HL Deb 22 November 1934 vol 95 cc74-7

LORD LAMINGTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government that the Post Office in their announcements should be authorised to utilise the twenty-four-hour system as well as the present one; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the last time I called your attention to this subject it was with reference to the Report which the Government had received from the B.B.C. governing organisation with regard to the matter. It was a very indefinite Report, rather to my surprise. I should have thought the public would have been so inconvenienced by the B.B.C. attempting to adopt the system that there would have been a general revolt, but apparently opinion was about equally in favour of and opposed to it. One result, which Lord Templemore quoted, was that the Report suggested that further investigation by the Departments concerned was required, but they did not name the Departments concerned. You have already the Admiralty, War Office and Air Force working on this system. It would be very easy to find out from them how it does operate, and I would like to know whether the Government have consulted any of the Departments.

Apparently the two offices chiefly concerned are the Home Office, though I do not know why they are concerned, and the Post Office. My suggestion is directed to what the Post Office might do to elucidate the question of how far it would meet public convenience if the system were adopted. It is a simple matter, and I suggest that in their various notices of the hours of the arrival and departure of mails the figures should be set down on both systems, so that the public may get accustomed to seeing what the twenty-four-hour system means. That would have a very educative value for the adoption of a system which is bound at a very early date to be utilised in this country as regards the postal and railway services. I beg to move.


My Lords, my noble friend will remember an answer which I gave him on the occasion of his Question on July 25 last. He now asks whether His Majesty's Government have consulted what were described in that debate as "the Departments concerned." The answer is No, they have not; because if he will turn to the context of my speech he will see that the proposal that they should consult the Departments concerned, chiefly the War Office and the Admiralty, was a proposal made by the B.B.C., in which His Majesty's Government did not concur. In that debate I said His Majesty's Government, after carefully reviewing the whole question of adopting the twenty-four-hour system, had come to the conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence of general public demand for the change to justify them taking any action in the matter. There has been no change in the position, nor in the attitude of His Majesty's Government, since my noble friend last raised this matter, and I very much regret that I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave him on that occasion.


My Lords, I admire the pertinacity of my noble friend in continually bringing this question forward, but it seems to me to be a perfectly hopeless effort on his part, and I do not think that even if he were to go and commit suicide on the steps of the General Post Office, or throw bombs in the Home Office, he would cause the Government to believe that there was a public demand for this change. Whenever this subject has been brought forward in recent times my noble friend Lord Templemore, or whoever it may be who answers, has always made the same reply that there is no public demand for anything of this kind. Well, when is there ever a public demand for this sort of thing? I cannot expect my noble friend to be well acquainted with what took place in the eighteenth century, otherwise I would ask him whether there was any public demand for the reformation of the calendar when that took place—and if it had not taken place we should now be fifteen days out of reckoning.


May I remind my noble friend that there was great opposition to the reformation of the calendar?


I never heard of it. And I dare say that if there was, and if the Lords Banbury of the day were opposed to it, everybody was reconciled to it a few hours after it came into operation. As a matter of fact none of the reforms which have resulted in general benefit have ever had any large public demand behind them. Take the most analogous case, that of daylight saving. There was no such thing as a public demand for anything of the kind: it was obtained because a public spirited man devoted himself to the cause, and eventually persuaded the Department concerned to adopt it. In this case it seems impossible to convert the Departments. There is evidently what I can only call some mulish spirit of obstruction in those two Departments, which it is quite impossible to overcome. They are absolutely impervious to argument, and that is why I fear all my noble friend's efforts are wasted. I know perfectly well what will happen. My noble friend will go on as long as he has sufficient vitality to bring this question forward, and Lord Templemore, or whoever succeeds him, will reply in the usual strain, and nothing whatever will be done. But this very modest reform is so obviously advantageous that of course it will be adopted. It is a matter of certainty. What will happen will be that as soon as noble Lords opposite come into office they will at once bring about this small change. Then everybody will say: "Why on earth could not this have been done by our own people without any trouble a few years ago?"


My Lords, I have received a very discouraging reply to a very simple question, but the Government take refuge, as my noble friend Lord Newton says, in the plea that there is no public demand. I maintain that there is a public demand. All the services which are most interested in having the system adopted favour the proposal—chambers of commerce, scientific societies, tourist societies, Imperial Airways and, most important of all, the coastal services. Those are the people who are going to benefit. The people who are opposed are the kind of people who go to cocktail parties, who say they will not understand what the time is. Those are the only kind of people I know who are opposed to this change. It would not at all affect the lives of the great mass of the people, but it would affect those people who would find great convenience in having the system adopted. I think it is rather a slight on your Lordships. This is a matter which has been passed with your approval not once or twice, but three times, and yet the Government absolutely ignore the action of your Lordships. I think they might pay some respect to the opinion of your Lordships' House. But I am afraid I must withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.