HL Deb 29 July 1925 vol 62 cc559-71

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Desborough.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Summer Time Act to be made, permanent, and period of summer time extended.

1.—(1) The Summer Time Act, 1922, shall become a permanent Act, and subsection (3) of section three of that Act is hereby repealed.

(2) Subsection (1) of section three of the Summer Time Act, 1922 (which defines the period of summer time for the purposes of that Act) shall, as from the commencement of this Act, have effect as though the first Saturday in October were therein substituted for the third Saturday in September.

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM and the DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH had given Notice of Amendments to Clause 1.


I see that the noble Duke proposes to leave out one word, and the noble Lord proposes to leave out the same word and a number of other words. I suggest to your Lordships that it might be convenient to take first the one word "October." Then, if the noble Duke's Amendment is agreed to, the noble Lord's can follow, to leave out the rest of the words.


May I suggest to the Lord Chairman that if you put in "October" it would be too late to talk about May. In that sense, the May Amendment comes first. Perhaps it might be moved in a different form.


If that be convenient then we can take Lord Banbury's Amendment first, and in the meantime I will think out a way of saving the noble Duke's Amendment.


Would it be possible to give one reply? The reply? the same in both cases.

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAMomit from subsection (2) all "the first Saturday in," and insert "May were substituted for the third Saturday in April, and the first Saturday in September for the third Saturday in September." The noble Lord said: This Bill is as bad an example of legislation by reference as any I have ever seen. It is quite incomprehensible unless you obtain the original Act and study it carefully. The effect of my Amendment, if carried, would be that summer time would commence upon the first Saturday in May, and terminate on the first Saturday in September. I do not deny for a moment that there are a few farmers who do not see very much objection to summer time, but taking farmers as a whole the farming interest in all parts of Great Britain is opposed to it. Farmers are opposed to it because it is detrimental to their business. In the early morning there is a large amount of dew, and consequently, in the hay and corn harvest, operations cannot be commenced. In this summer, which is a very dry one, there has hardly been, to my knowledge in my county, where I spend three or four days each week, a morning without a heavy dew. I have been out in order to see whether or not it was a fact that there was a heavy dew which prevented hay operations starting. We know that in September there always is a heavy dew, and though sometimes the harvest in England is over by the first week in September, or possibly the last week in August, in other parts of the country, especially in Scotland, the harvest does not begin until early or even the middle of September.

We are told over and over again that the great need of this country is an extension of the corn area, and here we are introducing a Bill the object of which is to put difficulties in the way of producing corn. What is supposed to be the advantage? The advantage is that certain people may play lawn tennis a little longer, or, as one of the supporters of the Bill in the House of Commons told me only a few days ago, that women may shop. I do not wish to enter into a discussion as to whether or not it is advisable that women may shop, but I do say that the limitation of the shopping of women is not to be compared with the injury that is inflicted upon the agricultural community by summer time in the months in which it is proposed to enact it.

There is also the point of view of milkers. In my county a great deal of milk is produced. I do not do any milk business myself, but I know that the milkers have to begin work at five o'clock in the morning. I have provided myself with Whitaker's Almanack for this year, and I find that the sun rises on, April 4 at 5.32 a.m. These unfortunate people have to get up in the dark and milk their cows in the dark, in order that certain dwellers in the towns may have a little longer time to play lawn tennis find a certain number of women a little longer time to shop. In September it is even worse. Take September 13, the sun does not rise, I find, until 5.21 a.m. and, therefore certain people have to get up in the dark again, do their work in the dark, and again for the reasons which I have given. I believe the miners are strongly opposed to a very long summer time—I do not know why—and also that the fishermen are opposed to it.

I think it is extremely doubtful whether it is good for children. I know certain medical men have said that it is, but I have been told over and over again by people in my own neighbourhood that it is not good for the children; they will not go to sleep in the light, and they have to get up much earlier in the morning in consequence of this summer time. But there is a further objection to having summer time in April and in September. It is called a Summer Time Bill, and I presume that the promoters are desirous of doing something in the summer. We never have any summer until the middle of May, generally it is the end of May, and although the first ten days in September may be somewhat like summer time—I remember very fine days in September—yet, as a rule, towards the end of September there is very little summer.

Then a very large number of people have to go to business early in the morning. Why should they be compelled to get up an hour earlier on a cold April morning, or a cold morning in May, merely because certain people want to play lawn tennis? This Amendment of mine would preserve a reasonable amount of time for extra recreation to the dwellers in towns, while it would do something to assist agriculture and remedy a grievance which a considerable number of people feel at being compelled to get up in the dark on cold mornings.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 13, leave out from ("in") to the end of the clause, and insert ("May were substituted for the third Saturday in April and the first Saturday in September for the third Saturday in September").—(Lord Banbury of Southom.)


I have an Amendment to leave out "October" and insert "September." I do not know whether the noble Lord who is to reply would like me to speak now—the Amendments are really on the same point—or whether he would like me to speak on my own Amendment.


My answer will be the same to both Amendments, and it might be given once instead of twice.


So far as I understand, the view of the Government is that there are probably more votes in favour of the Bill than there are against it, and that is what has determined this question. Whether it is good for the country or not does not seem to come in. If people in England have to get up at five o'clock then they are much more fortunate than the people farther north. These people have to get up much earlier than that, and they feel this summer time very bitterly. I have had a large number of letters on this question, and it must be said that the majority have been in favour of the measure. There was one person who was so keen that he wanted summer time for the whole year round, and remarked that those who were in favour of it would be much worse off as they would have to get up so much earlier in the winter that they would get what he called a "sickener" of it.

There is, however, this important question. The Government, I understand, supports the Bill because the majority of people are in favour of it, and, therefore, they are not likely to accept the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, or my own Amendment. It means this: that any plea on behalf of agriculture is to be turned down because agriculture has not so many votes. If that is the case I think we should be much better off if the Government were to say that we need not expect anything from them. In, effect they say: "You have not enough votes, and, therefore, you will not get justice." That is what it comes to. I do not wish to labour this question as it has been thoroughly thrashed out already, but I would like to read the concluding paragraph of the Report of the Scottish Conference on Agriculture. It puts the case very much better than I can put it.

This is what the Report says— We feel some reluctance in concluding our Report with a reference to a subject on which the views of agriculturists have already been so fully and cogently expressed from many quarters. But it is one of such importance and has so direct a bearing on the questions submitted to us in our terms of reference that we cannot refrain from reiterating these views in the strongest possible terms. We appreciate and sympathise with the humane and disinterested motives of those who urge the adoption of summer time for the longest period practicable, but we would appeal to them in turn not to ignore the claims of agriculture to a fair measure of consideration in this matter. These claims are advanced with the unanimous support of all sections engaged in the industry, and for this reason, if for no other, they should not be lightly set aside. Their merits, in our opinion, are indisputable. Summer time for any period, cannot out affect agriculture adversely, but we are willing to sacrifice our interests so far as to compromise on a period of four months, covering May, June, July and August. To begin it at 1st April and, even worse, to continue it through the harvest month of September, would weigh the balance heavily against agriculture, and in the later districts of Scotland, where under normal conditions the grain harvest is a difficult and speculative business, would make all the difference between possible success and certain disaster. It would also lead many to give up milk production, already a very burdensome occupation for the farmer and his employees. The detailed reasons for these statements should be sufficiently well known from the many representations that have been put forward by the various agricultural organisations. The next paragraph is, I think, really very important. It concludes— All we need say is that, if the proposal for a full six months of summer time is persisted in, it will go a long way to cancel the beneficial effects which we earnestly hope our recommendations may be the means of bringing to our fundamental national industry. Year after year in Scotland and the North of England the crops are absolutely wasted because we cannot get them in, and summer time in the month of September is going to make a difference between partial success and certain disaster. I hope that the Government will look thoroughly into this matter. They are very apt to appoint these Committees, but what is the use of appointing Committees if, when the Report comes in, they are going to ignore it and go against its recommendations. If the Government do not accept this Amendment they must take the responsibility and must not cry out if in a year or two—if they are still in power—the returns of arable land in Scotland have considerably gone down.


I want, not as representing the Labour Party but as a man who has lived most of his life in the country and is also familiar with town life, to support the position of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam. We who live in the country and agricultural workers generally get up about as early as is possible to do our work, especially in the dairy trades, and particularly in spring and in late autumn, when we want to start harvesting as early as we can. We get up at a reasonable time, and it appears to us rather unreasonable that, on behalf of the town dwellers, who, we think, do not get up at a reasonable time, we should be forced to get up at an earlier hour and that our spring and autumn production should be hampered in order that town dwellers—not so much of the working classes as of the middle classes—who get up later than they need and later than the majority of the human race, may have a longer period in the evening. We do not think that we ought to be put in that difficulty when we are carrying on productive industries

It would be more reasonable, and the burden would be distributed very much better, if the town workers formed the habit of getting up and starting their work earlier in the day, in order that they might leave a little earlier in the afternoon, rather than that agriculturists, at crucial times of the year, should be hampered in the morning by having to do their work at an uneconomic time and in the afternoon by having to leave off at a time when they might be doing three or four hours more work. That is why I think that the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, deserves very great sympathy. The balance of convenience to the public will be very much better distributed if the Amendment is accepted.


I wish to support my noble friend the mover of this Amendment, and also to speak on behalf of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland. The noble Lord has spoken of the harvest in this country. I come from a very much more northerly district than he does, where we stiffer very much from the late harvests that we usually have. Very often snow is on the ground before our harvest is gathered in. In this connection I should like to refer to the remarks of the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading. He said: The reason of the farmers' objection to summer time starting so early as the beginning of April was that in most counties there are early frost, He might have added that we in the North suffer not only from frost but from very heavy dew. Later on, the noble Lord said, referring to the objections of agriculturists, that. he fully admitted that they were very serious objections. The fact of the matter is that the agriculturist, because he represents a smaller body of the community than the town population, is to be sacrificed to it. History shows that in bygone days the aristocracy, supported by the country yeomanry, were usually the people to fight the country's battles.

This Bill is a compromise. Agriculturists do not oppose it from selfish motives and they do not say that there should be no summer time at all. But I do feel that the agriculturist is deserving of some consideration. We are constantly hearing cries about making the country fit for heroes to live in and about, going back to the land. What is the inducement to go bark to the land? What is the state of the land? To Scotland one-fifth of the land has changed hands since the War, and it does not look as if it is a very good thing to be a landlord. The troubles of the landlord are shared by the farmer and the agricultural worker, for each depends upon the others. I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer at this time of the evening, but, if my noble friend goes to a Division, I shall certainly support him.


I have very great sympathy with the case put by the Farmers' Union and other agriculturists and I have no doubt whatever that, if we had to consider the agricultural industry alone, it would be better if there had never been any time-saving Bill at all. I was opposed to the scheme when it was originally introduced in another places but circumstances are not quite the same now, because the measure has been in operation, it has been very fully debated in another place and I think that the result of that debate does represent the views of a very great majority of the people of this country. As regards field work, harvesting and so on, I believe that the difficulty may be got over. After all, on moonlight nights we sometimes work all night, at least in the less favoured districts of the northern part of this country. You cannot, however, get over the hardships caused to the dairying industry and the excessively early hours at which women and other workers have to rise. That burden is greatly aggravated by this Bill. On the whole, however, I would prefer to see, and I hope that the Government will see, that agriculture receives that just consideration and those measures of relief which the noble Duke who supports this Amendment so well put before the House, rather than an interference with this Bill as it has been brought up to this house. I think it is on those lines that a real relief will be given and justice will be done to the agricultural industry. As I have said, I think that, in every respect except dairying, we can get over the undoubted hardship which this Bill causes to the agricultural industry. I need not recapitulate the advantages, real or imaginary, which the towns and large proportions of other districts in the country find in this system, which has already been tried for some years. We have to recollect also that in a great agricultural country, our neighbour on the Continent, the same system of summer time is in force. It is a little difficult to understand this. I should not have thought that France would ever adopt summer time.


They are very much further south.


That is true, but I should have thought that a great agricultural country like France would have hesitated to adopt summer time. I think it is inadvisable to oppose the measure here, although the hardships of the agricultural industry are greater than those that may be suffered in France. I regret, as an agriculturist, that summer time was ever introduced, but I think that in the circumstances in which we find ourselves it is very difficult to oppose the Bill.


I hope it will be convenient to your Lordships that I should return what will practically be one reply to both Amendments put down by my noble friends, because the result would be the same in either case, and do not wish to repeat my arguments. I must say that I was very much surprised to hear Lord Banbury say that the object of this Bill was to put another hindrance in the way of agriculture, and also to enable people to play lawn tennis and to facilitate shopping. I have had the advantage of reading the debate in another place, and I must say that there the arguments against the Bill were put in a very much more serious and more becoming way. There is no doubt, in my mind, and I have had some experience in agriculture, having been head of some of the great agricultural societies for many years past, that on the whole this Bill is not, and I do not pretend that it is, acceptable to agriculturists, but I must say, having read the debates in another place, that I was surprised and comforted to find that many representatives of agriculture, both on behalf of the labourers and the farmers, spoke in high terms of the results of summer time.

Instead of the object of this Bill being to give more time for people to play lawn tennis and for ladies to do their shopping, we have the practically unanimous opinion of doctors that this measure has greatly increased the health of the people. That is one of the main grounds on which I shall ask the House to support this Bill. We have also the testimony of those who are interested in the education of five millions of our children, who by two to one have expressed themselves in the strongest way in favour of the principle of summer time for the sake of the children.

What is the position now of this country with regard to summer time? Every Session of Parliament this country is open to a Bill being brought in to alter summer time. Hardly one member of the Legislature, either Lord or Commoner, and not even Lord Banbury, would presume to bring in a Bill to do away with summer time altogether, but every Session, as long as this matter remains open, there will be uncertainty as to the duration of summer time. It has become, as was stated in another place, a Sessional nuisance, and until some arrangement is arrived at it is impossible for this country to carry out its engagements with France and Belgium, which in the interests of all three countries it is absolutely necessary should be carried out.

The advice of the Prime Minister, who is himself an agriculturist, to agriculturists, was that they should take what they can get now for fear of getting something lees if they asked for more. This Bill comes here as an absolutely non-Party measure. It was left to the free vote of the House of Commons, and both on the Second Reading and on the Report stage it was carried by an enormous majority. On the Report Stage there was a concession made to the agricultural interest; that is to say, although the supporters of the Bill were unwilling to give up the end of the holidays—namely, the last week in September—which would necessitate the disturbing of all the railway companies' time tables and bills, they were willing, for the sake of giving what they could to the agricultural industry, to make summer time begin rather later than was at first intended.

I venture to give this advice to my friends behind me: that it would be much wiser, in the interests of agriculture, to accept the arrangement arrived at, rather than reject this Bill by carrying these Amendments, with the result that next year they would find themselves faced with a demand for the whole six months, which they would not be able to resist. Therefore I appeal to my noble friends, and to the House, in the interests of agriculture, to accept this Bill as it stands and not to amend it and so cause it to be lost. I am afraid, for the reasons I have given, and in the interests of agriculture, that I can accept neither of the Amendments proposed by my noble friends behind me.


I should like to say one word in reply. My noble friend has made a very good Second Reading speech, but he has not actually dealt with either of the Amendments at all.


I said that I was afraid I could not accept either.


That was all my noble friend said.


I pointed out that the reason I could not accept them was that they would kill the Bill. They are equally bad, in my opinion, but of the two I prefer that of the noble Duke.


It does not follow that my Amendment, if carried, would kill the Bill. We are going to have an autumn Session and therefore there is any amount of time available. I should like to point out, moreover, that my Amendment does not touch the arrangement made, if it was an arrangement, as regards the opening of summer time. The Bill as passed last year only went to the third week in September, and now we are going into October. I would be prepared to compromise in that respect, if the noble Lord will accept an Amendment ending summer time in the third week in September. If he will not do so, then we will press this question on either Lord Banbury's Amendment or my Amendment.


I think there is one thing forgotten, and that is that in the North of Scotland, where I live, conditions are very different from those in the South. September in Scotland is the time when the harvest begins, and the sun sets very much earlier than it does in the South. In the early morning, owing to summer time, the labourers come down to take up work and have to stand about for a considerable time, because of the dew on the land. There is no other work for them to do, and yet for all those hours of waiting the farmer has to pay wages to the labourers. A second point is that the daylight ends at a very much earlier hour, and therefore it is impossible for them to get through the harvest in the time available. I think these are two very important points in regard to the


I am quite prepared to withdraw my Amendment in order to take the Amendment of the noble Duke.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH moved, in subsection (2), to substitute "September" for "October."

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 13, leave out ("October") and insert ("September").—(The Duke of Buccleuch.)


I am afraid the objections to this Amendment are almost as great as they are to the other. They are, at any rate, fatal. The whole of this point was debated over and over again in another place. I have tried to point out that it is most inconvenient to the people of this country to have all their trains altered towards the end of September, and I am afraid that this Amendment, if carried, would be absolutely fatal to the Bill. On both occasions the opponents of the Bill only mustered sixty-three votes in the House of Commons out of 700 against this Bill.


There are only 615 Members of the House of Commons.


I was confusing the Lords and the Commons; but, at any rate, they only mustered sixty-three. After what was said in the House of Commons the last time this was discussed, I very much doubt whether there would be even sixty-three votes for the noble Duke's Amendment.

On Question, Whether the word "October" shall stand part of the Clause?—

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 8.

Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.) Eldon, E. Churchill, V.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Hutchinson, V. (Earl Donoughmore.)
Sutherland, D. Onslow, E.
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Novar. V.
Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Stanhope, K.
Strafford, E. Southwark, L. Bp.
Beauchamp, E. Bertie of Thame, V. Aldenham, L.
Clarendon, E. Cecil of Chelwood, V. Arnold, L.
De La Warr, E. Chaplin, V. Ashton of Hyde, L.
Askwith, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Sandhurst, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Jessel, L. Somers, L.
Biddulph, L. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.) Southwark, L.
Clwyd, L. Lawrence, L. Stanmore, L.
Cottesloe, L. Merrivale, L. Stuart of Wortley, L.
Danesfort, L. Merthyr, L. Sumner, L.
Darling, L. Muir Mackenzie, L. Swaythling, L.
Desborough, L. O'Hagan, L. Sydenham of Combe, L
Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.) Raglan, L. Templemore, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.) Ruthven of Gowrie, L. Thomson, L.
Gainford, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Coutown.) Treowen, L.
Hemphill, L. Wavertree, L.
Bath, M. Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.] Saltoun, L.
Sempill, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) [Teller.] Clinton, L. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Fairfax of Cameron, L.

Bill, and I hope that the Amendment will be agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment.