§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill is, I feel, a liberalising one, which I shall endeavour to show in the course of my remarks.
In the Shops Act, 1950, Part I, and Part IV dealing with Sunday trading, are found the governing rules for the closing of shops in airports. In the Bill it is proposed to exempt traders at certain airports as designated by the Minister of Aviation. The Bill does not affect Part II of the 1950 Shops Act, which deals with conditions of employment. Under present legislation, shops are required to close from the early evening and half a day once a week, and they are also required to close on Sundays except in Scotland. There are Sections of the Shops Act, 1950, which provide for extended hours of trading during the season at holiday resorts and certain types of trading on Sundays in England and Wales.
I shall now attempt to go through the Bill Clause by Clause to explain some of its provisions. Clause 1 (1, a), taken with subsection (2), exempts all shops in parts of airports ordinarily used by passengers. Paragraph (b) is necessary since, under Section 67 of the Shops Act, the only provisions which affect Scotland are those in respect of barbers' and hairdressers' establishments which at present are prohibited from operating on a Sunday with the exception of Jewish barbers, who do not work on a Saturday. This paragraph will exempt Scottish airports on Sundays. Paragraph (c) covers the sale of goods from mobile trolleys and it is needed to make quite clear that exemptions given by the Bill extend to sales effected in areas in an airport other than actual shops. It helps to clarify Section 12 of the Shops Act.
Subsection (2) excludes from the exemption shops in public enclosures. Subsection (3), which is not particularly clear, preserves for the benefit of airport establishments the exemption conferred by Section 59 of the Shops Act, 1950, from prosecution under three fairly ancient Acts. They are the Sunday Fairs 641 Act, 1448, the Act of the third year of His late Majesty King Charles I—namely, 1627, Chapter 3 of the further Reformation of Sundry Abuses Committed on the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday—and the Sunday Observance Act, 1677.
Since Section 59 conferring this exemption comes within Part IV of the 1950 Act, this subsection is needed to prevent the exemption from being removed by Clause 1 of the present Bill which, so far as international airports are concerned. in effect repeals Part IV. Section 59 of the 1950 Act refers, not to the opening of shops as such, but to the carrying on of trade and business. Hence the present subsection refers correspondingly to paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (1) and not to paragraph (a).
Subsection (4) is a stock provision providing the Minister with power to vary or revoke any order he has made under the Acts. Changing circumstances might mean that the Minister would want to withdraw designation of any particular aerodrome. Subsection (5) provides that orders designating international airports shall be made by Statutory Instrument. This means that such orders will be printed and published as Statutory Instruments. No provision is made for them to be laid before Parliament or to be annulled by negative Resolution of the House. Subsection (6) accords to expressions in this Measure the same meanings as they have in the Shops Act, 1950. Clause 2 (2) states that the Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland since the Shops Act, 1950, does not extend there.
There is no doubt that these limitations at international airports are singularly inappropriate in this modern age, especially so at Heathrow and other major airports in the United Kingdom. Traffic through international airports fluctuates tremendously, even allowing for ordinary seasonal peaks. It is safe to say that about 75 per cent. to 85 per cent. of ordinary passengers pass through the airports at times when shops are normally closed. Even taking twenty-four hours a day, there are considerable numbers of transit and other passengers awaiting embarkation. There is no doubt that there would be a demand for increased facilities, but I should make clear that under the Bill there is no 642 compulsion for traders to keep open all round the clock. In fact, there are more restrictions at London Airport and other airports in the country than at seaside resorts, exhibitions, and so on.
I visited London Airport the other day and went round all the shops concerned—not, of course, those on the airport roof, which do not come under the provisions of the Bill. There are at Heathrow twenty shops, some of which sell goods of a very high standard and are a credit to our export trade. I visited those in the new extension. They are well laid out, pleasing to the eye, and undoubtedly attract customers. I was told by the airport manager that not very long ago one American spent £167 in one hour while waiting for an aircraft.
There is no doubt that many travellers waiting at these airports have currency they wish to get rid of and time to look around and buy quite a lot of British goods. It must be somewhat galling to find a shop hermetically sealed when one has the time to waste and money to spend and cannot buy anything. I am confident that there is cogent necessity to bring our major airports into line with those of other nations.
Prestige in these days counts for a great deal, especially with the travelling public. Once they have these facilities at other airports, they expect the same in this country. In its Fifth Report, Cmnd. 233 of 1960–61, the Estimates Committee stated, in paragraph 84 that it considered:That passengers using a major airport are frequently irritated and inconvenienced when shops are closed.It added:This is a service which ought to be provided for passengers.It could probably be argued that the additional cost would not be worth while, but surely this is a matter for experience and time to test, especially when one considers the cheap night fares that are available during the summer months. I remember taking an overnight trip, not so very long ago, to Malta, on a Sunday. I arrived at the terminal airport, where everything was hermetically sealed. We arrived at Rome Airport at 3 a.m., where everything was open. That illustrates the 643 difference that exists between conditions in this country and elsewhere.
I notice that the Ministry of Aviation, in House of Commons Paper 46 of 20th December last, commenting on Recommendation 19, said that the Ministerwill continue to keep in close consultation with the concessionaires on the matter as the use of airports at nights increases.This I hope my right hon. Friend will do.
On the question of facilities for those who man these shops, it could well mean that their amenities are inadequate if they have longer hours. I can assure the House that I went into this matter very carefully, and that conditions in every way, at London Airport, for example, are those required by present legislation. On the question of trading facilities, I was given to understand that tenders for shops at London Airport are for five years and are not continuous on completion, which, I think, is a fair enough practice. Nor would the increased hours of opening affect the general public, due to distance from normal shopping centres and the fact that the general public do not have access to all of them.
I wish now to refer briefly to the question of personal exports. This scheme operates in many shops in this country, but the goods have to be delivered to the port of embarkation. There is no reason why shops at London or other airports should not be enabled to increase this facility, and I think that if the Bill goes through, every assistance will be given by the Customs and Treasury to assist the Ministry of Aviation to improve and extend this very valuable asset to our export trade.
I understand that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has no objection to the Bill, and that the employers' side of the Retail Distributive Trades Conference have also been consulted. It is not thought that they have any rooted objection. The local authorities have also been consulted, and, as far as I am aware, have no substantial objection to the Bill.
In conclusion, may I say that the Bill is a small Measure to increase the convenience of the air travelling public and bring our own international airports in line with those of other countries. The 644 public expect these added facilities, and why not? We depend a good deal on the tourist trade, and anything that is designed to assist these facilities should be welcome. Today, there is no doubt that many foreign travellers can so easily divert themselves to other airports out of the sheer frustration of the kind which they sometimes experience in this country. The increased revenue would be welcome, but the good will engendered by this proposal probably outweighs the pecuniary advantages in trade. It is, in fact, a hidden asset.
Furthermore, there is the slight—perhaps more than that—assistance given to some of our better-known exports, especially of china, pottery and similar goods. There is no doubt that many travellers like to buy goods which are traditionally made in the countries they visit. This is especially so abroad, and why should we not do likewise at London Airport and elsewhere in the United Kingdom?
Finally, I do not think that this Measure would place any undue hardship on shopkeepers. It would not take away trade from other shops in the area because of distance, and, in regard to Sunday, it should not offend 99 per cent. of the public. The Bill is sound common sense in the 1960s and is designed to help our exports, to bring our airports into line with international usage, and to give adequate consideration to the travelling public, especially tourists—something which, I submit, is long overdue. Britain's international airports, and especially London Airport, should be a shop window of which this country should be proud.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I rise only for a moment warmly to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) in presenting the Bill to the House. I wish that it applied to a far wider field than the airports, but as that would be a controversial proposition I will keep away from it.
International air travel today annihilates time. It may be 6 p.m. at London Airport, but it is not necessarily 6 p.m. in the mind of a traveller who has just flown at 600 m.p.h.; as far as he is concerned, it may be the middle of the afternoon or even lunchtime. We 645 have already realised that special facilities are needed for the provision of intoxicating liquor at airports, although I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) gives me an old-fashioned look when I mention the subject. We found that those special facilities were necessary in an international airport because we realised that what was 10 p.m. to us might be only 6 p.m. to a passenger who has flown from the United States, five hours back in time, to London Airport. We therefore, found it necessary to give facilities for people to obtain refreshment throughout the twenty-four hours.
The same provisions, I am sure, ought to apply to these shops. My hon. and gallant Friend said—and this is true—that any passenger leaving an aeroplane is automatically conditioned by his first landfall in a new country. He wants to buy for his wife and children some souvenir or memento of his visit to that country. This applies even to those who are only in transit and who do not leave the airport. They like to say, "I bought this when I was at London Airport in the middle of the night". But in fact the passenger finds that the shops are closed, and trade is lost. The prestige of the country suffers. Moreover, the passenger gets back on his plane, when it takes off again, with a very strong feeling of frustration against the British people. When he lands two hours later in Rome he buys a memento for his wife and children because the shops there are open. In nearly all the other international airports in the world these facilities are provided round the clock.
I reiterate what I said about air travel annihilating time. It is no longer a clock, it is like a spinning wheel. Anyone Who lands at an airport, wherever it is in the world, often feels in his or her own mind that the time is totally different from that which is shown on the clock in the airport. If a passenger gets out of bed at 8 a.m., goes to an airport and flies 2,000 miles, travelling for four hours, then four hours in time appears to have vanished, and as far as he is concerned it is only midday when he lands. Similarly, if he takes off at noon he may feel at his next port of call that it is only 2 p.m., and he is irritated if he sees that the airport clock gives the time as 6.30 p.m. and that he 646 cannot buy anything because all the shops are closed. Time is not a relevant reason in this respect for deciding whether the shops should be open or closed.
I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend say that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers does not object to the Bill and that neither the retail distributors' associations nor the local authorities object to it. I am certain that in this second-half of the twentieth century, anybody who lands at an international airport in this country ought to be offered the facilities which he finds almost anywhere else in the world.
I hope that the House will give the Bill a warm welcome.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
This is a small Bill. It would be unwise to exaggerate its importance. Nevertheless, there is no reason why the House should give the Bill a Second Reading if, as I believe, the need for it is not fully demonstrated, if it is based upon principles which many people would regard with disfavour, and if it is introduced, as I hope to show, at a singularly inappropriate time.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), who moved the Second Reading so persuasively, said a good deal about the excellent character of the shops at Heathrow. I do not wish for one moment to differ from him in that respect. I am a very frequent air traveller. I very frequently go out from and came into Heathrow. I know the shops there. I know the layout of the airport very well. I agree with all that has been said about the character of the trade carried on there. There could be no possible objection to these shops being open all the time++ if the only matter to be considered was the character of the shops and the business carried on there.
The Bill does not raise the question whether these are good shops or bad shops. It seeks to establish an entirely new, and I suggest undesirable, principle as to the hours during which these shops are to be permitted to trade in competition with, and I suggest in unfair competition with, other shops in 647 the district and elsewhere. Hon.' Members will judge from what I have said that I am critical both of the contents of the Bill and of the time chosen for its introduction.
I do not propose to address the House at length, but I should like to deal with what I have to say in two main sections. The first section is the Bill in so far as it relates to weekday trading. The second section is the Bill in so far as it relates to Sunday trading. I think that my hon. and gallant Friend and the whole House will agree that the considerations in respect of weekday trading are in some respects different from the considerations which apply in the minds of many people to Sunday trading and the opening of shops on Sunday.
As regards weekday trading, as I understand the Bill's proposals—I have carefully followed the exposition given by my hon. and gallant Friend—the Bill would make it legally possible for these shops to be open twenty-four hours a day. However, my hon. and gallant Friend went on to point out—he may well be right—that shopkeepers are likely to open only for such number of hours as is justified by the demand. My hon. and gallant Friend therefore expressed the opinion that in practice, as distinct from in law, the shops would not open for twenty-four hours a day.
This may very well be correct. It must depend on something about which we are not certain at the moment, namely, what the demand would prove to be if the Bill became an Act and the shops were free to open twenty-four hour a day. We are entitled to treat the matter for the purpose of this debate on the basis that the House is being asked to legalise the opening of these shops for twenty-four hours round the clock. We must examine the proposal from that point of view.
This would be unfair and undesirable, for several reasons, which I shall attempt to show are good and sufficient.
First, we have to remember that the customers of these shops do not by any means consist solely of people engaged in air travel, or international air travel. Vast numbers of visitors of all kinds came to Heathrow on both weekdays and Sundays in order to see the buildings, and to watch the aircraft going 648 out and coming in. No one would wish to discourage those large parties from seeing what is, after all, the country's major airport, and one of the major airports in the world—
§ Commander Kerans
This Bill does not include the spectators' enclosure at Heathrow. Those shops are not covered by it.
§ Sir C. Black
No, I am quite clear on that, but there are a great many other shops at the airport, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, and those shops are not on the far side of the barrier through which air travellers alone are allowed to pass. They are in what might be described as the public part of the airport, which is frequented by people who have come to meet friends who have arrived by air, friends who are about to go on a journey; and by people who go there to pass the time of day. Anyone who is familiar with Heathrow knows that hundreds, perhaps thousands of such people visit during the day those parts of the airport in which the shops are situated.
That means that we are now being asked to legalise what I submit is an entirely unfair form of competition with other tradesmen in the district. Let us take anyone living in the vicinity of Heathrow. We are living in days in which many, if not most families have motor cars, so that travel is not so difficult as it used to be. If this Bill were enacted, anybody who failed to make a purchase at his usual shop during normal trading hours would merely have to go to Heathrow and, to the detriment of the trade of his normal shopkeeper, who is confined to the normal shopping hours, could there satisfy his needs outside normal shop hours. I suggest that is grossly unfair to the other traders—
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
Would my hon. Friend agree that fairness might be reconstituted by removing any farm of hourly limitation on any shop, provided that there was a limitation on the number of hours any individual could work in the shop?
§ Sir C. Black
I am not sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, how far I should be in order in developing that idea, but it is a proposal that I should be quite willing to examine with an open mind. That, 649 of course, would remove my objection to discrimination against the normal shopkeeper in favour of the Heathrow shopkeeper. It is with the inequality of treatment between the two that I am concerned, not the general question of shop hours, which I am quite sure I should be out of order in attempting to discuss now—
§ Sir D. Glover
I have listened to my hon. Friend's argument with great interest. It is valid to a point but, as a frequent user of Heathrow—or London Airport, as I call it—I am wondering where the shops are about which my hon. Friend is so concerned. There are, in fact, very few shops close to London Airport.
§ Sir C. Black
I am afraid that I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. I visit London Airport probably as often as most people, and anyone who drives down the arterial road that leads from Hammersmith to the airport must realise that there are a number of parades of shops that are in such a position as to suffer in their trade if the concession that this Bill seeks to make were conferred on the London Airport shopkeepers. Of that, I am in no doubt at all.
I submit that this proposal is not only unfair to the other traders in the neighbourhood, who would continue to be bound by the normal shop hours, but that it is unfair to persons who are employed in the shops at London Airport.
It has been suggested—the phrase used was not too definite—that the trade union concerned did not have any particularly strong objection to this. It does not follow that that comparative lack of objection applies equally to everyone, for instance, to those employed in staffing the shops concerned who may be required, as a result of the proposal, to open their shops at hours when most citizens prefer to be in bed. It is not sufficient merely to say that the trade union has the job of safeguarding the workers in these shops, for they, like other people, wish to work during ordinary hours and it is not reasonable, all the year round, to put them in the position of being under pressure. or even compulsion, to work hours when most people prefer to be at home.
650 Surely it might also impose unfairness on some of London Airport's shopkeepers. It has been rightly said that if the Bill became law no shopkeeper would be required by law to open for any particular hours. I accept that that would be the position. But hon. Members who know anything about the struggle that went on years ago to establish a system of shop hours know that where some shops in a shopping area open for excessively long hours, other shopkeepers in the same area who may prefer to close during some of those hours are more or less compelled, by virtue of the competition from the traders who stay open, to remain open themselves for similar hours.
Therefore, although by law no shopkeeper at London Airport would have to open for any particular hours, if it once became the practice for some of them to open virtually around the clock, those who do not want to do so will, by force of circumstance, be compelled to stay open if they are to maintain their power of competition.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
I do not quite follow this part of my hon. Friend's argument. Is he really implying that a great many shops at London Airport are selling the same kind of goods and are thereby in active competition with each other? They cannot be in competition with the shops outside because, as was pointed out, the shops outside would already be shut.
§ Sir C. Black
While there may not be many shops where, in respect of all the goods they offer, they are in competition, they are directly competing with other shops selling some of the same kind of goods, for there is a great deal of overlapping in goods that are sold between one shop and another. A great many shops sell similar lines at London airport. It is clear that if some shops open around the clock other shops may feel constrained to do so.
There is a drafting point in the Bill which gives me some doubt and about which we may have some elucidation when guidance on the Bill is given by the Ministry concerned. I refer to the phrase…a substantial amount of international passenger traffic.651 I am not clear exactly what is the full import of that phrase. For example, London Airport carries a substantial amount of international passenger traffic. There can be no doubt about that. But many of these international travellers do not stop at London Airport. They may have booked on through-tickets to Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Belfast and will proceed to those destinations not by the international plane which brought them to London Airport but by one of the internal lines that operate between London and the other centres.
Are these passengers, when they arrive at Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, to be classified for this purpose as international passengers at those other airports, and thereby set up a claim that those other airports are carrying a substantial amount of international passenger traffic? We ought to be a great deal more clear than we are at the moment as to exactly what is the extent and scope intended to be covered by this Bill.
I now come to a further point. On the logic of my hon. Friend's argument, why does he apply his Bill only to airports and not to seaports? Is it not a fact that very large numbers of people coming on long sea journeys and arriving at Southampton or at Liverpool come in at hours when the shops at Southampton—
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have read the Bill with care and I see nothing in it about seaports. Is it in order for my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) to continue on this line?
§ Sir C. Black
I would point out to my hon. Friend that this is not a Third Reading debate. It is a Second Reading debate. Surely I am justified in suggesting that to be put into satisfactory form there are things that the Bill ought to include which are not in it, as well as things that are in it that ought not to be in it.
I do not want to develop the point at any great length, but, having listened 652 to my hon. and gallant Friend carefully in his Second Reading speech, it seems to me that the logic of everything that he said would apply quite equally to international seaports, like Southampton or Liverpool, as to airports like London Airport. Why, on his own argument, he does not suggest that the shops in the dock area at Southampton or Liverpool should have the same facility I cannot understand.
§ Sir D. Glover
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) is making a good argument but it is not a valid argument. As I understand it, a passenger liner having cabin accommodation, as a rule does not decant its passengers on to the cold quayside until a reasonable hour, about half-past seven or eight o'clock in the morning, and then there is usually a train to take them to London, whereas at international airports people are all the time being decanted out into the cold, hard world with no facilities. At seaports this situation does not arise. Very few people at seaports are decanted on to the quay at queer hours as happens at airports.
§ Sir C. Black
I agree to this extent, that ships generally seek to arrive at such a time as people can be disembarked during convenient hours of daylight. But that is by no means an invariable rule. It seems to me that the logic which is being used to try to justify this concession for shops at international airports is certainly an argument that could be applied with some, if not equal, force to the case of seaports also. However, I will not develop that argument further, because I do not want to speak at undue length.
I now come to the second aspect of the matter on which I want to say a little, and that is the proposal in the Bill that the ordinary rules for the closing of shops on Sundays should not apply to these international airport shops. Here, of course, we come to a matter where the arguments are not based merely on the considerations of expediency on which I have spoken so far, but, so far as many people are concerned, involve questions of deeply-held religious conviction.
I do not think it would be appropriate for me at this comparatively late hour to speak at length on the considerations 653 which govern Sunday observance, but I will say that there is a substantial body of people in this country—far more, I tell my hon. and gallant Friend, than the 1 per cent. of people who, he suggested, had convictions about Sunday trading—who look with disfavour upon the continuing efforts in this House to eat away the laws which generally govern Sunday observance in this country and to make Sunday more and more a day on which trading is permitted and takes place.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
While, of course, one has the greatest respect for people who hold those views, they are not obliged themselves to trade with the shops. Does my hon. Friend think that they should try to impose their views upon others who hold different views?
§ Sir C. Black
The answer to that is that we in the House obviously have the duty of seeking to impose upon, the public, if I may use the phrase adopted by my hon. and learned Friend, those regulations which we believe to be right and in the best interests of the public. As I understand it, the logic of my hon. and learned Friend's intervention is that all laws which have to do with Sunday observance ought to be swept away because, according to his reasoning, any such laws are an imposition by people holding religious convictions on the activities and habits of people who do not. That is an argument which I could not accept for a moment and which would not, I think, find general acceptance in the House or in the country.
I assure the House—I do not think that hon. Members will seriously disagree with this, whatever their own views may be—that there are very many people of the highest principles who hold the view that it is undesirable that further opportunities for Sunday trading should be given in this country. They would, for that as well as for the other reasons I have mentioned, oppose the proposal which my hon. and gallant Friend makes.
What amazes me is the moment chosen for the introduction of this Bill. At this very time, there is sitting a Departmental Committee with the following purpose,To review the law, other than the Licensing Acts, relating to Sunday entertainments, 654 sports, pastimes and trading in England and Wales, and to make recommendations.To seek to make an alteration in the law affecting Sunday trading at the very time when the whole matter is under review by a Departmental Committee which will report in due course is, to say the least of it, to choose a singularly inappropriate and unfortunate moment.
I should have expected my hon. and gallant Friend to think it better to leave his proposals regarding Sunday out of the Bill and confine its provisions to the weekday activities of the shops, taking the opportunity to tender his evidence, as no doubt he is entitled to do, to the Departmental Committee considering the matter. It clearly comes within the terms of reference of the Departmental Committee to consider airport shops along with all other establishments in which trade is carried on. I should assume that the Committee would certainly consider this aspect of Sunday trading and include in its report the conclusions it reached. To ask the House of Commons to legislate at this moment in favour of opening the door to further Sunday trading when such a Departmental Committee is sitting seems to me to be singularly inappropriate.
I hope that the House will decline to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
With respect to him, I thought that the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) in the first half of his speech were so extraordinarily bad and wrong that I suspected that the real reason behind his opposition to the Bill was to be found in the feelings he expressed in the second half of his speech.
As I understand it, my hon. Friend's first point was that the competition from these shops which would be likely to remain open at London Airport would be unfair to the local people.
While he was speaking I asked myself whether in Feltham—I see that the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) is present to guard the interests of his constituents—it would be possible to buy the sort of things which are to be sold in the shops at London Airport that it is expected will keep open. It is a rather ludicrous—
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
May I interrupt the hon. Member to remind him that London Airport joins not only Feltham, but Heston and Isleworth, Hayes and Harlington, West Drayton, Yiewsley and a number of other boroughs?
§ Mr. Kershaw
Certainly. I was merely complimenting the hon. Gentleman on being present to look after the interests of those living in his constituency.
Even if it is to be imagined that in the parts the hon. Member mentioned they sell the sort of goods to be found in the shops at London Airport, it is slightly ludicrous to imagine long-distance air travellers, who may be in need of a packet of razor blades or of a sweater to guard themselves against the English climate, jumping into motor cars and going out into the wastes of Hayes and Harlington to start shopping for such things in the middle of the night.
§ Sir C. Black
My hon. Friend has not followed my argument with due care, if that is what he is now dealing with. It is not so much a case of the international air travellers going to other shops to buy, as of people in the district outside, who cannot shop where they normally shop because the shops are closed owing to the restriction on shopping hours, coming to London Airport to buy from the shops there.
§ Mr. Kershaw
That argument is equally fatuous, because it produces a ludicrous picture of housewives jumping into motor cars and going, at considerable trouble and danger to themselves, into the middle of London Airport and parking their cars—if they stay longer than 30 minutes it will cost them 4s.—to buy for their husband the kipper which they forgot to buy from the ordinary shop. That is not the sort of thing which will happen.
The second argument was that shopkeepers will have to submit to the rigours of competition and will have to stay open longer than at the moment. As was pointed out in the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), competition can arise only where other shops are selling the same goods. In point of fact, there is one shop which sells each sort of commodity and the com 656 petition suffered by Messrs. Jaeger selling woolly sweaters in the middle of the night is not likely to keep up young ladies beyond the time when they would normally be up in any case.
London Airport is uncomfortable and bad enough as it is. It is one of the worst international airports at the present time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not blaming London Airport for this. There is no airport in Europe which anticipated the extraordinary growth of air traffic which has taken place. London Airport got off the mark a little quicker than some and so, necessarily, it is a little smaller in comparison with the traffic which is carried and, necessarily, it is a little more inconvenient. One has to put up with these things. There are other international airports which do not carry so much traffic, and which were built rather more for the future, where one can lose oneself wandering about in vast marble corridors. But there is no doubt that there is discomfort at the present time at London Airport which is realised, because one finds that the authorities have put courteous messages on the walls saying that they are extremely sorry for the discomfort which passengers are suffering, and which they hope will be obviated before long. This is one way in which passengers could be made a little more comfortable at London Airport.
I think that the point about Sunday observance is a very small one. This does not represent a large breach of the principle which we respect, and the interest taken in it by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon is well known. I should not have thought that principle would be breached at an international airport. The comparison with ships was not a sound one, because ships do not arrive at their ports every ten minutes and in the middle of the night as do aeroplanes at airports. In any case, passengers on ships are looked after and can buy what they require on the boat where such articles would be available.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I must begin by apologising to the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) for the fact that I was unavoidably unable to be here to 657 listen to his speech, but I have heard a good deal of the debate and it is right that I should intervene to indicate my views on the subject.
I would like, in particular, to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), who is opposing the Bill on grounds which I am sure all of us who appreciate his convictions must recognise. My own view is that the Bill should receive a Second Reading. It is desirable in the interests of the general international comity of nations that we should make available facilities at London Airport for the convenience of international traffic which passes through it. That is part of our duty as a civilised nation.
It seems to me that the regulations under the Shops Acts, in so far as they affect shops at an airport, are quite different from the general considerations which should apply to our standard legislation in the Shops Acts generally. After all, this concerns a very limited number of shops open at London Airport or at any other airport which serves international traffic. They are of quite a different order from shops open throughout the country for the general mass of inhabitants. The more international traffic by air develops, the more necessary it is that we should conform to the ordinary reasonable requirements of the passengers.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon raised two objections. Like him, I have had a letter on this subject from the Lord's Day Observance Society, and like him I am always disposed to take a very sympathetic attitude to any observations that are sent to me by this society for the protection and preservation of our traditional regard for the Sabbath. I do not yield to the hon. Gentleman in support of his general thesis that the Sabbath as we have come to observe it in this country is something on which we should pride ourselves and which we should cherish and regard as part of our national heritage.
On the other hand, I think that it is going too far to take the rather arrogant attitude that the British—for the Scottish idea of the Sabbath is even stricter than that of the English—idea of the Sabbath is something inherently superior to the continental idea of the Sabbath. I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon is 658 not about to leave us, although he has risen from his seat, because I am anxious to deal with this part of his speech.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
The hon. Member refers to the continental Sabbath. Would he also like to have in this country the continental working week, which is six days?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not see what that has to do with the subject and I do not propose to answer that question. I shall confine myself to dealing with the very interesting observations of the hon. Member for Wimbledon.
While we are perfectly entitled to cherish our own traditional British view about the observance of the Sabbath, and to think that it is something upon which we can rightly pride ourselves as being distinguishable from the continental observance of Sunday, it is going too far to suggest, as the hon. Member for Wimbledon suggested, that there is something of inherent religious sanctity about the way in which we observe the Sabbath. I would, therefore, remind the House that on the Continent there are other bodies of Christians whose views about the observance of Sunday on grounds of Christianity are at least entitled to as much respect as those of our own. There is no warrant for saying that the British idea of Sabbath observance has some religious Christian sanction that can be denied to the kind of continental Sunday, which is not based on agnostic principles but which has its roots in a very different kind of Christian tradition. I do not think that we need attach too much weight to the arguments of the hon. Member far Wimbledon on that score.
It seems to me that we are not, in accepting the principles of the Bill, invading in any way the traditional observance of the Sabbath in this country. What we are doing is, I think, equally important. We are recognising that there are obligations of international comity which not merely justify us but require us to bring the amenities of our international airports into line with the kind of conditions and facilities that international passengers, many of whom are Christians with the same upbringing as the hon. Gentleman, are entitled to expect at international airports, whether in Europe, the United States of America or other parts of the world.
659 The shopping facilities at an international airport are quite distinctive from the shopping facilities elsewhere. One might reasonably assume that most people do not travel by air on a Sunday in preference to a weekday, unless there is a compelling reason which requires them to do so. My experience, which can be verified by the examination of any international air timetable, is that, on the whole, international air transport, like railway transport in this country, is rather more difficult, more tiresome and more irksome on a Sunday than on a weekday. I cannot see any reason based either on the question of competition with the traders of Feltham or still less on religious principles for denying those who have to travel by air on Sundays reasonable facilities which, as the result of the comity of international relations, have been established at international airports throughout the world.
§ Sir D. Glover
Is not one difficulty that of deciding what is Sunday? When people are travelling at the present rate of travel, and land, so far as they are concerned it may not be Sunday. There is also this argument. Supposing there is a Jewish assistant in a shop serving a Moslem who has just arrived from Karachi, there could be hardship. They 'would not be breaking the Sabbath because for them the Sabbath occurs on a different day of the week.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is a minor but additional reason for not wanting to oppose the Bill. We have a duty as legislators to take into account the legitimate views with regard to religious observance not only of Christians, as the hon. Member has said, but of Jews and Moslems and, indeed, of those who have no particular religious beliefs. Therefore, while, in general, I have some sympathy with the view which the hon. Member for Wimbledon has expressed, my own view is that the overriding requirements not only of international comity but, I would also say, of Christian charity would be in support of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman has also drawn attention to the fact that there is indeed a Departmental Committee of the Home Office at present in session conducting an inquiry into the law relating to trading on Sundays, and we are all looking forward with very great interest to 660 seeing what that Departmental Committee will have to report. It would be wrong to anticipate what its conclusions will be, but I think that he would be a very rash person who thought that the recommendations of that Committee would be in favour of tightening up the present regulations rather than in favour of a method of liberalisation, or, at any rate, rationalisation of the present legislation.
I cannot really believe that if the House decides to give a Second Reading to the Bill we shall in any way impair the advantages to be derived from the Report of that Departmental Committee, and I cannot really think that, whatever that Departmental Committee may recommend to this House, or whatever this House may eventually decide to do as a result of those recommendations, we shall really be effecting the validity of those recommendations by passing the Bill, which is dealing with a very limited and specific problem, and for which I think, whether we join the Common Market or not, there are very good grounds.
I would only say that if we do join the Common Market, then it would seem to me that the reasons for having a Measure of this kind on our Statute Book would be even more compelling and overwhelming than they are at present.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)
I think that before we vote on this Bill we should hear something from the Department concerned. We have heard nothing so far, and I fear that we shall not hear anything before a decision is taken on the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)
In the very limited time available I did my best to indicate the Government's view by nodding at practically every sentence uttered by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher).
§ Mr. Kenyon
I cannot allow the Bill to go through on the nod.
I rather think that my hon. Friend minimised to a great extent—
§ Commander Kerans
rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question 661 be now put, but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. Kenyon
—the effect of this Bill, in view of the fact that the Departmental Committee is now sitting I feel very strongly that as the Government have set up such a committee to consider all these different questions relating to the trading conditions in this country we should wait till it has considered every aspect before we make a decision.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), who has brought forward the Bill, has placed his views before the House. He could have put before the Departmental Committee everything he has said in the House today. There are one or two questions which I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman before I sit down. He said that the trade union concerned was not in opposition to the Bill. When was that trade union approached and who approached it?
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.