The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) has merely reiterated very dolefully what we who represent rural areas are well aware of, and what my right hon. Friend has already said, namely, that this change will be a great handicap to agriculture and people in rural areas. But I think a case has been made out for recognising that the change is unavoidable, and the farming community have accepted it because they are convinced that it is a national necessity. I would like to ask the Minister whether any consideration has been given to the assistance which the Government might give to the agricultural industry towards mitigating the effects of this change. We are all aware that cows do not watch the clock, and that an alteration in milking time, due to the alteration of the clock, will have a bad effect. But I can well remember when this change was first introduced in the first world war, that a number of old-fashioned farmers made their own arrangements. I am also aware that milk has to be ready to be collected at certain times. But I would like to know whether it is possible for the Government Departments concerned to consider ways and means of assisting the industry to adjust itself, in order that the consequences of this change can be materially lessened.
Mention has been made of the employment of German prisoners of war and the fact that they must start work at a certain time, so that possibly an hour or two of the value of their work is lost. But is there any reason why they should not start an hour or even two hours later? Is it not possible for an arrangement of that kind to be made? Is it not possible, even in the case of school children, for hours to be altered say to the extent of one hour? For example, county education authorities have power to alter meal times so that during the present fuel crisis the meal times of school children who have their lunch at home, should be more in accord with the meal times of their fathers, thus avoiding two lots of cooking. The times of markets, I suggest, could also be temporarily altered. Such alterations are made in other circumstances to meet emergencies. I see no reason why we should not take a commonsense attitude and say, "Well, the clock has been changed, and 8 o'clock now becomes 7 o'clock; instead of starting at 7 o'clock, we will start at 8 o'clock." With the cooperation of the Departments concerned, other matters could be adjusted accordingly. We know that some farm produce has to catch a train, milk being the predominant one, and, with the good will which exists and the common sense which one always finds in farming communities, and with the assistance of Government Departments I see no reason why a great deal could not be done in this matter.
I am astonished that a practical farmer like the hon. Member for Leominster has thought fit to give us this dull account, every word of which may, be true, but without the slightest suggestion that it is possible, as indeed it is, to mitigate the effect. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to say whether these points have been considered and, if not, whether he will give an assurance that they will be investigated so that the effects of this step, which we all regret, should be as limited as possible.