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Lord Peston: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that that is illegal? It may be done, but it is illegal.

The Earl of Bradford: My Lords, I fully accept that it is illegal, but unfortunately all too often it happens.

10 Jan 1996 : Column 252

Tourists are not as sophisticated as we are and they are totally confused by different practices in different restaurants, as has been demonstrated in our discussion tonight.

Extremes exist all round the world. In Japan there is no tipping at all. Australia does not have a tradition of tipping, while in America the position is the complete opposite. In Europe we have moved to a position where service charges are no longer normal, and tipping--not normally only a few centimes left on the table but one hopes a few francs (and I am not sure what the currency is in Sweden)--is used to express appreciation of a wonderful meal brilliantly executed and very good service. I should like to see us return to a position where tipping is not the expected norm for the ordinary but appreciation of the exceptional.

There seems to have been some slight confusion with regard to credit card slips. I referred particularly to the fact that if charges were all-inclusive there would be no necessity to leave a credit card slip open. I abhor the practice whereby a service charge is made by a restaurant and the credit card slip is left open. Equally, where no gratuity has been charged to the customer and it is left to the customer's discretion as to whether he wishes to leave a tip at the end of the meal, I believe that it is acceptable to leave the credit card slip open, as long as the customer fully understands where he stands.

I find it very sad that a committee of the catering industry on which I sit which for some years has declared itself to be in favour of an all-inclusive pricing policy should recently have changed that policy and now considers that restaurants should be free to do whatever they want so long as that is made clear to the customer. How long does the customer have fully to understand what he will be charged? How many people study the fine print? Across Europe the catering industry has simplified its practices. The customers have shown themselves to be in favour of that.

I should like to end by congratulating the two maiden speakers. They expressed rather different views. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, gave us the benefit of his experience working at the upper end of the trade. My noble friend Lord Phillimore gave us the customer's view and referred to what was reflected in the recent Which? survey, to which we should all pay attention.

I conclude by asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and to allow a Committee of the Whole House to consider the positive points which it contains. I realise that changes will have to be made. While I accept some of the criticisms of the drafting, perhaps I may say that the Clerk of Public Bills was extremely helpful in putting my points into draft form. Equally, I accept criticism for anything that I may have got wrong. I realise that drafting requires expertise that I do not have. Perhaps we can put some of those points into better order on a future occasion. I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at twenty-six minutes before midnight.


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