships' House were here to listen to him to-day. Of course, this Bill is entirely non-contentious, and it is supported by all Parties. I should like to remind the House that France receives nearly 2,000,000 foreign visitors a year, who spend £100,000,000; whereas in this country we receive under £10,000,000 a year from visitors from abroad, who last year numbered 246,000. It is, however, a fact that during the last four years the number of visitors to this country classed as tourists has increased by 40,000, or 10,000 a year.
It is almost incredible that the beauties of this country should not be better known abroad. We have places like the Isle of Wight, with Shanklin, Totland Bay, and Ventnor, beautiful places which ought to be visited by foreigners again and again. There is also a very important aspect of the problem that I wish to mention, and that is our great historic dockyard towns, which are doing their best to develop an alternative industry as tourist and seaside resorts, in view of the possibility of a reduction of armament expenditure in the dockyards in the future. Those dockyard towns, Portsmouth, Plymouth 1184 and Sheerness, deserve every encouragement in the efforts they are making to become seaside towns, and this Bill when it passes will enable them to receive some help from the visits of people from other countries. Then, the country is spending a great deal of money on developing its internal resources, and this is a chance of getting some return. The Office of Works is doing a good deal in classifying beautiful and historic buildings, and in writing excellent descriptive handbooks of these places. Our roads are the best in the world, our hotels are gradually, if slowly, improving; we have the new sport of "hiking," which is so popular to-day among younger people, and we are controlling disfiguring advertisements.
I am told that sun bathing is developing at seaside resorts, and one way in which your Lordships might help in this connection would be by patronising the seaside resorts of this country. I am quite sure that if it were suitably advertised that members of your Lordships' House were going to bathe in various places, there might be a large increase in the number of visitors—at least for one year. Further, we are dealing on more common sense lines with the treatment of foreign visitors landing in this country. For instance, I have before me the little booklet which is issued to visitors. Up to a few months ago they used to be called aliens, now they are called foreign visitors. All these little things are of considerable assistance in securing that the beauties and development of our country are known to foreigners overseas, and that the obstacles placed in the way of visitors in our country are lessened. I hope very much that this Bill will go through as soon as possible so that use may be made of it, as has been indicated by the noble Lord who has just spoken, during the present, tourist season.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.