HC Deb 15 May 1916 vol 82 cc1318-24

(1) During the prescribed period in each year in which this Act is in force, the local time in Great Britain shall be one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time.

(2) This Act shall be in force in the year nineteen hundred and sixteen, and in that year the prescribed period shall be from two o'clock in the morning Greenwich mean time on Sunday the twenty-first day of May until two o'clock in the morning Greenwich mean time on Sunday the first day of October, and His Majesty may in any subsequent year, by Order in Council made during the continuance of the pre sent war, declare this Act to be in force during that year, and in such case the pre scribed period in that year shall be such period as may be fixed by the Order in Council.

(3) Wherever any expression of time occurs in any Act of Parliament, Order in Council, order, regulation, rule, or by-law, or in any deed, time table, notice, advertisement, or other document, the time mentioned or referred to shall be held, during the prescribed period, to be the time as fixed by this Act:

Provided that where in consequence of this Act. it is expedient that any time fixed by any by-law, regulation, or other instrument should be adjusted and such adjustment cannot be effected except after the lapse of a certain interval or on compliance with certain conditions, the appropriate Government Department may, on the application of the body or person by whom the by-law, regulation, or other instrument was made or is administered, make such adjustment in the time so fixed as in the circumstances may seem to the Department proper, and if any question arises as to what Government Department is the appropriate Government Department, the question shall be finally determined by the Treasury.

(4) This Act shall apply to Ireland in like manner as it applies to Great Britain, with the substitution, however, of references to Dublin mean time for references to Greenwich mean time.

(5) Nothing in this Act shall affect the use of Greenwich mean time for purposes of astronomy or navigation, or affect the construction of any document mentioning or referring to time in connection with such purposes as aforesaid.

Amendments made:

In Sub-section (1) leave out the word "local" ["the local time"].

In Sub-section (1), after the word "time" ["the local time in Great Britain"], insert the words "for general purposes."—[Mr. Samuel.]


I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (3) to insert the words, "Provided also that during the hay and corn harvests farmers be authorised to reckon the working day by Greenwich time."

May I appeal to the Home Secretary to make some sort of change of this kind in the interest of the agricultural classes, who, it may be held, are bound—though I do not think it is the case myself—under this Bill to work on all occasions and on all days under this new time. Hon. Members who have experience of Scotland in the hay harvest, and particularly in the autumn harvest, and who know of the mists in the morning—very heavy wet mists coming in from the Forth and the North Sea—will realise that a farmer in these circumstances should be entitled to commence his day, not at 6 o'clock in the morning, but at 7 o'clock. There are doubts whether he can do that, though I think myself he can. Probably the right hon. Gentleman would tell me whether or not there is any right on the part of men to say, "We insist on commencing at 6 o'clock," and demanding overtime. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can say something which will modify the fears which agriculturists have in this matter, but I put down the Amendment entirely off my own bat. I received a large number of letters this morning from agriculturists, all in Scotland, saying that they think the Amendment is extremely practical in our country, and hoping that the Government will accept it.


The Board of Agriculture in England and Wales, and also the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, have had this proposal under consideration, and both advise me they consider that it is not necessary to make any legislative provision for this purpose. It seems to me that the number of specific contracts in which hours are stated are exceedingly few, if any, and the Boards consider that the good sense of the farmers and their employés would get over any difficulties that might arise. Further, this point is made that at the present time, with the dearth of labour so great, the farmer would be only too glad to put his men on to other work during the first hour or so before the hay or corn could be carried.


What other work?


Other work about the farms. There is plenty of other work to be done. The Boards say the farmers ought to keep the men on in the evenings as well. The farmers could find other work for an hour in the evenings for the men. The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) himself said frankly that in his view it was not really necessary, because he thought it could be done by an arrangement between the parties. Of course, any opinion I may express obviously would not carry any legal validity, but I might express my own view, as the introducer of this Bill, that certainly the employés on the farms ought to endeavour to meet their employers in this matter, and not seek to get any undue advantage.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make it clear that farmers can begin work when they like and, their men agreeing, can leave off when they like in the evening. If you put the men to work at this new Statutory time, it will mean four o'clock instead of five. You cannot expect the men to keep on an hour later to make good in the evening. We want to begin when we like and to leave off when we like—I mean so long as it is reasonable.


I represent an agricultural Constituency, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that we suffer a good deal from morning mists. If this Amendment is not adopted, the farmers in the district I represent will be subjected to very great hardship.


Of course, agriculturists must work by the sun and not by the clock. That always has been done, and will continue to be done; consequently farmers will not really be affected.


The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested that it is possible to do this by Agreement. I never for a moment supposed anything was not possible by agreement. I did not suggest this time was imposed absolutely upon any man. It is not; we all know that. The point was whether, without agreement, the farmer could say he would begin at seven or six. I think myself no difficulty should arise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: In Sub-section (5) after the word "navigation" [" for the purposes of astronomy or navigation"] insert the word "meteorology."—[Mr. Samuel.]


Before this Amendment is accepted, I would like to ask whether the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir Joseph Larmor) is not a better one. His Amendment would also include the words "or for other scientific purposes."


The objection to it is its vagueness. I do not know any other scientific purpose which really need be exempted. Astronomy, navigation, and meteorology seem to cover the ground. The hon. Member for Cambridge University was here not long ago, and if he had attached importance to his Amendment no doubt he would have moved it, but I think his Amendment was put down before he saw my Amendment. It was put down at the request of the Meteorological Office.

Amendment agreed to.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

2.0 A.M.


By putting in the words "during the continuance of the present War," we may be in rather an invidious and awkward position, as no one, of course, can tell when the present War is going to end, or at what part of the year it will end. Nor is it very clear what would be the position if an Order in Council were issued continuing this Act for another particular year, say, in the month of February, if, before the period when the alteration of the clock would naturally take place—at the end of April—the War was concluded. In that case, of course, for that year, although it was not a year during the War period, this Act would be in force. That I could have no possible objection to, as I feel confident that once adopted the country will wish to continue this practice. But I would point out that if these words were omitted from the Clause, and the Act were passed now, it would be perfectly open to the country and the House, if it were found not to work satisfactorily, to repeal the Act, and, therefore, I think it very unfortunate that we should limit this Act to the continuance of the present War when obviously it could be and would be limited to any period if it were found that it did not work as everybody expects it to do. We shall be in the position of having to pass a new Act all over again and go through all the Debate probably, and enter into all kinds of considerations with regard to it, which would be wholly unnecessary; and that would take place at a time when there will be an enormous amount of legislative work for the House to consider. I should have thought it would have been very much better to have left it exactly the other way about, so that this question would not necessarily be reopened again at the conclusion of the War unless it were found not to work satisfactorily. As it is, whether it works satisfactorily or not a new Act will have to be passed, and it may have to be passed at a very inconvenient moment, as the present Bill comes at a very inconvenient moment. We have already lost a considerable portion of the advantage we ought to gain from the operation of the Act by the fact that it will not come into operation until the 21st May, and it may well be that we shall be in a position of suspended animation with regard to this daylight saving question until the House can find time to pass another Act, and in another year—perhaps in the year 1917 or 1918—we may find ourselves in the same position, and be deprived of the advantage of the alteration that is proposed until perhaps the month of June or July, when the House would have time to deal with the question. Although I quite recognise that it was understood to be emergency legislation, it would not have been any breach of faith, either in the House or with the country, to have left it to the country to decide whether the proposal met with general approval, or whether the arguments that have been used against it have such force in practice as we have been told to expect they would have. I do not for a moment believe they will have, and I do not think it will be found necessary or advisable to repeal the Act. I should like just to ask the Home Secretary to consider that, and tell us how he proposes to get over the very probable difficulty of having the time of the House very busily engaged at just such time in the year when the Act might with most advantage be brought into operation. You cannot deal with it effectively between the months of April and October. The fact that this Act is being passed so late in this year has caused much of its usefulness to disappear.

Sir J. D. REES

The Bill will have no effect in lengthening the farmer's day.


There are other people in the world besides farmers. Farmers work by sunlight, other people work by the clock. This has been advocated as a War measure, and especially on the ground of War economy. It has received from the House of Commons a favourable reception on those grounds, and I do not think it would have been fair for me to take advantage of the special War conditions to endeavour to induce the House to pass a permanent Act, and not give it the opportunity of considering the matter when the War is over and normal conditions are restored. I have no doubt that if the experience of the country under this Act is favourable, if we find it as satisfactory as we hope we shall, and if we find the inconvenience as small as we anticipate, then the House and the country will be very ready to continue the Act in future years.

Clause 2 (Short Title)ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Title—A Bill, to provide for the Local Time in Great Britain and Ireland being in advance of Greenwich and Dublin mean time respectively in the summer months.

Question, "That the word 'Local' ['Local Time in Great Britain'] stand part of the Title,'' put, and negatived.—[Mr. Samuel.]

Bill, reported, with an Amended Title; as amended, considered; read the Third time, and passed.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being Half-past Eleven of the Clock on Monday evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Five minutes after Two o'clock a.m., Tuesday, 16th May.