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Commons Chamber

Volume 476: debated on Friday 23 June 1950

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House Of Commons

Friday, 23rd June, 1950

The House met at Eleven o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Hartlepool) Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Holiday Accommodation

11.5 a.m.

I beg to move,

"That this House, having regard to the greatly increased number of workers now entitled to an annual holiday with pay, and the consequential demand for increased holiday accommodation, particularly for families with limited means, is of the opinion that the Government should take early steps to facilitate the provision of such moderately priced accommodation."
It is not a very nice morning to talk about holidays. Nevertheless, I think that after the last couple of weeks we could all do with a very good holiday. Indeed, it seems quite a number have gone away for a week-end holiday already. I want to assure the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who has given notice of an Amendment to my Motion, to leave out the words:
"facilitate the provision of such moderately priced accommodation"
and to add:
"encourage the hotel and boarding house industries by removing the unfair burdens which have been placed upon them."
that it is not my intention to attack seaside landladies—although probably some holidaymakers may disagree with me about that—or to interfere with hoteliers in the seaside holiday resorts or country places. My object today is to refer to the broad mass of people, namely, those in the lower income groups.

I suppose that for some weeks now—indeed, since immediately after Christmas—when one has met one's friends one of the most usual remarks has been, "When are you taking your holidays?" or "Where are you going for a holiday?" It is very nice to be able to say that one is having them, or where one is going for them. However, there are very many people—although probably there are many who do not care to take holidays, but find enjoyment in other ways—who have never yet enjoyed a week or a fortnight away from home, and who are very sad when they say, "Well, I cannot afford a holiday."

Very typical is the case of Ted the navvy whom I met some few weeks ago unloading the Riviera express coming into St. Erth Junction. That is a little junction, a pretty little place in Cornwall, to which I have been going for a number of years, although I have been fortunate enough to go by road; and it is a place where goods are unloaded off the main line trains to be taken to destinations in the vicinity in that part of Cornwall. He said, "There will be no holiday for me. I cannot afford it." That is typical of over 1,750,000 workers in this country who are receiving £5 a week or thereabouts in wages. Very few of them are able to take a holiday for a week, let alone a fortnight, and take their families with them. It is for those and their kind that I am bringing this Motion before the House.

Up to recent years holidays were a luxury for a chosen few. I remember that in my early days I was fortunate enough to go to the sea at the age of 13; but when I was a young boy my family was a big one, and I never knew what a holiday was—to go away from home—unless it was to go on a tramcar somewhere outside the little town in which I lived. Holidays have been a privilege, up to recent years, for the few as compared with the great mass of the people. I know that in pre-war years one could take a trip to Blackpool for a day, or a trip to Brighton, and such places; but it was well known that after a day of travelling, starting early in the morning, and getting back at night, and of being pushed on to sidings to wait, one was more tired after the day's outing than one was when one set out upon it.

In fact, in 1939 only 40 per cent. of the workers in Britain enjoyed holidays with pay, and of those people a great many had incomes far too low to enable them to take their families away either for a fortnight or for a week to either the country or the seaside. By the end of 1948 we had reached a stage for which many of us have fought for a number of years. I myself was, fortunately, in a position in which I was paid for my holidays—a fortnight's holiday—in the Civil Service; and then when I went to another job in a co-operative society we had a fortnight's holiday with pay. It was not until 1948 that 95 per cent. of the workers were entitled to holidays with pay. Though, according to estimates, in the last three or four years some 20 million people have gone to the seaside or country, there are still about 10 million or 12 million who cannot afford a holiday.

It is interesting to note the details of a survey, taken about three years ago, which showed that of families with an income of £3 or £4 a week about 62 per cent. never had a holiday because they could not afford it. Of families with incomes of between £4 and £5, something like 48 per cent. were unable to take a holiday, and when the income was between £5 and £10 a week, 38 per cent. did not take a holiday. But in the case of families with £10 a week and over, only the small proportion of 26 per cent. did not take a holiday, and probably many of them did not care or had some other reason for not going away. The survey showed that less than one-third of the families with three children managed to get a holiday.

While I am pleased that we have reached the stage of holidays with pay for a great number of workers, it seems a mockery to call this state of affairs holidays with pay. The Royal Commission on Population stated, in 1949, that although holidays with pay were desirable in every way there was a tendency to aggravate the disparity between adults and others, because family holidays were expensive and proper and cheap facilities were scarce.

Recently, a questionnaire circulated among women's organisations resulted in opinions on the provision of family holiday being expressed by over 6,000 people. Many requested nationalised holiday camps, but I do not go as far as that this morning. The majority said that they preferred to go on a holiday and to take their children with them. We know that there are voluntary organisations which take children away for holidays. On the question of the cost of board and accommodation, the majority suggested a figure within the region of £3 to £3 5s. a week, with a 50 per cent. reduction for children up to five and a 25 per cent. reduction for children up to 15.

Everyone will agree that the provision of holidays with pay has been a step in the right direction, but a great number of families who would like to take a holiday away from their everyday surroundings are unable to do so because of the lack of suitable accommodation at a reasonable price. It is true that every normal man, woman and child benefits both in health and in mind by a change of environment, by mixing with people and making new friends for at least one week of the year away from our industrial towns and cities. Some people say, "What you want is a bit of fresh air: get away from the great industrial cities." But a doctor friend of mine once said. "It is not so much the fresh air that you get on a holiday. It is the complete change of surroundings, the complete change of company away from the everyday rush and bustle of workaday life."

An annual change of surroundings for everyone is a requirement of modern life. The worker would go back to his job refreshed and better able to carry on for the next 12 months. The housewife would benefit by the break from her daily round of home duties. All married men, especially those who work away from home, know that the housewife badly needs a change. Many great social evils have been removed, thanks to the efforts of many people over a long period. Thanks to a Labour Government—I am now starting to be controversial, though I will try not to be—the workers enjoy full employment and their families benefit by it. No one knows that better than I do, because I live in the slums of the division I represent. I have lived there for nearly 30 years, by choice, while I have been a member of the Birmingham City Council.

The workers have full employment, a great National Health Scheme, children's allowances, fair shares for all, except in holidays, and many other benefits which contribute towards a happy healthy life. Everybody wants to see our people happy and healthy. All the great mansions and great wealth are nothing compared with the health and happiness of a contented people of any nation.

While there has been an extension of children's homes, youth hostels, and so on, very little has been done to meet the needs of families in lower income groups by the provision of seaside or country holidays at a price which they can afford. I know that we have these harvest camps, but after 12 months' hard work in a factory many people do not want to bend their backs in the fields. Those harvest camps may be all right for younger people, and some families may like them, but others want a complete rest from work.

A number of social organisations have taken up this matter. They include the Workers' Travel Association, the Cooperative Holidays Association, the Holiday Fellowship and the Fabian Society, who have made a close study of the need for the provision for cheaper holiday accommodation for families in the lower income groups. Many useful suggestions have been made, and other hon. Members may mention them later. Although the provision was not included in the National Parks Act, the Report of the Hobhouse Committee, in 1945, in dealing with holiday accommodation, suggested the provision of camps and guest houses for family holidays.

They recommended—and here we shall probably have a squeal from hon. Gentlemen opposite, on the grounds of economy—a grant of £1 million a year for ten years. They said that the Commission should have financial responsibility and the management should be entrusted to some of the organisations I have already mentioned, the W.T.A., the Holiday Fellowship and other non-profit making bodies. They also recommended that joint schemes should be drawn up, with the Commission purchasing sites and leasing them at a nominal rent, or erecting accommodation and leasing it to the nonprofit-making organisations.

In making my next point I may be treading on dangerous ground, because I did not mention in my Motion the question of railway fares. There is not the slightest doubt that the cost of railway fares is a great limiting factor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It always has been. I wonder whether the Transport Commission could work out a scheme following the practice in force in some continental countries where, during the holiday season, an all-in family ticket can be purchased with reductions in adult fares and further reductions for children. I think some attempt should be made to deal with this problem, although I know that we cannot hope to solve it in a fortnight or even in a year or two. We must, however, look to the future and do something about giving people in the lower income groups—and we shall always have them with us—the chance of getting away for a holiday.

I am suggesting that the Government should accept the responsibility of the capital provision, free of interest, and set up a Holiday Council which would be responsible to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know that building resources are at present limited, owing to the great housing problem, but there are large mansions and large country houses which have come, are coming and will be coming into public ownership by the way of Death Duties. Many of this type of building up and down the country could be bought, rented or handed over and managed by some of the organisations I have mentioned, which would be quite willing to run them on a non-profit basis.

There is no doubt that, with the great present demands for seaside holidays and accommodation at hotels, boarding houses and holiday camps, centres of this type, with a social organisation and various services and entertainments laid on, to include nurseries and children's playgrounds, all provided at an inclusive cost, are just the sort of provision which is required.

I was talking last night to the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who tried to ascertain from me the figure which I had in mind as being a suitable weekly charge for the family holiday at camp, and, when I mentioned a figure of about 65s., the hon. and gallant Gentleman looked astounded. He said, "Wait until tomorrow, and I will find you plenty of boarding houses near the sea front at a cheaper price than that." I suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that if he will give me particulars of these places, I will take them back to the Birmingham Information Bureau and they will find the people who will be glad enough to have a holiday at less than 65s. a week.

On a point of order. Is a private conversation which took place in the Smoke Room relevant to this Debate? I have not made the point in this Chamber, and I do not think that what I said should go on the record.

If it was a private conversation, I think the hon. Gentleman ought to be very careful. An hon. Member does not repeat in the Chamber what is said in the Smoke Room.

I apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I still want to suggest to him that if he gives me these particulars before I leave today I will take them back to Birmingham.

I was saying that our aim should be to foster family holiday centres. Some of the voluntary organisations already have great plans in preparation for holiday camps if they can only get the opportunity and the financial backing to go ahead. I am sure that it is possible, and within the region of the figure I have mentioned—65s. per week for adults, with reductions for children. There is the further consideration that this holiday question should not only be approached from the standpoint of pleasure, but also from the point of view of the health of the people. On the Continent, this is not a new thing.

In Sweden, they set up a scheme for Housewives' holidays long ago, as well as providing facilities for holidays for workers. In Belgium, there is a comprehensive State scheme for workers' holidays, and in Norway, Government action has been taken on the holiday question and a State Holiday Council has been set up under the chairmanship of the head of the Norwegian Public Health Service. I am sure that whatever hon. Members opposite will have to say about it they will agree that at least one week spent away from home for everybody, away from the rush and bustle of life, with a change of scene and meeting new friends, giving the housewife a rest from her daily round of duties, would go a long way to making ours a healthier and happier nation.

I beg the Minister who is to reply not to push this important matter aside with the excuse that the time is not opportune or that we cannot afford it. Money spent on a project like this is bound to reap a rich harvest in future. I was at Victoria Station to see the fourth party of children from Birmingham going to Switzerland, and it has been my pleasure to have something to do with this project. The Kunzle holiday scheme, at Davos in Switzerland, sends children from Birmingham—32 have gone in the fourth party, making a total of 102—for a holiday at a beautiful mountain chateau in Switzerland. Practically every child, on returning from such a holiday, comes back as a greater asset to Birmingham as the result of the money spent on that scheme. These children, as a result, will be greater assets to the whole nation, instead of being, as they might have been if left at home, a liability to the country when they become adults.

It is an old point, but it is perfectly true, that we have spent millions of pounds in my life-time in destroying human life and great towns and cities, leaving in the train of this destruction great misery, suffering and unhappiness. I know that we are spending a lot of money per day to give many people the social services which for so long they have been denied, but why not spend a little more to complete the job in which many of us have been striving for years—the building of a healthy and contented nation?

11.27 a.m.

I beg to second the Motion.

After a night spent in this building, I can imagine few subjects more attractive than that which we are now discussing, or one on which I feel less able to speak at the present time. Fortunately, the clarity with which my hon. Friend has moved this Motion has made my task an easy one, for I think that all of us have enjoyed the speech to which we have just listened. Those of us who know the life-long struggle which my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) has waged to bring sunshine into the back streets of the City of Birmingham, and especially into the homes of the old people and young children, will not be surprised to find that he is now devoting himself to yet another cause on behalf of the under-privileged.

I am particularly pleased to second this Motion, because it deals with a problem in which, for a long period, I have taken a considerable interest. Before the war, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), I was an officer of the National Fitness Council, one of whose tasks was the implementation of the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937. Under the auspices of that Council, we set up a committee to consider how best to carry out the provisions of that Act dealing with the supply of holiday facilities.

There was considerable interest in the matter, because the holidays with pay scheme has just been approved. A number of local authorities investigated their opportunities, but none got so far as the Lambeth Borough Council. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) will have something to say in the Debate about his Council's project for a holiday camp at Herne Bay, which, unfortunately, came to nothing because of the outbreak of war in September, 1939.

After the war, I was a member of the Fabian Group which produced the document to which my hon Friend has referred and which had available a good deal more material than that upon which we had to work before the outbreak of the war. In the meantime, there had been a good deal of research into this problem. I mention that research to show that this is not purely a political matter, but one which is attracting today the attention of all serious students of social problems.

The National Council of Social Service set up a Post-War Holidays Group under the chairmanship of Sir Ronald Davison; the Industrial Welfare Society carried out an investigation at the request of the Ministry of Labour; P.E.P. made a similar investigation, and three Government Committees—the Dower Committee, the Hobhouse Committee and the Scott Committee—also directed attention to the problem. At the end of the war, Nuffield College conducted a survey, and so did the Social Survey and the Home Holidays Committee of the Tourist and Holiday Board. In 1948, Lord Beveridge—and I am sorry that the Liberal Party is so conspicuously absent today—made a valuable contribution to the subject in his book "Voluntary Action." Then the Royal Commission on Population also drew attention to various aspects of the problem.

It is good that we have this additional information, because the problem is becoming more and more acute. My hon. Friend gave figures of the greatly increased number of workers who are now entitled to holidays with pay, but the 20 million who according to an answer by the Minister of Labour in the House on 23rd March are already covered by that scheme means that there are, nevertheless, still quite a substantial number of insured workers not covered by the provisions of the Act and who may in the next few years, become entitled to holidays with pay.

I am happy, too, that there is a movement starting at the present time led by a Catholic youth organisation, the Young Christian Workers, demanding a three weeks' holiday for young people under 18. When I find that in Holland young people under 18 get 12 days' holiday with pay, in Belgium and Sweden 18 days' holiday with pay, and in France a month, I feel a little ashamed of the fact that in this country we only give them a working week, equivalent to five and a half days. I hope that is a point upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) will be able to give us further information. If that demand is conceded, it means that we are to have an additional burden placed on our holiday accommodation.

We have today, as I said, considerably more information than we had available at that time. I want, first of all, to quote Lord Beveridge's comment in the book to which I have referred. He wrote:
"It is not enough greatly to increase the effective demand for holidays and assume that a suitable supply will follow … The Holidays with Pay Act is in force, but there is little sign up to the present of the demand for holidays which it has mobilised being met."
The Nuffield Survey, in 1945, used this expression:
"It is almost impossible for the lower paid married man to find the degree of comfort and cheapness required for a family holiday, except in a subsidised camp."
I quote those two references because I want to emphasise that this is not just an airy fairy scheme put forward by a group of Socialist dreamers. It is an attitude to the problem which has been arrived at by a number of disinterested organisations who have been going into this problem to find out what it consists of, and to suggest the right way of dealing with it.

The significant thing is that, broadly speaking, all these surveys lead to one conclusion—that today there is not sufficient accommodation of the kind required and at the price necessary if everyone who has a right to a holiday is to enjoy it. That is the broad conclusion of the surveys and investigations to which I have referred. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite have tabled their Amendment and rather assumed that we on this side of the House are doing this in criticism of the boarding-house keepers and hoteliers. That is not the case at all. I believe, and I think my hon. Friends believe, that they are providing a useful service, often at a very reasonable price, and that, generally speaking, they are finding no difficulty at present in filling the accommodation which is available. If the accommodation is being fully booked up, then, obviously, they need fear nothing from additional accommodation being provided. If, on the other hand, it is standing empty, it implies that they are failing to meet a legitimate need, and that people are not able to take advantage of the opportunities which they are offering.

There is another point which we must not forget, and that is that there is a change in fashion so far as holidays are concerned. Today, people are tending to get a little tired of the boarding-house holiday, and tending to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the holiday camps, to which my hon. Friend referred, in which there are very few additional expenses as so much is provided in the camps, under conditions in which the mother can get a real rest because there are facilities for seeing that the children are adequately looked after while the parents seek recreation.

There is another misconception on the part of hon. Members opposite which I wish to anticipate. I say straight away that we do not want any sort of regimentation or Governmental interference in the kind of holidays which people choose. We believe that a holiday is a very personal thing, in which everybody should have full freedom of selection, and full right of self-expression. At present, however, it seems to us that there is little hope of private enterprise solving the problem on its own. I am not referring to the boarding-house keepers and hotel proprietors alone, but also to the nonprofit-seeking organisations to which my hon. Friend referred. I do so in no criticism of those agencies which are at present working.

In substantiation of my argument, I would quote the conclusion which the British Travel and Holiday Association reached. They carried out an estimate of the increase in prices for holiday accommodation since before the war and came to the conclusion that, in the case of hotels and boarding-houses, prices had increased by between 50 and 100 per cent. between 1938 and 1950, and that in holiday camps they had increased by something like 150 per cent. That, of course, is not the fault of the proprietors of these establishments, because the cost to them has also gone up. In addition to the effect of the Catering Wages Act, the capital cost per bed, which, before the war, was £125 in the case of a camp, is now in the neighbourhood of £250 to £300. Both those figures are substantially higher in the case of guest houses.

I think we are entitled to draw the conclusion that even if there are today boarding houses which are providing holidays at reasonable prices, it would he extremely difficult in view of the heavy expenditure to set up new establishments today which could provide holidays at the same reasonable prices which some long-established concerns are now able to charge. I am advised that the most economical and efficient size of a holiday unit is one which provides accommodation for between 300 and 500 people. Taking the capital cost to which I have referred, it means that a camp of that sort would cost something like £100,000. If interest and repayment were spread over 20 years—and I am told that is the normal practice in these cases—that, coupled with the high cost of depreciation, would add well over £1 a week to the cost per person enjoying those facilities.

That is really at the basis of the proposal which my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook has advanced. What we are suggesting is that the State should accept responsibility for providing capital, interest free, and that the management of the camps or large houses should be handed over to those non-profit seeking organisations, mentioned by my hon. Friend, supervised by a National Holidays Council. I would go further. I, personally, see no reason why private establishments and private concerns should not be given the same benefit and the same help, provided they agree to provide accommodation and service of a standard and at a price approved by the National Holidays Council. If that were done, it would make for a greater variety in the type of holiday available. If we did relieve the providers of holidays of this heavy capital charge it seems reasonable to believe that we could cut down the cost per adult to something like 65s. a week, and about 30s. for a child.

Nobody, at this stage, could assess what would be the annual expendtiure on a scheme of that kind. One does not know to what extent advantage would be taken of the scheme, and, with the difficulties of materials and capital expenditure, one cannot estimate what progress would be made. I want, however, to remind hon. Members that there is a considerable sum which is available, or could be made available for this purpose. That is the National Land Fund, set up by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Minister of Town and Country Planning, in his Budget in 1946. On that occasion my right hon. Friend told us that he proposed that in future much more use should be made of the power given in Mr. Lloyd George's Finance Act of 1910 to accept land in payment of Death Duties. He went on to say that he proposed to carry over £50 million that year into a special fund to be called the National Land Fund. He added:
"In some cases, where payment of Death Duties is made in land, it may be in the public interest that that land should be transferred to some non-profit making body, which may not have the money with which to purchase it. The National Trust may be such a body, or the Youth Hostels Association. There are other examples. In such cases the National Land Fund would be used to reimburse, wholly or in part, the Inland Revenue."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April, 1946; Vol. 421, c. 1839.]
In subsequent remarks he rather implied that it should be possible to devote money from that Fund to develop National Parks or the coastal footpath which, sooner or later, we hope to see established. I hope we shall be told what has happened to that £50 million since it was set aside in 1946.

I hope my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade, or the Government as a whole, will look favourably upon this suggestion. On purely personal grounds I am glad that the Secretary for Overseas Trade is replying to this Debate. He has always been a good friend of the holiday industry and of the non-profit seeking organisations to which I have referred. Nevertheless, I find it a little anomalous that it should be the Secretary for Overseas Trade who should be replying to a Debate on the provision of holiday facilities at home, because the primary interest of his Department is the effect the tourist traffic can have in contributing to the solution of our economic difficulties.

I should have liked to see other Ministers present. Perhaps, when I have sat down, Ministers will come flooding into the House. After all, a number of Ministers are concerned with the problem. The Minister of Town and Country Planning has a responsibility for National Parks.

The Minister of National Insurance is interested in the problem of holidays for old people. I hope one of my hon. Friends will make a contribution on that aspect of the subject during this Debate. The Minister of Education should be interested in providing facilities for schoolchildren and young people. The Minister of Labour should be concerned with the effect of a proper holiday policy upon the industrial population of this country and the Minister of Health should, of course, take a keen interest in a programme which could be a great contribution to preventive medicine. I hope the Secretary for Overseas Trade will make suitable representations to them all after the Debate.

The policy we have outlined is a policy morally right and economically sound. It has been done in a number of other countries. One of the disgraceful things is that the initiative in some of these matters should have been taken by totalitarian countries. It was not altruism which made them spend millions of pounds on holidays for their working people before the war. They knew that a healthy population is an economic asset and the workers, in turn gained because millions had holidays who had never had them before.

I hate Fascism more than anything else in the world, but it is not enough to hate something. We in the democratic countries, and particularly in the democratic parties in those countries, have to show that we can provide a solution to these problems more effectively, more humanly and more wisely than the enemies of democracy. We offer this Motion to the House today as one which we believe to be a great democratic solution to a grave Social problem.

11.47 a.m.

We on this side of the House are very glad indeed that the hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Shurmer) has raised this topic, although I think he made the matter unnecessarily complicated and painted rather too black a picture.

I agree that it is absolutely vital that as many people as possible should have a break every year, for at least a week, from the "daily round and common task." A week is really too short because, as soon as one starts to get unwound and rested, it is time to go back. It is most important that holiday makers should return home feeling that they have had their money's worth. There is nothing worse than to come back from a holiday feeling that one has been "rooked" right and left. The holiday industry represent the method of a large proportion of my constituents, and on the success of it depends the future of Margate and Ramsgate, and all the other holiday towns in my area.

I am glad the hon. Member for Spark-brook did not make "cracks" about the boarding-house keeper. The music hall jokes about the landlady are almost as "corny" as the jokes about the mother-in-law. However, it is true there is no smoke without fire, and there are exceptions to the good landladies who are almost invariably the rule. The bad landlady is fast fading away.

It is true that after the war too many get-rich-quick "smart alicks" set up pseudo boarding houses and issued rather false prospectuses. I had some experience of this on my first holiday after the war. It was not in my constituency, so I can speak freely—

No, not in Blackpool. I saw in a newspaper an advertisement of accommodation, at a reasonable cost, with running water in all the bedrooms and a bathroom. My wife said, "This looks good enough. Let's go." We went off The advertisement was not actually untrue. There was running water, but they omitted to mention it was cold water only; and it remained cold for the whole fortnight. There was a bath, but they omitted to say that the landlady was so keen on making money quickly that she placed her husband there every night for his noctural rest. I feel that was a false prospectus, but that sort of thing is very rapidly on the way out.

I should like, as an illustration, to show what is the position, as I understand it, in my own constituency. I do not want to make a constituency speech, but this is probably an illustration of the position in most holiday resorts. In Margate one can get full board and reasonable accommodation throughout most portions of the summer for four guineas a week. The price is not down to the £3 5s. which has been suggested, but, with the high costs and with the burdens which boarding houses have to bear, it is not unreasonable. In August that cost rises to five guineas a week. In both cases it is "all in" and, of course, inclusive of food.

There are lower prices, and I could give hon. Members some addresses at lower prices, but they are not always good and very often consist of a room in a private house where the owner makes a little pin money for the winter without treating it as her whole livelihood.

At the four-guinea rate in June and the five-guinea rate in August the demand exceeds the supply only during the first two weeks of August. I think that is an important point. In the Isle of Thanet we can cope with the demand except in those two weeks when, I must admit, the position is rather chaotic. After that, demand and supply are about equal. I am informed that in the second part of July, the second part of August and for the rest of the season, supply and demand even out. At other times supply exceeds demand.

I have had a good many letters complaining about this question of bed and breakfast. People who go on holiday do not want bed and breakfast; they want full board and it is difficult to get it during those two weeks in August. There are many places where one can obtain bed and breakfast for from 7s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. a night, but it is a most unsatisfactory arrangement. If the weather is bad those people, with their children, are shoved out of the house and left to get into a café if they can. They have to queue up until they can get a meal. As I have learned from my mail, that system is most unpopular with the housewife, although for obvious reasons it is popular with certain landladies.

Margate can take 119,000 holiday visitors and it is full only during the first fortnight of August. What would make holidays far easier, far less tiring and worrying would be for the Ministry of Food to look more sympathetically upon the question of café licences for coastal resorts. They are inclined to regard us as being a normal part of the country. I should like the Minister of Food to come down and see the queues outside the cafés during August.

The next point is that of where to complain if a person feels that he has not had a fair deal. To whom can he complain? There are two bodies. First of all, there is the Hotel and Boarding Houses Association, who are always ready and willing to receive complaints, and secondly, there is the information bureau of the local authority. Far too many people go back and have their grumble at home; they do not grumble at the people who could do something about it. The Hotel and Boarding Houses Association are perfectliy prepared to investigate any complaint, and, if that complaint is justified, they will take action. Last year there were six complaints to the Hotel and Boarding Houses Association at Margate. Two were proved to be justified and one of the people concerned was dismissed from the Association, which means that they receive no assistance from the Association and that they cannot advertise in the Association's magazine.

I think it is only fair to say that, on the other side, very many letters of commendation are received from people who enjoyed their holidays and felt that they had had a really square deal. We had many letters of commendation at Margate from the Labour Party, who apparently enjoyed their conference there. Both these bodies, however, feel that proper use is not being made of their services. They do not get enough letters telling them what the position is; people really should let them know.

When we are talking of the shortage of accommodation we must realise that, to some extent, it is the fault of the person who wants to go on holiday because, like myself, he does not think about it far enough ahead. A lot of people make that mistake. After all, a person working in industry often knows well in advance when he is to have his holiday and he knows that he ought to make plans. When I go to the constituency in the Summer I am very often appalled to see mother, father and the children standing in the corridor of a railway carriage simply because they have not paid the extra shilling reservation fee which would make all the difference to their journey down and to their state of mind on arrival. The same sort of comment applies to the booking of accommodation. This very often makes it extremely difficult for the boarding house keepers because they are inundated with applications at the last moment and cannot meet the demands.

Turning to the question of booking accommodation, I suggest that too many people simply see an advertisement in a paper and take pot luck. They go for their holidays and sometimes are disappointed. If they know in advance when they are going on holiday it would be far better for them to write to the Hotel and Boarding Houses Association for their literature, or to the information bureau of the local authority, for they will then be certain of obtaining at least reasonable accommodation. If people do not get a square deal it is up to them to complain like fun, and if they do complain then the local authority will be able to build up something like a reliable list of places which give value for money.

Perhaps I may say a few words about the first and second weeks in August with which we, in our part of the world, cannot cope. It seems that people are never going to become disillusioned about that first magic fortnight in August. They seem to be absolutely convinced that it can never rain in those weeks and that there is bound to be sunshine and even if, in fact, it rains year after year, they still go on hoping and still say, "We must go in the first fortnight of August." As long as that attitude continues overcrowding is bound to result. One gets bad service, many queues and all the things which go to make what could be a good holiday rather vile.

The suggestion has been made that there should be cheaper tickets on the railways for holiday makers. I think we could have differential rail tickets putting the prices down in the off season periods at the beginning of June and the beginning of July. That might be a great attraction, because railway fares certainly constitute one of the major problems which the holiday maker has to face. Such a system might well make him take his holiday at a different time and, once he had done so, he would realise that the first fortnight in August is not the only fortnight in the year. Then we should achieve a good spreading of the holidays. I realise the difficulties; I know the trouble of school holidays. But a lot of families who do not have children of school age and who could take their holidays quite easily in another time are still bitten with the August bug.

In conclusion, I would say that the position is not as bad as the hon. Member for Sparkbrook suggested. I do not think there is any reason at all for supposing that private enterprise cannot deal with the problem. They can deal with it if they are given a fair deal themselves and if their burdens, as for instance the Purchase Tax under which they labour, are taken off. They can do the job provided the holiday season is spread over a longer period.

The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said that he and his hon. Friends did not want to direct people as to what sort of holiday they should take. Having said that accommodation was short, he went on to talk about holiday camps. If the accommodation is as scarce as he seemed to think, it seems that people who do not want to go to a holiday camp may still be driven there. We must have the other side of the picture—increased boarding house accommodation for those people who want to go to boarding houses, and obviously the majority still do.

The siting of holiday camps is also very important. I feel rather bitter about this because we had a small camp pushed on us in our constituency. It was unpopular with almost everybody. It was badly sited—they chose quite the wrong place for it—and I had the backing of the local Conservative Association and the Labour Party Association who said they did not want it. I have yet to find anybody who is really pleased with it. That sort of problem has to be dealt with very carefully. One does not want to isolate the holiday camp miles from anywhere, but, at the same time, one does not want it to interfere with the amenities in the area.

In the coastal resorts we want to be able to take a full share in giving good holidays. After all it is our trade and our job. If the Government will help, if they will look at our case sympathetically and recognise the special difficulties, we can do it perfectly easily, give value for money and give people decent holidays.

The hon. Member mentioned the figure of about £4. I should like him and his Friends to realise that we are talking about a cheaper rate, with all-in entertainments, etc., which would be added to the £4 if people went to a boarding house.

12.1 p.m.

I should like to assure the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Carson) that I spent a number of very happy holidays in his constituency, although perhaps at an age when I was a little less sensitive to the political atmosphere. The hon. Member suggested that the picture painted by the mover and seconder of the Motion was a little too dark. I think not.

I should like to draw further attention to the survey which was carried out on behalf of the Home Holidays Committee of the British Tourist and Holidays Board, in 1946, which was not too bad a year. It is true that holiday accommodation had not quite recovered from the war-time strain, but it was equally a time when there was accumulated war-time pay and gratuities, so that 1946 is not an unfair year to take. In that survey it was made clear that about a third of the population of the country was taking no holiday away from home. Further, in the group of persons with incomes of £5 10s. a week or less, the survey showed that the proportion rose from a half to about three-quarters. There is obviously a social problem here, which should be met for reasons which have been most eloquently expressed by previous speakers on this side of the House.

It has also been shown in surveys carried out by the Home Holidays Committee that there are in the country sufficient holiday beds, if I may so put it, to accommodate a potential demand by some 30 million people. There are a number of persons who, for one reason or another, are not likely to wish to take a holiday from home in a particular year. Inmates of prisons, for example, have to be eliminated, and there are various other categories, which leaves the potential demand at 30 million. It can be shown that some 30 million guest-weeks can be provided in the accommodation which already exists, but if any hon. Member opposite is tempted to use that argument I would ask him to carry it a little further and realise that although it may be possible to provide this number of bed-weeks in hotels, boarding houses and holiday camps it does not by any means follow that the accommodation is in the right place or at the right price, or that it is of the right kind.

It is not much comfort to a mother of six in the Ancoats district of Manchester, or the Scotland Road district of Liverpool to know that there are some spare beds in the Grand Hotel at "Belgravia-on-Sea." The accommodation has to be matched with the demand, and it is to that problem that we wish to address ourselves. I do not believe that there is sufficient accommodation for people with families in receipt of low incomes or for one or two other groups to which I shall refer shortly, which are not in a favourable position—the young and the old.

I would emphasise the point which has already been made by the hon. Member for Thanet, that some of the accommodation which exists, even though it may be economically within the reach of a number of people, is not by any means satisfactory. In making the estimate, taking a season of three to four months, which is, of course, a much longer season than is regarded as the holiday period by many people in this country, and so accounting for the 30 million bed weeks to which I have referred, no less than 13 million of those bed weeks are available in apartment houses.

That means that bed and breakfast only is provided, with all the disadvantages which the hon. Member so elegantly described, or houses in which the housewife does not cook for herself but has all the trouble of shopping in a strange town, tagging around with the children or leaving them with father, who wants to go off and do something else. She takes the food back, the landlady has to cook it in separate lots, which is a thoroughly uneconomic method of kitchen planning, and it is not very satisfactory to either side. It has been done in the past very largely for economic reasons, because it seemed to be cheaper to do it that way. That accounts for a very high proportion of the accommodation which is said to be available, and even that apparent plenty is not really adequate because it is based on the assumption that people will spread their holidays over four months of the year.

I should like to dwell for a moment on that point, because this concentration of holidays affects holiday provision whether it is done by some means of national assistance or is entirely provided by private enterprise. I hope that the Government and industry will once more look at the suggestion which has already been put to them that August Bank Holiday should be moved from the first Monday in August to—I would suggest—the first Monday in September, which is often a much sunnier day than is the first Monday in August. It is not as necessary today to have that August holiday as it was in the period when relatively few workers had a whole week's holiday. The reasons for that have vanished, but we are on both sides of the House extremely conservative in matters of this kind. I cannot see why we should not now have a little variety with Easter and Whitsun, but move August Bank Holiday and turn it into September Bank Holiday. I know that September does not trip so easily off the tongue, but we can perhaps find some other name for it.

When considering the very important proposals made by my hon. Friends, with which I am in entire sympathy—as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said, I was very much concerned with this problem before the war—I suggest that there are one or two ways of meeting both the problem of the accommodation and the problem of lengthening the holiday season. I would refer to the special problem of holidays for old people, who are also in a group who find it difficult to meet the full commercial holiday charges.

I should like to commend local authorities in the urban areas who, within the last year or two, have paid special attention to this problem, and who, in some cases, have reached a most happy alliance with some of the authorities in the holiday areas, whereby the authority in the urban area makes arrangements for a number of the old people to be accommodated in the existing boarding houses in the seaside resorts at periods other than of the peak of the season, the point being that the older people having retired from work, are not so much tied as our younger folk when they can take their holidays.

I hope that that movement will be very much expanded on both sides so that we have provision for old people at much lower prices than they could obtain at the main season of the year, and that the boarding-house keepers, on their side, will have clients whom they would probably not have otherwise at a time when their own accommodation is not in great demand. I hope very much that other authorities will follow the example of such authorities as Fulham, in London, which has an alliance with Broadstairs; Wimbledon, which has an alliance with Bognor; and Birmingham, which has an alliance with Weston-super-Mare. I hope that similar treaties of friendship will be signed between other authorities, at both ends.

It seems to me to be a sensible way of meeting that problem, but it does not meet it entirely because the essence of this arrangement is the old folk. One of the household problems very often is what to do with grandma or grandad when the rest of the family want to go on holiday. It is not always easy to fit them in with the family life when there are grandchildren. It therefore means that there should be some supplementary provision as, for example, that made by the Paddington Borough Council where there is separate holiday provision for the old people, arranged by the local authority, open throughout the holiday season, so that those not living on their own can take their holiday separately at the same time as the younger members of the family.

I should like, briefly, to make two suggestions. What arrangements can be made to increase holiday provision without, at the moment, undertaking large-scale building which, of course, is difficult? One is the use of the country mansions which may accrue to the Treasury under the "pay as you die" scheme. There again, there is the difficulty that if we are to use them for holiday purposes, what are we to do with them in the winter, and how are we to meet the heavy overheads which continue throughout the year? I suggest that there should be some co-operation between the education authority and those responsible for the holiday arrangements.

We might take a leaf out of the book of our Danish friends who, in the rural areas, realise that the winter is the best time for the equivalent of our holidays and have boarding arrangements for the country youngsters in the winter. These houses could be used for educational purposes during the winter and for holiday purposes, especially for young people, during the summer. I suggest that is a more economic way of using some of these country houses which are rather remote for ordinary holiday purposes.

It is true that the making of bricks and mortar still presents a difficulty, but the shipbuilding industry is not hard pressed. I would like to ask the Minister about marine holidays. There were good plans before the war for ships to take young people abroad for a holiday, not too elaborate by any means. It seems to me that that is something that we might provide at this stage; we should consider if we cannot do something which would appeal to young people just as much as holiday camps, which may be very difficult to provide when we wish to put houses first.

Finally, I would suggest that those who are concerned with the future of the British boarding-houses might consider, with their local authorities, the provision of better facilities for the care of children. After all, what attracts people so much in the holiday camps is that there is provision for the children when it is wet. Unless our holiday resorts—some of which are making experiments; but it is by no means universal—think more imaginatively about this problem I think they will find that the trend towards holiday camps will continue very strongly.

I suggest that it is not beyond the wit of man to provide mothers with children with proper facilities. It is not necessary to park children all day long and every day, but there should be the possibility of her having a little entertainment and recreation, knowing that her children are being adequately cared for. In any plans for the development of holiday resorts, I suggest that a leaf should be taken from the book of people like Mr. Butlin. I once spent a very happy week—a political week, I confess, at one of Mr. Butlin's camps, and I was pleased to notice, in the theatre there, that they had a screen at the side of the stage so that a mother who wished to go to the entertainment was able to leave a note, giving the number of her chalet, and if there was any difficulty with the child the number was put on the screen and she was able to go to it. I should think that would not be impracticable, during the afternoon or early evening, at any rate, in holiday resorts if people set their mind to it. I am certain that unless proper provision is made for the mother and the housewife to have the kind of holiday she wants, and to which she feels she is entitled, there will not be prosperity in the holiday resorts.

12.16 p.m.

The suggestion that a number should be put up and the mother brought out of the theatre opens up a frightening prospect if it is developed. I can imagine Morecambe or Brighton with a loud speaker system which says "Calling Mrs. Jones," fetching the mother back from the front or beach to attend to the child. I realise, as I am sure we all do, that the problem of children on holiday is a very real one. I doubt very much if it can be solved in the ordinary circumstances of the holiday resort by super-organisation.

It seems to me that it could best be solved by the good boarding house, the good hotel and the amenities and arrangements which are provided in a good seaside resort. The essence of the whole matter is surely that the family should have enough spare money to enable them to pay for the facilities which they want and which they enjoy. I have a few brief observations to make as to how it seems to me the Government could probably help the people generally to enjoy better facilities and help the holiday resorts to provide them. Since I know that many wish to speak, I will mention them briefly without arguing or elaborating them.

The primary problem, as already mentioned, is that of providing enough accommodation at the peak time without having enormously wasteful overheads during many weeks which are not popular times. In other words, the lengthening of the season is the primary problem of the organisation of holidays, and anything that can be done to lengthen the season even by 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. should be thought of by all the agencies, private and governmental, which are concerned with this holiday problem. There should be the staggering of holidays by industry and, if possible, the staggering of school holidays. These problems have been much talked about. I hope that the Minister who replies can tell us what happened to that idea which started off so well. What aid could be given towards the prolonging of the season by the railways?

The railways cannot have a further burden put upon them. They must pay their way. But if, without losing revenue, they could, if necessary, increase their rates during the first fortnight of August and decrease them during the months of July and September, they might do something towards levelling out this peak. It is no good saying that others must contribute to the holidays of all, because all and others are synonymous. Surely the best way is to try to remove unfairness from this industry and leave it to work itself out in the economic field. Because holidays are paid for out of the family surplus, and although they make a very important contribution to health, they are not as essential as the home itself, the food in the homes and the clothes. They come next.

The extent to which people can have holidays depends on the excess of their income over expenditure, and that depends upon the remuneration they receive and the taxation they pay. A relief in taxation is perhaps one of the best ways of enabling people to save a bit during the rest of the year for a holiday.

The holiday industry is handicapped in making better provisions. For example, in hotels and boarding houses linen, furnishings, paper and all those articles which are the tools of the trade are subject to Purchase Tax, varying from 30 per cent. to 100 per cent., whereas no other business, as far as I know, pays Purchase Tax upon its necessary equipment and machinery. Most of the boarding houses and hotels are subject to the same limitations as regards freedom to build, to extend and to repair as the ordinary householder. They are allowed, as in the case of the ordinary householder, only £100, whereas they have many more bedrooms and accommodate many more people. Greater freedom to obtain licences for extensions, repairs and building are some of the ways in which this problem could be solved.

It is common knowledge that the attempt to regulate wages and conditions in hotels and boarding houses, especially in the smaller ones, treating them as if they were factories, has failed, and that reconsideration of some of the rules which are now being partially operated throughout the country is absolutely necessary. That matter is in hand, and the sooner a solution can be found which gives fair play to the staff and the largest possible freedom from paper work for the smaller boarding houses and hotels, the sooner it will be possible to provide better accommodation.

We must plan our towns and see that our seaside resorts and holiday places, as well as their environment, are properly laid out, but some of the legislation regarding town and country planning, particularly development charges, is a handicap to development. Many of those who might be prepared to put money, not only into providing further accommodation for holidays, but also in providing entertainments in such places as More-cambe and Heysham, are deterred from doing so by the development charges.

The House is indebted to those responsible for introducing this Debate, but I discern in their minds a strong tendency to try and secure that the State makes provision for people's holidays, presumably at the cost of the taxpayer. Today, the taxpayer is more and more the ordinary man and woman, and it does not seem right to engender in the minds of the people the idea that someone else can pay for their holidays. It is surely better that their conditions of work and their wages, to which the trade unions should give their attention instead of supporting political policies, should be improved as much as possible, giving them an incentive to pay for their own holidays in places where they want to go.

I am thankful that the result of the last General Election has called a halt to this dangerous movement of making people think that someone else can pay for everything they want. Let us put the people in an economic position to save and buy the best holidays they can afford, and let us do what we can to treat the industry fairly. In that way, more and more people will get better holidays every year.

12.27 p.m.

It may be helpful if I intervene at this stage of the Debate. I wish to begin by thanking my two hon. Friends who have initiated the Debate, not only for their worthy contributions, but for the work they have been doing for many years in making it possible for so many of our fellow countrymen and women to enjoy a holiday. The Motion and the Amendment, which, I understand, is to be moved later, deal with two matters. The purpose of the Motion is to try to increase holiday accommodation for the lower income groups, and the Amendment calls for the removal of the unfair burdens upon the hotel and boarding house industry.

The first question we have to ask is whether it is true that there is a shortage of medium priced and cheap holiday accommodation. The British Tourist and Holidays Board, which is now known as the British Travel and Holidays Association, carried out a survey in April, 1949. That survey took into account many factors, such as holidays in towns, in the country and at home—the average length of holidays and of the holiday season, which varies in the North and the South, being 16 weeks in the South and a shorter period in the North.

They ultimately came to the conclusion that there is a surplus of hotels both at the seaside and in the country; a surplus of boarding houses and apartment houses at the seaside, and a deficit of these in the country. They found that there were plenty of camping sites; a shortage of holiday camps and holiday centres both at the seaside and in the country areas, and a shortage of youth hostels at the seaside, although there was a surplus in the country. I say at once that I cannot entirely agree with the comments in this Report. I think it is more true to say that there is plenty of accommodation in second-class hotels, boarding houses and apartment houses, and that during the months of July and August prices are necessarily high because the peak demand compels them to rise in accordance with the usual rule of supply and demand. Therefore, the remedy is not to increase the amount of accommodation but to see whether it is possible to spread holidays. It is on those lines that most hon. Members, certainly the Government, have done their best to encourage the public to plan, but as yet we have not been very successful. Of course, the Ministry of Education have assisted in the sense mentioned by the hon. Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), namely, that they have moved the dates of the school and university examinations which used to be in July and it is now possible for the education authorities to stagger school holidays. If school holidays are staggered it would be a useful contribution to staggered holidays generally.

Can the hon. Gentleman say to what date the examinations were moved?

I cannot say the exact date, but I know it is an accomplished fact and I hope it will lead in the future, if not now, to encouraging staggered holidays.

There has also been a shift away from what used to be the established form of holiday to what is perhaps a more convenient form, the camp and the holiday centre, particularly where child-minding facilities are provided, since these appeal to young parents with a growing family. In that sense there is undoubtedly a shortage of holiday accommodation, but however desirous we may be of doing something about it it must fit in with the general pattern of our present economic difficulties. We have to ask whether we can afford this before other things. I take the view that when it is a choice between housing people for the whole year rather than for two weeks in holiday camps, the emphasis should be on housing accommodation. We would like to do both, but it is not possible.

A suggestion was made about holiday accommodation in and near national parks. In that connection the Hobhouse Committee issued a report in which they said that the commercial interests provide enough accommodation at commercial rates, but that there is a need for accommodation providing reasonable comfort and amenities at a price within the reach of moderate incomes as a result of the increased demand created by the holidays-with-pay movement. They also said we ought to make provision for elderly and young people. In this connection the Government have decided that a capital sum of £1 million should be provided over 10 years. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed to implement these recommendations, and any local authority whose area includes a national park can now provide accommodation if there are inadequate or unsatisfactory conditions.

Did the hon. Gentleman say that the Government have provided £1 million, or that the Hobhouse Committee recommended that?

The Government have accepted the recommendations of the Report and the Treasury can now grant up to 75 per cent. of the expenditure that may be necessary to put one of these centres in order. As yet no national park has been designated and that is why we have not been able to make use of the money, but the Peak District, the Lake District and Snowdonia will probably be designated this year as national parks. When the park is in existence, one of the first duties of a local authority will be to consider what accommodation is necessary and what steps should be taken to secure provision for a holiday centre, and then it is their job to consult the National Parks Commission on the matter.

Is it the case that the parks have not yet been designated?

It is hoped that they will be designated this year.

Then there is the National Land Fund, and in that connection the £50 million established by the Finance Act, 1946, is under the control of the Treasury. It is intended that payments can be made in respect of landed property which is passed to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue in lieu of Death Duties. The Fund cannot be used for any other purpose. The Treasury may enable a public body to preserve for the enjoyment or the use of the public one of these buildings or estates which may be taken over. Most of the old properties are not suitable for holiday accommodation, but some have been found suitable for youth hostels which are vital in helping to provide holiday facilities.

The Treasury will make a 75 per cent. grant towards any expenditure incurred.


It was stated that holiday prices were a difficulty at present. I cannot dispute that prices are high, but they are not as high relatively as the general increase in the cost of living. They are about 75 per cent. above pre-war charges. Nevertheless, it is important that we should try to cater for the lower income groups. The Government is doing its best to see that there is a more equitable distribution of the national income, and by means of the social services and other amenities we hope that the lower income groups will get what they ought to have had many years ago, a higher standard.

Indeed, the rising standard of living among the workers is having the result that with a five-day week they want to go away for week-ends and, with increased leisure, they want to follow other pursuits. That means that much of the money they used to save for their annual holiday is now spent in pleasure and enjoyment throughout the year instead of in a section of it. To that extent it limits the opportunity for these workers to have what was once their customary annual holiday. We hope that in due course they will be able to have all these added amenities and pleasures together with their annual rest in one of those delightful seaside resorts or country centres for which our country is renowned.

The suggestion was made that we should have a National Holiday Council. As hon. Members know, the British Travel and Holidays Association, established by the Government originally under the name of the British Tourist Holidays Board, is composed of representatives of all the holiday interests in the country. The Government look to that body for advice and assistance in promoting holidays for all, but that need not necessarily be the last word. Suggestions from any organisation or association for providing better facilities for holidays for everyone will always be welcomed.

The hon. Member for Morecambe and. Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) referred to the subject which is nearer, perhaps, to those who are responsible for moving the Amendment: the burdens upon the industry which prevent it from providing all the facilities and amenities which would make the lot of the holidaymaker easier. I do not think that the arguments which were applied some time ago, and which have been met in substance, can be put forward again today. Many of the burdens upon the hotels, boarding-houses and holiday centres have been removed, to a considerable extent.

Let me give some illustrations. One of the greatest arguments which used to be put forward was that the rationing of petrol prevented many of the smaller hotels and boarding-houses, particularly those outside the coastal resorts, from getting their fair share of visitors. Petrol rationing has gone.

Food was another big complaint. We were told on one occasion in the House that if we removed the 5s. limit on meals everything would be well, because the limitation of charges was uneconomic and in consequence hotels, boarding houses and holiday centres were unable to meet their liabilities. This restriction was removed in May of this year and. I should have thought, this was a contribution which has enabled things to be much easier than before.

I think it was the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) who said that there was difficulty in the case of some of the small boarding-house keepers who do not want the formalities which are attached to a licensing system. But they need not have them; there is no need for these establishments to have a catering licence if they are prepared to take the ration books and to do the work which enables food to be distributed fairly. If, however, they prefer not to follow this procedure, then it is necessary for them to have a catering licence, which, I know, can be said to be irksome. It is a matter of choice. I imagine that it is only because it is the easiest way for them that people choose the second course, and if they do that there is no reason why they should complain by saying that it is a burden.

The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale—and I am quite sure he will be joined later by other hon. Members—referred to Purchase Tax as "the tax on the tools of the trade." We have had a very lengthy discussion upon Purchase Tax generally and it is not necessary for me to repeat what has been said in the Committee during the last few days. I share the view that in some cases this tax on the tools of the trade is a hindrance towards the freeing and recovery of the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—but, of course, the matter is one for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for myself.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) pointed out that I was the Secretary for Overseas Trade and that, although he was very glad that I was replying to the Debate, he could not quite understand why I should be doing so on this particular subject. The most important reason why I should reply is because tourism is one of the greatest foreign currency earning industries that we have, and it is becoming one of our major industries.

I can only say that in the case of the remission of Purchase Tax, whereas I could hold out no hope for a general reduction, I certainly would like to be able to say that hotels which earn the foreign currency that we must have, are in a special position, and I should be rather hopeful that we could find some way of assisting them.

I cannot explain it any more. It is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have just expressed what is, I think, a hope that we may find some easement that will help us to develop still further our overseas tourist traffic and in that sense contribute towards the economic recovery of the country.

I do not think that legislation is necessary, but it can be carried out by administration. I would rather not be pressed. I have expressed a view which I think may result in some satisfaction being achieved for the industry.

Is it not possible for the hon. Gentleman to go a little further in what he said? It would be exceedingly difficult to differentiate between, for instance, hotels which attract foreign tourists, whether from hard or from soft currency areas, and those which, while not catering specially for them, happen to have them. There are a number of complications. Can the hon. Gentleman not give some further indication of what is in his mind?

I thought I had stated quite clearly what was in my mind; to go into details would not add to what has already been said. It is a matter upon which the Chancellor of the Exchequer must, of course, have the final word.

Let me make this quite clear. The release from Purchase Tax has to be considered very carefully, because the more goods that are consumed here, the less there are for export; and the less there are for export, the less likelihood there is of our getting the necessary raw materials to keep the workers employed in the factories; and without that, there could not be holidays. Similarly with food; if we were to have less food because of fewer exports, we should all be in a very sad plight. I repeat, therefore, that it is only in the sense that it will enable us to get more food and raw materials by the earning of foreign currency that there can be any consideration of a release from the payment of Purchase Tax.

Finally, whilst the provision of adequate holiday accommodation for workers is a most important matter, it can at this stage only take second place to the need to earn dollars for our economic recovery; it can only take second place to the requirements of our exporting industries and to the need for housing the people. Consistent with these obligations, however, we must do all that is possible to see that every encouragement is given, particularly to the lower income groups, to whom the mover and the seconder of the Motion have directed their attention.

I think I have shown by what I have said earlier that we have already made all the provision that is practicable. This is not enough, however, and we must go further and do all that it is possible to do. I can assure my hon. Friends who have raised this matter that it will be constantly borne in mind and urged forward by all of us who have the same thoughts and care for the well-being of the masses who, for the first time, are getting a holiday which is long overdue.

As I have shown, much has been done to assist the hotel and boarding-house keepers to provide better services and to remove a good many of the burdens. The improvement of holiday accommodation and the provision of reasonable prices depends, not only on Government action, but upon the industry and the public. That means that all sides must learn to co-operate for their mutual interest; it may necessitate staggered holidays. If it is possible to create a demand for holidays outside the two peak months of July and August, this would help to reduce the cost of holidays, it would reduce the pressure for extra accommodation, and as a result would enable the achievement of the desire of all of us to provide holidays for the greatest number of people at the lowest possible cost.

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, will he answer one question? He has not referred to a proposal which was made in the speeches of the mover and the seconder of the Motion in connection with the Holidays Council. The Government really ought to have a view about that because they mentioned it at the time of the election, and the hon. Gentleman ought to say whether there is to be a Holidays Council or not.

If the hon. Member was listening he would have heard that I made special reference to the Holidays Council.

Will my hon. Friend make a statement on the proposed change of the date of August Bank Holiday?

That is a matter which has been discussed at great length. There are many conflicting opinions in the country, and until we can get more considered thought on it which will make our people more united in the demand for a change, it is a matter on which the Government cannot go further.

12.51 p.m.

When one first reads the Motion it seems a fairly harmless type of Motion—

—but, if we read it more carefully and listen in particular to some of the speeches made in its support we realise that it has the seeds of nationalisation, or socialisation, or mutualisation, or whatever one likes to call it, of the hotel industry of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, if it has not, it means nothing at all. It must mean that or nothing, and I am going to assume that my surmise is correct and that it has the seeds of nationalisation of the hotel industry within it.

Could there be a more tactless time in which to bring forward any such Motion? The holiday resorts of this country have had two seasons which were not good seasons. They are now preparing for what we hope will be a very much better season, and what they want is not the threat of nationalisation hanging over their heads, but to be encouraged and to know that this House will back them to the utmost in giving them the facilities they need from this House in order to cater for the persons who are now able to enjoy a holiday.

Will the hon. and gallant Member agree with me that as far as the seaside holiday resorts are concerned, if they have had a lean season it is because they took advantage of the money flowing out of gratuities in the 1946 and 1947 seasons? The Press complained everywhere about it.

I would certainly not agree on that, and if the hon. Member will wait a moment I think we may be able to dispense with any such suggestion. Brighton caters for all sections of the community and, ever since the days of the Prince Regent, we have been receptive to new ideas. I am only sorry that today we have not had any new ideas from the other side of the House as to how we can improve the facilities for holiday makers in our resorts.

The hon. Member will know that in latter years Brighton has catered for more conferences than almost any other town in the United Kingdom, and I have yet to hear of any complaint from those conferences—including a large number of trade union conferences—and this year there was a very big conference of the National Union of Teachers there. I have heard no complaints about that. I have been to conferences and I always endeavoured not only to make an important contribution to the running of whatever organisation was holding the conference, but also to enjoy the conference. If people will have conferences in the right holiday resorts I think they have every chance of enjoying them.

A lot was said about the cost of holiday accommodation. I am very pleased to be able to say that in Brighton we can at least do better than Margate and Ramsgate, because if the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) would write to the Brighton Hotels and Restaurants Association—whose address I will give him—they will provide him with the names and addresses of a large number of boarding houses and apartment houses who will provide accommodation at a figure of 2½ guineas to 3 guineas per week all-in, with meals. I cannot give the exact figure, but I am told we can cater for some 6,000 to 10,000 persons at those figures.

One may not succeed in getting such terms in the height of the season, in August, but certainly at the present time and for the greater part of next month and, I am told by the chairman of the Association, even in August the average cost of all-in accommodation at the height of the season is 3½ guineas per week. What is behind this Motion? One can only assume that the Government wish to have a hospitality centre in the holiday resorts run on similar lines to that in Park Lane.

May I remind the House that one of the most important ingredients in running an hotel, a guest house, or an apartment house is the personal touch. It is the reception which the visitor gets when he first goes into the establishment. I submit there is every probability that the reception such a visitor will get from the average hotel and boarding house in holiday resorts in Britain will be very much greater than the reception he would get from a civil servant running a State establishment.

A great deal more will be said later in the Debate on the question of Purchase Tax. I hope the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that for some time past the ocean-going hotels have been allowed to equip themselves free of Purchase Tax. I have no objection whatever to that, but I think the time has come when the ocean-side hotels should be given similar facilities. I am glad the Minister has given some indication that he has in mind some scheme whereby help can be given to hotels and boarding houses on these lines.

Mention has also been given of the Catering Wages Act, an Act with which, in principle, we all agree, in the same way as we all agree in principle with the Town and Country Planning Act. In principle those two Acts are good, but in operation they are proving dismal and hopeless failures. I hope that at a very early date some modification will be made of the Catering Wages Act. Mention has also been made of the difficulty hotels and boarding houses face in regard to maintenance, repairs and decorations. I hope the Ministry will do something to relieve them in that connection by increasing the limit they may spend each year.

I believe—and here I run a risk of upsetting hon. Members who have signed the pledge—that the time has come when we in this country must really consider our licensing laws so far as the sale of intoxicating liquor is concerned. At the moment they are chaotic. They do not give the holiday resorts of this country a fair chance of competing with Continental resorts and I believe there is a great avenue which can be explored with a view to making our licensing laws more up-to-date. I hope, for the sake of the hotel, boarding house and apartment house keepers in this country, that the threat of nationalisation which does appear in this Motion—

1.0 p.m.

The hon. and gallant Member for Kemptown (Major Johnson) has made some very controversial statements, and I would ask him to read the terms of the Motion. Nothing is said in it about nationalisation, but attention is drawn to the large number of people who at present cannot have a holiday because they cannot afford it, and to the need, in our opinion, for the Government to facilitate the provision of some kind of holiday accommodation—not to administer it but to facilitate its provision. I would emphasise, as some of my hon. Friend had already done, that there are a great number of working people in this country, both manual workers and black-coated workers, who simply cannot afford an annual holiday by the sea. The Minister has drawn attention to the five-day week and to the fact of some of the workers being able to get away at weekends. I suggest to him that nothing can supplant the need for an annual holiday-away from home, or if not an annual one at least a holiday of that kind every two or three years. It is an important matter.

I have the honour to represent a Cornish constituency and to be a Cornishman. As hon. Members opposite have today drawn particular attention to the constituencies which they represent, I make no apology for referring to the attractions of my native county, because my constituency is not particularly one of the reception centres of the holiday traffic except, perhaps, in the Bay of Falmouth. Cornwall is the Mecca of everybody who thinks of taking an annual holiday away from home. We have a unique coast line, and on our north coast there is some of the best surf riding to be found in Britain. On the south coast there is sailing of the best type. I would remind the House of some lines from an old Cornish song:
"Rugged and bold are Cornwall's cliffs. And rugged and bold are its men."
We have our farms and moors. Not enough advantage is taken of our excellent moors, particularly of the great stretch of Bodmin Moor which exceeds the attraction of Dartmoor itself.

We have unique industries. Fishing has been mentioned in the House in recent days. The inshore fisheries of Cornwall are the largest of those of any county in Britain. We Cornishmen say that Cornwall is unrivalled for the variety of its attractions as a holiday centre. We want to see all classes of the community come to Cornwall for their holidays. Perhaps some different type of accommodation is needed for some of those who cannot afford to go to boarding houses or hotels.

I would remind the Minister that he will find throughout Cornwall, in the Summer months, very expensive caravans that are put in all kinds of places. Yet within 10 miles of my home there is, on the eastern side of the beautiful St. Ives Bay, a stretch of beach three miles long and about half a mile deep when the tide is out. I have been on that beach with my wife, before the war, and for two and a half miles of that stretch one would see scarcely a soul during the height of the Summer, on a beautiful day. Things have improved a little. One may now see 150 or 200 people along that two and a half mile stretch, but that is not good enough. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Britain; it is capable of providing a fine and healthy holiday for thousands of people, and yet it is neglected.

The time has come when there should be some cheaper type of holiday accommodation, something very much cheaper than the Butlin type of holiday. Had the Minister of Health been here I should have drawn his attention to the fact that along that bay there is a camp, the huts of which were built by men who work in the industrial centres. These huts have been requisitioned for housing accommodation. Many of those people cannot afford a holiday elsewhere, and I ask that as soon as may be some of these huts may be de-requisitioned and that anomalies in requisitioning may be removed.

There is another type of holiday centre in Cornwall to which I should like to refer, namely, the small beach or place which has been regarded as a select and nice centre for tourists, for people with cars or for local residents. I ask the Minister of Town and Country Planning to see that the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act are administered with sense and discretion. I invite him to come to Cornwall on one of his hiking trips, because we have 300 miles of excellent coast for him to tramp around, quite apart from the moors.

I know of a small beach which is crowded with cars in the summer and where there is no sanitary provision. The skyline has been defaced in years gone by through the building of expensive houses, so that the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act are frustrated in that respect. Yet when a small man makes an application to put a few chalets in quite a good position and to provide sanitary accommodation for visitors to the beach, the town and country planning provisions are invoked to hamper him. I suggest that behind that there is the general view that some of the best spots of the country should perhaps be preserved for the well-to-do. Not far from that beach is the beautiful Helford river, which is already the preserve of those who can afford an expensive house or holiday.

A suggestion has been made this morning about the railways providing special tickets to enable people to come to the holiday resorts. It has been suggested to me that the Post Office might provide special holiday saving accounts from which the contributor might draw two vouchers, limited to a specific sum, one of which could be handed to the railway or road services and the other to the hotel or boarding-house keeper. British Railways might accept a travel voucher of that kind as an indication of a genuine desire by a holiday maker to visit a holiday resort far from his home. I suggest, also, that cheap fares should be available for children or young persons who are at school, or for young people who may be apprentices or earning less than £1 a week.

I offer these suggestions for consideration, not as a fully thought out plan. I do say, however, that a holiday is a necessity in modern civilisation. We now have a policy of full employment, which has been implemented by the Government. The Secretary for Overseas Trade has referred to recent production and to the chance of raising the standard of life for all. This Motion makes no attack whatever on hoteliers or boarding-house keepers. We want to see their accommodation filled to the utmost, and we want them to see that the minority of their associates do not overcharge—there has been overcharging by a minority, particularly in the early postwar years. As I said earlier, I feel that holidays away from home ought to be enjoyed at intervals that are not too long. They are a necessity for the harassed mother and housewife. They are needed to recreate mind, body and spirit, and I am sure that in this way we can build and maintain a healthy people.

1.11 p.m.

I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) in this Debate, and I may say that I find myself in very close agreement with almost everything he has said. I am particularly pleased to find that he—as I do—finds such glory in the beauties of our Cornish coast and Cornish scenery, and I fully endorse his description of Cornwall as the Mecca for the holiday-maker. As the hon. Member was speaking I could not help feeling that the remarks he was making were out of tune with much that has been said from the benches opposite, and particularly by the Secretary for Overseas Trade.

We all have our own points of view, and we want to cater for all points of view, and there is a point that I particularly should like to make in this Debate. It is this. I am appalled at the modern trend of our country in respect of holiday making; if the way of holiday making which has been put forward in a number of speeches from the benches opposite is the modern way, then I am convinced that the modern is the wrong way to take a holiday. When I was a boy I was number four in a family of five. Our idea of a holiday was to go away to Cornwall, to take a house or lodgings and to spend it together there. That, in my view, is the ideal way for the family to take a holiday.

I am convinced that for the family the best holiday is the holiday on which the family lives together in a private dwelling rather than in a holiday camp where, as my hon. Friend the Member for More-cambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) said, we are completely over-organised. I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) is not in her place, because I should like to hear her views on that aspect of the matter—that from the point of view of a family it is better to avoid a holiday camp.

As regards the availability of accommodation of the type required for such a holiday, I have figures from two of the main holiday centres in the West Country. One is the holiday centre in which I reside, and the other is the main holiday centre in my constituency. I find that of the total available accommodation offered in those large holiday centres, some 70 per cent. to 75 per cent. is in apartment houses and small hotels converted from private dwelling-houses. I am convinced that we should concentrate not on the development of holiday camps so much as on the spreading of holidays. If only we could spread the holidays we should not merely have ample accommodation available, but enable lodging-house keepers, and others who cater for the holiday trade, to reduce the costs to the holidaymakers.

I would endorse the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne for the cheapening of rail traffic. Cornwall is remote. We have a large number of holidaymakers who come down from the industrial north, and they come, very largely, to Newquay and to the constituency of the hon. Member. The suggestion he made for cheapening rail fares was set before Sir Cyril Hurcomb here in this building when he came to speak to us. I hope that point will receive the very close attention of the Government, and will influence the grant of concession rates for families to the remoter parts of this country. I am convinced that by speading the holiday season we shall get, not merely the best holidays, but the cheapest holidays.

1.17 p.m.

I shall not intervene for long in this Debate, but the voice of the East Coast must be heard in it. I think that we are, to some extent, at cross-purposes. I do not think any of us who represent seaside resorts can quarrel with the Motion, and it is almost surprising that hon. Members opposite have had to put down an Amendment to it. I hope that by the time we have talked this matter over today we shall not have to go to a vote, because all of us who are taking part in this Debate are interested in the prosperity of the holiday industry of this country.

I say unashamedly that I am in favour of the prosperity of that industry on behalf of my constituents; and I am also in favour of its prosperity for the sake of the people in the industrial areas, such as those represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) and other hon. Members from Birmingham. So many of those people have not been able to afford to take holidays, and are still not able to afford to do so, and they have spent such leisure time as they have had staying in the industrial towns.

Those of us who have lived in the North have seen only too often that pitiable spectacle. Let us face it, and, as reasonable people, try to bring the two propositions—the interest of people who want holidays and the interest of those engaged in the holiday industry—together, and see what we can do. I think we have been a little remiss in not having brought this topic up before. I do not think, we have made the fullest possible use of the accommodation and facilities we already have in these post-war years, and I think we ought to see what we can do with what we have already.

We have heard this morning that the universities and schools have altered their examination times and that the time is ripe for a lengthening of the holiday period. That alteration is news to me, and I am a university examiner as well as the representative of a seaside resort. I should like this country to follow the example of some other countries of Europe, where the main burden of the educational examinations falls at the end of the winter term, about Christmas time. Then the students spend the finer weather of the Spring, Summer and the Autumn not studying for examinations but in holidays in the fresh air to tide them over the Winter, when they can concentrate more closely on their studies.

I hope that, from what we have heard from the Government this morning, there will be a move in that direction. That would help us to stagger our holidays more than anything we have done already. If we could get more people coming to our constituencies in June and September, some of the aims of those who have put forward this Motion would be achieved. For too many months in the year in our constituencies accommodation is not used. The trains put on for the seaside resorts during the Summer, do not really earn money, very often, at the beginning and the end of the period.

It has been my experience, time and again, in the last two or three years, that at the beginning and the end of the period, when we are provided with one or two good trains to the East coast, one can travel up almost alone in the dining car all the way to London. That is because the parents have to take their holidays during the children's school holidays. This matter is certainly conditioned by that factor. All the families are crammed into Liverpool Street, King's Cross and Waterloo in the months of July and August, A move of this sort on the part of the State would be the most important step which could be taken. It would mean that We should not need to spend money on scarce materials to build new hotels, because they are already there. If only we organised this matter slightly better, we should be able to use this accommodation for a longer time.

The Motion is not very revolutionary. It uses the words:
"take early steps to facilitate the provision of such moderately priced accommodation."
I fully agree with that and I should imagine that those who have put their names to the Amendment are also in favour of such a move. The aim of those who have moved the Motion and supported has been achieved in other countries, even in Hitlerite Germany before the war. Hitler decided that through his Strength through Joy movement the workers of the Ruhr should get a good holiday even though their wages were rather low; and certainly they were lower than the wages of corresponding workers in this country.

Hitler organised the Strength through Joy movement. That did not involve building big holiday camps and new hotels throughout Germany. He organised the scheme in such a way that accommodation already there was used to a much greater extent. There were savings schemes, and schemes for picking up workers in places like Essen and taking them down the Rhine for a fortnight, sometimes by boat and sometimes by coach. I found that the terms were very moderate. If I remember rightly, in 1936, when I was having lunch with a party of workers from Essen, I was told that they were getting a fortnight's holiday for 40 marks, or £2 in our currency. That was not bad.

I should like workers from Nottingham and Birmingham who come to Yarmouth to get a fortnight's holiday for £2 or, if there has been an inflationary move, since that time for, say, £4. If they could have it at that price, and if our landladies in Yarmouth could provide it, I should be delighted. I am sure that we could get somewhere near that figure if we had a proper organisation. I hope that we shall not waste valuable building material, equipment, and so forth, in trying to attract some more of these elusive millionaires from America. Hotels are available for those people. It is our own people who need a place where they can recreate themselves, refresh themselves and get the tang of the sea air so that they can become fit for the rest of the year.

The people talked about by my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) have not had that opportunity. We can do it if we will only organise ourselves and stop being mesmerised by this dollar business. After all, the men, and their wives and families, who get their holidays in the brisk air of the East coast, are the people who earn the dollars. Industrial psychology tells us that a man will earn more dollars if he is healthy during the working part of the year than if he wastes his holiday hanging about the streets of an industrial town. I hope, that those who have put their names to the Amendment will not fall out with those who proposed this Motion, and that we shall produce some ideas which will help to get a little better holiday organisation for the benefit of our industrial workers in the next few years.

1.26 p.m.

I cannot let this Debate pass by without putting in a few words for the most salubrious of all seaside resorts, Worthing, which I happen to represent. There has been a large measure of agreement on both sides of the House about the idea behind this Motion. It is only those of us on this side of the House who see in it the implication of State ownership and control to which we object.

It was in the speech of the hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Shurmer). It is no use the hon. and gallant Gentleman shaking his head. I agree that it is not explicit in the Motion, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had heard the speeches of the mover and seconder he would have known that there was a clear indication.

We all agree that full employment is the objective of whatever Government are in power. Let us all hope and pray that full employment, as it exists today, will continue. We disagree with hon. Gentlemen opposite about the reasons for our full employment, except, of course, for certain Government Front Bench speakers, who have stated categorically that it is due very largely to the aid from America that there are not 1,500,000 unemployed today. That has been said by the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We will leave that point for the moment, but let us be honest about the reasons for full employment. It is the objective of every Government, and let us hope and pray that it continues.

That raises the problem of hotel and holiday accommodation in this country. It is true that since the passing of the Holidays With Pay Act, 1938, a very much larger number of people have been able to afford to take holidays. I am told officially that the figure is something like between 20 million and 25 million, leaving a balance of about seven million people who cannot afford. It is for this House, the country, the hotel industry and the local authorities to see that the whole of that seven million can be provided with holidays at reasonable rates. Let us remember that of that seven million, there are many who, like myself, live by the sea and who prefer to have a holiday at home by the sea than to go elsewhere. I am referring to those who do not see the sea at all, and something must be done about them. My position is that I disagree with the method proposed, rather than the objective.

It would be out of order to go into the whole question of Purchase Tax, but I am convinced—and I speak with a certain amount of knowledge of these matters, because I am actually president of our own local hotels' association—that cheaper accommodation could be provided if the Government would assist the hotel industry a little more. We have had an indication from the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Government Front Bench which is very encouraging, and I only wish that we had a little more indication on that line from the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself. I hope the Secretary for Overseas Trade will do his best to persuade the Chancellor to implement at a very early date, some of the suggestions which the hon. Gentle-r man has made.

It is quite clear that the Purchase Tax at the rate at which it is charged certainly increases the price of holiday accommodation. At the same time, it must be realised that it is no good saying that utility goods can be used in the hotel industry, because they will not stand up to the hard wear required of them. The figure which was quoted by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion—the figure of 65s. a week as a target figure—is one with which I thoroughly agree and I believe—in fact, I know—that were it not for the Purchase Tax and certain other expenses, as well as some of the effects of the Catering Wages Act, holiday accommodation could be provided at that figure.

I say quite categorically that the average charge for accommodation in a resort like the one which I represent, including the most expensive—and some of it is very expensive—as well as the cheaper kind, is about £4 per week. That is the figure with which I have been supplied by my own local association, and, if that is the average figure, there must be quite a lot of the accommodation which is charged at a good deal less than that. Indeed, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kemptown (Major Johnson) has quoted a figure of 2½ guineas, which was supplied to him by his own local hotel association. Hon. Members should appraise themselves of these things, and, if they do not do so, must take these facts and figures from those of us who recognise them as being true.

If the Government could give us some relief from taxation, and a certain amount of reconsideration of the Catering Wages Act, there is, in my view, nobody better fitted than those people with a lifetime's experience of the hotel and catering industry to deal with this problem. There are many ways in which our local authorities and the providers of entertainments of one kind and another could use their imagination a little more than they do. It really is time they realised that it is not really fun to have to sit on a beach all day long, with nothing to think about and no mental relaxation at all. So far as the youth of this country is concerned, and this is a question in which I am very interested, there are a lot of cheap sports to which they are never introduced at all, because they are considered to be beyond their means.

I refer particularly to sailing, which is always considered a rich man's pleasure. This is absolute nonsense. One can get more fun on less money out of a small boat than one can out of anything else, and I think it should be possible for local authorities either to provide their own boats or get the local boatmen to provide them, and supply instructors to teach the people how to use them. I happen to be a member of a club the subscription to which is one guinea a year, and for that sum I get some excellent beer and take out a dinghy and sail it as long as I wish. A motor boat is also provided, and all for a guinea a year.

Some of the people of this country really do need to be shown the way to enjoy fife. I admit that some of them have never had the opportunity to realise how much pleasure one may have for very little money. I give my full support to these different movements, such as mountaineering clubs for young schoolboys, and sailing clubs for which a large schooner is available to take parties of from 20 to 30 boys at a time on a fortnight's cruise. I should like to see this kind of idea extended to trips to Switzerland, with instruction in ski-ing.

Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman any suggestion to make for making this interesting idea about sailing available to those people who live in places like Birmingham?

Are there no reservoirs in or near Birmingham? I will organise the club, see that it is built up on cheap lines and get the boats built if the local authority would provide the money, and I will guarantee to show a profit at the end of it. That sort of thing can be done anywhere in England, along any river, although I dare say that the water authorities might have something to say about sailing boats on reservoirs. Once again I say that as long as we have Purchase Tax of 66⅔ per cent. on fabrics and linen it will continue to be crippling to the hotel industry.

I believe that our holiday resorts should cater for children a great deal more than they do, in order to take the load away from the unfortunate mother who has to look after the children for the rest of the year. Here, we can take a leaf out of the Scandinavian book. Not only do they provide their magnificent playgrounds for children, from which it is impossible for the children to escape, since they are surrounded by a 15-ft. wire fence, but every kind of device to amuse and interest them is also available. They also have an excellent system called "The Parken Tante" or "The Parking Aunt" whereby people take responsibility for parties of up to 20 children and look after them from 10 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock in the evening. Not only are these people trained to provide amusement and to keep the children interested, but they are also trained nurses and can be responsible for their health and safety in every way. One of the most remarkable sights to be seen in Copenhagen or Oslo is one of these parties of children crossing the road with all the children tied together and to the leader, so that none might come into danger.

Finally, I quite agree that a great deal must be done in this direction in future, much more than has been done in the past, but in my view those people who have had a lifetime's experience of the business should do this particular job, rather than hand it over to a State organisation.

1.37 p.m.

This Debate seems to me to have degenerated into a publicity campaign for the various resorts represented by some hon. Members, but I do not think that it was the intention of my hon. Friend who moved the Motion that it should be so. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader King-horn) seems to disagree, but he has not been here all the time. From the way in which the Debate developed, quite frankly, I thought that some hon. Members were going to give us the names and addresses of all the landladies in their towns.

The problem we are considering today is extremely serious, and ought to be discussed without any political bias, and I am surprised that it has been suggested that this Motion has a political bias by the implication of nationalisation of hotels and so on or the creation of gigantic holiday camps all over Britain to which everybody is supposed to go. I can assure hon. Members who have that impression that that is not what we have in mind at all. We are desperately anxious, with Government aid, to find ways and means to assist those who are already providing holiday accommodation to cater for the vast majority of people in our country who do not go for a holiday at all, for a variety of reasons. Of course, the economic reason is one of the principal ones, but there is also the question of education.

In my own constituency, our reach of the river is a mud bank, and most of our people go to places like Margate and Southend. I want to see the day when the people of my constituency will be able, quite economically, to go much further afield and enjoy themselves in a variety of ways, and I think we must try to devise ways and means of encouraging them. It is not so much a question whether the landladies of Worthing are playing the game or not, because, quite frankly, as things are at present, if their charges are too high, the people will not go there and the landladies suffer themselves from their own mistake.

However, I do not think that all these considerations which have been mentioned earlier are relevant, and I enter this Debate because I am interested in an organisation which has made a study of the youth of this country, and, from that point of view, I am glad to see that there is present a representative of the Ministry of Labour. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), who seconded the Motion, ended his speech by talking about Fascism and by saying how much he hated it. I could not agree with him more, but I also detest Communism. I agree with him that democracy must prove itself better than either of those systems if it is to succeed. If it cannot, it does not deserve to succeed.

I do not believe that the youth of this country today are receiving all the attention they deserve, particularly in regard to holidays. We are a long way behind the efforts being made by many people abroad. The Ministry of Labour have a big job ahead of them in this matter, and they need to tackle it with vigour, inspiration and idealism. Unless it is tackled in that way, I think we are heading for a great deal of trouble. The youth of this country today are being exploited for political purposes owing to the difficult housing conditions. It is up to us to prove that we are interested in their welfare.

What happens today? 'A youngster leaves school at the age of 15, and he is lucky if he gets a job that gives him one week's holiday a year. On the other hand, of course, he may go to a good trade union firm where he gets a fortnight's holiday a year. It all depends on the job he gets. In France, young workers under 18 years of age receive a month's paid holiday each year, which they can take when they wish; it is not left to the discretion of the employer. The employer is bound by law to make a contribution towards the travelling expenses to any part of France of his young employees. In Belgium, the legislation says that every worker must have a minimum of six days' holiday with pay, and this is increased to 12 days for young persons over 18 years of age, and to 18 days for those under 18 years of age.

In this country, it is left to the discretion of the employer, and it has been established from a very careful survey made by the youth organisation to which I referred—the Christian Workers' Organisation, which is a counterpart to the Young Communist League—that the average holiday of young workers is one week. The Christian Workers' Organisation is not preaching class hatred, but Christianity and sincere ideals among the youngsters at the factory shop level. It does a lot more good than many of us in this House, who have some fanciful ideas as to how the country should be run. That organisation is doing the practical work of preaching the Gospel, and has found out from practical experience that the youth of this country are getting only one week's holiday a year.

On the other hand, if a boy is at a public school—I am not being class conscious, and, indeed, I hope that my children will have that opportunity—he gets three months during those adolescent years. But, if a boy is unable to go to a public school, and has to go to work at the age of 15, he does not get anything like that amount of time. He may be an apprentice, and have to go to night school on certain days. Is it not time that we did something beyond hoping that such youngsters will go to Margate or Worthing for a holiday?

Should we not go in for a much bigger youth hostel movement without worrying whether private enterprise is going to be hurt? Of course, when we talk of a youth hostel many people think it sounds like Government control, and visualise it being run by civil servants. We ought to have a far different approach to this matter instead of hoping that the constituents of, say, Brighton, will read the speech of their Member and say what an awfully good representative they have in this House.

One of the reasons why the majority of our young workers are not taking the right type of holday is, in the main, educational. They have not, as it were, seen the possibilities of enjoying the beauty of our countryside through such things as hiking, camping, cycling, boating, and so on. That ought to be part of the curriculum in our schools. What is the position today in this crazy world? We have a commercialised leisure, consisting of cinemas, dog racing, speedway tracks, and things of that kind. We must encourage our youngsters to see the country. People in my borough are prevented from doing this for many reasons. Many of them have never had the time to go to see the beauty of Cornwall.

In my view, this is a very necessary Motion. The Ministry of Labour must do something in this respect. I hope hon. Members will read the report of the survey made by the organisation I mentioned. It is well worth reading. It gives facts and figures, and is backed up in what it says by quotations from letters received from young workers all over the country, who have no particular religious feeling one way or the other. It justified the Mover and supporters of this Motion in the case they put forward. I hope that the House will not divide on such a Motion, but will agree that the time has come when we ought to do something about providing for the youth of this country who are, after all, the people upon whom we shall have to depend so much in the years to come.

1.47 p.m.

We have had a very interesting Debate today, and I am particularly glad, as, I know, are many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, that the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) was here today to make his contribution to the discussion. It is, of course, years too late for me to congratulate him on a maiden speech, but it is not too late for me to congratulate him on the maiden born yesterday. Now that he is the proud father of a lovely daughter, he has the good wishes of all of us on both sides of the House.

I listened with great interest to the speech which, I believe, was very sincerely made by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), and I assure him that there is a great deal of agreement between us all on this matter. When he and the mover of the Motion, the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer), say that they want the people of this country to enjoy holidays with pay, and to be able to get the best out of them through reasonable prices, I would ask them to believe that we on this side are with them in that desire, and that their aim and ours are identical.

There is, however, one difficulty, and one alone, which seems to arise between us, and that is that we feel, especially after listening to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Motion, that it is their wish that the Government should go into the holiday industry and provide this holiday accommodation themselves, in direct competition with those already in it.

I propose to take up the matter a little later, because we have some written evidence on the question which we believe to be very important. We on this side believe that it is the duty of the Government to help citizens in all their good endeavours, and that it is wrong for the Government to compete with citizens who are doing a good job and really trying hard to provide the facilities needed by our people. We believe that the hotels, boarding-houses, caterers, and seaside landladies of this country have done a wonderful job, and that the right thing would be for us to pay them an unbounded tribute. What alarms us is the suggestion made by the mover of the Motion and the reference which was taken from the document called "Labour Believes In Britain."

Nothing of the sort. While I am on my feet, may I say that no hon. Members from this side of the House have attacked landladies or boarding-house keepers; they have only dealt with the questions with which those people are unable to deal from a financial point of view.

I did not say that the hon. Gentleman had made an attack on them, but we would feel happier if he would give them greater encouragement. I think I as justified in looking at the hon. Gentleman's policy as proposed in this document, "Labour Believes In Britain," and as repeated in their election manifesto, yhich was oddly called "Let Us Win Through Together."

I will. This is it:

"Labour proposes to set up a Holidays Council, with Government support, to start providing modern reasonably-priced holiday centres with accommodation for families."
That was the pledge given by the hon. Members' party, and it fits in very well with all that was said by the hon. Member.

We had a very helpful contribution from the Secretary of Overseas Trade, but he hedged on this proposal. We would like to have some definite information about it. It is a matter of great importance to all of us who represent holiday resorts in this country. I wonder if the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook has forgotten that there have been some changes in Government policy since the General Election? Having regard to their small majority they decided not to proceed with certain items of policy. Nationalisation was stopped, and we heard no more about the suggestion that the Government should go into competition with the holiday industry until today. I should like to quote again from "Labour Believes in Britain," as this, too, fits in with what was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook.

Surely the hon. Member cannot couple the question of the Labour programme on the nationalisation of coal, electricity, water, gas, etc., with financial aid to enable certain organisations in this country to set up camps and work on a non-profit making basis. This has nothing to do with the nationalisation of camps.

I do not think that the hon. Member can get away with that. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the rest of us on this side of the House, that pledge in "Labour Believes in Britain" fits in exactly with what the hon. Member said.

We were sorry we could not get from the Secretary for Overseas Trade a more explicit explanation of what had happened. He was asked and, in my opinion, he evaded, the question whether the Government still proposes to set up this Holidays Council. If he cares to answer the question at any time I will gladly give way to him. He mentioned that we have set up the British Travel and Holidays Association. That is quite a different body from the Holidays Council. The Association is doing good work under Sir Alexander Maxwell, but it was not set up to provide accommodation itself. So the Secretary for Overseas Trade did not give a direct answer to our question. If he will give it to us before the end of this Debate we shall be very pleased to hear from him. We are root and branch against that proposal. We should like to know whether it has been abandoned. If it has not, we want to declare our opposition right here and now.

On other matters, I believe much of what the Secretary for Overseas Trade said helped to destroy the case made for providing accommodation by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, because the hon. Member, to make his case, has to prove that holiday accommodation in this country is inadequate for the needs of the people today. As I understood the Secretary for Overseas Trade he, in many ways, said it was adequate and that there was plenty of reasonably-priced accommodation in second class hotels, boarding houses and apartment houses. If that is so, it destroys a great deal of the case made by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook. I believe that we have plenty of holiday accommodation in this country. I was born, and have lived, in a resort—

The facts are all on our side. It may be that the hon. Member takes his holiday in August, and goes to a holiday resort and finds it full of people. If he could go away on holiday in June he could get plenty of reasonably-priced accommodation in any holiday resort in this country.

The solution is to see that existing accommodation, which represents a vast investment of the nation's capital, is properly and adequately used over as long a period as possible. It is a tragedy to walk into a holiday resort at this time of the year and see accommodation empty and people waiting to do their work. Many of us have spoken before on the need for the spreading over of holidays. I believe the Secretary for Overseas Trade agrees with us wholeheartedly. I should like to have, not merely talk about it, but more practical action.

We talk about the dates of school examinations. The Secretary for Overseas Trade said they are being changed, but he cannot say how far examinations are being put back. I believe that the change that is being made is not revolutionary enough. Examinations should be held at a different time of the year altogether, so that we could have a long summer when people could take their children away during school holidays. There was the question of altering the dates of Bank Holidays. The Secretary for Overseas Trade mentioned it, and I believe he is in favour; but the report from the Staggered Holidays Committee on this matter was made many, many months ago.

When we had a Debate in this House about a year ago, it was indicated that practically everybody in this country, from the churches downwards, had agreed on the need for this reform. If that is so, why does the hon. Gentleman say we have to make more inquiries? Why do we not have action in this matter, instead of going on talking for years? Spread-over holidays can be achieved.

The Joint Industrial Board for the Midlands and the Ministry of Labour have been trying to get Birmingham to change its holiday date from the last week in July for years. They have now confessed their failure, and thrown in their hand.

The difficulty has already been stated, that Coventry is so largely linked up with Birmingham, in the matter of component parts for the motor industry, that Coventry and Birmingham would have to have their holidays together.

That may be so, but difficulties are made to be overcome, and they can be overcome. The Secretary for Overseas Trade should try to get more practical action.

Another thing that had to be proved by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, was that cheap facilities were not available in this country. The difficulty is not the price of accommodation. It is the cost of living which is running away with holiday money.

The hon. Member says, "No." As his constituency is near mine he can come to it and check what I have said. The price charged by members of the local Federation of Boarding Houses, 12 years ago, for full board and accommodation, was 7s. 6d. a night. It is now 12s. 6d. a night, and that increase in cost is nowhere near as great as the general rise in the cost of living.

We have mentioned Purchase Tax. People are paying more for everything they need to use on their holidays, and it is not in any way the fault of those who provide accommodation. The Secretary for Overseas Trade tried to slide away from the point by saying that the reason why people have not so much to spend on holidays was that they were also spending on week-end holidays. There are other reasons, and no doubt if the Lord President of the Council had been here he would have told us that everyone is spending 10s. a week on gambling.

There are lots of reasons but, fundamentally, that is not the answer to the whole problem. The cost of living is going up and is running ahead of the price of holiday accommodation—that is the point; and we all know how much more the caterers and the landladies have to pay for everything they use. It was not fair for the Secretary for Overseas Trade to say, "We have had our discussions on the Purchase Tax and that matter is settled." I remember being here the other day for the Purchase Tax Debate and seeing 27 hon. Members on this side of the House on their feet when the Closure was moved. That is the sort of thing we are entitled to mention today when we are discussing this policy. I am grateful to the Secretary for Overseas Trade for listening so carefully, and I still hope that we can have an answer to my question about the Holidays Council mentioned in the Labour Party's policy statement.

The same statement of policy, dealing with more family holidays, included the phrase,
"To assist families to get to holiday centres, facilities for cheap travel will be increased."
That would be almost laughable, were it not so tragic, when we have seen the cost of travel on the British railways steadily increasing. I believe we can give more help in this direction. Hon. Members opposite must know that at most of the points from which coach tours are leaving there is a big queue because fares by coach are very much cheaper than fares by rail. It seems to me that where the fares are cheap the Government adopts a policy of deliberately restricting the efforts of working for cheaper travel in order to send people back to the more expensive railways.

Cannot we consider the whole position more broadly? I know that from time to time the railways have done much to help the holiday resorts, but the basis today is wrong. If one goes to a holiday resort in this country and returns the same day, then the railway will give a concession on the amount of the fare, but if one goes for a week one has to pay the full return fare. From the point of view of helping the holiday resorts, that is entirely the wrong system.

There is one other point I would mention with regard to the price of holidays. I am aware that in many ways prices have been rising, and I want to call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the fact that the wages of the workers in the holiday industry have been rising steadily during the past few years and that the burden by way of wages has been very substantially increased as a result of the operation of the Catering Wages Act. I put it to hon. Members in this way: it is absolutely wrong for them to say that there should be a higher reward for workers in the holiday industries as well as in other industries and then, at the same time, to complain because that reflects itself to some extent in the cost of their holidays. They cannot have it both ways and, in decency to the worker in the holiday industry, they must recognise that the point I have just made is fundamental.

We on this side of the House believe that the workers in the holiday industry must be properly paid and we want hon. Members opposite to understand that, if they are properly paid, then the cost eventually is met by the consumer—the person who takes a holiday. I do not want to pursue the matter further. I believe the holiday industry in this country can meet the demand which has been made upon it, and I urge upon the Government to assist those in the industry to do their job and to do it well.

2.4 p.m.

The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Roland Robinson), to whose speech we have listened with great interest, was frank enough to admit that a lot of what he said this afternoon was said because he had no opportunity of saying it on the Finance Bill. That probably explains why, in the course of a Debate on what was a bona fide, honest Motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer), we have had introduced into the discussion the subjects of utility goods, the cost of petrol, the Purchase Tax, the reasons for full employment and the incipient threat of nationalisation which has apparently been discovered in the terms of the Motion. If I may do so, I should like to return to what is the fundamental issue involved—the provision of holiday accommodation for people of limited means, for men and women and their families who are in the lowest income groups.

Despite the blandishments which have been held out by previous speakers, the fact remains that for a fairly large number of people in this country the existing facilities in the various holiday resorts are beyond their reach. That is a fact which, I submit, cannot be denied. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] It poses a problem which we ought to try to solve. No one will argue that in this year of grace, merely because a man or a woman, or their family, has not sufficient money to make use of the existing facilities, then, for that reason, this fairly large section of the community should be denied the opportunity of a holiday altogether.

Time does not permit me to discuss the various suggestions which have been made today, suggestions which have included the lengthening of the holiday season, the staggering of holidays, the altering of the dates of school examinations, and so on. More or less, they answered themselves in the course of the discussion.

I should like to refer to one or two remarks which were made by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade. He referred to certain developments which have taken place in connection with the National Parks—to something which was to happen in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Peak District. With all due respect to him, I would say that these schemes will not satisfy the needs of the workers in the industrial areas and in the highly urbanised conglomerations such as London and Birmingham, where people have to earn their living and live their day-to-day lives. For that reason it is necessary to do something a little more than has been envisaged by my hon. Friend the Secretary for Overseas Trade.

The hon. Member for Blackpool, South, quite rightly referred to the pamphlet, "Labour believes in Britain" and to the paragraph in it in which the Labour Party stresses the need for
"modern reasonably priced holiday centres with accommodation for families."
That is a point with which I shall deal, if no one else deals with it. It was not only included in the pamphlet "Labour believes in Britain" but an abbreviated version of the same proposition appeared in "Let us win through together," which was the Election Manifesto. In that manifesto the proposition was put in these words:
"A holidays council will be established to promote more holiday centres with reasonably priced accommodation for families."
In that sentence hon. Members opposite see the threat of nationalisation.

I did not say we saw the threat of nationalisation, but that we foresaw the threat of State competition.

Very good; I will accept that statement. The hon. Gentleman fears the introduction of State competition which, in his view and in the view of many of his hon. Friends, will adversely affect the interests of boarding-house keepers and landladies in Blackpool and Brighton and other resorts in the country. I would remind hon. Members opposite of a piece of legislation which was placed on "the Statute Book in 1937, when a Conservative administration was in power. That Act is known as the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937. It is an Act which I would like the hon. Member for Blackpool, South, to look at, because whatever fears he may have at the moment will probably be considerably increased when he sees what legislation the Conservative Government put on the Statute Book in 1937.

Section 3 (1) of the Act gives the Board of Education powers to make grants towards the expenses of a local authority in providing facilities for physical training and recreation, including holiday camps, camping sites, and other buildings and premises for physical training and recreation. All that is possible under the existing law, and it is not necessary for the Parliamentary Secretary to go hunting in highways and byways to find some justification for whatever it is that we want to do. Here it is on the Statute Book. The Board of Education is ready to make grants to local authorities who want to purchase or set up holiday camps or camping sites.

A local authority, under a later Section of the same Act, has the right, if it so wishes, to acquire the lay out, provide suitable buildings and otherwise equip and maintain lands within or outside the area of the local authority, for holiday camps, camping sites and so on—

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) has forgotten the title of the Act which is the Physical Training and Recreation Act. The purpose of a holiday can presumably be recreation as well as physical training. Physical training is not the only reason why people want a holiday camp. That is why I think it is necessary to remind hon. Members of this very important and valuable provision.

It so happens that the local authority with which I have the honour of being associated—the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth—which was then under Labour control, saw the possibilities of this Act within a few months of it being passed. In 1938, shortly after the Act was on the Statute Book, the Lambeth Borough Council, in the teeth of Conservative opposition, decided to establish within the powers conferred on local authorities by the Act a holiday camp for the benefit of the citizens of Lambeth. In connection with that decision, various investigations were made, and eventually the Lambeth Borough Council decided to buy a site-which was considered suitable for the purpose.

This site was one of some 50 acres in the neighbourhood of Herne Bay, and after the various formalities and negotiations were completed, an architect was appointed, application made for loan sanction, which was granted, and the authorities of Herne Bay approved the scheme under their interim development powers. The Minister of Health approved the scheme, and, in the end, we decided to proceed to the acquisition of the site by means of a compulsory purchase order. On the 3rd August, 1939—it apparently was not necessary to insist on the compulsory purchase order procedure—we bought the site. We were in negotiations with the National Fitness Council, one of the appropriate bodies appointed under the Act to which I have referred, with a view to getting grants towards the capital cost, but on 2nd September, 1939, we were informed that, in view of the emergency which then existed, the application could not be considered for the time being.

Throughout the war period, this land was not allowed to remain derelict but was used for agricultural purposes and made its contribution towards the food supplies of the nation. In 1946, having, allowed a reasonable time to elapse, we decided to proceed further with the scheme and to make representation to the appropriate Government Departments with a view to enabling us to go ahead. The land belongs to the local authority of Lambeth, an architect has been appointed and plans drawn up, and we were ready to resume where we had left off in 1939. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, such as the Government's capital investment programme and the necessity of economy, the Government Departments concerned have not found it possible to sanction a continuance of what, I feel sure, would be a most interesting experiment, which might provide valuable information to other local authorities who wish to follow the pioneering example of Lambeth.

As a matter of fact, when we were devising the original scheme in 1939, we estimated that the cost of the buildings, which were to provide accommodation of a chalet type for some 500 men, women and children, would be £30,000, and that with the cost of the land, architect's fees, equipment and so on, the total cost would be in the neighbourhood of £45,000; not a very large sum, particularly when towards that sum we were to get a grant towards the capital expenditure. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will have another look into this proposal, with a view to seeing whether or not it is possible by way of a pilot experiment, if I may put it that way, to develop this scheme and to see to what extent this very useful Act of 1937, passed by a Conservative administration, can be developed and exploited in the best sense of the word for the benefit of a typical urban population such as we have in Lambeth.

By having this holiday camp at Herne Bay, we could organise regular parties for several months of the year—not merely June, July and August—to go down to the camp for a week or a fortnight. When we first went into this scheme, we calculated that we could house and feed visitors at this camp for 25s. a week. The figure would be larger now, but I am sure that if the idea of the camp could be pursued, it would be a very useful contribution towards solving the problem which the House is discussing today.

It may be argued that it will cost perhaps £100,000 now to develop the camp on the lines we envisaged in the days before the war. In that connection, I want to make a practical suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary. His colleague the Minister of Works is proposing to issue a licence for work costing £200,000 in the borough of Lambeth for shops and office accommodation. If he could persuade the Minister of Works to give up £100,000, which is for work which the people in my constituency do not want, and divert the licence, labour and materials to the completion of this holiday camp scheme, which all the people in the borough of Lambeth do want, he would, I think, earn the gratitude of not only the people of Lambeth but of people in many other parts of the country. They will watch with the greatest interest the development of this pioneering proposition, which I hope may be brought to fruition in the not too distant future.

It will not mean that the interests of any boarding-house keepers in Herne Bay or any other seaside resort will be adversely affected, because the people who will make use of this Lambeth holiday camp will not be the people who in present circumstances can afford to go to the holiday resorts represented by Members opposite. For all these reasons, I hope that the Government will decide to pursue this scheme which was first worked out by the Lambeth Borough Council. In doing so, they will be making a most useful and practical contribution towards the solution of what is really a serious problem to so many men and women.

2.22 p.m.

I do not think that a more appropriate day could have been chosen for a Debate on holidays than a day immediately following an all-night Sitting. I fully sympathise with the overworked people in Birmingham and Coventry, because I feel in much the same position myself today.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) was a little unfair in suggesting that Members are talking too much about their constituencies, especially those in the seaside and holiday resorts. I should think that those who have sponsored this Debate will be only too glad to hear from representatives of these areas exactly what life is like there and what are the conditions which their own constituencies will find when they go there. I am quite sure that Members of the Government interested in this matter will be considerably helped when they read HANSARD and see the suggestions we have made for our own areas—perhaps they will learn a few things they did not know before.

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has gone into his local conditions and problems in great detail. I do not agree with him that the lower income groups are incapable these days of going to the seaside resorts and enjoying a holiday. I am glad to say that they come to my area. One has only to go to the railway stations in London on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday to realise that these people are certainly able to go away for a short time.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey drew attention to the number of people abroad who get long holidays, and said that on an average most people in this country get only one week a year for a holiday. I know the society to which he referred, being in touch with it myself, and I fully respect everything they say and the way they get their information. But we must not think of people having only one week's holiday a year, because there is also the question of those people repeatedly getting a day off. If people who get a day off can regularly go away to the seaside, it is very often as good as taking a longer holiday. A lot of the troubles in this connection could be overcome if the railways would make some arrangements for these people. I must bring in my constituency here, because it is within easy reach of London. A lot of people get down to Brighton and benefit very much from a day by the sea.

The Minister of Transport ought to pay a little more attention to those who get a day off. At present the last train back to London, which is a slow train, is at 10.8 p.m. There are many people who would be quite willing to spend another hour at Brighton, especially during the long summer evenings, if there were a later train. The last fast train leaves at 9.25 p.m. I feel that something could be done in this direction. I am not talking about the richer side of my constituency, which would like a train back from London even later, or of the tourists from abroad staying in Brighton; I am suggesting that the ordinary person who goes down to Brighton for the day would like to catch a train at 11 p.m. to get him into London at midnight. Correspondingly, a midnight train should leave from London for those who have gone there from Brighton for the day, and for those who cannot find accommodation in London for the night and want to get to Brighton, where the accommodation is just as good.

Another thing which would greatly encourage people to get away from London to the seaside is something about which I have been asking a number of Questions in the House, and that is the re-introduction of day trips to the Continent. I ask the Government to consider whether everything possible is being done to reintroduce these very popular holiday trips. In many cases, these trips are the only chance for Londoners to visit the Continent. Many people coming from the Midlands and the North would be tempted to take these trips, which were a regular feature before the war. Since the war, these boats, which were used to carry troops during the war from Northern Ireland to Stranraer, have been allowed by the Government to be reconditioned at considerable expense for the purpose of these day trips.

At the last minute, however, the Chancellor said that the trips were not possible for Customs and other reasons. I can appreciate his point that there are not enough Customs officials. We have gone into this matter in some detail, and we have found that before the war the people who ran these trips were able to get hold of Customs officials and motor them from Newhaven and Shoreham for the very short periods the boats were landing. In effect, they were in the pay of the company for that period. I see no reason why this cannot be done now.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer contends that these men are of a very rare class and need a considerable amount of training. That may be so, but surely there are a lot of retired Customs officials who could be used for this purpose. We found that there were quite a number who would be prepared to go back into that job. To show the trouble a Member of Parliament gets into, some constituents of mine who had not been following my campaign, immediately protested that there were enough unemployed in this district without bringing back pensioners and that it was a disgraceful suggestion. If, however, the Chancellor says that they are such rare birds, and need so much training, then we must fall back on these retired people.

Another excuse given for not restarting these trips is that there are no Customs sheds on the piers. But at Victoria one does not always arrive at the same platform, and we know that the Customs sheds, benches and wooden barriers are moved from platform to platform. It could just as easily be done on any pier on the South Coast. Passports and currencies present a problem, of course. People coming from the Midlands to spend a holiday at the seaside cannot be expected to get passports and pay an extra tax to the Government for doing it. Surely it would be easy to provide some form of card. If the Government are afraid that they would spend too much of their £50 on going to France, then I ask why they have now started day trips from Dover and other places where the nationalised railways run the trains on to the nationalised boats?

I did not want to bring politics into this discussion, but that point ought to be looked into. In spite of all the Chancellor has said, these day trips have been started, but only from places like Dover, where the service is nationalised, whereas, before the war, they were run from all these seaside resorts and were a great attraction to the Londoner coming down for two or three days. They were run by private enterprise. Would the hon. Gentleman look into this matter and have a word with the Chancellor to see if something cannot be done? It is a great source of revenue to the areas involved, it helps hotel keepers and landladies, and is also a great attraction to the people from the Midlands or London whose only opportunity it is to get out of the country.

I have also a suggestion to make about weather reports. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing) will say that in his area there is some dislike of "met" reports as they deterred people from going to that area—

May I correct my hon. Friend? It was not a question of disliking "met" reports, as such, but of disliking the inaccuracy of some of the reports which deterred people from going away.

On a point of Order, Are hon. Members not going a bit wide, Sir, on a Motion like this, in talking about what the Meteorological Office says?

There is little limit as long as the speech covers the subject matter of the Motion.

Perhaps I may explain to the hon. Gentleman why I refer to this matter, Mr. Speaker. When people in Birmingham want to go away for the day, surely it is good that they should know that they will not have to spend their day in pouring rain when they get there, and that there is some chance of having a decent day's outing? On the other side of the Downs from Brighton we often have totally different weather from what the "met" report has issued from London. I am wondering whether seaside resorts could not send in their own reports about the conditions on any particular day—presumably they would send in fairly honest ones.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade referred to the dollar question, and there is always the holiday maker from abroad to be remembered. When I go abroad I do not want to go to a place where I shall meet only English people. Equally, I do not think Americans, when they come over here, necessarily want to go to a place where they will meet only Americans. I am sure they would like to go to a seaside resort where they will find English people of an average type enjoying themselves in an English way. Still more, I think they will feel uncomfortable and unhappy if they are better looked after in their hotels than the people next door. As much as possible we ought to do for everybody what we can in all the holiday resorts and lodging houses so that, when the foreigners come, they will see a contented and happy group of local people enjoying themselves.

One criticism which has been made is that too much has been charged by lodging house keepers in the past. I have been interested in this subject since I came into the House during the war. In the war years, and also immediately after the war, lodging-house keepers had an extremely bad time and when they finally started up again people who had made a lot of money in that period came to them for holidays. Surely they had a perfect right, after going through those lean years to charge a fairly reasonable—I do not say an excessive—amount in order to recoup themselves? We should not criticise landladies and boarding-house keepers to the extent that is happening. From my experience they do their level best to give as good a time as possible to people within the limits of what the Government allows. I only hope the Government will do more for them as time goes on.

2.38 p.m.

I am sorry that the Debate has tended in its later stages to develop on rather more political lines than I had hoped. I regard the Motion as an innocuous one, and I was particularly disturbed at the violent attack made upon my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) for introducing what was called the nationalisation of the industry. Of course, nothing is further from our desires. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have this morning developed the theme that it is the duty of the Government, and of the many Departments concerned with the development of the holiday industry, to give what assistance they can to every form of that industry in order that those people who desire to take advantage of our coastal and inland resorts shall be able to do so.

It has been said that holidays with pay are available to over 20 million people, but we know that many, either through inertia, poverty, or a lack of desire to get out of the rut, do not avail themselves of them. We feel that not only is it the duty of the Government to stimulate the development of the industry, but to bring it within the reach of those who hitherto have not taken advantage of the facilities available. We on this side naturally tend to develop more sympathy with what one might call the consumer interest, not only in this industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why."] There are a good many reasons why. I do not want to start a long speech at this stage, but the reasons are obvious. The majority of the population are consumers, not producers. We are all consumers, but we are producers only in a very specialised sense.

Those of us who represent seaside holiday resorts have a very high regard for the interests of the producer element—that is, the great catering industry. I do not know whether all hon. Members are aware of its full extent, but I am sure that the general public do not realise what a very large industry it is and how very important a part it plays, not only in our economy, but in other aspects, including health and the social side, of the national life. A tremendous amount of capital is sunk into the industry, and the number of persons to whom it gives employment is very high. We want the three elements in the industry—the employers, the employees and also the holidaymakers, for whom really the industry has been developed—to derive the greatest benefit from it.

Most of what I should like to have said has been said earlier in the Debate and probably far more effectively than I could say it. At one time we realised that the Debate was going to be an advertising medium for the various resorts, and I was determined that if Cornwall, Brighton and Worthing were putting their goods into the shop window, I should say something about Lowestoft, but I will not embark upon that now. Everybody knows that it is the premier resort in the country, that it has glorious air and is on the sunniest side of Britain, and that Suffolk people are the salt of the earth; also, that our hotels and accommodation are second to none.

One of the industry's disabilities, and a disability which has been emphasised very much this morning, is the fact that all its capital and all of the large number of persons whom it employs are utilised for only a very short time during the year. Economically, of course, that is a very difficult proposition for any industry. With my hon. Friends from the other side of the House who sit with me on the Holidays Resorts Committee, we have had the disabilities of the seaside resorts very much in mind.

There is a tendency in the holiday towns for the incidence of unemployment to rise much more abnormally than in other industries and in other phases of the national life. It is of the greatest importance to us who represent seaside towns, particularly those where the climatic conditions such as prevail on the East Coast are rather severe during the Spring and Autumn, and where the length of the season must be affected by reason of those climatic conditions, that we should do everything we can to extend the season.

We have been at pains to try to represent to the railway and other authorities the need to get a spread-over and, by offering attractive fares and travel facilities and by making financial concessions in that way, to induce people to take their holidays outside the peak season. I hope that the representations we have made to the Transport Commission will bear fruit and that we shall have much more cooperation from them in the way of the provision of cheap travel facilities, for I believe this to be one of the biggest difficulties in the solution of the problem, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) referred, of the high cost of getting to the holiday centres.

I would suggest the institution of a scheme of tapering fares for long distances. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) talked about the inaccessibility of Cornwall. We all know that one can send a letter to Cornwall for the same price as it costs to send a letter to Bermondsey, and I see no reason why there should not be some gradual tapering off in fares for holiday purposes in order that these very beautiful parts of the country should, be made available to more people.

A great deal depends, of course, upon the education authorities, whose responsibility regarding family holidays is obvious to everyone, and we must see whether we can get some alleviation of the very tight restrictions which are at present placed on the scope of the general school holidays.

I should like to say a few words about accommodation. I was very pleased that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) spoke about the seaside landlady. The old seaside landlady of the comic postcard and the music hall joke is, I think we all agree, gradually going out of the picture; but conditions are not yet perfect. The hon. Member spoke of the bed and breakfast bogey. There are too many people in the industry who want to make their living on the least possible contribution; that is to say, they will take in people for bed and breakfast, but when the morning comes it does not matter what kind of day it is; the visitors are told to go out, and out they have to go.

I was very pleased that the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) spoke of the responsibility of local authorities in this connection. If local authorities want to maintain the prosperity of their prospective resorts, they must approach this subject in a much more imaginative way. They will have to devote capital and a great deal of thought to providing the kind of amenities which the holiday camps, with their all-in programmes, provide so readily and cheaply. There is not the slightest reason why a great deal more should not be done.

I do not see why a resort should not have an enclosed park for children. I do not encourage parents to dump their children—that is wrong from every viewpoint—but there is a time in the life of a harassed housewife—and indeed, of a harassed father, as I have been; no doubt some of my hon. Friends still have that experience ahead of them—when it is desirable that they should have a change from their home conditions and be able to put their children in a safe place. There is no reason why a pro-pressive local authority should not make provision of this kind.

Mention has been made of uncommon sports, and I was very pleased that the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing spoke of sailing. I represent a constituency in which that adventurous and most typical and characteristic British sport is developed, on the incomparable Broads. There it is possible for quite ordinary people to hire a craft and take their children—growing children rather than babies—in perfect safety, and derive great interest. Recreations such as sailing, swimming, boating, bird-watching and others are so very much in the British tradition.

Mention has been made of the Catering Wages Act and its crippling effect upon the industry. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to criticise that Act. It must be remembered that it was passed many years ago. It was an agreed document—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]. Of course it was. Both sides of the industry were represented. Recommendations were made to the Minister, who sent them back for confirmation, and it was an agreed document.

What I say is that the representation on the employers' side was too heavily weighted with the big hotels and other categories in that list. The smaller public houses and hotels have never had anything like the categories of staff that are based on the staffs of the largest hotels. That is now being re-examined, and if it is a handicap to the industry, we on this side of the House have not the slightest objection to a full inquiry with a view to having it amended, because anything that cripples an industry reacts badly against everyone in that industry.

The hon. and gallant Member for Kemptown (Major Johnson) talked more nonsense in the shortest time I have ever heard anyone talk in this House on the licensing laws and about trying to compete with Continental countries. I hope we shall never fall into that trap. We cannot compete with Paris, and I am sure that the average person who comes here for a holiday, from America, or anywhere else, does not come for that sort of thing.

I am sorry this has developed on a party political basis. I quite agree this industry is being subjected by Purchase Tax to a tax on its capital equipment because, one must remember, bedding, towels, cutlery and all the amenities which go to make a hotel are just as important to the industry as are transport charges to other industries. The Secretary for Overseas Trade gave some indication that the Government are considering some revision in respect of hotels and places that cater for dollar earning visitors. I can foresee that that is going to lead us into a great deal of trouble, because it is conceivable that in a hotel there may be an alleviation for, say, the first floor for dollar earners where they can get their towels cheaper than they can be obtained on the next floor.

I am glad that my hon. Friends have introduced this subject to the House. The terms of the Motion are innocuous and have no false implications such as suspicious hon. Members opposite read into them. I hope we shall be able to encourage those who need holidays to be able to enjoy the facilities which those of us more fortunately placed have been able to enjoy all our lives.

2.53 p.m.

I beg to move, to leave out the words:

"facilitate the provision of such moderately priced accommodation"
and to add instead thereof:
"encourage the hotel and boarding house industries by removing the unfair burdens which have been placed upon them."
I feel rather at a disadvantage because, during the course of the Debate, the body of my Amendment seems to have been before the House. Every speaker has been snatching at it, although it had not yet been moved, and not very much of the body is now left for the Mover of the Amendment. We all agree about the aims of providing holidays, and cheap holidays, for all people according to their needs. But I feel our approach is somewhat different. There is no question that from the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion they visualise the provision of Government subsidised holiday camps, holiday centres, or whatever they like to call them, which would compete with the landladies in the seaside and holiday resorts.

This suggestion is constantly being made, but if hon. Members will check up in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, they will see that I said a certain amount of the subsidy should be made available to the private agencies.

Yes, I am coming to that. If the hon. Member will wait a few moments I shall deal with that point, but before I deal with it I want to ask the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) whether he wants one of these Government subsidised holiday centres in Lowestoft to compete with the landladies there?

I think the hon. Member is begging the whole question. He might as well ask me if I would like the hotel industry in Lowestoft nationalised. There is no such proposal. What is proposed is that the agencies who run these camps for the poorest visitors should get some subsidy to enable them to have a holiday in Lowestoft, and nothing could be better for them.

If that answer satisfies the constituents of the hon. Member in Lowestoft, I should be very surprised. The seconder of the Motion suggested that he saw no objection to private enterprise being given subsidies to run these holiday centres, provided, of course, that they made no profit, and provided there was no enterprise, and provided they were willing to bear any loss incurred.

The provisos the hon. Member mentions are completely imaginary and in his own mind.

No, because if the hon. Member will permit me to say so, he made it perfectly clear that these Government subsidised hostels should not make any profit. Landladies have to live, like the rest of us, and they have to make a reasonable profit.

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), who I am sorry is not in his place, gave some particulars about a scheme which was toeing run by Lambeth under the 1937 Act. I remember that Act being passed. It was an Act designed to provide camps for physical training and recreation mainly for young people. Hon. Members on this side of the House in those days were very keen that young people should be given physical training and recreation in this country. What happened in those days? We were accused of being warmongers, and hon. Members opposite may remember that was about the time when the present Lord President of the Council did away with cadet corps in some schools.

Increasingly it has become a sort of popular game to make fun of the British seaside and holiday resorts. I am glad to say that none of the speeches today have poured the usual sort of scorn on our seaside resorts. We believe we have in this country some the the finest seaside and holiday resorts in the world, and we believe that, if they are relieved of some of the burdens that have been placed upon them, they will be able to compete with other seaside holiday resorts in Europe and elsewhere.

The British holiday industry undoubtedly has suffered since the war for a number of reasons. During the war the East Coast and the South and South-East Coast resorts were very badly damaged by enemy action and by deterioration because houses were not occupied, but were evacuated. They have suffered from food restrictions, they have suffered from a shortage of supplies and materials, and they have suffered—and here again I would quarrel with the hon. Member for Lowestoft—from archaic licensing laws.

They have suffered from the ridiculously complicated wage regulations which have not been devised, as he suggested, by negotiation between the two sides of the industry. There is no doubt that some of the wage regulations were more or less forced upon the industry by the voting strength of those who were considering the regulations. We suffered from petrol rationing, which was abolished in France and other European countries long before it was abolished here. We have suffered from expensive railway fares. Railway fares to and from holiday centres have recently increased. Then there has been no really genuine attempt to find some solution to the problem of the staggering of holidays. I know that the Secretary for Overseas Trade has mentioned one or two attempts that have been made in a rather half-hearted way, but there has been no virile, genuine, full-blooded attempt to get over all the difficulties which stand in the way of the staggering of holidays. Lastly we have suffered from the general Mrs. Grundy-like attitude of certain authorities in the country.

As the hon. Member said, many of those burdens have been removed. There are, however, several which still remain. There is still a shortage of supplies for the hotel and boarding-house industries. The licensing laws have not really been very much altered, except in the case of a few establishments in London. They have not been altered in the seaside and holiday resorts. We still await the outcome of the catering wages inquiry. Can we be given any information as to when we may expect the result of that inquiry to be published, and, when he receives the result of that inquiry, will the Minister take action, so that something can perhaps be done this season to remedy many of the anomalies under which the trade is now working?

Probably the greatest burden under which we have been suffering is that of Purchase Tax, which has been mentioned by a number of speakers. I wonder if the figures are really appreciated? I wonder if the House realises that if boarding-houses or hotels want to put down a new carpet or linoleum they have to pay not only the vastly increased cost of those floor coverings today, but on top of that 33⅓ per cent. Purchase Tax. There is the same percentage of Purchase Tax on furniture. Furnishing fabrics—

Can the hon. Member tell us what proportion of establishments providing accommodation for those with limited means will buy non-utility furniture?

I think quite a large proportion. I do not think that utility furniture is always suitable for the sort of accommodation which I have in mind. A great many of the commodities I have mentioned are not produced as utility lines. Fabrics bear 66⅔ per cent. Purchase Tax. In the case of linen and towels, I agree that there are utility towels which are produced extremely cheaply, but frankly they are rubbish. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I do not think that many people, even those in the lowest income group, would be very happy to go away and find that they were to be looked after in such a poor way.

There is 100 per cent. Purchase Tax on certain glass goods, which we know are always being broken. There is a Purchase Tax of 33⅓ per cent. on soap, and there is no utility soap. Other requirements such as staff uniforms, electric fires and electric fittings, all bear Purchase Tax at from 33⅓ per cent. to 100 per cent. It is obvious that if hotels and boarding houses are to be expected to charge cheap rates, they must obtain the acknowledged raw materials of their trade free of Purchase Tax.

At the last annual meeting of the Travel Association, Lord Jowitt, who when he was a Member of this House took a great interest in the hotel and boarding-house industry in the holiday resorts, acknowledged that it was wrong that Purchase Tax should be charged on the raw materials of the trade. I think this is the only trade which has to pay Purchase Tax on its raw materials.

I hope that the mover and seconder of the Motion will be prepared to accept, without a Division, our very helpful Amendment. I was not sure what they were going to say in their speeches, but it is perfectly clear now what is at the back of their minds. Whatever they may say now, I shall stand by the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow and I guarantee that nobody reading their speeches in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow will doubt that they want to see Government subsidised holiday centres run by non-profit making concerns to compete with the existing holiday accommodation.

I should like in conclusion to refer to one or two things which the Secretary for Overseas Trade said. He said £1 million was to be provided by the Government for the provision of holiday accommodation in National Parks when National Parks are designated, and that that £1 million would be spread over 10 years.

Would the hon. Gentleman permit me? The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is not here at present, but I owe him an apology, and also the hon. Gentleman. I did not make it clear. The amount of £1 million has not been fixed. We do not know what the amount will be. It is a recommendation only. When the National Parks are established local planning authorities will be able to make suggestions, and then, within the money allocated by the Treasury, whatever the total amount may be, grants up to 75 per cent. can be made.

So that if no county council in whose area a park is situated applies for any grant, no grant can be made? There is no question here of the Government, as it were, urging that the money should be taken to build State hotels or State holiday centres in the National Parks? That is not so?

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. Then the hon. Gentleman also said there was no shortage of accommodation. I think that is a complete answer to the mover and seconder of this Motion.

If there is no shortage of accommodation, and if we can reduce the charges of the smaller hotels and the boarding-houses by removing the burdens of Purchase Tax, and the other burdens which they suffer in many ways—the shortage of supplies, and so on—I am perfectly certain that private enterprise will be able to come to the forefront and provide holidays for even the lowest paid workers. I do not regard boarding-house keepers as avaricious and grasping. They are not. They try to provide decent holidays for their guests who come to stay with them. I hope even at this late hour that the mover of the Motion will be prepared to accept the Amendment which I have proposed.

3.9 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I wish to support the part of the Motion which urges that greater provision should be made for holidays for people in the lower income groups, especially those with families. That is a sort of proposition which has my wholehearted support, as well as that of everybody on this side of the House. There is no quarrel about that. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) and myself and my hon. Friends thought it necessary to put down an Amendment because the latter part of the Motion suggests that it is the duty of the Government to provide such accommodation. I do not think that it is the duty of the Government to do that.

Has the hon. Gentleman read the terms of the Motion? It says:

"… take early steps to facilitate the provision …"
How the words "to facilitate" can be read to mean "to provide," I do not know.

The Motion says:

"… that the Government should take early steps to facilitate the provision of such moderately priced accommodation."
Do not the words "provision of" mean providing? In any case, I heard the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Motion. At the end of both those speeches I was more convinced than ever that it was their view that the Government should facilitate, by means of subsidy, the setting up of holiday centres which would compete with existing accommodation.

It was suggested that the Government should subsidise certain existing bodies. If money was provided from public funds to subsidise holiday accommodation under Government auspices or Government sponsored organisations, such as the Workers' Travel Association, those centres would be Government subsidised in competition with existing accommodation. It is not the Government's job to interfere in this matter as long as accommodation already exists. We have been told by the Secretary for Overseas Trade that accommodation does exist and that, in some respects, it is surplus.

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that we should continue to subsidise youth hostels?

As I see the position, it is the duty of the Government to provide homes for the people. Until they have fulfilled that obligation—which is far from the case at present—I certainly will not support the subsidising of holiday camps or centres, especially as accommodation is already available.

Another matter which alarmed me was the suggestion that the Government should embark on some form of catering. I am reminded that not long ago a Select Committee of this House, of which I was a minority member—the majority belonged to the Government—investigated certain establishments run by the Government to discover what was the cause of their losing public money. We found that one establishment not far from here, known as the "Cripps Arms," which is near some very well-known hotels, was costing the British taxpayer a large sum of money. It was our duty to investigate why and how that money was spent. We found that this establishment catered for Government guests at the rate of £18 a day per guest. The Committee recommended that the establishment should be closed.

That is one example of Government catering. I can give others. For instance, the nationalised railways are the biggest hotel proprietors in the country. I wonder how many of their hotels are run at a profit. I am told that if one goes to the most popular ones, especially on Bank holidays, one will find that they are occupied almost entirely by V.I.P.'s of the Labour movement, who hold conferences there. Guests who have been accustomed to patronising these hotels for years are very often turned away at the time of the year when they want to spend their holidays.

So far as Government sponsored hostels are concerned, I have one or two of them in my constituency—very nice, well-appointed manor houses, and no doubt very well run, but I should like to know how many working men ever see the inside of these places. They seem to me to be occupied by V.I.P.'s of the Labour movement, by Cabinet Ministers holding their conferences there, and by other tired Ministers who, with their secretaries and chauffeurs, spend their holidays there.

Is my hon. and gallant Friend speaking of Parkhurst, which, I believe, is also a Government establishment, in his constituency?

No, I am speaking of a different kind of establishment. These places are presumably paid for by working men and kept up by contributions from working men, and no doubt there are contributions from the Government, but, as far as providing holiday accommodation for working people of the lower income groups is concerned, I fail to see any sign of it. I am not sure that any other subsidised camp would do it either, nor am I sure that this is the sort of holiday accommodation which the working man wants. What he wants, and especially if he works in a nationalised industry, is certainly not a nationalised holiday on nationalised transport and in a nationalised hostel, to be ordered about from morning to night, as does happen in some of these holiday camps, so far as I can make out.

What the working man wants on holiday is more freedom in his life, and the only way he can get that is by being provided with proper accommodation at holiday resorts by those who know and understand the business and are able to cater for holiday makers. We have an abundance of these people throughout the country, and if only they were given the chance they could do their job. One of the ways in which the Government could assist the people who are able and willing to provide the accommodation is by removing some of the burdens which are at present shackling them in their work, which have already been enumerated to the House.

First of all, there is the crippling burden of the Purchase Tax. What other industry is carrying 100 per cent. duty on its raw materials? What other industry is so hampered in trying to carry out the ordinary function of running its business? People have to wait for months for a licence to do even the ordinary decorations of their homes or places of business. That is what the hotels and boarding-houses have to do, and it is a burden which very often cripples them in their business.

Then, there is the Town and Country Planning Act. If anybody wants to make any alterations to improve his premises, add a new bathroom, and so on, he must submit plans to the local council and, often, to about five different authorities. Then, in nine cases out of ten, the application is turned down, or, alternatively, the permit is issued for half of what he wanted to do, and even then, generally, it is too late for the season. All these things are going on, and the people representing the resorts have had to battle on behalf of their constituents almost since the end of the war. It has been a constant battle undertaken by Members of Parliament representing the seaside resorts to try to reestablish the people of our hotels and boarding houses on their feet. It has been one constant struggle with the Government.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade seemed quite pleased with himself, and said that certain facilities had already been provided. Those facilities were battled for over a long time, and among one or two which have been given the hon. Gentleman mentioned the 5s. meal and petrol at 3s. a gallon. That is all right, so far as it goes, but there are many other things that the Government could still do to help the hotel industry if they would only face up to them. I could name a great many had I the time.

We are not satisfied that either the Secretary for Overseas Trade, as representing the tourist industry, or his Department are doing as much as they could to help those people who are trying to accommodate overseas visitors. They lay great stress on the dollar visitor. I could give an example of people in my own constituency who for years have been putting up plans for improving their premises with a view to encouraging dollar visitors, and who have been pushed around from one Department to another, and have still not received the necessary permit.

The other thing mentioned was the Catering Wages Act. I hope that when this report comes out, some attention will be paid to the ridiculous anomalies which exist under the Act, and that these will be revised. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) that this was an agreed Measure. There was no agreement about it at all. The original Catering Wages Act was forced upon this House during the Coalition. It was introduced at the time of Yalta, when the Leader of the Conservative Party was away dealing with the war. The Minister of Labour at that time, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, introduced the Bill and forced it through in a great hurry before we had an opportunity of really discussing it.

Far from being an agreed Measure, at least 118 supporters of the Government went into the Division Lobby against it. If that is not a controversial Measure, I do not know what is. There was an agreement between all parties in the Coalition Government that no controversial legislation should be introduced during the war. That Measure was introduced as a breach of faith on the part of the Minister responsible for it, and the result was that the regulations which followed it have done nothing but hamper and damage the catering industry ever since. After years of requests from this side of the House, and, indeed, from the other side also, in many cases, the Government have had to admit that the regulations as they stood were a failure, were hampering the industry, and were causing unemployment in it, and have had to withdraw them. They are now under consideration, and have been under consideration for a long time.

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the regulations were formulated by a committee on which the employers and the employees were equally represented, with an independent chairman, that the representations made there were forwarded to the Minister and were sent back for ratification? If that is not agreement, what is?

That was a later stage. What is a fact, and the hon. Member knows it, is that the representatives of the trade unions who were on this Commission had really little connection with the catering industry. The result was that they imposed upon the industry factory regulations which have hampered it ever since, and which have had to be withdrawn. That is the answer to that. We still await the result of this inquiry. We hope that when it comes these ridiculous anomalies will be removed and a chance given to the hotel and catering industry to conduct their business in a more reasonable way.

I am sorry that we shall have to have a Division, but we would withdraw the Amendment only on condition that those who moved the Motion agree that they are not trying to set up a new organisation under Government auspices to compete with people already engaged in the industry. Those who are engaged in the industry, and who are capable and willing and anxious to provide the necessary accommodation on reasonable terms, should be given a chance by the Government through the means which we suggest, namely, by removing some of the heavy burdens they have to bear today.

3.27 p.m.

I am not surprised that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) should have said, at the end of his speech, that he and his supporters would have to divide the House if my hon. Friends on this side refuse to accept the Amendment. It would appear from the tenor of his speech, and from the views he holds, that the purpose of my hon. Friends in moving and supporting the Motion was to create a state of society in which certain persons dashed from the railway stations to Travel Association accommodation, displacing the really important people of England who ought to be in those places. I am wondering why he should be content to divide against my hon. Friends rather than demand their execution.

I am in a somewhat ironical position in expressing great pleasure at the excellence of this Debate, because every minute of it has prevented me from moving a Motion which I should have dearly loved to have moved as a tribute to the late Keir Hardie. When my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) moved the Motion in the very human way he did, he was expressing some of the sentiments and feelings which guided a much braver man than any of us to express similar sentiments in this House against very difficult odds. While my hon. Friend was pleading the case of those who were getting holidays for the first time, Keir Hardie was pleading the case of men who had either no holiday at all or excessive holiday without pay in grim unemployment. His task was to plead for the rights of the unemployed.

Behind the speech of the mover and seconder of the Motion and of other speeches made from this side of the House, is the awareness that the new problem of holidays for the people is bound up with the full employment programme which has been carried out in this country since the war, and with a better standard of living for millions of our people. Whatever our holiday problems, whatever the solutions to those problems which have been discussed today, it is the view of hon. Members on this side of the House that no expansion in the hotel programme must be allowed to interfere with the basic priorities of the needs of the people of this country.

I remember, as a boy, visiting Scarborough, seeing the palatial hotels which were empty for two-thirds of the year and contrasting them in my mind with the slums and the miners' cottages and the crowded towns in which millions of people were compelled to live. To me, it was a picture of the two states of society, the two kinds of people—the hotels which were empty two-thirds of the year and millions of English people badly housed all their lives. When hon. Members opposite argue in all sincerity for the removal of restrictions on the expansion of hotels, on the decoration of hotels, and for the removing of licences which interfered with their plans to add an extra room, let us remember that there are still millions of people in this country who are badly housed. If we are to solve the housing problem we must restrict the expansion of anything but house building and our basic industries as far as possible.

I was struck by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who referred to the special needs of the youth of this country. This Debate was opened most charmingly from the other side by the, hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson), and I was sorry that in later speeches from time to time we have had bursts of political prejudice. I was also sorry that references to the need for making special provision for youth holiday associations caused the Mover of the Amendment to refer to those days before the war when holiday youth camps were first introduced. It was a time in this country when hundreds of thousands of our young folk were leaving school at the age of 14 and facing unemployment, in a country which had refused to raise the school-leaving age.

It was a country which had mass unemployment amongst its youth. In fact, that was one of the most tragic aspects of the problem, and I am sorry that the Opposition should have chosen this afternoon, in this year of the 25th anniversary of the youth hostel movement, to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey for suggesting that we should expand youth hostel provisions and expand all those organisations which have already begun the task of providing cheap and healthy holiday accommodation for our young folk.

I gather that the hon. Member accuses me of attacking youth hostels. If he is suggesting that that is what I did, then I must deny it.

Perhaps I may make myself clear. The hon. Member's reference to youth was to the period between the wars. He charged this party with being opposed to the setting up of youth camps and with looking at them as being set up in the name of Fascism.

Reference has been made, I am glad to say, to the question of the transport of people to the holiday resorts. When the French railways were nationalised, one of the first reforms which the French instituted was a system of differential charges according to the circumstances of the person who was using the railway. Side by side were two ticket offices, one for ordinary people and the other for people with large families. I think that one very real contribution to the provision of holidays for people with low wages and large families would be if our British railways made some real concessions for people who have large families and who want to travel by train.

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting the introduction of a means test?

It is not a question of a means test, but of the size of the family. In the Debate on transport, a proposal for the expansion of the excursion facilities by British Railways during the summer was criticised by the Opposition because it would lose money. I hope that British Transport will continue to develop excursion facilities. A small amenity, but one which would be a real contribution to holiday facilities, would be improvements in the refreshments which people find when travelling to and from holiday resorts. I think that under British Railways we have abolished the railway bun and the railway sandwich, but the railway cup of tea, as under private enterprise, is still with us on the British Railways.

Turning to the seaside resorts themselves, it has been in no way in any sense of criticism of the work of the hoteliers of this country that the Motion has been tabled. I am one who, in the blitzed and bombed seaside towns of England, appreciated the courage of many hoteliers who stayed on during the war when their hotels were losing money. The hotel industry is faced with a very serious economic problem which is far greater in the north of England than in the south, and this illustrates a point on which both sides of the House found themselves in agreement this afternoon—the shortness of the holiday season. Somehow, the hotel has to make enough money in a short season to keep its staff for the year, and that, so far as the seaside towns are concerned, raises the very serious question of seasonal employment for hundreds of thousands of workers.

This problem is one which we have to solve in the seaside towns sooner or later. I think that we would all be in agreement that we should, if possible, lengthen the British holiday season, but I would urge both sides of the House to be very careful when considering the question of staggering holidays and the method which is used. We educate children for the sake of their education, and we have had to resist in the growth of our educational system all sorts of attempts to plan the time-table of British school children according to the potato picking or strawberry picking season, and now, it is suggested, according to the demands of the holiday resorts.

If we are to stagger school holidays as well as the holidays of industrial workers, we must be very careful about the group-which we interfere with and on what geographical basis we tackle it; otherwise, we shall find groups of children withdrawn from schools throughout an extended holiday period, with serious inroads on the educational work of those schools.

I urge the seaside towns to cultivate a spirit of social service. In the days before the war, most seaside towns ran their hospital carnivals at the time the visitors were there so that they could be used to subsidise the local hospitals. I am sometimes amazed that the seaside towns which have been practising municipal socialism for the last 40 years should still be consistently returning Conservative candidates. I sometimes imagine that it is because they feel, like the farmers, that because they have voted Tory all their life they must vote Tory again, while hoping that the Labour Party gets back because they have never been so prosperous.

If they listened to representations on the Labour point of view, such as those given by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Major Johnson), I can understand why they vote against the Labour Party. If the view of the people in Brighton is that the Labour Party seeks to nationalise the hotel industry, then the hon. and gallant Member and his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) have been elected to the House on false pretences.

I will illustrate what I mean by the spirit of service that seaside towns may show as a contribution to this problem by paying tribute to the warmth of welcome one always gets when visiting Blackpool. I can say that without ulterior motive because I have no contacts, politically, socially, or in any other way, with Blackpool. We have an authority here which spends generously on providing services for its visitors. It has one of the cheapest tramway systems in the country, and it spends a tremendous amount on illuminations and free shows. At the same time, it provides from the cheapest to the dearest hotel accommodation. I have experienced the cheapest, and friends of mine have experienced the dearest accommodation, and I know that to be true.

Seaside resorts should make a special point, not of providing accommodation for children to be taken away from their parents, but of providing traditional amusements for children. I hope we shall come to the time when every child has almost the right to have at least a week a year at the seaside. There is nothing healthier for a young child than to spend a week on the sands. If, by raising the wages and the standard of living of our lowest paid workers, we can make that possible, then we are making a contribution both to the economy of the seaside resorts and to the health and well-being of our children.

Members from this side have asked for a series of small things that could be done. We have asked, for instance, that old folk might find places in old folks homes at the seaside. That is an act of service which might commend itself to progressive seaside authorities. We have referred to links that have already been made between crowded inland boroughs and seaside resorts. That is a line of development which may continue in the future.

I should like to see the great industrial boroughs of our country setting up schools for their weakest and ailing children in the seaside resorts of England. One development at present taking place in British education is the provision of special education in open-air surroundings under ideal and healthy conditions for children who are weak and delicate. If we could build up in our holiday resorts something like that, we would be doing a great work along the lines of this Motion. Incidentally, any seaside resort could render a public service to our children if it provided Punch and Judy shows on the seashore and did not, because of prohibitive charges for rent, prevent the show appearing.

Reference has been made to the holiday resorts as though they were simply the seaside. An almost grim reference was made to Hitler's "Strength Through Joy" movement, in which young folk went to sea m boats provided as part of the holiday camp. I hope that in the years ahead we shall undertake cruises similar to those started before the war, when young folk went over to Norway and Sweden simply at the cost of the journey, no profit being made. I hope, too, that we shall extend the holiday provisions for our old folk so that the people who have worked hard all their lives may have an opportunity of seeing some of the world before their end.

Behind the economic problems of the hotel industry, behind the economic problems of accommodation, even in this great City of London, which is the premier holiday resort of the world at the moment, lies the question of land. In another place this week reference has been made to the fact that £60,000 per acre has been paid since 1946 for land on which to build fiats. It is impossible to provide cheap hotel accommodation in the City of London unless we have more control of the price of the land on which those hotels have to be built, and it is impossible to cheapen the hotel accommodation of great seaside resorts unless we take from the hotelier himself some of the tribute that he must pay to the leaseholder from whom he gets his land. So, leasehold reform itself will be a contribution to the provision of the cheap holidays we all desire.

Above all, I hope this Motion, when considered by the Government, will be taken as evidence of the determination of the Private Members on this side of the House that they regard as No. 1 priority in this country the housing of our people, the maintenance of full employment, and the building up of the wages of our lowest paid workers, who are unable, even now, to afford holiday accommodation at the moderately priced £4 4s. of the Isle of Thanet and Margate, £3 3s. somewhere else, and the £3 15s. elsewhere, per person. Until we have raised the standard of living of our lowest paid workers, the hotel industry will be unable to provide for them the accommodation they require.

3.55 p.m.

The length of the speech of the hon. Member for the Test Division of Southampton (Dr. King) shows how much there is in this subject still to be talked about. I wish to thank him for the tribute he paid to Blackpool Corporation, of which I may say there is not a single Socialist member. I am sure the tributes he paid to Blackpool over the cheapness and excellence of their transport will appeal very much to the people of Blackpool, even though they may not appeal to the Minister of Transport.

This is an Amendment to a Motion the aims of which I think the whole House heartily applaud, and I certainly do.

It seems to me we might lay slightly different emphasis on one side or the other as to the methods to be employed to achieve the very desirable objects set out in the Motion. Moreover, as the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion will agree, the closing words of the Motion which it is sought to alter by the Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) so ably moved, are slightly ambiguous. I need not say anything more than that.

The hon. Member is shaking his head. I do not say that they mean positively that the hon. Member wishes to nationalise the industry, but they might mean that. I do not say that they are definitely in favour of setting up a Holidays Council, but they might mean that. I wish to say a few words about the methods of achieving the object which I think we all want to achieve.

If hon. Members, particularly the mover and seconder, will credit me with sincerity in what I say, I shall keep my remarks short. As I see it, they hope to achieve more accommodation at more moderate prices by the methods that they explained to us, in particular by making use of the Holidays Council which was referred to in the Labour Party's programme at the last election. As was pointed out to them by the Government spokesman, the Secretary for Overseas Trade, this might mean more building. That is not possible at present; indeed, after what the Government have said, I do not see how it is possible to achieve more cheap accommodation in any way other than by the methods proposed in the Amendment.

So far as I recollect, the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) has spoken to us in terms—I do not know whether he used the phrase or not—of a subsidy so that more cheap accommodation might be available. When he was asked a little later whether that would involve inequity, he said that it should be equitably spread over the whole country. If I failed to understand, I have no doubt he will interrupt me. Surely, the better way would be that which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne has suggested, first to remove the burdens we all acknowledge and which the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) acknowledges exist, and which affect the prices that boarding-house keepers and cheaper hotels are able to charge.

That these burdens exist the Government themselves acknowledged when they said that they were considering making an announcement reducing the Purchase Tax for those hotels that entertained dollar visitors. That seems an extraordinary announcement to make when considering a Motion which is designed to make available cheaper accommodation for the working people of this country. It is a very desirable thing and we are all very glad to hear it, because we have been pressing for it, but today we are discussing that part of the holiday industry which caters for the working people of this country and I should have liked to hear from the Government some concession which would affect them.

I would press this on the Government as I have done once before. I believe it would help their drive for dollar exports just as much as looking after the holidays of the working people of this fountry and making them cheaper so that more men and women and families can have holidays for a longer time. I believe that that would play as great a part as the hon. Gentleman hopes to achieve by making these concessions to hotels which deal particularly with dollar visitors. It was a little inapt and a great pity that the only positive contribution which the Government have made to the Debate was one which did not affect the type of people with whom we are dealing.

What is there really which divides the two sides? As I understand it, the mover and seconder of the Motion were not intent upon nationalising the holiday industry.

We are agreed on that. As I understand it, they referred to a holidays council. They do not wish to have a Holidays Council set up now—anyway, I believe the Government are not letting them have it even if they want it—which will interfere in any way with the holiday trade. Am I correct in that?

Then hon. Gentlemen opposite do want the Holidays Council set up which will interfere with the industry. Now we are clear about that.

Now to the third point. At one time it looked as if the seconder of the Motion, at any rate, was in favour of some form of subsidised State competition between these new stately homes or new holiday camps and the existing boarding-house keeper. [Interruption.] I say that it looked so. It is no use for the hon. Member to shake his head, because a lot of my hon. Friends gained that impression, but from interruptions which the hon. Member answered later it now appears that he does not think that there should be this State competition. He said that we should somehow subsidise the industry as a whole.

If the hon. Member really is seeking to help the industry as a whole, he should be far more interested in the terms of the Amendment which we have moved, which is the only positive contribution to the problem of the method of carrying out the very desirable objects which he says he has in mind.

Reference has been made, and I have made it, to the Purchase Tax, and also to the problem of structural alterations and, incidentally, to development charges. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning arriving.

Division No. 47.]


[4.0 p.m.

Acland, Sir RichardBowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Crosland, C. A. R.
Albu, A. H.Brockway, A. FennerDavies, Harold (Leek)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Broughton, Dr. A. D. DDelargy, H. J.
Balfour, ACallaghan, JamesDriberg, T. E. N.
Bartley, P.Castle, Mrs. B. A.Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)
Beswick, F.Champion, A. J.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Bing, G. H. CChetwynd, G. R.Edwards, John (Brighouse)
Blenkinsop, A.Collindridge, F.Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)
Bottomley, A. G.Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough. W.)Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)
Bowden, H. W.Cooper, J. (Deptford)Evans, E. (Lowestoft)

His Ministry are a very severe bar to making some of the available accommodation cheaper and more suitable for holidays. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell his right hon. Friend when he comes back from abroad that he is very seriously concerned with the problem which is set out in the Motion.

The other thing which has been mentioned—I want to say something here in which I differ slightly with some of my hon. Friends—has been the Catering Wages Act. I am by no means against that Act. It contains some useful provisions, but I am against some of the ridiculous regulations which have been made by the Wages Board, which I think have unfortunately been wrongly constituted. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) made a very valid point that there has been too much emphasis on the large hotels side of the problem and too little on the boarding-house side.

I should like the Government to say something about that, because it is a very serious problem and detriment in the way of cheaper accommodation. While there exist these bad regulations which interfere with the proper running of a boarding-house by the boarding-house keeper and the person who knows the industry, prices will be higher than they would otherwise be. I beseech the Government to complete their inquiry into the operation of the wages boards so that as soon as possible the boarding-house industry—

It being Four o'clock Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes. 99; Noes, 62.

Ewart, R.Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. DSilverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Lindgren, G. S.Slater, J.
George, Lady M. LloydLipton, Lt.-Col. MSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)McAllister, G.Sparks, J. A.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)MacColl, J. E.Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)McKay, J. (Wallsend)Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R (Vauxhall)
Gunter, R. J.MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Thurtle, Ernest
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.Timmons, J.
Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)Mikardo, IanTomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Hannan, W.Moeran, E. W.Tomney, F.
Hayman, F. H.Monslow, W.Turner-Samuels, M.
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley R.)Morley, R.Viant, S. P.
Herbison, Miss M.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford. C.)
Houghton, DouglasMulley, F. W.Weitzman, D.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. JWhiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)Peart, T. F.Wilkins, W. A.
Hynd, H. (Accrington)Popplewell, E.Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Pursey, Comdr. H.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Jay, D. P. T.Robens, A.Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)
Jeger, G. (Goole)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Woods, Rev. G S.
Jenkins, R. H.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)Wyatt, W. L.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Ross, William (Kilmarnock)


King, H. M.Shurmer, P. L. E.Mrs. Eirene White and
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. ESilverman, J. (Erdington)Mr. Holman.


Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Harvey, I. (Harrow, E.)Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Heath, Colonel E. G. R.Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Bell, R. MHicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.Russell, R. S.
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)
Black, C. W.Hornsby-Smith, Miss PSmithers, Peter (Winchester)
Boothby, R.Hyde, H. M.Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)
Brooke, H. (Hampstead)Johnson, H. S. (Kemptown)Steward, W. A (Woolwich, W.)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G TKeeling, E. H.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Carson, Hon. E.Longden, G. J. M. (Harts S. W.)Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Channon, H.Low, A. R. W.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Cranborne, ViscountMcCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. SSutcliffe, H.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley)Marlowe, A. A. H.Teeling, William
Deedes, W. F.Medlicott, Brigadier F.Tilney, John
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Nield, B. (Chester)Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)
Duthie, W. S.Odey, G. WWills, G.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)
Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)


Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)Prior-Palmer, Brig. OMr. Studholme and
Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)Raikes, H. V.Brigadier Mackeson.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 30 ( Majority for Closure); and it being after Four o'Clock the Debate stood adjourned.

Fishing Industry

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Kenneth Robinson.]

4.8 p.m.

I wish to pass from the light hearted subject of holiday resorts to the more serious topic of the fishing industry in the country as a whole, and in particular in Scotland. It was on 6th April this year that I had the privilege to initiate the last Debate on this topic. There has not been a week since then when either one of my hon. Friends or I have not put Questions to the Government and pressed this matter upon them with all its seriousness. I do not apologise for raising it once again today, because, despite the assurances of the Prime Minister and other members of the Government throughout the past 11 weeks, that the matter would be taken into serious consideration, and that some statement would be made—throughout all that time not one single constructive step has been taken in the midst of this crisis of a remedial character.

Nor does there seem to be any prospect of one constructive remedial step for a very long time to come. I hope that the presence today of the Secretary of State for Scotland, which we all welcome, indicates that we may get something constructive put before us. It may be that he will tell us that soon something constructive will be done.

There is no doubt about the seriousness of the situation. Anxiety and mental distress is everywhere throughout the fishing ports of this country. I have never seen the men more perturbed than they are today—not even in the difficult periods between the wars. In addition, as we know, boats are being laid up almost everywhere. I read the other day that one of the biggest companies in Hull and Grimsby have announced that they are tying up the whole of their fleet from now until August. Surely, that is a very dramatic action. It indicates that something extremely grave is happening. Ten days ago we who represent fishing districts were officially informed by the fishermen's organisation in Aberdeen that "serious deterioration" has come upon the industry and that a "considerable quantity of fish is being dumped."

These are solemn facts which should cause us all to think most seriously. There is indeed every sign that unless some immediate measures are taken to counteract the trend, the deterioration may develop into something akin to disaster. What a strange thing it is—and here I am merely repeating sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) with much greater eloquence than I can command—that we, of all countries in the world, should permit this unhappy and dangerous development in so vital a section of our national life. It is not only that the fish industry provides food of high quality in peace as well as in war, though that is very important. It is not only that the fishing industry is the repository of some of the highest and finest qualities of the British people—sterling character, independence of mind, fortitude and courage, moral virtues for which the whole civilised world is calling out now.

Over and above these considerations, this industry has a strategic value in the security of our country which we simply cannot afford to neglect. That has been said time and again, but it would appear that with this Government in power we have to rub in even such an obvious situation as this. The Secretary of State for Scotland is charged personally by this House and by the nation to maintain unweakened part of that essential element of British defence. What is he doing? Is he doing his duty on that account? Instead of building up that defence, it seems to me that he is seeing it, day by day, rapidly disintegrating. No other words can be used to express the facts that we see around us. Instead of increasing the manpower of this vital force, he permits conditions in which that manpower is steadily and rapidly declining. Instead of making the fishermen proud of and happy in their calling, he sees, apparently without any disturbance, the sons of fishermen shunning the calling of their fathers and leaving the industry whenever they possibly can.

How much longer can this very serious state of affairs be allowed to continue? I confess that I wonder if there is any chance at all of remedial measures as long as this Government remain in power. It seems that they do not appreciate the elementary facts of the situation. Incredible as it may seem, apparently they do not yet realise that the fishermen are being asked to operate and to catch fish in conditions which, on the whole, make impossible the attainment of what the Co-operative Societies call a modest "surplus," or even as much as to make ends meet.

I am in my division practically every week and I see my fishermen constituents regularly. I was at the market some days ago and saw the prices they got, and I know—there is no question of opinion about this—that these men today are not getting prices adequate to pay their running costs. That cannot go on. Some of the prices are better than in the control period. The prices of flat fish are up, but the bulk of the fish caught round our shores, and certainly in Scotland, are cod and haddock, and the prices of these fish are down. If 75 per cent. of the catch is well down in price, they are "in the red" all the time. That is what is happening. Conditions are such that there is scarcely a voyage which these men can take on which they do not lose money.

The fish which our fishermen catch has to compete with a whole range of non-luxury protein foods, such as cheese, meat and eggs, all of which are subsidised. That would be difficult enough in itself, but, in addition, their costs of production have risen higher than those of any other industry. The cost of nets, ropes and gear is rocketing, and my latest information from Fife is that the cost of ropes has gone up again in the last fortnight or so, and there is every sign that it will go up still further.

In addition to all that, the costs of transport are rising. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who many of us admire but who never seems to be right about anything that happens in Fife, said in the last Debate that East Fife need not worry about decontrol, because it did not send anything south of the border anyway, and that, in fact, the charges for transport would be less. It is the very opposite of the truth. We have always sent some quantity of our fish across the border, and the truth is that, instead of the cost of transport being lower, it is much higher. The cost of lorries has gone up, the railway charges are up, and these are the direct causes of our difficulties.

Here is a quotation from a letter which I received today from a fish salesman:
"The very sore question is, of course, transport charges. As you know, the buyers here cannot take the risk of sending fish to the commission markets such as Glasgow, and Billingsgate owing to the high railway charges."
I know that to be true; I have the figures and it is all very plain. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom market for fish is at times almost overwhelmed by overseas imports. These four conditions—the competition of subsidised foods, the high costs of production, the increases in tibie cost of transport and the frequent overwhelming nature of foreign imports—make it virtually impossible for fishermen, by and large and taking one week with another, to avoid losses.

The Secretary of State has a measure of personal responsibility for all these four conditions. His Government now operate rail transport and a large part of road transport, and cannot escape responsibility for these rising rates. His Government have imposed taxation and created fiscal conditions which are largely responsible for the increases in the prices of gear. His Government control the import of fish. Could they revert to the pre-war system, we would have much more cause for satisfaction than is the case today. Therefore, to some extent, he bears personal responsibility for these very serious conditions.

I most seriously invite the right hon. Gentleman to consider his own position. He holds a great position and has a great responsibility; and, though we may like him, we are not going to allow him to escape the responsibility for keeping that industry on its feet. It is no use telling us what was done before 1945, about the new boats which were brought along. We are not talking about that, although that is part of the problem. The fishermen were encouraged to buy new boats at heavy cost, and now they cannot make them pay. The right hon. Gentleman has to answer for that.

At the last election the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends issued various documents. One of them was called, "Labour Believes in Britain," in which were the following words:
"Our fishing fleets bring us food. They are a vital part of Britain's defences. They must never again be allowed to decline."
There must be bitter feeling among the fishermen when they read those words now, and when they see their boats tied up in the ports. It must be very galling to them when they see their men queueing at the employment exchange.

Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has an additional responsibility. One does not expect him to work miracles, but it is not right that this great industry should have been decontrolled, and that the transport system and prices should have been altered without a thought being given to what was to happen thereafter. I charge the Government with gross mismanagement of a great industry, and I demand that the right hon. Gentleman gives us a reply.

4.23 p.m.

The House is fully aware of the seriousness of the position both in the white fishing industry and in the herring fishing industry. We have been promised a statement from the Prime Minister on the position, and we hope that that statement will incorporate Government policy. May I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the fact that speed is absolutely vital in this matter? We have been urging speed for the last 12 weeks, and we are still awaiting some official verdict. Do not let us have to wait any longer. I sincerely trust that the coming week will see the necessary steps taken. Ample warning was given, and there is really no excuse for the delay.

I have seen the complete chaos that is reigning in the inshore fishing industry in Scotland. I saw 100 boxes of prime fish dumped at Lossiemouth because it could not find a buyer. The price obtainable from a factory would not have been economic. I trust that the Prime Minister's statement will cover such points as foreign imports, gear and operating costs, wholesale and retail price margins, and transport charges. I also hope that we shall have some constructive proposals for the setting up of a white fish marketing board with full powers as, otherwise, it would be idle to attempt to set up such a board.

The right hon. Gentleman knows what is happening in the herring industry. Chaos is reigning there. The Herring Board schemes have terminated, and I sincerely trust that the discussions which we have had with the right hon. Gentleman, and which have been evidence of the co-operative spirit which we on this side are showing, are going to do some good. Again, speed is the essence of the contract, and we trust that in the coming week we shall also have a statement from the right hon. Gentleman about the herring industry.

4.24 p.m.

I only want to add my testimony to that already given as to the very serious situation now facing all branches of the fishing industry, from the trawler to the lobster fisherman. We have heard the reasons for that—the high price of gear and transport charges, and falling prices. I feel that, more than ever, a great deal depends on the outcome of the present herring season, and I have considerable anxiety as to whether we shall not see the herring fleets tied up before the season ends. I ask that the Minister shall give us some indication as to what prices and agreements he hopes to be able to announce for this season.

As for the committee which is considering the whole question of fishing, I understand from what was said two days ago that it is confining itself to the white fish industry. I hope that it will also take into account the high price of gear and, if possible, the question of marketing and profit margins.

4.25 p.m.

The Member for Fife, East (Mr. Stewart) quoted from "Labour Believes in Britain," but he did not emphasise the word "again" when he quoted the words used in that document. He quoted:

"They are a vital part of Britain's defence. They must never again be allowed to decline."
It is as well to keep this in balance. The crisis in this industry has not just appeared in the last few weeks. It has been developing over a number of years. The obsolescence of the fleet is evidence of that. Take Scotland, but particularly Aberdeen; no trawler has been built by private industry for their home fleet in the last five years.

The hon. Member for Fife, East seems to lay all the blame at the door of the Government. What absolute nonsense. What had the important and vital factor of building new trawlers to do with the Government? It was entirely up to private enterprise to put its capital in and take the risk. Risk, after all, is the old Tory excuse for justifying profit. It did not do that.

Every appeal from the other side of the House is for more Government intervention and more help and planning. The industry is behind hon. Members opposite, or hon. Members opposite are being brought in behind the industry, in demanding that we should, for example, set up a White Fish Industry Board. Some herring fishing spokesmen are demanding that we should nationalise the herring industry to assure them a living wage. The Government have spent £32,000 and helped to save the lobster industry of the North-West. Grants and loans are given.

I appeal, nevertheless, on behalf of the industry to the Secretary of State to try and give us an early statement of fishing policy. There is an immediate problem as well as a long-term problem awaiting solution. As for the setting up of a White Fishing Industry Board, we on this side are entirely in favour and have advocated that long before hon. Members opposite ever advocated it.

4.28 p.m.

I understand the concern felt on this matter. Although I am grateful to the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Stewart) for his expression of admiration for me, I really object to being lectured by anyone from that side of the House, and particularly from that section of the House, about the present handling of the fishing industry. The hon. Gentleman used most extravagant language about this "vast 11 weeks."

That is a little more modest, but it is still absurdly impertinent, because the condition of the fishing industry in Scotland or the United Kingdom has not arisen in the past 11 weeks. When the hon. Gentleman was in a position to influence a Government—a Government which was tossed out of office—he did nothing about the condition of the fishing fleet in Scotland.

The right hon. Gentleman was not here. He does not know anything about it.

I need not have been here to know about the condition of the Scottish fishing fleet; nor need I have been here to know the supine part the hon. Gentleman's party played in past Tory Governments, which were in an unchallengeable position in this House.

The position of the fishing fleet is not a product of the last 11 weeks and nobody in the House believes that it is—not even hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Stewart) does not even show a knowledge of the conditions in his own division. I am quite prepared to show him figures to indicate that conditions in his own constituency have improved a great deal in the last few weeks. I am even prepared to give him figures to show that the removal of the flat freight rate has meant that the average cost of transport per stone of fish in his own division—from the port of Anstruther—has dropped. I am quite prepared to put the figures before the House. The average cost of transport per stone of fish from Anstruther has dropped since the removal of the flat freight rate.

I will go further. The prices of the two categories of fish to which the hon. Member referred—cod and haddock-have improved since 15th April. The controlled price of cod was 38s. On 13th May it was fetching 50s. 6½d. at Anstruther. The hon. Gentleman cannot get away from that. The figures are on record. If he is to make an argument he must base himself on the figures.

The right hon. Gentleman has chosen to give only certain figures. They are not fair.

I have selected the figures of the two commodities upon which the hon. Gentleman chose to base himself—cod and haddock.

Let me take another day, a nearer day—3rd June. The price of cod was 42s. 1½d. as against 38s. and haddock was 77s. 7d. as against 48s.

The controlled price operated on Monday, Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

I apologise in that I have been led away on an aside, but I think it is unfair to the House that the hon. Member should whip himself up into this state of righteous indignation about a situation which he knows is complex, which has a very long history and which will take much more than 11 weeks to solve.

Foreign landings was another subject mentioned. I agree, of course, that foreign landings have a disturbing influence on price and, therefore, on the general state of the industry, but what is the proportion of these foreign landings to which the hon. Member takes such objection? What proportion do they represent compared with the pre-war years? Are they equal, for example, to the figures for 1938? Will the hon. Member make a guess?

I need not guess; I have them all here. I will give them to the right hon. Gentleman in a minute.

Why does not the hon. Gentleman get to know them before he whips himself up into a frenzy? Why must he allude to the documents after his indignation and righteous temper? It is particularly unfair and verging on the dishonest to pretend that foreign landings are a predominant figure in this situation.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite unfair. Let me give one example. In 1938, 222,223 cwts, of cod were imported. In 1949 the figure was 1,321,490—six times as much. I could give all the figures.

Cod? Is that the figure we are to base the argument upon? Let us ask the hon. Member or Banff (Mr. Duthie), who knows this industry from a practical point of view. Would the hon. Member for Banff argue that the imports of foreign cod at this moment are really a vital factor in the industry? They are not. The Icelandic imports have been dropping away for the reason that is general to the whole fish trade—because prices have been dropping and because, let me admit freely, the whole fish trade is in a very grave situation. Because the situation is grave and because prices are lower, the price of cod has dropped. This is one factor but not the predominant factor. This is a disturbing factor which influences the whole price structure of the industry, but is only one of the factors which any sober body of people attempting to confront the situation must take account of.

I want to say one further thing. I am not at all happy about the 11 weeks. I do not pretend for a moment that I am otherwise than greatly disturbed about the condition of the fishing industry. I do not pretend other than that the Government is disturbed and actively concerned and working upon the industry. The hon. Member for Banff asked for constructive proposals. I give an undertaking that very shortly the Government will be in a position to put constructive proposals—I hope of the kind for which he asked—before the House in relation to this problem we are now discussing.

Will that relate to the herring industry as well as to the white fishing industry?

Do not let any of us pretend that there is any easy solution to this problem. Do not let any of us pretend that these problems and differences have grown up in the last 11 weeks or even the last 11 years. Let us agree that there are grave contradictions in the industry. In the distant water industry we have highly-efficient trawlers; perhaps too efficient trawlers, at any rate, trawlers bringing in too great quantities of fish. At the other end of the industry, we have the small boats—the very small men on whom the nation must depend in time of war or threat of war—which are not all efficient, yet which, in my submission, from a social and strategic point of view must be protected. The Government have plans, which I promise the House will very shortly be presented, which will attempt to deal with some of these contradictions in the industry, and which will range from the distant water trawlers to the inshore industry.

I think that the herring industry is in charge of the Herring Industry Board. It is a separate, although not unrelated, problem, but I am addressing myself at the moment to the white fish industry.

The Question having been proposed after Four o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-two Minutes to Five o'Clock.