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 Mr John Haire Mr John Haire , Wycombe 12:00 am, 4th March 1947

I will not follow the hon. Gentleman the junior Burgess for Oxford (Sir A. Herbert) into the mysteries of Greenwich mean time, but I will congratulate him for introducing this new angle into the long history of the controversy on summer time. I think it is pleasing to note that the House today is accepting what is normally regarded as a traditionally controversial Measure with comparative peace and calm and thanks to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down a sense of humour. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite are exhausted after the efforts of yesterday. Tempers were often frayed in this Assembly over this annual contest between God's time and what was called "Lloyd George's time" and today we seem to be accepting it, and only asking for an occasional reference back to the House, so that we may once again, as the hon. Gentleman has asked, reconsider the principle.

I think the House will agree that the benefits which this Measure, introduced during the first world war, has conferred upon both children and adults have, taken by and large over the country, been incalculable. And, as hon. Gentlemen will be glad to know, those benefits have been conferred without a single penny being imposed on the overloaded taxpayers of this country. It is also interesting to note that, when this Measure has come annually before the House, we have started talking about summer time while outside there have been wretched conditions. This Measure has been discussed in the midst of blizzards and high winds, to the accompaniment of hail and rain, and today this slow-dying frosty winter is making yet another effort to snow—the last, I hope. I think it must be said, in case it goes out to the contrary, that in this Bill, the Government are not attempting to introduce summer weather with summer time. The Government are now being blamed in certain quarters for almost everything, including the weather, and I am told that a wag the other night sang the traditional ditty to the words: It ain't gonna snow no mo', no mo',It ain't gonna snow no mo','Ow the 'ell can the Government tellThat it ain't gonna snow no mo'? Today we forget past controversy and approach the problem from a new angle because we are in the midst of a fuel crisis. Today we are approaching this Measure as a fuel saver. Single summer time, and double summer time later on, must be regarded by the House only as an expedient, and nobody must think, either in the House or in the country, that this will cure the fuel crisis. The Home Secretary has told us that it will confer upon the coal stores of this country only some 150,000 tons, the pro- duction merely of a quarter of a day. Therefore, there is the danger that when this Measure goes out to the country, people may think that here is the panacea of the fuel crisis. We must guard against that. We must still request our fuel consumers, and particularly domestic fuel consumers, to go on with voluntary saving, and later on to do their utmost to make a success of whatever rationing scheme may be imposed. I was horrified, as no doubt many hon. Members were, to read in the columns of a newspaper this morning a reference to the fact that the writer had overheard a conversation between certain ladies who said that when they went out they switched on all the, electric fires in order, by that means, as they said, to bring down the Government sooner. That is not the sort of contribution we expect from any people, whatever may be their political views.

I do not want to follow certain hon. Members opposite in discussing the agricultural issues, although I believe them to be very real. There are many farmers in my constituency who deplore the introduction of this Bill. Equally, I feel that we should congratulate the farming community and the land workers on the way they have accepted the disadvantages brought by this measure as their contribution towards overcoming the present crisis. Undoubtedly, it will be burdensome for them, but they are doing their bit towards helping us through. At the same time, I was interested that the age old arguments of the past with regard to the cow were made, and one hon. Member said he was certain the cow did not watch the clock. I think that all the references to the cow in this controversy, both on this occasion and in the past, have been exaggerated and probably much resented by the cow. In fact, the cow, being a remarkably versatile animal, can adapt herself to the changing clock if given a certain degree of regularity. There are certain advantages to the agricultural community in this Measure, as I think hon. Gentlemen will appreciate. No hon. Member has pointed out that, as a result of the Measure, there will probably be an increased potato yield. I understand that it will facilitate the gathering of the potato crop as a result of the increase of daylight in the evenings, when volunteer labour can be obtained. That will be useful, especially when we consider how much of last year's potato crop is still ungathered.

I feel there is also another aspect of the Measure which the Government must consider. They are conferring upon the whole community a considerable amount of leisure time in the evening. They must consider whether they can provide better facilities for recreation and recuperation than have been provided in the past. I hope they will use the voluntary efforts of the many people who will now be available. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture that he should go out of his way this year to increase the number of allotment holders. We are urged to grow more food. I believe the available time which double summer time will give could be used in that direction, because I believe the Government must give the lead to our people in using this time to the advantage of the whole community If they do not do so, this Measure will largely be wasted. Above all, the advantage of this Bill is that it will save a little fuel, and anything which contributes to that end is well worth the support of the whole House and of the country. When the present fuel difficulties cease, we can think again.