HL Deb 16 December 1959 vol 220 cc481-522

5.31 p.m.

LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE rose to call attention to the importance of tourists and visitors to Britain's economy; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of the lateness of the hour—that phrase is something which always surprises those of us who have come from another place—I will be as brief as I can be. I was the Member of Parliament for Morecambe and Lonsdale for some twenty years. As your Lordships may know, that is on the fringe of and partly in the English Lake District, and that accounts for my interest in the tourist trade. The tourist industry is also, of course, one of the most important methods whereby we in these Islands earn overseas money. The tourist trade comes fifth among all our industries as an earner of money from overseas; and as an earner of dollars it comes second only to the motor trade, with whisky a bad third—or should I say a good third? It is estimated that in this year some £220 million of overseas money will be earned by tourism, and that includes some £70 million earned by British carriers—operators in ships and aeroplanes.

I need not say more, I am sure, to justify calling attention to the circumstances in which this important part of our life operates, but I would just add that in this year no fewer than 1.4 million people are expected to visit Britain from overseas. And why should they not? It is a beautiful country; it offers historical interest and scenery that is unparalleled; and, in my judgment, it offers good food and a warm welcome. Some people think that you can get good food only by going to the Continent. I do not think that that is true. I think there is no food better than British, food if it is well cooked. Although sometimes in the small hotels the vegetables may be cooked too long, and may be soggy instead of crisp, the standards here compare favourably with those in any part of Europe. We tend. I think, to praise foreign cooking because we like a change. But so does everyone like a change. But it is my experience, at any rate, that when I have been in Europe for two or three weeks there is nothing that I like better than to get back to English food. There are therefore many reasons for people visiting the United Kingdom, and we should rejoice that so many do and that they spend so much money with us.

But let us consider whether there are not some things we can do to encourage yet more to come, and to encourage those who do come to spend more money. It has been said that the catering industry has been gravely handicapped since the last war by the Catering Wages Act; and there is some truth in that. I know that within the catering industry there were conditions of work in kitchens and in boarding houses which were not good, and it was right that Parliament should make rules to better those conditions and to bring wages and conditions generally under some form of surveillance, if not of control. I therefore was one of those who praised the right honourable gentleman Mr. Bevin and my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton for introducing into the House of Commons and into Parliament generally the Catering Wages Act. I do not want to devote much time to this point, except to observe that some feel that they did try in that Act to remedy evil, and did succeed, but that in doing so they also handicapped the operators and made life extremely difficult, especially for those who have small restaurants, small hotels or family businesses.

Well, time has passed, and last year, bearing in mind some of these difficulties, Parliament passed a new Act, the Terms and Conditions of Work Act, and some changes were made which I will not go into, except just to say that wages councils took the place of wages boards. With general consent this new piece of machinery was put into operation, and it is my hope and, I am sure, the hope of every friend of our tourist industry and our hotels and boarding houses that this Act will be more enlightened, and will, while protecting the workers, at the same time be sufficiently elastic to enable the industry the better to serve its customers, bearing in mind that the wealth of the industry, the profits that it makes and its development and success, are important factors in the standard of living that it can give to the people who work in it. I should like to ask the Minister who is going to reply if he can give us any information as to how the new Act is working, and if he can satisfy my hope that it is working better than the old one did, with more elasticity and satisfaction all round, both as regards the owners of hotels and boarding houses and those who work in them.

It is commonly said about Britain that our licensing laws are very much out of date: that they ought to be completely altered, and we should have conditions more nearly similar to those which are experienced on the Continent. It is said that we should be able to drink at any hour; that we should be able to drink without a meal wherever and whenever we like, and so on. I do not take the view that major alteration of the licensing laws is either necessary or desirable. I think that, on the whole, the persons concerned with providing refreshment through public houses, hotels and restaurants do a good job to meet the demand of the British people in a satisfactory way, and that as time has allowed, and as they have been able to recover from the damage of the war, they have done well in serving their public. They could do better; and, of course, they are doing better. But I do not think it necessary that we should set up a Royal Corn-mission to consider a substantial or major change in the licensing laws. I personally do not want Britain to become Continental, in the sense that we hear about all the things that are said to be such good things to do on the Continent. They are, as I have said, mainly attractive to us because they are changes. But there is a good deal about the English way of life that is attractive to other people which tends to make them visit us here, which, of course, is the point of this debate this evening.

There is one plea I would make in regard to licensing reform. I suggest that, without increasing the number of hours during which the people can drink, some discretion should be given to the owner or tenant of a public house to be able to alter the hours, perhaps with due notice and even with permission, during which his hotel is open to suit the particular customers in the district or the circumstances at the time when he is serving them. That would seem to me to be good sense. I do not want to see drinking all day and all night, but if you are going to have a limitation, why not adjust it to the traffic and thus enable people to serve drink or to drink when it suits them? This freedom ought to apply at least to that extent.

I must turn swiftly to one or two other brief suggestions I have to make, because I know that many want to speak, and it is late. The Chancellor of the Exchequer can help this industry. He can, between now and the next Budget, consider the depreciation allowance which is permitted to hotels and for the equipment in the hotels. It is not as good as in some branches of industry, and I do not see why it should not be better. Capital allowances, or investment allowances, are permitted to some industries. Why not in the case of new hotels, which are very much needed? You may not find that the hotel industry wants more hotels. Most people like monopolies or near monopolies, and those who are already in business do not want others to come in. Obviously, that is common sense—or, at least, it is the usual behaviour. But I am sure the nation needs more hotels, and we ought to encourage them, and this is one of the ways in which it can be done.

Lastly, so far as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned, there is purchase tax—not a very important matter, but it acids up. An hotelier pays 25 per cent. purchase tax on a vacuum cleaner, 12½ per cent. on cutlery, and 5 per cent. on furniture. Why should he pay anything? These are the tools of his trade, and no one else who carries on a trade has to pay purchase tax on his tools. There is no new point here, because it has been brought up many times. I hope at last we may wear the Treasury down, and in the next Budget find that some concession upon this matter can be made.

Now a brief comment on shop hours. Here, again, I do not want to see an abandonment of the measure of surveillance over hours of work to which we have been accustomed in Britain. But I cannot see any reason why a little man who owns a shop should not work as long as he likes, especially in a seaside town or a seasonal town, where he can get his customer only at certain times of the year and at certain times of the day. Here is an example of the way in which, when you go abroad, you see how much more sensible the foreigners are. They come to serve you when you arrive. It does not matter what some Act of Parliament says about hours. The point is: when is the customer coming? As soon as the ship comes into harbour, all the shops are open and the lights go up, and you can buy what you like. Now why not? I do not want to make people work longer hours, but I do want to give them permission to open their shops when they can get the business. Surely, that is good for everyone—good for the nation, and good for our intake of foreign money.

It may be said that if you allow the little man who is prepared to work long or awkward hours with his family to open his shop, then you will compel others to open. I do not mind if they do or do not, so long as somebody is open to do the business. You must not miss your customers; the customer is always right, and if he wants something at nine or ten o'clock at night and someone is willing to supply it, then let him supply it. I would observe that if larger shops have to open to maintain competition, the tendency towards self-service and mechanisation leads to fewer people being on duty than would otherwise be the case. I submit that there is a case for making the hours during which shopping may be done, especially in seaside and tourist towns, a little more elastic than it is at present.

Now a word on advertising. We provide £1 million or more to the Travel Association, which is our semi-public or semi-official vehicle for attending to the public relations of this industry. We provide £1 million or more for them to advertise abroad the idea of"Come to Britain." I want to ask the Minister whether we are, or are not, addressing these advertisements to the new potential visitors from overseas, or whether we are still addressing them to the readers of the glossy newspapers, under the illusion that the main people who come to see us from America, for example, are the rich who stay in Park Lane. This is not true. The number of people who came to see us was 1.4 million, and a great many of them were the wage earners from Detroit, the new middle-class, the type of people who would have voted for the Tories at the last Election, to the great surprise and disappointment of the gentlemen opposite. They are the new rich in the middle class with high wages who want to come to Britain. My question is: are we addressing our advertisements to them, or still only to the rich"posh" streets in New York? Is it not well worth while spending a little more on this advertising, which brings so much to our country in the way of people and money? In so far as we are proud of our country and we like the people to come and see us and meet us, does it not make for a friendlier feeling that people should come? I wonder whether a little more money spent upon the"Come to Britain" idea would be better than forcing British ideas down people's throats through the British Council. It may achieve the same purpose more easily.

Hotels here are governed in their employment of personnel by certain rules administered by the Ministry of Labour. One is designed to maintain employment among hotel workers and servants, and it says that you may not import a foreigner as a servant, cook or head waiter so long as there is any local person available. But the local person may not be a skilled pastry cook and may not be a chef. He may be just an old sea cook for whom we have the greatest respect, but it will not please the visitors. I plead for more common sense in this matter. We shall make more money in the tourist business in the hotels and the restaurants if we can give them the skill which can be had by the importation of a very small number of specialist staff. I should be inclined to ease the rules, and the administration of them, governing that kind of employment.

Some of your Lordships may have read a book which was current last year called Parkinson's Law. You may recall how Mr. Parkinson indicates to directors, managing directors, heads of Government Departments and others how to conduct themselves. One of the chapters in this interesting book tells young executives how to get promotion. One of the ways is to choose the right time to send the managing director on a visit by air to Australia and, when he comes back, to praise his visit and say how valuable it is, and as soon as convenient to send him on another one to India. If you do this often enough it is morally certain he will die of exhaustion, and then there will be a vacancy for you. I have just returned from a trip to Australia and back by air—I hope my colleagues did not send me there with this in mind—and I can assure your Lordships it is really very exhausting indeed. If you go by the most luxurious and best method possible and stop on the ground for a night or two on the way, it is quite extraordinarily exhausting.

I make this point and relate it to my own experience because I want to conclude with a plea: if travelling these days is so unpleasant and uncomfortable relatively, by comparison with taking two or three weeks or months at sea, and yet it must be done, let us do all we can to make it as easy as possible on the ground. I went through fourteen flights on the way to Australia and back. That means landing in fourteen different airports. Some were comfortable; some made you feel at home; others wet e either hot or cold; all were noisy; the service in some was good and in others bad. Let us at least make sure that in our airports and at our seaports the passenger is dealt with as quickly as possible and as easily as possible.

Let us ask ourselves whether passports are necessary. Have your Lordships considered what is a passport? Is it a document having any validity whatever? I question it. It is a request by some unknown official, not even the Foreign Secretary any more, to unknown persons to be polite to you in foreign lands. I am sure they never are more polite because of the passport. It does not do any good for the purpose for which it was intended. It is used as an additional bit of job-making by the people who issue it and the fellows who look at it. Nor, indeed, do I think there is any sanction for it. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, was travelling with me on a recent journey, and he and I discussed—we did not come to any conclusion—whether there is any validity for it whatever, or any sanction for it. Suppose we were to say at Southampton,"We are not going to show passports; we claim the right as Englishmen to enter our country, and this bit of paper which asks foreigners to look after us has no validity whatsoever". I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply, why not scrap the lot? I do not believe we had them before the First World War, and maybe we have progressed sufficiently in the time between then and now, with rockets and the rest of it, at least to return to those good days when we did not have them.

Then there is the visa. I want to ask the noble Lord, in how many cases have we arranged to abolish visas with other countries, and in how many cases are we trying to arrange to abolish it? Do we positively try to get rid of these things, or just stick to them because we have had them so long? Lastly, a German coming into this country has to fill in five different forms and pay quite a few guineas to get in at all with a motor car, whereas he can get into at least nine countries in Europe with only two bits of paper to fill in. Travelling by air is very tiring when you are at the end of it, and you come down and are then bothered with so many performances, so much waiting at the desk for this or that. I may say that I, personally, have always found the Customs and the immigration officers most courteous and kind; but however courteous and kind they are, you stand for perhaps a quarter of an hour or half an hour before you can get through with all this business, when you are already tired out. Let us try to make travelling more comfortable and agreeable to those who come to visit us. My plea in one sentence is: here is one of the most important industries earning very large sums of money for us to contribute towards our wealth and balance of payments: let us do everything that lies in our power, not only to make our visitors comfortable and happy but to get them here in the largest possible numbers and make their stay as enjoyable as possible. I beg to move for Papers.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, there can be no quarrel with this Motion. There is certainly no doubt about the importance of tourism to the economy of Great Britain. It is of particular importance to Scotland, and it is vital to the Highlands. At the outset I should perhaps declare that in this matter I have loyalties on both sides of the Border, for I have the honour to be a member of the Scottish Tourist Board and thence of the Board of the British Travel and Holidays Association. Your Lordships in all parts, of the House will, I am sure, wish to pay tribute to the great services of Sir Arthur Morse in London and the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Rosebery, in Scotland, in the direction of these two bodies. These bodies have carefully and skilfully developed a great industry. I shall speak in more detail shortly about Scotland, but before I do so I would remind your Lordships that the annual receipts of over £200 million earned by this industry from overseas traffic have been won at an annual cost to the Treasury of only slightly over £1 million, or one-half of 1 per cent. Surely there can be few investments that give such a return.

If now I may speak more particularly about Scotland, it is important to appreciate just how valuable tourism is to that country. In 1953 Scotland received about 3½ million visitors. In 1958 the figure was over 4½ million, and during the present year is believed to have topped the 5 million mark—that is to say, almost exactly one visitor for every member of the population of the country. From overseas in 1951 Scot land received 215,000 visitors; by 1958 that figure had been doubled; and this year it is over the half-million. One-third of the total visitors to Britain come to Scotland, and the annual value of Scotland's tourist trade now exceeds £60 million. 'There are no means of assessing exactly what the full potential will be, but with the increase in car ownership and in international travel it seems certain that the curve will continue to rise and that we can expect far more visitors in the next few years.

I suggest that in this context there are two questions to be considered: first, what brought these visitors to Scotland, and second, what can be done to ensure that more come in the future? The reasons why visitors come to Scotland are not hard to find. Apart from those who have family or ancestral reasons for visiting Scotland, I imagine that most of our visitors come because of its historic and romantic associations; because of its cultural activities, including the Edinburgh International Festival; because of the natural scenic attractions of the Highlands and of the West Coast, and because of the unrivalled sporting facilities.

Having been given these advantages, the Scottish hotel-keepers have, in recent years, not been slow to see the need to offer new forms of attraction. For example, they have been largely responsible for the development of pony-trekking; water ski-ing now leaves its wake in an increasing number of the lochs; and the strenuous efforts of Colonel Grant of Rothiemurchus and his fellow enthusiasts in the Cairngorms and in Glencoe are rapidly developing winter sports facilities. I would say, too, that our climate is often—and not only this last year—more equable than people are inclined to believe. It is not always suitable for idling on the beach, but it is good for touring and ideal for many forms of sport. The next reason why visitors have come to Scotland lies in the excellent publicity arrangements which have been made by the Scottish Tourist Board, of whose general success the increasing number of tourists must provide ample proof.

I now come to the third and, for the present purpose, most significant reason why more visitors are coming to Scotland. This lies in the activities of the hotel industry itself. It is sometimes forgotten how many frustrations and reverses hotels have had to put up with since the war—the Draconic restrictions imposed by the Catering Wages Act, petrol restrictions, indifferent roads and so on. The hotel industry has done well to weather these storms, and I am glad to say that there is an appreciable amount of evidence of a new outlook on the part of that industry. Most hotel-keepers now realise that the market is growing each year and that some effort on their part is required if they are to attract the increased custom which is clearly within their reach.

Against this background the Secretary of State for Scotland last summer showed a nice sense of timing in arranging for a survey. It is a fair assumption that he accepted the view that an expansion of the tourist industry offered the best prospects of effecting a rapid improvement in the economy of the Highlands. He then arranged with the Chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board for a distinguished member of that Board, Mr. Hugh Fraser, to undertake a survey into the immediate possibilities of expansion. Mr. Fraser carried out his survey with all the expedition and commercial sense which might have been expected of him. Within three months the results were presented to, and unanimously approved by, the Tourist Board. This scheme has been warmly welcomed by the Secretary of State who has made available a grant to help it on its way. It is now being put into operation and, I suggest, provides the best answer to the second of the basic questions—namely, how can we attract more visitors to Scotland?

The substance of the scheme is probably familiar to your Lordships, and I wish to deal this evening with only a few of what appear to me to be its more intriguing aspects. It is unusual in that it is progressive, proceeding area by area throughout the Highlands. It has for this reason called for some patience and self-denial on the part of the areas which have not been selected for treatment in the initial stages. It has been gratifying to see that those areas have not denounced the scheme simply because it did not apply to them at the start. If it succeeds in the first two areas, which are Badenoch and East Sutherland, other areas will be keen to emulate it. Within the experimental areas the plan has some original features. The keystone is the provision of more and better hotel accommodation. The scheme is that existing hoteliers will be invited to submit their own proposals for improving their hotel, guest house or other tourist accommodation. These suggestions will be vetted by a team of experts set up for each area, and if they are approved as suitable, it is hoped that a loan will be made available from a new finance corporation to be set up for the purpose. It is planned that the money for this finance corporation shall be found from private enterprise. This, in itself, is an innovation which deserves support. It is difficult to estimate the implications and possible repercussions of this development. If the plan succeeds, it will offer something for everybody, since not only the larger hotels but the small guest houses and the crofters who are prepared to provide tourist accommodation, will all come within its scope.

The Tourist Board are also to be commended for adopting a plan which gives the first chance to those who are already in the business and who deserve encouragement. But there will be no indiscriminate subsidies. This plan is an attempt at the difficult task of backing only winners, and it is to be hoped that it achieves the success it deserves. It also includes an imaginative scheme for improving the vista in the main streets of the experimental areas. The Tourist Board are arranging for the preparation of plans which will give a new look to these streets, by way of repainting and minor frontal alterations. This is doubtless worth doing for its own sake, but there is another and more practical reason: it is really an advanced form of window dressing. The expectation is that the tourist, when he sees the new lay-out, will stop and contribute to local revenue.

The plan has a number of other features which I will not develop in detail—for example, various devices to lengthen the holiday season; the encouragement of local tourist associations with the offer of a modest initial grant; an ambitious angling scheme, and, as an important means of raising standards, the organisation of conferences of Highland hotel-keepers. The first of these will take place in Ross-shire, in March, and will allow hotel-keepers to discuss their problems and their difficulties. What then, does this plan aim to achieve? It recognises that tourism is an industry, treats it as such, and offers expert advice and guidance on the best forms of development. It is up to the hotel-keepers to make the best of this. With the help now offered they must provide better accommodation and better standards. Tourism is now highly competitive, and we must provide the kind of service which our visitors, both from home and abroad, are entitled to expect. I am sure that this can be done, and that tourism will make an even greater contribution to the prosperity of the Highlands.

So much, my Lords, for the plan to make the best use of what we have got. But how have we got it? Not through the action of the present generation—for of the only three hotels built in Great Britain in the past quarter of a century, one in London and one in the ruins of Coventry were not aimed at the tourist trade; and the other was built with foreign capital. We have this heritage upon which the tourist industry depends because there was a day when private enterprise, including the transport industry, could see that to build an hotel in Great Britain, and not alone in London, could be profitable. Since the war, while this country has been in this respect in the doldrums, new hotels aimed at the tourist trade have sprung up from Havana to Istanbul. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that it is their duty to find and sweep away the obstacles to, and actively to encourage, such developments here.

In that connection, my Lords, urgent consideration should be given to the taxation imposed on hotels. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, has already said, it is surely unfair that purchase tax should be exacted on the tools of the trade. Secondly, conventional industry has the benefit of the investment allowance, and it is difficult to understand why this should be withheld from the hotel industry. They need it both for the buildings and for the necessary equipment with which to run them. It is no exaggeration to say that unless Her Majesty's Government can create conditions in which it will again be attractive to build hotels, not only, I repeat, in London, but at key centres throughout Great Britain, we may well miss much of the growing volume of the tourist trade which new and economical ships and aircraft will produce; indeed, we may be by-passed to the benefit of other countries with a keener sense of the economic opportunities which lie ahead.

Finally, without commenting on Lord Fraser of Lonsdale's remarks regarding licensing laws, I must refer briefly to one adverse factor which particularly affects the tourist trade in Scotland—namely Scotland's licensing laws. I will not attempt to itemise the present anomalies, and I am glad that the Secretary of State has recently recognised the need for reform by appointing a Committee under the chairmanship of a distinguished Scottish Judge. Everyone connected with the tourist industry sees in the setting up of this Committee the first glimmer of licensing light for a very long time. The Scottish Tourist Board will be submitting evidence to Lord Guest's Committee, and, without anticipating this, there are a few basic principles which I can commend with some confidence.

First, the tourist is surely entitled to obtain refreshment at all reasonable hours in recognised hotels and restaurants; secondly, any restriction should be supported by a logical justification—it should be capable of being explained in simple terms, and the tourists should know why particular closing hours have been imposed. I say, in passing, that while some form of restriction may be needed on grounds of public order, undue rigidity tends to lead to more, rather than less, drunkenness, as evidenced by experience of prohibition in the United States and the"six o'clock swill" in Australia. Thirdly, to avoid irritation, the law so far as it affects hotels and restaurants should be uniform throughout Scotland. Fourthly, it is essential that the law should make possible reasonable security of tenure for licensed premises and should not discourage desirable capital investment in the tourist industry.

I will not at this stage trouble your Lordships with the practical application of these principles, which involve many complex issues, but I should like to advance this general proposition. Her Majesty's Government have rightly declared themselves in favour of expanding the tourist industry. At present the greater freedom which other countries, particularly in Europe, can offer in this matter gives them a definite advantage over Scotland. It is time to put this right, and in supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, I would express the hope that your Lordships will bear these points in mind when the time comes for the review of the licensing laws of Scotland.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of Scotland I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, for his helpful, informative and constructive speech, which will be most carefully studied and is going to be of great value to us. I will try to answer all the points he has made, except that which refers to taxation, with which my noble friend will deal in winding up.

The noble Lord drew attention to the special importance of the tourist industry in Scotland, to the various steps being taken by that very active and sturdily independent body (if I may say so) the Scottish Tourist Board, and to the action they are taking to publicise the notable attractions Scotland has to offer tourists. I am happy to join him in paying tribute to the success which has attended the efforts of the Board in the past year. The noble Lord rightly drew attention to the special campaign in the Highlands which is being carried out under the direction of Mr. Hugh Fraser. As the noble Lord said, that is in many ways a unique development. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State was delighted when, as a result of consultations with the Board, Mr. Fraser undertook the task. We must admire the speed with which he has acted and the imaginative and practical nature of the proposals that he put forward. The campaign is already under way and I am sure your Lordships have listened with great interest to my noble friend's account of the various aspects of the scheme.

Tourism is fast becoming a highly competitive industry, and the Highlands, as elsewhere, are now increasingly accessible to a more widely-travelled type of visitor, as was said by the noble Lord who opened this debate, a type of visitor who has come to expect a certain minimum standard of accommodation wherever he goes. If the Highlands are to make the most of their very great natural attractions, accommodation must be improved and arrangements made to ensure that the area's unrivalled natural assets are made to contribute their fullest part in the development of the industry. That means, of course, first that there must be something for the visitors to do when they arrive, either for an overnight stay or for longer—fishing, boating, walking, climbing and entertainment in the evenings. Each area has its particular possibilities. There must be a clean and comfortable bed (that goes without saying) and a hot bath, too; and there must be something good to eat and drink.

Nowhere in the world can one eat better beef, herring and white fish than in Scotland; and there must be some Scottish fare too—black puddings with the breakfast bacon, real Scots porridge, oatcakes, shortbread and haggis. And where in the world does Scotch whisky taste better than with not too much of its native water? Only if these things are done and the maximum publicity given to the distinctive attractions that the Highlands have to offer can the full benefit be gained.

Fears have sometimes been expressed that tourism might have an adverse effect on the Highlands and in some respects detract from their distinctive character. Under the Tourist Board's programme, however, I can see little risk of this happening, since the entire scheme depends on the basis, first, of properly co-ordinated development at local level, and, secondly, on a real effort to concentrate on quality by offering to the tourist all that is best and most distinctive in the way of Highland attractions and products. It is sometimes insufficiently recognised that the tourist industry, far from being in conflict with, is essentially complementary to, the basic industries of the area. Tourism can provide an additional outlet for the products of local agricultural and fishing industries, and offers additional valuable markets for the craft products of the area. Most of the money spent comes back again to the locality.

Though I have been spending some time on the Highlands, and my noble friend dealt almost exclusively with the Highlands, I should not like it to be thought that other parts of Scotland, which in their own way are equally attractive to visitors, are being neglected. Many of these are already established holiday centres, but equally they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. The Scottish Tourist Board have in hand further plans to publish their attractions in the coming season, and early next year a travelling exhibition publicising the attractions of a wide variety of Scottish centres is to visit towns in the North of England. Steps are afoot to form a tourist development association in the Borders area, and work is in hand on a national handbook on golfing holidays, and on a booklet on early season holidays in Scotland. These are no more than examples, but they give some indication of the range of effort designed to publicise and develop our tourist attractions.

As the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, has reminded us, we have made good progress, but we have still very much to do and to learn. But in this matter of tourism we in Scotland are in the mood to take advice, to help ourselves, and to get on with the job; and Her Majesty's Government applaud and support the in valuable work of the Scottish Tourist Board and of the many Scottish tourist development associations.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask your Lordships now to journey with me South for a few minutes across the Border. Before doing so I must declare an interest, in that I am chairman of a travel agency and also chair-main of a company which runs motor-coach tours throughout the season to all parts of Europe. It is interesting to me, now a at I am myself in the trade, to compare the views I now hold with those with which I have wearied your Lordships in the last fifteen years during which I have been addressing you on this subject. I am happy to find that those views: are largely the same. The point which has struck me most in the course of my brief knowledge, technically, of the industry, has been the large number of people who are going abroad from these shores for the first time. Last year a high proportion of the customers who were good enough to favour my company were travelling abroad for the first time. I believe that my noble friend Lord Gifford, who is also in the trade, would bear with me when I say that they behave, on the whole, remarkably well and are good ambassadors for this country.


Hear, hear!


The noble Lord, Lord Craigton, made our mouths water with his description of Scottish fare, and I would go with him nearly the whole way, with the exception of that obscene bag of rubbish they call haggis. But this cuts both ways, because our own people become so fond of native fare that they become embarrassingly choosey about the fare the foreigners give them; and it is my experience that there are still far too many British travellers abroad who, when offered Sole Veronique and Pouilly Fuissé'52, stick to kippers and Double Diamond if they can.

The point I should like to bring to your Lordships' notice is this: if Mr"Rab" Butler—who has been so sadly maligned this afternoon—is right, and if our standard of living is going to be doubled within the next 25 years, then more tourists will go abroad every year who have not been before; and, my Lords, just as what goes up must come down, so what goes out must come home. Here we are sending more and more tourists every year abroad; here we are putting forward every possible inducement to bring more and more foreign tourists to this country. But are we quite certain that this paradox is not going to arise: will not some of our essential services in the near future become saturated? I believe that there is a real risk that some of the services, without which the tourist trade cannot operate, are in danger of being saturated in the near future unless we take definite action soon.

Some are well known to your Lordships. Dover Harbour, London Airport and the hotel industry are the three that come to my mind. Dover Harbour, which I believe is one of the busiest passenger ports in the world, is nearly saturated now; and if more tourists are coming to the country over the short Channel route the conditions in the port in the near future will become chaotic, despite all the endeavours of Sir Brian Robertson and his good team there to put things to rights. So will London Airport become saturated during the holiday season—it very nearly is now—unless the progress in extending that airport is pressed on with urgently. So it will be with the hotels. My noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale has made this point, and we have discussed it in your Lordships' House on many occasions.

I am not certain that I quite agreed with him when he made the point about monopolies, of hoteliers liking a monopoly. It is quite true that monopolies are like babies: we are all against them until we have got one of our own. But in this case I think he was a little unfair. But I think a serious situation will arise in the near future. It will arise not only in London, because so many tourists coming from abroad want to go to the tourist areas—the Lake District, the Shakespeare Country, the West Country—and cannot get into any hotels during the tourist season because hoteliers naturally will not take them for three or four days and insist they stay a week or a fortnight. So there are certain things here which I have ventured to enumerate to your Lordships which are beyond the powers of the trade to put right for themselves. It is in these things that the trade will require help from Her Majesty's Government. We are not asking for feather-bedding or for any special preference; but I do ask the Government, who we know have these matters well in mind and have taken some necessary action, to press on and prevent the ridiculous paradox of trying to attract more tourists to a country which will not be able to accommodate them.

The difficulty is, of course, that the trade is, in a way, a very diverse trade with a multitude of ramifications; and the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, and other noble Lords who will take this same point, have drawn attention to the number of legislative provisions which can accidentally and coincidentally militate against the industry. There are half-a-dozen provisions on the Statute Book which were never intended, of course, to do damage to the tourist industry but which do that damage in isolation. We welcome strongly and thank the Government for the relaxation of the burdens put upon us until quite recently by the currency restrictions; although it may interest your Lordships to know that the £100 will affect remarkably few tourists going abroad. The average amount taken by the tourists with whom I am connected is more like £60 than £100. It will, however, have one repercussion which is showing itself already. Whereas in the past the Englishman has been able to plead poverty and has received a certain amount of sympathy from the tourist industry abroad, he will find, now that there are no restrictions upon him, that he will have to pay a good deal more and will be asked to tip a good deal more liberally.

My noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale mentioned the abolition of passports. That is the only other point where I think I disagree with him. I am not certain that the case against the passport is as strong as the case for retaining it. I would ask your Lordships not to jump to the conclusion too quickly that a passport is necessarily a bad thing. It certainly is a very valuable thing when you have lost it. I left a passport in Paris two years ago; it was sent on after me by registered post to the South of France, and I went to collect it at the local post office. It was there with my name on it. I was then asked to produce a passport by way of identity in order to claim my package. I saw a long vista of bureaucratic tragedy heading in front of me. I explained that I could not produce it. It was in the package, and I would be grateful if the postman would open it in order to see. I told him my passport was inside."Ah!", he said,"but you cannot prove it without your passport." It was at this moment that the postmistress said, rather indignantly,"You men! Section 183 of some local provision says that if the postal packet becomes accidentally opened it should be resealed in the presence of the consignee." She took the parcel and hurled it smartly to the corner where it burst open. And I received my passport, and went to the Rue Gambetta for a well deserved fin à Peau. I admit that unless you have to have your passport it does not matter if you lose it. But I would sound this note of warning: that there are many advantages in having a passport which we should consider before we finally decide to abolish it.

I heartily agreed with my noble friend Lord Fraser of Lonsdale when he enumerated the various points which bear hardly upon the tourist industry—purchase tax, purchase tax on the tools of the hotelier, the Catering Wages Act, the Shops Act, licensing laws and betting laws. We used to hear a lot about that old lady Mrs. Grundy. We do not hear so much about her now, but she is still pretty active, despite two smart defeats over the common informer and drinks at airports. They are dealing now in another place with the betting laws, so I will Dot say anything more about that and will reserve my observations for the time when the Bill comes before your Lordships' House. But there is one aspect there which affects the tourist trade and that is the possibility of operating a casino; and if it is decided by Parliament that a casino should become legal, it should become properly legal and not half legal. We do not want to have further restrictions, anomalies and absurdities circling round this point.

The noble Lord mentioned the licensing laws, and here I would strongly support the plea he has put forward. Of course it would be a problem—it always has been—to attempt to amend the licensing laws in any respect. But, as I have said before and as I say again, what is the good of having a majority of 100 in another place if you cannot have a thumping good row now and again? There has been a great deal to do with the licensing laws in an attempt to get uniformity where none is needed or called for. Of course my noble friend, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, is quite right when he says that people coming to this country as tourists do not expect to find an imitation Monte Carlo or a bogus Las Vegas. Tourists do not come to Cleckheaton for caviare or chemin de fer; nor do they expect the Kettering Urban District Council to bring on the dancing girls. But they do expect to get a glass of beer in Leicester Square after going to the cinema on Saturday night, and they have every right to expect it.

So I would beg the Government not to venture upon any vast reform of the whole of the licensing laws, but merely to consider whether those areas particularly attractive to the tourist are not entitled to some different treatment, some relaxation, which differs from places where no tourist is every likely to visit. And if the Government are worried, as I am sure they are, about the mushroom growth of undesirable and faintly immoral clubs in London and other provincial cities, I would beg them to realise that modifying the licens ing laws for reputable clubs and pubs helps to do away with the need for the disreputable clubs alongside of them. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord who is to reply if he will beg his right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade not to extend any legislation which reacts against the tourist trade.

We do not ask to be relieved of some burden merely so that it may be put upon other people. We are perfectly prepared to pay our share of taxation and to carry our fair burden, but we do feel that, quite by accident and fortuitously, a large number of legislative provisions impinge upon this industry to its detriment. I have enumerated them; and I would ask the President of the Board of Trade, who I know has the interest of the tourist trade well at heart, to go through all the legislation at present proceeding through Parliament and to consider future legislation, with a view to removing a number of irksome and tiresome and unnecessary burdens which the tourist trade has to bear. And, if the noble Lord, Lord Mills, or the President of the Board of Trade want any more suggestions, I think they know where they can get them.

6.31 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to say how much I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, into the travel trade. He has saved me an embarrassment from which I have suffered for more than ten years with innumerable speeches starting,"My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen". Thank heavens it is now going to be the more anonymous,"My Lords".

Lord Fraser of Lonsdale and other speakers have given your Lordships the figures for the tourist business, so I am not going to repeat them, except to say that £200 million for 1958 is indeed a formidable figure. One thing I should like to say about the remarks of Lord Fraser of Lonsdale is that he commented about our restaurants and said, quite rightly, that we could get very good British food. I think the improvement in the standard of food in the restaurants in our larger cities and in the roadhouses throughout the country has been quite remarkable during the past three or four years. If you wish, you can get almost any kind of food—and good food—in this city: Italian, French, or any other sort, as well as, of course, our good British roasts, and so forth. On the whole, I believe that those who wish to do so can feed better in this country than anywhere else.

I should like to say something this afternoon about people outside the tourist industry, because I believe that everyone in this country has a duty to show, and can do a great deal of good by showing, a friendly spirit towards our visitors from overseas. We in this House have particular opportunities, because I know how very much a visit to hear our debates is appreciated. I happened to be outside New Palace Yard last year when I saw a party of American students. I asked them if they would like to come in, and they did. They all wrote me letters afterwards, and their visit here was undoubtedly the highlight of their trip.

The other thing that I think is important is that the visitor here should feel that he gets a square deal—that they are not"gipped", as the Americans say. I think that, on the whole, we have a very good record in this respect. I should like to relate a very small incident, where the person responsible had no idea of the lasting effect it had. I went with two very wealthy Americans to a West End restaurant, and when we were leaving the lady from the cloakroom brought out my wife's coat and the other lady's coat. My wife tipped her, and when the American lady went to tip her as well the cloakroom attendant said,"Oh, no, madam; the other lady has tipped me".


Was that in Scotland?


No; in London. That lady has gone back to America, and that incident has been spoken of many times. I think that from time to time we are all, perhaps, irritated by tourists—when we are irritated we usually call them"trippers"—particularly if they over-run our pet beach or jam the roads which we use in the course of our ordinary business. But I think that we must try to curb our impatience, and remember that they are real money-spinners. It is an extraordinary thing, I feel, that no one will admit to being a tourist or a tripper. I have often seen people—my own friends—who have gone to visit Wells or Salisbury Cathedral and have then said,"We have quite enjoyed the visit, but the place was full of trippers"—quite forgetting that they were trippers themselves. So much for the general public.

I should like now to say something about the way in which the business community benefits from tourism. There are the obvious people—the travel agents, the hoteliers, the air lines, the shipping lines, the railways, the coach operators, and so on. In addition, over 20,000 cars were bought by visitors from overseas last year, and, of course, the visitors spend large sums of money on car hire. Then, all the arts benefit: the opera, ballet, music, theatres; the nightclubs, organised sport, banks—even hairdressers. The hairdressers derive a tremendous lot of money from overseas visitors. Insurance companies also benefit, as do the printers, because tickets and brochures are printed by them for the benefit of the tourist industry. The British Travel and Holidays Association, who have always taken great trouble to get together facts about the tourist industry, have estimated that more than one million men and women in this country, or a total of 5 per cent. of the working population, are employed in industries which do some work for the tourist industry.

Another section of the community which benefits greatly from tourists is the retail store. In this connection, I should like to say something about the Personal Exports Scheme. It is interesting to note that, although the figures for visitors to this country are steadily rising, from a million and a quarter last year to (it is estimated) 1,400,000 this year, the use of the Personal Exports Scheme has declined by 13 per cent. My Lords, there is no doubt that visitors do not like this scheme. It is too cumbersome, and I think they distrust it. They feel that the gift which they have bought probably will not arrive at the port or the airport. Then, of course, nobody likes a lot of parcels thrown at him just as he is getting into an aeroplane, or boarding a steamer. I believe that a simpler scheme could be devised: that the visitor could be required simply to show his passport and to sign a declaration that he would export his purchase and not give it away in this country. There might be some slight risk of abuse, but I believe that that risk could be taken, and that a simpler scheme would greatly increase the sales to visitors.

Several noble Lords have mentioned the question of the shortage of hotels, a subject al which I have often spoken in this House, though I do not propose to pursue it further to-day. I was impressed with what the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, told us about the development of the finance corporation in Scotland, and I hope that before long something similar will be formed South of the Border. But I do feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and everybody else, must, between now and the next Budget, consider ways in which investment in new hotels and in the modernising of hotels can become more attractive. I will not repeat the various ways—removal of the purchase tax on equipment, investment allowances, and so forth. As the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, has said, only three modern hotels have been built in Britain since the war, whereas in Italy the number, I believe, runs into three figures. There is something wrong there.

Three weeks ago, in this House, I initiated a Motion on the spreading of holidays. I am not going to weary your Lordships by enlarging on that again, although it is an essential part of coping with the increasing number of visitors. Some of your Lordships may remember that one of the things I advocated was the postponement of the August Bank Holiday until the last week in August. Since my Motion, the Evening Standard have started a competition, asking readers whether they were for or against an alteration of the Bank Holiday, and for their reasons. I was pleased to find that no less than 71 per cent. of the hundreds who entered the competition were in favour of postponing Bank Holiday to the last week in August. Something is being done to cope with this increasing flow of tourists, but not half enough. I only hope that the Government will realise the urgency of action, otherwise this golden stream will by-pass this country and flow to the Continent.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, in his concluding remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said that something was being done to increase the tourist traffic, but not half enough. With that view I wholeheartedly agree. On many occasions in your Lordships' House in the last six years I have urged the introduction of small, low-value pictorial stamps as a means of (in the words of my Question on the Order Paper) pontraying to the world some of the scenic beauties and historic monuments of the British Isles. To-day I propose to urge the introduction of small low-value pictorial stamps specifically as a means of assisting the tourist traffic, which is the subject of the noble Lord's Motion. On various occasions, I have been asked what support I have for the introduction of small low-value pictorial stamps in order to assist the tourist traffic. In this respect, I would quote to your Lordships from a leading article in the Daily Telegraph of February 10, 1955, which said: Small low-value pictorial stamps would help our tourist trade, would give a fillip to collectors and would give pleasure to a great number of ordinary people. I have support, too, from most authoritative quarters—that is, from the tourist organisations of this country. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, rightly paid tribute to Sir Arthur Morse, the chairman of the British Tourist and Holidays Association. To that I should like to add a word of tribute to Mr. Bridges, the Director General of the Association, who, in the course of the many years during which he has been Director General, has done a truly magnificent job. On May 21, 1955, Mr. Bridges replied to a letter which I had sent him relating to questions which 1 had addressed to the Government in your Lordships' House on the matter of small, low-value pictorial stamps. He wrote: Replying to your letter of the 19th, we have constantly stressed the value of small low-value pictorial stamps to the tourist trade; and we reject the plea that in the smaller stamps it is not possible to combine the Queen's Head with an attractive picture. Other countries can do it—and if they can do it, then of course we can, too. And, of course, we can.

The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, referred to the Scottish Tourist Board, of which he is a prominent member, and to the views of that Board on the general tourist trade. I have received constant support from the Scottish Tourist Board, and last week, with this debate in view, I wrote to the Manager and Secretary, Mr. W. A. Nicholson, who, like Mr. Bridges, has done a magnificent job during the years in which he has been secretary. I asked him whether the Board still supported my views with regard to the introduction of small, low-value pictorial stamps (I am sorry to say it so often; but saying it often drives it home), a support which he and his Board have expressed for the last six years. And from Mr. Nicholson I had this letter, dated December 10, 1959, which I am permitted to quote: … my Board is strongly behind you in your efforts to secure increased publicity for Britain and for Scotland through the production of pictorial stamps. The increase in tourist traffic to Scotland this year has been quite remarkable. I have not yet got all the figures in for this year, but it is quite clear now that we shall top five million visitors to Scotland this year, an increase of at least a quarter of a million compared with 1958. There has been a record number of overseas visitors, of whom we expect approximately 500,000 will have been in Scotland this year. The need for increased publicity has never been greater if we are to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities open to us to expand our tourist industry, which can be of substantial economic value to all Britain. I wish you all success in your continued campaign. Almost every country in the world produces these pictorials stamps, of low value as well as of high value, and of various sizes. They tell of the country's history, industries, scenic beauties and historic monuments, and they bring tourists to their shores. There is no technical difficulty in the way of the Postmaster General issuing these stamps, and if there were any preliminary administrative difficulties these could well be solved. So far as the tourist traffic is concerned, I suggest that these small pictorial stamps would be ambassadors of this country to millions of people abroad. The reason why stamps carry a design at: all is to convey a message to both sender and recipient, and the message from this country should not be inferior to that of any other country. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord who is replying to this debate will convey to the -new Postmaster General (who after all has had only a couple of months in his office and will surely be reviewing this matter of small pictorials in relation to tourist traffic) the request that he should seriously consider the suggestion I put forward to-night. That is, that in order to increase tourist traffic in this country, and to bring greater revenue to the country, he should review the situation, having in mind the introduction of the small low-value pictorial stamps which I propose.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to make one or two brief observations on the question of increasing the trade of tourists to this country. The first thing is that this debate sounds rather like a Scottish success, as indeed, up to a point, it is. But that is no reason for complacency. The tourist whom I think one ought to try to attract is the chap who brings his car over and drives around on our, I am afraid, already congested roads—although not so much so in Scotland. In order to attract him I suggest that approaches should be made to one of the four major petrol suppliers to print on the backs of their bills the equivalent in litres and such things of gallons and pints of oil and in kilogrammes per square centimetre for tyre pressure and such things. It would be quite simple to print that on the back of the bill, and it would be a good advertisement for one brand of petrol. If you did it with one, the other three would follow, and it would be of great interest to tourists. Any small thing of that sort makes the tourist go home and say:"What a fine place that is! How the people there try to help you out with small difficulties which you encounter!" That, as I say, would be a simple thing, and its great merit is that it would cost the Government nothing to back the idea.

Another thing is that in touring in the spring this year the only difficulty I had was in getting my car out of this country and into this country. Everywhere else I went, all over Europe, all they required was the green insurance card. Surely to goodness we could reciprocate—it may have been done already; I do not know—and make the only document necessary in this country the green insurance card which is common to all those European countries. I think that ought to be taken up. The third point is this. Advertising tourist attractions in England may be simple, but surely it would be better policy to advertise them in Scandinavia and Europe generally. When one talks of the saturation of the entry ports into this counttry, I would draw attention to the fact that the cost of shipping a car from Norway to Newcastle is approximately the same as for crossing the Channel. That port is not saturated; nor is Leith; nor is Aberdeen. When all is said and done, when you get to Aberdeen you can turn right or left, and go north or south; but if you get to Dover you have to go north. I put that as some argument in favour of thinking a little wider, if possibly on a smaller scale.

So far as the passport difficulties mentioned by my noble friend Lord Mancroft are concerned, I was wiser than he. I lost my passport in Paris. I came back to England, and I succeeded quite easily in getting through all the formalities by producing my driving licence. I think that may illustrate the difference of outlook, and perhaps the importance—or otherwise—of passports. Anyway, I mention it in passing. The only other thing I have to say is that one of the greatest industries in the Highlands in Scotland, and an indigenous industry, is the tourist industry. Relatively speaking, it has a far greater importance and significance to the Scotsman than it has to the more fortunate districts in England, which are already heavily industrialised and can turn to ether methods of making their living. There are large areas in Scotland where agriculture, forestry and tourism are the only industries available.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a highly delightful debate. Only one jarring note did I detect all the way through, and that came from the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who wants to inflict upon the tourist who goes to Scotland the Scottish black pudding. Lover of Scotland though I am, I always think the haggis is the concoction of the devil: but black pudding as an incentive to Scotland—never! However, I want to thank the noble Lord for his courtesy in staying at this late hour. For a Minister who does not have to be there to still be sitting on the Front Bench is most unusual.


If the noble Lord will excuse me for interrupting, I should be pleased to send him one for. Christmas, and I am sure he will enjoy it.


I must consider that offer. I do not know that I should accept it. Perhaps there is some foul design about it. However, this has been, as it usually is, the annual Scottish advertising session. I do not blame them, because, as I say, I am a great lover of Scotland. I think it is the most delightful touring country in the world, and I was interested in the scheme expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. I should like to deal first of all with the Scottish aspect of this matter. I am going to make a few suggestions to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and to the noble Lord the Secretary of State, on the ways in which I think Scotland falls down now, and may fall down later on.

I think it was the noble Lord who opened this debate who said that the motor car had made Scotland. But what Scotland must guard against is that the motor car does not ruin it. In some places in the most delightful parts of the Western Highlands, where I went in the best summer Scotland has ever had—and, I will hazard a guess, is ever likely to have—I was appalled: I have never seen such filth. I travelled to the Kyle of Lochalsh, and that part of the Western part of Scotland is scenery at its most grand. I came down the Road to the Isles—I expect both the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, know it well—into that delightful hamlet of the Kyle of Lochalsh; and I have never seen such a rubbishy and filth-laden place in my life. I have never seen so many empty cigarette cartons. The noble Lord will know that there they have the telephone exchange for the Isle of Skye, and I saw broken pieces of instruments at the feet of poles that had been left by the Post Office. What effect does that have upon the tourist? Surely there is somebody even in those remote parts of Scotland who can do something to enforce the Litter Act. On the road over the Pass of Glencoe one had only to stop a motor car and look over one of the stone walls to see the filth of months. To me that is not attractive, and it is not attractive to visitors. If the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and his Scottish Tourist Board can do anything to prevent one of the most delightful parts of Scotland from being made so unattractive, he will earn the respect of all lovers of Scotland.

It is true of Scottish hotels, as it is true of English hotels, that the average standard is very low. But what I think is wrong—and this applies to both—is that they repel, not attract, the real tourist. When I went to Scotland—I will not mention the name of the town in which this happened because it would be unfair—I wanted to stay two nights on my way up to Skye and the well-known Scottish watering resort on the West coast. I think I wrote to an hotel about eight weeks before-hand, and they would not have me. They had no room for anybody who wanted to stay only two nights. I have heard that from foreign tourists many times. Admittedly this was in June and July, but you cannot get into one of these hotels unless you are a long-term visitor of a week or over. Now that is bad.

While I am referring particularly to Scotland—perhaps I shall get into hot water for saying this—I always think that the best way to see the Isle of Skye is never to go there but to see it from the sea. I think it is the most magnificent part of the West Highlands and the Islands, right out to the Outer Hebrides. Yet when I was there the one ship, the"Dear Lochinvar," which is 50 years old and belongs to MacBrayne's, broke down, and there was not another one. Surely, that is not an incentive for tourists. These are some of the things that I think the Scottish Tourist Board should look at.

The average hotel, both in Scotland and in England, must make up their minds for whom they are going to cater. I have had some unfortunate experiences of booking hotel accommodation about two months before I want to arrive. I will recite one or two as examples. When I have arrived it has been quite obvious to me they have not reserved the accommodation because I was only a tourist. Two hotels I wanted to stay at were jam-packed full of conference delegates. When I went to the delightful lady at the reception and said who I was, and that my accommodation had been reserved, it was quite obvious that no reservation had been made. I had to have some kind of room that night, but what it was going to be she did not know. Eventually she found one. I must admit that I arrived very late—it was eight o'clock at night. I said to her,"I'll have a bath, and then I'll have a drink. Will you please tell the head waiter I shall be down to dinner at about a quarter to nine?" She said to me, in a most haughty tone of voice,"The head waiter desires all guests to have finished their dinner by eight-thirty." I said that I thought the head waiter might be on service for me, and not me for the head waiter. I had the worst service at that four-star hotel. I had a filthy room, with a cracked basin and mirror, and I paid the highest possible price at that time.

I wanted some tea at a big hotel in Scotland, and at four o'clock one Sunday afternoon I walked into a huge lounge with 50 tables, all set out, and every one with a"Reserved" ticket on it. I said to the head waitress,"Can I have some tea?" She said,"Are you from the coach?" I replied,"No"."Oh", she said,"I do not think you can". I said,"Cannot I sit down at one of these tables?", and she replied,"Oh, no, these are for the coach parties". I do not object to coach parties, but the hotels must make up their minds about whether they are going to cater for the tourist. And they are not catering for the tourist now. I could not get a cup of tea in that town that afternoon, because there was no other place open.

These are things that count. I have heard it from Americans. They go with their luggage, and unless they have got something booked by the travel agency they get very short shrift. To me that is something that folk who are responsible for the tourist traffic must look into very seriously. They must make up their minds. I do not mind paying the best possible price if I get the best possible service. But what an ordinary tourist has to do is to pay the best possible price to get the low-price service given to conference people. I cannot understand why anyone wants to go to conferences—I think they are hateful things—but that is an English and a Scottish habit.

Let me say quite frankly—and I hope noble Lords will not think I am biased—that by far the best hotels, with the highest standard both in Scotland and in this country in the Provinces, are the British Transport Commission hotels. Admittedly they charge the highest price. But they give the best service, and there is a sufficient volume of tourist business in this country to-day of people who can afford and do not mind paying the best possible price, but who expect the best possible service. But I think the average hotel is a very second-class affair.

The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, who opened this debate, mentioned the Lake District. I passed through the Lake District this summer. I was fortunate. I have been to the Lake District nine times in my life, and this was the first time I could see across Lake Windermere. I spent two of the most lovely days there, with lovely weather, but the four-star hotel I stayed at was a disgrace. The floor had never been swept from the previous occupant, the hair combings were still on the floor, and I was asked to pay, in a four-star hotel, the highest possible price.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, that was not in Morecambe or Lonsdale.


No, it was not, but I did not know that Morecambe or Lonsdale were in the Lake District.


Yes, they are.


Well, I did not know that. Let us look at these things. Do not let us think that everything is good. It should not be a difficult job to improve the hotel service. After all, Mr. Hugh Fraser, whom I know very well, has some experience of running hotels as well as other things. If you want to attract people, first of all have your shop window clean and tidy. Do not have bits of broken-down motor vehicles along the verges of your roads, and see that, when you get your hotels, they offer the best possible service and offer that service to tourists. Then I think the tourist industry in this country will prosper.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, for putting down such a mainly cheerful but quite unseasonable subject for debate. Within 100 hours of the shortest day of the year, he has enabled us to discuss what might be regarded mainly as a summer industry, and this year as a sunshine industry. The noble Lord has pointed out the economic benefits at present, and in the future the prospective benefits, and they are most important to this country. But I should not like us to forget the social benefits of this great industry, the opportunity it gives us of meeting people of other nations and appreciating their qualities. I am sure that the mixing of peoples in this way can do nothing but good.

I would also remark that this is an expanding industry; it is an industry with an enormous future before it. People are travelling who never travelled before, and that is growing; and I would immediately say that we ought in every possible way take advantage of that situation. It is true that this year the number of visitors, as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, reminded us, is likely to approach 1,400,000, spending somewhere about £150 million, in addition to some £65 million earned by carriers bringing them here and taking them back. Those figures compare with about 400,000 visitors in 1947, spending then £20 million; and even before the war the number of visitors to the United Kingdom never reached half a million. In looking at these figures I should like just to refer to the year 1950–51, when there was an impressive leap in earnings from £61 million to £75 million, no doubt aided by the Festival of Britain, for which a large share of credit must go to the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I wish he had been here to hear how we appreciate what he did for the tourist traffic in that bold conception of his.

The success of our tourist traffic—and it is a success—is in a large measure due in recent years to the existence of the British Travel and Holidays Association, which was formed in 1950 and is operating under the very able chairmanship of Sir Arthur Morse. This work is sponsored not only by private individuals and associations but by the Board of Trade; and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Boards are closely associated with it and serve on its Council. Four-fifths of its income is derived from a Government grant of £1,050,000, and that grant in aid was increased to that figure only recently by an addition of a quarter of a million pounds. As one noble Lord pointed out, that is a very small amount to pay for the value we get from it.

I would point out to your Lordships the immense complexity of this industry, which is associated with many different parts of the Government. The noble Lord referred in his opening speech to the tourist industry itself, which comes under the Board of Trade; to licensing laws, which come under the Home Office; to purchase tax and depreciation allowances, which are a matter for the Exchequer; and to passport and visa problems, which are the concern of the Foreign Office. I am answering for the Board of Trade, but I will do my best to deal with the problems raised by noble Lords. I was very pleased to hear—and I think it should spur us to still greater efforts—that in the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale (and this view was seconded by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford) the standards of British cooking are good. Well, of course,"good" is a relative term. I hope that we shall emulate the Scotch, and make it still better. Then the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, referred to the Catering Wages Act, and asked me whether the Terms and Conditions of Work Act was better. It was based upon the experience of the Catering Wages Act, and if it is not better, it ought to be. As a matter of fact, I am told that there are few complaints by responsible bodies of the working of that Act, which I agree is a most important one.

The next point raised by the noble Lord, was the question of the licensing laws. I need not remind your Lordships that the Conservative Party, in its Election Address, said that the question of licensing laws would have attention. I was interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, who said that in his view major alterations are not necessary or desirable. He said that one way of dealing with the matter might be to grant discretion to vary the timing without necessarily increasing the number of hours. That is a very interesting suggestion, and I will see that it goes to the right quarters.

Then the noble Lord urged that the Exchequer should give a more generous allowance for the depreciation of build ings and a more generous investment allowance for the building of new hotels. I agree that this question of new hotels—of sufficient hotels of the right kind in the right place—is a matter of supreme importance to the tourist industry. Nevertheless, I think we are faced here with a serious difficulty; namely, that the hotel industry as a whole is not noticeably enthusiastic about building new hotels when it sees that for part of the year it is faced with the problem of their being somewhat unoccupied. It is argued that it would be more economical to provide extra accommodation by enlarging and developing existing buildings. But I hope that the hotel industry will have regard to what has been said here this evening: that this is an industry with a great future, and that there should be commercial rewards for following the course of events; for realising that the tourist trade is expanding and that all kinds of people are able to fly or to come by steamer to-day who never had that habit before the war. In my view, that will grow and grow, and it should be an inducement to the hotel industry. Of course, new hotels have been and are being built, particularly in London. There are three under construction at the present time in London, and there are two more in the planning stage. But I agree it is not only London; it is the other places, where perhaps the difficulties pare greater but the need is even more insistent.

I turn now to the question of taxes. If tax reliefs were allowed for expenditure on modernisation, I am afraid that this would be separating and favouring the hotel industry vis-à-vis many others which also make a contribution to the export campaign. Like other businesses, hotels can claim reliefs on repairs and maintenance. Improvements are treated as capital expenditure and do not qualify for tax relief in any non-industrial buildings. In brief, hotels are regarded as commercial buildings, and there are obvious difficulties in dealing with them for tax purposes. Other foreign currency earners, such as insurance companies, might complain that they deserved the same treatment in respect of the upkeep of their own buildings if these kinds of relief were extended to new hotels.


My Lords, if the noble Lord would permit me to interrupt for one moment, what I, and I think many of us, feel is that an hotel is not an attractive proposition for finance, whereas an insurance company is. Therefore I think it is only right that some special attention and consideration should be given to hotels. I do not think that the argument that relief would have to be given to insurance companies as well is really appropriate to the case.


It may not be appropriate to the case, but when people are thinking about their own interests they are bound to raise these cases, and we cannot just ignore them. We are faced with a dfficulty when considering the possibility of removing purchase tax from the industry's tools and equipment—that is to say, from furnishings, kitchen equipment and crockery. I fail to see how a satisfactory distinction can be drawn between those articles used by the hotel industry and exactly the same goods bought by the private householder.


Will my noble friend allow me? Nothing would be easier than that the invoice should be marked.


Well, in a perfect world that might be true. But we are not in a perfect world, and I can see many headaches and difficulties in the matter. However, it is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am only pointing out some of the difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale talked about shop hours. He asked;"Why should not a shopkeeper work for as long as he likes?" He also said that the attitude abroad was,"It does not matter what the Act of Parliament says. Let us work the hours of work which we wish to work." I hope he is not for one moment suggesting that we should advocate ignoring Acts of Parliament in this country.


No; I did not mean that. I meant that good, sensible business is more important than the law; therefore, alter the law.


I perfectly understood what the noble Lord meant; but he must permit me just to smile at this time of the evening.


Fair enough !


As a matter of fact, shops do not, on an average, open now for as many hours as they are permitted to open. That is one of the facts. I personally have a great deal of sympathy with the views of the noble Lord on this matter, but shopkeepers do not take advantage at present of the hours they are permitted to work. It is a fact that holiday resorts can for four months suspend closing hours. That does not affect London, but at holiday resorts permission is given to suspend closing hours.

Then there is the most important question of advertising. I have looked carefully into what is done in that respect, and I have a list here of the various journals in the United States which carry the Association's advertisements. They are not by any means confined to the glossy, expensive periodicals. I should be very happy to supply the noble Lord with a list of them, if he would wish that. The Travel Association are expertly advised on this matter, and I am satisfied that these journals cover a very large section of the population. If the noble Lord will forgive me another small piece of humour, he referred to this new class who travel now as the people who voted for us at the last election. I am sure that the people visiting these shores did not, although similar people here may have done.


They are that kind of people.


Then there is the question of foreign labour in the hotels and catering industries. I am told that the British Hotels and Restaurants Association say that any skilled and semiskilled foreign workers whom the industry want can be brought in without difficulty, provided that a proper case is made to the Ministry of Labour. The Association say they are very satisfied with the position and that they have received the utmost co-operation from the Ministry of Labour in formulating their plans for recruiting foreign workers.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, referred to his trip to Australia, and the weariness of the time that one has to spend on the ground. I have just returned from a trip to Australia. Perhaps my colleagues, in sending me, had the same reason as the noble Lord suggested his had, or might have had. I found the situation greatly improved from the years before I became a Minister, when I travelled very frequently to Australia and other places in the world. But that does not mean that there is not room for still greater improvement. I am sure there is, and it is very important that travellers are not wearied any more than is necessary.

Then there is the question of passports. It has been said that passports were designed and are regarded as a help to the traveller, and not a hindrance. One noble Lord referred to his experience in that direction. While arrangements are being made to substitute an identity card for the passport in certain cases, it is not felt that the passport can be abolished at the present time. Visas are another matter, and arrangements are being made to get rid of them. We now have arrangements with most countries in Europe not to require visas. The only country outside Europe to do so, so far, is Mexico, but arrangements are being made with other Latin-American countries from which it is hoped agreement on this point will result. With regard to passports, I may say that negotiations have been opened with nine member countries of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation with a view to replacing passports with identity cards. Those countries are: Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Denmark; and it is hoped that these negotiations will bear fruit in every case. As your Lordships know, there are passport-free day trips to France already being arranged.

I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, which was answered by my noble friend Lord Craigton, who also brought a bit of humour into our discussion in the shape of black puddings. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, started off by saying that he had a vested interest in this matter, as he was chairman of a travel agency. That is what I should expect of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft—getting into something which has great promise for the future. But he did refer to the fact that in his view certain essential services were in danger of being saturated, and he instanced Dover Harbour, London Airport and, of course, hotels. I need not remind your Lordships that since the war a great deal of money has been spent on harbours and airports, and I am sure that that subject will be followed very closely to see that our harbours and airports are fitted to do the jobs they are expected to do. I have already referred to the question of hotels. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, in addition to extolling the good food in British restaurants spoke of the importance of a friendly outlook to our visitors and I am sure that that is of great significance because, as I have said, the number of our visitors is going to grow and our attitude to them is important.

Speaking generally, I do not think people get"gipped" in this country—and long may that remain the position! The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to the decline by 13 per cent. in personal exports and suggested that a simpler scheme should be devised. I believe that the decline has largely been due to the reduction in purchase tax. We must realise that as purchase tax is reduced the anxiety to take advantage of that scheme dwindles; but the whole subject is under constant review. The noble Lord also referred to the value of spreading the holidays. I listened with very great interest to his speech on this subject the other day, and I have no doubt that it is attracting the attention it deserves. I was very struck by one phrase used by the noble Lord:"Do not let the golden stream by-pass our country,"—and I am sure we must do all we can to see that it does not by-pass this country.

Then the noble Viscount, my friend Lord Elibank, with his usual consistency and with great eloquence, took this opportunity to raise the question of small pictorial stamps of low value and urged that their adoption would be of interest to the tourist trade; and he assured us that there is strong support for his suggestion. I am not sure that my right honourable friend the Postmaster General is yet aware of the strength of that support, if it is as the noble Viscount says. But I think all I can say about it at this moment is that I will certainly bring his remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade and my right honourable friend the Postmaster General. He will, of course, be only too well aware from previous debates on the subject that there are many other aspects of the question, apart from the question of tourists.

I have lost my notes concerning the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Perhaps it is as well. If I remember rightly, he was telling us how badly he was treated in Scotland; and after the exhilarating speech from my noble friend Lord Geddes I thought perhaps that was a little ballast which he usefully introduced. But I should like to say this to him. I am quite sure that the British Hotels and Restaurants Association will take very careful notice of what the noble Lord had to say, and I think the hotel trade generally will, because it is no service to this country—to the tourist industry or this country—if visitors are treated in the way the noble Lord experienced.

I should like to conclude by referring again to the social significance of this industry. As inverted exports, its financial significance is impressive. It is impressive even though we realise that it is a two-way traffic; perhaps it is impressive because it is a two-way traffic; more and more people are going abroad from this country and more and more people are visiting this country. I would go so far as to say that this exchange of peoples and the exchange of thoughts which accompany them is a great insurance even against war. Therefore the tourist traffic confers upon us a highly significant social and political benefit. I do not think we should look upon this tourist traffic in this country exactly as confined to what we can get out of our foreign visitors. It is even more a question of what we can offer them. Hotels and hoteliers have the greatest responsibility in this connection; and it is not entirely a question of the physical comforts they can provide, important as that is, but also the warmth of the welcome they provide. Therefore I think that this debate has been most useful in telling people how important this traffic is—how important it is that we should provide for and treat our tourists properly, just as we expect to be provided for and treated properly by the countries which we visit.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the British Travel and Holidays Association in connection with this subject and this debate. I should like to express my thanks to noble Lords in different parts of the House for having supported this Motion, and particularly to thank my noble friend Lord Mills for his careful, thoughtful and sympathetic response to the various points which we have brought before him. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw this Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at fourteen minutes before eight o'clock.