§ 3.42 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, BOARD OF TRADE (LORD BROWN)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is the first time that this House has been asked by any Government to consider a measure dealing solely with tourism. Other countries have tourism Acts on their statute books. Indeed, other parts of the British Isles, such as Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, have had such legislation since 1948.
Traditionally I think we regard ourselves in this country as travellers—as intrepid adventurers into distant lands. We do not see ourselves in the role of hosts 671 to other travellers. Perhaps this is why people here have been slow to accept the idea that tourism has become one of our most important industries. It would come as a surprise to many to know that since the war the United Kingdom's earnings from tourism have increased faster than our invisible earnings as a whole, or than our export earnings.
This is not to say that the Government have not realised the importance of publicity and promotion overseas to bring in more visitors to this country. In 1950 the Government provided £600,000 to the then British Holiday and Travel Association for this work. Successive Governments have continued to provide increasing funds. By 1963 the grant-in-aid was £1½, million. To-day we provide a grant of £3 million. I said when we were discussing this during a debate last December that I thought we were doing very well by the British Travel Association. And I stick to this.
Certainly, our inward traffic is increasing at a very satisfactory rate. The latest figures we have show that last year the number of visits to this country by people living overseas went up by 14 per cent. as compared with the previous year. Earnings in sterling rose by 20 per cent. to the figure of £282 million—and this is not counting international payments for air and sea travel to and from the United Kingdom. The figures for the first four months of this year are even more encouraging. They show a 20 per cent. increase over the number of visits made during the same period of last year. Of course, the rate of growth fluctuates from year to year, but all the evidence suggests that this industry has exceptional growth prospects.
Earnings from overseas visitors are only part of the story. Our tourist industry also provides holidays for some 26 million of our own people every year. Some take more than one holiday, so this adds up to about 30 million holidays a year. Now I am not suggesting that all these holidays would be taken abroad if people could not have a good holiday in this country, but some would. There is, therefore, an import saving element to be taken into account when assessing the contribution of the industry to the balance of payments. This is something which it is difficult to quantify. But last 672 year about 7 million visits abroad were made by residents of this country, and they spent £270 million in other countries. A large increase in the numbers going abroad for their holidays would, therefore, have a significant effect on the debit side of the balance of payments. In saying this, I am not trying to discourage people from going abroad for their holidays, though we have to maintain temporary restrictions on the amount of money each person can spend.
But despite the fact that our tourist industry can look to a steady home market and to an expanding export trade, the growth of facilities for tourists has not kept pace with the growth of traffic. While the number of visitors to this country has been growing, investment in hotels has been falling; and I hope I can inhibit the comment that that is due to S.E.T. because ail the indications are that investment in hotels was on the decline before selective employment tax was thought of.
If the momentum of growth in our tourist traffic is to be kept up, we must make sure that our visitors can find somewhere to stay. We must be sure that there are good reception facilities, and that there are adequate facilities for them to enjoy their holidays. We want them to come back again. I want to stress particularly the importance of encouraging people to come back for second and third visits to this country. I suppose most of us when visiting a country for the first time think of visiting its capital and the places we have heard of most frequently. It is when we go back for a subsequent visit that we become more adventurous and start to explore the smaller towns and villages, the countryside and the highways and byways. At present three-quarters of all overseas visitors spend at least one night in London and more than half visit no other part of the country. There is, therefore, a tremendous concentration of overseas visitors on London and when they do go further a field this tends to be to a limited number of places, principally to Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon.
It is of the utmost importance, if we are to be able to accommodate all the people who wish to visit this country and if we are to make the best use of our resources, that our overseas visitors should travel widely throughout the country. We want far more overseas visitors 673 to go to Scotland; we want far more to go to Wales; we want them to visit the South-West, to explore Norfolk and the splendid country to be found in the North of England. We are more likely to get this spread of tourist traffic if a higher proportion of those coming here are people who are coming for a second or third visit.
In what I have just said I have purposely laid stress on the importance of tourism in the context of our balance of payments. This lies at the heart of the Government's determination to take positive measures to encourage the expansion of the industry, and this is the purpose of the Bill which we are now considering. But I do not put this Bill forward simply as a foreign currency-earning measure, important though this is. The Bill also provides a framework within which fresh developments and new opportunities for employment may arise in parts of the country unsuited to industry. It provides also an opportunity for the development of machinery for combining Government action with opportunities for participation by a wide range of public and private interests.
I should now like to say something about the Bill itself. It is in three Parts. Part I sets up a new statutory tourist organisation. The decision to set up a statutory body was made after a very careful examination of the part which the Government should play in developing our tourist industry. The industry can be developed only by a partnership between public and private enterprise. If we consider for a moment what is happening now I think this will be obvious. I suppose we do not often realise the important part which the work of the Ministry of Public Building and Works plays in our tourist industry; and yet if we think about it it is obvious, because so many people come here to see our historical buildings and monuments of our past history.
Private enterprise, on the other hand, provides the greater part of the accommodation in which the visitors stay. So already we have a joint effort. This, I think, must continue. But I think that the important role which Government must assume in future is the role of stimulating investment by other people in the sort of facilities that will be needed if we are to have the right en- 674 vironment to encourage people to take and enjoy their holidays here. This involves so many people and so many interests that it could never be done by any one organisation. Local authorities are involved: the retail trade, transport undertakings, people concerned with facilities for sport and recreation, public bodies who are concerned with the countryside and with our waterways—the list is almost endless.
It is quite unrealistic to think that there could be any effective central control, for example, under a Minister of Tourism. What is needed is a co-ordinating force, a body which will ensure that people whose activities affect tourism know what are the needs of tourists. Perhaps I might describe it as a body whose job will be to give technical advice and assistance to others. For example, I would not expect a tourist body to tell an Oxford college that in the interests of tourism it should be open to the public during June. Oxford colleges are not maintained primarily for the benefit of tourists, although they are of enormous interest to them. But I would expect a Tourist Board to be able to forecast the rate at which visitors to Oxford will grow, so that those who are planning car parking facilities, for example, can know what they will have to face.
I would expect the tourist body to be an expert body carrying out research not only into the needs of the market but also into the ways in which special facilities should be constructed. The British Travel Association itself has suggested that changes were needed and that the body responsible for tourism should have statutory powers. In the light of the Association's views, and our own consideration of the problem, we have come to the conclusion that the right sort of organisation to carry out this kind of work, to maintain liaison with other public bodies, to give financial assistance where needed to encourage the development of facilities, and to continue the work of publicity and promotion, would be a statutory organisation.
We propose in Part 1 of the Bill to set up four statutory tourist boards.. The British Tourist Authority will be responsible for overseas promotion and for matters affecting tourism in the country as a whole. Perhaps I might say that in future I should like to refer to this 675 body as the "Authority" as it saves saying such a mouthful each time. Separate statutory Boards are proposed for England, Scotland and Wales. The last two will be responsible to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales respectively.
Clause 1 and Schedule 1 contain the basic provisions necessary for the establishment of the Authority, and the English, Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards, and for the appointment of members and staff. Clause 2 describes their general functions and powers. It places on the Authority responsibility for overseas promotion work outside the United Kingdom but the English, Scottish and Wales Boards—the "country Boards" as we may call them—take part in determining overseas promotion policy through their Chairmen, who will be members of the Authority. Each Board will be able to carry out promotional work on a co-operative basis and to attract commercial revenue from publications and advertisements. Indeed, the amount of promotional work, particularly within the United Kingdom, will be affected by the extent to which co-operative contributions and comercial revenue be responsible for encouraging the pro-are forthcoming. Each Board will also vision of more and better tourist amenities and facilities in their areas.
At this point I should like to apologise for a clerical error in the Explanatory Memorandum preceding the Bill. The seventh line dealing with Clause 2 should be deleted. It was a hangover from the previous edition of the Bill and it has been changed since then. The line we wish to delete is:The Authority is also to have this function as respects England.I have already referred to the wide range of interests involved in providing facilities for tourists and holidaymakers. The new Tourist Boards will be able to achieve results only by working very closely with local authorities, with other public bodies and with trade interests. There are already in some parts of the country voluntary associations which bring these interests together at regional or area level. These associations will have an increasingly important part to play in securing real progress in improving local facilities. They will also con- 676 tinue to be intimately concerned in publicising their areas and in providing information for their visitors. It is right, therefore, that our Bill should recognise that membership associations set up to develop the tourist industry in a particular area are an important feature in the overall organisation for tourism. Consequently Clause 2 of the Bill draws the attention of the new organisation to the desirability of fostering, and co-operating with, such bodies. Indeed the Tourist Boards will be expected to make cooperative action the keynote of their way of working. And because of the importance of this, Clause 2 draws attention particularly to the importance of consultation with a wide range of other interests. We must leave it to the Tourist Boards to devise their own machinery, but I have no doubt that they will do this in such a way as to mobilise the help and good will of the tourist trade and of the bodies both public and private who are in effect, part of the "tourist industry".
Clause 3 will enable the British Tourist Authority to propose a general scheme of financial assistance for a class of tourist project. Such a scheme would need the approval of each House of Parliament. The Government do not at present envisage any scheme being introduced while significant payments are still being made under the Hotel Development Incentives Scheme for which Part 11 of the Bill provides.
Clause 4 provides powers to give financial assistance to particular tourist projects by way of grant, loan or investment and would also enable a Tourist Board to undertake a project itself. We see this essentially as an ability to carry out a pump priming operation. The ability to give financial assistance is not intended as an automatic alternative to projects being financed on a normal commercial basis or by public bodies, such as local authorities, through their existing powers and resources. The Tourist Boards will obviously need to assess priorities, benefits and the need for assistance in relation to any project in which their financial participation or assistance is proposed. Safeguards have been written in in the form of a requirement that Ministerial and Treasury approval must be obtained for assistance given under this clause.
677 Before we leave Part I of the Bill, there is one other feature which I should like to mention. This is the relationship between the organisation we are now setting up under the Bill and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which is already in existence and was set up under Northern Ireland legislation. Tourism is one of the subjects which is within the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Government to whom the Northern Ireland Tourist Board is responsible. That Tourist Board has wide enough powers to carry out not only the domestic development of tourism but also overseas promotion. It would in those circumstances be wrong for this Bill to give to the Authority any duty in relation to the promotion of Northern Ireland. However, we all recognise, not least the Northern Ireland Government and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, that there are enormous advantages in carrying out overseas promotion in terms of the United Kingdom as a whole. The present British Travel Association maintains 20 offices in overseas countries. There is simply no sense in trying to duplicate work on this scale. For this reason with the concurrence of the Northern Ireland Government, we have given the new British Tourist Authority powers under Clause 5 of the Bill to carry out overseas promotion for Northern Ireland at the request of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. We have also provided a power to carry out overseas promotion to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man if their Tourist Boards so wish.
I now turn to Part II of the Bill. I have already referred to the shortage of hotel accommodation. The House will be aware that the Government put forward proposals last year for a scheme of assistance to hotels in a White Paper entitled, Hotel Development Incentives. Part II of the Bill, together with Schedules 2, 3 and 4, provides for the implementation of this scheme. As the scheme has already been described in considerable detail in the White Paper, I will not attempt to-day to deal with its provisions in detail. There is, however, one point that I should like to make. The scheme has limited objectives. It is not a scheme designed simply to put more money into the pockets of every hotelier. It is intended to encourage the building of more hotels of the sort needed by overseas visitors and to do it quickly. The scheme 678 is for a limited period only. It has been described as a "shot in the arm". I have no quarrel with this description. The scheme is not designed to give help to all kinds of holiday accommodation but only to "serviced" hotel accommodation. Of course, other types of holiday accommodation are needed by tourists and holidaymakers. But there is no evidence that the supply of such accommodation is falling short of demand, or that it is not sufficiently profitable. There is evidence that investment in the sort of hotels which we are seeking to assist under this scheme is not sufficiently profitable to call forward the volume of investment needed to meet demand.
We now come to Part III. Here there are two provisions which I should like to mention to-day. The first is the enabling power, in Clause 17, which would permit, through an Order in Council, the registration, clasification or grading of tourist accommodation. Let me say straightaway that the Government have no predetermined scheme in mind, and one of the tasks of the Authority will be to advise the Government on this subject. To do so it will need to act in consultation with the English, Scottish and Wales Tourist Boards, and also to have wide consultations with organisations representative of trade and consumer interests. In proposing this provision we have had in mind that, although there are a number of accommodation guides of one sort or another, comprehensive information is not easily and generally available on all hotels, and on other principal forms of tourist accommodation. Whatever scheme might be introduced in the future, there would still be a place for selective guides catering for special needs or for particular tourist centres. There would be no question of giving the tourist organisation a monopoly in this field.
I am well aware that some think that registration should be done on a voluntary basis: and the present British Travel Association are of this view. But the fact remains that there has never been anything to prevent this from being done and we still have no register of hotels in this country, in fact, we do not know how many there are. Estimates suggest that the figure may be between 12,000 and 17,000, if we consider only those with ten or more letting bedrooms. The total might be some 30,000. Yet a visitor to 679 this country who waded through every guide that is published would know of only 8,000 hotels in all. I am satisfied, therefore, that we are right to seek enabling powers for a compulsory system.
The second feature of Part III, which I will mention briefly, is the enabling power in Clause 18 under which hotels could be required to display their room prices. This is a late addition to the Bill. During discussion of the measure in another place a considerable body of opinion was found to be in favour of including a provision in the Bill on the lines of this clause. It has been hailed by all shades of opinion as a considerable measure of consumer protection. I have no doubt that an order made under this clause would make a real contribution towards providing a better service, both for our visitors from overseas, and for our own people travelling on business or pleasure.
I hope that we shall have a very full discussion of the provisions of this Bill. This House is particularly rich in talent and experience in the field of tourism. It includes, among its numbers, an expert on selling our tourist attractions overseas several who are experts in the actual work of providing attractions for visitors both from home and overseas. In particular, it includes Lord Geddes, who has been Chairman of the British Travel Association for the last five years. Under his vigorous and inspired guidance the Association has performed a great service to the tourist industry and to the country as a whole. We are all deeply grateful to the Association and to its Chairman.
The Bill provides a framework for the future development of our tourist industry. It is important both that the frame should he the right shape, and that those who will fill in the picture should benefit from the advice and experience which so many in this House have accumulated over the years. Before I finish, may I say that the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, will shortly move a Motion that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of the kind which we found so useful on the Gaming Pill last Session. Our experiment with that Bill was afterwards considered by the Select Committee on Procedure. They reported that the experiment had been successful, and recommended that we should use it again when we had a suitable Public Bill. I think it would 680 be a good idea to use it again for the Development of Tourism Bill, because this Bill has already aroused a great deal of interest, and, as your Lordships will remember, that kind of Committee procedure gives us much more freedom and informality in discussion, which I think will be especially helpful in this case. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Brown.)
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, first of all, may I thank the noble Lord for taking us so succinctly through this Bill, and, in particular, for having outlined to your Lordships the reasons why the Government have come to the conclusions that are set out in Part I of the Bill? Before I deal with anything else, and since this Bill is to go to a Committee "upstairs", may I ask the noble Lord to confirm what I think is the case, that, although the numbers on that Committee will he extremely small it will be open to any Member of your Lordships' House to attend that Committee, to move Amendments and speak to them—to do everything except vote in the Committee? After the noble Lord referred to the wealth of experience in this House, it came a little oddly when he said that this was to be referred to a small Select Committee. If I am right, that experience can be deployed in the Committee, even although the people with the wealth of experience are not all Members of it. I believe this to be the case, but I thought it as well to make it clear from the start.
I cannot help feeling that although the noble Lord said that this question of an Authority and statutory Boards has been under consideration for some time, what has really brought the Government to the conclusion to have them is that they decided to provide in this Bill for the taxpayers' money to be paid out for two purposes: first, to encourage the building of new hotels and extensions, and the modernisation of fixed equipment; and, secondly, to enable financial assistance to be given for the provision or improvement of tourist amenities and facilities. I was rather disappointed to hear from the noble Lord, if I understood him correctly, that that second purpose is not to be brought into operation until after the first purpose has been fulfilled.
681 As to the second purpose, I take it that the Government have in mind tourist centres, such as Aviemore. I have no criticism to make of that, especially as the financial assistance is to be provided only in accordance with carefully thought out schemes prepared by the British Tourist Authority, which will be a reconstituted British Travel Association, and also after approval by both Houses. But the first purpose, like any scheme for handing out the taxpayers' money, whether by way of grant or loan, needs much more careful scrutiny and justification.
We have to ask a number of questions about this purpose. We have to ask whether it is the only way, or the best way, to achieve the objective of more hotel accommodation. Is it necessary? Is it in the public interest? If so, should it be, and need it be, indiscriminate? Is encouragement needed in all cases and in all areas? Are the conditions under which the money is to be handed out fair and equitable to the industry as a whole? Will they achieve what hotel users, both British and foreign, really want? Also, and not least important, what happens when the scheme comes to an end, so far as investment in hotels is concerned? I find it difficult to believe that it is necessary, solely in order to administer these two schemes, to alter radically the present system which has worked so well.
I know the noble Lord has said that there are other purposes here; but that the present system has worked well so far as attracting foreign visitors is concerned can hardly be disputed. Indeed, the noble Lord pronounced a kind of valedictory encomium on the British Travel Association in its present form, with which I am sure we should all agree. Great credit is due to the tourist industry in general, and to the British Travel Association in particular, for this great success. From the point of view of our balance of trade, the British Travel Association's marketing policies have been amazingly successful. The total number of overseas visitors, excluding 750,000 from the Irish Republic, passed the 4 million mark last year. Of these, according to the British Travel Association's estimates, just over 3 million were foreigners, compared with some 800,000 only 14 years ago.
Over the last five years, the number of visitors to this country from the United States has increased twice as fast 682 as the number of visitors from the United States to the 15 other main West-European countries. This is undoubtedly due in large measure to the policy not only of selling Britain as a whole but of selling Britain as the gateway to Europe. In other words, it would be a mistake to try to sell Britain in isolation, and a still greater mistake to try to sell England or Scotland or Wales in isolation. The British Travel Association has been particularly successful in spreading visits from overseas more evenly over the whole year. I understand that the rate of increase in winter visits to Britain is higher than the rate of increase in other European countries, despite their natural advantages in winter sporting facilities.
But the British Travel Association, as the noble Lord said, advised the Government that unless the rate of investment in hotel accommodation was increased the rate of growth in the number of visitors from overseas would be inhibited; and, of course, we cannot afford to ignore any possible increase in our overseas earnings, although we cannot be sure that the number of overseas visitors will continue to rise indefinitely. The £50 limit on travel overseas does not help, for it tends to encourage other countries to put limits on their nationals. For example, I understand that both the United States and France have put limits on their nationals, and the limits which the United States of America placed on their people cost this country last year 100,000 visitors from the United States of America.
The Government have decided to stimulate the rate of investment by a temporary scheme for assistance in the provision of hotel bedrooms and the installation of fixed equipment. To qualify for assistance (and the noble Lord did not mention this) work must have begun on or after April 1 of last year—which, incidentally, is even before the White Paper, Hotel Development Incentives, was published—and before March 31, 1971, and must be completed not later than March 31, 1973; in other words, less than two years will remain after the passage of this Bill for the starting of this work, and less than four years for completion. To administer the grants and loans, the Government propose to set up three national Boards, for England, Scotland and Wales. They 683 also propose to set up the statutory British Tourist Authority to carry on the work of the British Travel Association in marketing Britain as a tourist attraction abroad, and also to prepare schemes for the Boards to assist projects for providing or improving tourist amenities and facilities.
One cannot help doubting the wisdom of replacing the British Travel Association, which has done such outstanding work, and of setting up this permanent structure of statutory Boards for the purpose, it seems to me (at least, this was the original purpose), of giving a temporary injection of capital into the tourist industry. It was this, in my belief, that led the Government to come to these conclusions. Whenever the Government are faced with a problem, their natural inclination seems to be to set up one or more statutory boards with powers to take the place of voluntary co-operation. The step to regimentation is a short one, and the regimentation contemplated in Part III seems to follow.
My Lords, can it really be said that the Boards are essential? The Board of Trade has for years administered the grants and loans to industry in development areas. It has also been saddled by the present Government with the invidious task of making investment grants—another example of handing out public money instead of allowing people to keep as much as possible of what they earn. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture in Scotland have for many years administered the farm improvement schemes. If grants and loans can be made by Departments to individual farms and individual factories, surely they can be made by Departments to individual hotels.
But why are the grants and loans needed at all? The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says:… it is possible that annual expenditure could rise to about £8 million"—presumably per annum—during the operation of Part II of the Bill".But, my Lords, how much a year are the Government taking out of the industry at present? How much are they taking out in S.E.T.? The figure of £28 million a year has been mentioned. Is that correct? It does not look a very good bargain: £28 million taken from 684 all; £8 million to be handed out to some. The Government have blandly said that the hotel industry is not suitable for investment grants. Yet they are proposing to give grants for installing fixed equipment. We on this side do not like the system of investment grants. We believe that a system of investment allowances, with free depreciation in development areas, is more economical and more conductive to efficiency. But why have these grants to be administered by statutory Boards when the Board of Trade could do it along with their other duties? Or have the Government at last come to the conclusion that the burden they have been placing on the Board of Trade is altogether excessive?
Are these grants necessary? Are they needed in every case? There may be perfectly good answers to these questions that I am posing. The President of the Board of Trade said in the House of Commons on June 23 (col. 1095):All the evidence is that we are having a higher rate of investment in new hotel accommodation than we have had for many years, on the part of both considerable British companies and a number of international companies … The reason for this is the highly prosperous state of travel and tourism".That hardly makes the case for Government grants, or even loans, at least to "considerable hotels", at the expense of taxpayers, including those hotels which cannot afford the high minimum amount of investment in new bedrooms which is needed to qualify for loan assistance under the Bill—£20,000 in the case of a new hotel and £10,000 in the case of an extension or alteration. Incidentally, the maximum loan to a "considerable hotel" is no less than £500,000, which would take quite a lot of that £8 million.
Does what the President of the Board of Trade said apply universally throughout the country? If there are parts of the country in which this is not true, then ought not the available finance to be concentrated on them, in the same way as industrial assistance is concentrated on development areas? Can the noble Lord give figures to show just where all this investment is taking place? Unless he has such figures I do not see how we can reach rational decisions as to the type of hotel building which needs encouragement or the areas in which more bedrooms are needed but will not be supplied without assistance. Where is the shortage of 685 hotel accommodation for overseas tourists most acute; and what sort of accommodation is most needed? If the noble Lord cannot answer these questions we shall be forced to the conclusion that this scheme is not just a shot in the arm but a shot in the dark.
We shall have to look very carefully in Committee at the conditions on which grants may be made; and I trust that we shall have an assurance from the noble Lord that the Government will keep an open mind on this matter and will not treat it as a matter of House of Commons Privilege. Why is it necessary to require that at least 10 letting bedrooms should be provided in new hotels, or five additional letting bedrooms in existing hotels, as a condition for getting the grant? is it right to insist on the provision of dinners as a condition for getting assistance? Is it right to insist on the provision of five additional bedrooms as a condition of grant for extensions—without, I may say, any increase in bathrooms? I have in mind the inns and small hotels in rural areas where even two or three extra bedrooms would be a useful addition to the national store of hotel bedrooms, but where bathroom accommodation may already be inadequate. Is there really to be no quality test at all? What is meant by an "extension" of an hotel? Is it sufficient to provide an annex, or must the bedrooms be literally an extension of the hotel?
What is to be the position of motels, consisting of separate permanent buildings? There are many questions I should like to ask. No doubt they are Committee points, but I mention them to illustrate how difficult, it is to lay down conditions which are both fair to the industry as a whole and flexible enough to meet different circumstances and the needs of different areas. Are unsatisfactory hotels to get the benefit of these grants even if they merely provide additional bedrooms and do nothing to improve the general standards?
My Lords, I return to my main theme. Although there has been pressure for some time in some quarters to establish statutory Boards for Scotland and Wales, it is obviously as a consequence of the scheme for the grants and loans that these four new statutory Boards were conceived. The British Travel Association have achieved their results by volun- 686 tary co-operation. They are tremendous results. They are now to be replaced by a statutory authority. In passing, let me say that nothing is said in the Bill about the employees of the B.T.A. Will they be given the opportunity of employment in the Authority? Will those for whom there is no place in the Authority or on one of the Boards be compensated for loss of their jobs; or have they to rely solely on the Redundancy Payments Act? I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us.
I hope also that the Authority will be allowed normal commercial freedom in choosing grades and fixing salaries of their staff. One cannot expect highly-skilled marketing executives to be content with grading on Civil Service grades. Do not let us be fobbed off with the argument that the Authority is just a spending department. All marketing departments are spending departments. They must have latitude to determine the job to be done and the rate for the job.
And what about the relations between the Authority and the Boards? At the present time, there are 23 members of the B.T.A. if I am correct, including the Chairman, my noble friend Lord Geddes, and the Deputy Chairman. They are drawn from every part of Britain and virtually every branch of the tourist industry. The new Authority is to consist of a Chairman and eight members, three of whom are the Chairmen of the English, Scottish and Welsh Boards. The noble Lord was good enough to mention Northern Ireland. If these Boards are to be represented on the Authority, should not the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board also sit on the Board, with, of course, the agreement of the Northern Ireland Government? At least it is clearly essential that Northern Ireland should continue Ito enjoy the same facilities and relations with the Authority as it now has with the B.T.A. in regard to overseas promotion.
So far as the constitution of the Authority is concerned, it seems a curious arrangement. The Chairmen of the Boards are to be responsible respectively to the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales. Their loyalty to the Authority, of which they are members, is likely to be sorely tested. I would say only this. This may work; but it will 687 need the greatest determination on the part of all concerned to make it work. It could be disastrous. Secondly, what is to replace the very wide representation of the B.T.A. and all the intimate and informal links that this representation gives? There is a great deal to be said for advisory committees to assist the Authority and each of the Boards. I am not a lover of statutory boards; but if we must have them in an industry as diverse as this, should there not be a statutory advisory committee to help each of them?
Also, there is a great deal of difference between contacts with different organisations, however informal and friendly, and the advice of trusted advisers who know the ins and outs of the business from their daily work. I believe that a duty should he laid on each Board to appoint committees, possibly in consultation with the Ministry which appoints the Board. Is each Board to be allowed to go its own sweet way without reference to the Authority on matters which are within each Board's own sphere? It is generally recognised that there are functions which the Authority could best and most economically perform for the whole of Britain. Let me quote one or two of them.
First, since only the Authority is to carry on activities outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Great Britain or any part of it, it would be sensible to develop a central system for the reservation of accommodation for overseas visitors for the whole of Great Britain. Secondly, since marketing means determining what people want and are likely to buy if it is provided—and not just providing something and getting someone to sell it—the Authority must surely have a say in what is to be provided in the way of tourist facilities and attractions and hotel accommodation in these three countries. It is essential, therefore, that the three Boards should consult the Authority as to what is to be provided in their areas. Such consultations should be required in the Bill and not just left to chance or to the discretion of the Boards.
Thirdly, there are functions like the training of guides and the signposting of historic houses, which should be uniform throughout Great Britain. Fourthly, there 688 must be close co-operation between the Boards; and this, too, can best be arranged by the Authority. Co-ordination there must certainly be. Who is there to arrange it but the Authority? Fifthly, we must not forget that it is the British tourists who use the hotels most of all—a surprising figure. I think: although according to the B.T.A. estimate only one-seventh of the main holidays are taken in licensed hotels as compared with one-quarter in boarding houses and unlicensed hotels. In the present state of the nation's finances we should certainly be encouraging our people to take their holidays at home. In that I agree with the noble Lord. The trouble is that since taxes are being heaped on to the hotels and costs are rising so much, it is sometimes cheaper for a Londoner to take a package tour abroad than to go to the North or the West.
Two years ago the B.T.A. were given £300,000, I believe, to spend on a campaign in this country for holidays in Britain. Last year that was reduced to £100,000. Is it to be left to the three Boards to spend whatever the Government allocate for this campaign in the future? If it is, there is certainly room for co-operation with the Authority if the best results for the money are to be obtained.
This brings me to the last point I wish to make. The gross income of the B.T.A. in the year ending March, 1968—the last B.T.A. report is not yet available—amounted to over £3,500,000. Government grants in that year totalled £2.8 million or a little more. Contributions were £205,000. Receipts from advertisements in B.T.A. publications and other services amounted to over £500,000. Of the British Travel Association's £3,500,000 revenue, £340,000 was spent on travel promotion within Great Britain. It seems unlikely, I am bound to say in passing, that those who contributed to the funds of the voluntary B.T.A. will wish to contribute to a statutory Authority. They may well switch their contributions to the Boards, statutory though they be, or to the regional tourist organisations. That is more probable. I would hope that these contributions will not be lost to the promotion of tourism as a whole. That indicates that in all probability it is going to be necessary for the Government to replace that £200.000 in one way or another.
689 From what was said in another place, it appears that the Government do not intend to increase by very much their total grants to the Authority and Boards combined. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us what the Budget is likely to be. What is of the greatest importance for our balance of payments is that the number of overseas visitors should continue to increase. That is unlikely to happen if the money available for overseas marketing operations is reduced. I would ask the noble Lord to give an assurance to-night that there is no question of the amount needed to maintain the overseas offices (he mentioned 20, I thought there were 23) and to keep up the volume of publicity being reduced. Any reduction would indeed be paradoxical; it would almost be a perverse result of this reorganisation.
I shall leave Part III of the Bill to other speakers. It deals with registration and notification of prices to be charged for accommodation. All I would ask is that the provisions in Clauses 17 and 18 shall not be brought into operation except on the recommendation of the British Tourist Authority. To sum up, my Lords, this Bill may now be necessary because hotel accommodation is short, although there are conflicting statements about that. At any rate, it is short in some areas. But I am hound to say that I cannot regard the Bill with any enthusiasm. Most of its provisions would not have been necessary if the Government had been able to inspire the necessary confidence in the industry as to its future. But the Government have not been able to inspire that confidence, certainly not under Socialist rule. However, my Lords, I would not recommend my noble friends to oppose the Bill, but we shall certainly try to improve it during its passage through your Lordships' House.
§ 4.31 p.m.
My Lords, as a director of a shipping company which benefits from tourism I must declare an interest. But, apart from that, having had the honour to be Chairman of the British Travel Association for the last 5½ years and Deputy Chairman for three years before that, it would seem appropriate that I should inform your Lordships as to my views about this Bill. So far as I am concerned, the first thoughts 690 which led up to this Bill date back to the slimmer of 1967. Although there had been earlier efforts to promote tourism to Britain, the present campaign has been continuous since 1951. It has been a campaign to promote and market tourism to this country. When it started the total visitor figure was about half a million per annum, but by 1967 this had grown to 3½ million and, as your Lordships have heard, it is now past the 4 million mark. The latest figures I have indicate something like a 20 per cent. increase this year over last year.
In the field of promotion and marketing there is little doubt that the British Travel Association had achieved world supremacy, but it was becoming clear that it would soon be necessary to improve the goods that we were selling if we were to avoid finding ourselves oversold: that is to say, something would have to be done to improve and increase our tourist amenities if we were to receive and to give satisfaction to the increasing flood of visitors. In my travels abroad too often I heard about the need to telephone as many as 14 London hotels before one could obtain a bed in London in midsummer. From the report in to-day's Times, this year appears to be no exception. One tour operator in New York told me that he had eliminated Scotland completely from any of his operations because of the difficulty of finding overnight accommodation. Other countries had accepted the necessity for the expenditure of public funds for the provision of tourist amenities, and the British Travel Association presented the case to Her Majesty's Government that the time had come when something similar would have to be done in this country. Broadly, this submission was accepted and is reflected in Parts I and II of the Bill.
In this connection, may I particularly draw to the attention of your Lordships Clause 3(1), where it is provided that the Authority may prepare schemesbeing projects which … will provide or improve tourist amenities and facilities in Great Britain."Projects" I understand to mean anything from the great scale of Aviemore at the one end to helping with canal boats or tennis courts at the other. That my Lords, is the nucleus of this Bill in my opinion, but it carries with it an implication that funds will be needed 691 to carry out such schemes; and in some cases public money may have to be made available to prime the pump. So far so good; but there are weaknesses explicit in the Bill to which I feel it is my duty to draw your Lordships' attention. One weakness is implicit in the discussions which have taken place thus far.
The promotion of tourism is one of those fields of human activity in which everyone thinks he is an expert, and nearly everyone bases his opinion on his own experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. The promotion of tourism is a highly competitive commercial operation in which it is essential to employ many different skills. The concept of this Bill is that the new Authority and Boards will be responsible for such promotion, but explicitly it is provided that as to pay and staff policies they will have to conform to detailed control by Her Majesty's Government. From my experience I know that this means comparison, grade by grade, with the Civil Service. I believe that this is absolutely wrong. In my view, the Chairmen of the Boards should be carefully selected, but, once appointed, they should be entrusted to carry out their responsibilities uninhibited by detailed control by people whose experience is far removed from the problems with which the Authority is dealing.
My Lords, I reached that conclusion only after bitter experience. In the autumn of 1967 it became clear to me that certain staff adjustments were necessary and additionally that some new senior appointments were required in order to develop the tourist regionalisation of England; to guide and instruct the embryonic regional tourist association. The staff adjustments which, in any business, would have been decided on without delay took no less than a year to grind their way through the meshes of bureaucracy. As regards the new appointments, after a year of uncertainty we were told that they could not be made. It can be argued that by its very success the British Travel Association has shown that it could live and operate within the present controls. But, my Lords, no one knows better than I do how often we have failed merely because 692 of a restricted budget and the heavy hand of bureaucracy on our staffing policy.
The second weakness lies in the fact that the Bill, which creates four separate statutory bodies, fails adequately to ensure cohesion between those bodies—apart from the requirement that the Chairmen of the England, Wales and Scotland Boards should be members of the Authority. Apart from political and emotional considerations, there are practical reasons why the country Boards should be made responsible for much of the development of tourist amenities within their boundaries. But there are other areas where cohesion between these Boards is of paramount importance. Not only is such cohesion necessary in fields such as research, but the new organisation will work only if the Authority, being responsible for overseas promotion, is equally made responsible for guiding the country Boards in the needs of their potential customers. It would, for example, be silly for each of the country Boards to develop independently in such matters as hotel standards, guide training and road signs.
Clause 2 of the Bill makes the Authority responsible for encouraging the improvement of tourist amenities in Great Britain, but then goes on to impose similar responsibilities on the country Boards, as though they were different from Great Britain as a whole. Furthermore, the country Boards, and in due course the regional bodies, will require trained staff. This staff can be effective only with experience of overseas operations. Contrariwise, the overseas representatives can be effective only if they understand the home administration. I firmly believe that the training and the provision of effective staff for home and overseas is a single function and should be vested in the Authority.
For these reasons I believe that the Bill should at least make provision for discussions between the country Boards and the Authority, and in some cases it should impose on the Authority responsibility to co-ordinate. As at present worded, Clause 2 gives the Authority responsibility for encouraging the provision and improvement of tourist amenities and facilities in Great Britain, and the three country Boards like responsibilities for their respective countries. Yet Great Britatin is not different from England, Scotland and Wales; we are 693 talking about one whole country in which many national bodies, both commercial and non-commercial, State-owned and privately run, have as their field for their enterprise one area, not three separate territories. The only means of coordination of activity provided for in the Bill is the tenuous link, to which I have referred, through the presence of the Chairmen of the four independent bodies on the Board of the British Tourist Authority. But that is not adequate for the magnitude of the task, which is basically a commercial, not a political, activity.
I said just now that there was also an implicit weakness which had appeared in the discussions about this Bill. It has been suggested that the new structure of national tourist Boards should be brought into being and that the new Authority should continue the present overseas promotion, all within a sum of money only fractionally more than that granted in the current year to the British Travel Association. Without a shadow of doubt, the new national Boards will need funds. Indeed, a responsible Minister is reported to have said that the new Scottish Tourist Board would have available in its first year of operation £250,000 to spend on general promotion. On the other side of the account, a considerable part of the £200,000 a year which members have contributed to the British Travel Association will disappear. Can Her Majesty's Government give an assurance now that the money available for overseas promotion will be at least sufficient to allow the present overseas promotion effort to be maintained? Let there be no mistake, experience has shown that it takes many years to recover the damage which would be done by even a temporary reduction in overseas promotion.
I am loath to burden your Lordships with statistics, but perhaps you will bear with me if I give a few figures. Between 1966 and the current year, the visitor revenue, excluding the fares paid to British carriers, has increased by approximately £60 million. Between those two years, the Government grant-in-aid increased by less than £1 million. I believe that we are under-investing in tourism and I am convinced that a comparatively small increase in the grant, year by year, could make a major difference to the country's earnings from tourism. Not only that, but there is a 694 counter flow which is almost equally important. Each year about 5½ million people from this country go abroad, excluding those who go to Ireland. I think this figure disagrees slightly with that given by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, but it is approximately that. They do so for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that foreign resorts are so much better promoted in this country than our own.
When Her Majesty's Government introduced this miserable £50 travel allowance, later reduced by devaluation to £43, I urged that it would be more effective to promote home holidays than to try to restrict foreign travel. The argument was accepted; and at the beginning of 1968 we commenced a Home Holidays Campaign, which was to cost £1 million spread over three years. At the end of the first year Her Majesty's Government saw fit to cut the funds available for this campaign. In a time of financial stringency it seemed to me to be the height of folly to withhold £300,000 which could have reversed the outward tide to the tune of millions.
Instead of positive action to encourage and help British residents to travel in Britain and to make Britain's tourist areas competitive with foreign tourist areas, we are left with the negative course of imposing the currency restrictions, ostensibly as a temporary measure, which has proved ineffective in operation and dangerous in encouraging reciprocal restrictions on our own tourist trade from other countries. In the past year, following our short-lived efforts, there has, for a number of reasons, been a temporary halt in British travel abroad, but the outward tide has started to flow once again.
I come now to Part III of the Bill, which deals with the registration of tourist accommodation. This was no part of the recommendation put forward by the British Travel Association. To understand this problem it is necessary to identify registration, classification and grading of accommodation. Registration is simply a Domesday Book. It would be an enormous task in the first instance, and by itself would be valueless so far as the tourist trade is concerned. Classification is a second stage, being based on physical amenities such as lifts, number of bathrooms, night porters, garages and 695 so forth in each registered hotel. Unfortunately, here again the result is of little value to the traveller, because a dirty, badly run hotel may have lots of lifts, while a charming, clean and hospitable inn, but with the bathroom down the corridor, may lack the amenities necessary to qualify for the higher grades.
Therefore, one comes to the question of grading, which indicates quality, and consequently, when related to price, indicates value; and this demands considerable skill. In an ideal community, it would be very nice to have a concise price list of all hotel accommodation, but before embarking on such an undertaking it is necessary to consider both the cost and the need which may exist. A full grading scheme would need to be progressively introduced and in the first year might cost about £250,000. Logically, such a scheme would have to be expanded until finally it included all forms of accommodation. It would have to be kept up to date and a considerable staff of high-grade and scruplously honest inspectors would be needed for this purpose. To maintain such a scheme would be exceedingly expensive, and if all accommodation, including caravans and camping sites, were to be included—and it is logical that they should be—the annual cost might be as high as £2 million.
As regards the need, your Lordships may individually like to carry a guide book which will indicate the quality and value of the hotels and even restaurants along the route, but here again we come to the problem of individual experience, which can be so misleading. The mass of travel to-day is planned and sold by experts and the traveller himself or herself increasingly prefers to be given detailed itineraries and not to be bothered with the planning. There is therefore considerable doubt whether the cost of a grading scheme would be justified by the benefits to be obtained from it. Already specialised guide books exist in considerable quantity, covering the whole of Great Britain, each aimed at its particular user, including the agent who plans the tours. My own view is that all these adequately meet the case.
Thus far I have called your Lordships' attention to the operational and organisational problems related to the develop- 696 ment of tourism in terms of this Bill. There is, however, a field of equal importance in respect of the people who have done such an outstanding job, in some cases over very many years. First, there are the members of the Board and of its committees, who have given unstintingly of their time and wisdom and their experience to guide the Association, and this without payment. Some, but I hope not all, of them may now leave the stage.
Perhaps more important still, there is the staff. The Association employs rather more than 280 people in Britain and about 150 to man its 24 overseas offices. Some of these have given a lifetime of service to the nation in this work, others are in mid-career with all the responsibilities that that involves and yet others are newly emerging trainees. It is to be hoped and expected that the new Authority will see fit to take advantage of their knowledge and experience and continue their employment, but there is always the possibility that some will be declared redundant. Can I ask Her Majesty's Government for an assurance that any such will be dealt with fairly and indeed generously, bearing in mind the service which they have given? Can the payments be at least as good as would apply in a nationalised industry? Finally, the enactment of this Bill will lead to the dissolution of the British Travel Association, which now has some 4,000 members. I am sure that I shall be echoing the wishes of your Lordships in expressing most sincere thanks to all of those people who have built up and supported this trade.
To sum up, my Lords, I believe that the principles behind this Bill are right. The machinery proposed, however, appears to admit political considerations in the handling of a commercial problem. The four independent Boards will have to work in close harmony. This seems to be the Government's intention, but in its present form the Bill lacks the provision of adequate means to ensure that this will be the case. I am convinced that the Hotel Development Incentives Scheme is essential if we are to have sufficient accommodation throughout the country to house our visitors, and I strongly applaud the indication in the Bill that financial support for further tourist amenities may be 697 forthcoming. I have doubts about the value of a national scheme for the registration, classification and grading of hotels hut, above all, I believe, first, that this Bill is wrong in placing the tight hand of the Civil Service around the throats of those who are trying, with no mean success, to increase the flow of visitors to this country; and secondly, that whatever money is required to support the objectives of the Bill, none should be withdrawn from the cost of at least maintaining the existing overseas effort. Finally, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brown, most sincerely on behalf of my staff and the Association for the kind remarks that he made about them, and for the particular reference to myself.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords. may I begin by apologising for missing my noble friend's opening speech because I became entangled in a local railway strike. I did not miss the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and I heard with great interest the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. I should like to make a comment or two on those two speeches. There was very little in Lord Drumalbyn's searching series of questions with which I should differ. There are many questions to be answered in detail as to how things will be worked out. I do not think the noble Lord asked any questions that my noble friend will find it difficult to answer.
On the question of staff, I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, that I have twice in my lifetime been connected with a body which was wound up—of one I was the chairman, and of the other a member. In each case we were extremely worried about our staff, but in each case in the end they did extremely well. I think everybody in this House will hope that this will be so in this instance.
We are all agreed as to the importance of the tourist business, both for keeping people here and for bringing visitors in. This makes it an easy task for me to welcome the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, pointed out that most people think they know all about the tourist business. Actually, I do not think I 698 know a great deal about it. There is one particular aspect in which I have some interest, which I shall come to in a minute. In general, I think the main provisions of Parts I and II have been well covered by the two previous speakers, and I shall say little about them, except that it is perfectly clear to me that the Government's intention is that the Tourist Authority, with its national junior partner, should work with full cohesion. If the Bill does not make this clear, I feel that there is a lot to be made of this issue in Committee. Nobody could wish to see them going different ways. It is clear that there must be a measure of cohesion, and the question is whether it should be made statutory or he left to the good sense of the people who are appointed. But that is something we can argue later.
The introduction of grants for new investment and selected financial assistance for certain projects is surely something very important. In the discussions in the other place, its importance seemed to me to be very much underplayed, as the arguments were used as an excuse for attacking S.E.T. Whatever our views about S.E.T. may be, this does not seem to be the moment to discuss them. If the people who claim that the hotel industry has had a mortal blow are right, then they must all the more welcome the giving hack with the other hand what seems to me is potentially very generous assistance. I think this is a matter of great importance; and one of the main things is that it will give the British Tourist Authority the surest way to influence people to make friends—the ability to hand out cash. Though it will be done, presumably, by the Government, I think it will be done on the authority and sponsoring of the Tourist Authority.
Part III of the Bill is the Part that I chiefly want to talk about, and here I am disappointed to find that I differ somewhat from the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. I will not attempt to conceal from your Lordships that in giving my unqualified approval to this scheme I am supported by my colleagues on the Consumer Council. It would, in fact, be idle for me to conceal this from your Lordships, because in his opening speech on the Second Reading of the Bill in the other place the President of the Board of Trade made reference to it. I hope the fact that my own personal view is 699 reinforced by this knowledgeable and expert body, with which I happen to be connected, will not get me into trouble with my colleagues for speaking in this respect as a paid advocate, or with the Opposition for on this occasion giving my support to the Government.
On this Part of the Bill, it is important that any register should be factual and up-to-date. As the noble Lord said, this involves some kind of inspection, for which the Bill makes provision, though whether it need be as costly as was suggested, personally I doubt. Clearly it must be the British Tourist Authority that lays down the criteria on which any classification is based, but I think there is general agreement now among most people that this should not be of a kind which evaluates comfort or cuisine. I would as soon myself have my dinner chosen by the President of the Board of Trade as by anybody in the country, but I do not think one wants to incorporate this in any way into a statutory document; and I think it is undesirable that an official register should be in any form an arbiter of the case. We have the Egon Ronny Guide and the Good Food Guide, and probably others which exist already, and the existence of a classified register would make their work very much easier and more comprehensive. People who want gustatory advice can go to commercial and independent bodies of this kind, which I think on the whole is the right thing.
The necessity for a single register on which reliance can be placed is shown by the confusion of information available to-day. There are a number of guides which can be consulted, and one particular guide says that a special hotel has 74 rooms, including 26 private bathrooms. Another gives the same details, but adds the fact that there are also 13 public bathrooms. Another has the same details about public and private bathrooms, but splits the number of rooms into 20 single and 54 double. Another says that the hotel has 26 bathrooms, and puts the number of bedrooms at 75. There are a number of variations on the same theme. As to the prices charged by hotels, three guides give the full price range for bed and breakfast, but the fourth lists only the minimum rate. One gives the full price range of 700 daily tariff; another gives the price of daily tariff for one single room only, while another has nothing on this point at all. I think this shows that if anybody wants a guide, it does not at the moment exist in a satisfactory state. I believe that people do want guides, and I think the presence of an effective guide would increase the demand for them.
It has been argued, chiefly by the trade I think, that registration and classification should be on a voluntary basis; and this would have a good deal of support. My own view is that a voluntary system could hardly be made comprehensive, and that it would keep going this kind of unsatisfactory divergence of information which I have just quoted. I do not believe a voluntary system would work, and if we are to have registration I think it will have to be compulsory. It would give the hotel users the certified, factual information that they want to choose a hotel to suit their needs, and, at the same time, would encourage competition and efficient marketing in the trade, which is what we all want.
Other criticisms have been voiced against an official classification; namely, that the resulting guide will be too bulky. That is rather like the argument against the Post Office directory. The answer to it is not the same as in the case of the Post Office one; it is, in fact, that if it happened to be very large we believe that it would be quite unnecessary to have it widely distributed. It will be available to travel agents and people of that kind, and could be used in an extract form for local variations and regional variations. I do not think that the fact that it is very big will mean necessarily that it is going to be wielded by everybody. I think at can be used selectively.
As to cost, my estimates are rather lower than the noble Lord's, but I think that if you cut out the grading side of the business, which I believe you should, £200,000 would be nearer the mark. I know that is only £50,000 difference, but it is still a little better. With the new clause which the Government brought in at the Report stage in another place, giving power to require hotels to display the prices they charge, which is probably the most important thing of all, these two clauses will make a great deal of difference to the customer. There is 701 a good deal of discussion about the clause to instruct hotels to show the prices, and that may be discussed further in Committee. It is the custom for hotels to do so abroad, and I think it is entirely desirable.
One more point, with regard to the constitution of the Tourist Boards. I am afraid I am always getting up in your Lordships' House and making this point in one sphere after another, but I feel very strongly that Boards of this kind should contain somebody who has no vested interest but is specifically asked to watch the interests of the customer. My right honourable friend, in his speech moving the Bill's Second Reading, said:We will draw their membership from people of experience and ability in tourism, industry, commerce, economics and administration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 27/2/69; col. 1951.]My Lords, that is perfectly all right; but I want one of these men to be unconnected with the hotel trade, to be unconnected with the local authorities, and to be specifically asked on his appointment to look after the customer's interest.
Anybody of reasonable intelligence and education can do this. It is always suggested that it is extremely hard to find consumer representation. I do not insist on your going to a consumer body—although you could do worse—but I do think that as individuals on each Board they should be given these specific terms of reference to watch the interests of the customer and nobody else. This is a Bill which in its major part I have hardly touched upon. It is of great importance to the industry. In its third Part, about which I have been mainly speaking. I think it will produce a machinery which will aid tourism very much. Its difficulties and its expense are a little forbidding, but I believe they are worth overcoming, and I commend the Bill to your Lordships for Second Reading.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, before offering two restrained cheers by way of welcome to this undistinguished little Bill I, like my noble friend Lord Geddes, have to declare an interest in that I am a director of a shipping company and, therefore, concerned in the carrying of tourists. I naturally welcome the acknowledgement which the Government make in this Bill of tourism's importance to our whole economy. After all, a swing in 702 three years of over f100 million in the travel account and in our favour i no mean achievement. But, apart from that, I am afraid that this is a muddled and messy little Bill. This is due, of course, to its devious political history, about which the less said the better.
I am also concerned in the demise of the E.T.A., because I am still a member of the Board, and have had the honour of serving for some years under the chairmanship of Lord Geddes. Lord Geddes and I are like the Roman gladiators of old entering the Coliseum: Morituri te salutant: "Those who are about to die salute you". It would be immodest to speak of ourselves, but the noble Lords who have preceded me have all spoken well of Lord Geddes; and rightly so. I should like to add my words of tribute to the magnificent work he has done over the years as our Chairman. He will be a difficult man to replace.
Your Lordships have to bring thought to the choice of the Chairman of the new Authority. I hope that whoever is appointed will be a man of stature, and not just the victim of a disaster at some particularly poignant by-election. We shall watch both this appointment and the appointments of his colleagues on the various Boards, all of whom are to be paid for what we have all been happy to do "for free". We want to know what sort of people are being taken for this important task. I do not think that they need all be experts. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, has just read out the terms of reference, and I would not quarrel with them. I myself am not particularly worried if I find that I do not know everything about something, but I do get worried if I find that somebody else is paid for knowing it. These people are going to be paid considerable sums out of a relatively small budget; we hope that they will pull their full weight.
I should like also to add my words of commendation to those of my noble friend Lord Geddes, concerning the work of the B.T.A. staff. They are immensely important, because it is principally abroad that the work is done. I hope that they will not be dragged into the maw of the Civil Service. I hope. too that they will undertake the task of explaining to the travel trade of the world what this Bill is all about, because I 703 fear some confusion in the travel trade which is responsible for bringing tourists to this country.
My Lords, I pass from those words of general comment to some of particular anxiety. I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to the confusion which now exists concerning the future of the London Tourist Board, of which I have had the honour to be President since its inception. We want to know—and so do others—what is the future of the London Tourist Board under this Bill. There is also confusion about the future of some of the other regional tourist boards brought about by the introduction at a late stage of the English Tourist Board. There are about a score of these local boards, and the number is increasing.
I do not want to say anything that might sound patronising towards them, particularly as several noble Lords connected with other boards are also to speak, but I suggest, with humility, that the London Tourist Board is in a special position. The other boards have also done excellent work, but London has a special case to put forward. The Board's identity. its method of operation in the future—and indeed its whole existence—now seem to be in jeopardy. There is a danger of the London Tourist Board and its work falling between two stools, between the new Authority and the English Tourist Board. If that is so, I would suggest that this would do an irreparable injury to the whole of our tourist set-up, and I should like to take two or three minutes to explain why. I should like to explain why London should he treated as a special case.
In the first place, the figures speak for themselves. Eighty-five per cent. of all visitors who come to this country spend all or part of their time in London. Compare that—and I know that at this particular moment it is almost high treason to say anything derogatory about Wales—with the 4 per cent. who go to Wales. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brown, that there is perhaps an imbalance here, and we should naturally encourage many people who come to London to go on to other parts of the country. The facts and figures must, however, be faced: that 85 per cent. come to London, and they will continue to come to what they regard as 704 the principal magnet of tourism in this country—a city which is gradually becoming the Number one tourist attraction of the world.
Your Lordships may be interested in some of the reasons why this has come about. I would refer to one or two of the less familiar commendations that we receive through our postbag. I am not referring to the obvious tourist attractions of London—Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Marks and Spencer and so on. The less obvious one, and one that appears with gratifying frequency, is the friendliness of the people of this city, and of the country as well, in contradistinction to the attitude in some other countries which call themselves tourist countries. Visitors to this country comment on the way in which the people are prepared to put themselves out to be friendly. So the man in the street, who may not know very much about the I.M.F., or the Letter of Intent or the Gnomes of Zurich, is in a position to make his contribution to the nation's economy merely by being polite—as he clearly is—to strangers.
The next point that is made, particularly about London as a tourist centre, is the fact that one can receive better value for money here than in almost any other capital in the world. Few people try to "diddle" visitors in this country. I remember a short while ago travelling off the beaten track in Normandy and being shocked when in a small roadside restaurant I was charged 5 new francs for an an egg. I said, "Five new francs for an egg? Are eggs scarce in this part of Normandy? Surely not." And the reply was, "No, sir. Eggs are not scarce here, but tourists are."
The third point I would mention is the need for increased hotel capacity. There has of course been a sharp uprise in that capacity—an uprise which is increasing; this has been noted with pleasure by potential visitors to London—and foreigners occupy 50 per cent. of the accommodation in London hotels. But the new hotels must have what are euphemistically described as "private facilities" without which it is impossible to "sell" a hotel to a tourist now. I remember seeing in a travel brochure a little while 705 ago this ominous remark about a hotel in Kensington:The hotel, though old-fashioned, is very comfortable, and all the rooms have hot and cold running water, English style.My Lords, we must make certain that we have now universal "style", otherwise the people will not come here—and this applies particularly to Americans. They are coming here in increasing numbers and spending £75 a head in London. Their numbers are increasing rapidly, such is the energy and enthusiasm of Americans for travel. In one of the American papers in your Lordships' Library two days ago I picked up this advertisement:Enjoy a career packed with action and adventure in strange lands. Join the American Information Service as a combat librarian.Nothing will stop the Americans from travelling, and even though the noble Lord, Lord Brown, regrets that so many of them come to London, this is a fact. It is the reason why I am drawing attention to the importance of the London Tourist Board. It carries the expertise of the Greater London Council, who have been extremely good to us; of British Railways; British European Airways; the travel trade; the theatre; the River and shops. It has three special functions, and these functions, I think your Lordships will agree, must be maintained. We run three information bureaux—at Victoria, at B.O.A.C. and at the West London Air Terminal. This is a service that is appreciated, and I wish we had the money to increase it; I wish we had the money for three or four new information bureaux, particularly one at Piccadilly Circus. Nevertheless, over 200,000 tourist inquiries were answered in 1968. If your Lordships would only step into Victoria and test the service we give I should be grateful.
Then we run an information and accommodation service for those who have no prior bookings for hotels in London. We dealt with nearly 200,000 guest-nights last year. We also have a service for those who have been stranded owing to the late arrival of aircraft or trains or ships—not, of course, that ships are ever late! We run also the London Convention Bureau, which in five years has produced conventions business to London worth £25 million. This we do on a budget for the Convention Bureau of £11,000 a year. This is a vastly growing 706 market. The Bureau has all the necessary contacts and expertise. We have nearly 250 meetings on the files due to be held between now and 1975. That Convention Bureau cannot function without the London Tourist Board, of which it is part. Nor, under the Bill, if I understand it aright, can the London Tourist Board go out and look for business; it cannot promote abroad. But Brighton can. That is written into the Brighton Act 1956. I have nothing against Brighton—it is a splendid place—but if Brighton can go out and get business, why on earth cannot London? We are jointly sponsored, as I say, by the G.L.C., and by the now dying B.T.A. We have an income of about £100,000 a year—£100,000 a year for tourism of London: exactly the same income as has the City of Innsbruck. We need more; but I am not here begging to-day; I am merely drawing your Lordships' attention to what would happen if the London Tourist Board were to be allowed to die.
What in fact is going to happen? It looks to me as if we shall get very much less. Who is going to do all the work now? Who is going to find the money? I hope that the G.L.C. will still help us. Can we look to the English Tourist Board? But that Board will have no responsibility for the development of overseas traffic. That is the B.T.A.'s job now. The new Authority will have no job of inspecting hotels and maintaining standards, as has the B.T.A. now. The new Authority will not be entitled to operate a membership scheme, nor to support us, as the B.T.A. does now.
I ask the noble Lord, Lord Brown, to tell us whether we shall be in a position to introduce a membership scheme of our own and raise revenue through subscriptions. But if the E.T.B.—the English Tourist Board—is empowered to operate a membership scheme (and I am not clear about this) then of course our position in London will be seriously undermined. What commercial interest, London Transport, for instance, or the theatres organisation, or shops, is going to subscribe to two bodies? We shall again fall between two stools.
My Lords, I hope that I have said enough, if not too much, to convince your Lordships that there is a need for a London Tourist Board, or something very like it. At the moment I am only 707 asking for the present situation to be clarified. I see a prospect of real confusion here. I do not ask the noble Lord, Lord Brown, to give me an answer to these rather detailed questions at this stage of the Bill, but I would ask him to be good enough to look at what I have said (and if I can be of any help to him I am at his service) and to see whether the position can be clarified at a later stage in the Bill so that there is no confusion.
I am afraid that I have been critical of one or two features of this Bill, and I am critical of certain other features which other noble Lords will wish to develop. Nevertheless, we must support the Bill, obviously, on its general principle.
The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, in the course of his interesting speech, spoke about earlier efforts. He went back to 1951. But I can go back earlier still in the history of our attempts to develop tourism in this country. I remember—just—the "Come to Britain" campaign which was launched as long ago as 1925 by the then President of the Board of Trade, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, whom we are very happy to see in his place to-day as Lord Swinton; and grateful we are to him for the campaign that he launched, nearly forty-five years ago, when it was unheard of to think of tourism as part of our economy. He must be proud to see what a lusty scheme he launched. Reading through the debate of that time I came across one remark made by his second in command at the Board of Trade, the then Minister for Overseas Trade and Lord Brown's opposite number in those days. Winding up the debate on this same subject, forty-five years ago, the Minister for Overseas Trade of the day concluded with these words:Our tourist industry, skilfully managed and intelligently developed, would make a significant contribution to our economic strength and our intellectual heritage.My Lords, I should have endorsed those words strongly, even if the Minister who used them had not been my own father.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, unlike some noble Lords who have spoken earlier, I am not a tycoon in the tourist industry, but I have seen the effect of 708 gross inefficiency. The Bill, as I read it, is an attempt to organise the industry. I would regard it as a first step. Much more might have been contained in this Bill if greater emphasis had been laid on the fact that it is an industry, an important foreign currency-earning industry, the success of which depends as much as in any other industry on "shop floor" efficiency. Unfortunately the words "holiday industry" do not seem to gel. My wife and I have enjoyed holiday visits to Morocco more than any other country we have visited, and the reason why we enjoyed them so much was because of our very lucky meeting with a travel courier who had all the qualities required to make one welcome in a foreign country. In comparison with his counterpart in other countries and our own he could be described as the "doyen of the corps of couriers", if such an international corps existed.
In this Bill the Government provide certain "tools" which will facilitate growth by various loans and grants to the industry. The success of the industry will still depend upon individual efficiency on the "shop floor", the hotel staff, local authorities, couriers and bus drivers.
My Lords, I do not intend to make a long speech, but I want to emphasise one facet of tourism which cannot very well be covered in a Bill. I refer to the organised tours to see our historic sites. The Bill deals mainly with accommodation. Having satisfied the need to improve accommodation, and at prices which are comparable with the best provincial hotels on the Continent, we are faced with another test of efficiency—the guided tours. Most people are not able to afford or to choose a personal guide for their family, or a small group of friends. The majority are entirely dependent upon the travel agent who organises the tour, his courier and his driver. I am told that the British Travel Association has a course for those who wish to be employed as couriers, and afterwards they are issued with a badge, which seems very commendable. In ciountries behind the Iron Curtain, and some on this side, badged couriers have a greater official status and authority but they are often suspect. They have a captive audience and they are expected to put over official propaganda. I have 709 spoken to foreign tourists who have been conducted around here by a badged official courier, and one experienced traveller told me that all the time they were expecting a dose of official propaganda and therefore were not able to relax and concentrate enough on what was being said. This is an unexpected reaction, but it is worth studying.
I referred earlier to the efficiency of a unique Arab courier. He was a well educated man, and until an accident prevented the use of his right hand he was a qualified dental surgeon. He spoke seven languages and his fluency in English was remarkable. He had great charm and a wide knowledge of his country, its history and its basic philosophy, and so was able to interpret to us the full colour of the life of his people. His observations were objective and dispassionate, and the result was that he awoke in us a deep interest in Morocco and the Moroccan way of life, both in the past and in the present. I quote this personal experience as an illustration of the effect on us, and the pleasant memories such an experience can generate and which can last for many years. As a result, we have recommended many friends and acquaintances to visit Morocco. None of them has been disappointed. It is one of our Government's objectives that visitors to this country should have a similar experience.
How can this experience of ours be repeated in this country, and how many couriers have been properly trained and have the natural ability to create impressions which last on our foreign visitors and make them want to come back and bring their friends with them? I do not know. One can put up with some little discomfort, or even indifferently cooked meals, but tourists seldom come here mainly to eat and to sleep in luxury. They can do that at home. Visitors come here to see our way of life, to be told about our historic buildings, to see the pageants that this country can produce and also the beauty of the countryside. Those who bring their own cars and travel independently can make or mar their holiday according to the way they plan and read their reference books. I am concentrating on parties who travel by coach here in London and all over the country, and who are in the care of a courier supplied by a travel agency.
710 So much depends on the courier. This is one department of the "shop floor" to which I referred earlier, and to which the proposed three Tourist Boards must give their special attention. The Arab courier who became a friend of ours is again an example of the ideal courier. He was well paid and carried firm authority, and he could deal with the officious minor official in a devastating way. One could not expect quite the same ferocity of "brush off" here, but there is a need for a new attitude among some of the wardens and custodians of our historic buildings.
On one occasion a minor official in one of our historic buildings was too officious and I happened to overhear him. The courier of the party was very embarrassed and I saw the effect on the faces of his party. I was very angry and I asked the courier what had happened. He told me, and I introduced myself to him and to the warden. The scales were tipped to the other side, to the gratification of the courier, whose prestige was restored, and to his party of foreign visitors. Such examples of bad manners are very damaging. The ugly story is recounted scores of times when the tourists get home. This was one of the occasions when a Welsh temper could be justified.
My Lords, apart from the provisions of this Bill, which I support, I should like to know that it is the intention of the new Tourist Boards to make every effort to ensure that everything is made as easy as possible for our visitors, their guides and bus drivers when they are touring. From what I hear, we have guides who speak English and no foreign language, and others who speak foreign languages but very little English. This also needs re-examination.
There is no reason why all Government Departments concerned cannot issue informative instructions to all minor officials in contact with foreign visitors. The pattern of courtesy which is established in the Palace of Westminster is a good one, and one of which we are proud, but there are too many irritations outside. For instance, I hear that buses are now forbidden to pick up visitors at Old Sanctuary after a visit to the Abbey—visitors are expected to find their way to the Victoria Tower. They are also told to wait outside either of the gates at Hampton Court—the Lion or 711 the Trophy Gate. They are not allowed to slow down so that they can photograph the Long Walk at Windsor as they drive across. Easing traffic is a problem, we know, but it is our problem and the way it is tackled should not be at the expense of adding to the discomfort of our foreign visitors.
Again, is it not unfair to our tourists not to be told what monuments are open and on what days? The new Tourist Boards could do this on an international scale. For instance, parties arriving at Easter should be told what is shut and what is open. One instance is Windsor Castle. It does not seem fair for a visitor, having booked a ticket to visit the place, to be told that it is closed because the Royal Family are in residence. An examination of brochures is very necessary and the new Tourist Boards should require all recognised agencies to post up prominently the opening and closing times of the more obvious tourist attractions.
It is necessary to keep in the forefront of the mind of everyone connected with the tourist industry that our need is to earn the maximum foreign currency. We can do two things. The first is to give such satisfaction to every tourist who visits us that he enthuses his friends and relatives when he gets home. The other is to get rid of our stupid insular attitudes towards foreigners. I am not challenging the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, here, but I have seen some rather disgraceful conduct on the part of some of our own people. Others, I agree, are extremely polite and I have not seen much impoliteness in my own country of Wales. If we can get rid of this attitude we can achieve quite a lot. It affects our thinking. One boorish official can wreck much of a holiday; his attitude is never forgotten.
My Lords, my time is running out. I have dealt with just one facet of the problem and one which is very important; otherwise the provisions of this Bill will not ensure the success we need. A clean sweep of the "shop floor" is necessary as well as the reorganisation of "top management". I might be forgiven as a Welshman for not mentioning anything about Wales, especially this week, but I see the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is down to speak and he knows much more about the whole range of problems which 712 will have to be tackled by the new Welsh Tourist Board than I do. I have also resisted the temptation to recall my experiences at Heathrow which coincide with those which Lord Lambton reports in to-day's Evening Standard. My noble friend Lord Brown emphasised the need for repeat visits, so the need to sweep the "shop floor" is obvious—and in many places.
§ 5.33 p.m.
My Lords, I too must declare my interest in this subject. I am President of the English Lakes Counties Travel Association. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, is not in his place, because I should like to pay tribute to the great help we have always received from everyone in his organisation and, not least, help with the translation and distribution of our literature abroad, a service which I hope his successors will continue. I must also declare my financial interest in a hotel in the Lake District. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, is not in his place, because at Question Time the other day he laid great stress on the importance of our declaring our interest in detail. I was going to tell him that this hotel is within 10 miles of where he recently bought a house and I hoped that he might find it useful.
The record of the tourist industry over recent years is really very remarkable and it is right that we should see how it can be helped to do even better. But I am sorry that in my view the Government have come to some very odd conclusions as to how this help should be given. They have fallen back, it seems to me, on the old trick of a package deal where the political part of the deal is accepted by many who are not very much enamoured of it because it includes some "jam" for the smaller man. It is the old trick. We have all seen it played by successive Governments time after time. This time the political part is combined with the possibility of enormous grants for the big operators while the small man, and possibly in some areas more than half those engaged in the industry, will be left out. This seems strange.
The noble Lord has said that this Bill has three Parts, and various noble Lords who have spoken have said that they prefer one Part to another. I had better make it clear that I object to all three.
713 So far as Part I is concerned, I feel that it is unfair and unwelcome to sack British Travel so brusquely, and all those who have served the industry so well and for so long: a very British institution which enjoyed the support of the whole industry, working voluntarily and with a small staff. I can never understand why Her Majesty's present Government prefer statutory bodies to voluntary work: we have seen the transfer time and time again. I fear here that we shall see the costs and number of staff going up without any comparable benefit to the industry. It has been put to me that a body of this sort is necessary if any grant and loan scheme is to be efficiently operated, but I do not regard that as convincing, particularly since we hear that the grant and loan scheme is only for the short term.
When we came to Part II of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Brown, skated over it very quickly, as if he was ashamed of it. I have never heard a Minister skate so quickly over a Part of a Bill in which large sums of public money were concerned. And this Part II is extremely important to the Lake District, where to a large extent the industry is in the hands of those who run small businesses. The industry, over some years (and here the previous Government share blame with the present one), has never been allowed a fair tax assessment, the same treatment as other industries, which could have been done and still can be done, by a simple extension of the industrial building allowances. I submit that no grant and loan scheme, with the selection that is inherent in such a scheme, can be a fair substitute, particularly when the majority in the industry will be excluded from sharing in any benefit.
It really is astonishing to read the details of this scheme. First, I feel that it is not a very sound idea that the number of bedrooms alone should be the test in deciding whether or not any particular hotel extension shall attract a grant. It may mean that bedrooms are added to a hotel which already has too few bathrooms. We all know of such cases. I have recently seen two with something like 30 bedrooms and three bathrooms, which is far below the standard any of us would accept; but if five bedrooms were added to one of those hotels, no doubt the proprietor would he able to draw some grant. He 714 may be extending the size of the hotel but he is also lowering its standards, which is something I think we should study and look at closely.
But, even more important, smaller businesses, which are the backbone of the hotel industry in this country, will be largely excluded from any benefit under this scheme for grant-aided extensions. An extension must be on a fairly large scale for it to be eligible to attract grant. The addition of five bedrooms, and the other improvements going with those five bedrooms, can be costly. The cost could be £20,000 or £25,000, and we can all think of many small hotels where to find £20,000 is something quite beyond their means. To-day, too. we have a difficult credit situation—and it is not made any easier by the Letter of Intent from Mr. Jenkins to Mr. Schweitzer. We have come a long way from the days when we used to be told that the Socialist Party stood for cheap money and fair shares. They have created a situation to-day where interest rates are little short of usury, and the fair shares they are offering here are large shares for the few big operators and nothing for the small. The smaller men will have to pay their S.E.T. and will have to watch their richer neighbours sharing in this handout, which could even include grams for building extensions or for extending bars. I should have thought it was impossible to lose money on bars and that there could be no conceivable justification for the spending of any public money in this way.
But let us look further. Who is going to qualify in the main under this Bill which Parliament is now being asked to approve? The bigger hotel companies—I will not dispute that. But there are other big financial interests of all kinds, not just big hotel companies, such as oil companies, that will qualify. I must be careful what I say about shipping companies. There will be insurance companies with spare resources, and others, too, who may try to jump on this bandwagon—because the tourist industry is now, in the eyes of some, a bandwagon. People who jump on to bandwagons are never, in the end, of any great service to an industry, because they are just as ready to jump off as they are to move in. Yet, with their greater resources, and with an easier access to credit, they will, so far as I 715 can see, be among those who will be drawing the greater part of the sums of money we are making available, the amount of which the noble Lord, Lord Brown, did not in fact venture to estimate. So far as I can see, there is no limit to the size of any one grant, even though the Government have written into the Bill a prudent half a million as the upper limit for any single loan.
There appears a failure to understand, too, that foreigners rate the smaller English hotels of real standard and character far above the big monotonous boxes which are now going up all over Europe. Imagine the cry from noble Lords opposite if we were sitting on that side of the House and they were on this side and we brought forward a proposal that some millions of public money was to be spent in an industry where the few and the larger operators only were to benefit, and the great majority, certainly more than half everywhere, and up to 90 per cent. in some areas will be excluded. That is what Her Majesty's Government are asking us to approve in this Bill; and I hope that during the Committee stage we may see those provisions modified.
What I fear most of all is that as a result of this generous handout the real estate speculators will come back from the Caribbean because they find that they can do better on this side of the water. It is a poor excuse that, as I have heard said, it is impossible at this stage to bring the standard to qualify much lower because it will complicate administration. A few years ago I was one of those who shared responsibility in the Ministry of Agriculture for the Farm Improvements Scheme. There was an organisation there which dealt admirably and easily with a large number of grant-aided schemes and where we took particular pains to ensure that the smaller man not only had his share but often had a little more than his share.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, just to avoid confusion later, may I ask whether the noble Lord is aware that the hotel with six bedrooms to which it is proposed to add five more would fall within the limits of the hotel grant scheme? Because he is talking as though the grant would go only to the very large hotels.
My Lords, I am entirely aware of that, and I am also 716 aware of the statistics for the Lake District, where the noble Lord will find, if he looks closely enough, that there are a very large number of hotels which are not going to be in a position to take advantage of these schemes. I will go into this in greater detail on the Committee stage. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time now, but I am convinced that what I have said is fully justified. But if the noble Lord foresees difficulty in administering a more generous scheme, I would beg him to seek advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, who have for many years been working such a scheme without difficulty.
I think Part III is unnecessary, because the work is in fact being done at this very time. In my hand I have a provisional register of accommodation over about 2½ counties in England. This is its first edition, produced this year. It has been greatly welcomed. There are, admittedly, some gaps, but by next year I hope that those gaps will be filled. Hence I would say it is quite unecessary to embark on an expensive operation to record a lot of detailed information which voluntary and regional bodies are prepared to do on their own.
My Lords, we have all agreed that there is need for some help for this industry at this time, and I think we are agreed too that it is wrong to oppose the Second Reading, because this Bill, for all its unfairness and it shortcomings, is capable of amendment during the Committee stage. I hope I am right in thinking that there is to be a supplementary Committee stage as it were, on the Floor of the House as well as before the Select Committee to which reference was made earlier. I hope that the Government will be receptive to practical Amendments, because I fear that, if not, many of us who have helped to give this Bill a Second Reading to-day will oppose it when it comes to its Third Reading.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, we are becoming so conscientious in declaring our interest that perhaps I should begin by saying that I am a director of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, in Fleet Street, where we are happy to entertain a number of tourists. But I do not think I am promoting my interests in what I wish to say to your Lordships this afternoon, because I wish to talk particularly 717 about the problems of tourism in Wales. I think it particularly appropriate to do so at this moment, when the Prince of Wales is making a triumphant tour of his own Principality, and, I hope, encouraging many others to follow in his Royal footsteps.
My noble friend Lord Geddes said that Great Britain is not different from England, Scotland and Wales. I entirely agree. But I would respectfully say that England, Scotland and Wales are different from Great Britain. Wales has very special characteristics, and its problems differ from those of other constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Naturally in some respects its problems are similar to those of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the similarity goes only so far; and I need only point out to your Lordships the fact that Wales has its own living language, which is a factor that cannot be ignored in tourism.
In my opinion, the Wales Tourist Board in its relatively brief existence has done an absolutely first-class job, despite the fact that it has worked on short funds. Among its significant achievements is the research study published earlier this year, on Tourism in Wales. This is a most comprehensive and interesting document which analyses the present situation and sets guide lines for the future, and I would like to convey warm congratulations to the Chairman and the members of the Board on its production. I would urge any of your Lordships who are interested in this matter to have a look at it. It would he foolish of me to try to sum up such a comprehensive Report in a few minutes, but I should like just to try and indicate the main conclusions that it reaches.
The first point I would make is the vital importance of tourism to Wales. In the South, in the industrial areas, obviously the objective is to introduce more, and yet more, varied industry in place of the old iron and steel and coal industries. But in other large parts of Wales, which are not altogether suitable for industry, tourism is the main hope of money earning in future. I should like to tell my noble friend Lord Mancroft, that in 1968 Wales earned over £85 million from tourism; and in Europe only Switzerland and Austria earned more than that per head of the popula- 718 tion. Yet the average spending by visitors in Wales is, unfortunately, one of the lowest in Europe. The reason is not far to find—it is made quite clear in the Report: that over one-half of the tourist beds in Wales are in caravans, and many of the others are in cheap holiday accommodation. The result is that the typical holidaymaker in Wales spends £16 and stays 10 days. Moreover, he probably comes from the Midlands or the North-West of England, so that, out of the £85 million spent on tourism in Wales, only some £5 million comes from overseas visitors. Yet, unfortunately, it appears likely that the British domestic market will remain static, if indeed it does not contract. This is obviously what one would expect. with the number of holidays that are taken abroad; and the prospect, if no more, that the £50 limit may be raised at some point will obviously aggravate this problem. The conclusion reached by the Report is that Wales must get into exports; she must develop more overseas traffic. Here lies the importance of this Bill to Wales.
Before I actually consider the Bill itself in its relation to Wales, I should like to make quite clear that we cannot rely entirely on the Bill: we must set our own house in order and raise our standards. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will agree with me here, as we had a mutual experience earlier this week. The Investiture was a very fine tourist attraction, but the state of the lavatories at Caernarvon station came as a rude shock to departing diplomats. The noble Baroness and I had to travel down on a public train, the 10.35 from Euston to Holyhead—a five-hour journey in the middle of the day—and evidently a popular train, on which there was one buffet car manned by one attendant, who had to cut every slice of bread and butter and put ham on it. And the queues had to be seen to be believed. This sort of thing cannot possibly be an inducement or encouragement to tourism.
So far as the Bill is concerned, I have no doubt that the statutory Board will have an easier task than the present Wales Tourist Board. It will have a guaranteed budget, and that will make forward planning easier. I should like again to pay a tribute—I have already done so once—to the present Board 719 because their task was made more difficult by the fact that the Chairman and the General Manager had to spend a great deal of their time on raising funds. But no doubt the effectiveness of the envisaged statutory Board will ultimately depend on its financial resources. One advantage that is foreseen and hoped for is that it will be possible to establish regional offices to give full rein to regional initiative. The kind of plan in mind is to establish offices where the staff salaries and the expenses of the office would be paid by the Board, and they would then be free to raise funds locally for local tourism promotion.
The grants and loans under Part II of the Bill are also welcome in Wales, and no one would wish to look a gift horse in the mouth. Certainly they will encourage the provision of new hotels and the improvement of existing hotels, which is badly needed in Wales if we are to encourage more tourists from overseas. In saying that, I would certainly agree with what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said, and I personally should prefer to see the inducement the other way round. I should prefer the Government to remove the penal taxation, restore tax allowances, and allow private enterprise to do the job. But within the scope of the Bill, these grants are welcome.
I have one real worry—it is the same as that of my noble friend Lord Mancroft—arising out of the very restrictive wording of Clause 2(2), which lays down that:… only the British Tourist Authority shall have power … to carry on any activities outside the United Kingdom for the purpose of encouraging people to visit Great Britain or any part of it, …Nobody wants a free-for-all. It would be quite ridiculous if each Board carried on its own activities overseas. There must be co-ordination of normal holiday promotion overseas, and the British Tourist Authority will have an advantage in advertising a package deal to four different countries. All this is right and proper. But what we object to is the very restrictive wording of this clause which excludes completely any form of promotion by the Wales Board of special visits to Wales, on special Welsh occasions, by Welsh people from overseas.
I mentioned earlier the importance of the Welsh language. There are many 720 Welsh societies overseas, members of which are anxious to revisit Wales but who have no interest in general tourism, and the present Welsh Tourist Board enjoys a close relationship with these Welsh societies overseas, particularly in North America and Commonwealth countries. It advertises in Welsh language publications overseas, and this support is often vital to those publications, as well as engendering a constant flow of visitors. I might mention, as an example, that this year the Board brought to Cardiff over 700 members of American and Canadian Welsh Societies for an historic gymanfa ganu (the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, will perhaps correct my pronunciation if it is not as good as it should be)—but it was a singing society which met in Cardiff and went on to Caernarvon. This kind of visit, similar to a visit that could be arranged to the National Eisteddfod, or simply private visits, goes on, year in. year out, in considerable numbers, and these relationships will be wrecked if the Wales Tourist Board is not allowed to undertake any kind of promotion overseas. I am sure that the British Tourist Authority does not want to start corresponding in Welsh with the citizens of Patagonia; nor do the citizens of Patagonia wish to correspond with the British Tourist Authority.
What is to happen to the professional side of Welsh tourist promotion? This year the Board produced an admirable Guide for the Travel Trade available in time for the trade workshops in America, and giving every possible detail of professional interest to travel agents. Will this be absorbed into a much larger and less easier to handle volume covering the whole of the United Kingdom? I hope not.
This year the Secretary of State for Wales was given responsibility for tourism, but he does not seem to me to have very much power if he has no funds. What we would ask is that he should have the right to allocate money to the Wales Tourist Board for overseas publicity and promotion specifically in the interests of Wales alone if, in his opinion, such action is needed to supplement the work of the British Tourist Authority. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Brown aright, we ask only that, on overseas promotion, Wales should be in the same relationship to the British 721 Tourist Authority as are Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, Brighton. I repeat, we have no quarrel with the general principle of co-ordination of overseas activity, but the present clause is much too restrictive, and I hope that it will be amended in Committee.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I was very sorry to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was in trouble with his egg, because I have just come back from driving 2,000 miles in France and I must say I had no troubles at all like that. One inevitably had good food and wine and so on. But when one came back to this country and drove up North one had no doubt that there is probably nowhere in the world where there is so much variety of scenery, and where so many living examples of history can be found in such a small area, or where there are such good roads. As a tourist "sell" there is no question but that England is a first rate product. The British Travel Association have had great success in selling our product, and, as an example, the increase in United States' spending in the United Kingdom from 1963 to 1968 was exactly double the increase in United States' spending in Western Europe. The British Travel Association have perfected very highly-sophisticated techniques, but they have inevitably been stretched by lack of finance, where something should be done.
Many of the objects of this Bill are admirable, but it does not go about achieving those objects in the right way. Three million pounds is now paid by the Government to one authority, the British Travel Association, whereas, so far as I can make out, there will be £3,500,000 paid to four bodies which will have paid members. Most of the £3 million which is spent at the moment can be used on promotion, but if the £3,500,000 is to go to four bodies there will be much less money available for that, since more money will be required for overheads, salaries and so on.
Furthermore, I believe that these four bodies will come under different Ministers, and I do not believe that the co-ordinating machinery between them 722 will be adequate. It could result in different grading systems or plans for England, Scotland and Wales, which would be most unfortunate. It would be much better to keep the existing organisations and to strengthen them with more money and powers, with the Board of Trade as the authority for dealing with grants for hotels. In addition, I should like to know whether the small tourist areas, such as Tees-side and the North-East, will he adequately represented on the large English Board.
Undoubtedly, a lot of money is needed for improvements to hotels, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, this Bill will help the large hotels and not the mass of small, up-graded inns, which are so attractive to stay in. Very often, they have only one or two rooms and are probably much more suitable for the broad mass of students and others from the Continent who do not have a lot of money to spend and cannot afford to stay in the large, expensive hotels. However, there is no doubt that more roams are needed. I was interested in the fact that the Travel Association were not able to sell the Investiture to the world as a tourist attraction because there are only four rooms with private baths available in hotels in Caernarvon.
If there has been any inadequacy on the part of the Travel Association it has been due to lack of money, and I do not think it is necessary to scrap an association of that kind. One might ask whether the money which it has had has paid good dividends. In 1967 there were 4.3 million visitors and they spent £235 million, at a cost of running the B.T.A. of £3 million, which works out at about 15s. a visitor, with each visitor spending on average about £50. Could it be said that those visitors would have come here regardless of the promotion? I do not think it can, because in 1967-68 money was diverted from promoting in other countries and was concentrated on Germany. The result of that concentration was an immediate upsurge of visitors from Germany of 21 per cent. So promotion is obviously fully justified, and the £3 million should not be looked upon as a grant to the Travel Association but as an investment—and, for what it is worth, an investment yielding 7,833 per cent. per annum, which really is not bad.
723 But there is a great deal more that could be done, provided that money is available, not only to attract tourists to the United Kingdom but to cater for them when they get here. One could not help noticing that in every town in France there is a tourist office. The office is very well signposted, from whichever direction one comes, and it has a part-time staff and someone who speaks English. If money is provided that is something which should be available in England to help encourage foreigners. We have at least one booklet giving caravan and camping sites and farmhouse accommodation, but, owing to lack of funds, it is available only in English.
There is an inadequate private accommodation list. It would be nice if, for example, a doctor from France knew that he could get in touch with another doctor in, say, Westmorland, to spend his holidays there. That is something which could be followed up. There are hundreds of excellent guides in English, but there is no comprehensive Michelin guide. I believe that through S.E.T. relief many more hotels could be encouraged to have multi-lingual receptionists, since their number at the moment is comparatively few in this country.
We probably produce the best booklets obtainable anywhere, and there is an extremely good one covering Tees-side and Cleveland, but they are in English only, because it is uneconomic locally to have them translated. I think that local authorities should be much more foreign-tourist conscious, and should be made more responsible for the comfort and welcome of foreigners in their areas. In America there are boards at the entrances to their National Parks, giving the history of the Parks and a description of the wild life. This could be followed up in all languages for all visitors. There are many more ideas. I think there should be cheaper petrol for foreigners, to encourage them to come here, and we should even try to find for them the many shops which offer discounts.
All these ideas require money, and at the moment there is not enough. But I believe that the new Bill will reduce the amount of money available for promotion of tourism, since more money will have to be spent on the organisation of the four new bodies. I should like to 724 see the British Travel Association kept on, with all its voluntary membership, together with the regional boards, because they cover manageable areas. I think that the English Tourist Board covers too big an area, and the regional boards should be strengthened with more cash to help them cater for the needs of the ever-increasing number of tourists.
I should like to see the hotels being helped not by grants but by a reduction of S.E.T., which is prohibitive. If nothing else, I think that the S.E.T. which they pay should be channelled into the promotion of tourism, and that the tax rebates allowed should be improved. To my mind, this Bill represents the creation of more dreary and expensive statutory Boards. It diverts money from promotion to overheads and offices, and rather on the lines of what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, to some extent it is a millionaires' charter for the improvement of hotels.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I did not expect to speak on this Bill at all, but coming up in the train I had nothing better to do, and as I happened to have this Bill in my briefcase I decided to read it. I was very surprised—I might almost say horrified—because I thought "Well, here we go again." I know that we have a Socialist Government, and that we must therefore expect Socialist legislation. But it is most dispiriting that Her Majesty's Government, a Socialist Government, never seem to learn by their past mistakes. We now have this Development of Tourism Bill, which is really the most blatant piece of Socialist legislation. How often have we seen this before? This Socialist Government—Her Majesty's Government—tax an industry. They tax it as hard as they can, and then they say, "You now need help", and they proceed to offer grants. To my way of thinking this is a way to backdoor nationalisation, although I quite agree that it would be rather farfetched to say that in the case of this Bill because it lays down that this is a temporary expendient.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting, may I ask whether he would apply this to agriculture?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, agriculture is an entirely different matter. I can speak to the noble Lord for hours on agriculture; but, of course, in agriculture we have not appointed three Boards and an Authority. Subsidies to agriculture come through the Minister of Agriculture. And agriculture requires those subsidies, because the Government (I am afraid this must be very boring for noble Lords on this side of the House) say to the farmer, "You have to compete with grain coming in from the Argentine, where they pay their workers 10s. a week; you must pay your workers £1,000 a year, and you have to produce the cheapest food in Europe". Therefore, there must be subsidies—but I must not be side-tracked on to that topic.
My Lords, we are now to have this Authority and these three Boards. I do not want to deprive the hotel industry of any help—for goodness sake, no!—but the tourist industry is an expanding industry, and to my way of thinking apart from agriculture one should give subsidies only to declining industries. Of course, you have to pick your declining industry very carefully. You certainly would not give a subsidy to an industry building sailing ships. You should give subsidies only to a declining industry with a future, so I view with certain misgivings this Government Bill to subsidise an expanding industry, the tourist industry. Though I have no real knowledge of the hotel industry (I suppose I should not be speaking at all, really) I belong to that most excellent body the British Travel Association, and I am really very distressed that, under this Bill, it appears that that body is to be no more, because under the excellent chairmanship of Lord Geddes it has done the most sterling work for tourism. The only interest I have in tourism is that for three days a week in the summer I have my gardens and grounds open for tourists. So I have a slight interest, but I have nothing to do with hotels at all.
It rather amused me when the noble Lord, Lord Brown, said—I hope I do not misquote him—that the hotel industry, the tourist industry, needs stimulating. His means of stimulating it is to put it under the dead hand of bureaucracy. Really, I deplore that. I 726 thought my noble friend Lord Aberdare made a very good point on subsection (2) of Clause 2, when he referred to the fact that the British Tourist Authority is to be the only body allowed to promote the activities of tourism outside this country, to attract tourists to this country. Is it really necessary for them to have that monopoly?
I should like to point out, as I think some other noble Lords already have, that if only the Government would take S.E.T. off hotels and restore the investment allowances, then from my calculations the hotel industry would have £30 million from S.E.T.—I think my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said £28 million, but I make it more like £30 million—and an extra £20 million if they had their investment allowances restored. That is about £50 million in all. There appears to be some difficulty as to the amount of capital that the Government, the proposed Authority, are going to put back into the hotel industry. One noble Lord said £3 million and other noble Lords have mentioned other figures. I thought it was to be about £8 million. Suppose it is £8 million. If one compares that with the £30 million a year from S.E.T. and the investment allowances, it is really very small cheese. But, my Lords, what I am frightened of is this. It is true that this is supposed to be a temporary expedient, but one's experience of Government Boards and financial aid is that the amount of aid increases and increases. In a few years' time we may well see that it is £20 million, and then it may be £30 million. It is rather like a snowball, it increases and increases once you get Government aid; and the poor taxpayer has to pay. It goes on ad infinitum.
I should like briefly to mention the case of Scotland. In Scotland we have the Highlands Development Board The Highlands Development Board are enabled to give capital (and in fact have done so) for hotels. In fact, they have just given over £300,000 for the construction of an hotel in the West of Scotland. Surely there is some overlapping here. If we have the Highlands Development Board, do we really need this other Board for Scotland? It would appear to be rather superfluous. Another thing is that now we are to have these three Boards and the Authority. I do not want to be rude, but, of course, this means what is 727 vulgarly called "more jobs for the boys". It is the poor taxpayer who has to provide the money, and all your Lordships are taxpayers.
My Lords, I have prepared no speech, but I should like to refer to Part III, which provides for the registration of tourist accommodation, and grading. Is this really necessary? We heard the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, say that he certainly did not think that registration of tourist accommodation was necessary, and I think the noble Lord also said that grading was unnecessary. We have these excellent published guides. Why do Her Majesty's Government want to compile this register? Have they some sinister motive? It seems completely unnecessary. I cannot see the point of it at all. I should like the Minister to answer that point, because it seems superfluous.
The other point that I should like to make—and it has been brought out before—is that if the hotel industry is to have these subsidies it will be, as one noble Lord said, a case of "jam for the big man". That is quite true. In many of the rural areas (and I am particularly thinking of the Western Highlands) there are a great number of inns and very small hotels which will get no benefit at all from this Bill. So far as I can see, this Bill is going to help only the multi-millionaire hotel owner. Perhaps I have the figure wrong, but I was rather surprised to hear one noble Lord say that only one-seventh of the number of holidays were spent in hotels. But of course the Bill is not confined to dealing with hotels. It also refers to help to be given to promote tourist amenities, such projects as the ski resort at Aviemore. I think there is probably something to be said for helping such projects.
My Lords, one of the reasons why I do not like this Bill is that it is socialistic legislation; the taxpayer is going to have to pay. If we are to have legislation to help the hotel industry, I should prefer to have a Bill that really helped the small man. I am surprised that the hoteliers, especially in the London area, really need financial help. I should have thought that they could have obtained ample finance to-day; although it is true that, owing to a Labour Government, this nation has had, over the longest period, the highest Bank rate in its history. But, even dis- 728 counting that, I am rather surprised that I it is the big man who is to be helped. Another reason why I do not like the Bill is that it creates a proliferation of boards. I should have thought that in Scotland, with the Highlands and Islands Board, this was unnecessary. I hope that in the Committee stage some Amendments will be put down to enable us to help the really small man.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, would the noble Viscount not agree that a hotel with 10 letting bedrooms is quite a small one?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, that is true; but there are lots of hotels smaller than that. There are a large number of inns in the wild, rural areas which I think might be helped; because I am quite sure that some tourists would prefer to go to a small inn, where they get the atmosphere of the country, rather than to go to the Hilton Hotel, where they might as well be back in New York.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD CROWTHER
My Lords, the noble Viscount resisted in part the temptation to be diverted into the problems of agriculture, and I hope that he will forgive me if I, in turn, resist the almost irresistible temptation to follow him into some of his economic doctrines, particularly this rather startling one that only the declining industries should be subsidised—a doctrine which, if carried out to its logical conclusion, would mean that we should finish up with only declining industries. Sometimes one thinks that per-Imps that is what two generations of Government intervention have resulted in.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I said that the declining industries had to be carefully chosen. For instance, it is perfectly right to subsidise our shipbuilding industry, which is a great industry in this country and has had hard times; but, as I said, it would be madness to subsidise an industry to build sailing ships.
§ LORD CROWTHER
My Lords, I shall carry out my original intention of resisting the temptation to follow the noble Viscount in these matters.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, prefaced his remarks by saying that we were 729 being meticulous to-day in declaring our interests. I am not being meticulous at all. I have a very large and direct interest in this Bill; I am the chairman of a company which has already in the last ten years invested many millions of pounds in providing modern hotel accommodation for tourists and others in this country. We have clone it in England, in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. Moreover, what is more to the point, we have every intention of applying for very substantial sums of grant under Part II of the Bill. Your Lordships may therefore perhaps not find it surprising if I say that I speak in favour of giving this Bill a Second Reading. But I do so for one reason, and one reason only; and that is the one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, in moving the Second Reading. This is the first time that any Government have proposed to do anything of any significance at all to assist the tourist trade and hotel industry. That deserves some support.
Having said that, I fear that I have almost exhausted my praise for this Bill; because it is this same Government who have another distinction in relation to the tourist trade and hotel industry; it is this same Government who have also in the course of their life done very much more to damage that industry than any other Government in the history of this country. Here again I must resist the temptation to expand on the details; but when, some months ago, we had a debate in this House on invisible exports and sonic of us ventured to catalogue some of the ways in which this Government have rained blows upon this particular exporter, the answer we received from the noble Lord, Lord Brown, was that he had been interested to observe in the course of the debate that some people did not like paying taxes.
To those of us who are engaged in the hotel industry that remark qualifies as almost the most unfeeling remark since Marie Antoinette advised the starving ladies of Paris to eat cake. Indeed, it confirmed a suspicion that I have had for some time, that the Government still do not know what they have done to this industry; that they have never paused to add up the cumulative effect of all the measures they have taken. I am therefore going to ask permission to quote a few figures from my own company's 730 experience. Perhaps I ought to apologise for that. Certainly I do not put them forward as being a special case. I have no reason to believe that our experience is anything other than typical of that of the industry. I quote them for the obvious reason that they come most readily to my hand.
I had an estimate made of all the taxes and compulsory charges that my company has to pay. I do not mean only the corporation tax or the profits tax and income tax as it used to be—the figures on the annual balance sheet of taxation; I mean all the taxes and compulsory charges levied upon us. I found that in 1965 all those taxes amounted to 46.9 per cent. of the trading profits out of which they had to be paid; whereas in 1968 the figure was 76.1 per cent. Indeed, had it not been for one or two quite technical and temporary provisions arising out of overpayment of tax in earlier years—if it had been in those respects a normal year—the figure would have been 81.6 per cent. In other words, the burden of taxation on this industry has been raised in three years from 47 per cent. to 82 per cent. Moreover, that is on rising pre-tax profits; that is not merely the impact of a stable tax charge on falling profits; the actual sum of money paid over has multiplied three times in three years.
That is not the end, my Lords, because since those figures were calculated we have had another bout of S.E.T. We have had increases in purchase tax, which we, alone of the industries in this country, have to pay upon the tools of our trade; and we are threatened with another increase in the rate of National Insurance contributions which seems to grow every time the Secretary of State directs his mind to the subject. To turn my figures round, the increase in taxation from 47 per cent. to 81 per cent. is another way of saying that the balance of funds available for remunerating the capital and for reinvesting in new hotels has fallen from 53 per cent. of the total to 18 per cent. I suggest, quite seriously, that when that sort of thing is done to any industry, it is not legitimate economic policy; it borders on tyranny. Indeed, when it is done to an industry which is one of the country's largest earners of foreign currency, it does not border on, it crosses the line into, lunacy. Perhaps I 731 have said enough to explain why in relation to this Bill I cannot even summon up those two qualified cheers that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, thought fit to accord it. One cheer, and that a very muted and pallid cheer, is, I am afraid, all that I can manage.
For those of us who are in the industry this Bill has so many aspects that were I to say everything I want about it I should detain your Lordships far into the night. I shall therefore try to confine myself to two or three points arising out of direct experience in the industry which have not, I think, had the attention they deserve in the discussions on this Bill, either in another place or in your Lordships' House to-day. Let me take, first, Part I, the Part of the Bill that dismisses the British Travel Association and erects in its place four statutory Boards. I do not intend to rehearse all of what I might call the general arguments against that procedure which have been heard at some length. I want to give a very special and direct reason why I deplore this. I deplore it, my Lords, because it seems to me that it is an abdication by the Board of Trade of their proper responsibilities. The object of the Bill is to secure a rapid increase in the number of hotel rooms available for foreign tourists. The grant given under Part II of the Bill will certainly help in that respect, but there is something else that would help very much more, that would produce many more rooms much more quickly; and that I shall attempt to explain.
If your Lordships were to ask why the investment in hotels in this country has not been progressing as rapidly as the arrival of foreign tourists to occupy those hotels, the answer would be that the major reason is not lack of money or lack of profitability; the major reason is the monstrous thicket of controls of all kinds which it takes enormous energy, perseverance, and a very large admixture of good fortune, to penetrate. Let me particularise, because I find that nobody who has not actually tried to build a new hotel in this country has any idea of how difficult it is. First of all, the land has to be found. The criteria for the site of a successful hotel are very exacting. It is not true that every piece of land will do. It must be a piece of land that meets very technical and varied 732 requirements. There is a saying in the hotel trade in America that three things are necessary for the success of a hotel project: the first is location; the second is location and the third is location. The point is that you must first of all find the perfect location.
Moreover, you must find it at a limited price. We are always told, and quite rightly (my company, and I think other companies in the industry are doing their best to accomplish this), that the need is for modern accommodation at moderate tariffs; and so it is. But if you are to provide that, you cannot pay too much for your land. As a very rough rule-of-thumb calculation the figure should be about £400 per room, and that does not add up to very much in terms of price per acre; so you must find your perfect site at a price that you can pay. If there is any noble Lord left who believes that betterment levy and capital gains lax have not put up the price of land, he had better come out with me and my professional colleagues the next time we are trying to find a site.
After you have got your site you must go for planning consent, and here again I doubt whether any noble Lord has any idea just how difficult that is. The Government may think that it is in the public interest that there should he a great increase in the number of hotel rooms, but planning officers up and down the country do not; or at least they do not believe it is right to provide them in the places which those who will be responsible for making money out of the hotel rooms know to be the right places. Almost every planner will encourage the provision of an hotel to adorn some grandiloquent town centre plan that he has, but that is not where hotels ought to be. The natural, the inevitable, place for a hotel in this motor age is overlooking, or close to, one of the intersections of a motorway. That is as inevitable to-day as it was to build outside a railway station a hundred years ago. But the intersections of motorways are almost invariably in Green Belt areas, so you almost always start with a refusal of planning consent about which you then have to appeal to the Minister. I must say here and now that when we do appeal to the Minister, we receive very fair and reasonable treatment.
After you have got your outline consent you tackle the transport people.
733 Beyond any question they are the worst enemies of hotel development in this country. Their job is to keep the traffic moving and anybody who wishes to turn off the road to go to an hotel is a nuisance to them. They are not concerned with why traffic is moving, or with what the people in the moving vehicles want to do or where they want to get to; they are concerned only to keep the traffic moving, and therefore they will refuse you access to your hotel if you put it exactly where it ought to be, which is where the people can see it and get to it. The traffic people have a great belief that nothing should he allowed anywhere near our great new motorways that could in any way distract a driver. There was an occasion when we were compelled to take away an illuminated Christmas tree which was outside one of our hotels at Christmas-time because, it was said, it would distract the drivers of vehicles.
Then, my Lords, you have to deal with the health people. We had a case in connection with one of our projects where the health officer insisted that the boiler flue must he at least 60 feet high, while the planning officer said that he would not approve one which was more than 40 feet high. Both of these officers were acting entirely within their rights, and there was no appeal from either of them. What do you do? You sit down and wait while they sort it out. Then you have the historic buildings people. We have actually had a case where development was refused on the ground that a building was historic when we could produce the architect who built it.
My Lords, if your project is in London, all these officials are doubled up, because you have the borough to deal with and the Greater London Council. In respect of one project on which we are labouring at the moment we counted up and found that there are no fewer than 17 public officials whose consent is required. Moreover, these 17 are not like a Select Committee of your Lordships' House: we cannot get them all into one room and proceed by majority vote. It is much more like the historic Polish Diet, where one negative vote is; fatal. Any one of these 17 can frustrate a project completely, and in attempting to meet the requirements of one, more likely than not you are going to get into trouble with every one of the others. Your troubles 734 are not over even when the hotel is built. Then you find another set of controls and public officials regulating the signs you want to put out. The Government say that we need beds for tourists, but in another voice they say that they will not allow the tourists to know where the beds are that have been provided for them. We have had cases where we have not even been allowed to say that the building we have erected is an hotel.
It is this impenetrable array of negative forces, much more than lack of money, that is holding back the development of the hotel industry in this country. What is needed is a positive countervailing force—a body with force and authority that can say that it is in the public interest that a project should proceed because, in order to earn foreign currency, we need to be able to house tourists. The Board of Trade, if it would, could provide this. I have a great respect. I would almost say affection, for the Board of Trade. It is one of our great Departments of State. Those who ever have opportunity to observe it at work, as I am having an opportunity of doing at the moment, cannot fail to be impressed by the knowledge and devotion to the public interest that it displays. But, above all, it has the authority, and if there were a department of the Board of Trade that was prepared to go to the planning officers, the health officers, the transport officers, the historic buildings people, the sign controllers and all the rest of them and say that there is a public interest in this matter and this project should proceed, it would be worth more than any scheme of grants or financial aid.
I greatly fear that the Tourist Authority will have no authority at all. Indeed, the description of its functions given by the noble Lord, in moving the Second Reading, suggested that it was going to be a very anodyne and routine body, and anyone who knows the workings of the public service knows that a body of that sort simply will not be listened to, whereas a representative of the President of the Board of Trade always has at his back the authority. He can say to anyone who disagrees with his interpretation of the public interest, "My Minister will be speaking to your Minister". I am not developing what I might call the anti-Socialist case against these new Boards. On the contrary, I am calling for more 735 and more active intervention by the Government. I deplore Part I because it is an abdication by the Board of Trade of its proper functions.
I move now to Part II of the Bill, which deals with grants alone. I resist the temptation to go into the general argument. The industry would infinitely prefer to be treated as any other industry is in such matters as depreciation allowances and investment grants, and not to have any special grant system at all. However, since the Government have decided, in their wisdom, that there is to be a special grant system, there is one particular point I want to make about it. In order to qualify, actual work on a project has to start by March 31, 1971. The justification for that is that the White Paper was published in May, 1968, and assurances were given at that time—I thought that they were public assurances but I confess I have not been able to trace them; there were certainly private assurances by the Board of Trade to the industry—that one could rely on the provisions of the White Paper and go ahead.
All the difficulties I have briefly sketched to your Lordships that lie in the way of a successful hotel project require a great deal of time. At the very start, the appeal to the Minister against a primary refusal of planning consent can easily take a full year, and the many other stages also take a long time. I venture to say that of those projects that eventually qualify for grant under this Bill, the great majority were in existence in one stage or another when the White Paper was produced, and it is only the minority that have come into existence since and because of it.
But we now discover from the text of the Bill that the Board can make conditions for the giving of grant. They can make "such conditions as it thinks fit". We shall not know for a long time yet what those conditions will be. This Bill has first to pass into law, and from some of the remarks that were made in your Lordships' House to-day it may seem that the Committee stage will be somewhat extended. But let us suppose that that is within a few weeks from now. Then the Boards, four of them, have to be appointed. The Minister denied in another place the other day that he had thought up any appointments yet.
736 Apparently he stands at the start of the business of appointment, and anybody who has had experience of that knows that it takes time, particularly in the holiday months. A Board has to be properly balanced. Philip Guedalla once said that the ideal board consisted of four just men and a statutory woman. But these Boards are supposed to reflect any number of different, balanced considerations. Appointment will take quite a time.
Then, when appointed, the Boards have to be staffed, organised, acquire premises and print their stationery. The Minister in another place has promised that the Boards would consult together on the conditions they are to make. How long will this process take? I do not think that I am being cynical but being strictly realistic in saying that if we know the conditions this day twelve months, we shall be very lucky. But when that time comes there will be less than a year before any project which qualifies has to get started. And if any project is going to be soundly conceived, it will by that time be long past the point of no return, when it is impossible to alter it in order to take account of any conditions that may be imposed. Nobody would argue, and I certainly do not, that public money can ever be handed out unconditionally, but I do say that those who went ahead in good faith in reliance on the White Paper ought not to have unexpected conditions imposed on them too late for them to do anything about it.
I know it will be said that no unreasonable conditions will be imposed, but I do not believe it. It depends so much on your definition of what is a reasonable condition, and some people, particularly in the hotel industry, have the most remarkable ideas about what is reasonable. Let me give one small example. Not long ago my company built an hotel in the Midlands which I think would meet every reasonable qualification of being modern and adapted to the tourist trade. In its designing we made a real effort to reduce the costs in order that the tariff could be equally low; and the tariff is low. Even the per diem allowance made to Members of your Lordships' House would enable noble Lords to stay in this hotel, and there can hardly be a more severe test than that.
737 In the course of getting the costs down, we examined every item of expenditure and attempted to distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary. One thing we decided was that we need not put in that very expensive item, the conventional chest of drawers, but instead, for a hotel designed almost entirely for one-night stays for motorists, we would provide open shelves within the wardrobes in which people store their clothes—clothes which most people never take out of their suitcases anyway. For this reason alone the motoring organisations proposed initially not to list this hotel in their directories. I am glad to say that we talked them out of it. But the point I am trying to put to your Lordships is that people can have the most extraordinary ideas as to what is a necessary condition for a hotel.
I would not necessarily object even that the miscellaneous collection of people the Minister is going to appoint to these Boards will have their own ideas of the conditions, provided we have time, after they have set down their conditions, to accommodate ourselves to them. But we are not going to have it. I greatly fear that, far too late to do anything about it, we are going to have conditions imposed upon us and we shall therefore lose the grant. I earnestly request the Minister to look into this point. The Bill gives him power to give directions to the Boards on the conditions that they shall impose in making grants. I would ask the noble Lord whether he cannot give us a positive assurance that no conditions will be imposed that could not reasonably have been foreseen when the White Paper was issued; or, alternatively, whether he will go a shade further and allow an appeal to himself against any refusal of grant on the score that conditions are not met. Even those, I think, would be poor comfort. Here again, we should infinitely prefer the Minister to do the job himself, because then he could keep his own promise.
I pass now to Part III, on which I do not propose to say more than two or three sentences—not because I like it any better than other noble Lords who have spoken. It seems to be evidence of a passion for bureaucracy, a passion for doing things badly at the public expense that could be done much better and more cheaply by private organisations. It is 738 unnecessary, it is cumbrous, and it will be expensive. It will do very little good, and that little will have to be paid for very dearly. However, these are not original views; they have been expounded at some length both in the other place and in your Lordships' House, and will not dwell on them any longer at this late hour.
I began by saying that by a narrow margin I favoured giving this Bill a Second Reading. I have almost been persuaded by my own eloquence to the opposite view. I think Part I is positively bad; I think Part III is, at best, unnecessary. That leaves Part IL dealing with grants. Well, there is an old saying that nobody ever votes against Santa Claus, and I suppose that that covers my attitude to this Part of the Bill. Even now, if the Minister could hold out any hope that our industry could be treated like any other industry, or even if he would give me an assurance in accents that I found sufficiently encouraging that the Board of Trade really were going to use their powers to push a way through this thicket of control, so that those who have the skill and the means, the experience and the knowledge, to build thousands of hotel rooms could get on with the job—if even now he would offer me either of those things, then I would say that I would far rather have them than any grant of public money, and that would enable me to vote with a whole heart against the Bill.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, we have had a very good debate, with contributions from a limited number of people who know a great deal about the subject. This, I think, always helps, rather than to have the much longer debates with which we are sometimes faced. This is a Bill to set up a new organisation, to run an incentive scheme and to enable certain things to be done as statutory Boards see fit. It is as simple as that. I have noticed throughout the debate that those who criticise—and they are perfectly justified in doing so—are rather projecting into the new organisation, or into the details of the hotel scheme, or into the enabling acts in Part III, their anxieties and fears. I think we can clear up the anxieties (as I hope we shall), and deal with the fears, only when we come to the detailed discussion on the 739 Committee stage. That, as I understand it, is what a Committee stage is for. So I shall not attempt to answer in any detail the large number of questions that have been put to me across the Floor of the House this afternoon. I do not think your Lordships would wish that, and, as I say, the points are better dealt with in Committee.
On the whole, I have been reasonably satisfied to get a responsive reaction to the Boards without too much damning criticism, except from one or two quarters—and I will come to that in a moment. Let me first deal with the major matter concerned with the whole question of what has been referred to as "overlord-ship". The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, was particularly interested in this. He, I think, would like to see the Authority in a much stronger position in relation to the national Boards than the Bill sets out to put it in. Others, including the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, would like the reverse situation to be brought about. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, fears that the Wales Tourist Board will be unable to do some of the things which they have done in the past and which he wants them to go on doing.
The Government are faced here with a great difficulty. In recent years there has been a growing accent on the need for decentralisation of government, and there has been plenty of fervour exhibited in support of this demand. The whole of the talk about organisation is on decentralisation rather than on further centralisation. One has to take into account views such as were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and which have been expressed by my own countrymen in Scotland, and no doubt in various areas of England. I think the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, was getting fairly near to a strong local attitude when he talked about his interests in the Lake District and elsewhere in the North.
I think that the Bill as it stands gives a proper division of responsibility. To put it in over-simplified form the Authority is to be responsible for the marketing end of our tourist activity—one which it has done almost too successfully up to now—and the Boards are to be responsible for what one might in industrial terms refer to as the productivity end, producing the goods—which, with great respect, has been the least successful part 740 of our tourist industry. I think that we now have a situation where there are more customers than we have facilities with which to satisfy them. This is a dangerous situation as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, I know, will agree.
This rough division does not in any way inhibit a relationship—not necessarily of a statutory kind, but nevertheless a strong relationship—which can lead to the co-ordination by the Authority, in an informal way, of the activities of the national Boards; and it leaves the Authority with the responsibility of advising the Government and producing for the Government those future schemes of a general kind that cover Great Britain as a whole on which help might be given to the tourist industry in years to come. So it is a balance of judgment. I think it is possible to argue the case put by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, or the case for more delegation to the national Boards. with conviction in either direction, and I believe that the best compromise has been reached.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords. if I may interrupt the noble Lord, all we want to see is the same relationship as exists at the moment, with the national Board doing all the promotion of Great Britain as a whole, but allowing the constituent parts still to obtain a special relationship where their interests are most concerned—in the case of Wales, with Welsh-speaking Welshmen overseas.
§ LORD BROWN
I noted the noble Lord's point. I take it that it is not impossible that the Authority could cooperate with the Welsh Board, and still send out literature in the Welsh language in accordance with what has been done in the past. But that is a matter that will have to be discussed, and it is not one that we can go into in detail now. One of the main reasons for making the national Boards into statutory authorities is because we do want statutory bodies to administer the hotel grants and loans scheme. It is very difficult to see bodies as composed now at national level administering such schemes without statutory situations.
I am not going to make any response to the many detailed comments which were made about hotel schemes, because these can be more appropriately made at the Committee stage. In a general 741 way I would say that this scheme is not aimed at the general stimulation of all forms of tourist accommodation right across the board, but aimed to produce rapidly an increase of investment in certain types of accommodation which are definitely in short supply. There is no question that other types are in short supply and that it would be a sound thing to stimulate many other forms of tourist accommodation or attraction. The need is for speed. If we do not get speed then we are going to run into a difficult situation. The article in The Times this morning was a shock to me, and coming rather fresh to the subject it seemed to me that we may have already run into such a situation.
It is essential that we do something speedily to meet the serious part of the present shortage. which is in medium-priced hotels. We do not get this by giving grants to people who have a hotel with two bedrooms and undertake to increase it to three or four bedrooms. It may be justifiable to do that from the point of view of the attractiveness of those hotels, but we get more benefit by getting hotels which have ten or 15 bedrooms, and are going to add five, 10, 15 or 20 rooms to those. That is the quickest way of getting extra accommodation. That is the object of the scheme, and it is selective in that sense.
May I turn now to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther. Listening to him was rather like the treatment reputed to be given out by some Eastern European countries to their political prisoners, when they subject them, as I understand it, to "hot and cold" treatment. I did not know from minute to minute whether he was my friend or my vitriolic critic. All I can say is that he combines the eloquence of a long association with the Economist with his current experience as a hotelier, and the results are devastating and formidable. Knowing his great business capacity I can reassure him: his shareholders will not start selling their shares to-morrow, they will not fail to "cough up" more investment in his companies when they are asked to do so, because they know very well that despite the despair, the victimisation which he feels he is suffering from at the hands of the Government and the virulence of the taxation system— 742 despite all these obstacles they know he will make money for them and will contribute to the tourist trade of the country.
More seriously, I do not think his anxieties about the range of conditions that could be imposed by the Boards on the hotel grants is going to be anything like as serious as he thinks. It seems to me that the main need is to give the Boards this power to enable them to ensure that the grants are used for the purpose designed. That means that they are used to produce hotel bedrooms which are available to tourists, and that persons who have designs on these grants of a nefarious type, who might filter them away for purposes other than for providing rooms for tourists, will be prevented from doing so by the oversight of these Boards. Quite honestly. if he has in mind the example he quoted which resulted in the failure originally to classify some of his hotels, I think it is quite out of the compass of the conditions the Government have in mind in giving the national Boards the powers to which he has referred. I hope those remarks will reassure him to some extent.
The noble Lords, Lord Drumalbyn, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and Lord Geddes all raised the staff issue. There will be four new tourist Boards in which there will be openings for members of the staff of the British Travel Association who are willing and suitable to be transferred. We all recognise that. Tourist Boards can be expected to be anxious to make use of people with knowledge and experience in the field of tourism. If there are people who cannot be fitted into the new organisation, the provisions of the Redundancy Payment Act would apply, and the Association also has its own pension scheme which provides certain benefits for retirement on the grounds of redundancy. If, however, there are cases of particular hardship which are brought to our attention, we will look at them as sympathetically as we can and will see whether anything else can be done. I can say no more than that.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to whom I am very grateful for his support of the provisions of this Bill, which he presented as coming from the consumer side—and it was 743 good to have somebody speaking strongly from that side—has asked whether there is to be consumer representation on the national Boards. The answer is, very shortly, "No". There will be people on these Boards who reflect the consumers. There will be no representatives as such on the Boards; nobody will be represented there by people whose job it is to state their views. The consumer interest will be reflected. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is quite unduly concerned about the position of the London Tourist Board. It is a company limited by guarantee, and as such if it wants to advertise overseas it will be able to do so. That is its own business. It can do virtually what it likes—compete with Brighton, or wherever it wants to compete. There is no question of the English Tourist Board imposing its will on such a private entity.
I should like to draw attention to the fact that London, by the nature of things, is already very strongly favoured by the previous and existing work of the British Travel Association, and will continue to be so favoured by the work of the Authority in the future. Whatever propaganda one does overseas for tourism, the end result is to attract a very high proportion of those tourists to London. With respect, in the light of this it would seem to me that it is up to the London Tourist Board to attract the maximum amount of revenue from the tourist industry in London, the London hoteliers and the rest, who make a great deal of money out of it, because it is one of the more profitable parts of the tourist industry in this country. So I would reassure him on the anxieties he expressed so eloquently. I do not think there is the least need to be anxious about most of them, and I hope that during the Committee stage he will realise more fully where the London Tourist Board will stand.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, raised the question of the national Boards being bodies which would attract membership, possibly take membership from the area bodies, the London body, and so on. That is not so. The national Boards are not membership Boards. Their existence as non-membership Boards might make it easier than the current situation for some of the regional and other bodies to attract members. Noble Lords have raised the 744 question of whether the amount of overseas promotion will be kept to the same figure, increased or reduced. Financial matters of this kind, where commitments are being sought, are very difficult. It would be wrong for the Government to give the assurance asked for about the level of funds to be made available for overseas promotion.
The Tourist Authority must be free to consider its priorities. After all, 5 million satisfied customers overseas make their own contribution to overseas promotion, and the work so far of the British Travel Association has set up a very large number of satisfied customers overseas. It is conceivable that the Tourist Authority might wish to spend less on overseas promotion and more on assisting the development of, for example, better hotel booking facilities. The money available for overseas promotion will depend partly on what co-operative revenue the new Authority can obtain. Overseas promotion benefits the balance of payments; it also puts money into the pockets of the holiday trade, into the pockets of car-hire firms and other sections of the tourist trade, and benefits areas of some local authorities. It is therefore right that these bodies should make a contribution, and it will be impossible to give, in advance, finite assurances about how much money there is going to be or about the division between various functions, and I hope the House will accept that——
My Lords, could the noble Lord give us some idea, in very round figures, of the sum of money we are concerned with?
§ LORD BROWN
From Government sources, in round figures, possibly £31 million plus a maximum of £8 million on the hotel grants and loans schemes.
§ LORD BROWN
If you add those together the sum is £11½ million. I have to be very careful here. I must not speak from memory. The amount per annum would probably be of the order of £3 million. The total on the hotel scheme is expected to be of the order of £8 million.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would 745 forgive me for intervening. Is it not a very odd proposition, and almost an unprecedented proposition, that a statutory board should get contributions from other statutory boards—because this is what it amounts to to a large extent—local authorities and various organisations in this way? After all, if they are statutory, most of them paddle their own canoes and are responsible for any profits they make, or anything like that, to the Exchequer. So it all comes to the same thing in the end. Surely, the statutory board should be dependent for its finance entirely on the Government, and whatever finance is available in the way of contributions should go to those parts of the tourist industry that are dependent on contributions. I do not think that the noble Lord can expect that much will come to a statutory board from other organisations, however closely they may work together. This cuts both ways.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I do not entirely accept the logic of the noble Lord's statement. After all, here is a statutory body which is carrying out, in the case of the Authority, a function for a great industry in this country, which is profit-making, and it is doing it, and has done it so far, largely with Government funds. I see no reason at all why the industry itself should not move in and support a lot of activity which is very much in support of its own profit. I am not sufficiently familiar with the flow of legislation through this House to be able to say that this is something that has happened before, and I bow to the noble Lord's greater experience in this matter; but if it has never happened before I should think it would be a good thing that it should happen now with regard to this matter. However, this is a matter which we can no doubt explore at greater depth——
§ LORD CROWTHER
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for intervening—and this, I assure him, is the warm treatment I am trying to he helpful. I am quoting from the Financial Memorandum, when it is referring to the grants part of the Bill. It says:It is possible that annual expenditure could rise to about £8 million during the operation of Part II of the Bill.So is it not the fact that the annual rate of expenditure will be £11½ million, but probably for only one year?
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. Now I am puzzled. Maybe we can leave this now and I will sort it out.
My Lords, may I ask for elucidation, or perhaps a little added puzzlement, in this matter? I think: the noble Lord said just now that in overseas promotion it would be the intention of the Authority to look to the interested industries within the country to assist with the funds available. Did I understand that correctly? Car hire people, and so forth, do of course profit by overseas trade, and I think the noble Lord suggested that they would be expected to contribute towards the funds available for overseas promotion. Is that right? Because that would throw up immediately the pattern that we are just demolishing. That would create a membership type of structure where you looked to the hotels, the car hire and bus concerns and everybody else, to contribute towards the fund, from which, as the noble Lord knows, we have been obtaining something like £200,000 a year by this means. But that is disappearing, as I had understood it. Perhaps I misunderstood what the noble Lord just said.
§ LORD BROWN
No, my Lords, that is quite correct. But the noble Lord used the words, "expected to contribute". Let us use the words, "It is hoped that they will contribute". We cannot in a Bill lay a duty upon people to contribute, but let us hope this will be so. I hope that the Authority and the national Boards will do their very best to raise the maximum amount of revenue from the industry. And why not? I can see nothing against this. There may be precedents against it; I do not know.
May I return to the matter of this annual amount per year. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crowther. He is quite right. The sum is, in round terms, £11½, million per year: £3½ million plus £8 million. I am sorry that I misled the House on that point. I was uncertain whether £8 million was over the duration of the whole hotel scheme, or per year. It is per year.
I have dealt with this question of the expenditure, so I move on now to perhaps a minor point that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, asked me about Northern Ireland. He asked whether the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist 747 Board would sit as a member on the Authority. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is not subject to the statutory authority of this Bill, or of the Authority. It is therefore inappropriate for the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to sit as a member on the Authority. But this matter has been fully cleared with the Northern Ireland Government and will in no way prevent full co-operation with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
On the question of registration, I think the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, gave very much the answer that I would have given to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, when he objected to the future possibility of this. I think this is a move which would be of infinite benefit to consumers, but of course it would possibly constitute a great deal of work and possibly some anxiety to the hoteliers themselves. I suggest that the figure of 2 million which Lord Geddes suggested is somewhat unrealistic. It is not supported by some of the other authorities—consultants who have looked at this scheme of registration—and it may be that when Lord Geddes suggested a figure of that size he was thinking of a rather different coverage from that which was in the mind of the Government when they drafted this clause in terms of the section of the industry which would be covered. However, we can leave that. I should like——
My Lords, I should like to put one other point on that matter because there really is strong feeling against it. With the present rate of inflation, any registration scheme such as the noble Lord has been suggesting to us would be out of date before it was complete, and all the prices would be wrong.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, no doubt that is a reference to prices alone, but registration covers not only prices; it covers details of things of all kinds pertaining to the hotel. I do not see why one should necessarily declare that that is an obstacle, in view of the fact that other countries have these registrations of their hotel facilities, and they are extremely useful to travellers and the consumer. So we must leave that. There are certainly two points of view there, and I would take the view that the con- 748 sumer will benefit from registration, despite some of the drawbacks, one of which is the question of the inflationary effect on price.
I should like to assure the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, that there is no sinister intention whatsoever in this matter. The point is that it is an enabling series of clauses. The decision to introduce registration has not been taken. It will be taken only on the advice of the Authority, and no doubt the advice of the Boards, and it seemed sound to put us in a position to introduce a register without having to go back for further legislation at a later date.
My Lords, I think I have covered most of the points that I wish to take up at this stag. I would close on this note. The main reason lying behind the whole activity of the Government in introducing this Bill has been the extraordinarily successful activities of the British Travel Association in attracting visitors. That is the genesis of this Bill. I am not saying this to compliment the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and his associates—he has had sufficient acknowledgment paid already—but to explain the genesis of the Bill. Now we have a sales department which has oversold our capacity, if one may be slightly critical, and we have a production department at home which has to be activated and stirred up to produce more accommodation, more facilities and more attractions for tourists. This Bill starts the process, in specific terms, of producing more hotel accommodation. It puts us in a position to move further, through the Boards and through further schemes which might be generated by the different organisations, and it may be the start of creating a situation where the British tourist industry can continue the advance it has made in the last four or five years. On those grounds I commend the Bill to your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.