HC Deb 12 December 1968 vol 775 cc565-8
35. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to review the experiment on British Standard Time after 12 months instead of after three years.

Mr. Callaghan

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 5th December to a Question by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing).—[Vol. 774, c. 549–50.]

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is the Home Secretary aware how unpopular this experiment is, and will he say what criteria he will use to judge the experiment? How does he evaluate public opinion, and will he pay particular regard to opinion in the northern part of Britain?

Mr. Callaghan

I am aware that there is a great deal of feeling about it, and on both sides. I am receiving a fair amount of correspondence asking that I should, in no circumstances, alter the existing experiment. This goes to show the wisdom of having a prolonged period of experiment so that people may make up their minds in the light of the period during which it runs. As to the criteria which we use, obviously, information which will be available at the end of this winter on, for instance, road accidents will be a relevant factor.

Mr. Heifer

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, in considering this matter, he will look also into the number of accidents likely to take place in the building and other outdoor industries as a result of the change? Also, will he look at the matter again since there is need for a great amount of additional light, especially in certain quarters in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend raises a valuable point in relation to accidents in industry. Clearly, that is something which has to be taken into account. As regards Northern Ireland, I do not want to trespass on that ground today.

Mr. Brewis

Has any of the correspondence which the right hon. Gentleman mentions come from Scotland? Second, would it be possible for Scotland to follow the example of Stornoway Town Council and go back to G.M.T?

Mr. Callaghan

The legislation does not provide for that at present. I recall letters in favour of the experiment from the North of England, but I cannot say that I recall any from Scotland.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend take it that I have received at least one letter from a business firm in Scotland saying that the experiment ought to continue because it is of great advantage to that firm in its export drive, and does he recall that in the vote on the issue only 69 right hon. and hon. Members opposite voted against the experiment?

Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend's statistics are usually better than mine, and I am sure that he is right. I think that it would be a misfortune if this became a party issue. I have explained on more than one occasion that the experiment was undertaken after a great deal of consultation. The House should allow it to have a free run for some time so that people may make up their minds.

Mr. Hogg

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we have never made a party issue of it, since many of my right hon. and hon. Friends were, for once, on this issue as silly as the Government?

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the Home Secretary give an assurance that, whatever conclusion he reaches or whether or not he is ready to reach a conclusion at the end of this winter, the House of Commons will in the present Session have an opportunity to express an opinion on the matter on a free vote on both sides?

Mr. Callaghan

No, Sir; that is not a question for me.

52. Mr. Gordon Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what will be the form of the review of British Standard Time to be undertaken after this winter.

Mr. Callaghan

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to a Question by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) on 5th December.—[Vol. 774, c. 549–50.]

Mr. Campbell

As the Home Secretary announced in a speech in Scotland that there would be a review of this winter, will he be prepared to cancel the experiment if the results show that it is desirable to do so after considering not only road accidents but all the difficulties for industries and the public?

Mr. Callaghan

Not in advance of the end of the experimental period.

53. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the cost, to local authorities and to private individuals, respectively, of the introduction of British Standard Time and measures necessitated by it to reduce road accidents.

Mr. Callaghan

The factors involved are too various to enable any useful estimate to be made.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that local authorities in Scotland and the North of England have been put to considerable additional expense by this grotesque and unnecessary Measure? Will he ensure that ratepayers are not forced to compound the folly of the Government in this matter?

Mr. Callaghan

I forbear from associating the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) with the folly, as he associated himself with it. The hon. Gentleman has already heard my replies to questions on the subject this afternoon. I have nothing to add to what I said then.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Tories wanted to get up very early this morning to study the trade returns?

Mr. Callaghan

I was hoping that some hon. Gentleman would congratulate the nation on last month's trading figures.