Clause 1. — (Summer time and double summer time for 1947 and subsequent years.

Part of Orders of the Day — Summer Time Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th March 1947.

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Photo of Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley Mr Colin Thornton-Kemsley , Kincardine and Western 12:00 am, 4th March 1947

I beg to move, in page r, line 17, to leave out "Great Britain," and to insert "England and Wales."

The purpose of this Amendment, as I think will be quite clear; is to remove Scotland from the operation of double summer time. Let me say at once that I recognise that the Government have gone a long way in forestalling criticism by limiting the incidence of double summer time to the period from 13th April to 10th August, but, even so, this period is a period of 13 weeks, and the imposition of double summer time for one third of a year will have a serious effect upon the agricultural industry, and particularly upon the agricultural industry in Scotland. I will try to show why Scotland is a particular case.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) reminded the House during the Second Reading Debate that we had with us now a fuel crisis, but that we might well have with us before very long a food crisis, and the question of the pro- duction of food depends very much upon this question of double summer time. There is no doubt about the serious effect which the imposition of double summer time will have upon food production and upon the manpower employed in agriculture. There are two points that I want to make in regard to this.

First of all, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Wilfrid Roberts) said earlier this afternoon that hay was the basis of milk production, and those of us who understand these things know how, at the present time, many stock farmers in Scotland are looking anxiously to the dwindling stocks of hay and wondering whether they will last out during this bad spell of weather. If the sun does not really dry the grass until 10 o'clock by Greenwich mean time, that means, under double summer time, that we cannot get into the fields to deal with the hay harvest until 12 o'clock midday. That means working overtime at the other end of the day, and, even if the workers are prepared to do that, it will add greatly to the cost.

The second question is about milk. The special difficulty of dairy farmers has been mentioned more than once during the Second Reading Debate. Under the system of double summer time, the cows will have to be milked at something like 2.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. The vitality of human beings and of cows is just about at its lowest at 2.30 a.m., and there is no doubt that the milk yield will suffer. The temperature in the byres is about at its highest at 2.30 in the afternoon, and there is little doubt that the quality of the milk will suffer. But it is not only a question of hay and milk. Seeding will be interfered with, as well as turnip sowing and the clipping of sheep. All these things will be seriously interfered with by the imposition of double summer time.

I had a telegram handed to me as I came into the House this afternoon. It was from an eminent agriculturist whom I have never met, but he sent me this telegram on the question of the Amendment which my hon. Friends and I have placed upon the Order Paper. He estimates—and he is an expert in these matters—that the imposition of double summer time in Scotland, on the terms proposed in this Bill, will mean a loss of two and a half days' effective work per week and a loss of tens of thousands of tons of produce. This is a very serious thing indeed. In the Church calendar, 13th April, on which date double summer time is to be introduced, is Low Sunday, and it will be, indeed, a very sad Sunday for the whole of the countryside in Scotland if this Measure is persisted in. The special difficulties of agriculturists were recognised when the first Summer Time Act was introduced into this House in 1916, when Mr. Herbert Samuel, as he then was, used these words: Of course, agriculturists must work by the sun and not by the clock. That always has been and will continue to be done; consequently, farmers will not really be affected."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1916; Vol. 82, C. 1321.] While it is conceivable that such arrangements may be possible in remote parts of rural Scotland, it is quite clear that it would be impossible in the industrial belt of central Scotland and near large towns, because workers will not work on the farms, or indeed anywhere else, at different hours from those of workers in the rest of the community. The reason is obvious. The shops will be opening and closing, the buses and trains will be running, and all the other services will be operating in accordance with one time, and the hours of work of a certain section of workers would, in this instance, be in accordance with another time. While it is not possible to make a dividing line between town and country, I maintain that it is possible to make a dividing line between one part of the United Kingdom and another. It is possible to make a division between England and Wales, on the one hand, and Scotland on the other.

I now want to deal briefly with what are, I think, the only two objections that can be raised to that proposal. The first is that we must have one rule for the United Kingdom, and that it is administratively difficult, if not impossible, if there is a division at the Border. To that, I say that it is not really difficult at all. When one travels on a train coming South, one would alter one's watch one hour as one crossed the Border.

It is exactly what we had to do before the war when we travelled to the Continent. As we stepped ashore from the boat, we altered our watches. My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) reminds me that in America there are differences of time between one State and another, and I am sure that it will be within his recollection that there are differences of time between the towns and the countryside within one State. But that position has not been found to be administratively impossible in America.

The second objection is that some people might say—indeed, the Home Secretary has said so himself—that they recognise the special difficulties of farmers, and the fact that they are in a difficult position, but that the overriding need at the present time is to save fuel. Of course that is absolutely true, but, as far as the proposal to introduce double summer time affects Scotland, it is not going to save much fuel. First of all I should like to say two things which are germane to the point that Scotland is quite different from England in this respect. There, we have very much shorter hours of darkness during the summer nights, so that, between the middle of May and the middle of July there is virtually hardly any darkness. However early one gets up in the morning, one need seldom put on the light, and however late one goes to bed at night there is no need to use electricity or any other form of lighting.

The second thing is that there is a proposal to introduce staggered hours of work. It just happens that in the newspaper, the "Evening Express," in which it was first announced that summer time was to be, introduced from 13th April to 10th August this year, the next heading was a rather curious one. It read: Staggering work hours. Government plan will affect 7,000,000. From our Political Correspondent. Government plans for staggering hours of industry and working night shifts in factories… involve about 7,000,000 workers.… If industries are going to stagger their hours of work, they are, surely, going to use almost as much power and fuel during the night hours, because of the people who will work during the night.

I want to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who looks as if he is ready to reply to this Amendment, two questions. Has the Secretary of State made any estimate of the saving which would be involved if this Amendment were accepted? Perhaps I should put it the other way round, Has the Secretary of State made any estimate of the saving which will be made in Scotland by the imposition of double summer time during this period? In other words, has he made any estimate of the breakdown of the 20,000 tons, which is all that is going to be saved in the United Kingdom by the introduction of double summer time? In parenthesis, let me say what a tiny amount that represents—just one hour's production of deep-mined coal. That is all that is going to be saved by the imposition of double summer time in 1947. I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether any estimate has been made of what is going to be saved in Scotland by the imposition of double summer time. Did the Secretary of State consult representative farming opinion in Scotland before bringing the proposals forward?

In conclusion, I want to say that I was very glad to hear that the Home Secretary has agreed to the principle of an annual review of this question by the House of Commons. I think that that is a great improvement, because it is becoming a common experience that, once regulations have been made, we are apt to be saddled with them, like the Old Man of the Sea, for much longer than we had anticipated. Farmers thought they had seen the last of double summer time. They are most anxious to play their part in the crisis which they had no part in bringing about, but they want to be sure of the real necessity for proposals which are going to interfere so much with the production of food from Scottish land. That is the reason why I move this Amendment this evening.