Orders of the Day — Summer Time Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th March 1947.

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Photo of Sir Archer Baldwin Sir Archer Baldwin , Leominster 12:00 am, 4th March 1947

I wholly support the statements that have been made up to now in this Debate, but I want to register my protest on behalf of the agricultural community. When I say the "agricultural community" I mean, not only the farmers, but the farmworkers and their wives and children. In a discussion of this matter with one of my colleagues, the suggestion was made that I was pleading for a selfish minority. It is wrong to regard the agricultural community as a small minority. I believe it comprises probably three or four million people, men, women and children, and there are many other workers who have to get up early in the morning. If anybody doubts that fact, I suggest that he should get out into the streets of London at 7 o'clock in the morning, and see for himself the number of people going to work at that hour. What it means is that the agricultural workers and other workers, who have been looking forward to the time when they can get to their work in daylight, are going to be put back into the darkness. That, I think, is entirely unfair.

The leaders of the industry have accepted this proposal in what they look upon as a time of crisis. I must say that, if the only saving achieved by this Measure is 150,000 tons of coal, I cannot see that it is worth while, because, in my opinion, a great deal of that saving will be offset by the extra cost which will be placed upon the agricultural industry by the payment of overtime, and the loss of crops which may result. We are dealing with this problem now because of the fuel crisis. It may well be that, at some future time, we shall be involved in a food crisis, and I believe that a step of this kind is one way of helping towards such a crisis. May I point out how it affects the farming industry? At the present time, we rely very largely on prisoner-of-war labour. Unless further regulations can be brought into force, those prisoners of war will leave the farms at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, which means that they will actually be leaving at 3 o'clock ordinary time, just when the industry is getting into stride with the harvesting of its hay and corn. I ask hon. Members to consider what it means to a farmer who has a gang composed of two or three regular men, and two or three prisoners of war who have to leave the gang in the middle of the afternoon. The result is that the whole gang is upset, and the hauling is more or less disturbed. A considerable loss of hay and corn may result. I must say that the men are not fond of working overtime for a great number of hours, and the farmers will have to my a considerable sum for overtime.

I appreciate the remarks of the Home Secretary about the way the leaders of the industry met him, and I hope that the Cabinet will convey to the Minister of Agriculture the suggestion that a vote of thanks should be returned to them for so doing, also that any increased costs placed on the industry because of the introduction of summer time will be reflected in increased prices for the crops. Personally, I have never been a believer in the number of hours saved by summer time. In my opinion, it is at this time of the year, and before summer time comes into force, that the hours of daylight are wasted. I wonder how many hon. Members and how many thousands of other people did not waste a few hours of daylight this morning. I think that the putting forward of the clock is a childish way of getting people out of bed, and of persuading them that the sun is rising at some time other than the natural time. If we have got to get up earlier in the morning, surely in order to do so, it is not necessary to alter the clock? We should leave it unaltered.

I believe that summer time not only does a great injustice to the farming industry, but that it is extremely harmful to children. In March, mothers will be getting their children up an hour earlier to go to school. They will get used to that, but, when April comes, they will have to get them up another hour earlier. By the tune the children have got used to that, double summer time will have increased the hours of daylight to such an extent that mothers will have difficulty in getting their children to sleep during the hours of daylight. By the time they have got them used to it, they will have to put the clock back in August and again in November—four changes of the clock in five months. There is another point; it will be harmful to the production of milk. I am sure it will affect milk production. Therefore, on behalf of the agricultural industry, I wish to register my protest against this Bill.