§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, the principle involved in this Bill is one so familiar to your Lordships that I need not take up any time in discussing it. The Bill provides that Summer Time shall begin from the night of the last Saturday in March—or, when that Saturday is the one preceding Easter Day, the last Saturday but one in March— and shall end on the first Saturday in October. The reason why it has been decided not to begin on the Saturday immediately preceding Easter is that many Church Services on Easter Sunday begin very early, and if the introduction of Summer Time coincided with Easter Sunday it would make a very short night for those who wished to attend those services. I may say that the fixation of this date had been arranged in conference with France and Belgium, and I think it is obvious that it is a great advantage that our time arrangements and those of our next neighbours should coincide.
I do not think I need say any more about the Bill itself, but I will endeavour to address myself to two objections which have been raised. The first concerns the education question. I may say that very careful examination has been made into this matter by the Board of Education, and reports have been asked for from all the local education authorities, numbering 299 all told. Of these, a majority of two to one have reported in favour of the retention of Summer Time, and I may add, perhaps, that the inspectors of schools endorsed this opinion of the local education authorities. Consequently, I venture to think that there is but little to be said for the contention that the adoption of Summer Time is prejudicial to the health or the education of children.
I turn to another objection, the arguments in respect of which are, I think, more serious; I refer to the agricultural objection. It must be admitted, of course, that some inconvenience to agriculture has been caused by the operation of Summer Time, and this has been particularly felt during the harvest. In mentioning this, I should 425 say that I do not refer to allotments. I think that allotment holders throughout the country have supported the introduction of Summer Time, for obvious reasons. But as regards the objection from the agricultural community, I cannot help thinking that the difficulties which are experienced in this connection could be met by an alteration in the hours of work on the farms in summer and in winter. After all, it is not a new idea that the hours of labour in winter and summer should vary, and if the difficulty which is experienced by certain of the agricultural community in observing Summer Time could be met, at any rate to a considerable extent, in this way, it seems to me that an arrangement of the kind I have suggested would not present an insuperable objection.
But, apart from the agricultural objection, I think I am right in saying that the vast majority of the people of this country are strongly in favour of the retention of Summer Time. There is no doubt—and we have had now some considerable number of years' experience of Summer Time—that it has proved to be a very considerable boon to those who live in urban districts, and especially to those who are occupied all day indoors. It gives these people an opportunity of enjoying fresh air and exercise out of doors which, under previous circumstances, was not open to them. I am sure that the abandonment of Summer Time would be a great disappointment to the vast majority of the community, and I do not think—I am giving every consideration to the objections raised by certain of the agricultural community—that the inconvenience to them is so great as to justify the abolition of Summer Time, which is so much favoured by most of the community. I may add that the Home Office and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, all through the preparation of this Bill and all through the discussions, have been in close co-operation and consultation with the Department of Agriculture in Scotland and with the Ministry of Agriculture in this country, and both those Departments are in agreement with the view that the inconvenience to agriculture is not such as can balance the great advantage which Summer Time confers upon the population as a whole. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will give, this Bill a Second Reading this afternoon.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Onslow.)426
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I do not rise to offer opposition in any sense to the Second Reading of this Bill. On the general proposition of the noble Earl, I quite agree that a great majority of the people of this country do welcome the invention of Summer Time as a principle. We have all, I think, felt at different times the convenience and attraction of it ourselves, and what the noble Earl has said about the urban community as a rule cannot, I think, be disputed. It is also true that workers on allotments unquestionably find this extra hour at certain times of the year a great convenience and advantage.
I would also say that, personally, never have been one of those who have attached much weight to the so-called educational objections. I know on what grounds they have been made, and in some cases there may be a certain foundation for them, but, speaking generally, I question if any material harm is done to the children by the institution of this change. When, however, you come to the agricultural question the matter is, I think, on a different footing. I can hardly believe what the noble Earl told ns—namely, that the Home Office bad been in perpetual communication on this subject with the Ministry of Agriculture, and that they found the Ministry of Agriculture cordially agreed with that essentially urban bureau, the Home Office, that it was quite a simple thing for agriculturists to alter their hours.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I did not quite say that. I said that my Department had been in communication with the Ministry of Agriculture, and that they were of opinion that the inconvenience caused was not so serious as to justify, on the balance, the discontinuance of Summer Time.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I stand corrected if I misrepresented the noble Earl. I did not mean to do so, and I do not think I did, because he gave us the impression of more agreement on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture than I should have thought was possible. However, there is the noble Earl who represents agriculture, and we can ask him what he thinks. If the Ministry of Agriculture said that the agricultural objection was not such as to justify the rejection of the Bill, because a great majority of the people of this country-prefer Summer Time to not having Summer 427 Time, there, I think, we all agree. It is one of those cases in which minorities must suffer. But there is one particular matter which I should like to put before the noble Earl and I should be almost inclined to hope for the agreement of the noble Earl, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, on this point. In certain parts of England immense inconvenience is caused by the prolongation of the term so late as October 1. I think that if the term ended on September 1, although the agricultural community would not be pleased, because all the important agricultural bodies have passed resolutions asking to have Summer Time done away with altogether—I think if that concession could be made a great part of their objection would disappear.
The noble Earl himself lives in the South of England. If he lived north of the Trent he would realise that in September, by the use of Summer Time, the agricultural operations during harvest are sometimes reduced almost to a farce. Very often work cannot be begun to any purpose until noon or thereabouts on a farm, and for many reasons it is totally impracticable to change the hours of the operations on a farm in consideration of Summer Time. For one reason, in all dairying districts the morning's milk has to be sent away by train. The trains pay no attention to the supposed alteration of hours on a farm, and farm hours and the morning's milking have to be fitted in to suit Summer Time. That is found to be a most serious grievance in many parts of England, and I would beg the noble Earl to consider it. Although we all understand that he intends to proceed with the Bill, I would ask whether it would not be possible to restrict the operation of Summer Time by a month. I have no doubt that some other noble Lord will move an Amendment to that effect during the Committee stage, and I should like the noble Earl to consider whether such a very large proportion of the population which is affected by the actual terms of the Bill could not be conciliated, as they would be, by the alteration I have suggested.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
My Lords, the subject has been so exhaustively dealt with by the noble Marquess that there is little left to be said, but I should like to add that I am certain that agricultural opinion, so far from abating in intensity on this subject, is hardening with the passage of time; and the noble Earl 428 opposite, I am quite sure, was in error when he suggested that you could have one set of hours of labour in the country and another in the towns. The two are too far intermingled, especially with the train and railway elements taken into account. The noble Earl suggested just now that we were in accord with France in this matter. I hope that is so, but I think I am right in saying that the Senate in France has turned down this very same scheme in the last fortnight. Apparently, in France there is not that unanimity of opinion which there appears to be in this preponderatingly urban country of ours. Just as it has been found by the Government to be impossible to impose inexorable economic laws, so I believe, in the long run, it will be found to be inadvisable to stand out against the laws of nature, and it is obviously intended by a kind Providence or by Dame Nature that we should recognise the hours which the various seasons provide for us, in the way of light and darkness. One thing is quite clear. Nothing which the Government can possibly do can remove the dew from a ripened crop of corn, and that being so it is bound to curtail, at a most critical time of the year, the hours which are available for gathering in the harvest. For this reason I have always been against the adoption of this unnatural scheme.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.