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Licensing At Airports

Volume 502: debated on Tuesday 24 June 1952

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

4.10 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Licensing Act, 1921, and to exempt from the provisions of Part I of the said Act the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor to passengers arriving and departing by air at international airports.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide a convenience and amenities to those persons who leave this country by air or arrive here by air at international airports. There are only four of these international airports in the country, at Croydon, London, Northolt and Prestwick, but there are 15 or 20 other airports which are used from time to time.

Everyone is familiar with the fact that when one proceeds by air there may be delay, due to engine trouble or fog, which may prevent the aeroplane from leaving for periods varying from half an hour to two or three hours, and it is not possible to get back from the other side of the Customs and passport barrier in order to get a drink without great inconvenience. Those who travel by sea are not subject to this difficulty.

There are many precedents whereby Parliament in the past has made special arrangements for special sections of the community in the matter of permitting them to drink at unusual hours. There were the special arrangements made during the time of the Festival of Britain. There is the special law in Scotland which enables a person who is a bona fide traveller in certain circumstances to have a drink at any time of the day or night.

There are the special arrangements at Covent Garden and in fairs and there are the special arrangements in the House of Commons where one may engage in a serious debate or take a flight of fancy fortified by an alcoholic drink. But anyone who travels by air from this land, or arrives in this country by air, cannot get a drink. I am informed that these are the only international airports in Europe, and probably among the very few in the whole world, where that situation arises.

My short Bill proposes to amend the Licensing Act, 1921. Anyone familiar with that Act will know that it regulates the hours and conditions for consuming alcoholic beverages. In Section 5 it provides six exemptions to the general rule that beverages shall be sold only at certain times. These exemptions are available for publicans supplying drinks to their friends, for persons in clubs, for soldiers, sailors and airmen in canteens, and so on.

This small Bill proposes that an additional exemption shall be given, namely, exemption (g), which shall say that a person travelling from or arriving at an international airport shall be able to get an alcoholic drink at any hour of the day or night, subject to certain provisos. The provisos are, first, that the international airport shall be defined by the Secretary of State; secondly, that this shall only be permitted if the place is a place in which an ordinary licence for drink can normally be obtained; and thirdly and most important, the part of the place in which the drink can be obtained is narrowly confined in the Bill as that part of the aerodrome beyond the barrier at which the Customs and passport people cease to function.

One may say that when a person has been through the Customs and passport inspection and is beyond that barrier, he is technically out of Britain, although he has not actually flown away. Were he going by sea he would have gone on to the ship, but as the procedure is different for air travel, he waits until the aeroplane is ready to go; and it is during that time that he may want a drink, and I am asking that he may be allowed to have one.

There is no loophole here. I am sure that the House will agree, if they are good enough to allow me to introduce the Bill so that they may see it printed, that it provides no loophole. Only this very limited number of persons will be able to get a drink under these conditions. I may say that the British Travel and Holiday Association, the B.O.A.C. and the B.E.A.C. support the Bill.

What does the hon. Member mean by saying that the B.O.A.C. and the B.E.A.C. support the Bill? Does he mean that he has the authority of the executives to say that they support the Bill? What does he mean, because that is contrary to my information?

The officials of the Corporations. I have reason to think that those great air Corporations would very much welcome such amenities.

There are some who do not believe in drink at all, but I do not think they would wish to stop others who want a drink. It has long been a custom of this House to make available to citizens at special times and on special occasions some of these small freedoms. This matter cannot really be judged unless the text of my small Bill is seen. I confidently ask the House, therefore, to allow me to introduce the Bill so that it may be read the First time and criticised by all who are interested on all sides of the House.

4.18 p.m.

I ask the House to refuse permission to introduce this Bill on the ground, among others, that it is quite unnecessary and there is not the slightest sign of any public opinion in favour of it anywhere. To take one point mentioned by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), my information is that the Corporations themselves have not pressed for it. I find it a little difficult to accept the reasons given by the hon. Member for people needing a drink when an aeroplane has been delayed and arrives late. They can get all they want on the aeroplane.

They can get all they want on the aeroplane which arrives late. If they are waiting owing to bad weather, they can get all they want on the aerodrome, within permitted hours. I see no reason why aerodromes, even designated international aerodromes, should be given special facilities to sell alcoholic drinks outside permitted hours. The Measure would be extremely difficult to administer. Are we to confine the sale of the drinks, of whatever kind, solely to those going on board the aeroplane or those who have just got off it?

How could one keep their friends out? Could one prevent the staff from getting a drink outside permitted hours? Any of us who have had experience in managing clubs where there is a drinking bar know how difficult that problem is.

This problem has already been discussed very fully by the Royal Commission on Licensing, which met between 1929 and 1931. That Commission made a very definite and straightforward decision and recommendation to the House on this question. In paragraph 814 the Commission stated:
"In discussing drunkenness in connection with road transport, we expressed strong approval of the practice of many transport companies in requiring total abstinence from their drivers during hours of duty. We do not know whether air transport companies"—
as they were then—
"impose any such rule upon their pilots and other operating personnel; but it seems to us no less desirable, and indeed of even greater importance, that they should."
Then the Commission said, in paragraph 816:
"In the second place, it was urged that passengers who are subject to air sickness often wish to obtain intoxicants before departure or after arrival: and that supply should be lawful in such cases irrespective of hour"—
and I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that his Bill would provide that they could get drink irrespective of the hours at present laid down by law. The Report went on:
"On principle, we are 10th to introduce exceptions to the general application of the system of permitted hours; and we are not satisfied that any sufficient case has been made out for an exception in this instance."
That is a specific reference to the provision of alcoholic drinks at aerodromes outside permitted hours.

Will my hon. Friend answer this point, which may be of assistance to him? Is it not a fact that none of the crews on any of our airlines is allowed to take drink within eight hours of the take-off?

I understand that is the rule, although I must confess I have not myself actually read that rule; but I have observed during air travel that the staff on the plane and at the aerodromes are very careful in conscientiously carrying out the rules about drink. It would seem to me, in view of the recommendations of that Commission which gave careful and full consideration to the matter raised by the proposed Bill, that the House would be doing wrong to throw over their advice and to allow this Bill to be introduced, with the possibility that it might get through under the procedure of this House.

I think this is a case of the door being pushed open a little bit. I am sure that if this were allowed to be done, it would not be long before the door was opened a little wider. There are all kinds of cases which could be quoted, such as that

Division No. 183.]


[4.26 p.m.

Alport, C. J. M.Harden, J. R. E.Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)Hare, Hon. J. HPartridge, E.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.Hay, JohnPerkins, W. R. D.
Arbuthnot, JohnHeald, Sir LionelPeyton, J. W. W.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)Higgs, J. M. C.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Aston, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPrior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Baldwin, A. E.Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)Profumo, J. D.
Banks, Col. C.Hopkinson, HenryRayner, Brig. R.
Barber, A. P. L.Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.Redmayne, M.
Barlow, Sir JohnHorobin, I. M.Renton, D. L. M.
Baxter, A. B.Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. FlorenceRoberts, Peter (Heeley)
Beach, Maj. HicksHoughton, DouglasRodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Beamish, Maj. TuftonHudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Roper, Sir Harold
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Hurd, A. R.Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Boothby, R. J. G.Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)Scott, R. Donald
Bossom, A. C.Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Bowles, F. G.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Johnson, Eric (Btackley)Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Boyle, Sir EdwardKeeling, Sir EdwardSmithers, Peter (Winchester)
Braine, B. R.Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)Snadden, W. MoN.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)King, Dr. H. M.Spearman, A. C. M.
Brooman-White, R. C.Lancaster, Col. C. G.Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Browne, Jack (Govan)Langford-Holt, J. A.Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Burden, F. F. ALaw, Rt. Hon. R. K.Stevens, G. P.
Butcher, H. W.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Cary, Sir RobertLinstead, H. N.Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Channon, H.Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. CStoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Studholme, H. G
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSummers, G. S.
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Sutcliffe, H.
Colegate, W. A.McAdden, S. J.Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. SThorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Cranborne, ViscountMackeson, Brig. H. R.Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.McKibbin, A. J.Thurtle, Ernest
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)Tilney, John
Crouch, R F.Maclean, FitzroyTouche, Sir Gordon
Cuthbert, W. N.Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Davidson, ViscountessMacpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)Vosper, D. F.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C E McAMarshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Donner, P. W.Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Wellwood, W.
Drewe, G.Mellor, Sir JohnWhite, Baker (Canterbury)
Duncan, Capt. J. A L.Molson, A. H. E.Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Duthie, W. S.Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir ThomasWilliams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Nabarro, G. D. N.Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.Nally, W.Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Fort, R.Nicholls, HarmarWills, G.
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)Nicholson, Godfrey (Famham)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gage, C. H.Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)Wood, Hon. R.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.York, C.
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydNugent, G. R. H.
Glyn, Sir RalphOakshott, H. D.TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Godber, J. B.O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N)Mr. Roland Robinson and
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.Mr. Teeling.

of long-distance coach and rail travellers. They could put an equally good case for being permitted to obtain drink outside the permitted hours while the rest of us can obtain it only within those hours. From every point of view, it seems that there is no case whatever for this to be permitted, and I hope the House will reject the Motion.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 173; Noes, 173.


Acland, Sir RichardHamilton, W. WPaling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Hannan, W.Pannell, Charles
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)Hardy, E. APargiter, G. A.
Attlee, Rt. Hon C R.Hargreaves, A.Paton, J.
Awbery, S. S.Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E)Pearson, A
Ayles, W. H.Hastings, S.Poole, C. C
Bacon, Miss AliceHayman, F. H.Popplewell, E.
Balfour, A.Henderson, Rt. Hon A. (Rowley Regis)Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon F. J.Holman, P.Proctor, W. T.
Bence, C R.Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)Rankin, John
Benson, G.Hoy, J. HReid, William (Camlachie)
Black, C. W.Hubbard, T. F.Rhodes, H.
Blackburn, F.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Richards, R.
Blyton, W. R.Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayreshire)Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Bowden, H. WHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bowen, E. R.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Braddock, Mrs. ElizabethHynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Ross, William
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Irving, W. J (Wood Green)Royle, C
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Janner, B.Schofield, S. (Barnsley)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Jeger, George (Goole)Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Burton, Miss F. EJeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Callaghan, L. J.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Slater, J
Champion, A. JJones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Chetwynd, G. RJones, T. W. (Merioneth)Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Clunie, J.Keenan, WSnow, J. W.
Coldrick, W.Kinley, J.Sorensen, R. W.
Cole, NormanLee, Frederick (Newton)Sparks, J. A.
Collick, P. H.Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Lewis, ArthurStokes, Rt. Hon. R R
Crosland, C. A. RLindgren, G. SStross, Dr. Barnett
Daines, P.Lipton, Lt.-Col. MSylvester, G. O.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. HLlewellyn, D. T.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Davies, E. Edward (Stoke, N)Logan, D. G.Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Davies, Harold (Leek)McGhee, H. G.Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Deer, G.McInnes, J.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Dodds, N. N.McKay, John (Wallsend)Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. CMcLeavy, F.Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S W)MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles)Timmons, J.
Ewart, R.MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Tomney, F
Fernyhough, EMainwaring, W. HViant, S. P.
Field, W. JManuel, A C.Wade, D. W.
Finch, H. J.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H AWallace, H W
Follick, M.Messer, F.Watkins, T. E.
Fool, M. M.Mitchison, G. RWells, Percy (Faversham)
Forman, J. C.Monslow, W.West, D. G.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Moody, A. S.Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Garner-Evans, E. H.Morrison, Rt. Hon H (Lewisham, S.)Wigg, George
Glanville, JamesMort, D. L.Wilkins, W. A.
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Moyle, A.Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Mulley, F. WWilliams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Grey, C. FMurray, J. D.Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. JWilliams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Oldfield, W. H.Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Grimond, J.Oliver, G. H.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Orbach, M.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Oswald, T.
Hall. John (Gateshead, W.)Paling, Rt. Hon W (Dearne Valley)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. James Hudson and Mr. Gibson

As the numbers are equal, I shall vote "Aye" so that the House will have a further opportunity of considering the matter.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Ian Fraser, Mr. Roland Robinson, Mr. Edward Evans, Mr. William Teeling and Mr. John Rodgers.