HL Deb 12 July 1951 vol 172 cc849-94

3.47 p.m.

Debate continued.


My Lords, I rise with great nervousness and trepidation, and request the indulgence customary in your Lordships' House to one making a maiden speech; I assure your Lordships that I am in great need of that indulgence to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has given us full statistics of the amount that United States visitors spent here last year. The noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, has said that the average American visitor spends here only 11 dollars a day, as against 17.4 dollars in France. Why is it that American visitors spend here only 63.2 per cent. of what they spend in France? I suggest that it is possibly due to the controls which are imposed on the purchases by foreign visitors generally of purchase-tax-free goods.

As your Lordships are aware, there are three schemes whereby these goods may be bought tax free by foreign visitors. One is the personal export scheme, which is probably the most common of all. The foreign visitor does not understand the detailed ramifications of the scheme. In fact, the memorandum of the Board of Trade goes to some twenty pages of foolscap, and only one who studies the position for a considerable time can understand it. I am certain that the average foreign visitor who is not of a legal persuasion will not spend his holiday studying those regulations. Neither does he like the delay—supposing that he has more or less figured out the scheme—while the necessary Form, PX1 or PX40, as the case may be, is prepared for his signature. That is something which takes some fifteen minutes or so, and with a bus waiting to take him on sight-seeing tours of Stratford-on-Avon, or other of our attractions, he does not feel that he can spare the time for the form to be prepared. But if he has signed a form, and has remembered to bring his passport—and I am sure that many of them forget—he discovers that he cannot take his purchases away with him. That also frustrates him. It then takes up to three or four days, depending on the port of exit and the particular shop involved, for the particular goods to be delivered to his port of departure. As the average holiday-maker stays in this country for seven days before going elsewhere, and holiday-makers of all nationalities make purchases at the last possible moment before departure, the traveller, if I may quote Damon Runyon, may be disappointed "more than some-what."

The second scheme, in effect, is the direct exports scheme, whereby goods may be sent commercially by registered supplier, if necessary to the other side of the globe. I am afraid that that is quite useless for most foreign visitors, except for large and valuable purchases, as most countries do not allow the duty-free exemption of goods unless they bring them in themselves. The third scheme is the purchase tax coupons scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, dealt with that at some length, so I will mention only two points in regard to it. The first is that all banks—branch banks, and not head offices—are notoriously reticent to give advice about the scheme. To start with, certain clerks, tellers or cashiers who are dealing with these matters do not know anything about it, and when they do know something about it they find that it is so complicated that it would take them all the morning to explain it to customers. Therefore, they try to forget about it. I understand that it is almost unknown for any clerk to suggest or offer these coupons to visitors when changing their dollars. In view of the fact that certain bank clerks do not know about it, could not coupons be issued at some other time and place than when the qualifying encashment of dollars is made? If a bank runs out of coupons—which I understand they are apt to do in certain circumstances—could not the bank cash the dollars and give a certificate or letter stating that the coupons were not issued but that the poor unsuspecting tourist is entitled to them? He could then get them at some other place or time and be able to make his purchases accordingly.

That is all I propose to say on this purchase tax coupons scheme, but there is one other small point I should like to mention before I sit down. There is a scheme whereby American and Canadian whiskies may be imported, paying full custom duties, for sale in this country for dollars to bona fide tourists. I consider this—and I am sure your Lordships will agree—an excellent scheme, considering that customs handling charges, profits and so on are fully paid, and that they are a net dollar gain to the Treasury. Could not the same scheme be extended to cover cigarettes? I understand that certain firms have already approached the Board of Trade on this subject and have received a non-committal answer. When travelling, people prefer to smoke the particular brand of tobacco or cigarette which they are in the habit of smoking; and in any country in the world one wants one's own way in regard to tobacco, if in no other matter. As I said earlier, the scheme has already been submitted to the Board of Trade, and I shall sit down in the hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to give me some encouragement in regard to it.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, the ordeal of my own maiden speech was sufficiently fresh in my mind to have enabled me to offer my condolences to the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, before he spoke. I am now in the happy position, having listened to him, to offer him my warmest congratulations upon the splendid way in which he has overcome that ordeal. The noble Viscount bears a name famed in British shipping history, and famed in the tourist trade. Furthermore, he speaks with practical experience on the tourist trade, and he has offered to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, certain suggestions of a practical, if slightly technical, nature, delivered, if I may say so, with admirable clarity, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will pay full attention to them.

I was very glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, and also my noble friend, Lord Lloyd, and the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, begin their speeches by emphasising what is right with the tourist trade before they passed on to deal with the things which they considered were wrong. I am afraid there is a tendency in the columns of the Press, in Parliament and among the public, when dealing with this complicated and rather personal subject, to emphasise one's personal grievance, to leave as read the many things which are clearly right with the industry, and to forget to emphasise the progress which has undoubtedly been made. This, I believe, has had the unfortunate result of giving the impression to foreigners and potential visitors to this country that things for the tourist are not as good as they really are. It is a disadvantage which the tourist trade fully realises and regrets, and certainly most of the tourists one meets in this country are agreeably surprised at the conditions which they find here.

I am afraid that this situation has been aggravated by a type of person of whom none of us is very fond. I think both political Parties in the House to-day—I beg your pardon, three; the Liberals are represented to-day—have been born and brought up in the school which says: "When you go abroad, whether you like His Majesty's Government or not, you do not criticise, whatever your personal views may be." I have little or no use for the man, to whatever Party he belongs, who goes abroad and tells people he meets that he does not like his own country's conditions and that he does not recommend them to visit England. If you do not like His Majesty's Government, the proper place to complain is in the polling station and by the ballot box, and not in the hotels in France. Conversely, I would say that there are those—and I am amongst them—who wish to take their holidays in France. That does not mean that you have any complaints to make with your own country: it means merely that now and again you want a little change—even from Utopia.

My noble friend Lord Lloyd has emphasised that this industry has now reached eighth place amongst our major industries. He has told us, if I heard him correctly, that £80,000,000 was earned last year by the industry. I do not think we, and certainly His Majesty's Government, quite realise how fast the tourist trade has moved up the industrial scale. If it is a major industry, then it must be treated as a major industry, and His Majesty's Government must give it the priorities and the considerations that a major industry deserves. I should like to put my argument in this way, if I may. When the motor trade manufacture a car for export for use on the continent of Europe, they put the steering wheel on the left-hand side because they know that, in their quaint way, that is where foreigners like the steering wheel in their cars. This tourist trade is an export trade, just as much as the motor industry. People come to this country from abroad and they like things different from the way we like them, in the same way that they like their steering wheel in a different place.

I do not believe that the industry, the public or His Majesty's Government are yet prepared to make those concessions. They expect foreigners to put up with the same sort of things that we, in our long years of experience, have learnt to accept from His Majesty's Government. That will not do. We cannot expect foreigners to tolerate in the same way that we do, for instance, conditions at some of the major ports of this country upon arrival. I admit that the Government and British Railways have done much to improve this state of affairs. The new Ocean Terminal at Southampton reflects great credit on all concerned. But there are many ports and harbours in this country where the arrangements for greeting foreigners are deplorable—Greenock in particular. It is not only the noble Lord's Ministry of Transport who are to blame but the Treasury as well. It is also the Foreign Office, who might one day possibly be persuaded to allow visitors from France and Belgium to dispense with passports. There are innumerable instances in which we find petty pinpricks which are spoiling, this ship for a ha'p'orth of tar. We also have to cope with our crazy licensing laws and with Mrs. Grundy at every turn.

In the Annual Report of the British Travel Association there is a reproduction of one of the excellent posters put out by that organisation. The caption says: summer lasts a long time in Great Britain. That remark may seem a little ambiguous to those who have suffered the full rigours of an English summer, but I do not wish to be cynical: we do sometimes have fine weather in the summer in England. Why not try to cater for those of our foreign visitors who are used to fine weather in the summer? There are, for instance, few places in London, and fewer in the country, where one can drink an ordinary pint of beer out of doors. Lord Lucas doubts this, I gather. I will make him an offer. I will take him out with me on the first fine evening we have and we will search for licensed premises where it is possible to drink in the open air. At each one we find we will have a drink, and I will pay. At each one where we cannot drink in the open air, he will pay. I can assure him that by the time we get home he will not be solvent and I shall not be sober.

I mentioned the Treasury just now. May I suggest to the noble Lord that he recommends to his friends at the Treasury that the exorbitant licensing duty on light table wines is a serious detriment to the hotel industry? I have so far concentrated on the smaller items in which the Government can help. There is one big way, which has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Lloyd, and that is in regard to hotel accommodation. That is a really serious disadvantage facing the tourist trade at the moment. I know that in the last year something like 1,400 additional beds were made available, but in London particularly there is still a serious shortage of hotel accommodation, and just that "little extra" would fulfil a great need. It would mean that we should not he sending away American tourists, in particular, disgruntled with some of the accommodation they have obtained. Lord Lloyd mentioned that the cost of building hotels is enormous, and that is perfectly true. But since the end of the war we have spent £35,500,000 on building offices for Government Departments. I do not want to take the parallel of this figure too far: but it is exactly the same amount that we lost on ground-nuts. Supposing even a little, say 10 per cent., of that sum had been available for building one or two extra hotels; it would have brought in a large number of dollars. It is worth while to spend a little money on hotels which might conceivably bring in thousands of dollars rather than spend this enormous sum in building Government offices which will quite certainly lose us millions of pounds.

If the noble Lord is not prepared to make any concession in this matter of building hotels will he bring his influence to bear to accelerate the de-requisitioning of hotels? I know that something has been done in this matter: at least five or six big London hotels have been vacated in the course of the last year. But there is much yet to be done. Every day as I leave my house, I pass the Great Central Hotel which is now occupied by the noble Lord's regrettable friends "Biff" and "Buff." In past days, before the railways were nationalised, they did not require the Great Central Hotel in which to do their work; it was full of travellers.

The sooner it is back to that purpose the better. As I say, I am not unmindful of the fact that His Majesty's Government have done a great deal in many respects, but there is a great deal still to do.

One of the chief grievances one finds in reading the reports put out by the British Travel and Holidays Association is the number of complaints that concern the question of food. I do not mean shortage of food, I mean the preparation: there is no getting away from the fact that for a modest sum in this country to-day you can now get quite a good meal; and for a considerable outlay you can get as good a meal as anywhere in the world. There is undoubtedly, however, in far too many English country hotels a scandalously low standard of cooking. Most of these hotels seem to have in their kitchens people who have never been trained in the art of cooking. Some of them are clearly professional saboteurs of some standing. One of our national characteristics is a reluctance to create a scene in public. If any self-respecting Frenchman were given some of the meals which we tolerate, he would ring for the manager and strangle him, pull the place apart, and leave without paying the bill. We, for our part, suffer in silence and say afterwards, "It was not too good, was it?" The badness of the cooking in some hotels should no longer be treated as a joke. It has militated strongly against the industry; and it is up to all of us who are customers to complain.

The Catering Wages Act has been discussed by more than one noble Lord. I thought when it came in that it was going to do away with the ridiculous system of tipping; but I understand that that can never be done, even by the most revolutionary Government. I thought it was going to achieve a living wage for those working in the industry without the indignity of a tip. But apparently not. I thought that when the new taxi fares came in they would assure a living wage to the drivers without the indignity of a tip; but apparently not. I thought when I bought my last hat, for which I gave three guineas, that it was an adequate price. I did not realise that it was going to cost me about another fifteen guineas to redeem it two or three times a week, when I have to pay someone behind a counter in a cloak-room to rearrange the dust on it. These things recur time and time again in the reports to which I am referring—complaints about bad cooking in some country hotels, about the system of tipping, and about the difficulty of finding what the bill is going to be because there are so many charges and surcharges and extras which are not understood by the foreigner. I have mentioned only the small things which have struck me as worthy of the noble Lord's consideration, but I think nevertheless that the industry as a whole is doing a magnificent job and I am grateful to His Majesty's Government for what they have been able to do to help. But we have to wake up to the fact that this is a major industry; and, to put it bluntly, we have to "cash in" on the good Will that this industry has stirred up throughout the world before it is too late.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, on his excellent maiden speech. He is able to speak with authority on this subject, for he knows a great deal about it. He has worked for some time in the tourist industry, and in a portion of that industry dealing with American visitors. Therefore, he knows at first hand what it is that irritates them. I hope that his very able suggestions will be carefully considered.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has also done good service in raising this very important matter this afternoon. First of all, may I say how heartily I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in condemning the person who goes about abroad, decrying our own country and the services that we provide for the tourist? In that connection, I should like to say how much I deprecate those who go about decrying the Festival of Britain. Far too many people do it. It may not be the right time to hold the Festival, but, now that it is here, I think it is a fine affair. Particularly, I have heard glowing comments about the illuminations in the West End of London. An American spoke to me only yesterday about the illuminations at Windsor Castle, which he said are some of the finest he has ever seen. There is absolutely no doubt that the limiting factor in the tourist industry is the inadequacy of suitable hotel accom- ease modation. This applies particularly to American visitors, but also to visitors from the Commonwealth and other parts of the world. A few years back the limiting factor was the number of steamships and aircraft available to bring visitors to this country; but that is no longer the case. The limiting factor now is undoubtedly the shortage of suitable hotels. The tourist trade is a tremendous asset and all of us, to whatever Party we belong, should do all we can to encourage it.

The British Tourist and Holidays Association have done tremendous work with their "Come to Britain" campaign. There is no doubt that some of their publicity and publications have been greatly admired, particularly in America, by travel agents and all connected with the tourist industry. But there is a snag. When this cry of "Come to Britain" is followed up by the American travel agents, they find that they are unable to secure the hotel reservations in London that their clients require, whereas these facilities are readily available to them in other countries, such as France, Italy and Switzerland. I am not making any idle or ill-informed statement in this regard. I propose to read to your Lordships an interesting letter which I received the other day from a well-known American travel agent who is on the Council of the American Society of Travel Agents, and on whom I called at his home in the Middle West last year. This is what he says: Frankly, Lord Gifford, our real problem in London to-day is the matter of hotel accommodations. We have a peculiar anachronism in that Britain has spent thousands and thousands of dollars to promote American travel to England and now has reached a point where they cannot begin to accommodate American overseas guests. I have just returned from a 38-day conducted tour of California and Hawaii, and along the line I visited with a number of agents—including ATI members—I find that the American Agency viewpoint is all the same: 'What's the use of sending business to England…we can't get a break on hotel accommodation.' By this they mean that the English visitor from outside of London is getting the greater percentage of rooms which. of course, under normal conditions, is as it should be. But it's no help to us here in the States who have been besieged by the British Tourist and Holiday Board to 'sell Britain,' if they have no place to slay. You have travelled enough and you know our countrymen well enough to realise that there are only certain types of hotels that the American will be happy in, and almost invariably he requires rooms with private bath and the other amenities he has been so accustomed to. In short, if he can't get them then he would prefer to forgo his visit entirely —at least in so far as England is concerned. That is a very outspoken and thinking letter. This same travel agent goes on to ask me if I can help him to find accommodation for his own agency and a large group of other agencies. Much as I am anxious to have this business—it would be very good business—I do not know that I can. I am thinking the matter over, and hope to do something. But here is this dollar business from America being offered to me "on a plate," and I cannot accept it because I cannot find the type of hotel rooms that this man wants.

I am not being unduly critical of our hotels. I do not deny that in some ways the American hotel hay considerable disadvantages compared with ours. An American hotel is very impersonal. One feels like a cipher, a number; there is not the personal service. Personal service is the great thing that Americans loved in this country in the past. As others have said, we are in danger of losing it because of certain provisions of the Catering and Wages Act. I would repeat what I said a few months ago in this House: that you cannot train hotel guests to eat and sleep in shifts. They do require meals and services at odd times. A considerable amount has been done this year to assist in solving this problem, but sometimes the effort is spoilt by a foolish economy or mistake.

A fairly large hotel was derequisitioned and released for American visitors a few months ago. I took my client there, and showed him to his suite; and he wanted to make a toll call. I rang down to the switchboard at three o'clock in the afternoon, which is not a very busy time. I was told: "Oh, there will be half an hour's delay on the hotel switchboard before you can get a toll call." I made a few inquiries and found that the manager had strongly represented that, for a 250-bed hotel, he required a two-position switch-board where two operators could work together. The Post Office said: "No. For 200 rooms, a one-position switchboard is adequate. That is all we are going, to give you." I brought this matter to the notice of Sir Alexander Maxwell, and the matter was rectified within a week; but for three months that hotel had been losing face and reputation with American businessmen because it was impossible to obtain an efficient telephone service. That is obvious. This hotel was opened, and it was ruined by a certain Government Department who thought they knew better than the hotel management.

I feel that the hotels themselves must accept some blame for the difficulties of the American travel agent and the travel agent in this country. They are not as helpful as they should be to the agent. An American travel agent writes in for accommodation at a London hotel and is told that there are no rooms available. His client himself writes in from his private address and gets the rooms he wants. The same thing happens in London. A travel agent rings up and learns that there are no rooms available. His client, who has been in his office a few moments before, walks across the road, goes into the hotel and gets the rooms. We must have greater co-operation with our hotels. It is not the fault of the people at the top, the management; it is the fault of the desk clerks who have a gramophone formula: "No rooms available," when one rings up. There must be greater co-operation between the travel agent, the travel industry and the hotels on that point.

I have very little more to say. Other noble Lords have mentioned the licensing laws. I should like particularly to call attention to one point which has been mentioned before. To my mind a twenty-four hour licence at international airports is absolutely essential. Time means nothing to a traveller by air; his watch goes back three hours or forward four hours. How can he possibly know, whether it is six o'clock, or what time it is? It is essential, when a traveller lands after a bumpy or bad journey, and perhaps is not feeling too fit, that he should be able to get alcoholic refreshment. Certain features arranged in connection with the Festival of Britain have, been extremely popular, and I hope will be continued. I hope that the Pleasure Gardens and the riverside restaurants will continue to function. They have been very attractive to visitors, and I think that is the point that should be seriously considered. The Edinburgh Festival is a great institution, which everybody wants to visit, and I understand that this year's Dickens pageant at Rochester was a great success, and might be repeated as another feature which people will come to every year.

If I may, I should like to conclude by reading Sir Alexander Maxwell's words, because I think they sum up the position. These are his remarks at the annual general meeting of the British Travel and Holidays Association last week: Expenditure on tourist promotion and tourist services is, we feel sure, almost as important and as essential to-day as expenditure on defence. I am sure you are convinced—and I hope you will make it your business to see that your friends and neighbours are convinced, and help us to see that the Government are equally convinced—that there can be no let-up in our determination to develop tourist resources. The tourist movement does not throw any great strain on our raw material position, nor clash with defence priorities in demanding goods and services which are in short supply. It is, however, one of the few industries which can bring us more and more foreign currencies. I feel that those words sum up the situation much better than I can. That is why I quote them in concluding my remarks.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Lucas will not complain either that this subject has been raised or of the temper and tone in which the discussion so far has taken place. I feel that this is one of the best debates we have had. It has been in no sense political. I do not think any speaker has attempted to "get at" the Government, although in certain respects a great many have been somewhat critical. I do not think that there can be any complaint of that criticism. I find myself in a good deal of agreement with what has been said. I cannot speak as an expert on this subject. Like most of your Lordships, I have had a great deal of experience as a consumer in hotels, so I can speak from that angle.

I think that the greatest difficulty with which we have to contend to-day, in our fight to secure a bigger tourist trade, is the shortage of accommodation. This shortage extends not only to London but to all the larger areas where we want to attract tourist trade. Every noble Lord here knows such places as Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford-on-Avon, Edinburgh and so on. The difficulty of getting any kind of accommodation in a place like Oxford is unbelievable. To have these lovely places and to advertise them to the world as places for people to come to—"Come and see our unique treasures"—and then not to be able to give people a bed, or, may I say, a cup of tea, is an impossible state of affairs. At times have found extreme difficulty in getting a cup of tea at Oxford, not only at five past five but at the normal time that most people want their tea. In regard to lunch, I have found that in places like Oxford, Chester and many parts of the country, it is useless to expect to get any lunch unless you have booked a day or two ahead. It may have been my unfortunate experience, but this has been the case over and over again. What we need, therefore, first of all, is additional accommodation.

I am sure every one of us attaches value to the tourist trade. It is an exceptionally easy form of export, and in the way of authorising capital expenditure I think we ought to treat the tourist trade at least as well as we should treat an industry which desires to incur capital development. Therefore, one of the first things that we ought to permit is the building of new hotels, or the enlargement or improvement of existing hotels. I agree most cordially with everything which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said about facilities for providing licences to build or to expand. We should go out of our way to give every encouragement to existing and prospective hotel proprietors either to enlarge existing premises or to provide new premises.

Other suggestions have been made throughout the debate upon which I do not wish particularly to comment, as I have no particular contribution to make about them; but prima facie they are all worthy of serious consideration; and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Lucas will give an undertaking that they will be properly and adequately considered. I thought it right that I should say that and, having done so, I should like now to say that so far every speaker seems to me to have concentrated rather on what the Government can do to help, whereas not much has been said about what the hoteliers themselves can do. After all, they have a great contribution to make. I accept the fact that the Government can help a good deal, but there are defects in the hotel industry to-day. I am not suggesting that they are unique or confined to this country. I have just come back from Paris, where, unfortunately, I struck the 2,000th anniversary of the foundation of the City; and, as a result, the place was rather overcrowded. I had to take what accommodation I could, and I am sure that in a third-rate provincial town we could find as good accommodation as I was offered in one of the principal parts of Paris, where there was a lack of amenity, cleanliness and everything else.

I cordially agree with Lord Mancroft about what people say abroad, but I would say also that, while there is a tendency to assume that everything provided abroad is wonderful and first-class, in comparison with what we provide in our own country, equally, all the defects that we have were can be found abroad. On the other hand, the general standard in a great many parts of the world is somewhat higher than here. To a certain extent the trouble in this country seems to lie in the fact that psychologically we are not cut out to be hotel proprietors. There seems to be a feeling that there is something humiliating in taking in lodgers. The attitude in many instances may perhaps be expressed in this way: "We have seen better days. We were the boys who used to go abroad. Other people used to entertain us, and we have come down in the world." That is not the right way to look at the matter. After all, we have—and I say this with the greatest fervency—the loveliest country in the world. We have an immense number of architectural and historical treasures, which we ought to be proud to show. After I have been round museums in other cities I always return to London, and I have come to the conclusion that London is the finest city in the world—even architecturally. I admit that there is a lot of improvement required in its layout, but we have more wonderful buildings in London, and we have finer museums in London, than are to be found in any other place in the world. And I do not think we are sufficiently proud of these things. We do not adequately announce them to the world, and, at times, we, seem even to be rather ashamed of displaying what we have got.

That kind of psychology (it is not universal, of course) is often reflected in what happens in hotels. People are not received with that welcome which they get elsewhere. Frequently they are made to feel that it could not matter less whether they were received or not; they are treated in an offhand way; the accommodation is not good. With my wife, I stayed in an hotel in the North of England about a year ago. We were given one towel between us.


You were lucky.


When I suggested that this was somewhat inadequate, I was regarded as if I were making the most unreasonable request imaginable. And this was at an hotel which had been recommended to me as a suitable centre from which to visit one of the national parks of England. I think those concerned ought to do better than that.

Reference has already been made in the debate to the subject of food, and I agree with the line taken by some of the speakers. I do not think we ought to try to emulate in our own hotels French-style cooking or Italian-style cooking—or any other style, for that matter. We have our own style of cooking, and we can ourselves make a great contribution to the culinary arts. The best English cooking is as good as the best cooking of any other country. When we compare British cooking, to its great disadvantage, with other types of cooking, we are comparing bad British cooking with good foreign cooking. I repeat that the best English cooking is quite as good as, and can stand any comparison with, the best cooking of any other country. I sugest that we ought to take a great deal of trouble to expand our facilities for training in cookery, so that the foreign visitor, when he comes here, can see what we can do, not in emulating the French or the Italians—because that is the kind of cooking found to-day in the first-class London hotels—but in providing our own type of cooking. Then there is the matter of service. It has to be admitted that in many places in this country service is not given in the willing, ungrudging way that it is given in hotels in such countries as Switzerland, where the people have been highly trained in their work.

These, I suggest, are a few of the matters with which the industry itself must deal. I do not want to give the impression that in my view British hotels are universally bad. Of course, they are not. We have some delightful hotels—I could give your Lordships a long list of them, and included in that list would be establishments in places all over the country. But there certainly are some pretty bad ones. The industry is right to appeal to the Government to help it in every way possible—including a review of the Catering Wages Act. There is nothing sacrosanct about that Act. It was passed with the best of intentions, but at this stage I think it is right to have a look at it again; to see whether we are not killing the industry with kindness. Nevertheless, I think much more stress ought to be laid on what the industry is able to do to help itself.

There are two matters which struck me in the course of the debate upon which I should like just to touch, because they are indicative of the point that I am trying to make with regard to the necessity for the industry helping itself. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, referred to places that he knew where you could not get tea at five minutes past five o'clock—I imagine that you can, but let us put the time at half past five. What he said may be true, but it was equally true before the Catering Wages Act was passed. Before the war, I had occasion to travel a great deal up and down the country, and I had a note of the limited number of hotels—separated by distances of fifty miles or more in some cases—where you could obtain a meal after eight o'clock. There were some establishments at which you could get a cold meal between eight o'clock and half past nine, and some where you could not get a meal of any kind after eight o'clock. This, as I say, was before the war. I think, therefore, that it is unfair to assume that all our present-day troubles are due to the Catering Wages Act. It may be a convenient peg upon which to hang arguments, but I think it has been the subject of overstatement.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, gave us some interesting figures relating to the expenditure of American tourists in this country, as compared with their expenditure in other countries. May I offer him this suggestion, which I hope he will find interesting? During the few days that I spent in France last week, I came to the conclusion that prices, in Paris at any rate, were about 40 to 50 per cent. higher than they are in London. That applies to hotel charges, food and so on. Is that not the real explanation of the difference in expenditure—that people are getting the same service facilities in this country at a cost something like 40 per cent. less than that in France. Does that not explain the difference in expenditure of Americans in the two countries? I am sure that in a great many respects that is true. And, of course, it is a fact which ought to add to the attractions of this country. I think it would, if only we had the accommodation to offer. I would therefore make my appeal to the Government that, apart from considering all the proposals that have been put forward —and I am sure that my noble friend will do so—we should seriously consider the question of providing, on as large a scale as necessary, additional hotel accommodation, not only in London but throughout the country.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support my noble friend, Lord Lloyd, I propose to concern myself with only one general aspect of this vital matter —and that, primarily, from the point of view of Scotland, where, in spite of arguments which have been advanced to the contrary, I believe that a special problem exists. My subject is the effect on the small hotel keeper of the Catering Wages Act, with the consequent repercussions on the overseas visitor and British holiday maker. I know that this subject has already been gone into at some length today and hat I am to a considerable extent only emphasising and underlining points which have already been made by noble Lords who have spoken before me, but I do not offer an apology for this seeming repetition for the very reason that these points have been made time and time again in your Lordships' House and in another place and yet little has been done about it, except, as we have been told this afternoon, for a slight amelioration of the "spread-over" regulations in hotels of under thirty-five bedrooms. Therefore, I feel justified in harping on the subject. I want to make it clear that I am not advocating sweated labour, nor am I in favour of unreasonable wages or unfavourable working conditions for hotel employees: but there is a happy medium in all things and I think this happy medium could easily be found without injustice to hotel workers.

Before the passing of the Act, hotel workers were not really too badly off. Admittedly many of them worked longer hours than they work now, but those who worked the longer hours profited from the greater proportion of tips. They are to a considerable extent a nomadic population, who move from place to place following the peak of holiday traffic. If they wished, they could take time off between jobs, apart from the full days off which they enjoyed during their employment. I do not think that the Catering Wages Act has proved particularly popular with many of these people. Take the incredible fact that the basic wage scale was worked out without considering the scale of tipping and has resulted in the earnings of one section of employees remaining much the same as they were before, whereas another section can earn more than their minimum wage in tips. This has led to much discontent. Furthermore, the fact that smaller hotels cannot possibly be run economically if overtime is paid results in members of the staff being refused permission to work just at the time when they could expect, the most substantial tips. This is also a source of grievance.

I trust it is not thought that my arguments are outside the terms of the Motion and that I am merely putting in a plea for the improvement of the lot of the hotel keeper. All I have said reflects on the amenities enjoyed by the guests—that is, the dollar-bringing overseas visitor and the British holiday maker. Here may I say that the British holiday-maker is entitled to consideration as well as the dollar-bearer. Noble Lords speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government have frequently, and quite rightly, stressed the wonderful job of work which has been done by the people of this country in the years since the war. It is no great boon to them to take their holidays at an hotel where the service is poor or bad and at times scarcely exists at all. My point is that a happy and contented staff, enjoying maximum tips, give better service than a stall forcibly prevented from working when they want to, particularly at times when they have nothing better to do. For instance, waiters and chamber-maids are sent off duty at 8.30 p.m. in a small town or country district. They are too late for the cinema and can only walk about or sit in their rooms until it is time to go to bed.

May I consider all this for a moment from the point of view of the service which the visitor gets or, should I say, does not get? With hours of work and overtime rates of pay being what they are, it is now usually the case in small hotels that no service is available in the early morning before 7.30—not even early morning tea—and no service is available in the dining room after 8.30 at night. It is not only a question of overtime to waiters. If a meal is served after that hour, the kitchen staff must be kept on, and that means overtime for at least a chef and an assistant, a kitchen porter or a kitchen maid. In some small hotels it is already a custom to display a notice giving the times when no service is available. Picture the reactions of an American visitor, accustomed to a 24-hour hotel service, at treatment of this sort; and picture also the sort of advertisement he would give us to his friends when he returned to his native land.

Admittedly, the overseas tourist traffic has increased year by year since the war, and no doubt, with the attraction of the Festival of Britain, the figure for 1951 will be higher still. But I submit that this is due partly to the natural desire of people to travel after the frustrations of the war, partly to the relaxation of currency restrictions and partly to the devaluation of the pound, and is in spite of, and not because of, the service in our hotels. I believe that unless we do something to improve these matters, the overseas tourist traffic will tend to fall off after 1951 and domestic holiday-makers will turn more and more to camps and boarding houses and to the hospitality of their friends, where that is possible, at the expense of hotels.

It is easy to obtain statistics of the number of overseas visits to our shores in any one year, but I should be extremely interested to know the number of visitor-days spent, and hence the number of dollars spent, in this country compared with the number of visitor-days and dollars which would have been spent if our smaller hotels were anything like the equal of, say, their Swiss counterparts. The scenery in many parts of Britain—and may I be allowed to say, particularly in Scotland—is unsurpassed, but I cannot believe that the present standard of our small hotel service is any inducement to visitors to stop and enjoy it. In passing, I would add that my wife and I go to Switzerland for a few days every spring to walk in the mountains, and one of the high-lights of our trips has always been the treatment we invariably receive in the small hotels in the Swiss mountain villages. I am not talking about unrationed meat supplies, but about the courtesy and friendliness with which we are greeted by the staff and the manager and his wife.

The manager of a hotel plays an important part in the scheme of things. Just as the efficiency of a Service unit, whether a warship or battalion, depends on the character, ability and hard work of the commanding officer, so the smooth-running and efficiency of the service of a hotel depends on the ability of the manager and the amount of time he can devote to the welfare of his guests. Before the passing of the Catering Wages Act, a large part of the time of an hotel manager was spent in supervising the work of the various departments in his hotel and in personal contact with his guests. May I tell your Lordships about a few of the duties now expected of a manager of a small hotel of, say, twelve bedrooms? Apart from making himself conversant with a mass of orders and regulations and filling in forms connected with fuel and rations, he has to spend, roughly, about five hours a week working out the extremely complicated wage scales and filling in the wages books of his staff. Almost invariably he then has to interview privately individual members of his staff who do not agree with his calculations. Having myself looked at the wage scale and the wages books, I do not see how either the manager or the employee arrives at any figure at all.

Apart from all this, the manager of an hotel must be prepared to receive at any hour, and without previous warning, visits from any of the following: (1) the police, who are concerned with drunkenness, betting, sale of liquor after hours, sale of liquor to young persons, the harbouring of prostitutes, and various other subjects; (2) Ministry of Food officials, who search the premises for illegal stocks of food and investigate other breaches of the regulations; (3) officials of the wages inspectorate, who interview members of the staff with a view to unearthing any irregular practices to do with hours worked and overtime received and who then check their findings with entries in the wages books; (4) local sanitary inspectors, concerned with the handling of food and drinks, washing up, lavatory sanitation and so forth; (5) the magistrates themselves, who often pay a visit before licences are renewed; (6) inspectors of weights and measures, and (7) Shops Hours Act inspectors, whose visits are not uncomplicated by the fact that these gentlemen come under the Home Office, whereas the Catering Wages Act is the concern of the Minister of Labour. When one considers all the above, it is small wonder that the hotel manager has little time left to run his hotel efficiently and look after the comfort of his guests: and that, surely, is his primary consideration. It is also small wonder to me that a friend of mine, who recently travelled out to Gibraltar in a Union Castle liner, told me that one of the chief topics of conversation among his fellow passengers, who were for the most part residents of South Africa, was the discomfort and lack of reasonable service in our smaller country hotels, and that the next time they came back they were either going to the Continent, or would spend a considerable portion of their dine there.

All that I have said in regard to small hotels refers to hotels generally throughout the country, but I maintain that in many cases these problems are accentuated in Scotland. I feel sure that there is a lesser proportion of hotels in England and Wales which have to cope with the problem of the very early or very late arrival or departure of trains, and particularly of boats such as those which carry the tourist traffic to the Western Isles. There is also the question of motor traffic which, owing to the kind of roads and the many ferries which are met with in Western Scotland, results in car passengers arriving at hotels at odd hours. I know of one hotel in Scotland which before the war was operated successfully by two middle-aged ladies. It was a pleasant place at which to stop. The service was good, the staff were polite and cheerful, and, I am sure, contented with their lot.

The complexities of life under the Catering Wages Act were too much for these ladies, and they sold out. I have been back there on one occasion since, and it is a changed place; the atmosphere is quite different, and I do not propose to return again.

In conclusion, I believe that the answer for Scotland is a Scottish Catering Wages Board. If this were agreed to, then no doubt Wales would demand one also; but the case for Wales could be separately considered on its own merits. I know that this plan for Scotland has been previously considered and rejected. I realise that the Scottish hotel industry were not unanimous in stating a desire for a separate Scottish Board, but the majority in favour was overwhelming—some 85 per cent., with 10 per cent. neutral. Last October the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, intimated that the matter was purely one for the Catering Wages Commission, and was outside the orbit of Parliament. May I respectfully ask if there are now any new developments, or if the position remains virtually unchanged? I myself am wholly opposed to Scottish nationalism, and I consider that the answer to nationalism is devolution. I would respectfully submit to your Lordships that in this instance devolution could do nothing but good, and would bring great benefits to the tourist and holidays industry in Scotland.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I will confine myself briefly to one point, on which my noble friend Lord De La Warr has already touched as a general point. I refer to the English Lake District, which, after all, is a centre second to none in its attraction to tourists. As your Lordships will be aware, for a great number of years the Lake District has been, in fact if not in name, a national park. It has only recently acquired the name of "national park," but for many years it has attracted visitors and tourists from far and wide; from overseas, and from our great industrial centres, men and women have gone there in vast numbers for rest and recreation. They come by car, coach and bicycle, and to-day, occasionally, on horseback, while an increasing number come on foot. If mention these details in order to emphasise the fact that the large number of individuals who come to the Lake District range from one end of the income scale to the other. But one thing they all have in common: they all need to be fed.

Those of your Lordships who have visited the Lake District, particularly before the war, will realise what I mean when I say that the fare offered by the Lake District in the past is famous. The Cumberland ham is as proverbial as the Aylesbury duck or the Stilton cheese. In days gone by, a traveller, however remote his destination, and however late or unexpected his arrival, could always rely on a substantial meal of ham and eggs. Today, unfortunately, that is not so. It was possible in the past, because in days gone by the innkeepers and hotel-keepers maintained their own pigs. Under to-day's restrictions that is no longer possible. It is true that an hotel-keeper, like any one of your Lordships, can keep (I think it is) a couple of pigs a year; and it may be to his advantage to do so. But he cannot use them for his customers. If he wants to use on a large scale the swill that is made from his hotel—and I can call to mind one individual who before the war used to keep no fewer than sixty pigs in this way—he can do so. But even so, he has to hand over to the authorities the meat from his pigs, and only a relatively small part can he keep, again, not for his customers, but for himself and his own staff.

Naturally, I have asked on more than one occasion: "Why is there this restriction?" The answer that I have invariably received is that it would be unfair to make any distinction for hotel and innkeepers on something that is not available to everyone else. But if it is unfair, who is going to suffer? It is not a question of feedingstuffs, because the food is already there in the form of swill. I am given to understand that the hotel-keepers in the district would be only too ready to give up their bacon coupons if they were allowed to keep pigs. So that is not the answer. But what is the result? It is not merely that the rambler is unable to get his meal of ham and eggs, but that, in a number of cases, he is in danger of not getting a meal at all. With the alternative supplies of food—particularly meat —and the high cost, it is becoming increasingly less worth while for the smaller establishments (and I have par- ticularly in mind not only the small inns, but also the smaller estabishments still, the small hill farmers who have a sideline of catering) even to hold a catering licence. As a result these establishments are giving up their licence; to the serious disadvantage of the traveller.

This seems to me to be a surprising situation. Your Lordships will remember that under Section 12 of the National Parks Act the planning authority in a national park are empowered to make arrangements for securing the provision, in their area, of accommodation, meals and refreshment. Evidently the framers of the Act thought it so important that they laid it down in the Act that the planning authority should also have the right, compulsorily, to acquire land for providing catering establishments where they were necessary and where existing places were inadequate. Yet, as I have tried to demonstrate to your Lordships, the trend in this district, whatever it may be elsewhere, seems to be in the reverse direction. I cannot help thinking that this is another case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing; of one Government Department being unaware of the efforts and intentions of another. Therefore, in supporting my noble friend Lord Lloyd, I earnestly hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will be able to give some assurance that this point will be looked into, because it will make a great difference to the provision of meals for travellers of all types who visit the Lake District.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the Motion so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Lloyd—who I think has rendered a great service to your Lordships' House in raising this important subject to-day—I shall be very brief, because much of the ground has been so ably covered by previous speakers. Before doing so, I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, on a very able maiden speech. I well remember when I had to make my maiden speech in this House before the war. It is a vast space, and to make a maiden speech here is no easy ordeal. I think the noble Viscount overcame that ordeal very well.

I should like to say at once that tremendous efforts have been made by the British catering trade in recent years, with great success, and I do not want in any way to suggest that they have not done a good job. But the job is only half complete, and it is extremely important, in my humble opinion, owing to the falling off of the favourable balance of trade through the rearmament programme in this country—about half the amount of coal has been exported this year as last—to try and further increase this alternative industry. We have a very important industry in this country in the catering trade, and I feel that it could be greatly extended. Being privileged to visit the United States of America and Canada a few years ago, I found that there were a large number of people there of moderate means who, if facilities were available for them at reasonable cost, would like to visit this country. But, as has previously been said by both the noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, one of the greatest problems in this country to-day is the lack of bedroom and bathroom accommodation. That applies not only to London, where great efforts have been made to increase it and where it is short enough, as everybody knows. There are other great cities, such as Edinburgh, which Americans would like to visit in August and September for the great Festival of Music, but it is practically impossible to get a room there. In other great cities, such as Cambridge or Oxford, it is again impossible to get a room.

My noble friend Lord Gifford rightly said that it is no use spending a lot of money in boosting a "Come to Britain" campaign if we cannot accommodate the visitors. To give your Lordships one small example, in my home town of Newmarket, which, as your Lordships know, is the home of racing, one of our hotels was completely destroyed during the war. It has lain derelict for four years, and I understand that the proprietors have been unable to persuade His Majesty's Government to give them a licence to rebuild. That goes on throughout the whole country, and if we are to increase this industry licences must be given to build new hotels to cater for visitors of moderate means, and also to extend the existing bedroom and bathroom accommodation. That is what our American and Canadian friends want. They want comfortable bedroom and bathroom accommodation; and their standards are pretty high in their own countries.

I should like to touch upon the question of food. As has been rightly said by previous speakers, we have our own great specialities in food, when they are obtainable. There is the wonderful "roast beef of old England," lamb and so on, but it is extremely difficult to get those great English dishes. I am credibly informed that those engaged in the catering industry to-day (I have no connection with it) have great difficulty in producing good cooking because they cannot get the good ingredients to do that cooking. You cannot do good cooking unless you can get fresh eggs and butter, a certain amount of cream and good quality fats. Those ingredients are very much lacking. There was a certain relaxation for two months this summer with regard to eggs and cream, but they have again gone back on the ration. With the best will in the world we cannot produce dishes unless we are given the ingredients.

As was said previously, we are extremely short of good cooks. Much valuable work was done by the London County Council before the war in setting up a school in London for training both cooks and waiters. I do not know whether that exists to-day, but if not I hope that it will be re-started, because we must have more well-trained cooks and waiters. At the same time, I should like to appeal to His Majesty's Government to show a little more leniency in allowing French chefs to enter this country. After all, France is the home of good cooking, and before the war taught us a lot about running our restaurant cars. Our restaurant cars are nothing like so good as the French cars. I hope that some relaxation will be made, because I understand that we are extremely short of first-class chefs. I am credibly informed that the difference in wages between a good chef and a good waiter is very small—only about 20s. The waiter has the advantage of getting tips, and the chef has not. If anything, I think the balance is too much in favour of the waiter, which naturally does not encourage the chefs.

In conclusion, I should like to make one point in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, has put very forcibly to your Lordships, about the greater increase in tourist traffic on the Continent in comparison with that to this country. Two days ago I was reading the monthly economic review of tile great American paper, the New York Herald Tribune. In this monthly review a report is made of the O.E.E.C. research on tourist traffic in the last few years in Western European countries receiving Marshall Aid. The result of their studies, they say, is that for every dollar earned by the Western European countries, at least twenty-five cents is earned from the tourist traffic. That is a very large sum of money. It amounts to 370,000,000 dollars, and if all goes well for Europe, and if there is no trouble during the next few years, by 1952 they hope to bring it up to 480,000,000 dollars. That is a very large increase, and a much greater increase in proportion than we are making in this country. I heartily agree that if we are to achieve this extra trade, His Majesty's Government must try to give us more licences to increase our hotel accommodation, and must try to make it easier for the hotelier to secure those provisions for good cooking which we so much desire.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to detain you for more than a few minutes, but I want to congratulate noble Lords behind me on the very cogent points that they have made in their speeches. I should particularly like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Furness, on the magnificent way in which he carried off his maiden oration from the heights above me. We desire for every family in this country an annual change of air and occupation; and I for one greatly welcome the holidays-with-pay arrangement which has been the rule rather than the exception since the War. A man, of course, needs a change of occupation, but he can have his holiday just as well digging in his back garden, away from his factory, as he can at the seaside or elsewhere. The housewife, however, wants a change of occupation which involves a complete relief from the problems of cooking and catering; and that is why it is so important to make it possible for the ordinary English family to be able to take its holiday, right away by the seaside or somewhere, once a year.

I do not believe every figure I see in the newspapers, but the other day I did cut out an article from the Sunday Graphic in which it was stated that, while 25,000,000 of our people—that is half the population—were able to go to the seaside last year, probably only 18,000,000 would be able to go this year, Why is that? The answer is, of course, the rise in the cost. The cost of living has risen so appallingly for the people who were in the habit of going away that this year it is doubtful whether they will be able to go at all. It might be thought that their difficulties were due to the high cost of accommodation, but that is not so. I am assured that the small private hotel or lodging-house, to which the class of person whom we might call the lower income tax-payer was in the habit of going, before the war charged from three to four guineas a week. To-day the same accommodation is available for from six and a half to seven guineas a week. In other words the small lodging-house keeper or small hotelier is not trying to make too much out of the position. In fact, he is fighting a losing battle because, even at these prices, he finds that his customers cannot afford to come. He is finding that those who came for two weeeks are, in many cases, able to stay for only one week. And what is. perhaps, of great significance—one of them told me this the other day—is that the tips have almost vanished. Last week nine persons left his house, and among them they tipped the staff one pound. The previous week eighteen persons left, and among them they tipped the staff ten shillings. They were all people of what I should call the lower income tax paying group. In other words, these people just cannot afford to do it.

On so bare a margin, the hotel-keeper, who has a high season of only ten weeks, and a low season of three weeks or so on each side of it, must have some other source of income—some business, or pension, or something of that sort. Otherwise, it is impossible for him to keep going. Moreover prices are still rising. What his future is going to be I simply cannot prognosticate. But it is clear from those facts that it is all the more important that the concessions which my noble friends have asked for on behalf of hotels generally should be given to these people, lest they have either to price themselves out of the market or give up business because they are unable to make both ends meet. Another symptom of the prevailing lack of money is the great popularity of tents and caravans. It is no doubt very healthy to sleep in the open air, but it does not provide the housewife with that change to which she is entitled. She still has to go on cooking; and I do not know that cooking over an oil stove on a rainy night is any more pleasant than cooking on a range in her own kitchen.

I would enter a plea on behalf of the local specialities. The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, mentioned the ham and eggs of Cumberland. Well, my Lords, my guess is that the Cumberland ham is going to be served out of Polish tins this season. But there are specialities everywhere, and I am hoping that there may be more freedom in the way of cheeses and so on, which visitors would much appreciate. Talking of local specialities, I am surprised that in a debate of this length our old friend the railway buffet has not been mentioned. In many countries, even in the backwoods of South America, the railway buffet is an attractive place with a large variety of excellent local food. To-day, I can still, figuratively, taste a chicken which I ate in a French railway station. Can any of your Lordships remember the taste of any single dish which he had in any establishment on a British railway station? If so, I should be pleased to try it.

Some time ago, in your Lordships' House, I suggested that the state of the catering in the stations on what is now known as the Southern Region would not bear comparison with the catering in the other regions. I suggested that the members of the Railway Executive should be put out to live on the country for a fortnight, and predicted that they would soon confirm my statement. Since then, so far as I can judge, there has been no change whatsoever in the comparative state of the two systems, from which I can only conclude that those members of the Railway Executive who went to live on the country have not returned. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will try to do something about this matter, because the Southern Railway is the one on which three-quarters of our foreign visitors make their first acquaintance with Britain. The ordinary visitor who comes, with a pack on his back or a suitcase in his hand, eats at the railway buffet; he does not go to the Savoy or the Ritz. Other noble Lords have stressed the importance of this industry at the moment. I would say that the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation believe that by 1952 every American visitor to Europe will spend 1,000 dollars. They hope that there will be 400,000 visitors, which means 400,000,000 dollars. But upon the steps which it is possible for the hotel and catering industry, with the help of His Majesty's Government, to take between now and then, will depend what proportion of that 400,000,000 dollars is spent in Britain and what proportion is spent on the Continent.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, this debate has been both critical and constructive—critical, as I expected it to be, and at which I have no complaint; and constructive, as I knew it would be when the standard was set by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who, if he will allow me respectfully to say so, made an excellent speech in every respect. Before I attempt to reply, may I say two things? First, I should like to convey to your Lordships an apology from my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor who wanted very much to be here this afternoon, interested as he is in this subject, being President of the British Travel and Holidays Association. Secondly, I should like to offer my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, on an excellent maiden speech. I hope he will summon up his courage on many other occasions to give us the benefit of his advice.

I join with my noble friend Lord Silkin in saying how grateful I am that other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have taken their lead from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. This has not been a political debate. It has been a debate at a high level upon something in which we are all interested, and where we want to do the best we can for an industry which is proving such a valuable asset to us at the present time. I think that we should perhaps study in some detail the successes of that industry, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said, over 603,000 visitors came to the United Kingdom in 1950. That number will be exceeded in 1951, and it was itself an increase of 10 per cent. over 1949, and was well over the pre-war record of 491,000 in 1937. Also, 77,000 foreign visitors passed through the country. The figures that I have given do not, of course, include any tourists from the Irish Republic, whom we cannot count. In 1950, 124,000 American tourists arrived here, while the previous record was 117,000. The total of money spent by the visitors in 1950 was £58,400,000—and we are all interested in this industry. No less than £22,300,000, representing approximately 61,000,000 dollars, was spent by American and Canadian visitors. That was not too bad, was it? It was not a failure. In spite of some of the shortcomings of our hotel industry, our visitors seemed to find satisfaction some-where, since they left 61,000,000 dollars behind.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, made many points other than the main points of which he was courteous enough to give me prior notice. He made one or two other general points, one of which was that he wondered why so many people were taking their holidays out of this country. He asked whether it was because we could not offer hotel accommodation? I have come to the conclusion that a very large number of people who take their holidays abroad have never yet troubled to explore the beauties of their own country. They do it from a "snob" incentive. They like then to parade their suitcases plastered with Continental labels in front of their friends. I cannot think of any other reason why they should go, because, unless somebody has a substantial bank balance and is willing to go to the Continent for a very short time, he must find it purgatory counting through his cash reserves to see whether they are matching the time he is spending away. While foreign holidays may give one some new outlook, foreign hotels also present one with a sizeable bill at the end of one's stay. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and one or two other noble Lords, in saying that there are places in this country—my favourite holiday ground is Scotland—that can compare for amenity and attraction with anything offered by the Continent of Europe.

When we get down to the problems that have been so ably put forward by various noble Lords, we must take into consideration that it is a question of priority. During 1950, 317 licences, to a total value of £1,900,000, were issued for the building of new hotels and the extension of existing hotels. Frankly, that is the limit to which we could go in our investment programme. Of that amount, £281,000 went to Scotland, £69,000 to Wales and £1,550,000 to England. That was the split-up of the £1,900,000 which we could grant. It may be highly desirable to double and treble the number of licences granted, because there is no lack of willingness among speculators to build hotels. That was the question which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd: Are people willing to erect hotels?

The answer is that applications were made for covering £4,000,000 licences for hotel building and extension, which is exactly twice the amount that we could accommodate in the investment programme. The answer to Lord Lloyd's problem about maintenance is the same: we have to cut our coat according to our cloth when it comes to building materials and labour. It is the old, old story to which your Lordships are getting so used nowadays. It becomes monotonous in the telling, but it does not lose anything at all in truth. We cannot have a £4,700,000,000 rearmament programme and an export drive and at the same time as many hotels as we should like. After all, it all depends upon what priority is given to these projects. His Majesty's Government may be quite wrong, but they say that they think it would be in the national interest to spend the other £2,000,000 in some other direction; and so in 1950 the capital expenditure on new hotel building and expansion was limited to about £2,000,000.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, also asked me about these grants schemes. As he explained, there were two such schemes. One was for relief from purchase tax on initial equipment and the other was for relief from purchase tax on maintenance. I am not going into the details; noble Lords are as well acquainted with them as I am. He asked me whether we were going to continue those schemes. The answer to that is that we are not. The schemes were introduced for an experimental period of twelve months only. If your Lordships wish, I could go into the matter of how many applications were received, how many were accepted, and the amount of purchase tax which was refunded; but experience has shown us that this scheme has proved to be of little incentive to hoteliers. In working these schemes we have accumulated a good deal of experience in relation to the inner workings of industry, and we have found that, although by the process of application hoteliers can get back purchase tax paid on equipment, in a very large number of cases they prefer to buy utility goods. Whether utility goods are good or bad, in the opinion of the bulk of hoteliers they are good enough for the purpose for which they are wanted; and the hoteliers do not buy the non-utility goods upon which they could get back such tax as they have paid. Although my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade never adopts the attitude that his mind is completely closed to any approach, he has decided that the present experimental scheme cannot be continued.

The noble Lord asked me about development charges. We cannot agree that a hotel falls into the same category as a private house, since it is a commercial concern. We did away with all those pettifogging regulations and restrictions because they were vexatious and irksome and, as the noble Lord says, up to 7,500 cubic feet or for certain lateral expansion there is now no development charge on the developing or the improving of a house. That would not be any good to an hotel, and if we built it up to a size that would he of some use to an hotel we could not withstand the pressure from other interests.


Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, but on that point I think it would be of some use to an hotel for several reasons—not merely for making the hotel larger. In some cases it would be a question of putting in a bathroom. Bathroom accommodation is a great trouble. But the benefit would lie particularly in the lateral expansion. A private individual can take in three neighbouring houses, but an hotel cannot. In many cases an hotel can expand into a neighbouring house, and thereby it can get either the opportunity of modernising or providing the extra facilities which it needs.


I think the noble Lord will agree with me that an hotel is a commercial enterprise, and you cannot compare an hotel with a private dwelling-house. I am afraid we cannot release one section of industry from development charges and keep it on in regard to another section.

The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, who confessed that he was also a publican and a sinner—


Not the second


—again raised many interesting points. He introduced into his speech the subject of home holidays. He is quite right in saying that there are great difficulties, because half the adult population of this country take a holiday away from home and the average length of that holiday has been worked out at ten-and-a-half days. Between one-half and three-quarters of the number who take holidays away from home go to the seaside, and practically all of them want to go in July and August. As the noble Earl has said, although we have worked upon the staggering of holidays, it is a sad thing to confess that we have almost to admit failure. There are so many circumstances which make that quite understandable. School holidays and other things have to be taken into account, and a parent is very much tied as to when the family can be taken to the seaside. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that every family should have a change of environment. I am sure it does all noble Lords good to have a change of voice, conversation and scene now and again. But the difficulties are great, because all these holidays have to be packed into a short space of time.

The noble Earl mentioned food. I know he will agree that the victualling of an hotel should be on exactly the same basis as that of the household consumer, and that no preference over and above that should be given to hotels. That is the basis upon which the rationing system works, and that is why I can hold out no hope whatsoever of doing anything for him in regard to his pigs or for the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, in regard to his Cumberland ham.


Before the noble Lord leaves that point completely, would he answer the point raised by my noble friend, Lord Rochdale—namely, that whereas the hotel keeper cannot use his own pigs at all, the householder can use his own pigs for any guests who may be staying with him?


I am coming to that point. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, put his case so reason- ably that it deserves a reasoned and studied answer. At one time I could not quite make out whether the noble Earl was interested in the problem of getting rid of swill or of providing pork for the residents of the hotel.


I had in mind the one contributing to the other.


In the first case there is no difficulty, because he can keep pigs to get rid of the swill and my right honourable friend the Minister of Food will always buy his pigs at a very favourable price. But, being rationed food, as soon as the pigs come into the commercial market and are used for commercial purposes they must come on the ration. I think the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, posed the question: Who will lose if they do not? The answer is that it will be the ordinary consumer. While pork and bacon are rationed, every pig that comes into the commercial field must come on the ration. If it goes to the hotel guest, that guest has the advantage at the expense of the ordinary household consumer. The noble Earl, I am sure, will see that straight away.


I certainly do not.


May I be allowed to explain it? Then I will sit down if the noble Earl wants to interrupt me again. The noble Earl must hand over these pigs to the Ministry of Food, and they go into the general pool for the general consumption. If we are going to break that rule and allow the noble Earl to have enough pigs to consume the swill at his hotel, and also, it may be, to provide residents at his hotel with four or five times the meat ration and the bacon ration that they would normally have, where is that sort of thing to stop? Are we going to say that any hotel proprietor can keep pigs? If we do that we shall then have to concede that he can keep cows, and slaughter cows, and maybe bulls as well, for beef, or keep any livestock he likes. Eventually we should find ourselves in the position that a person who happened to be so fortunate as to have enough money in his pocket to enable him to stay at an hotel, especially one where pigs and other animals were kept, would be able to live a life of com- parative luxury. Is that right? Should a person be able to consume rationed food in quantities in an hotel just because the hotel proprietor keeps pigs to eat the swill?


The noble Lord has said that there must be complete justice as between the private consumer and the hotel client. All I am urging is that the hotel client shall be in the same position as the private consumer—namely, that the swill from his table shall be allowed to be used to feed pigs. I concede that what the noble Lord has been saying is perfectly logical, but, personally, I think that most of us in this country would prefer to have more bacon rather than more logic. What is the state of affairs that will continue if this concession is not to be allowed? The swill will just continue to be wasted—in some cases to be buried. And that is swill that might be turned into bacon. The bacon thus produced could be used to replace the ration that is normally purchased, and that ration, if replaced, could then go to the general market.


I am not going to say that my argument is all white and that the noble Earl's argument is all black. If I had to choose, I should rather have bacon than logic, so long as I could be assured that the bacon was shared equally amongst everyone. But, you see it would not be.


Would the noble Lord share the eggs from the twenty-four chickens that he is allowed to keep? No; I am sure he has the sense to keep them for himself.


Quite so. And no one has to share the half pig which he is allowed to keep.


Many people would like to share those eggs.


That is all very well, but let us take the noble Earl's argument to its logical conclusion. This would be that he could keep enough pigs attached to his hotel to give the residents in the hotel double, quadruple, tenfold or even a hundredfold more meat than people outside can get.


The noble Lord over-estimates the value of swill.


It would not stop at swill. Is there any definition of swill. What would there be to prevent the noble Lord providing feeding stuffs other than swill for a number of pigs? It would be a profitable thing to do. It would be a great attraction, and he could put his hotel prices up. But I am sure that noble Lords, on calm reflection, will see that, though the noble Earl's argument may sound very good, it is not so good as it sounds. If he will allow me to do so, I will deal with the matter of the Catering Wages Act in a minute or two, when I deal with the points which other noble Lords have raised in that connection.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, and a number of other noble Lords including the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, talked about the refund of purchase-tax schemes for visitors to this country. I have taken note of everything that has been said. If I understood Lord Bilsland correctly, what he would like to do would be to do away with all control so long as dollars were offered for the goods in question. Dollars should be the criterion as to whether American or Canadian visitors to this country could get a refund of purchase tax upon the goods that they purchased. That is, as I understand it, the sum and substance of his proposal. Again that sounds very attractive. But how could you avoid abuses? Let us recognise the fact that there is a dollar black market. I could go and buy dollars—


The noble Lord knows more about the black market than we do.


If I do, it is about the only thing that I do know more about. The noble Earl must concede me an advantage sometimes. Now I ask your Lordships to look at the abuse which might be possible in the case of an American visitor. He could pay for his entire holiday by buying the household requisites of the family he was staying with. And how would you stop it? I agree with the noble Lord that we want to reduce the scheme to terms of the utmost simplicity, because, as the noble Lord well knows we want to attract as many dollars as we possibly can. Provided there is no leakage to United Kingdom subjects who must nay purchase tax, we will give away all the purchase tax that we possibly can. But what we cannot stand for in equity is for this scheme to be used to enable one section of the British public, by a round-about method not open to other people, to acquire free of tax goods subject to purchase tax. That is the danger inherent in that suggestion. If the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, will forgive my saying this humorously, I thought that some of his accounts of the trouble taken to get the coupons were somewhat picturesque. I am certain that there is no Englishman who would not mind going to all the trouble which the noble Viscount said. Americans had to go to, so that he might get goods free from purchase tax.


Our spirits are broken.


I will certainly have the position studied very carefully, because, if we can increase the dollar intake through this source, believe me we shall be only too happy to do so. But we cannot do it in the manner which Lord Bilsland and the Dollar Exports Board have recommended to us, because there is no safeguard against abuse. If he will allow me, I will leave the question of a Scottish Board for the moment. My heart warmed to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. I was very glad to hear his statement that things are not altogether so bad as they are painted. There are people who go about speaking as though every country is better than our own, but I am satisfied that we are not doing too badly. I will come to some other points which the noble Lord made in a moment, but now I am going to accept the offer which he made me. I am going round with him, and I am quite prepared to accept his terms if he will give me a handicap allowance for his practice and capacity as against my age and inexperience. If he will do that, I will undertake to go round with him to his haunts that serve liquid refreshment outside on the pavement, as well as to those that have not that facility, and we shall see how many there are. But I must insist on a handicap allowance that will enable me to compete with him.


The noble Lord's terms are quite acceptable.


The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is such a charming and humorous companion when he is sober, that I feel sure that what he would be like later in the evening would be an entertainment too good to miss.

I hope the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, are heeded by the hotel industry, because they were not addressed to me. I was also interested in Lord Lindsay's speech, one reason being that he addresses your Lordships' House far too seldom. It was an interesting speech, but what I could not understand, after he had enumerated what I might call the seven deadly deterrents to running a hotel, was how anybody who had to suffer all these inquisitorial visits had time to run an hotel at all. Some hotels are run extremely well, and I suppose they all have to put up with the same difficulties. I do not think that that kind of thing militates against the running of an hotel so much as many other factors. I agree with the noble Earl about the service in some hotels. Had I the time I could tell him of some tragic experiences I have had in Scotland trying to get a drink at a Scottish hotel on the Sabbath. It was something like Alice in Wonderland. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said on the question of licensing laws and I hope that he, the Hotel and Restaurant Proprietors' Associations and the Tourist Board will pursue this question, to see whether they cannot reach some uniformity of view. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is right, and if we want to attract people we have to offer them what they want and not what we want to give them. One of the reasons why many of our visitors get disgruntled is our licensing hours. But I know this is a ticklish subject and I will not develop it to-night.


My Lords, there are differences between hotels and the men who run them. Claridge's and the Berkeley have managers and assistant managers who can perform different duties. Some can receive the sanitary inspector and some can talk to the guests. But when it is a twelve-bedroom hotel, it is the same man who has to talk to the sanitary inspector, pay the chambermaid and fill in the forms.


My Lords, I have stayed in hotels of twelve or fourteen rooms which I would prefer for their efficiency, courtesy and good food, to some of the hotels the noble Earl mentioned. Some of them can do it.

I would repeat the question asked by my noble friend Lord Silkin: What is the hotel industry doing for itself? The Government have done a great deal. One of the things that surprised me, in reading the report of the British Travel and Holidays Association, an admirable body who have done a tremendous amount of work, is that out of their total income for 1950 of somewhere in the region of £712,000, the income from Government grants was £591,000—public money subscribed to what is the high-pressure sales organisation of the hotel industry—and all that the hotel industry subscribed was £5,857. I do not regard that as very creditable; nor, I am sure, does the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. I suggest that perhaps the British Travel and Holidays Association could do more good for the hotels if they had more support from the hotels. Unless the British hotel industry bestirs itself, I am afraid the average British hotel breakfast will remain a monument to the unimaginativeness of the average hotel proprietor. I do not believe that food is a problem at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has said, you can get a good meal at a reasonable price in many hotels, and if you have the money in your pocket you can get the best food in the world in some. If it can be done in one hotel, it can be done in the rest. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, that the bulk of food in hotels is ruined by the cooking. I appreciate the difficulties and troubles that exist to-day, but other industries are showing ingenuity and getting over them. I think the hotel industry also can show ingenuity.

I come to my last point, which was the burden of the attack, if I can call it an attack, upon the Government—namely, the effect of the Catering Wages Act. I am not going to be tempted into saying what the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, asked me not to say. I am going to accept what he said, and I shall not attempt to contradict anyone. If the Catering Wages Act is having the adverse affect on the hotel industry which the noble Lords opposite claim, and the hotel industry is sadly suffering, then both employers and labour are suffering. If the Catering Wages Act is too rigid and the line of development is wrong, it is up to both sides of the industry to get together and put it right. A Scottish Wages Board has not been ruled out. I have here a copy of a letter which the Minister of Labour caused to be written to the Catering Wages Commission some time ago. I should like to read to your Lordships two or three sentences from it. The Minister wishes to draw the attention of the Wages Commisison to the widespread feeling which has been ventilated on two recent occasions in the House of Lords in favour of establishing a separate Board for Scotland, and I am to ask the Commission to take into account what was said in the debates in the House of Lords on 17th October, 1950, and 30th November, 1950. At the same time, I am to draw the Commission's attention to the terms of the letter, a copy of which is enclosed, which the Minister has received from the National Joint Trade Union Committee for the Catering Industry expressing its opposition to the establishment of a separate Board for Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilsland, and other noble Lords know, this is a matter that bristles with difficulty. It is an old precept of trade union wage negotiation that wages shall be negotiated nationally and not regionally. But nothing is sacrosanct, and I will undertake to convey to my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour the expression of opinion by noble Lords.

Your Lordships know that there are at the present time five wages boards in the industry, ranging from the "clubs and pubs," as they are called, and the cafes, right up to the big licensed hotels. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, put forward a most arguable case on this matter, but he knows the difficulties. I will convey his points to my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour. We await the recommendation of the Catering Wages Commission upon the Scottish Board. There is no need for me to go into the rigidities of the Catering Wages Act—it is rigid. My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour has no power to move until he has a recommendation from the Catering Wages Commission, or via the Commission, from the wages boards. If the reply of the Catering Wages Commission upon this question of a Scottish Board is not in accordance with the wishes of your Lordships, then you can return to the charge. However, I will take up this question of the Catering Wages Act with my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour, and I will discuss with my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade and my other colleagues the other questions that noble Lords have raised. It remains for me only once again to thank the noble Lord for initiating this interesting debate. I will do my best to represent to the appropriate quarters all that he and his colleagues have said, and I hope that with that assurance he will withdraw his Motion.


I have been trying to catch the noble Lord's eye, but was unable to do so. I think he said that the Government could not possibly allow more than £1,900,000 for hotels. That seems to me a very small sum, especially as I saw the other day the new Colonial Office that is just being built. I suppose that will cost £2,000,000 or £3,000,000.


If the noble Lord will forgive me for saying so, these comparisons are worthless. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, brought in the ground-nuts scheme as a comparison —I took it as humorous. There is no comparison between the two matters; each has to be measured solely on its own merits. All that we could allocate for hotels in the 1950 investment programme was approximately £2,000,000.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, I can agree with the noble Lord that we have had an interesting debate, and I should like to thank all my noble friends and other noble Lords who have taken part for doing so. I should also like to add my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, for the excellent maiden speech which he made. I agree that we have had an interesting debate, and I had hoped that I should be able to say that we had had a useful debate. I am not certain about the latter point. I do not want to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I should like to make one or two comments on what has been said. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked: "Why pick on us? What is the industry doing?" I am not pretending that the hotel industry is all that it should be—what industry is?—but I am saying that the time to turn round to the industry and ask: "What are you doing?", is when the shackles which have been imposed on the industry are removed and they are given a chance. The other point made by the same two noble Lords is that there are too many people going around saying that everything is better abroad.


The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, made the same point.


And my noble friend, Lord Mancroft—although I am sure he will agree with what I am going to say now. I believe that that is perfectly true. On the other hand, it is quite a different matter to go from that extreme and say that everything is perfect here; that we need not bother to look abroad, because everything is so good here: British cooking is the best in the world, and so on and so forth.


If my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting, may I say that I may get into trouble with my own Party if I am not careful? I did not say that there was any complaint against those who went around saying that everything was better abroad. My complaint is against those who go around saying that everything is bad at home. The noble Lord will appreciate that there is a sharp difference between the two.


I feel that what we Ought to aim at is to try and copy the best abroad and preserve the best at home. I am sorry that I have to take up the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on this point, as I had hoped that he was not going to come back at me with the capital investment programme. I did not wish to have to say this, but if the noble Lord seriously tells me that £2,000,000 was all that they could spend, then I must say I am very surprised. When they have spent something like £11,000,000 on a temporary affair, the Festival of Britain, and when we see Government offices going up here, and other things going on, if the noble Lord tells me that for an industry which is our greatest net earner of dollars they cannot afford more than £2,000,000, frankly, I do not believe him, and I cannot regard his reply as satisfactory or as any kind of encouragement to the industry.

Again, the noble Lord says that the hotel industry prefers utility goods. Here I must disagree with the noble Lord again. My information is that that simply is not the case. One of the reasons why this scheme has not operated as it might have done is the complication of the scheme itself. Finally, the noble Lord said on this question of development charge that a hotel is not a private house. Of course it is not a private house. But my complaint is that when it suits the Government to regard it as a private house, as in the matter of the £100 allowance, then it is a private house; but when it suits them not to regard it as a private house, then the noble Lord gets up and says that it is not a private house. I absolutely agree with him. But he cannot have it both ways.

I must say a few words to the noble Lord about this pig business—I do not think he can be allowed to get away with that. The issue which my noble friend put clearly, and the choice before the noble Lord, is that if he chooses to allow hotel keepers to keep pigs, then extra pigs will be produced—and I daresay that the hotel people will be delighted to sell half of them at cost price to the Ministry of Food. If, on the other hand, the noble Lord prefers it, then we shall continue to plough our swill into the land and there will be no pigs. I have great admiration for the noble Lord in the ordinary way, and he does not generally fall into the elementary fallacies of the majority of the members of his Party, but in this case I think the noble Lord was excelling himself; he was exceeding all his colleagues; he was way ahead in the good old doctrine which noble Lords opposite have always held: What everybody cannot have, nobody can. If that is the way we are going to run our business, we shall be heading fast down the road to bankruptcy


Might I ask the noble Lord this question? Why should not hotel proprietors have pigs to eat the swill, even if they go to the Ministry of Food?


I will give the noble Lord his answer. I know he may have a poor conception of the intelligence of the hotel industry, but there are few men in this country—perhaps the noble Lord is an exception—who are prepared to do something for nothing. There are a few saints. I am a sinner.


They get paid for it. They would not do it for nothing. They get paid for the pigs. If they really want to get rid of the swill they can, and get paid for the pigs. But they want the pigs for their customers.


Of course they want the swill—I never said they did not. They want the swill to feed the pigs and they want the pigs to feed the customers. It is perfectly simple. What I am saying is that the noble Lord will not persuade them to do that if he is going to take all the pigs. I think I have disposed of that point.

There is one final point, and here again I cannot restrain myself. In reply to all that we have said with regard to the Catering Wages Act, the noble Lord said that he thought it would have been much better if both sides had got together and put the Act right. I do not know how the industry can get together and alter an Act of Parlament and Orders made under that Act. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but do not think that is a practical proposition. The initiative has to come from the Government.


I do not want to be misunderstood on this matter because it is very serious. It was treated very seriously in debate, and I should not wish to bring an air of frivolity into it. The Catering Wages Commission is composed of both sides of the industry, and the people who can recommend an alteration to the existing Catering Wages Act are the Catering Wages Commission. Both sides of the industry are represented, and if they would get together and recom- mend alterations, I consider that that would be the best way for it to be done.


I think the noble Lord means the Wages Board.




I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I think I misunderstood him. I hope that the Government will use their endeavours in this matter as well. I have spoken far too long in withdrawing this Motion, but the noble Lord tempted me, and I now have much pleasure in asking leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.