§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF WORKS (LORD MORRISON)
My Lords, earlier this year the House gave its consent to the Public Works (Festival of Britain) Act, 1949, which dealt with various transport matters arising out of the decision to hold the principal exhibition of the Festival of Britain, 1951, on the South Bank site. The main purpose of the Bill of which I am now moving the Second Reading is to make provision for the use of part of Battersea Park as Festival Gardens in connection with the Festival. Because final decisions about the Gardens and the company to be set up to run them were not taken until the summer, it was not possible to deal with this matter in the earlier Bill.
Some people have expressed the view that Festival Gardens are irrelevant to the main purpose of the Festival. The Government do not share that view. Foreign visitors to Britain would not be very satisfied with the attractions of the Festival if they were presented with 1343 nothing but a display of British achievements in science and technology, in industrial design and architecture and in the arts. I suggest that they will not come to Britain unless they think they will have a good time. If they do come and are disappointed, they will tell their friends, who will stay away in subsequent years. If Britain is to use the 1951 Festival to strengthen her tourist industry in a permanent way, she must make known to potential visitors that there are gay and lively things to do here. The exhibitions, however dazzling to the eye or uplifting to the spirit, will not alone make a Festival. I therefore hope that your Lordships will agree that it is altogether right and proper that this House should give approval to the Battersea Park scheme. Let the House proclaim to the world that in 1951 the grimness and drabness of post-war London will be things of the past.
So far as I can discover, none of the great exhibitions of the past was staged without making some provision for the lighter side of life. The Festival Gardens are not just a frill. They are an essential part of the whole Festival. If there had been room on the South Bank site, an allocation of space for an amusement section would have been made automatically, but the South Bank site itself consists only of about thirty acres, and obviously there would not be room there for the amusement section. Battersea Park was considered to be far the best site for this purpose, in view of its situation near the centre of London, its own picturesque character and the river link between it and the main Exhibition. In fact, Battersea Park was the only place which offered the possibility of a river link. To have chosen any other site would have meant throwing an intolerable burden on road and rail services which will in any case, it is anticipated, be operating to capacity. For the visitor to London a trip by the passenger service on the Thames is the finest way of seeing London. Improved services will be provided for the Festival and will he used by many tourists. These river services should become a permanent feature of the amenities that we offer to tourists.
Let me make it clear that the Government are not entering into the entertainment business. The Festival Gardens 1344 will be run by a company under the chairmanship of Sir Henry French. Among its directors are to be found such names as Lord Aberconway, President of the Royal Horticultural Society, Lord Latham, Chairman of the London Transport Executive, and Sir Charles Cochran, as well as those of the Chairman of the National Amusements Council and the Vice-President of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain. As will he seen, the board includes some experienced and hard-headed businessmen who can be relied upon to see that the company's affairs are run in a businesslike manner. The amusement section will be let to concessionaires whose normal business is the operation of amusement centres. These concessionaires will pay a rental or a contract fee and take their own risks as to whether they make money or lose it.
The part of Battersea Park to be enclosed is an area of thirty-seven acres, about one-fifth of the total area of the park. Of the thirty-seven acres only seven will be used for the amusement area. These seven acres are about a quarter of a mile from the nearest residences. No trees will be cut down. I make that statement especially for the benefit of my noble friend Lord Broughshane (I am sorry to see that he is not here), who is an expert on trees. When the Festival is over, the park will be restored and again thrown open to the public. If there are any features of the Festival Gardens which the London County Council would like to retain as permanent adornments of the park, the Bill provides powers for their retention. Here I would like to say a word of assurance to those residents in Battersea and Chelsea who may be afraid that they will be disturbed by the activities carried on in the Festival Gardens. Their interests are in responsible hands, and the Festival authorities are pledged to pay regard to them. Everything will be done to prevent excessive noise, traffic dislocation or destruction of the amenities of the park. When the summer of 1951 arrives, Battersea, I suggest, will have reason to be proud of her distinction, and her residents will have no cause to regret the decision which turned such a bright and cheerful spotlight on their borough. That is the background to the Bill.
I now turn to the clauses. Clause 1 enables the London County Council to 1345 enclose not more than forty acres of Battersea Park and to authorise their use by the Festival Gardens Company, subject to terms and conditions to be agreed. This clause also enables the company, with the approval of the County Council, to carry out ancillary works in other parts of the park. This is to cover the provision of electricity, water, drainage and so on. Clause 2 deals with finance. The company will be put in funds to start its activities by loans up to a total of £770,000. Of this amount the Government will advance not more than £570,000, and the London County Council not more than £200,000. These loans by the Government and the London County Council will he the subject of an agreement between the Minister, the L.C.C. and the company specifying the terms as to payment of interest, repayment of capital and security. There is provision for the Minister and for the London County Council to release the whole or part of a claim against the company in respect of the loans. I would add that this provision is necessary, because in the short space of six months there would appear to be little likelihood of recouping entirely the capital outlay, plus the running costs.
Clause 3 deals with the reinstatement of the site of the Gardens at the end of the Festival, and its restoration to public use. This clause requires that six months after the clay on which the Gardens were first opened to the public the company shall, as soon as may be, do all things necessary to restore to the satisfaction of the Council the site of the Gardens and any work which they may have done outside the enclosed area. If the company fail to carry out their obligations in this respect, the London County Council are required to do the work and to recover the cost from the company. Provision is made for the County Council, if they think it desirable, to retain for the benefit of people using Battersea Park any buildings which may have been erected for the purposes of the Gardens. Subsection (4) of this clause places upon the Minister of Health the responsibility for allowing by Order an extension of time for the work of reinstatement.
Clause 4 provides that the execution of works and the carrying on of ally activity in the Gardens, if executed or carried on 1346 by the London County Council, the company or a person authorised in that behalf by either of them, shall be deemed to be authorised by this Bill, notwithstanding that it would otherwise be actionable on the ground of nuisance. In the normal way, any person who thought that he was likely to suffer a nuisance would take action by applying to the courts for an injunction to restrain the company from carrying out their activities. It is undesirable that the Festival Gardens Company should be hampered in carrying out the purposes for which they have been created by any fear of an injunction as to the methods by which they carry out their work. And, obviously, if an injunction were applied for and granted before work commenced, the preparation of the Gardens would be hampered. Once work has started, an application for an injunction is not normally granted if damages would meet the case. Having taken away the Common Law right, it was only right that the Government should make some provision to enable any person who had in fact suffered loss by reason of nuisance to claim compensation.
Clause 5 applies to the Festival Gardens the same modifications of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, as were applied to the main Exhibition and the South Bank site. It relieves the company from any liability to payment of development charges; preserves the position of the London County Council under Section 82 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and provides that planning permission shall be deemed to have been granted. The provisions relating to the Exhibition traffic arrangements enable the Minister of Transport to restrict the use by vehicular traffic of the whole or any part of a street by imposing one-way working or diversion of traffic. The Festival Gardens are expected to attract a considerable volume of car traffic. In consultation with the Ministry's engineers and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the London County Council have prepared a scheme estimated to accommodate some 2,000 cars. Something less than half of this accommodation will be in the park itself.
Clause 6 exempts the Festival of Britain office and the Festival Gardens Company from: (a) the operation of the provisions of the London Building Acts, 1930 to 1939 1347 and bylaws made thereunder, and (b) the provisions of Part II of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, in so far as they relate to drainage. The clause further provides that it shall not be necessary to obtain a licence for public entertainment of the kinds specified in the clause. May I say here that there is no desire on the part of the Festival of Britain office, or the Festival Gardens Company, to evade their responsibilities in these matters? When consultations had taken place with the London County Council and the local authorities concerned, it became clear that the local authorities could not, in the time available, deal in the normal way with the plans for Festival buildings. The only way out of this difficulty is to provide for exemptions from the requirements of the Acts concerned. I can, however, say that the Festival of Britain office have given His Majesty's Government an assurance that in all their undertakings, and those of the Festival Gardens Company, they will adopt standards of building construction and lay-out as exacting as those required under the Acts from which they are being given exemption. Officers of the London County Council and the Ministry of Works will be available to give the Festival authorities expert advice on these matters.
Powers are sought in Clause 7 of the Bill to enable two piers to be built at the Festival Gardens site. It is proposed that the river services should be provided on a voluntary and co-operative basis by the Thames passenger boat proprietors, and discussions are taking place with them to ensure that adequate supplies of craft are available. In order, however, to ensure that the services are in fact provided on an orderly basis, with suitable craft, powers are sought under this clause to enable bylaws to be made controlling all traffic to the piers, laying down standards for types of vessels which can be used on the services and the amenities to be provided on them, and for fixing the fares which may be charged, as well as the charges for use of the piers.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that services to the Exhibition and Festival Gardens from the other piers will not be unduly interrupted by services which are not operating to and from the Exhibition and Festival Gardens piers, power is sought to enable bylaws to be 1348 made jointly by the London County Council and the Port of London Authority to lay down priorities for the use of their piers. I am happy to say that both the London County Council and the Port of London Authority are ready to assist in controlling the use of the various piers concerned in such a way as to ensure the success of the Exhibition and the Festival Garden services.
Clause 8 would enable the Minister of Transport to make grants towards the construction of additional landing stages on the river Thames. Clause 9 is the usual clause providing for payments out of moneys provided by Parliament. Clause 10 provides a saving for the existing powers of the London County Council and the Port of London Authority. Clause 11 is the Short Title and Interpretation Clause. I point out that in a number of places in the Bill—Clauses 2, 6 and 9—there are references to the Minister." Clause 11(2) defines this expression as meaning such Minister of the Crown as His Majesty may by Order in Council appoint either generally or in relation to a specific provision.
There remains the question of the traffic arrangements in connection with the Festival Gardens. In consultation with the Metropolitan Police, the London Transport Executive, the London County Council and the boroughs affected, action is being taken to ensure that the normal travelling habits of the residents of Battersea and Chelsea will be subjected to minimum interference. Sloane Square Underground Station, which was badly damaged by bombing, is being restored, and some limited works at South Kensington, Battersea and Queen's Road stations to improve passenger handling facilities may be necessary. Additional bus services will provide links with rail and underground stations and with the South Bank Exhibition. But to relieve the road and rail services, the Festival Gardens will also be served to and from the South Bank Exhibition, and to and from eastern and western suburbs, by frequent water buses. I hope that I have given a fair summary of the provisions of the Bill. I think there will be general agreement that if the Festival of Britain is to he a real success it must cater for all tastes, and that it would be unthinkable that we should not include the 1349 lighter side. Finally, I stress again four points: (1) the Gardens will be run by the company on business lines; (2) the Gardens will be a substantial attraction to tourists; (3) they will enable us to build up and develop a river passenger service which will be a permanent addition to the amenities we offer to tourists; and (4) when the Festival is over, Battersea Park will again be entirely open to the public and will be in better shape than it is at present. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.(Lord Morrison.)
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord who has just sat down, first of all for the delightfully light manner in which he commenced his speech to us and, secondly, for the very thorough manner in which he explained the provisions of this Bill. May I say at the outset—and I think I speak for those who sit around me—that we are fully in accord with the idea of having a Festival of Britain; and that if we have a Festival of Britain it must be done on an appropriately large scale. We all regret that the actual area of the site on the South bank of the river, by Waterloo Station, is not large enough to incorporate both the Exhibition and the amusement park, because I have always understood that the main purpose of an amusement park was to bring people to the Exhibition. That is why there was one at Wembley, and also one at the Glasgow Exhibition just before the war.
So far as I can see, the purpose of this particular amusement park is to take people away from the Exhibition, because there will not be room on the small site near the County Hall, and there must be some place for the overflow of people to go to so that the actual site on the Exhibition is not too crowded. I do not know whether that plan will be successful. I imagine there will be one class of people who will go to the Exhibition and not the amusement park, and another class who will go to the amusement park and not to the Exhibition. If people come down from other parts of England, or Scotland for that matter, for a day in London, they will probably gravitate either to Battersea Park or to the Exhibition itself; quite a number of them will not go to both. But at any rate I, for one, am 1350 glad that opportunity has been taken to place the Exhibition near the London County Council building, and I hope that the reconstruction will be of permanent benefit to the whole aspect of that part of South London.
To return to the actual provisions of this Bill, I doubt whether between these two sites we are taking quite enough space for the numbers of people who are likely to come to this Festival. I believe that the area at Wembley was far larger than the combined areas of this site by the river and the part of Battersea Park which it is proposed to take. I believe that the Wembley site covered about 260 acres. That is a great deal compared with the total of, I think, sixty acres that are to be taken for these two schemes.
It is a pity, in a way, that we cannot have this amusement park in some position other than an area which is already recognised as a public park. I am one of those who would like to see somewhere in the metropolis a centre something like the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. I dare say some of your Lordships have been there. It is a delightful place where one may sit beside a lake and drink a glass of beer, or whatever other refreshment one would like to have, in the open air. I should like there to be such a place which could be a permanent acquisition to London. It is, of course, most extravagant to spend something like £800,000 in order to get £700,000 back—100,000 for six months' occupation of a site. A great deal of the proceedings will be the erection of buildings and their subsequent removal. I should have preferred to see this amusement park on some permanent site, and then we should not have this loss—which, as I understand it, is to be spread over between the Treasury and the ratepayers of London. This measure anticipates that loss of £100,000. In all earlier Exhibitions, however, it has been the amusement park portion which has made a profit. As this amusement park is going to be held in what is already a public park, and there is to be a loss even on that, we shall not have as a legacy something such as we had in the form of the Crystal Palace after the 1851 Exhibition. After all, we had the Crystal Palace for a good many years afterwards and it was frequently used for other Exhibitions.
1351 The noble Lord, in introducing the Bill, said that if foreign visitors come here and do not have a good time they will tell their friends and many will perhaps be kept away thereby. He went on to say that the Exhibition site alone was not enough to give them that good time, and that the Battersea Park plan was intended to fill the gap. But I think we shall have to do more than that for our foreign visitors if we are to ensure that they do have a good time. One of the matters about which we shall have to do something is in regard to the provision of accommodation for these visitors during the period of their visit here, especially if they come in larger numbers than they do now. At the present time 3,000 rooms in hotels which were formerly used by tourists in or near the centre of London are now used as offices, and so on—I am not saying Government offices necessarily. Some of the hotels, such as the Victoria, the Great Central (which I believe is now used by the Transport Board or the Railway Executive), the Langham and the Carlton, were all being used as hotels before the war and are now in use as offices.
In this connection I should like to refer to the Report of the proceedings of the 21st Annual General Meeting of the Travel Association of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, at which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor took the chair. At that meeting Mr. Herbert Morrison, the Lord President of the Council, said:I think, also, that we may well need more hotels in London and some of our chief cities—not luxury places, but more moderate-priced establishments offering good accommodation and good food and service and a kindly, homely reception in our best tradition.I entirely agree with the Lord President; and I suggest that we must try to do something to secure this extra accommodation for our visitors if we are to attract them to this Festival and give them a good time, so that they will go back to their friends and tell them that the Festival of Great Britain is a good thing to come to. I would like to ask, first, whether the Government have any kind of plan to derequisition before 1951 any of the hotels that they themselves are at present using. I do not know when the new 1352 Government offices will be ready. I remember that plans for them were well under way when the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, was First Commissioner of Works and I had the honour to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary. That is a considerable number of years ago. At any rate, they are in the course of building now, and they ought to be able to take some of these staffs. I hope they will be ready in time. In any event, I believe that we have to keep on pressing the Departments concerned to evacuate this essential accommodation if we are to accommodate all our tourists.
If I may, I should like to quote from the Economist an article that was written on October 15 of this year:Anyone who to-day contemplates building a new hotel to cater for the flood of devaluation tourists, or for holidays-with-pay, will find that the cost per room of building an hotel, reduced to an annual figure, is very much higher than the profit per room that can be expected after allowance is made for the effect of the Catering Wages Act, for the five-shilling limit on meals, for purchase tax on furniture and fittings and for income tax on the money needed to amortise the capital. It is a plain impossibility, so long as present conditions or anything like them continue, for any new hotels to be built.I do not think that that statement in the least exaggerates the position. People have no idea of the amount that purchase tax alone may cost a big hotel organisation. According to their annual reports, the Savoy group last year paid £60,000 in purchase tax, and they have to pay a further £80,000 this year. In the case of these hotels I was wondering whether something could be done to grant some exemption from that tax. It is done in the case of ships. Merchant ships bringing tourists to this country do not pay purchase tax on their furniture. Subject to certain special conditions which the Inland Revenue could make to deal with anybody who might try to take improper advantage of this scheme by getting the furniture free of tax and then selling it, I think something ought to be done to try to relieve any new hotel that is opening of that additional burden.
Another point I have in mind is this. It is a curious thing about our income tax law that whereas factory buildings and plant have a generous measure of depreciation allowance, the measure of depreciation allowance for hotels as regards their articles of trade—that is, their buildings, their furniture and their utensils—is 1353 far less than in the case of any factory. That means that even if we derequisition the hotels we are liable not to have people going into that industry, certainly so long as the Minister of Food sees fit to retain the five-shilling limit on meals. I raise those points because I think they are material when we are trying to arrange what is partly a dollar-earner in this Festival of Britain. Somebody should apply his mind to this problem, so that it may be tackled in time and so that we may have proper accommodation in this country for those visitors whom we are so anxious to welcome here.
The only other comment I wish to make is this. I certainly welcome the fact that this Festival of Britain is to have an amusement park. I believe that we are liable to be too dull in this country. The sooner we get back to the days of "Merrie England" and a little more gaiety, despite our preoccupations, the better we shall do our work. For that reason, I welcome this measure. I hope that such a park will be well run. I am pretty certain that it is possible to run one of these amusement parks without creating a great deal of nuisance to the surrounding people if adequate precautions are taken. I hope that that will be done. If these steps were taken, we might even have in Battersea Park a place which would be a kind of permanent Tivoli Gardens, because everybody would have accepted it and thought it was a good scheme. We on this side shall certainly support the Second Reading of this measure to-day.
§ 4.47 p.m.
My Lords, for my part I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, and I beg to support this Bill. I am sure it is essential to have Festival Gardens or a place of that kind if the Festival of Britain is to be a success. I do not wish to detain your Lordships long, but there are two points I should like to make. The first relates to the question of finance. We have been told this afternoon that these Festival Gardens are probably going to lose money to the extent of approximately £100,000—I certainly hope it will not be more—and that this loss is to be apportioned as to £60,000 to the Government and £40,000 to the London County Council. I feel that it is not quite fair to the London ratepayer that he should have to stand this possible 1354 additional charge of £40,000. To begin with, the London County Council are already contributing a great deal to this Exhibition. The concert hall is being built at the ratepayers' expense, and the South Bank development, without which the Festival could not take place, is also being carried through at their expense. Moreover, labour and materials which would otherwise probably be going into building houses in London are being diverted at the London ratepayers' expense. After all, this is a national affair; it does not concern only London; and I think the arguments which have been advanced about the great advantages the average London ratepayer will get from the Festival have been slightly exaggerated. I admit that the ratepayer in the middle of London—in Westminster, Marylebone and Kensington—will probably derive considerable advantages from the increased tourist trade which may be expected as a result of the Festival, but I do not think the outlying parts of London will derive much advantage from it. Therefore it is fallacious to say that the average London ratepayer will benefit greatly out of the Festival of Britain. I think he is being asked to stand rather more than his fair share of cost. That is my first point.
The other point I would like to say a word about is the question of nuisance. I represent Chelsea on the London County Council, and I know Battersea Park fairly well. As the noble Lord pointed out, under Clause 4 nobody may apply for an injunction against any nuisance. In view of the short term of these gardens, that is, in one sense, a perfectly reasonable provision. I do not see that these gardens could be made if there were going to be any number of injunctions the whole time restraining the organisers from doing this, that and the other. On the other hand, it does mean that if the private citizen is to be deprived of his ordinary legal rights in this matter we have to be very careful that he does not suffer any more nuisance than is absolutely necessary. We have had an assurance from the noble Lord. Lord Morrison, and also from the Lord President in another place, that nuisance would be reduced to a minimum. The Lord President said:I can assure my right honourable friend that everything possible is being done to 1355 minimise the noise. In fact, it is thought there will be no nuisance to the people in the locality—at any rate, nothing material.The noble Lord, Lord Morrison, I think, said that so far as the fun fair was concerned the nearest dwellings would be 250 yards away. With respect to the noble Lord, I do not think he is accurate about that. So far as the amusement park itself is concerned, probably he is; but a car park is to be constructed on the South side of Battersea Park, which is not 250 yards away from the nearest dwellings; it is forty yards—I know because I paced it. When you consider that probably a thousand cars will be going in and out of that place (I do not know, because the noble Lord did not mention it, how late these Gardens are to stay open) it is clear that the life of the people who live in these dwellings, which are all flats, will be made very uncomfortable indeed; nor, so far as I can see, will they have any redress. I mention that merely because it is important that we should look into all these cases, and see what is going to be done. I do not know whether the noble Lord in his reply will be able to tell me what, if anything, is to be done about that car park—whether it will remain open until midnight, and whether anything can be done to reduce the noise. I am sure the people who live in Battersea would be pleased to have some words of reassurance from the noble Lord, because I know that some of them are very upset about the matter. Therefore, if he could give some reassurance upon that point I should be grateful.
Finally, although my noble friend Lord Llewellin expressed the hope that these Gardens in Battersea Park might continue after six months, I hope they will not—for the following reason. We in Battersea and Chelsea are desperately short of playing fields, and anything which reduced the space available for playing fields at the present time would be a bad thing. I feel that the demand for playing fields has first priority.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I have no reason to complain about the short but interesting discussion that we have had, although I was surprised to hear the noble Lord who spoke last say that he 1356 hoped the Gardens would revert to playing fields. In point of fact, the space which is to be used for the Gardens has been allotments for a good many years, so playing fields are not being taken away.
If the noble Lord will forgive me, I think he has not followed my point. I know they are now allotments; the point is that we have been struggling for the last four years to get rid of them because they were formerly playing fields, and we want not only that space returned but a good deal more room also if we can get it.
§ LORD MORRISON
The other comment that came to me was that while I tried my best to strike a cheerful note in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and was ably supported by my noble friend Lord Llewellin, by suggesting that we should not go about making heavy weather of our difficulties, but rather make the best of things, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, fell back into the grumbling attitude of mind. If it is persisted in by the people of London generally that attitude will create a poor look-out for the tourists who are coming over to the Festival. I know all about the difficulties. Some of them are raised by people who are always complaining; and some by people who fear that there will be noise. I am not able to answer the noble Lord's question as to how long the car park will be kept open, or whether the amusement park will be open on Sundays. That is a question that we must leave to the consideration of the people concerned. I think it would be far better for us in Parliament to leave it to the people who are charged with the task, rather than to try and settle that multitude of details ourselves.
The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, raised the most important question of the accommodation of visitors. I can give him a little information. I am informed, for example, that there are twenty hotels in London under requisition at the present time. They are already used for living purposes, as hostels and housing, with the exception of the Hotel Victoria in Northumberland Avenue, which is used as offices. The possibility of releasing these hotels is at present under urgent consideration. The Government have de-requisitioned many hotels in the last few years, and I am not going to claim that 1357 the few which they still hold in London would make anything but a very small contribution to the problem—and it is a big problem—of accommodating the visitors who are expected to come to the Festival. The Government, however, realise the importance of this problem if the Festival is to be a success. They are aware that there is a shortage of accommodation for visitors in London, and that this shortage is liable to be aggravated in 1951. The Board of Trade are in close consultation with the Tourists and Holidays Board in an endeavour to overcome these problems. In the meantime, the Government are anxious to derequisition what hotels they can, and I can assure the noble Lord that they will do all that is possible in this direction. May I add that there should be no difficulty in obtaining building licences for modest and essential work of repair and redecoration after an hotel has been de-requisitioned?
The noble Lord also raised what I am afraid is a much more difficult point—namely, the question of purchase tax on items that will be required by hotel proprietors if they are to refurnish their hotels after derequisition. That is a difficult problem because I need not remind your Lordships that this Parliament is nearing its close. There will be a General Election long before this Exhibition has been held.
§ LORD MORRISON
The noble Lord knows as well as I do that an alteration in the purchase tax requires legislation, and therefore I am perfectly sure that, even if I possessed the information—which I do not—I should not be in a position at this moment and from this desk, to reveal whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he opens his next Budget (whether he belongs to my Party or the noble Lord's Party, I can leave as an open question) will see fit to announce some alterations in purchase tax in favour of hotel proprietors or people who have had their property de-requisitioned and brought back for the use of the Festival. That is a point I would rather leave in its present state. I am not able to say anything definite; the noble Lord knows that that is the case. 1358 May I remind your Lordships that this matter was raised in another place quite recently? An honourable Member of that place asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer:Whether, in view of the importance of the tourist industry, he is prepared to abolish purchase tax on furniture and furnishings for use in hotels.The reply was:It is not possible to give special privileges to particular users of taxable goods.It only remains for me to thank noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, and others who have listened, for the friendly way in which they have received this Bill. I hope your Lordships will be prepared to give it, a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived; and Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.