HL Deb 30 January 1967 vol 279 cc759-61

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the B.E.A. or the B.O.A.C. intend to subject their passengers to compulsory background music during flight on any of their services; and, if so, what steps the Corporation will take to warn the passengers before they buy their tickets.]


My Lords, this is a matter for the Corporations' own judgment, but I have made inquiries and understand that neither B.E.A. nor B.O.A.C. make a practice of playing music during flight. Perhaps I can interpolate here that I myself flew back during last night from New York by B.O.A.C., and I heard no music during any of the time. However, they normally play only before take-off and after landing; and B.E.A. intend to follow a similar practice on jet flights later this year.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which is substantially the same, I am glad to say, as that given to me on November 26, 1959, and I think is satisfactory. Are the Government aware that many people subjected to this background music compulsorily suffer intense discomfort? Does he agree that there is no reason why the Corporations should subject people to this unnecessary risk, and that if they intend to do so they should certainly give them a warning to enable them to travel by different means?


My Lords, I would repeat to the noble Lord that this is purely a matter for the Corporations themselves, but I believe it is often the habit of airlines, including B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., to pass round cotton wool to be put in the ears of passengers, and this may be some means of avoiding the discomfort to which the noble Lord refers.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it would be much better to hand round earphones to those who wish to listen to this stuff rather than cotton wool to those who do not? The earphones would enable people to listen to it: the cotton wool would not prevent people from hearing it.


My Lords, even in the present stringent economic circumstances could the Government not afford to allocate a sum in order that the cultural development in music of the noble Lord, Lord Cones ford, could be brought up to the standard of his knowledge of English?


My Lords, am I not right in saying that the playing of music is not for the purpose of entertainment but is in order to divert attention from the hazards of flying; and is it not a fact that those who are less stout-hearted than the noble Lord who put down this Question sometimes welcome this music?


I understand that the noble Baroness is quite right in saying that this music is supposed to soothe not only the savage breast but also the frightened heart. It is, I repeat, purely for those who operate these Corporations for profit to judge whether, from the point of view of making that profit, it is advantageous for them to provide music.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that music of certain varieties is apt to make the savage breast even more savage? Would he also not agree that people who are asked why they must provide this background music say, as a rule, that they find their customers like it?—whereas I doubt very much whether their customers would even notice if it were not there.


My Lords, I would certainly not attempt to enter into an argument with the noble Lord on the effects of music.


My Lords, without wishing to prolong this matter, in view of the noble Lord's very satisfactory Answer, might I suggest that in case the supply of cotton wool runs out, the Government would consider suggesting, but not putting pressure on, to the parties concerned that it would be more appropriate, very occasionally—and only very occasionally—to have such music as Handel's Chorus "O, the Pleasure of the Plains" rather than a constant—and I repeat, constant—reiteration of a more modern and popular song which I have heard only once and of which I can therefore remember only the first line: We all live in a yellow submarine…


My Lords, I am sure that the Corporations will read with great interest these various questions and answers.

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