HC Deb 05 February 1969 vol 777 cc371-5
1. Mr. Monro

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from local authorities about British Standard Time.

32. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received to date against British Standard Time; and what replies he has sent.

45. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received from official bodies in Scotland in favour of the results of introducing British Standard Time since October 1968.

59. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received to date from local authorities and other interested bodies about the operation of British Standard Time; and what reply he has sent.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

Since 27th October, 1968, when the Act came into force, I have received representations against British Standard Time from 23 local authorities, 13 other representative organisations and 28 private individuals. In addition, one hon. Member has sent me a petition signed by a number of his constituents; and one newspaper editor has forwarded to me a number of protests from his readers. All these representations have been, or are being, acknowledged, but no other reply has been sent except where information was specifically requested. No representations in favour of British Standard Time have been received officially since that date.

Mr. Monro

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are clear indications that the vast majority of the people of Scotland are fed up with these long dark mornings? How does he intend to assess the degree of misery and frustration of these people?

Mr. Buchan

We are trying to assess the situation first of all on the basis of this winter and then in the full review in 1970. Hon. Members opposite really must not exaggerate. Some of the recent figures, for example, suggest that B.S.T. is having precisely the opposite effect on the accident rate to that which some unthinking hysterical attacks have suggested.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

When the Home Secretary went to Scotland he appeared to promise a review of the experiment at the end of the year, but he has retracted that promise since returning south of the Border. Will the hon. Gentleman take the Home Secretary by the scruff of the neck and take him back to Scotland?

Mr. Buchan

This abuse is quite unwarranted. The hon. Gentleman knows that we are continually reviewing the situation and are assessing it again at the end of the winter. The full review still remains for 1970. There has been no change whatever in the programme.

Mr. Younger

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that there is no widespread disapproval of this move in Scotland, he must be terribly out of touch with opinion. Is he aware, for example, that in the Ayrshire County Council there has been a move to suspend education altogether for a month in winter in order to avoid the dark mornings? Does not that show what people think about this?

Mr. Buchan

That is precisely what I meant when I referred to unthinking hysteria. All sorts of moves of this kind have been suggested, but no actual decision has been taken. Of course, there has been widespread discontent about darkness in the mornings, but I have to measure that against some of the facts which have been coming forward—for example, a 30 per cent. reduction in the death rate among children over the last two months. One must measure the facts against the irritation.

Mr. Dempsey

Is my hon. Friend aware that parents are petrified by the thought of the children going out in these dark mornings, for the simple reason that they do not know whether or not they have arrived at school until home time comes? It is because of this fear that demonstrations have taken place by parents and pupils in Coat-bridge against B.S.T. Will my hon. Friend bear their point of view in mind?

Mr. Buchan

I am aware of the disquiet which exists. But there is no difference, basically, between not knowing now whether a child has been to school safely and not knowing in previous years. I agree that this has been added to by apprehensions of darkness, however, but I ask hon. Members to look to their own consciences in this matter and to wait until we see the end of the winter and the figures, which at present—and I put it no stronger—suggest the opposite result of what hon. Members claim.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the large majority of people in Scotland are opposed to B.S.T. because of the general nuisance it causes, besides the difficulties in such industries as agriculture and building?

Mr. Buchan

I am aware that every change produces irritation. The hon. Gentleman should not only look at that aspect but should consider the facts as they unfold. It is interesting to note that at a recent meeting I had with a branch of the N.F.U. differing views emerged as to the effect of B.S.T. on agriculture. There is no reason for the assumption the hon. Gentleman has made. It seems, on the contrary, that a tendency towards approval is beginning to take place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is more verifiable than the nonsense coming from hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Monro

In view of the dark reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

8. Mr. Gordon Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements he is making to assess the effects of British Standard Time in Scotland during the winter 1968–69.

13. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will conduct a survey in Scotland of the effects of British Standard Time.

36. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what study he has now made of the effect of British Standard Time in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

39. Mr. Stodart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what machinery he plans to use in order to ascertain the opinions of people in Scotland about British Standard Time during the survey which the Government have undertaken to carry out.

Mr. Buchan

The assessment to be made at the end of this winter will be on the basis of the information then available to the Government, including, in particular, information about road accidents. Unless this indicates a need for further inquiries or consultations, no other survey is envisaged until the spring of 1970, by which time we shall have had the experience of two winters on which to base a final judgment.

Mr. Campbell

What useful point can there possibly be in having such a review if the Government obstinately refuse to consider any change before the end of the three-year period?

Mr. Buchan

I still do not understand hon. Gentlemen opposite. They ask us to keep this under continual review. We say we will keep it under continual review. Then they complain when it is suggested that this action can take place. If the facts indicate that that kind of action should result from the survey in 1970, it will be taken. I should have thought that that would have been perfectly clear even to hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

While accepting the importance of the road accident figures, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind also the feelings of millions of ordinary people upon whose lives the Government have imposed this frightful irritation? Why cannot he give us an assurance that, if the survey is to be worth anything, he will introduce legislation to end this experiment, if the survey proves it to have been a failure?

Mr. Buchan

I am continually being astonished. This situation should be equated against the facts, as, for example, that there has been a 13 per cent. decrease in accidents to children between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. I must repeat that hon. Gentlemen opposite should look at their consciences when they try to stir up this kind of hysteria about this particular case. Let us look at the facts and examine the matter then.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Scotland would respect him much more if he were to accept the realities of the situation and scrap this unnecessary tampering with time which is loathed throughout Scotland?

Mr. Buchan

I am asked to look at the realities of the situation. I have been pleading with hon. Gentlemen opposite to look at the facts. Facts are realities—not the subjective impressions often created by hon. Members opposite.

Mr. Stodart

While, of course, the decrease in the accident rate is something which we welcome very much indeed, is not this only one of the many important factors, and what is the purpose of the survey if no action is to be taken till 1970?

Mr. Buchan

As always, we get a little touch of realism from the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for it. Of course it is only one of the facts. It happens to be the one fact about which there has been the most fuss made over the last few months. It is one we are taking into account, of course, in examining the matter, including the effects on the industry in which the hon. Member has a great interest.

Mr. William Hamilton

Have there been any further representations from the Scottish T.U.C. and the Scottish C.B.I., two bodies which were in support of the experiment?

Mr. Buchan

No. I have had no such further representations, but my hon. Friend is perfectly right to draw attention to the fact that two important and significant bodies in Scotland approved of this decision.

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