HC Deb 18 May 1962 vol 659 cc1730-65

1.20 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after "closing" to insert: and of Part IV of that Act (which relate to Sunday trading)".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

I think that it would be convenient to take with this Amendment the other two Amendments namely, in page 1, line 20, at the end to insert: (3) Subsection (2) of section fifty-nine of the Shops Act, 1950 (which relates to restriction on Sunday trading under certain earlier enactments), shall have effect in relation to anything done in England or Wales in accordance with paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section as it has effect in relation to the carrying on of any business as mentioned in the said subsection (2). and in the Title, line 3, after "I", to insert "and Part IV".

Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If the first two Amendments were accepted the Title would require the addition of the words "and Part IV".

May I start by saying that it gives me the greatest possible pleasure to say that my hon. and gallant Friend's original Bill, as it then stood and before it went into Committee, was as good a Measure as it was possible to put before the House? What did it do? It did two things. It stated that designated airports should be treated separately for shopping purposes, and that Part I of the Shops Act, 1950, which relates to the hours of closing, should not apply in respect of airports designated by the Minister under the Bill. It went on to state, furthermore, that Part IV of that Act, which relates to Sunday trading, shall not apply— (a) to any shop at a designated airport which is situated in a part of the airport to which this Act applies, or (c) to the sale (otherwise than at a shop) of any goods at a designated airport, where the sale takes place in a part of the airport to which this Act applies, We had a subsection (3) which was precisely in the terms in which I now seek to reinstate it. Thus, what my Amendment aims to do is to restore the position to exactly as it was when the original Bill received a Second Reading, with one exception, which is not to reinstate the words which were originally in the Bill on Second Reading: (b) to the carrying on of any retail trade or business at any such shop. The reason for omitting that was that it affected hairdressers in Scotland. I feel that while it is obviously reasonable that we should have full and proper shopping facilities and premises, I did not reinstate that part of the original Bill, because I thought that it may be felt that people in Scotland, and hairdressers in Scotland particularly, might have some arrangement for not working at airports on Sundays. It did not take the matter much further.

This matter is one of the very greatest importance. As the situation has been for a great many years, there may be strong feelings on Sunday observance, but it seems to me that we must have some regard not only to existing legislation and the position as it now is, but also to the great tourst industry, which is very greatly affected in these matters.

In Section 51 of the Shops Act, 1950, we find that all the tourist centres of this country are treated preferentially for certain times of the year, and the result in my own constituency is that in the towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, in the summer and for a matter of up to eighteen weeks, shops are allowed to trade and sell any article of food and virtually anything which a tourist would require. That is under the existing law. At airports shops are not entitled to sell on Sundays any of the articles which an ordinary tourist can get in the tourist centres. This is a preposterous state of affairs.

After all, the airports are the shop windows of the country as a whole. On coming into London Airport, or any other airport, on any day of the week, including Sunday, when arriving from a distant part of the world, it is not unreasonable that one should expect to be able to purchase any article one wishes, but, still more, this problem arises on one's departure. It is a recognised feeling that, on arriving at the airport to go back to Pakistan or America, a passenger may have some small change or a few pounds left in his pocket, and may wish to do what he can do any day of the week, Sunday included, that is, spend the rest of that money in the purchase of a memento or token of a very pleasant visit to Britain.

I find it difficult to believe that those who may have a conscientious objection to Sunday trading, in the real sense and in the wider context, could feel that there would be any harm done if we seek to extend this provision in respect of trading at the airports, bearing in mind the position as it now obtains under the law.

I want to draw attention to the way in which this matter was dealt with in Committee. There was a brief Committee stage, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), whose admirable Bill this is, moved an Amendment in a commendably brief fashion; and if ever I have heard an Amendment moved with reluctance, it was that which he moved in this case. He adverted to the fact that the Bill was designed to extend the provisions of the Shops Act, 1950, regarding the hours of opening of shops at certain airports designated by the Ministry. He went on to say: It is purely a liberalising Measure. as it is, and that the Amendments which I am putting forward are designed to exclude Sunday opening."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 18th April, 1962; c. 3.] I have no doubt that he would not have done it had he not felt that his Bill might be in danger. This is a shame. I appreciate the difficulties in which my hon. and gallant Friend might well have been placed, but, from my point of view, perhaps it was a pity that we did not start with the Bill without provision for Sunday opening, when I am sure either my hon. and gallant Friend or the Minister could have put it in in Committee, and we should have it now.

My hon. and gallant Friendly rightly referred to the support which his Measure, as it stood originally, had in the country. It has support from the unions and from every side of the tourist industry, including the British Hotels and Restaurants Association, chambers of trade, and all those various associations which represent the different interests of tourism. What happened? Having with supreme reluctance moved his Amendment, my hon. and gallant Friend saw the hon. Member for Islington, South West (Mr. A, Evans) rise and say that he would like to retain the Bill as it was. He said: I know that most reasonable people would agree that these facilities should be available on Sundays as well as weekdays."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C. 18th April, 1962; c. 4.] The hon. Member also suggested that the Amendments were undesirable.

What did the Minister say? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation, who is present on the Front Bench today, stated that the Government were also favourably inclined to this, and that the view of the Government was that the Measure should remain as it was. Thereafter, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) said that he deplored these Amendments and begged my hon. and gallant Friend not to make them. However, 20 minutes after this debate started in Committee, the matter was dropped. Such is the conscientious conviction of a tiny minority of this House and of a tiny minority of people in the country that it can put off to yet another day the attitude of mind which a great majority of us in this country share. I think that it is a great pity.

The Parliamentary Secretary has told us what is perfectly true, that the House of Commons has set up a Select Committee of the House for the purpose of considering the out-dated Sunday observance laws. That was certainly overdue, but it is well known from members of that Committee that its deliberations will be long in this complex and obtuse field.

1.30 p.m.

It is clear that the Committee's deliberations will not be completed before the end of this year and that, therefore, it will be extremely unlikely that we shall see legislation either in this Session or the Session 1962–63, because it involves many other matters. I really do not think that it is fair, in those circumstances, to say, when one has an opportunity to remedy one or two of the more obvious anomalies of the Sunday observance laws, that we should not take that opportunity.

One of those anomalies arises out of my hon. and gallant Friend's Bill, the fact that till this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament the airports are governed by the absurd Shops Act, 1950, both during the week and at the weekend. As for the absurd anomalies, as I have already mentioned, for eighteen weeks of the year we are entitled to trade on Sundays in a tourist resort; in the other ones we are not. We have, therefore, to try to fix our periods. While, as I said before, we can go to Margate or Blackpool on holiday and be permitted to eat and drink as we like on those particular eighteen Sundays, if we happen to go there for Easter instead we cannot do so.

The Shops Act, 1950, has a very large number of astonishing anomalies, as we know, and the third of the Amendments I have tabled to the Bill would remove Acts which, hon. Gentlemen will appreciate, go right back to the fifteenth century. The Schedules to the 1950 Act do nothing to remove many of those appalling pieces of legislation of a long time ago. Therefore, if today we get no further even than having a useful debate upon the vital necessity of getting on with improving our outdated laws in relation to Sunday observance, at least we may have achieved something and we may, perhaps, also have been able to give to the Select Committee some guidance on the general tenor of thought in the House today on this matter.

The Shops Act, 1950 is governed by a number of totally different Schedules, and I want to remind the House of the absurdity of some of those Schedules and of the way in which they affect Sunday trading at airports. From the First and Second Schedules we find that there are certain things which are transactions not affected by general closing hours or by closing orders: The sale of meals or refreshments (including table waters, sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery, and ice cream), for consumption on the premises, or … for consumption on the trains". The fact is that we can buy on the trains a great deal which we cannot get in the airports.

Let us turn to the other Schedules, and, in particular, to the Fifth Schedule, which arises out of Section 47, and which provides that for some transactions a shop may be open in England and Wales for the serving of customers on Sunday. Let us consider what it is that conscientious objection apparently feels it is perfectly normal to buy on Sundays: intoxicating liquors; meals or refreshments whether or not for consumption at the shop at which they are sold, but not including the sale of fried fish and chips at a fried fish and chip shop; newly cooked provisions and cooked or partly cooked tripe; table waters, sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice cream". These may be purchased on Sundays, and, of course, we can have flowers, and it may also be noted that they may be delivered on a Sunday to a funeral undertaker because he is entitled to continue his trade, albeit on a Sunday. We may buy on a Sunday. fruit and vegetables … milk and cream but it must not include tinned or dried milk or cream but it can include clotted cream whether sold in tins or otherwise". This was over ten years ago, when hon. Gentlemen opposite had the majority in the House, but I am bound to say that the man in Whitehall who managed to draft the Fifth Schedule to the Shops Act, 1950, must have done so really as if he were playing noughts and crosses.

We may also buy on Sunday medicines and medical and surgical appliances". It is interesting that we can be supplied on a Sunday with an aircraft or motor or cycle supplies, but that we are not entitled to engage in normal Sunday trading on an airport. We can buy on a Sunday tobacco and smokers' requisites; newspapers, periodicals and magazines; books … postcards, photographs, reproductions, photographic films". These are all included.

Then one finds that there may be an exemption order under the Sixth Schedule which would enable us to obtain bread and flour confectionery, including rolls and fancy bread; fish"— and the man in Whitehall made it clear by putting in brackets— (including shell-fish); groceries and other provisions commonly sold in grocers shops. I always like the phrase "commonly sold in grocers' shops". Today, I may say, in grocers' shops, the modern ones, there is practically everything which the human body can possibly need for sustenance or wearing; apparel—practically everything—is to be found in grocers' shops today and commonly sold therein. And so, although, of course, we may buy, for example, a newspaper or a periodical, we may not buy a volume of Shakespeare.

I could go on at great length about this, but I pass now to the Seventh Schedule, which is the matter to which I now wish briefly to turn. It is governed by Section 51. That is the tourists' section. For eighteen Sundays in a tourist area, but not for the other thirty-four we are entitled to buy any articles required for the purposes of bathing or fishing; photographic requisites; toys, souvenirs and fancy goods; books, stationery, photographs, reproductions and postcards; any article of food. I really think that hon. Gentlemen will appreciate by now, having dealt with some of these Schedules, the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh, that it is really almost impossible to conceive how anybody could have a conscientious objection to the extension of the existing situation under the Shops Act under which one is entitled, for eighteen weeks, in various areas, to do what I have said may be done, or could maintain that it makes very much difference whether one buys fish rather than meat, or has tripe, or fish and chips, rather than bacon and eggs or some equally suitable food.

I therefore say to the Minister and to my hon. and gallant Friend that I greatly hope that we can go back to what was such an admirable Measure as this was on Second Reading, and in this way recognise Sunday trading, so that at least our airports may have reasonable and proper freedom to carry out their business as they see fit for our interests and as shop windows for the trade and tourism of this country.

Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)

I should like to support the Amendment. One has to see these Amendments to realise their cogency and necessity in the context of the Bill as a whole and to bear in mind the object of the Bill. It sems to me to be a highly sensible and very necessary object, namely, to ensure that Britain's international airports should be able to provide the passengers who use them with the same day and night services as are available at other international airports throughout the world.

No one who has been to one of our large airports at night, especially during the summer, when so many people travel at night, to take advantage of the cheap night tickets, can doubt the need for brightening up the airports after dusk. It really is physically as well as mentally depressing to travel by night and get off an aircraft in a strange international centre and then find that almost everything is closed and be unable, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, to spend one's last dollars or few remaining traveller's cheques. It is something which can do nothing to increase the good will of people who pass through our great international airports.

If the Bill is approved by the House in its present form, even without the Amendments, it will do much to alleviate and enlighten the use of our international airports at night. But it will still have this lacuna, and in my view a very serious lacuna, of leaving Sunday in the airports of this country as bleak as ever it was before the Bill came before the consideration of the House.

The Bill, unamended, exempts the provisions of Part I of the Shops Act, 1950, from operating in respect of airport shops. As has been pointed out already to the House, Part I of the Act regulates such things as the half-day closing of shops, the general closing hours, and the exemptions far the sale of specific goods, such as tobacco and newspapers. But only the provisions of Part I of the Act are at present exempted by the Bill.

All the restrictions which are included in Part IV of the 1950 Act are still alive and would operate upon the activities of traders at the shops at our international airports. The result is that if a visitor is unfortunate enough to reach one of our airports on a Sunday he will find the same conditions as are imposed on life outside the airports.

I, for one, am all too sensitive of the deep and sincere views held by many hon. Members on both sides of the House about Sunday opening. I would not attempt for one moment, certainly in the context of the Bill, to argue that Sunday opening should be amended this way or that. But in the context of the Bill and its background, bearing in mind that international airports are in some sense divorced from the country at large and the people who use these airports are not expected to have to submit, as they have at the moment, to what they and other people in the country may consider, however rightly or wrongly, to be a prejudice or a belief, that ought not to have the effect of imposing restrictions.

Where we are dealing with international airports, I do not believe that it is right, and I do not believe that one acts against one's conscience one way or another by suggesting, as I strongly suggest to the House, that for these international airports the restrictions which are imposed upon trades outside in the country at large should not apply to the airports.

1.45 p.m.

To achieve this effect, the Amendment is necessary so as to include Part IV of the Act, but by including Part IV, and by saying that it shall not apply to traders at the airports, we exclude the operation of the whole of Part IV upon the activities of traders at the international airports. In doing that we exclude the protection which Section 59 of that Act gives to traders who otherwise would be exposed to the possibility of a prosecution under enactments which, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet said, go back as far as the fifteenth century. They include the Sunday Fairs Act, 1488, and the Act of the third year of His Majesty King Charles I … for the further reformacion of sondry abuses committed on the Lords Day comonlie called Sunday". and the Sonday Observance Act, 1677.

Obviously, if we merely exclude the operation of Part IV of the Shops Act, 1950, from this activity of trading at our international airports, we remove the protection given by Section 59. It becomes essential, if we are to introduce any sense into this legislation, to reintroduce the effect and to ensure that the provisions of Section 59 and its protection still subsist by means of the Amendment in line 20.

It seems to me, and I think this to be a matter of the plainest common sense, that splendid buildings at an airport are not sufficient in themselves to persuade people that they are coming to one of the greatest of countries. We want to impress, and there are many reasons why we should impress, those who have occasion to come through our great international airports with their efficiency and with the hospitality and rational approach to life of the people who live here. I can imagine no more irritating feature as a first impact upon one's impressions of a country than to discover that one is prevented by a local law from behaving as one has behaved in perhaps all the other countries through which one has passed, spending a few dollars and travellers' cheques on taking home some mementoes.

In this regard I remember very well that in about November of last year on my way to the West Indies I happened to pass through Bermuda Airport at night. I had always imagined Bermuda to be a somewhat exciting and attractive place. Looking outside the doors, one saw that it was raining heavily, and it was also rather cold. But the airport and the shops in it were at least open and one was able to buy postcards showing Bermuda as it is always supposed to be, lit with bright, hot sunshine, and was able to send back a postcard which gave really a quite fraudulent impression of what one had experienced in Bermuda that night. But if I had written back home, as I cannot help feeling many people might be disposed to write from an airport which had nothing to stimulate their imagination, that it was a most dreary place, I can imagine nothing which would have a more harmful effect upon that vital trade—the tourist trade.

I appreciate that at the moment the Crathorne Committee, under the auspices of the Home Office, is busy considering how best the laws relating to Sunday observance can be amended and improved. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet has said, this is a Committee which, at the very earliest, is not likely to produce its Report before the end of this year. Indeed, from what one hears, a more likely time would be the middle of 1963 or the beginning of 1964. I suggest that these Amendments deal with matters which cannot in the ordinary course wait for the deliberations and final conclusions of that Committee, and in this situation and for those reasons I ask the House to support the Amendment.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

This is not a debate on the general merits of Sunday trading, on which I know that in many parts of the House there are very deep feelings. Nor is it a debate about the Fifth Schedule of the Shops Act, 1950, right or wrong as that may be. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) drew attention to the very many anomalies which exist in that Act, such as whether one can sell tripe or meat on a Sunday at any hour.

I thought that my hon. Friend's remarks about Sunday trading in the coastal areas were not irrelevant to this subject, because in both cases we are dealing with the tourist trade. But whereas in the case of the seaside towns we are dealing mainly with our own tourists, in the case of the airports, certainly as specified in the Bill, we are dealing principally with the international tourist trade.

It seems to me that on the face of it there can be no justification at all for not embodying the Amendment in the Bill. Indeed, without it the Bill would be very much poorer. It is ridiculous that one can sell an aircraft on a Sunday but one cannot sell anything that one might put in the aircraft.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) drew attention to the many wonderful airports that one finds on the Continent and in the Americas. Anyone going to Mexico would be impressed by the goods that one can buy in the international airport there—the silver trinkets and other delightful things which, as has been said, one can purchase at the last moment with the few pieces of foreign currency left to one, though I always find at the end of a trip that I have surprisingly little money to spend on such articles. However, it is a point that the tourist frequently wants to make a last-minute purchase, perhaps of a present for his mother, his sister, or even his mother-in-law, to commemorate a trip which he has enjoyed and of which he wants to take back a souvenir.

Looking at it in a far wider way than in respect of the average tourist who wishes to purchase something, I think that what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay said was most important. The principal avenue of tourist trade is now through the airports. Gone are the days of the sea and rail traveller. Today people want to travel quickly, and so they use the airports. When tourists arrive in England, their first impression of the country is given by what the airport looks like, whether it is clean or dirty, what the buildings are like and what shopping facilities there are in the airport itself. If we are to attract the very large tourist trade that we wish to attract, we must offer facilities which are no less good than those offered by our competitors in Continental airports.

I do not remember ever having been to an airport where one cannot buy things at most hours of the day. It is true that the airports in Paris are not open in the very early hours of the morning sometimes and that one is then unable to purchase duty-free liquors, but that is no justification for our restricting the sale of goods at airports at all times. There would seem to me to be no justification for that. After all, what are the advantages? We shall increase the attractions of our airports, and we shall build up a reputation for having good and charming airports where one can purchase goods at almost all hours of the day and night.

I concede that there will be difficulties about introducing the provisions of the Amendment. But I have no hesitation in supporting the principle lying behind it. None of us wishes to see Sunday in this country changed in its character, but I think we all agree that certain alterations must now be made. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay said, we ought not to have to wait for the Crathorne Committee. We ought to be able to implement the Amendments which are put forward in this small and modest but extremely important Bill.

I appreciate that there are limitations to the scope of a Private Member's Bill. I would not press the Amendment if it meant that either here or in another place the Bill would be defeated by a few reactionaries who failed to appreciate the value of Sunday trading in airports. I would not vote against it if it meant the death of a Bill which is designed to improve facilities at airports and to increase the international tourist traffic into this country.

Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)

I cannot but agree with everything that has been said by my hon. Friends, as I myself said on Second Reading and in Committee. I felt, however, that I had to give an assurance to certain hon. Members, otherwise I should have found my own Bill dropped. I think that was a fair alternative.

I feel that it is better that we should have the Bill as it is drafted, for that is far better than nothing at all, especially when one bears in mind that the Bill really started in another place some six years ago and died through lack of Parliamentary time. I feel that it will die again if the Amendment is pressed. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) not to press the Amendment so that we can have something instead of nothing at all.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I am not so much concerned with what it looks like to arrive at London Airport or Victoria Station on a Sunday. To arrive at Victoria Station on a Sunday morning or afternoon is a pretty grim experience and cannot be very encouraging to tourists. That is, after all, how a great many tourists arrive here.

When we talk about people arriving at airports, we must have a certain measure of perspective about the matter and bear in mind that the traditional habits of Sunday observance in this country have decreed that we do not exercise a very generous degree of hospitality or welcome to those who arrive at our great London termini on Sundays. However, that is not what we are discussing. We are discussing whether a shop shall be open at London Airport on a Sunday so that people arriving or departing can buy a postcard, toothbrush or whatever else they want as they can do at any other airport in the world.

I do not want to repeat anything that I have said previously on this subject, except to remind the House that I spoke on Second Reading and took a view diametrically opposed to that of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). Although, like the hon. Member, I have the greatest respect for those who have conscientious views about the observance of the Lord's Day, one has to recognise that there are different views among conscientious people about what is a proper method of observance of Sunday. Also, there is no warrant for thinking in the context of an international airport that the British idea of Sunday observance has some special merit even in Christianity, because other Christian countries have different traditions with regard to Sunday observance. Therefore, it is purely a British attitude of mind compared with non-British attitudes of mind. It is not, in my opinion, a question about how Christians should observe a certain day as opposed to how other people think it ought to be observed. For those reasons I was opposed to the hon. Member for Wimbledon. I said so on Second Reading, and I say so again.

I venture to intervene because I think that we are faced with a very curious situation. I was rather appalled by what the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) said just now. He spoke about having given some assurance. I do not know to whom he has given assurances or what assurances he has given. But I can assure him that no assurances he has given are, in my opinion, binding on any other Member of the House.

As we have been told, in the Committee stage, when an hon. Member moved to delete the provisions which it is now sought to restore, everybody who spoke, including my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans), said that they would regret it if there should be any change in the Bill as adopted by the House on Second Reading. They thought that it would be a great mistake to truncate the Bill by deleting the provisions which would permit a shop to be open at an airport on a Sunday. My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) expressed the same view and the Minister said that the Government had welcomed the Bill in its original form. Therefore, there was a preponderance of opinion in the Committee against any change in the Bill.

Today, with the exception of that of the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools, every speech has been in favour of the Amendments with a view to restoring the Bill to its original form. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) both thought it necessary to deploy arguments at some considerable length in support of their view which I should have thought was almost self-evident. I cannot speak for any of my colleagues, but if those hon. Members press the Amendments to a Division, I shall support them because I share their view. I gather that the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) and other hon. Members will do the same.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I thought that I made the point that, while I supported the principle of the Bill, I appreciated that there were limits to what could be done in a Private Member's Bill and that if the Bill were to be defeated by pressing the Amendments, I was not prepared to press them.

Mr. Fletcher

I am very glad that the hon. Member has made that interruption. He has said that he would rather that these Amendments were deleted than lose the Bill, although he is in favour of the Amendments. But that will not be the alternative. If the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet and the hon. and learned Member for Billericay and others call "Aye" when the Amendments are put by the Chair and if there is a preponderance of voices in favour of them, in the same way that all the speeches have been in favour of the Amendments, then it will be the task of the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools to decide whether by calling a solitary "No" when the voices are counted, or by challenging a Division, he will run the risk of losing the Bill.

It is the hon. and gallant Member who will find himself in difficulty because he will be faced with these alternatives. There will be a preponderance of "Ayes" in support of the Amendments and therefore the Amendments will be carried. If the hon. and gallant Member challenges a Division, he may find that there are not enough hon. Members present to vote, in which case he will lose the Bill, or, if there are enough hon. Members, he will not lose the Bill and although he might successfully resist the Amendments, he will then be in the same position as if the Amendments had been withdrawn.

I am making it clear to the hon. Member for Clapham that what he suggested was not the true alternative and that by supporting the Amendments in Divisions in the same way as by their speeches, hon. Members will not in any way be jeopardising the Bill, but seem likely to be able to obtain the double objective of securing Amendments which are thought desirable and also the passage of the Bill.

2.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)

When the Second Reading was debated, one hon. Member voiced the complaint that no guidance had been given from the Government Front Bench on the Government view. He was in the process of speaking at length at the time almost in such a way that it would have been very difficult for the Government view to be indicated in the Second Reading debate for want of time, but I took the opportunity of drawing the attention of the House to the fact that I had been nodding assent to practically every sentence which the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) had said in his speech. The Government view the Bill with sympathy and viewed it with sympathy in its original unamended form when it included Sundays—all 52 Sundays, I take it, and not 18 or 24—and I shall not recapitulate the arguments which were used on Second Reading.

It was fairly common ground that international air travellers constituted a special case. Very few of them wish to travel at night or on Sundays of their own choice. There is a delusion, current among some people, that air travellers belong to the rich, idle and undeserving classes who are given V.I.P. treatment at Heathrow at the taxpayers' expense. Most air travellers, especially international air travellers, are engaged on useful, valuable business, often in the national and public interest. According to figures which I have collected, some 40 to 50 per cent. of them at the airports in the London group pass through the terminals at hours when shops are normally closed, and of those some 70 to 80 per cent. are international passengers. From that it is clear that international travellers are a case apart. It is true that facilities at the international airports are in some cases more limited than those allowed in other parts of the country and at other times, for instance, at shows, exhibitions, holiday resorts and so on.

Mr. Fletcher

On a point of order. May I draw attention to the fact that although the Minister has now been speaking for about five minutes, none of the three hon. Members on the Tory Benches who made long speeches in support of the Amendment is here to listen to his reply?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

It is a matter of good manners.

Mr. Woodhouse

I do not wish to rehearse again the arguments for and against which were brought out on Second Reading, but I should like to give a little attention to the very sincere speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), because there is no doubt that he was speaking for a section of opinion which is opposed in principle to any extension of Sunday opening, even for the convenience of air travellers at the main international airports.

I was not greatly impressed by all his arguments. I was not impressed in the first place by his argument that Sunday opening at the airports would constitute unfair competition. He referred to numbers of visitors not travelling who could take advantage of the opening of shops at the airports, but such visitors would hardly choose of their own volition to be there at inconvenient times, and it is essentially with inconvenient times that the Bill deals. There is also the disincentive to the shopper of the expense of going to London Airport merely for the purpose of shopping, an expense which includes, for instance, parking which is there becoming increasingly expensive. There is also the disincentive to the trader of having to pay overtime which would discourage him from keeping his shop open for excessive hours. I remind the House that in any case there is no compulsion in the Bill to keep a shop open at any time. The Bill is purely permissive.

Nor was I greatly impressed by the hon. Member's argument of hardship to employees. It has never been Government policy by legislation to limit the hours of adult employees, who are considered to be capable of looking after themselves, and who enjoy trade union protection. In most cases which would be covered by this Bill, wages are governed by wages councils which lay down wage rates relating to normal hours and overtime rates relating to hours beyond the normal and which would provide a disincentive to employers to try to exploit employees. The principal union concerned, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, has been consulted and has expressed no opposition to the Bill and nor, equally, has the Retail Distributive Trades Council on behalf of the employers.

For all those reasons, the Government feel that there is nothing excep- tionable in the Bill and that there was no substance in the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon which were in essence not sabbatarian arguments but arguments of practical convenience and in some cases arguments of commercial advantage.

Nevertheless, despite our reluctance to accept that category of argument against that part of the Bill which applies to Sunday trading, we felt that there was more substance in the arguments advanced under two heads against the extension of the Bill to cover Sunday trading. One was the strength of feeling with which the conscientious arguments were advanced. As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, there is no reason for yielding to them merely on the ground that the feelings are strong, but the fact that they were strongly and conscientiously expressed was a factor which the Government thought it right to take into account. More important, in addition there is at present sitting a Departmental Committee of the Home Office. To correct my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), it is not a Select Committee.

Mr. MacColl

The hon. Gentleman cannot correct his hon. Friend because he is not here to learn.

Mr. Woodhouse

He will be able to read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. MacColl

Can he read?

Mr. Woodhouse

It is not a Select Committee but a Departmental Committee appointed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Its terms of reference are: To review the law (other than the Licensing Acts) relating to Sunday entertainments, sports, pastimes and trading in England and Wales and to make recommendations". Because this Committee is now sitting and in order not to anticipate its conclusions, the Government have decided that it would be the better course to accept the wish of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) to delete from his Bill the Clauses relating to Sunday trading. The reasoning which we have heard this afternoon has been powerfully directed to persuading that Committee to expedite its Report, but it should not persuade the House in the present context to anticipate that Report. I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will not press the Amendment to a Division.

Mr. Rees-Davies

In view of the observations that we have had, and the length of the debate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

Permission is not given.

Mr. Fletcher

On a point of order. Is it open to the hon. Gentleman, who has not listened to any of the debate—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already spoken to the Amendment.

Mr. MacColl

I have not, and perhaps I might make the point. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has announced that in view of the observations that have been made he wishes to withdraw the Amendment. As he was so discourteous as to walk out of the Chamber after making his speech, and as he has not been present to hear the arguments that have been advanced, how can he possibly ask leave to withdraw the Amendment on those grounds?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I listened to the long and able speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) in support of the Amendment, and I indicated in my speech that I did not think that the matter ought to be pressed to a Division. In view of certain conscientious objections on the part of certain hon. Members who are not present, and as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) is obviously reluctant to accept the Amendment, I do not feel justified in calling upon the House to divide on it. In ordinary circumstances I would, of course, press it to a Division, and I think that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is well aware of the reasons which prompt me to make this decision.

I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman says that he proposes to withdraw the Amendment because of what has been said. He has admitted that the only speech to which he listened was that of the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) who supported the Amendment and said that he would support it in the Division Lobby if necessary. Since then there have been other long speeches by hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that they, too, welcome the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman did not hear my speech, about which I make no complaint, nor that of the Minister. He then enters the Chamber and gives as the reason for wanting to withdraw the Amendment the fact that he thinks some assurances have been given. He ought therefore to tell the House what those assurances are.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman was going to support what I had said. It was also clear from what the Minister said that the Government did not think this Amendment unacceptable as such save for one reason, that there is an inquiry being conducted by the Departmental Committee considering this question. I intended no discourtesy or embarrassment to anyone. I merely left to partake of some light refreshment. One must bear in mind the realities of the situation. There is undoubtedly a Departmental Committee considering this whole matter, and in the circumstances I think that it would be taking advantage of ghosts who have not attended this debate to seek to press the matter to a Division. Of course I cannot stop the hon. Gentleman from so doing, with the leave of the Chair, but I have stated my position.

Mr. Fletcher

Why, then, did the hon. Gentleman make a long speech in support of the Amendment? These considerations must have been known to him when he moved the Amendment.

Mr. Rees-Davies

This is of the greatest importance, for two reasons. First, the question of Sunday opening ought to be thoroughly ventilated, and I ventured to say, and I repeat, that I hope that in future on matters of this kind we shall not get what one might call veiled undertakings which may bind hon. Members in some way, or may bind them at any rate morally if not otherwise. It is dangerous, because it means that mixed loyalties may arise. It is a pity that we could not perhaps have started this Bill without including Sunday, and then put it in during the Committee stage. We could then have come back here and had a Division on the matter.

That is as far as I can take it. I know that the hon. Gentleman can say, and indeed he has, that he and I are not bound in any way, but in these matters there are certain niceties that must be observed.

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman refers to niceties and embarrassment, but surely the House cannot, by private discussion between individual Members, be deprived from reaching a position on a matter of this importance.

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

I wonder where we are getting to in this muddle. I am not certain what is going on. There seems to be some discussion between the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). I should like to speak against the Amendment, but, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I do not know whether I shall be in order in doing so, because I do not know whether you were gathering the voices. If you were, could not we now have a decision on the matter, or may I come in and make a few remarks of my own?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) is exercising his right of reply. When he sits down, if the hon. Member catches my eye he may speak.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I have finished.

Mr. Dudley Williams

I am glad to have the opportunity of giving my views which I think are roughly in line with those of the hon. Member for Islington, East. I cannot see any reason why Part IV of the 1950 Act should not apply to this proposal. Without being in any way critical of other hon. Members, I usually read the Acts to which Private Members' Bills refer. It is sometimes extremely enlightening to see what Acts are to be embodied in legislation introduced by private Members, and what restrictions are to be put on the activities covered in such a Bill.

This morning I took the opportunity of reading the Shops Act, 1950, to discover what Part IV was about. It forms a considerable part of the Act. It contains about twenty Clauses, some of which are almost unintelligible to Members who, like myself, have not been given the education given to a barrister or a solicitor. Clause 47 says: Every shop shall, save as otherwise provided by this Part of the Act, be closed for the serving of customers on Sunday: Provided that a shop may be open for the serving of customers on Sunday for the purposes of any transaction mentioned in the Fifth Schedule to this Act. I assume that anything mentioned in the Fifth Schedule can be done by any shop, whether it is on an airport or anywhere else, and I draw the attention of the House to what is allowed under that Schedule. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will explain what else is required to further the comfort of air passengers. These provisions give quite a lot of licence to people who wish to trade on Sundays, and I cannot see why there should be any extension of these facilities at airports or anywhere else. It says that a shop may be open for the sale of:

  1. "(a) intoxicating liquors;
  2. (b) meals or refreshments whether or not for consumption at the shop at which they are sold,"—
and this is very sinister— but not including the sale of fried fish and chips at a fried fish and chip shop. My hon. Friend may have strong views about this commodity and think that it ought to be available to anyone travelling through London Airport. A shop may also sell: (c) newly cooked provisions and cooked or partly cooked tripe; I must be careful what I say about tripe, because considerable reflection has been cast by the Tripe Dressers' Association on someone who referred to tripe.

2.30 p.m.

The sale is also permitted of table waters, sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice cream (including wafers and edible containers); (e) flowers, fruit and vegetables (including mushrooms) other than tinned or bottled fruit or vegetables; (f) milk and cream, not including tinned or dried milk or cream, but including clotted cream whether sold in tins or otherwise; (g) medicines and medical and surgical appliances—

  1. (i) at any premises registered under section twelve of the Pharmacy and Poisons Act, 1933; or
  2. 1753
  3. (ii) by any person who has entered into a contract with an Executive Council for the supply of drugs and appliances"—
I do not know what that jumble means, but I have no doubt that it is something very important— (h) aircraft, motor, or cycle supplies or accessories". It is not suggested, surely, that somebody will fly to London Airport from Frankfurt in order to buy aircraft, motor, or cycle supplies or accessories— (j) newspapers, periodicals and magazines … (l) guide books, postcards … (m)photographs for passports; (n)requisites for any game or sport at any premises or place where that game or sport is played or carried on. Presumably if darts are allowed at London Airport one can buy a dart board— (o) fodder for horses, mules, ponies and donkeys …. 2. The transaction of—
  1. (a) post office business;
  2. (b) the business carried on by a funeral undertaker."
I should have thought that this list, which can hardly be called lacking in comprehension, would be adequate for any airport in the country. I should not have thought it necessary for the list to be extended in any way. For that reason I regard the Amendment as undesirable. Quite apart from whether or not my hon. Friend wishes to withdraw it, I should have thought that there was a strong case for its being rejected, and I hope that in due course that will be the decision of the House.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Islington, East, has left the Chamber. I thought that he was going to listen to the support that I am giving him, especially after the attack that he made on my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet.

Mr. MacColl

My hon. Friend asked me to say that, having been here since eleven O'clock in the service of the House, he thought he might be excused if he left. He has listened to all the speakers, including the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) up to the point at which he referred to tripe. At that point my hon. Friend thought that he had heard enough.

Mr. Williams

I hope that the hon. Member for Islington, East does not get into trouble with the Tripe Dressers' Association, because it is very sensitive to any reference to its commodity. I am sorry that the hon. Member has left the Chamber, but I fully understand that if he is feeling rather faint after his long service in the House today it is desirable that he should be allowed to leave the Chamber in order to seek refreshment elsewhere.

My case is that the Amendment is not acceptable to the House. Quite apart from whether or not my hon. Friend will persist in his efforts to withdraw it, I hope that the House will have none of it, and that it will not be allowed to become part of the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

2.35 p.m.

Commander Kerans

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

This is a permissive Bill, which, if passed, will extend the opening hours of certain shops at designated airports in the United Kingdom at present covered by the Shops Act of 1950. It does not include Sundays, and we all know why. No compulsion will be exerted upon traders by the Bill. What it means, broadly, is that shops in certain areas of airports can extend their hours to cover peak traffic conditions, thus bringing our major airports more into line with other international airports. These facilities are long overdue, and I hope that if the Bill succeeds in another place it will do something to remove existing anomalies at our airports and be an asset to airlines and the travelling public generally.

There is no doubt that present limitations at our airports are very inappropriate to this modern age. I agree that the traffic throughout airports fluctuates tremendously, but there are seasonal peaks and there is no doubt that there will be an increased demand for greater facilities as traffic builds up. I have visited many shops at Heathrow. The vast majority have a very high standing, and are a great asset to our export trade. They are very much needed. Many improvements have recently been made at Heathrow, and that is all to the good. People have time to walk around and look at the shops, and they are attracted into them. There is no doubt that prestige counts for a lot in this country. One often hears the comment that London Airport is nothing compared with Shannon, or with South American airports. These comments are not easy to counter.

Paragraph 84 of the Report of the Estimates Committee points out that passengers using our major airports are frequently irritated and inconvenienced when shops are closed. There is need for a better service for passengers. One is continually meeting this sort of problem, and I hope that the Bill will help to overcome it. Even thought it does not go the whole way it goes some way, and we must have some give-and-take.

I am very grateful for the substantial assistance and guidance that I have received throughout from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation and his colleagues, and also to the many local authorities concerned.

I commend the Bill to the House and trust that, small though its provisions are, they will do something to improve the amenities at prestige airports, such as London, Gatwick, Prestwick and Manchester.

2.38 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I am sure that we would all wish to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) on this excellent Bill, and also to sympathise with him because, of necessity, it cannot be as comprehensive as many hon. Members on both sides of the House would have liked. It does not include Sunday trading within its compass. I am also sure that we all appreciate the fact that hon. Members did not press an Amendment to a Division at an earlier stage. If they had done so it might have destroyed the possibility of the Bill's becoming law.

At an earlier stage in the Bill's proceedings most hon. Members expressed their support of the very real benefits which the Bill will bring. At this stage I do not wish to elaborate upon those benefits. I simply say that the Bill brings us into line with many of our competitors overseas. Most travellers express regret at the fact that our airport shops are not able to compete with shops at continental airports and South American airports. Earlier, I cited the instance of Mexico City, where the airport shops are of an excellent quality and are encouraging trading.

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said that the facilities at Victoria were not bad. Nevertheless, that should not stop us endeavouring to improve airport shops. I join with other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend upon successfully piloting through the House a Measure which can only increase our tourist trade and create a favourable first impression on the part of visitors to this country. Hon. Members on both sides will welcome the Bill, and will hope that, at a later date, when the Departmental Committee has made its findings known, we may be able to extend the provisions of the Bill in the direction which most hon. Members on both sides of the House would like.

2.40 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Williams

The best that I can say about the Bill is that I do not think that it will do much harm, which is more than one can say about most of the Bills that are passed on a Friday. On the Bill as it stands, I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to be rather generous as far as all airports where the powers under the Bill are concerned. I hope that the Bill will not be thought of as purely one for Gatwick and Heathrow Airports. There are many other airports in the country, including one which serves my constituency and which fulfils an important function. I hope that if these facilities are granted for passengers at London Airport they will not be refused to passengers using Exeter airport. Therefore, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will see that any regulations made under the Bill are applicable to all the airports in the country.

I do not want to spend much time dealing with the fact that the Bill gives the Government the opportunity to make regulations. This criticism of Private Members' Bills is made on almost every Friday when Private Members' legislation is initiated. I think it most undesirable that the Government should have power under a Private Member's Bill to issue regulations, and, although I do not think it will do any good, I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will appeal to the Patronage Secretary to see that the Whips are not put on for any regulations which he may care to issue under the Bill. I do not expect that I shall have any success in the matter, but I like to make this appeal on every possible occasion that Private Members' legislation gives the Government power to make regulations.

The last point I wish to make is that I hope my hon. Friend will see that in any regulations which he introduces some control is exercised over the type of shops allowed to operate. It is very important that we should not allow anyone who cares to do so to open a shop and enter into a trade which is possibly undesirable or offensive to passengers. I can think of one trade which causes considerable irritation to airline passengers. It is covered in a record made by a well-known American entertainer who states that he is not the slightest bit nervous of flying in an airliner until he gets into an airport building and finds there a thriving industry selling life insurance.

It is most depressing, when going to an airport building, to find that the first thing which greets one is either a machine from which one can buy life insurance cover or a lady sitting behind a counter who disposes of a life insurance policy to you for the nominal fee of 2s. or 4s. on which policy is marked in heavy print "Good for one flight". Some of the details printed on the policy state what can happen to one if one is unwise enough to board an airlines, and this is enough to frighten would-be travellers from the airport building and on to British Railways. I hope, therefore, that there will be some control by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and by my right hon. Friend the Minister of the type of shops likely to operate in our airports.

As I said earlier, I do not think that the Bill will do much harm. Neither do I think that it will do much good. When I go to an airport I want to get into the aeroplane and pretend that I am sitting at home in my drawing room, something of which I am rarely able to persuade myself, and to look forward to my rapid arrival at the other end in one piece, with or without the assistance of a life insurance policy.

I do not think that when one arrives at one's destination, whether in the United Kingdom or in any other country, one wants to hang around an airport building. The moment one arrives one goes down the escalator at Heathrow, gets into a car, either one's own or a hire car, and is whisked back to the centre of London. One does not spend time at the airport buying things. I do not believe that when people are leaving Heathrow they waste time buying things from the shops there. They go rapidly into the channel designated for their aeroplane. They might stop at the cosy little bar which is available for them on the apron, but not many buy anything from the shops.

It is a misapprehension if the House thinks that passengers purchase lots of goods at airports. Generally, they do not. Very often, it is true, people go to the airports to shop when the shops in their neighbourhood are shut. I do not think that the granting of these facilities will encourage people to travel by air. I repeat, I do not think that the Bill will do any harm, and, therefore, I do not propose to divide the House on its Third Reading.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Does not my hon. Friend agree that Exeter Airport will be excluded under the Bill by the terms of Clause 1 (2)?

Mr. Williams

That just shows how careful one has to be in passing Bills of this kind. I sincerely hope that when the Bill goes to another place noble Lords who have a special interest in the West Country will pay particular attention to it and will ensure that the Bill is suitably amended so that these facilities can be available to other areas. I should be disappointed if Exeter were excluded.

2.46 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher

I welcome the Bill, truncated as it is as a result of the action taken in Committee. The hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) said that people do not want to spend much time at London Airport and referred to the fact that those who arrive there desire to get away as soon as possible. But, of course, a great many passengers have to spend quite a lot of time at London or other airports owing to weather conditions, and so forth. Many people, contrary to their own inclinations, have to spend several hours waiting for departures scheduled for a certain time, but which, owing to weather conditions or for other reasons, are delayed. Therefore, we have to consider not only the convenience of passengers arriving, but that of passengers who are departing.

It is for that reason, as well as for other reasons that have been given, that the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) is to be congratulated on having introduced and carried through to this stage a Bill which, in the main, is designed to make airports places where incoming and outgoing passengers from all over the world can find the kind of reasonable comfort that they expect to find in foreign airports. In the past, our airports have suffered in this respect.

All that the Bill proposes to do is to bring the amenities of our own airports up to the standard of ordinary international reputation, and to that extent I think it will redound to our national prestige as well as be an encouragement to the tourist trade and an advantage to our nations when leaving the country.

The only other thing I wish to say is that I regret that the hon. and gallant Member was forced to abandon a substantial part of his Bill and found it necessary to give assurances which create such obvious embarrassment to the hon. Members for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), Billericay (Mr. Gardner) and Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn). I wish to protest against this habit.

This is not the first occasion this Session on which the important part of a Bill has been jettisoned contrary to the wishes of the Committee on the Bill, contrary to the wishes of the promoter of the Bill, contrary to the wishes of the Government and contrary to what, I think would be the wishes of the House on Report and Third Reading. That step is taken because a small number of hon. Members who were not in the Committee have exercised some pressure in the matter.

That seems to me to be a very regrettable tendency. It is creating much embarrassment to the promoters and the Government, and has produced what I and many others think are most unfortunate consequences. It seems to me most unnecessary and derogatory to the influence and importance of Parliament that private assurances of that kind between a few Members can take place which frustrate the wishes of the promoters, the Government and the general body of opinion on the merits of the whole Bill.

2.51 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I have only a few observations, and perhaps it would be useful to the Parliamentary Secretary if I were to make them now. I, too, should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) on his Bill, which appears more than likely now to reach the Statute Book. He seems to have the same facility in making his mark on our legislation as previously in another incarnation he had in getting gun-boats down the Yangtse. I, for one, would certainly like to congratulate him on his achievements.

I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary can say whether it will be possible, in another place, to amend the words in Clause 1 (2), at the bottom of page 1, whereby the Bill applies only to the larger airports. As has been said by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams), there are smaller airports which might not qualify, but which have just as much right as the larger ones to have these facilities—in fact, in some ways more so. In the larger airports there are considerable facilities already, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say whether it would be possible to have an Amendment made in another place to meet the point made by the hon. Member for Exeter.

Mr. Dudley Williams

I am grateful to the hon. Member for making that point. May I just add that there is a substantial amount of international air traffic at Exeter.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I appreciate that fact.

My next point relates to another matter which was raised by the hon. Member for Exeter. Normally, the sale of insurance at an airport is done by way of a machine and not in a shop at all. Although it may frighten some people, there is not the slightest doubt that neither these machines nor the bright young lady to whom the hon. Member referred would be employed if they did not meet a need. If the need is there, I see no reason why the facilities should not be provided. Therefore, I hope that in another place nothing will be done to prevent that kind of facility being supplied.

2.54 p.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I am glad that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans), who did so well across the world, has now come to anchor—if that be the right nautical expression—in East Surrey. I am very happy to welcome him as a constituent, and I congratulate him on introducing this Bill.

Many years ago a Bill was introduced in this House called the Airports Licensing Bill. I cannot think why, but there was a lot of dispute and contention day and night to get permission to sell drinks at various hours at airports. So far as I can recollect, nobody produced an Amendment to extend this facility to the sale of other articles. This is really an extension of the Airports Licensing Bill, and I am glad to see that it is going through with much less contention than there was on that highly fought out Bill.

This Bill merely brings airports in this country into conformity with what happens in every other airport in the world, except that in other airports these facilities exist for seven days of the week, whereas they apply for only six days in this country. I should like to be assured that goods sold in shops in a part of the airport ordinarily used by persons travelling by air—in other words, not in places frequented by the general public—will be duty-free. In every airport in the world there is always what is called a duty-free shop, sometimes large and sometimes small, reserved for passengers after they have gone through the necessary customs formalities and are, technically speaking, outside the country. Sometimes they have to wait there for a long time, as one knows to one's cost.

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) need not worry about the insurance. That is sold outside.

Mr. Dudley Williams

But I am "sunk" by the time I get to the airport because I have got my ticket by then. I cannot give that up when I am frightened by the life insurance vending machines.

Mr. Doughty

I am sure that my hon. Friend exhibits the same nerve in the air as he does in this House. He need not worry when he is 15,000 feet up.

This Bill brings London Airport, Exeter and Gatwick and others into line with what international passengers would expect to find in this country and with what they find in every other country.

2.57 p.m.

Mr. Woodhouse

Before joining in the congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Commander Kerans) on his success in piloting this Bill through its stages, I should like to take the opportunity to reply briefly to the points which have been raised in the debate on Third Reading.

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) asked that my right hon. Friend should consider two or three suggestions which he put forward and which I shall certainly communicate to my right hon. Friend. However, in the case of one to which I assume he attached the greatest importance—namely, the extension of the designation of airports under this Bill when it becomes law to airports in which he and other hon. Members have constituency interests—I cannot hold out a great deal of encouragement for those which, as in the case of his own, are primarily domestic airports and not on a very considerable scale.

Mr. Dudley Williams

I do not know whether travelling to Jersey is international, but there are 40,000 passengers leaving Exeter for Jersey this year. I should have thought that there was a good case for saying that Exeter should have the same facilities as London Airport.

Mr. Woodhouse

I am sorry to say that travelling to Jersey is not international travel for the purpose of this or any other Measure.

It may be convenient to the House if I give an indication of the airports which my right hon. Friend at present has in mind. This, of course, is not an exclusive list. It could later, if circumstances so developed, be extended. We have in mind at the moment four airports, Heathrow and Gatwick in the London group, and Prestwick and Manchester in the North. Those are the four main international points of arrival.

Mr. Doughty

They may be for ordinary passengers, but an enormous number of people go from Ferryfield and Southend with their cars, and this is almost exclusively international traffic.

Mr. Woodhouse

Yes. These points relating to other airports can be taken into consideration. I am only giving our present state of mind—I will not call it decision—and saying what we have under active consideration. These are the main international terminals which we are at present considering, but it is by no means excluded that others may be added to the list later.

Dr. Alan Glyn

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is not so much the size of an airport which is important as the traffic which goes through? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has referred to Southend, where the traffic is exclusively international traffic, even though it is small in comparison with the volume of traffic at London Airport.

Mr. Woodhouse

Such points will be borne in mind. I remind the House at this stage that the Bill, when it becomes law, will enable my right hon. Friend to designate airports at which there appears to him to be a substantial amount of international traffic. I am telling the House now which airports he has at present in mind to designate under that definition, but I repeat that it is not an exclusive list.

The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked whether it would be possible for the Bill to be amended at a later stage so that it would have the effect of not confining the operation of Clause 1 (2) to international passenger traffic. I have to tell him that I cannot give any undertaking on that point. This is a Private Member's Bill and it will not become a Government Bill even when it goes to another place, though the matter will certainly be open to debate.

Mr. Dudley Williams

The Statutory Instruments will be Government instruments, I take it.

Mr. Woodhouse

Yes, but they will be made under the Bill, and in the Bill as at present drafted the reference is to international passenger traffic. I think that it has been generally agreed on both sides in the debate that international passengers are in a class apart. Their journeys are much longer, and they are much more likely to arrive at airports at abnormal hours. Although all passengers deserve consideration, we have, I think, found common ground in agreeing that international passengers deserve special consideration in this context.

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter asked that some kind of control should be exercised over the shops which would be allowed to operate at the airports. This is a point which we shall bear in mind at the airports over which my Ministry has control, but I remind the House that the administration of the Shops Act, 1950, is a matter for the local authorities. It is not for my right hon. Friend to decide which shops could remain open at particular airports. The test is one of fact, whether the shops are in a part of the airport ordinarily used by passengers. The answer will generally be obvious, although there could conceivably be marginal cases.

In the case of Heathrow, for instance, it would be obvious that shops in the two passenger buildings would qualify under the Bill, but shops in the Queen's Building would not. The enforcement of the Shops Act is for the local authorities and, in the last resort, for the courts. My right hon. Friend might be called upon to give evidence on matters of fact, but it would not be for him to decide which shops could or could not remain open.

I think it right to answer now a point raised on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). He suggested that some passengers who came in at airports which were obviously international airports might then fly straight on to other parts of the country, and he asked whether the fact that they did so would constitute a ground for claiming for those other airports to be regarded as international airports. My hon. Friend said: They may have booked on through-tickets to Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Belfast … Are these passengers … 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 traffic?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1962; Vol. 652, c. 651.] The answer in general to that question is "No". Although it happens that Manchester is one of the airports I have mentioned as being considered by my right hon. Friend for designation, the passengers going to the other places which my hon. Friend mentioned, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Belfast, would not be counted as international passengers and they would not contribute in any way to determining the status of those other airports as having a claim to be regarded as international airports.

I express my agreement with the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) in rebuttal of something said by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter on the subject of the time spent at airports. No passenger wants to spend more time at an airport than he has to. Very often, however, passengers have to spend considerable time at airports. On the first occasion I returned to this country after taking up my present appointment, I was diverted in the middle of the night to land at Gatwick, and I should have been very happy if, at the hour when I arrived, which was three o'clock on a foggy winter morning, I had been able to enjoy the benefits of this Bill already on the Statute Book.

I hope that, not only from personal experience, but in the interests of all the travelling public in this country and into this country from abroad, the House will join in giving the Bill a Third Reading. In recommending it to the House, I should like to add my congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend who has piloted the Bill so far.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.