My Noble Friend, under the Defence Regulations, has power to establish British Restaurants. He has delegated this power to local authorities subject to his approval in each case. The primary responsibility for assessing the need for a new Restaurant has been entrusted to the local authority. No occasion has yet arisen in which my Noble Friend has considered it necessary to provide a British Restaurant where a local authority has not done so.
I am sure that my Noble Friend would desire to persuade the local authority, and I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that persuasion is far better than compulsion, since local cooperation is most important.
Before approving a scheme for a British Restaurant, my Department require an assurance from the local authority concerned that owing to war-time conditions a sufficient number of people have difficulty in obtaining hot nutritious meals at a reasonable price to justify the establishment of the Restaurant. Among the factors taken into account by local authorities are such considerations as the increase of population, difficulties experienced by officially evacuated persons preparing meals in billets, the number of women employed on war work, the existing provision for hot meals by industrial canteens and canteens of a similar nature, and the facilities provided by existing commercial catering establishments.