HC Deb 07 February 1956 vol 548 cc1549-629

Order for Second Reading read.

5.55 p.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I do not wish to detain the House for very long with this small, but none the less important, Measure. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will wind up the debate. Before dealing with the Bill, I should like to make a confession about its parentage. Hon. Members will no doubt be struck by the resemblance which this brief and simple Bill bears to a Measure which my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) introduced for the first time in November, 1953, and again in February last year.

It is, indeed, the same Bill, and on behalf of my predecessor and myself, I hasten to acknowledge the debt which we owe to my hon. Friend both for bringing forward the Bill and his pertinacity in trying to get it passed into law. The Bill now comes to us from another place and I trust that the large measure of welcome which it had there, together with the fact that its passage in that other place does not seem to have aroused a great deal of public criticism—certainly, very little has come to my Ministry—augurs well for its passage into law.

The first point is that it is the sole aim and purpose of the Bill to enable alcoholic drinks to be sold at any hour of the day or night to air passengers and only to such air passengers. It is very important to note that the Bill is very narrowly drawn and is restricted to that particular class of passengers, namely, those who are departing from, arriving at, or in transit through one or other of the principal airports of the United Kingdom. The Bill does not apply to passengers who are travelling merely on the internal air services within the country.

Under the law as it now stands, no matter at what hour arrivals or departures are scheduled to take place, passengers are governed by the normal permitted hours. We all know that with the phenomenal growth of air traffic—and I hope to give some figures in a moment— the only way of spreading the load at international airports will be to arrange services around the clock. That will mean that passengers would be waiting to board planes, or will be arriving, to a large extent outside the normally permitted hours, that is to say, the times which the licensing authorities for the area in which the airport happens to be have fixed with reference to the general needs of the area, and, of course, subject to the normal over-riding limits of opening times.

I know that some hon. Members have views about whether a Minister should deal with licensing matters by this sort of Bill. The Bill in no way affects the undoubted rights of licensing committees to decide in what way and at what points an airport shall or shall not be licensed; it does not affect that question at all. It only says that, if a committee in its wisdom decides that an airport or part of an airport should be licensed, then a particular part of it, which I will describe in a moment, should be able to have alcoholic drinks available for 24 hours of the day instead of the present licensing limits, which, as hon. Members know, are normally 8½ hours on week-days.

Perhaps the House will permit me to quote a few figures to show how air traffic is growing. During the twelve months which ended on 30th November last, more than million passengers passed through London Airport either in the course of an international flight or at the commencement or conclusion of such a journey. In one month—August—last year, there were 280,000 such passengers, of whom 150,000 embarked or disembarked outside normal licensing hours; in other words, there were 150,000 passengers who, under the present arrangements, could not get any alcoholic refreshment if they so desired.

I think one can assume that a large percentage of the passengers were foreigners who would find it difficult to understand our licensing laws. I am told that about 40 per cent. of these passengers are foreign visitors either in transit or coming to or from this country, and one may forgive them if they do not always understand why it is that they cannot always obtain a drink unless they happen to arrive or depart within the permitted hours.

Perhaps jet air travel, when we get into full operation, as some of us know—and I think the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) also knows—will enable one to continue to eat breakfast round the world if one flies fast enough, though with very upsetting tendencies to one's interior economy. In these circumstances, it is rather hard to arrive at what I hope I may claim to be the world's premier airport and find that for a mysterious reason one cannot have a whisky and soda, or whatever one might feel one needed to put oneself right.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

When I went to Norway and other Scandinavian countries I found I had to conform to existing legislation there in these matters. Why should not the law be the same for these people when they come over here as it is for me over there?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman has picked out the only areas in the world where the restrictions are something like our own. Almost every other international airport gives a twenty-four hour service, or a very much longer one than we give in this country. One must bear in mind the practice in other countries, where, almost without exception, the restrictions are either non-existent or much more generous than is the case here. Despite what the hon. Gentleman says, I think it is an essential part of the service which a great international airport should give today, when so many passengers who are coming to it or are passing through are certainly not people likely to have any knowledge or appreciation of the reasons for our licensing arrangements.

That is the main point in this Bill, and it is not an unimportant one. If we want to build up a trade in this country—and I think we can build up a very considerable trade and make ourselves a focal point of world airlines—it is quite clear that we must try to provide equivalent service.

I want to take this opportunity of trying to put beyond any possible doubt the degree in which this Bill is limited. I say with all the force I can command, so that there is no doubt in hon. Members' minds, that the class of traveller or person who will be able to benefit from the increased facilities offered by this Bill are those— and only those—on international flights. In other words, the people who are, if we like, beyond the iron curtain which is thrown by the Customs authorities across the barriers at every airport in order to maintain a very proper segregation between those passengers who are, so to speak, bonded and segregated and the ordinary public.

I want to make it plain that it will not even be possible for relations or friends who visit the airport to see passengers off to obtain these facilities. Much less would it be possible for any ordinary member of the general public, going to London Airport to have dinner or something of that kind, to obtain in any circumstances this kind of facility.

Mr. Williams

I apologise to the Minister, because I was not here when he started his speech. I do not know whether or not he has referred to the fact that a noble Lord in another place, speaking for the Government, said that in addition to passengers there would also be the staff of the Customs and Excise Department and people engaged in various activities on behalf of the Inland Revenue.

Mr. Watkinson

I am not quite sure what point the hon. Gentleman wants to make. Does he mean that these people will also be able to obtain these facflities? [HON. MEMBERS:"Yes."] Yes, I agree, and I will ask my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to deal with that point when he winds up the debate. It may be possible that Customs officers may have access, but I will ask my hon. Friend to deal with the point.

In any case, what I am concerned about —and what would cause great public disquiet—is whether there would be any chance of this Bill causing a general breach of the licensing laws in any particular area. I can give the House the assurance that that is not so. It cannot arise from this type of Bill, which has only one specific purpose, which is to give the kind of service that passengers are expecting at other international airports, and to try to increase the amenities and also the profitability of the international airports in this country, which, of course, is a very limited purpose.

I therefore commend this Measure to the House. There is no risk at all that in this Bill there is a mysterious breach of the general licensing laws, nor do we try to take away from the licensing authority its very proper duty to decide what it will or will not licence.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

I want to say a few words in opposition to this Bill, and to take up two points. First, as I see it, this may very well be the thin end of the wedge and the beginning of interference with our licensing laws, and, secondly, the special dangers and risks in air travel. I shall explain that more fully in a moment.

There are very different views on the use of alcohol. Some people like it, take it regularly and think they are better for it. According to our laws, they have a perfect right to do so. Others think much less of it. But I think everyone agrees that it is possible to have too much of either a good or a bad thing and that it is quite possible to overdo it. For that reason, our licensing laws have grown up, and there are taxes imposed not only for revenue purposes but to limit consumption. There are hours of opening for public houses and there is the system of licensing them. All people are not unanimous about this, but, on the whole, they are fairly satisfied. I think that as a rule we ought to admit that those who are in charge of licensed houses are doing their best to obey the law and that the whole thing is working fairly well.

What I want to suggest is that, once we admit the claim in this Bill, there may be claims on all sides for changes in the licensing laws. People arriving from foreign airports into this country in almost every case would have been able to get a drink on the plane. The only justification that I can see—and it is a justification—is that people who have been through the Customs and are waiting at the airport for the aircraft to take off in cases where there has been a delay, may feel that they want a drink. But people arriving and departing to and from the Continent from the Channel ports may feel just the same; and we may also ask, "What about people travelling at night on coaches who are not able to get a drink en route or on arrival at London?" They will say with justice, "Why treat the foreigner better than you treat us?" Or what about people on night shift who come off work at all times? They may feel very strongly that they want a drink before they get home, before the public houses open.

I wish to approach this subject also from the point of view of the peculiar conditions of air travel. There are particular risks in air travel and for that reason discipline is necessary, not only for the officials but for everyone on the plane. It was shown by a committee of the British Medical Association which investigated road accidents that a pint of beer, or three or four ounces of whisky, has a definite effect on people. It made them more liable to take risks and, in many cases, it interfered with their judgment. I believe that by making it easier for people who are about to board a plane to get a drink we are increasing the risks of air tavel.

May I weary the House by explaining what I mean in a little more detail? When alcohol is taken, it has no effect until it is absorbed into the blood stream, and there it is steadily and slowly burnt up at the rate of one-third of an ounce per hour. Therefore, if a person has had three pints of beer or nine ounces of whisky, it takes about eight hours before the alcohol entirely disappears from the blood stream by being burnt up. For that very good reason the crews of aeroplanes are not permitted to take any alcoholic drink for eight hours before they embark on a journey.

So far, I have spoken about how alcohol is got rid of from the body. It is, as we know, absorbed mainly from the stomach. The point I wish to stress is that the rate of absorption varies with conditions. If the alcohol is taken as a spirit and not much diluted, the absorption is complete in half-an-hour. If, on the other hand, it is taken in a diluted form, and especially with food, the absorption may not be complete for two-and-a-half hours. So that for anything up to two hours after a meal in which a fair quantity of alcohol has been taken, the amount in the blood is being slowly built up until it reaches a maximum, and then, by being burnt up, it slowly disappears.

A person at the airport has a meal and a drink. He goes on to a plane perfectly sober and is so for perhaps an hour afterwards, because very little of the alcohol has at that time been absorbed. Therefore, those who welcome him on the aircraft notice nothing wrong with him. But, later, he develops the symptoms of intoxication and becomes a nuisance.

I do not know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you have ever tried to pilot a plane. I tried on one occasion—only for a few minutes. Fortunately for those on the plane, it was only for a few minutes. But I noticed that the machine responded to the controls with extraordinary rapidity, much more quickly, it seemed to me, than a car does. For that reason those in charge of the aircraft have to be particularly careful. Balance has to be exact, at any rate on landing and taking off, and, therefore, safety belts are used. Two or three days ago I heard on the wireless of a person who, when asked to put the belt round him, said that he wore braces. But these belts are put on so that the balance of the plane may not be changed.

Then, again, there is the danger of fire. A person who is careless with a cigarette end is a danger not only to himself, but to everyone else. Of less importance is the inconvenience of having someone sitting in the next seat who is inebriated and whom one cannot get rid of.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

That is a very real nuisance.

Mr. Hastings

In a train which has a corridor one can change carriages. In a bus one can change one's seat. But in a plane which is full there is little chance of changing seats, so that a person in that condition may become a very great nuisance.

For those reasons, which I have put as shortly as I can, I feel that this Bill is unnecessary and undesirable, and may increase the risks of air travel. I would call in support various statements made by air travellers with actual experience, that people have come on to an aircraft perfectly sober and have behaved in a quite normal and rational manner. Then, although they have had nothing to drink at all on the plane, after perhaps half-an-hour or an hour they have become a nuisance and, indeed, a danger to other passengers.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)

I want to express my appreciation at the very kindly words uttered by the Minister about the original Bill, which I introduced, and which, for various reasons very well known to hon. Members, did not make very good progress last Session. I would point out that when 1 asked permission of the House to bring in that Bill it was granted by a majority of almost 100 votes. So, although the opposition to it was very determined and very sincere, there was no evidence that a very large number of Members were opposed in principle to what is now contained in this Bill.

I acknowledge the sincerity of the observations of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), and also his undoubted medical experience, but I would point out to him that my right hon. Friend clearly stated that the Bill is a very limited one and is concerned only with those who are actually travelling. I felt that in some of the hon. Gentleman's observations there was a suggestion that the Bill would affect the people who were actually piloting the aircraft. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] I think it was suggested that the risks of air travel——

Mr. Hastings

Perhaps I may be permitted to give a personal explanation. I said that all those who were employed in an aircraft were forbidden by their terms of service to take any alcohol for eight hours before they started on their journey.

Mr. Harvey

That is an extremely important point, and I am glad that it has been made, because in our previous discussions upon this subject it has been suggested that aircrews and other personnel serving in aircraft might be affected by the terms of the Bill. That is quite beyond the scope of the Bill, and is a poor reflection upon the very high traditions of those employed in civil aviation.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I have read through the previous debates upon the hon. Member's Bill very carefully, and I cannot recall a single occasion when anybody on either side of the House suggested for a moment that people responsible for piloting aircraft, or serving in them, would fall into the category of people who would benefit from that Bill.

Mr. Harvey

I am glad that the hon. Member reinforces my impression.

Mr. Williams

No. I must make this point. The hon. Member must withdraw the suggestion that a Member of this House has ever suggested that the provisions of the Bill will affect the operators of aircraft as well as those who travel in them.

Mr. Harvey

In a previous debate upon this subject the suggestion was made that the general safety of civil aviation would be affected.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

The safety of passengers.

Mr. Harvey

I suggest that the safety of the passengers and the safety of the crews cannot be divided. Any suggestion that the safety of air travel will be affected would be a suggestion that those in charge of aircraft may be affected. I am glad to hear that there is no suggestion of that kind. Having studied the Bill, I am quite satisfied that there is no danger whatever that those who operate aircraft will be affected.

The hon. Member for Barking referred to the effect of alcohol, and also to people who had been involved in road accidents. The suggestion there was that people controlling vehicles were affected, but there is no question that anybody in control of an aircraft will be affected by the Bill.

My right hon. Friend referred to the position of those on duty in the Customs, and those serving in the airport itself. 1 should have thought that the same principles of service applied to those people as apply to persons who actually fly the aircraft. Many people in other and ordinary walks of life have charge of alcohol at all times of the day, and have the responsibility of administering it. They have to abide by the licensing hours. There does not seem to have been a tremendous temptation on their part to break out because alcohol is available to them, and I suggest that the evidence of discipline and efficiency of staffs at our airports is such as to rule out the chance of members of those staffs being likely to become perpetual drink addicts because of their having access to alcohol in this way. If there were any tendency for them to do so they would soon find that they were no longer employees.

Mr. H. G. McGhee (Penistone)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us who said they were likely to become perpetual addicts?

Mr. Harvey

My right hon. Friend was asked whether those on the other side of the Customs barrier would be able to get drink or to be served at the bar, and he said he thought that they probably would be. If it was thought that there was no harm in that it seems to me that the question was pointless. The obvious inference was that those persons would make unnecessary use of these facilities. I am quite certain that there is no danger of that.

Mr. Williams

As I made the point perhaps I should try to explain what 1 had in mind. It certainly was not what the hon. Member is suggesting. I implied that the Bill was not quite so restrictive as the Minister was asking us to assume. He said that it was confined exclusively to people who were travelling, but when I asked him whether people who were working at the airport would be allowed to take advantage of the facilities, he answered, "Yes." The provisions, therefore, are not so restrictive as we were led to assume.

Mr. Harvey

The hon. Member was quite right to clear up that point. If this facility is to be available there are bound to be people who have to administer it and be able to take advantage of it, and it was a good thing to make that fact plain.

Let us consider the opposition to the provisions of the Bill, as previously expressed in our various debates upon the subject. Speaking rather nostalgically, and purely on personal grounds, I regret the absence of the former Member for Ealing, North, Mr. James Hudson, whose personality, character and sincerity of purpose were recognised by all hon. Members. Had he been in a position to speak tonight I am sure that he would have been able to regale us once again with his excellent arguments on the subject.

Those of us who are anxious to see the Bill become law fully accept the honesty of purpose, and fully respect the opposition, of hon. Members on both sides of the House who are opposed to any extension of drinking in principle. We see the logic of their arguments and appreciate the principles by which they are guided, and when they vote against us we shall realise exactly why they do so, and respect them for it. Beyond that, I find the arguments of those who oppose the Bill for other and less important reasons a little unconvincing.

My right hon. Friend has indicated the narrowness of the Bill. Certain exception to it is made upon licensing grounds, and it is only fair to the Uxbridge Petty Sessional Division authorities to quote from the letter which they sent to me when I tried to bring in a similar Bill upon this subject. It may be convenient for the House if I read the three major paragraphs from that letter, because they enable the position of that authority to be fully known to us.

It says: The Committee agrees that certain parts of airports handling international passengers should be exempt from S.100 Licensing Act, 1953, which restricts the times during which intoxicants can be supplied. It feels, however, that a matter of principle of some importance is involved in the manner in which this exemption should be achieved. That is the point on which some of my hon. Friends are opposed to the Bill. The letter continues: Which parts of an airport are to be licensed is decided by the licensing committee. According to the Bill, licensed areas which happen to come within the customs examination station are to be exempt from licensing hours. This means that the exemption will follow coincidentally to a decision made by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise which will presumably be made solely with a view to the effective administration of the Customs Acts. The licensing committee considers that the exemption of certain licensed areas from licensing permitted hours should receive individual attention as a licensing matter and should not merely follows in the wake of a decision which is probably made without the licensing aspect receiving consideration. It follows up by saying: It is therefore suggested that the Bill"— that is, the original Bill— be amended by deleting all reference to the customs examination station and providing that the parts of an international airport which are to be exempt from licensing permitted hours shall be those specified in an order made by the local licensing committee. I think it only right to read that letter because it expresses a definite point of view. My right hon. Friend may take another point of view.

It is not a matter on which I take a very firm stand, because I am concerned merely with the facility being granted to travellers at the airport. I do not see in it quite the point of principle which has been outlined. It is a matter which we can usefully discuss when the Bill reaches Committee.

The next point which has been made is that the Bill was the thin end of the wedge, as the hon. Member for Barking has said. The hon. Member spoke of people who were travelling in charabancs and all the rest of it, and asked why foreigners should be better treated than us. That is a very insular point of view, coming from so broad-minded a man and from a party which is reputedly internationally-minded.

Mr. Hastings

On a point of personal explanation. I did not say that. I said that that was what people would complain of. I did not say that I myself felt strongly in that way.

Mr. Harvey

I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member, and I certainly withdraw any impression of that sort. When such an argument is presented and no attempt is made to say that it is not a good one, one may be pardoned for coming to the conclusion that the person speaking is in favour of the argument. If I drew a wrong conclusion I fully withdraw.

The Bill is designed specifically to assist our travel facilities. Travel is an essential part of the British economy, and it is a matter of concern to all of us that we should give to people who come to Britain and use our travelling facilities, in particular British airlines at British airports, relief from the restrictions which at present cause considerable annoyance and irritation. This is especially so with travellers who come from countries where similar restrictions do not exist.

The hon. Member for Barking outlined the considerable dangers which he foresaw would overtake people travelling in aircraft if the Bill went through. I would remind him that people travel on aircraft from the United States to Britain and have these facilities, but seldom arrive at our airports in the condition described by the hon. Member. They do not behave in aircraft in the way which the hon. Member suggested they would.

The hon. Member's remarks about the extension of drinking were rather alarming. It is for the convenience of those who are bona fide travellers. I appeal sincerely to those who advance these arguments that they are imagining a lot more dangers than exist. They suggest that because alcohol is available outside normal hours everyone will rush to the bar to drink as much as he can without any sort of self-control.

It is well known that there is a bar in the Palace of Westminster which is open outside the ordinary licensing hours, but I am not aware that a large number of hon. Members are continuously in a state of inebriation simply because those facilities are available to them. Those who oppose the Bill for that reason must put their hands firmly on their hearts and say that at no time will they ever go to a bar of that sort outside the licensing hours. On that purely administrative point there is not a very strong case.

My right hon. Friend is doing a great service to civil aviation, for which I am glad to say he is now responsible. He is giving to our aircraft companies and our airports facilities which our competitors have in other countries. This is an extremely important aspect of British travel. This view was shared by members of the party opposite when they were the Government and in power. It is an issue generally regarded as important and I hope that we may be able to get a large measure of support for the Bill. I have already indicated that my hon. Friends and myself recognise the objection of principle when it is presented in arguments against the Bill.

It cannot be argued that the Bill is in any way a precedent. It is designed to deal with a specific and restrictive aspect of our travel organisations. Because drinking will be made available for a rather longer time than the normal permitted hours it will not result in a reduction of safety in the air. My right hon. Friend has made it clear that he has no intention of opening a sort of "speakeasy" at every airport to which anybody can go and take his friends at any time. He has also no intention of extending these facilities internally in the country.

Mr, Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Why not?

Mr, Harvey

It is not my right hon. Friend's intention to do so. The hon. Member must direct his remarks to my right hon. Friend. We are dealing with international travel. Hon. Members who travel from England to Scotland are not international travellers, although some may be fellow travellers. I suspect that the hon. Member proposes to address us this evening and I shall await his remarks with interest. My right hon. Friend is right. That might well be the thin end of the wedge. The same argument could be applied to travelling on the Royal Scot or any other internal travel arrangement in this country. My right hon. Friend has said specifically that this facility is to aid international travel. It is not for me to anticipate what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will say at the end of the debate, but I suspect that the point which I have made will be endorsed by him.

I welcome the Bill, which has had a very happy origin on the back benches. It is a good precedent for the Government to take inspiration from back benchers, and I thank my right hon. Friend for the observations which he has made. So far as I and my hon. Friends who originally supported the Bill are concerned, we are very glad to see it going forward with Government support. We wish it well, and we shall give it all support in the Lobby tonight.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I rise to oppose the Bill. I think that it is most unnecessary and undesirable and, if I may say so with respect, none of the observations of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) have suggested to me that I am mistaken in my view.

It was suggested by him that the reason for introducing the Bill was to assist our efforts to extend the volume of air travel to this country. I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone will decide whether or not he travels to or through this country by air or in other ways on the basis of whether or not he can have a drink at the international airports. I think that suggestion is utterly ridiculous.

Mr. Ian Harvey

It is not only a question of extending air travel but of preventing it from being lost, for the very reason which the hon. and learned Gentleman has outlined. It is very often because travellers—and hon. Members who travel a great deal nowadays will confirm this—are stuck at the airports in this country and are unable to get a drink that considerable irritation and discomfort is caused.

Mr. Bowen

With every respect, I think that it is absurd to suggest that someone will not travel here by air in future because of the experience he has had in being unable to get a drink at a particular time. I am very impressed by what has been called the "thin edge of the wedge" argument. If the Bill is passed, I think that it will be extremely difficult sincerely to oppose any attempt to extend further exemptions from the ordniary licensing laws. I see no logical reason for saying that people who travel by air should be given preferential treatment over those who travel by other means of transport. I see no reason for extending a more benevolent——

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I have always thought that there are not these restrictions at sea and on trains.

Mr. Bowen

At sea one is, of course, outside the jurisdiction.

To take the example of someone like myself who travels back and forth overnight—how can one resist the argument that the buffets at railway stations should not have specialised treatment, and that people at bus stations, shift workers and anyone in that category should not have these privileges, if we like to call them that, which are extended by the Bill to people because they happen to be at an international airport and have chosen to travel by air.

Mr. F. P. Bishop (Harrow, Central)

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that there is a fundamental difference in the question of timing. The traveller by train does not pass rapidly from one local time to another. If it is reasonable for a traveller to be able to get a drink at what is lunch-time to him, and he is travelling non-stop from New York or Cairo, does not that make a fundamental difference?

Mr. Bowen

It makes no difference at all. The facilities for having a drink on a plane are normally far greater than those for having a drink on a train. If that argument has any relevance at all it is an argument against the Bill.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

The hon. and learned Gentleman made reference to shift workers. Why cannot the facilities be available for ship workers?

Mr. Bowen

I said shift workers.

Mr. Hall

I was wrong. I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon.

Mr. Bowen

It seems to me that once we get this thin end of the wedge there is no valid argument for not extending this exemption in many other directions and making an absurdity of the whole of our licensing laws. Quite apart from that, I think that there is a good deal of substance in the point raised by the Uxbridge magistrates. I understand that they object very strongly to taking out of the control of the local licensing committee the exact circumstances under which the licensing laws shall operate. That I also regard as a dangerous precedent.

It seems to me that if the Bill goes through it will be extremely difficult to resist extensions over a wide field of exemptions from the ordinary licensing laws of this country, and so far I have heard no evidence to suggest that there is any real demand from the people who would be affected for a Measure of this kind.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Peter Remnant (Wokingham)

I think that my interest in licensing matters is well enough known, but I have a closer interest so far as Heathrow is concerned which I should declare. I wish to make it clear to the House that the views which I am expressing are my own personal views and I believe them to be not in line with those of the brewing trade or of the party.

I would agree with the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). I, too, thought it would be most unlikely that anyone would not come to London or Prestwick but would go to Paris instead, but I believe that if he makes inquiries he will find that he and I were wrong in our original views. Before I go any further, may I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) a certain regret that we do not hear the voice of the former Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), whom we all admired, and also the amusing and well-barbed remarks from another hon. Member who used to sit behind the Opposition Front Bench. I should have enjoyed hearing him speak tonight.

It is not the objective with which I disagree, it is the method that has been adopted for that purpose. In my view, one of the factors leading to drunkenness is drinking against time. Towards closing time this results in more drink being taken than if an individual had plenty of time in which to consume it. I think that individually there would probably be less drinking if there were no limitation of hours than there is with limited hours. I understand that the position at the moment is that the country and presumably Parliament have decided that the sale of alcoholic liquor needs supervision and, up to now, that the body to supervise the sale should be the licensing bench. This is a departure from that point, which is that it is not so much narrow, as my right hon. Friend made out, but a matter of principle.

Before 1 return to that matter, may I say that I was somewhat surprised to hear my right hon. Friend intimate that he was in some agreement with the view that, after a rough passage, it was only right that international passengers should have means available to put them on an even or uneven keel as the case might be? My experience in travel is that I have had rougher passages crossing the Channel than when flying. The same argument, if it is to hold any validity— I should not grant that—would apply quite as well to Harwich, Dover, Folkestone, Newhaven, and so on. Therefore, it is a point which ought to be dropped.

My right hon. Friend was also trying to persuade the House that he was not really granting the licence and that it was only the very narrow point that he would fix the hours in respect of certain licences. He did not address himself at all to the difficulty about altering Section 1 of the original Act in order to give the justices in the areas concerned the power to do exactly what he is proposing to do.

Although the number of occasions on which I have disagreed with licensing justices is not very small, I would say that, in principle, the licensing justices have done an extremely good job administering a difficult matter to the general satisfaction of the public. 1 would far rather have the fixing of hours in the hands of a licensing bench than in the hands of a Minister, no matter to which party he might belong.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to explain the difficulty about altering Section I of the original Act. I think I know the reason—that it is the job of the Home Secretary, and the Home Office does not want to be involved in any alteration of the licensing laws. If there were any such alteration, a number of other matters, such as bogus clubs—that is a matter which badly needs attention— would arise and the Home Secretary would have to deal with them at the same time.

I think that my right hon. Friend has been landed with this Bill before he has had a chance to realise its full implications. I wonder to what extent he realises that he is being landed with it. It may be that he is not being landed with it, but I should like to know, in relation to the bars beyond the barrier where only international passengers may drink, how far the writ of the police for inspection runs. Does what remains of the Gaming Act, 1845, run there, for that means that one can play darts, because darts were not then thought of, but one cannot play billiards on Sunday? To what extent will it be efficient to have one Minister or body responsible for that end of the building and another body responsible for the rest of it? Also, if my right hon. Friend is to make himself responsible for fixing the hours, will he be willing to answer Questions in the House about conduct in the bars? He cannot say that he has no direct responsibility for it. I notice that some inquiries are being made by the Front Bench. Perhaps an inquiry might also be made as to whether there may be spontaneous singing in the bar or whether there must first be a music licence as well.

A number of different licensing regulations are in operation affecting river steamers, railway stations and railway trains, and there are probably others. These come under the Ministry. Because the law in the matter of licensing is antiquated and complex, it is no help to add to the confusion, which 1 suggest is what the Bill does.

I suggest that my right hon. Friend hands the Bill back to the Home Secretary and asks him to alter Section 1 of the original Act in order to make the licensing justices responsible, perhaps on the application of the Minister, in selected places. At all events, we should keep licensing out of politics. I am sorry to say this, but though I appreciate the objective, I strongly dislike the method, and unless I am given a satisfactory answer about that, I shall vote against the Bill.

6.57 p.m.

Mr. S. P. Viant (Willesden, West)

We are apparently being asked to create a precedent in 'the sense that we are being requested to step outside the licensing laws of the country. The Minister is inviting us to give him powers of an exceptional character. The right hon. Gentleman did not suggest that he would accept full responsibility for the powers he is seeking in that he would be prepared to answer Questions in the House about the administration of the licensing laws at the airports. I believe there is great danger in the proposal, and I cannot agree with powers outside our licensing laws being given to the Minister.

Hon. Members have heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). We ought to be wary about conceding these powers when we observe the disasters which result from the taking of more alcohol than is good and the accident rate upon our roads. Travel in an aircraft requires that every one aboard shall be amenable to discipline, not only the crew but the passengers, also. It cannot be disputed that the taking of alcohol, in small or large quantities, tends to impair judgment and undermine the discipline of the individual. In such circumstances we ought to be wary about providing greater facilities for the taking of alcohol. It is already possible to obtain alcohol on the aircraft. That in itself removes the main argument that people will not travel in our aircraft because they cannot obtain alcohol at our airports.

Mr, Ian Harvey

That does not dispose of the argument. It is fully admitted that, owing to conditions over which it is impossible to exercise control, aircraft often have to remain at airports for long periods, and schedules are often thrown out by weather conditions. That is why the facility is required. It has nothing to do with drinking facilities on aircraft.

Mr. Viant

I am not persuaded that we should gain even in that respect.

I emphasise the over-riding fact that we ought to be prepared to ensure the safety of the crews and the travelling public. By granting greater facility for the taking of alcohol we would impair their judgment and thereby undermine their safety. The House ought to refuse this proposal and realise its responsibility. The arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking on the basis of scientific knowledge should not be overlooked. If this precedent is granted, where are the licensing magistrates to draw the line? This will extend. It has truly been stated that this proposal is the thin end of the wedge.

I entreat the House to refuse the passage of this Bill. I shall wait to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say about his Department's responsibility for ensuring that there is no breach of the regulations at the airports if this Measure goes through. In any case, I shall vote against the Bill.

7.2 p.m.

Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)

I regret very much that the Government have introduced this Bill. I believe that the Government have no mandate for the Bill, and I regret that they have not accorded a free vote on the matter to their supporters. I believe this Bill to be thoroughly objectionable in its purpose, and therefore I propose to join those who will vote against Second Reading.

I desire, with due moderation, to state some of the objections as I see them to the proposals of the Bill. No reference has been made so far to the fact that the last Royal Commission on licensing took evidence on, and gave consideration to, the very subject that is dealt with by the Bill. In paragraph 816 of the Report that Commission recorded its unanimous recommendation in the following terms: it was urged that passengers who are subject to air sickness often wish to obtain intoxicants before departure or after arrival; and that supply should be lawful in such cases irrespective of hour. On principle, we are loth to introduce exceptions to the general application of permitted hours; and we are not satisfied that any sufficient case has been made out for an exception in this instance. I see no reason to differ or to depart from the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which was reached after a painstaking study of the problem and after hearing all the evidence that was available to it.

The Royal Commission instanced one of the many objections to the Bill when it said: On principle we are loth to introduce exceptions to the general application of the system of permitted hours; This Bill quite clearly and admittedly represents legislation for the benefit of a particular class of people, a small class only, and not necessarily the class most deserving of an exception being made in its favour.

To repeat the point already made by various speakers, why should travellers by air be singled out for special and favourable treatment any more than travellers by ship, by railway or by motor coach? If an exception to permitted hours is to be made at all surely the strongest case could be made on behalf of workers on the night shift in industry. Men and women who, owing to exigencies of the economic and financial position, are compelled to work at night, could surely be said to have a better claim to special licensing facilities at their canteens than travellers by air. I agree with other hon. Members that what we are dealing with here is a very dangerous thin end of a wedge.

The Minister, in introducing the Bill, said that other countries are far more liberal in this matter of licensing restrictions than we are, and it was argued that this Bill would do something to alleviate the alleged irritations experienced by overseas travellers on coming face to face with our licensing restrictions. I believe that alleged irritation is very largely imaginary.

The shallowness of the argument becomes obvious when it is realised that many of those visitors from overseas come from countries in which the licensing restrictions are considerably stricter than they are in this country. For instance, it is estimated that a third of the population of the United States live in areas in which, by reason of local option, there is no public sale of drink. Many of those areas are "dry," and the sale of intoxicating drink at the airports in those areas is non-existent—not merely confined to certain licensing hours.

It is also the case that in the United States about half the airlines do not permit the sale of drink in their aircraft at all. Only recently the American Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses' Association, representing, 1,700 stewards and 800 pursers, adopted a resolution disapproving the serving of liquor in aircraft at all. So the suggestion that people who come in many cases from areas in which licensing facilities are far more restricted than they are here and are offended and irritated by the existence of licensing restrictions to which every citizen in this country is subject seems a singularly unconvincing argument.

I hope that whoever replies to the debate for the Government will tell us whether, if this Bill becomes law, the Minister proposes to pay regard to the views of people in the areas of the airports. I will take two examples. If, for instance, in due course Cardiff takes its place among the international airports and the Minister grants special licensing facilities to Cardiff airport, does he propose to respect Welsh Sunday closing and thereby to conform to the wishes of the people of Wales?

To take another example, if an area in which a Scottish airport is situated had voted for "no licence" under the Scottish Temperance Act, would the Minister use his powers to permit licensing facilities at the airport, contrary to the democratically expressed views of the people in that locality? Those are practical matters with which the Minister will have to deal after the Bill becomes an Act. I think it is right that the House and the country should know in advance the line of action that the Minister proposes to take in the kind of circumstances which I have described.

I wish now to say just a little about the attitude of the churches towards this matter. It is true to say that by no means generally do we find the Christian churches wholly united on matters of this kind, but on this occasion the churches have spoken with a united voice through the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches. This is the resolution which has been passed by that Council: The Temperance Council of the Christian Churches voices its grave concern at the introduction by the Government of the Licensing (Airports) Bill. It urges, in the interest of national sobriety, the maintenance of the restrictions on hours of sale and supply under the licensing laws as recommended by the last Royal Commission which examined them. These laws cannot earn the general respect which they require for their observance if they proceed, as does the Licensing (Airports) Bill, to single out one class of traveller for special drinking facilities. The Council urges that the Licensing (Airports) Bill should be withdrawn pending the general revision and strengthening of the law as recommended by the Royal Commission on Licensing. In case any Member of the House may feel that the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches is not an altogether responsible and representative body, perhaps I may mention that its Presidents are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Doctor Leslie Cooke, a leading Free Church man and General Wilfred Kitch-ing, head of the Salvation Army. The Temperance Council is representative of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, all the principal Free Church bodies and the Salvation Army, and it has passed the resolution which I have just read expressing its concern about, and its opposition to, the Bill.

It has been said in this debate that this is a little Bill dealing with a very limited point. I concede that to be true but I believe that nevertheless it reveals the false scale of values of the Government on this matter.

During the past ten years, drunkenness in this country has increased by nearly 200 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS:"What?"] During the last ten years, drunkenness in this country has increased by nearly 200 per cent.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

Is it not much less than it was pre-war?

Mr. Black

What I have said is quite correct. In 1946, the convictions for drunkenness numbered, in round figures, 20,000, and today they are running at the rate of about 55,000, so that in ten years there has been an increase in drunkenness of nearly 200 per cent.

My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary has only recently admitted that drinking and drunkenness among young people have considerably increased, and he has expressed great concern about it, while successive Home Secretaries have all recognised the urgent need for an alteration in the laws relating to, for instance, licensed facilities for bogus clubs.

When successive Governments have been pressed to give attention to these urgent matters, the answer has invariably been, "We have no time"—no time for useful and necessary and progressive legislation, but time for this miserable little Bill, for which the Government have no mandate, for which there is no general demand in the country, which is opposed by every section of the Christian Church and which does nothing to solve the grave problems with which this country is faced at the present time. I hope that we shall accord to the Bill the fate which it deserves.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black). I should like to know where the demand for this curious little Bill has come from. Is there any international demand or any local demand?

I happen to be affected, because Prestwick is near my constituency. I am quite sure that far from there being a demand in Prestwick for greater facilities for air travellers, there is in that area a problem about which the magistrates are very concerned. We are much concerned in Ayrshire about the number of American airmen who are stationed at Prestwick and who get drunk and are fined for being in charge of motor cars while in that condition. One hardly picks up an Ayrshire paper these days without discovering that some member of the American Air Force, which has been sent here to protect us, has had to have his licence cancelled and has had a heavy fine imposed upon him. To single out Prestwick for the benefits of the Bill at present is not fair to the local magistrates, who already have a formidable problem on their hands.

Of course, there is a difference of opinion in Scotland about the relative value of drink. I do not know whether the House has ever heard of the grave-digger who never got a tip. A Scottish undertaker said to the grave-digger, "Jock, do you never get a tip?" He replied, "No, I never get a tip." "Well," said the undertaker, "show a little sympathy with the mourner." So the next day, Jock expressed sympathy with the mourner. The mourner said, "Jock, do you take a dram?" Jock said, "Yes." "Well," said the mourner, pointing down to the grave, "give it up. That is why he is there."

There is a great variety of opinion about the value of drink, but I ask the Minister to tell us that if the Bill passes its Second Reading it will be relegated to the Scottish Standing Committee, for it has a special subsection dealing with Scotland in relation to Section 4 of the Licensing Act, 1921. As the Government have been so accommodating in referring other parts of Bills affecting Scotland to the Scottish Standing Committee. I hope that they will refer this matter in so far as its affects Scotland to the Scottish Standing Committee. I assure the Minister that we will examine it in great detail and will know what to do with it.

Here is a curious Government Measure. At a time when we have been adjured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend less, the Government are introducing a Measure encouraging people to spend more. If one is an international traveller, travelling from London to New York via Prestwick, one is now to have extra facilities at Prestwick.

The facilities at Prestwick are hopelessly inadequate to carry out the provisions of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will testify that there are no special facilities at Prestwick to treat the foreign traveller separately in the matter of Customs. He would have to go to an hotel, and I can imagine what would happen in that hotel.

Suppose that there are members of the American Forces in this country travelling back from Burtonwood to New York and they stop at Prestwick and there the traveller who is a through traveller to New York wishes to meet a friend who is stationed in Prestwick Airport. We then have the anomaly that the man who is going through to New York will be able to have a drink in Prestwick and the man who happens to be stationed at Prestwick will not be able to have a drink with his pal. That is the kind of anomaly which this Bill creates.

I can foresee what will happen. The law will be broken. All these men will go to the hotel and it will be left to the hotel manager to separate one American soldier from another. That is how the Bill will work out in practice. I travel regularly between London and Prestwick and nobody can say that there are not abundant facilities for travellers, fellow-travellers or any other kind of travellers. 1 am a fellow-traveller with a man called Lenin who said that alcohol is the greatest enemy of the proletariat. Although Lenin said many wise things I do not think that he said many things wiser than that.

As soon as one gets into the aeroplane in London the stewardess comes round to offer one a drink. One cannot escape from the offer of a drink. It is shoved under one's nose before one is offered a sandwich or a cup of tea. There is a special bar down below and it is only when the plane arrives at Prestwick that an imaginary line is drawn and a silken cord is placed across the entry to show that one cannot go into the bar. Therefore, there are plenty of facilities for anyone who wants to have a drink when travelling between London and New York or Montreal. The planes do not stop very long at Prestwick anyhow, and I do not believe that there is any real hardship to an international traveller between London and New York.

I want to say a few words on behalf of the people who have to handle the human consequences of too much drink in a passenger. These are the stewardesses. They are very good public servants indeed. They show patience and courtesy under all kinds of very difficult circumstances. I do not want to have them given a further problem of dealing with somebody who has had too much to drink in London Airport and too much to drink in the aeroplane coming up to Prestwick, and who then is invited to go and have too much to drink at Prestwick. These girls have to travel through the night. These planes leave Prestwick sometimes about midnight and the girls may have to handle very awkward customers who have had too much to drink. I do not understand, therefore, why the Bill has been forced upon the House. I have never heard such a flimsy case as this for any Government legislation.

It is the duty of the House to throw the Bill out. 1 am allergic to alcohol but I do not want to interfere with people who normally take it. I hope that I am not intolerant, but I am allergic to alcohol even when it takes the form of vodka. Alcohol is not only the enemy of the proletariat but the source of a big human social problem in every part of the world, and we should not give its consumption the slightest encouragement in any way.

I should like to know something about the origin of the Bill. Did it originate in the desire of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) for good international relationships and human tolerance, or did it arise because somewhere at the back of all this there is the insidious power of corrupt vested interest always ready to push the sale of alcohol and attribute to it wonderful potentialities just because it gives profit to people who make profits out of the misery and degradation of others?

Mr. Ian Harvey

In view of what the hon. Member says, it is only right to say that the Bill in principle originated under his own Government when discussions took place between his own Front Bench and the British Travel Association.

Mr. Hughes

That is a peculiar argument to address to me.

Mr. de Freitas

It should be made quite clear that neither of the two Labour Governments introduced a Bill like this to the House of Commons.

Mr. Ian Harvey

They did not have time to introduce it, because they fell before the occasion arose.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I was the Minister in charge of licensing in this country and I never heard of it.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

There is nothing to withdraw. There are frequently disputed accounts of facts like these. We had better get on.

Mr. Hughes

The origin of the Bill is still clouded in obscurity. Even if, by some lapse, the Labour Government happened to do this, which has been denied, that would by no means commend it to me, because if a Labour Government do anything fundamentally wrong I hope that I shall be here to oppose it just as I would oppose a wrong action by any other Government.

I should like to go into the origins of the Bill. I cannot think that it has somehow come as an inspiration from the hon. Member for Harrow, East. There are pressures behind the scenes. They have been too persistent to make one think that they are not present. They were behind this effort all the time. They tried to plant this proposal in the House of Commons by the method of a Private Member's Bill. When they were defeated as a result of the activities of the former hon. Member for Ealing, North they made it appear in a different form.

Let us not think that because the former hon. Member for Ealing, North has gone from the House there are not those who are just as sensitive to and suspicious of vested interest in liquor as he is. Although he may not be now a Member of the House there are those on this side of the House who have always taken an anti-drink attitude. I hope, therefore, that the House, given a free vote, will say "Nothing doing" to the liquor interest and so keep this social evil from extending and making greater the difficulties of those who do the work on aeroplanes travelling from country to country and from town to town.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has asked about the origin of the Bill and has suggested that there is a murky financial interest behind it. I have had nothing to do with promoting the Bill and I came into the Chamber only to listen to the discussion. I rise to give the reaction of an hon. Member on this side of the House who is in favour of the Bill, because, so far, we have had about a dozen speeches only one or two of which have supported it.

It seems to me that those many hon. Members on both sides who have spoken against the Bill are opposed to the consumption of alcoholic liquor in any form, at any time and at any place and, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire almost admitted just now, would like to see drink done away with altogether. That is a reasonable point of view, although I do not happen to share it, but it would be wrong for the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members to say that the proposal in this Bill is outrageous when they really mean that drink itself is always outrageous.

The proposals in this Measure are very small and, as my hon. Friend explained when he introduced it, the Bill covers only a limited number of people. How can it be said that the small extra amount of drink which would be consumed in a few international airports could possibly be of financial advantage to the supposed sponsors of this Bill? I can tell the hon. Gentleman what lies behind the Bill. It is the accumulation of thousands of small, petty irritations to visitors to this country who expect a warm welcome when they arrive, but find themselves faced with a pettifogging law based upon a puritanical conscience of thirty or forty years ago, and they ask why. The object I have in supporting this Bill is to remove that unnecessary irritation without corrupting the morals of anybody.

The two main arguments which have been advanced against the Bill are as follow. The first is that it makes air travel more dangerous. The second is that it opens the door to abolition of our present licensing hours everywhere. As to the first argument, several hon. Members have said that to consume liquor makes one's reactions slower. That argument is heard constantly from temperance people in connection with the consumption of liquor by the drivers of cars. I ask those hon. Members who apply the same argument to aircraft, are they talking about the passengers or the pilot?

In the first speech we heard from the Opposition benches the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) constantly confused the two. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, he was speaking as if the passengers were responsible for the control of the machine and, of course, they are not. The hon. Gentleman also overlooked the fact that a passenger can consume liquor as soon as he enters the aircraft, and on a long flight across the Atlantic, whether he has had a drink at the airport before leaving or whether he starts to drink only when he enters the aircraft, can have only a tiny effect upon the state of his inebriation. So it is an absurd argument.

The second argument is that it will open the door to the widening of our licensing laws. I cannot see that it will be so. These passengers are in a special category. Flying is the most luxurious form of travel known to us and airports are special places. They share among themselves a special atmosphere. Indeed, the traveller scarcely knows when he arrives at an international airport which country he is in, and he only knows he is in England because he cannot get a drink.

Therefore, it is right that, because airports have this special atmosphere and conditions, a special law should apply to them. Passengers are apt to remain at an airport for hours if the aircraft has been delayed by weather or mechanical trouble. That applies to no other form of travel. Normally, one does not wait in a railway station or in a bus station for hours— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, one can go outside; but airports, in most cases, are miles from the centre of towns and there is nothing to do but sit in the airport and wait until the aircraft arrives or takes off. During those hours of waiting it is a natural human reaction to wish for refreshment. Some of us can do with coffee, but others like something a little stronger. Who are we to say that of practically every country in the world it shall be only in England that this small luxury is denied? That is why I am in favour of this Bill.

7.34 p.m.

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) were here, I would assure him that I shall not go from this Chamber to the Strangers' Bar or to the bar on the Terrace or to the Smoking Room. His implication that some of us would oppose this Bill and then "have one" on the quiet was unworthy of one who took a leading part in promoting the Bill.

There is no mandate for this Measure. There was nothing in the Election manifesto of the Conservative Party for the past three or four Elections about licensing legislation and one wonders, therefore, why the Bill has been foisted upon the House first as a Private Member's Bill and then as a Government Measure, with so much assiduity by the supporters of the liquor trade. The Bill will absorb Parliamentary time which should be allotted to those of us who ask, every Thursday, for Parliamentary time for the discussion of matters of vital importance, such as great social problems and the cost of living. There is no time for these, but there is time for this miserable little Bill.

The drink trade is notoriously the spoiled darling of the Tory Party. It receives favours, and I have no doubt that it pays for the favours it receives in some form or another. In the old days, licensing used to be a live political issue. In my young days, in the Elections of 1906 and 1910, there were great fights about the licensing laws in the country and in the House of Commons. There was a Nonconformist conscience that could be aroused and there was a real temperance movement. Today, however, even the Churches are lukewarm about temperance and licensing matters. Here I want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) on making a very brave speech but, in spite of what he said, I believe that the churches are lukewarm about temperance.

This Bill confers on foreign travellers the right to "booze" outside permitted hours and, presumably, also confers it on friends who meet them at the airport——

Mr. Watkinson

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it has been made quite plain, both by myself and many other hon. Members, that the object of the Bill is to see that this does not happen.

Mr. Simmons

There are ways of getting round that, and we can trust the people who want a "booze up" to get their pals around when they are doing so.

Air travel is the most expensive form of transport and, of course, that makes this Bill savour of class legislation. Therefore, it will undermine the general respect for the law. We have been told that these airport drinking places will be subject neither to our general licensing laws nor to police supervision. No barman will shout, "Time, gentlemen, please." No village constable will book someone for "having a quiet one" after drinking hours.

The hon. Member for Harrow, East assured us that this is a small, narrow Bill which does not go far, and asked, why make so much fuss? We were assured by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. Nicolson) that this small Bill does not involve great numbers of people. I reply to that that the thin end of the wedge seems, like King Charles's head, to be always cropping up in this debate, and at the risk of being charged with repetition I say that this Bill is the thin end of the wedge for undermining our licensing laws and bringing the orderly conduct of our licensed premises into disrepute. This Bill is the beginning of the reign of licence in the name of liberty.

Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)

Does not my hon. Friend think that the fact that we can get a drink in this House at all times of the day is a fatter end of the wedge?

Mr. Simmons

Yes, and if it were not lese-majestè because this is a Royal Palace, I would say that I thought so. As a matter of fact, it is wrong and I do say so.

A movement may well arise which will demand for Englishmen the same rights in respect of drinking as will be enjoyed by foreigners. Let us not forget that Mosley is on the rampage again; he likes to indulge in stirring up racial hatred. This might well be a General Election issue. We may see on the posters "Vote for Blank and stop the foreigner mopping up our beer," or, "Vote for Dash and make the Yanks get their Scotch from the off-licence." Anti-foreign feeling is easily aroused, and it can be dangerous. Discrimination in favour of the foreigner against the Englishman is something which could be used by unscrupulous elements with disastrous results.

We were assured by the hon. Member for Harrow, East that the Bill is designed simply to help the tourist trade and to improve our economy. Is it not a rather far-fetched argument that the Bill will help the tourist trade? Do foreigners come here just for a "booze-up"? Surely most foreigners come here to do business or to study our way of life, and so on. Are we to give foreigners the impression that part of our way of life is to give privileges for obtaining alcoholic refreshment to those who can afford air travel, to the exclusion of others?

Are we to give them the impression that to us a cocktail shaker is more important than the Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon, or that a bottle of "bubbly" is more part of our national tradition than St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey? What will be their impression of the Mother of Parliaments if they learn that an established code of law has been deliberately broken, with malice aforethought, by this House to entice visitors here and net dollars? What will they think of our morality and ethics? Even the hardest-drinking Yank, yearning for a drink when he arrives, would despise us for that kind of action. This country has far worthier attractions for serious foreign visitors than unlimited drinking facilities, and it is better that the visitors should see us through eyes not distorted by drink.

Our licensing laws grew out of requirements for public order and safety, and modern progress may well call for a strengthening of them rather than a weakening of them. The Royal Commission on Licensing, of 1929–31, said, in paragraph 105: … we regard it as an essential safeguard that—whatever else may or may not be done— the present restrictions should be maintained. Let hon. Members think of the enormous increase in the number of cars on our roads since that Royal Commission's Report was published. Safety on the roads is an immensely more important consideration now than it was in those days. One of the greatest contributory factors to death on the roads is the drink trade, the drunk driver, and the driver who is under the influence of drink. These are the dangerous people, and the law ought to be strengthened against them.

Hon. Members opposite have tried to confuse the issue by saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Barking was casting a slur upon the crews of aircraft. That is an entirely unfounded charge. My hon. Friend was referring, on the basis of his medical knowledge, to the influence of alcohol on human minds, brains, and action, and was dealing with the effect of alcohol upon travellers in aircraft. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, "Who runs the aircraft? The travellers do not do so. The pilot and the crew run it. Why bother about the condition of the travellers?"

However, we have had evidence from a well-known American pilot, Captain Francis J. Black, who flies a Constellation, about fatal accidents caused by drunken travellers in United States aircraft. We have had quoted to us a resolution by the pilots and pursers of American airlines, who seek the complete prohibition of drinking on American aircraft. Are we to encourage these elements working towards safety and decency in the air, or are they to find when they come to this country that the Government have gone in the reverse direction and made drinking for air travellers easier instead of harder?

The Bill is unwanted except by a small minority. It is designed to deal with licensing piecemeal and, therefore, out of perspective with the wider problem. It sets a precedent for other changes in the direction of weakening the law. Drinking facilities for night travellers by coach and rail have been mentioned. Why not also for night workers? It is the thin end of the wedge.

We know that the drink traffic is a powerful one. We know it controls advertising in the Press. We know that it contributes to the funds of the Conservative Party. However, we also know that the drink trade, powerful though it is, cannot prevail against the will of Parliament. I appeal to hon. Members who do not believe in the domination of the country by the drink trade, and who resent the efforts of the drink trade to control Parliament by devious means, to vote against the Second Reading on the ground that the Bill is unwanted and unnecessary.

7.47 p.m.

Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)

I am sure that when ordinary members of the public read about the debate in the newspapers tomorrow they will feel that most of the arguments adduced against the Bill have been very greatly exaggerated. 1 would not for a moment question the sincerity of hon. Members on either side of the House who have spoken against the Bill, for that would be wholly wrong, but I am sure that the arguments which we have heard have been grossly exaggerated.

The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) is always eloquent. However, on this occasion I found it a little difficult to follow his arguments about Sir Oswald Mosley, class legislation, profits for the Tory Party and so on. It all seemed to be very wide of the mark. I could not help feeling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you were even more indulgent than you have sometimes been in the past in your kindness——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

Order. I did not even hear the speech of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons).

Mr. W. R. Williams

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Although you were not here to listen to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), surely what the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) has just said is a reflection upon Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Yes. It is out of order to make such remarks.

Major Beamish

I readily offer a complete apology, to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to Mr. Speaker. I certainly did not intend to cast any reflection upon the Chair.

Mr. Simmons

The hon. and gallant Member referred to one of my points but had it out of context and out of perspective. I was referring to the danger of legislation discriminating against Britishers in favour of foreigners being employed by certain elements, with very dangerous results.

Major Beamish

That is a point of view that I can understand but with which I do not agree. This is a most excellent little Bill, and I am glad that the Government have introduced it. I have found the debate very interesting.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) will not mind my saying that I regarded as a considerable overstatement his remark that every section of the Christian Church is opposed to the Bill. I do not believe that that is the case. I honestly do not think that there is any evidence for that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon was slightly shaken by the unholy alliance that developed between him and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). There cannot have been many occasions when they have found themselves in such complete agreement.

Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)

I have tried to follow this discussion for a long time. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) says that Christian Churches were not against the Bill. Will he be good enough to say what section of the British population is in favour of it?

Major Beamish

I have no hesitation in saying that the average person in this country is in favour of the Bill.

This is one of those strange occasions on which public opinion is not properly reflected in this Chamber. It does sometimes happen. I believe that the debate which we have had so far this evening has not been a true reflection of the opinion of the average person. Wholly undue weight has been laid upon the opposition to the Bill. It often happens that people who are in favour of something do not bother to come along and say so, while the people who are against it get up and say so. We know that from our constituency correspondence.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire never loses an opportunity of making an attack on American airmen in this country. It is always a safe bet that whenever he speaks he will find some way of keeping within order and making that attack. It was very unfortunate that he should have made that reference to the presence of American troops here, and should have criticised them for the quite rare occasions on which they have been discovered to be the worse for drink. I have had some experience of foreign soldiering and I have observed the behaviour of troops stationed in a foreign country. The American troops in this country have behaved incredibly well and their behaviour measures up very well indeed to the behaviour of the best British troops when abroad.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I am not trying to cast an aspersion on all American troops. The majority of the American airmen in Prestwick are as much against the man who gets drunk and drives into a bus as are we. I do say that the American airmen in Prestwick who take drink constitute a very great social problem for the community at present.

Major Beamish

I am glad that the hon. Member has made it clear that he is not making a general charge, but is referring to a small number of specific instances. I do not want to lecture the hon. Member, but he ought to avoid giving a general impression about bad behaviour when in fact that is not the impression which he wishes to create.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. and gallant Member should read the Ayrshire Post.

Major Beamish

The point which hon. Members who are opposed to the Bill have obviously overlooked is that of the great discomfort of air travel. One is apt to land in some airport in some ghastly weather at any hour of the day or night and very likely to want refreshment and to have a drink. I cannot see that there is anything worse in serving a passenger at an international airport in this country with a whisky and soda to have with his ham sandwich during the night than in serving him with a whisky and soda to have with a ham sandwich at 9 p.m., which happens to be within the licensing hours. I cannot see that there is any difference, and the principle which the Bill embodies seems to me to be entirely proper.

I would interpolate, in a slightly more humorous vein, that I should have thought that when the hon. Member for South Ayrshire was expressing such anxiety about the possibility of some of his Scottish friends taking their drink in some international airport in this country, he would have known that the big difference between drinking on the ground and in an aeroplane, is that in an aeroplane, as a rule, one does not have to pay for one's drinks, so that the hon. Member will be the first to agree that if a Scotsman is involved, he is more likely to drink in the aeroplane than on the ground.

I simply do not understand the point that allowing passengers to have drinks outside normal licensing hours would increase the danger of flying. It has never been suggested that the pilot and crew are involved. We all know how reliable are the crews of aeroplanes. We all know perfectly well that if a pilot wants to get drunk on the ground, he can carry a flask and will not be helped to get drunk by the fact that the airport bar is open. It cannot be seriously suggested that the danger of flying will be increased if passengers are allowed to have a drink in the way that the Bill envisages.

I have the utmost respect for teetotallers. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire said that he was allergic to alcohol. He is welcome to be allergic to alcohol and so is any hon. Member who wishes to be, but that is no reason why the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and other hon. Members should force their views on other people when all that this Bill will do is to bring this country into line in this respect with other countries. I am sorry to say that I missed my right hon. Friend's speech, and I am not sure whether he told the House which countries have such legislation as this and which do not. However, I am practically certain that every foreign country of which I know allows passengers at international airports to have a drink all round the clock.

Mr. Watkinsonindicated assent.

Major Beamish

I am glad to have my right hon. Friend's confirmation.

I conclude by saying that this is a most excellent little Bill, and I do not regard it as being the miserable Bill which several hon. Members have said it is. I shall have the greatest pleasure in voting for it tonight. It is long overdue.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words in opposition to the Bill. I have been extremely pleased to hear some courageous speeches from the other side of the House. I want to pay my tribute to the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) who made an excellent speech, with which most of us on this side of the House agreed and to which we should pay much attention, because of the hon. Member's knowledge of the industry involved in the provisions of the Bill.

I want to take part in the debate, because I consider that the arguments which I have heard from the other side tonight, after ten years as a Member of this House, have been the most illogical to which I have ever listened. In the last half hour we have had complete contradictions from two Members opposite who have supported the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) and the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) have contradicted one another, perhaps not within each other's hearing. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch reminded us that flying was the most luxurious form of travel and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes told us of its discomforts and of arriving at airports and being unable to get a drink.

There is a parallel. I can imagine nothing worse than being pitched out of a train at Crewe Station in the middle of the night and being unable to get a drink of any sort. That is about the worst thing which could happen to anyone travelling by train in this country, and it has no analogy in flying. I am concerned that here is an effort to establish a privilege for people flying to this country which we are not prepared to accord to the people of this country when they are travelling.

It has never been my privilege to fly the Atlantic, but I am informed by friends who have done so that it can be flown in ten hours, or even less. I am advised that, during the whole of that journey, if they so desire, passengers may take all the liquor they may want long before they arrive in this country; and yet one of our own citizens who might want to travel this very night from King's Cross or St. Pancras to Edinburgh or Glasgow would be unable to get refreshment of any kind during the hours of the journey. That seems to be completely illogical.

Then, we had to listen to the words of wisdom which fell from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) who, some hon. Members seem to think, is perhaps the inspiration behind this Bill. I would not know, but I do know that the hon. Member suggested to the House that if we continue to restrict the consumption of drink at all our international airports in this country, the result is bound to be that we shall have fewer foreign visitors to this country. I cannot imagine a more feeble, weak or flimsy kind of argument than that which was advanced by the hon. Member for Harrow, East. I cannot believe, and surely no hon. Member of this House can possibly believe, that any person who is coming herefrom the United States, almost certainly on business, is likely to cancel that business trip simply because when he arrives here he cannot get a drink at London Airport. What sheer nonsense that is as an argument in favour of the Bill.

I felt rather sorry for the Minister who had to present the Bill to the House. I must admit, quite frankly, that I was rather surprised that he introduced the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has won a considerable amount of esteem among hon. Members on this side of the House in the two offices which he has held, and I found it difficult to believe—although I have since noticed that the right hon. Gentleman has been in agreement with the remarks of some of his hon. Friends— that he could be responsible for a Bill of this kind.

If we carry the argument of the hon. Member for Harrow, East to what I believe to be its logical conclusion, then what in effect it means is that we are prepared to abandon the licensing laws in order to obtain a few more dollars. That is what it means if we give the hon. Gentleman's argument its full weight, though I certainly do not accept it in any shape or form. I do not think it is unfair, if we accept the hon. Gentle- man's argument, to call the attention of the House to the fact that this is in effect selling our souls for a mess of pottage. I think that is the parallel, and a perfectly fair parallel, and therefore I hope that the House will reject the argument.

Mr. Daines

Would it not be in conformity with the moral principles of my hon. Friend if he were to take some steps to see that this House conformed to the licensing law?

Mr. Wilkins

My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) has interjected this remark on two or three occasions. I know that he is always trying to be helpful. I should be only too delighted to take any action to apply the licensing laws to this place, and I say quite clearly and categorically and without hesitation that the majority of hon. Members would be prepared to do so if they had the opportunity.

Before I conclude, I should like to ask the Minister one question. It appears from the wording of Clause I that any action the Minister may take subsequent to the passing of this Bill—if it is passed —will be done by means of an Order. I should like to know whether the procedure will be that of the affirmative or negative Resolution. I would ask him whether he contemplates putting into operation at our international airports the suggestion that came from one hon. Member opposite—at least, it was a suggestion by inference—that in the other international airports of the world people are able to drink all the way round the clock.

Does the Minister contemplate the provision of facilities of that kind, or are there to be some restricted facilities? If so, the House has a right to know before it approves the Second Reading of the Bill what proposals the Minister has in mind for the extension of the licensing hours at airports which will come within the province of this Bill.

My final words are addressed to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Time and time again, during the ten years I have sat in this House, there have been occasions on which they have either ridiculed or criticised the actions of the party to which I belong. There is one thing about the party on this side of the House, and that is that it has always conceded freedom of conscience on issues of this kind. Here and now, I challenge the Government to offer the same freedom to hon. Members opposite, but, of course, one reason why they will not do so is that they know that if they conceded to their own Members the same privilege that we have here of voting in accordance with our consciences on issues of this kind, which surely are moral issues, this Bill would not proceed any further beyond the stage which it has now reached.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)

I had not intended heralding my recent humble return to this House by taking part in this debate, but I have travelled a great deal by air throughout the world, and still do, and I have seen the kind of thing which is actually happening in this sphere. In view of the fact that some of our arguments have been called illogical, I should like to say that I have never heard more extravagant arguments used about a small Bill by its opponents. We have heard about racial hatred and the brewers' interests, although the only hon. Gentleman on this side of the House who is connected with the brewers has spoken against the Bill. We have heard about class warfare, and in listening to some of the speeches one might really have thought that a major change in the licensing laws was involved.

Before I come to the main burden of my remarks on this Bill, I wish to refer to the fact that the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) because he resented the fact that any aspersions had been cast on members of aircrews taking alcohol. It was a very fair point, but I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that he had not studied the debate very carefully when he said that he did not find any evidence. I was under the impression on that occasion in the House that the suggestion was made, and, in fact, I have a record of it here.

For the sake of the record, and since my hon. Friend was challenged, I should like to read it to the House. In the course of his remarks, the then hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), on 7th May, 1954, said this: The question of the supply of liquor in new forms engaged the attention of the Royal Commission on Licensing which reported on the question of air travel and drink as well as upon many other aspects of the same issue. It was pointed out in that report that there was no case for an increase of facilities for those actually engaged in the piloting and general conduct of planes. In my judgment, it is more than likely that if there were a provision like the one suggested in this Bill, for drink to be taken at any time of the day or night as planes arrive, it would be difficult to guarantee that it would be kept quite apart from any arrangement for the refreshment of pilots and others engaged in the conduct of the planes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1954; Vol. 527, c. 808.] I think the hon. Member for Openshaw would concede, for the sake of the record, that the suggestion was made.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I will accept that, in that respect, my memory was not as good as I thought it was, but reference was made to putting temptation in people's way, so that it might be possible in a moment of weakness for people who otherwise would not do so to do something which they really did not want to do.

Mr. Bennett

I accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman. It was simply that a challenge had been made and I thought it fair that the position should be clarified.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

Is the hon. Gentleman opposite aware that it is the rule so far as both B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. are concerned that no pilot may drink while he is in uniform whether on or off duty?

Mr. Williams

And is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of us who have been sitting in the Chamber throughout the debate know that very well?

Mr. Bennett

I have accepted that; the point has already been made clear.

If one goes by air abroad, let us say to the United States or to Canada, it is worth thinking about how the provisions of this Bill would operate. Some suggestions have been made, and it is imagined by some hon. Members, that this would lead to a large number of passengers getting into a rollicking frame of mind in a bar in London Airport before getting into an aeroplane. Or that When they arrived from America, or some other place, that passengers would get into a rollicking frame of mind before they left the airport. That is not how international air travel works.

Only ten days ago I went to London Airport to travel abroad. Not only is a passenger not called beyond the Customs barrier, which is the area where the provisions of this Bill would operate, until very shortly before the aircraft is expected to leave—that is, assuming that there is not a contingency at the last moment such as a change in the weather—but, normally, he would take his passport and go through the Customs and within a matter of minutes from that moment he would be called to board the aircraft. There is no chance, even if he wishes, for anyone to have more than a single drink at most because, normally, there is no time.

The same thing applies to passengers entering the country. If a person arrives at London Airport after a long flight over the Atlantic, the last thing he wishes to do is to hang around a bar within the Customs barrier in order to have a drink. I can assure hon. Members who have not flown the Atlantic that on landing in this country after ten or twelve hours of flight —and having been perhaps turned out at Gander, Goose Bay, Reykjavik, or Shannon—the last thing that one desires to do is to settle down to have a glass of sherry. One wishes to get to a hotel or one's home as quickly as possible and have a bath and go to bed. I have been sitting through this debate and listening to the speeches and I am trying to put this thing into its proper perspective.

Perhaps, at the last moment, just before a passenger goes into the aeroplane, something happens, the weather changes, or engine trouble develops, and he is suddenly told that perhaps he may have to sit in the lounge for two, three, or four hours. It is impossible for him to get back again into England, because he has passed the international barrier. On such an occasion, while he is waiting, a passenger should be able to have a drink with his sandwich. On the way back here I fully concede that I do not think that the number of drinks taken by people coming into the country before going through the Customs will amount to anything that would give any brewer a farthing increase on his dividends in a hundred years.

Mr. D. Jones (The Hartlepools)

Then why have the Bill?

Mr. Bennett

I am going through the occasions when drinks might be taken beyond the Customs barrier.

The most significant time when the provisions in this Bill might be taken advantage of—and, again, this is my experience—is when one is in transport from, let us say, America to Paris, or Frankfurt, or Rome, via London Airport —either because one wishes to go that way or because whatever route is chosen happens to go via London. Very infrequently indeed, particularly if one has the experience of crossing the Atlantic, does one run a plane schedule so close that one spends only a few minutes at London Airport. More often than not one arranges a wait of one, two, three, or four hours at London Airport to give oneself a period of grace before taking off on the next stage of the flight.

London Airport is some way from the West End of London, and it is hardly worth while going through the formalities at the Customs and hiring a car to go to London. The traveller would prefer to stay at the airport. It is on such occasions that I believe the provisions of this Bill would have its main, useful effect. It would not be a question of passengers getting into a rollicking frame of mind or indulging in a lot of drink and becoming obstreperous. A passenger might just want a half bottle of wine or a glass of beer with his meal.

If we regard this Bill in the way intended, I do not pretend it will result in a dramatic increase in the number of passengers using London Airport. Nor does it mean that a great many more people will fly via London. I would also agree that if we do not pass this Bill it would not mean a sudden and dramatic decline in the number of people travelling via London. But it is worth recalling that when one is discussing the amenities at a great international airport this is one small but valuable contribution which could be made to those amenities.

If we regard the airport not just as London Airport but what is to be the finest international airport, in which a great deal of travelling currency will be earned because it is used as a transit stop, it seems ridiculous that this extremely limited number of passengers should not obtain the same amenities there as they may obtain almost anywhere else in the world.

It may be argued that a small thing like getting a drink does not make that much difference. But on dozens of occasions I have listened to conversations—I have crossed the Atlantic on dozens of occasions—and hon. Members would be surprised, when it is a question of whether a passenger should travel via Paris, or London, or Iceland, or Shannon, how much a certain amenity means if all other things are identical. I should not like to say how many passengers I have heard taking part in such conversations.

I would say to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that not all Atlantic travellers are Americans or members of the American Forces, yet many, for instance, like to go via Shannon, not because they can get a drink there, but because they can take a couple of bottles tax free away with them. I am deliberately telling this to the House although there is no suggestion that this should happen under the provisions of this Bill. But when there has been a choice of whether they should go via Iceland or Shannon, some say they will go via Shannon in order to pick up a bottle of Scotch whisky without paying any tax. If hon. Members do not believe that, they should travel and hear some of the remarks at London Airport by people who are making up their mind by which route they should travel.

I have tried to put the debate on this Bill into its proper perspective. I think it is a good Measure. It cannot do any harm. Some of the speeches which have been made this evening bear no relation to the facts. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire said that it would lead to waiters at Prestwick having to rush round deciding who was a genuine international passenger. I do not know to where the hon. Member has flown at all, but it is impossible to go through the Customs in this country and then wander out freely and have lunch and dinner with members of the American Forces in an hotel.

The suggestion has been made that if these facilities are permitted, it will not be long before passengers and their friends all start taking drinks together. But that cannot be done. A passenger has to go through the Customs. About five people want to know about him; one how much money he has. By another his passport is examined, and there are questions, too, about health to be answered. There are police and other officials present and the suggestion that there is a magical way in which a man could wriggle through all this in order to join his friends in a whisky and soda beyond the barriers shows that the people making them have never been through an international airport, or they would not talk such utter nonsense.

I shall support the Bill. There may well be something in what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) on the question of method, but nothing on any principle and adding to the total of drunkenness in this country. It has even been ludicrously suggested that it would affect the driving of cars, and the question of being drunk in charge of a car has somehow been brought into this debate as one evil which would flow from the passing of this Bill.

The Bill will apply to only one type of person. It will not operate upon a class basis, as was suggested. It will apply to all those, British and foreign, who are travelling abroad upon international airlines; those who have passed beyond the Customs and have, therefore, for all practical purposes, left the country, but who wish to enjoy the same amenities which they can get at almost any other airport in the world. For that reason, I suggest that we should stop making such a fuss about the Bill. We should accept what it is intended to do and give the Government the support they deserve upon it.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)

The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) has suggested that less fuss should be made about the Bill—and I agree with him. But I think that it is on the part of those who are bringing forward the Bill that less fuss should be made. The onus is upon them to prove their case, and they have not yet done so. The hon. Member says that he is in favour of the Bill upon the basis of his experiences whilst travelling in and out of airports. I, too, have travelled in and out of airports. I have probably travelled round and about as much as anybody in this House, but I do not believe that there is a case for changing the law in relation to this matter, upon the basis of the arguments which I have heard so far. I have heard them not only this evening, but over the quite appreciable period of time during which I have followed the matter.

The hon. Member mentioned, as being typical, the occasion when one has rushed through the Customs and wants to reach one's hotel or get back home. I quite agree that that is normally the case with the majority of people entering the country. It is also true that the majority of those leaving want to go through the different formalities and get on to the plane and away as soon as possible—but is the hon. Member suggesting that a case has been made out for a Bill to go through all its stages in both Houses upon the basis that at some time out of licensing hours an aircraft may experience engine trouble which involves a period of waiting for its passengers, and that those passengers should therefore be permitted to drink?

Mr. F. M. Bennett

The hon. Member should also remember the question of passengers having to wait while in transit. That happens every day, and has nothing to do with engine trouble.

Mr. Beswick

I intended to deal with the position of the transit passenger. I have seen people booking tickets in many parts of the world, but I have never known a single person to base his choice of route upon the relative facilities for obtaining alcoholic drinks on the way.

I remember that during the war we use to boast of the things that we could get in various parts of the world. In Karachi one could get suede shoes; one went through Brazil in order to pick up a very good watch, and one certainly went via Gibraltar because Saccone and Speed's sold very good sherry, which could not be obtained at home. But in peacetime I have never come across a single intending passenger who has solemnly studied the particulars of different airlines and said, "I will travel by that one because at a certain transit station I can have a drink at a certain time of day or night." I do not believe that anyone bases his choice upon that kind of consideration, and I cannot therefore see why we should go to all the trouble of bringing forward this Bill.

Mr. D. Jones

How does an intending traveller know how long he will have to wait at London Airport if his aircraft is going to be late?

Mr. Beswick

I agree that that is also a factor to bear in mind.

The Clerk to the Justices of the Uxbridge Petty Sessions addressed a letter to the Minister's predecessor, and 1 believe that reference has already been made to it. The letter put forward what seems to me to be a very reasonable case, namely, that the definition of a licensed area which was to be allowed to sell alcohol at any time in the 24 hours was being left to the Customs authorities under the Bill. The justices held that to be wrong. There is substance in that case. I understand that the Minister's predecessor and the Department officially put forward a contrary argument.

Mr. Watkinson

I quite appreciate the fact that the hon. Member was not here when I spoke, but I made it quite clear that nothing in the Bill takes away from licensing authorities their right to decide whether or not London Airport has a licence.

Mr. Beswick

I did take the trouble to find out what the Minister said about that, and I was going to deal with it. The difficulty in that respect, however, is the difficulty which hon. Members experience in dealing with a regulation. They cannot give a qualified acceptance; they must pray against it entirely or support it entirely, just as in this case the justices cannot decide whether the area should be greater or less, or that this or that bar is the more suitable for providing these facilities. They must take it or leave it. I believe that to be wrong.

I also want to deal with a few of the other arguments put forward by the Minister's predecessor, and his Dapartment, in what I thought was a rather cavalier reply to the Clerk to the Uxbridge Petty Sessions. The reply stated that the justices were mistaken in their view of the effect of the Bill, and told them that it was, after all, only to enable all air travellers, and nobody else, to get drinks whenever they wish. It is only right that we should examine this point in a little more detail. Reference has been made to the privilege which the Bill will grant to air passengers. Why should this privilege be given only to air passengers? Why should they be treated separately? A better case could be made out for providing all-night facilities at Victoria Coach Station. I cannot accept the argument put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) that air travel is the acme of discomfort. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will also controvert that argument. The Monarch Service across the Atlantic could never be described as the acme of discomfort, but if I were to get off a coach which had arrived at Victoria from Edinburgh overnight, I feel that I should have a much better case for demanding alcohol, if alcohol is to be provided at all. I just cannot see why air travellers should be singled out for this privilege.

The argument has also been advanced that these facilities should be available for people coming here from abroad, but if a person is found objectionably drunk in Central London how can we say, "It does not matter, because he has only just come from abroad?" If there is reason to protect society from over-indulgence in alcohol, no special dispensation should be given simply because a person has just arrived from abroad. The other part of that argument related to the passenger who is leaving this country. I cannot see why an exception should be made in his case, either, because he has more facilities for drinking than anyone in this country.

More facilities for drinking are available on board an aircraft than anywhere else. I do not accept or except the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) in relation to the facilities granted in this place, because in an aircraft we have only to sit in our seat to have a drink brought to us.

Mr. Daines

Is my hon. Friend aware that if any citizen of London really wants to drink all night long all he has to do is to transfer himself from the West End to the market areas of the City? He can there drink all night in public houses.

Mr. Beswick

My hon. Friend is apparently an expert upon the anomalies of the licensing laws. I agree with him that there are anomalies, but there is not a case for extending them. I cannot see the purpose of his interventions on this point.

Mr. Dainesrose

Mr. Beswick

I would like to make another point in relation to passengers going aboard aircraft. I speak with experience. My hon. Friend can take it from me that there is a difference on the physical constitution of an individual between taking a certain quantity of alcohol in a London market and taking the same amount of alcohol in the air. The effect of an excess of alcohol, or more than a moderate amount, on a passenger travelling in a pressurised aircraft at 25,000 feet is more serious than it would be on the ground.

Mr. Remnant

That is correct, but the Bill does not deal with the service of alcohol in the air but the serving of drinks on the ground.

Mr. Beswick

I am referring to the effect of alcohol on the constitution of an aircraft passenger, and not to the act of serving drinks. It is possible, under the Bill, to make it easier for a person to take more alcohol before he boards an aircraft. I tell my hon. Friend, who has so clearly in mind the point about facilities in some of the wholesale markets in London, that we have to be more careful in this case than in the case to which he has so rightly called our attention.

Alcohol has a greatly increased effect on the constitution of the person taking it when he is flying in a more rarefied atmosphere. I do not mean a person who has drunk so much that he has been stopped from boarding an aircraft, but when another drink or two on the aircraft will make all the difference. That person can be a much bigger nuisance, to put it at the least, and a much greater danger, to put it rather higher, than a person in Smithfleld Market. For that reason we should take particular care before we give the extra powers proposed in the Bill.

Mr. Daines

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) is giving an interpretation of my two previous interventions. Let me explain. The speeches to which I have listened have opposed the Bill on moral principles. I have been trying to point out that if they are taken——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

These interventions seem to be more in the nature of a debate than of interventions.

Mr. Daines

On a point of order. When my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge gives way to me, surely it is in order for me to pursue the intervention.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The object of an intervention is to clear up an ambiguity, not to put forward a counter-argument.

Mr. Daines

That is precisely what I am trying to do. My hon. Friend has given an incorrect interpretation of my interventions and I am trying to correct it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's argument appeared to be in the nature of a debating point which would be more appropriate in a speech of his own.

Mr. Daines

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I do not accept that interpretation.

Hon. Members


Mr. Beswick

I conclude my speech by reiterating that the onus of proof is upon the sponsors of the Bill. I do not think they have made out a case.

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Member did not hear what I said.

Mr. Beswick

No, but I happen to know the argument, which has been made before. I have also read the correspondence on the subject. The matter has been raised in this House, and I have read about it with great care.

A case has not been made out for changing the law. If it is to be changed, I hope that the Minister will pay attention to the detail points which were made by the magistrates responsible for licensing in the Uxbridge area, which includes London Airport, one of the two airports immediately affected by the Bill.

We ought not to suggest that we rely for the tourist trade on the possibility of obtaining drinks at any time of the day or night. We have much greater things to offer in this country and much bigger and more important problems with which to occupy the time of the House than this Bill. I regret that the Bill has been brought before us and I shall vote against it.

8.35 p.m.

Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)

One of the great joys of being in politics is that one is always being surprised by the unexpected. Tonight I have been more than surprised at the heat which this Bill has engendered. I expected to find a very calm debate, with very few speakers, and perhaps with an early Division round about dinner time, so that we could all go off and treat ourselves to the respective drinks which we prefer. Instead of that, there have been accusations bandied from one side to the other, and some most extraordinary assertions, one of which was made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) to the effect that one can either get drunk quicker in the air or more slowly in the air, or that, at any rate, the air does something to one after having a drink. That is something which I had never heard before.

Mr. Beswick

Would the hon. and gallant Member like me to send him the medical evidence on which that assertion is made?

Sir F. Markham

No, I should prefer to conduct the medical experiment on myself. When I first looked at the Bill I thought that it was singularly harmless because, when all is said and done, it is simply to exempt international airports in this country from the restrictions on the times at which intoxicating liquor may be sold or supplied. The thought immediately occurred to me: why cannot a small change like this be made by the Minister under existing regulations?

I understand from what has been said that he has no powers to do anything of the kind, hence we have to go to the trouble of a full-dress Act of Parliament. I hope that in future some way will be found to make sensible compromises in our licensing laws without having to take up the full time of this House for the purpose. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will give us some statement about the position with regard to his ability or inability to make regulations to achieve small compromises of this kind.

The reason that I am interested in this matter is that, like some other hon. Members who have spoken, I am a very constant air traveller. In the last few years I have travelled over 100,000 miles as a fare-paying passenger, quite apart from military trips made during the war years. During those journeys, there have been innumerable times when the freedom displayed on the Continent and in the United States has been in great contrast with the narrowness of interpretation expressed in this country.

Only a fortnight ago I travelled from Innsbruck to Paris, and, in the course of the journey, had to stop for three and a half hours at Zurich. There I had the pleasure of meeting another Member of this House, the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who, like myself, was stranded for three and a half hours at a great international airport. Whether we wanted tea or coffee, or something stronger and as cheerful, the choice was absolutely free. I mean free in one sense but not in another: we could order what we wanted. I feel that this is something which should not be forbidden to international travellers coming to this country.

The same international courtesy should be extended to travellers coming here. Certainly these courtesies are extended on board ship and in every other respect which one can think of where international travel abroad is concerned. Therefore, I very strongly support the Bill. During my travels, I have never yet seen a single person the worse for liquor at any international airport. I have never seen a person totter either up or down the steps of a plane for that reason. I have known them to totter for other reasons connected with air sickness. I believe that those who travel by air are the most temperate of all the inhabitants of this world. I warmly support the Bill because I think that it is a moderate Measure, and I do not think, as suggested by hon. Members opposite, that this is the preliminary to an all-out attack on our licensing laws. I should be against that. I believe that this is a moderate Measure designed to improve international travelling facilities within this country and for that reason I support it.

The second reason, as has been made perfectly clear by previous speakers, is that when we consider travelling, the different routes are considered dispassionately and there is no question of class distinction of any kind. When any working man and his wife are considering where to go for their annual holidays, whether it be Margate or Blackpool, the question of travelling arises. Whether they go by bus, by train or by any other method depends not only on the speed of the route but also on the amenities to be found along it.

That also applies to international travel. Some years ago—and the Minister could support me with the facts—Air France obtained quite a lead over us because of their advertising. Hon. Members may feel that this is an abominable way of advertising airlines, but in their advertising they stressed that a quarter bottle of champagne went with every meal on the Air France route. It was a bull point, a talking point and a selling point. It attracted some Americans who did not want champagne, who do not even like the look of it and who prefer rye or Scotch, but here was something which the French were offering as an inducement, and it attracted passengers.

Whether we come off the plane or are waiting for a plane at an international airport, we should have this freedom of choice. I do not believe for a moment that there will be any extra drunkenness anywhere as a result of the Bill. I believe that there will be greater kindliness and a warmer reception to visitors coming to our shores and that tolerance always shown by hon. Members when they come from the smoking room contrasted with the acidity which they show when they come from the tea room.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I want in a few words to register my objection to the Bill. I believe that it is a very dangerous Bill and I shall be surprised if it is passed.

One of the reasons that I object to the Bill and feel profoundly convinced that I must vote against it is that I have not been able to find any evidence outside the House that the Bill is essential. There is plenty of evidence against the Bill, as we have learned from our postbags. It has been said that the Churches are very lukewarm towards the Bill, but my post-bag indicates that they are strongly opposed to the Bill. There is plenty of evidence outside the House against the Bill, and it is quite certain that the Measure does not reflect a large measure of public opinion in the country.

I oppose the Bill because it will increase the danger factor and decrease the safety factor, and one thing which we do not find on our roads today is the safety which exists in air travel. I do not think that the Bill will safeguard the safety of air travel.

I want to call some evidence as to what the Bill will mean if it is put on the Statute Book. I know that the extension of the licensing hours would be subject to the permission of the magistrates. I wish to call evidence because 1 think it indicates the feeling of people outside this House. When travelling in an aeroplane, discipline is absolutely essential. There must be discipline, not only on the part of the pilot and the crew, but on the part of the passengers who travel in the plane.

This is what was said in the Alliance News Summary on 27th June, 1955: Who know better than the personnel from first-hand experience how drinking passengers can affect the safe-guarding of others in a plane? A thoroughly drink-crazed passenger might jeopardise the operation of the plane itself. Obnoxious as a person 'under the influence' may be in a land-bound public place, there is usually some escape from the situation. To be imprisoned miles above the earth, however, with someone who has dulled his sensibilities and stimulated his emotions with alcohol can imply an ordeal of quite a different order. There is an expression of opinion from people who have given great consideration to this matter.

Another well-known pilot who regularly flies a Constellation plane with 88 passengers and a crew of six, said this: There have been quite a few fatal accidents caused by fire in the cabin. No doubt some of these were caused by irresponsible drinking passengers …Once I saw a dozing drinker light several cigarettes and drop each one of them, still burning, down on to the upholstery. Another not drunk passenger had to be put into his seat and stopped from annoying others. A third drinker, who had attacked the plane's captain, had to be tied with a rope on the floor where he spent the rest of the flight. There we have the increased danger factor and it is the increased danger factor which we want to prevent. I quote only those two pieces of evidence.

Every one of us knows that restrictions are irksome. The very word implies something preventing us from doing something that we desire to do. If I may draw from personal experience, it is well known in this House that I come from the mining industry. Licensing restrictions in mining hamlets are irksome to miners because they cannot get a drink just when they want one. Miners are prevented from taking alcoholic beverages underground because that would increase the danger factor. Time and time again representations have been made to me by miners working in the pits—down in the bowels of the earth, in a temperature of 90–110 degrees—to get an extension of the licensing laws. I have had to reply that the laws are made and, whether one works in a pit, in a steel works or on the land, one has to obey those laws. If the licensing laws were extended we would increase the danger factor.

I know that the Minister may not agree with me. May I offer a word from personal experience? On the cessation of hostilities in 1945 I did a great deal of flying overseas. It was my first experience and, naturally, I was very curious. Therefore, I took into consultation the pilot and the crew of the aircraft in which I travelled. I asked the pilot, "Is there any beverage that one can drink to prevent air-sickness, which would help a person on his journey and make his journey more comfortable?" He said, "Yes. You can drink tea, you can drink coffee, but under no circumstances must you partake of alcoholic beverages."

That was the advice given to me by a pilot who had flown many thousands of miles. I was with him ten days, and every time I asked his opinion the same view was expressed. Therefore, having regard to what these experienced pilots and crews say, we shall, if we are sensible, take note of their advice, for their opinion comes from experience. I am one of those who believe in taking notice of men or women who have experience in the subject with which I am dealing.

I have never tasted beer in my life but I am not prejudiced against anybody who takes it.

Mr. Daines

How does my hon. Friend know what it is like?

Mr. Brown

I have never tasted beer in my life but I am not prejudiced against any person who desires a drink. There is a time and a place for everything, but an aircraft or an aerodrome is no place for any person to participate in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Therefore, I shall feel that I am acting according to my convictions when I record my vote against the Bill.

8.52 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

It was interesting to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), because he is one of the fairest men in the House. It is surprising how this extraordinary slant on drink can distort the mind of even the fairest of us. I have listened to a debate, which for the most part has seemed to bear little or no relation to the facts as one knows them. The hon. Member for Ince talked about fires being started in Constellation aircraft by drink-sodden passengers. I know there were a number of fires in Constellations due to electrical trouble in the early days, but I certainly never heard of trouble caused by drink-sodden passengers.

Really, it is not true to say that by and large travellers in aircraft are interested in drinking. They are not very drink-conscious. They are trying to get somewhere or to get away from somewhere, and on the whole they are not out for a drunken orgy, drinking all they can possibly take. It certainly is not the intention of the Bill to provide for that purpose. Some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), take the view that those who want to promote a Bill of this kind must prove that there is need for it. They do not like to see any deviation from our licensing laws. I might regret the particular method by which the Bill is brought about, but that is a reflection of the idiocy of our licensing laws. This is the cumulative effect of hypocrisy over a long period.

I say to hon. Members opposite and to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon that the era of hypocrisy is coming to an end. No longer will this nation be driven into ridiculous positions by a handful of the community. We are not panicking in the face of the Alliance of Great Britain or the Band of Hope Union—and I say that as a person who has signed the pledge in the Band of Hope and who, even today, would not worry if all the drink in the world evaporated tomorrow. I am not interested in drink myself, but I am interested in preserving the rights of people reasonably to partake of drink if they want to do so.

We are seeing the end of intimidation by a small section of the community. It will not be possible much longer for a few people to beat their drums at temperance meetings and talk about raffles and lotteries and imagine that the people who favour these things are contaminated by a sea of corruption. This era of domination by a few narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant people is nearly at an end.

Mr. Beswick

Would the hon. Member not agree that the greater moderation in these matters today is in large part due to the propaganda, education and social discipline introduced by the efforts of the individuals of whom he speaks?

Mr. Shepherd

I do not think so. Many social factors have intervened in the meantime to direct people's attention from what at one time was practically the only source of amusement and pleasure.

The method incorporated in the Bill for providing these drinking facilities may be undesirable in itself; but it is forced upon us because of the idiotic laws we have, due to hypocrisy in the past and in the near past. I would not support anything that would help to cause a drunken passenger to enter an aeroplane. If I thought for one moment that there was even the risk of these facilities being unwisely used by passengers I would most certainly vote against the Bill, but I can conceive of practically no circumstance in which an abuse is less likely than during air travel. As I have said, to drink is not the purpose of air travel, and though air travellers might like a little refreshment in transit they do not travel by air for the sake of drinking.

I admit that London Airport will not collapse if these facilities are not provided, but the facilities are what reasonable persons arriving in the country from various parts of the world might expect. Our duty is to provide what reasonable people imagine they ought to receive in the way of amenities and facilities, based upon their experience. That is my standpoint and one which I think brooks of no real contradiction.

People do not come to this country because they want to drink a lot and enjoy themselves in that way, but the British Holidays and Tourist Board has not pushed the Government on this matter year after year for no reason at all. It is true that whilst no one would come to Great Britain merely because of any added drink facilities, nevertheless many people look upon our restrictions as irksome. If they are travelling for pleasure they weigh up the advantages of Paris and London and, because of our absurd restrictions, they may decide to go to Paris.

Whilst I would not suggest that the attractions of this country to tourists are based on the attraction of drink—I think that Stratford-on-Avon and St. Paul's have some pull in this matter—nevertheless the existence of these facilities is a matter which people bear in mind. The exaggerated effects of these restrictions tell against this country overseas. It is not so much the restrictions themselves as the way in which they are exaggerated by people in overseas countries that matters. During the war because people imagined that conditions here were worse than they were they sent us food parcels when very often were quite capable of feeding ourselves. It is not the actuality therefore, but what is made of these restrictions that matters.

I am glad to lend by support to the Bill. I congratulate the Government on bringing it forward. I am sorry that it has taken them so long. This is one more nail in the coffin of bigotry and intolerance, of which I want to see a great deal less in this country.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

Time has passed and I must restrict what I have to say to two or three points. I should like, first, to refer to the experience of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) from the days of his Band of Hope membership to his speech today, but, obviously, that would be neither in order nor advisable at this stage.

Two things have surprised me today. In the first place, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation introduced this Bill. If there is to be any deviation from, or extension of, our licensing laws I should have thought that the most natural thing to do would be for the Home Secretary to come here and say that in a certain respect it would be wise for this House to reconsider its previous decisions. Yet I have seen the Home Secretary here for only a few moments.

It is true that his Joint Under-Secretary has been here for most of the debate but he has been silent up to now and, as far as I can gather, the hon. Gentleman is not likely to intervene. Practically every authority in this country, including the Royal Commission on Licensing, in 1929, has stated that in its view it would be unwise to remove existing restrictions in connection with our licensing laws.

Yet, on an occasion such as this, neither the Home Secretary nor his Joint Under-Secretary is prepared to intervene in the debate.

The hon. Member for Cheadle has been a very brave man tonight. He said that the time is coming when all rabid teetotallers and others concerned with the restrictive practices imposed on our licensing laws will have their corns cut. I ask him one simple question: Was the derestriction of certain licensing laws included in the Election manifesto of the Tory Party? I ask him, also, whether any reference was made, either by the Tory Central Office or by himself, to the desirability of changing our licensing laws at the last General Election? If anybody wanted to be as brave on this issue as the hon. Gentleman has been tonight, he had an ample opportunity at the last Election to ask the electors whether they thought any changes were necessary in our licensing laws.

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that in my constituency I made my own view plain, which is the limit of my responsibility.

Mr. Williams

I accept that, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that no mention of this was made by his party, and it certainly had no desire to accept a mandate from the electors during the General Election.

I say, therefore, that what hon. Gentlemen opposite have done on this occasion is to introduce a substantial change in the licensing laws through piecemeal legislation by back-door methods. That is the view of many hon. Members on this side of the House. If this had been presented on the main issue of a change in the licensing laws, the Government would not receive anything like the support they are likely to receive on this Bill.

Secondly, those of us who have followed the debates in this House on Fridays, and who remember the characteristic attacks made by Mr. James Hudson, who was formerly the hon. Member for Ealing, North, remember a queer thing about all those discussions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were not able to carry through a similar Bill at that time. Why? For the simple reason that there were not enough Tory Members in the House to carry the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen opposite could easily have carried their point of view had they been in attendance on those occasions, but they were not here. Therefore, I am right in assuming that when the Government found they were unable to get a Bill through by the enthusiasm of hon. Gentlemen opposite as individuals, they have clamped down by Whip. They have imposed by Whip what they were unable to do by voluntary action on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I am not prepared to change our legislation merely to please foreigners. We ought to legislate for what is good for our own people. As I said in an intervention, when I have been to Scandinavian countries I have never challenged their right to do certain things on certain days or at certain times. It is a privilege to me to go to places and accept them as they are. What right has an American, a Frenchman or anyone else to be dissatisfied with our country because he cannot do exactly as he does at home?

If we carry this ridiculous argument to its logical conclusion, it means that if drinking goes on for twenty-four hours a day in France, we ought, in order to make Frenchmen feel at home, to allow it to go on for twenty-four hours of the day here. It means that if Americans do not find the counterpart in this country of the drinking rules and regulations in America, we are in danger of losing their custom. If people with such views come here, I am prepared to lose their custom, for it is not worth while varying our rules and regulations merely to prove that we can be sociable towards visitors. However, I do not believe that reasonable and rational visitors would expect us to do so.

I have met a large number of Americans, but not one of them has ever suggested that he would not come here again because he could not have the full drinking facilities which some hon. Members suggest he ought to have. Hon. Members have exaggerated the matter. There may be one or two people who express such an opinion, but I believe that the bulk of those who visit our country for business or pleasure are prepared to take our laws as they find them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) asked whether the Minister would have power to introduce these provisions at London Airport if the Uxbridge licensing magistrates were against his doing so. I understand that the Minister's reply was that, if the licensing justices opposed it, the Minister would not do so. I should like to have that point cleared up.

Mr. Watkinson

That was not the point at all. I said that the local licensing justices retained the entire right to decide whether London Airport had a licence or not, and that if they said that it should not have a licence the Bill would not affect the Airport at all, because it only follows a licence and does not precede it.

Mr. Williams

While I accept the Minister's interpretation, it still remains, from my reading of the Bill, that whether or not the Uxbridge licensing justices want an extension beyond the so-called iron curtain of London Airport, the Minister is in a position to impose the Bill upon them. I should like to have that made clear, for there appears to be some misapprehension. What my hon. Friend the Member for Ince wanted was an assurance that the views of the local licensing justices would prevail over the Minister's views.

I want, very deliberately, to repeat a question which has already been addressed to the Minister, and I think we are entitled to an answer. It seems that at present, in the Minister's view, only two airports come within the ambit of the Bill—London Airport and Prestwick Airport. With the development of international air traffic, I feel sure that Manchester will develop tremendously in the course of the next few years. Will these facilities be denied to Manchester, or to Lympne, or Bovingdon, where so many people arrive every day?

Let us assume that Cardiff develops as we expect. Is the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to impose his will upon the Welsh people? There is nothing in the Bill to say that he will not. If I represented a Welsh constituency, I should require a very definite assurance that, without the consultation of the Welsh people in some form or other, they would not be included within the provisions of the Bill.

There is a very narrow issue here which makes the whole Bill ridiculous We are dealing with the short period between a passenger's arrival at London Airport, or Prestwick, and the time when he boards the plane where he can get plenty of booze," or when he arrives at his hotel where he can have plenty of liquor. The narrow issue is whether for that small interval to cater for a few people we should challenge the licensing laws.

We are told that there is no time to deal with capital punishment, the cost of living and other important subjects, yet time can be found for a pettifogging thing like this Bill. I have read the debate in another place. It was sickening, childish and sixth-form in its advocacy and presentation. The House is being denied time to deal with essential things in order that a Bill can be passed to provide additional drinking facilities at London and Prestwick Airports.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

My task is to try to sum up the arguments which my hon. Friends have advanced, and it so happens that those arguments are all one way. I must make it clear, however, that this is not a party matter. As other occasions have shown when the issue came to a Division, 20 or 30 of my hon. Friends have voted the other way. One or two of my hon. Friends were sponsors of the Private Member's Bill from which the present Bill has sprung.

There has been a good deal of argument and discussion tonight. The only point of general agreement which I have been able to record is that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House very much regret that Mr. James Hudson and Mr. Geoffrey Bing were not here to contribute to this debate, as they have contributed to similar debates in the past.

A debate so far-ranging that we have had Lenin and the Bible quoted shows the width of hon. Members' reading and study. I have tried to bring the points which have been made under a few headings.

First, it is right to draw the attention of hon. Members opposite to the fact that there is a background of suspicion with which we on the Labour benches approach Tory legislation connected with drink. It always sets us inquiring. Not everyone, of course, has the experience of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), who must know as well as we— and be conscious of it every day—the long tradition of association of drink interests and Toryism.

We are always suspicious of this, because, as one of my hon. Friends has mentioned, the Tory Party does not publish details of the financial contributions which it receives in its campaigns. One of the first acts of their 1951 counterrevolution was to introduce legislation directly affecting the brewers in respect of the public houses in the New Towns. The suspicion is increased today, because, as several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, neither the Home Secretary nor the Joint Under-Secretary for the Home Department is taking part in the debate today. It is suspicious when the Department of the Minister really concerned with the administration of the licensing laws has no representative here to deal with these points.

A considerable number of the arguments advanced by my hon. Friends came under the general heading of opposition to any extension of facilities for drinking, because they alleged that drink in itself was an evil. Here, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), in an intervention, referred to the greater moderation that there is today in connection with drinking, and the point of disagreement which he had with an hon. Member opposite was as to who should take the credit for that—the temperance movement or changes in social customs not connected with that movement at all.

I myself intervened earlier when the hon. Member for Wimbledon gave way when quoting figures of convictions for drunkenness. May I say—and this is relevant to the argument—that I think everyone in this House is appalled at the figures of convictions for juvenile drunkenness? That is a terrible thing, but our horror at that state of affairs and our readiness to work against it should not mislead us about the position regarding convictions for drunkenness over the whole range of the population. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member said, that during the last ten years there has been an increase, but ten years ago there were millions of men overseas and there was very little drink available for those who were here. The truer comparison of the figures today is that they are considerably less than those of the pre-war years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Open-shaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) challenged the Minister when he talked about restriction. The Minister appeared to limit the facilities to travellers, and my hon. Friend put a point which requires elucidation— what about the officials who are behind the Customs barrier? That was the point, it is a relevant point and should be dealt with.

As to the method proposed in this Bill. again there has been a good deal of discussion on the fact that this Bill takes something away from the licensing authorities. Several hon. Members have raised that point, which I should like to see cleared up. Is it the fact—and if so, is it not wrong in principle—that the Customs should decide whether exemption from the current licensing laws should be given effect to in a certain part of the airport? I know that the argument is that it is not the airport itself but only a certain part of the airport, but is that power given in fact to the Customs rather than to the licensing authorities?

My hon. Friends the Members for Barking (Mr. Hastings), Willesden, West (Mr. Viant), Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) and others have referred to the "thin edge of the wedge." Here we are asked to concede a principle, and the Government must have considered the effect of that. I should like to hear their argument, if it is not a new principle. If it is, 1 should like to know what makes this so different from any other case.

Many of my hon. Friends have drawn attention to the danger of passengers boarding an aircraft after having taken too much to drink. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) both referred to the need for discipline, which may be as necessary among passengers as among members of the crew. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking brought his medical knowledge to bear, and referred to the dangers which would exist. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) referred to the possible difficulties which would face hostesses and stewardesses.

To my mind, the most important argument—because of the source from which it came—was that advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge regarding the danger from passengers who had taken too much liquor. Not only is my hon. Friend an experienced air traveller and a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but he is also an experienced airline pilot, and I think it important that he should present the argument in the way he did.

The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) said he had never seen a drunken person boarding an aircraft. I have not seen one boarding an aircraft but this I have seen, and I do not mind whether it is accepted as an argument by those who support or are against the Bill. I was standing at London Airport behind a man in the queue to board an aircraft to cross the Atlantic. The name of the man is probably known to half of the hon. Members present. It was quite clear that that man was drunk. Just as we were presenting our boarding cards, that man was tapped on the shoulder by an official who said, "Excuse me, Sir, but Sir John D'Albiac would like to have a word with you. He wants to wish you a pleasant trip." The man went through a door and the key was turned and the rest of us went into the aircraft. These things do happen, and that is the type of safety precaution which must be taken.

A number of hon. Members opposite made the point that tourists would go elsewhere were these facilities not provided. That argument was forcibly rejected by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) and others. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge said that in all his experience he had never known a case in which people, when deciding whether they would fly via this country or not, had changed their bookings because they might not get a drink here.

I think it right that we should bear in mind that seven hon. Friends of mine have spoken against the Bill. A number of points have been made by hon. Members to which they are entitled to an answer. Hon. Members on this side of the House have a free vote, because my party regards matters connected with the licensing laws as matters of conscience. I know that the hon. Member for Wimbledon would very much like to be in our party on such occasions as this, because he often has a struggle in his party.

Mr. Black

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman could have heard what I said at the beginning of my speech. I made it quite clear that I was going to follow my conscience—and I am.

Mr. de Freitas

I know, but I am sure that the hon. Member would like to feel that he could persuade some of his hon. Friends to adopt his views, and he is surely very much handicapped in that respect by the attitude of the Government Front Bench, which refuses to remove the Whip. There is still a chance, however. The deputy Chief Whip, new to his office, would be only too glad to be allowed to be persuaded, at the right moment, to allow the Minister to announce that the Whips were off, and that hon. Members opposite could vote according to their consciences. It is a serious matter when an important party in the State does not allow a free vote upon such a matter as this.

I said at the beginning of my speech that this was not a party matter. The Private Member's Bill from which this Bill arose, was backed by some of my hon. Friends, and other of my hon. Friends will doubtless vote for this Bill. It is not important what I do, representing only one six-hundredth of the voting strength of the House. I shall not vote against the Bill, but unless the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has substantial answers to the many points raised by my hon. Friends—and he has over half an hour in which to make his speech—I shall certainly not vote for the Bill.

9.27 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has done the House a good service. It was not an easy task for him to call together the arguments which have been made against this very modest Measure which the Government are asking the House to accept tonight. I shall do my best to try to deal with some of the problems raised and some of the arguments which have been put forward, although I cannot accept what was said by, I think, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), namely, that the onus is upon the Government to show the reason for this Measure. I thought that it was an elementary principle, at any rate of British justice, that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty, and I should have thought that we who are producing this Measure have a right to assume that, against the background of the Bill—which did not come from us originally—the onus is upon the Opposition to prove that it is a bad Measure.

Aspersions have been cast upon the parenthood of the Bill, and in defence of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) I ought to emphasise that he was quite correct in saying that this matter was originally brought forward by the British Travel and Holiday Association before the present Government took office, and was then being considered by what is now my Department. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman who was then Home Secretary had no knowledge of it was probably because it was only in the consultative stage. There was then a change of Government.

It is totally wrong to say—and it would be monstrous to represent—that the Bill has anything to do with the vested interests of the liquor trade. I want to make that point most strongly, because such a suggestion would be unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who promoted a Private Member's Bill upon the same subject on an earlier occasion. The Government wholly agree with the object of this Measure. It will not cut very deeply across basic principles. I readily concede that many of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, and also by some of my hon. Friends, have had their origins in a deep conviction against any form of extension of the drinking laws.

I have some sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) that the majority of speeches in favour of the Measure have been, in the main—there were exceptions—by hon. Members who have done a great deal of travel by air and who know a great deal about the air transport industry, whereas the majority of speeches made against the Measure have been made by Members who are recognised readily as having a deep-rooted feeling against the extension of the liquor laws, rather than a rooted objection to what we are trying to do in this small Measure in the international airports.

Mr. Ede

I notice that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary does not go as far as his hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) who said that if the Labour Government had not gone out of office they would have brought in this Bill. 1 gather from what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary says that he has no evidence that the consultations, as he called them, had got anywhere near that stage.

Mr. Profumo

I should not like to predict what sort of Measure the Labour Party might have produced if it had stayed in office. Knowing what has happened in the past and how divided its members are on major issues of national policy, I suspect that the consultations would probably have come to nothing. I was only seeking to show that the Bill has not been promoted by any vested interest and goes back beyond our time as a Government. For substantial reasons, we have brought forward this modest Measure.

Let me deal with criticisms that have been made against the method proposed in the Bill. Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Uxbridge, made a general point which I can perhaps summarise as follows. The areas to be exempted should be specified in an order made by the local licensing committee and, secondly, it is wrong that any Minister should have power over licensing matters. The short answer is that the method chosen in the Bill seems to be the simplest and most practical way of achieving the object of the Bill, to enable air travellers using foreign-going aircraft, and virtually no one else, to get a drink when they wish to.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) made the point while my right hon. Friend was speaking, and it is correct, that we cannot totally exclude everybody on the other side of the Customs barrier from getting drink. There may be Customs people engaged in operational work at the airport, and indeed there are the barmen themselves; nothing can be done to stop them from getting drinks out of permitted hours. The general object is to make it possible for travellers to get drinks when they think they should have them.

The hon. Member did not indicate that there would be any abuse. I think he has already said so. There may be a few extra people able to get drinks out of hours as a result of the Bill, but surely that is no reason for denying facilities to those to whom we wish to allow them. That argument could be advanced much better by the Opposition than by hon. Members on the Government side of the House. A few people may get this facility who are not people intended to get it, but their number will be very small.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I hope the hon. Gentleman will make it clear that I was not applying my yardstick to the merits or demerits of the case, but to a point of accuracy about the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Profumo

My right hon. Friend said that he hoped that when I spoke I would try to be even more accurate than the hon. Member felt was then the case, and I hope that I have been.

Let me put two questions to the House as they have been put to me. First, who should decide at which airport permitted hours should be relaxed? I suggest that is a national matter rather than a local one, and the reason that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has presented this Bill, and not my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, is that he is in the best position to decide when the international traffic at a particular airport has reached a level sufficient to justify the extension of normal hours for the sale of liquor. I need hardly say that my right hon. Friend has no ambition for power in this unaccustomed field, and that all the power which this Measure will give to him is permission to apply the Bill, when it becomes an Act, to any airport which seems to him to merit it. That is not a very great or dangerous power.

The second question is who should decide the hours of sale to be allowed at each airport? The hon. Member for Uxbridge raised this matter against the background of the licensing authority. If the relaxation of permitted hours is to be sufficient to cover the period during which passengers are regularly arriving or departing, whatever authority is responsible for making such a decision has no option but to grant relaxation over the twenty-four hours. There must be elasticity, because at certain times of the year there are more aeroplanes arriving at night, and they are also always dependent upon the weather. Therefore, we cannot lay down, without going to the licensing authority every day, any specific hours, and we have to make them round the clock. If we do that there is no point in seeking the sanction of the local licensing authority once it has been decided that a particular airport qualifies for special treatment.

Consideration was given to the justices' view prior to the introduction of the Bill, and I must make it clear that, as my right hon. Friend said in his opening remarks, the Bill does not affect in any way the power of the licensing authority with regard to the issue of licences. I think that this is a point which has been worrying hon. Members on both sides of the House. The powers conferred apply only to licensed premises—that is to say to those premises which have been, or may be, duly licensed by the licensing authority—and further, only to such premises as have been provided purely for the use of passengers beyond the Customs barrier. This is the point which the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant) raised when he asked me whether these areas were subject to all the laws which apply to licensed premises. Yes, they are indeed—including the fact that the police may go there without a warrant.

There are other ways in which we might have gone about getting what we want in this Measure. I do not think that we should have been right in doing so. I make this point to the House. There are already special provisions whereby in special circumstances liquor may be sold outside permitted hours, and it seems to me that the establishment of these special circumstances cedes a much greater principle than any principle which has been ceded in the present Measure.

These special circumstances include occasional licences. It is possible to get an occasional licence for some particular function. The second case is under a special order for exemption which relates to special occasions, national or local. The third case is under a general order for exemption, and that is for people attending public markets or following a special trade. This is significant. Some hon. Members have asked, if we are to adopt this procedure at an airport, why not follow it in certain areas where people are working at all hours? That can be done. It is possible to obtain an extension on the ground that the people working there require it. I cannot go as far as including railway termini, because in that case there would be no segregated area and the position would be extremely difficult. But there are conditions under which people who work in special trades can get drinks at abnormal hours of the day or night.

Mr. Remnant

Will my hon. Friend deny that in all the cases he has mentioned the extension is granted by the licensing justices?

Mr. Profumo

I am coming to that.

Mr. Bowen

Will the Minister also concede that none of these covers a period of twenty-four hours or anything like that?

Mr. Profumo

Although these special conditions do not cover twenty-four hours, added to the normal hours they can cover twenty-four hours. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham—and this was a point I was about to make-that it is only after the licence has been granted by the licensing authority that my right hon. Friend, if the Bill is passed, can take any action at all.

Mr. Beswick

Is it not fair to say that the Minister has no right to assume that the licensing authority would grant the licence if it were for the unrestricted hours?

Mr. Profumo

It is open to the licensing authorities, when an airport licensee applies for a renewal of his licence, to refuse to grant it. I agree that they cannot revoke it while it is current unless there has been some misdemeanour, but when the licence comes up for renewal it is within the power of the licensing authority, if it wishes, to decline to renew it. My right hon. Friend can do nothing until a licence has been given by the regular licensing authorities.

Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)

Is it not open to the licensing authority under the present law to extend hours for special occasions? Would not that cover the position?

Mr. Profumo

I am grateful to the hon. Member, because that is the point which I was trying to make. I will not elaborate it, but there are these many special conditions under which drinking hours can be lengthened. It might have been possible for the Government to have brought about the desired conditions at international airports by recourse to one of these special provisions, but we felt that that would be a back-door method of bringing it about and would be wrong. We felt that the right thing to do was to adopt this method. We felt that it would be proper for us to come before the House in the normal way and ask for specific powers.

I want to say a word about the importance of our international airports. Great pains have been taken and, as the House knows, much expenditure has been incurred in order to make London Airport perhaps the greatest airport in the world. It would be nothing short of folly if this great national asset were spoiled or in any way affected because of the lack of an important, and to most foreign travellers a usual, service.

In spite of what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), there is no doubt that the present restrictions on hours of sale of liquor place United Kingdom airports at a disadvantage compared with many other European airports. I ask the House to accept that there is no doubt about that. The only countries in Western Europe where there are any restrictions on these hours are the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland, and even in those countries the licensing hours are more generous than in this country.

Perhaps, as a sidelight on this matter, hon. Members who have taken a considerable part in debating this subject this evening may have had time to read the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, which made quite a point of asking whether there were any ways in which we could make further use of our expensive international airports. Hon. Members who read this Report will see that it made a special point about amenities. I am afraid I have not a copy of the Report with me. I am wholly in agreement with it in that airports will be better the more amenities we have. It is a perfectly acceptable fact, with which I know the House will agree, that today there is very little to choose between the international airlines of the world and not much to choose between the great airports. What counts is what facilities are given—are people made comfortable, are they looked after? I submit that a way of making extra use of these airports is to give them facilities, which, I assure hon. Members, all international passengers would like to have.

I do not say that without these facilities we should turn away hundreds of thousands of dollar-earning passengers— certainly not—but let us see that this great national asset is a credit to the country rather than that people should not go there because of some pettifogging regulations.

Mr. Beswiek

Would the hon. Gentleman answer one question, which rather puzzles me? I agree that this great national asset should have all possible facilities, but why have the Government found time for this Bill and not found time for acceding to the request made by many people that there should be a bonded warehouse at London Airport in order to facilitate through freight traffic?

Mr. Profumo

I think I might be in danger of trespassing the limits of order if I were to discuss something which does not appear in the Bill at all. I know that when hon. Members opposite were in power they churned out laws like sausages, but we on this side of the House have at least found time for this Measure. Surely that augurs well for later Measures which will help this national asset.

I want to make a point in answer to several questions about the difference between airports, seaports, railway stations, and so on. There is really a distinct difference. I do not think I need go into the difference between railway stations and airports, but there is a difference between passengers travelling through seaports and airports.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East and other hon. Members have mentioned this matter, but I should like to put it on record that at airports one does incur more frequent and very irritating, lengthy delays due to conditions which are in no way under the control of those operating the airlines. Often at Question Time we have Questions about fog and F.I.D.O. and so on. At London Airport there is often fog or weather conditions suddenly change, or there is a breakdown of aircraft and technical hitches which take unspecified times to put right. When passengers have gone through the Customs they cannot be sent back to London or back to their homes or hotels because one never knows when the aircraft may be ready to take off.

There is a great deal of truth in the saying that if there is enough blue in the sky to make a pair of airman's trousers, the plane may take off within ten minutes. The passengers have to be kept there. Even though we have managed to make London Airport extremely comfortable that waiting is still immensely boring. That cannot be compared with the conditions at a seaport where; after going through the Customs, the passengers can go on to the ship. Ships are not subject to licences. A passenger can go into a cabin and lie down and can take off his shoes. At an airport the passenger cannot get on to the aeroplane but has to stay around and wait.

Take the difference in regard to incoming passengers. Some people have said that having travelled across the Atlantic or the Channel by sea one might feel in need of a drink. That person has not come down from 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 feet and been flying in atmospheric conditions which are not the same as those on the ground. One may have been whirling around in a fog over London Airport and be extremely tired and frightened when one comes down. One may be only in transit and not destined for London at all, but have to wait there until the time to be taken elsewhere by another aeroplane. If hon. Members can think of any conditions under which a drink could be of more assistance, I should like to know of them.

Seriously, however, it is correct to say that an enormous number of foreign visitors catch their first glimpse of the United Kingdom round the corner of a cumulus cloud. Therefore, we have to do everything we possibly can to make sure that when they reach the ground, they feel welcome and are properly looked after.

Mrs. Slater

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest in all seriousness that we can make people comfortable and feel that they are welcome only if we give them alcoholic drink?

Mr. Profumo

What I suggest in all seriousness is that there are conditions under which even the hon. Lady, with all her charm, could probably not make anybody feel welcome unless she was able to offer them a little alcoholic stimulant.

The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) and other hon. Members ex- pressed fears about the provisions of the Bill in its context of the possible temptations to aircrew. I should make it clear that so far as the British airlines are concerned, the strictest regulations are in existence. In the Corporations and in the independent airlines, pilots are forbidden to drink at all under any conditions when in uniform. Furthermore, as has been mentioned already, no pilot is allowed to take any alcoholic drink for a period of eight hours or more before his aircraft takes off.

Some pilots, of course, are already subjected to temptations of round-the-clock licensing at foreign airports which they have to visit in the course of their tour of duty. However, no difficulty in this respect has shown itself so far. The companies' rules have been most scrupulously adhered to and I trust that I have been able to set at rest the minds of those who have feared that aircrews might be put in a dangerous position as a result of the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) referred to reports in the American Press to the effect that stewards and stewardesses in their association have passed a resolution disapproving of the serving of liquor on aircraft. As far as I am aware, no representations have been made from airline staffs in this country. In any case, this is a separate issue from that involved in the Bill, although it is at least arguable that the extension of facilities at airports might result in a reduction in the amount of drink which is taken on board aircraft.

As one hon. Member pointed out, the danger is that of drinking against the clock. If there is round-the-clock drinking, people are unlikely to say, "Let us have another quick one because they are closing down." A serious point which was raised was the difficulty about people getting on to aircraft in a state of intoxication. It is already an offence by law to enter an aircraft in a state of intoxication. The airline companies have the strictest regulations. The captain of an aircraft has orders to refuse to allow to board an aircraft anybody who looks like being intoxicated. I say this so that everybody should know what may happen. Incidentally, after what the hon. Member for Lincoln has told me, I shall always look askance whenever Sir John D'Albiac comes up to me at the airport and says, "How do you do?" Of course, these provisions concerning intoxicated people boarding aircraft have the force of law, and, if necessary, police can be employed to remove anybody who looks as if he is intoxicated who gets into an aircraft.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) raised some points about the application of the Bill in Scotland. I do not think that he need be very worried. I can assure him that in Prestwick the "iron curtain" is as strong as it is at London Airport and that he will not be able to mingle with people who have not passed the Customs barriers. The main point made by the hon. Member and other hon. Members was on the question of what the situation would be in an area either in Scotland or Wales where it was against the law to drink on Sundays or on certain other days and how the provisions of the Bill would be affected. If a poll is taken under the Temperance (Scotland) Act, 1913, in a parish where an airport is situated and it results in a "no-licence" resolution this will prevail at the airport as elsewhere in the parish, and no sale of liquor will be possible there even under the Bill. The situation would be the same, broadly speaking, in Wales.

I appreciate that the Measure has met with some opposition from those who feel strongly about temperance. I much appreciated the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon. I greatly respect, and so does my right hon. Friend, the sincerity of these views. It is indeed strange that we have had a debate on this matter without the intervention of the former hon. Member for Ealing, North. I feel almost apologetic at commending a Measure of this sort in the absence of Mr. James Hudson. If he is here in more than spirit, if I may put it that way, perhaps it may be of some little consolation to him to know that with the usual scrupulous fair-mindedness of Her Majesty's Government this debate has been arranged to take place during the normal licensed drinking hours.

Seriously, 1 do not think that anyone can be fearful of this modest and simple Measure, or that it will cut across any deep-rooted principles or jealously-guarded standards. No one will be able to take advantage of the Bill by indulging in alcoholic orgies. One cannot stop in the Customs area of an airport longer than the Customs officers require one to stay there. I am certain that we are not ceding any great principles. This is not anything that the House need get extremely excited about and I agree with some hon. Members opposite that perhaps we have even more important things than this Measure to debate. I commend the Bill to the House and I hope that without further delay we can give it a Second Reading.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)

I am anxious to say a few words about the Bill before I record my vote. The Bill appears to me to provide something more than an opportunity for a man to have a pint of beer on an airport. It takes the airport right out of the operation of the law. Clause 1 (2) states that the law dealing with hours of drinking shall not apply to the airport, and it will be within the power of the Minister to grant permission to the aerodrome to sell drink throughout the 24 hours if necessary.

This is a small, one-Clause Bill. A great deal of heat has been generated on the question of a pint. Fifty years ago we were hearing of the imperial pint and the Conservative Party. The same thing applies today. Whenever the question of drink and licensing arises in the House heat is generated, usually by the Conservative Party. It appears that when we are dealing with the brewers and the drinks question we touch the quick of the Tory Party. I disapprove of the Bill and I shall certainly vote against it.

Question put: —

The House divided: Ayes 239, Noes 89.

Division No. 103.] AYES 110.0 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Baldwin, A. E. Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Balniel, Lord Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)
Armstrong, C. W. Barber, Anthony Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)
Ashton, H. Barlow, Sir John Bidgood, J. C.
Astor, Hon. J.J Barter, John Biggs-Davison, J. A.
Atkins, H. E. Beamish, Maj. Tufton Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel
Bishop, F. P. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Neave, Airey
Body, R. F. Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholls, Harmar
Bossom, Sir A. C. Holland-Martin, C. J. Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Holt, A. F. Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J, A. Hope, Lord John Nield, Basll (Chester)
Boyle, Sir Edward Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Brockway, A. F. Houghton, Douglas Oakshott, H. D.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) O'Brien, Sir Thomas
Bryan, P. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Page, R. G.
Burke, W. A. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Parker, J.
Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Partridge, E.
Campbell, Sir David Hughes-Voting, M. H. C. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Carr, Robert Hulbert, Sir Norman Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Cary, Sir Robert Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh.W.) Pitman, I. J.
Channon, H. Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Powell, J. Enoch
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Iremonger, T. L. Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. L.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Profumo, J. D.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ralkes, Sir Victor
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Jenkins, Roy Stechford) Renton, D. L. M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Ridsdale, J. E.
Crouch, R. F, Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Cunningham, Knox Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panaris, N.)
Currie, G. B. H. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Dance, J. C. G. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Roper, Sir Harold
Davidson, Viscountess Keegan, D. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kerby, Capt. H. B. Russell, R. S.
Deedes, W. F. Kerr, H. W. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Digby, Simon Wlngfield Kershaw, J. A. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. McA. Kirk, P. M. Sharpies, R. C.
Doughty, C. J. A. Lagden, G. W. Shepherd, William
Drayson, G. B. Lambton, Viscount Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Spearman, A. C. M.
Duthie, W. S. Langford-Holt, J. A. Speir, R. M.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Leather, E. H. C. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Leavey, J. A. Stevens, Geoffrey
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Leburn, W. G. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Legge-Bourke, Mal. E. A. H. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Stoddart-Soott, Col. M.
Fell, A. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Storey, S.
Fisher, Nigel Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Linstead, Sir H. N. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Fletcher, Erio Lloyd, Ma). Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Freeth, D. K. Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Longden, Gilbert Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Gammans, Sir David Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Glover, D. MacColl, J. E. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Godber, J. B. Macdonald, Sir Peter Timmons, J.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Touche, Sir Gordon
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. McKibbin, A. J. Turner, H. F. L.
Gough, C. F. H. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Graham, Sir Fergus Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Vane, w. M. F.
Grant, W. (Woodside) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Vickers, Miss J. H.
Green, A. MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Vosper, D. F.
Gresham Cooke, R. Macpherson, Nlall (Dumfries) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maddan, Martin Wall, Major Patrick
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Gurden, Harold Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Harris, Reader (Heston) Markham, Major Sir Frank. Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Marlowe, A. A. H. Wigg, George
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marples, A. E. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Marshall, Douglas Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Mathew, R. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hay, John Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Winterbottom, Richard
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Mawby, R. L. Wood, Hon. R.
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. Zilliacus, K.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Hicks-Beach, MaJ. W. W. Molson, A. H. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Moore, Sir Thomas Mr. Studholme and
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Mulley, F. W. Mr. Redmayne.
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Nairn, D. L. S.
Ainsley, J. W. Blyton, W. R. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Awbery, S. S. Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Beswick, F. Brown, Thomas (Ince) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)
Black, C. W. Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Fernyhough, E.
Blackburn, F. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Finch, H. J.
Blenkinsop, A. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Forman, J. C.
Granfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McKay, John (Wallsend) Royle, C.
Grey, C. F. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Short, E. W.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Hamilton, W. W. Mahon, S. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Hannan, W. Mann, Mrs. Jean Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mason, Roy Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Hastings, S. Medlicott, Sir Frank Sorensen, R. W.
Hayman, F. H. Monslow, W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Bwly Regis) Moody, A. S. Swingler, S. T.
Herbison, Miss M. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Sylveser, G. 0.
Holman, P. Mort, D. L. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Holmes, Horace Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Usborne, H. C.
Hoy, J. H. Oram, A. E. Viant, S. P.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Oswald, T. Wade, D. W.
lsaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, w.) West, D. G.
Johnson, James (Rugby) Pearson, A. Wilkins, W. A.
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Willey, Frederick
Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Probert, A. R. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Proctor, W. T. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Kenyan, C. Randall, H. E. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
King, Dr. H. M. Rankin, John Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Lindgren, G. S. Remnant, Hon. P.
Logan, D. G. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mabon, Dr. J. D. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Mr. McGhee and
Mclnnes, J. Ross, William Mr. Emrys Hughes.

Resolution agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.