I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in pursuance of the provisions of Section 2 of the Summer Time Act, 1947, praying that the Summer Time Order, 1950, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 6th March.
It may be well if I say a few words in explanation of this Order and the history of this matter. The Summer Time Acts, 1922 and 1925, enact that the period of Summer Time runs from the Sunday after the third Saturday in April, or a week earlier if this conflicts with Easter Day, until the Sunday after the first Saturday in October. If that had been followed this year, it would have meant that Summer Time would have extended from 16th April to 8th October. Under the Summer Time Act, 1947, the statutory period may be varied by Order in Council.
The draft Order in Council now before the House gives effect to a proposal which I announced on 15th December last, that Summer Time this year should run from 16th April to 22nd October. Since the passing of the Act in 1947, which prescribed Summer Time for that year from 16th March to 2nd November, with double Summer Time for four months of the period, the Summer Time periods prescribed by Order in Council have been, in 1948, 14th March to 31st October and, in 1949, 3rd April to 30th October. The Summer Time periods in the last two years thus began before and ended after the period prescribed in the Acts of 1922 and 1925.
This year the draft Order prescribes a period which begins on the statutory date but continues for a fortnight later. In deciding to recommend these periods to the House, I consulted the interests affected by Summer Time, which are mainly agriculture, industry, and fuel and power concerns. All of them accept this year's commencing date on 16th April, which gets us back to what I might call the established statutory date. It gives agriculture, which wants to start as late as possible, particularly in Scotland, nearly a fortnight later start than last year. I admit that farmers would prefer the concluding date for Summer Time to be earlier than 22nd October, the date proposed, because an earlier date would give more light in the morning for harvesting the root crops.
On the other hand, fuel and power interests prefer, mainly because of reducing electricity generating difficulties, that Summer Time should continue to the end of October, for in that way the peak call for domestic use does not occur while the electricity requirements of industry are also heavy. I have had to balance these two interests. I have shortened the period as compared with last year and brought the final date nearer to the statutory date, and I hope that in that way, while I do not claim to have satisfied either interest, I have, at any rate, done something to meet both points of view. It is not for me to prophesy what will happen next year when a similar Order has to be presented, but I think that the history I have given of the matter shows that we are steadily getting back to what I might call the satutory date.
I know that in this matter there is some conflict between town and country interests. People in towns, particularly young people and adolescents, find some advantage from the continuation of Summer Time rather longer than appeals to the interests of the country areas. We have endeavoured on this occasion to give attention to both claims, and I commend this to the House as a compromise proposal.
I do not wish to take up a lot of time in discussing this Order. I realise, as the Home Secretary has said, that we are getting nearer to the pre-war state of affairs, and for that we are naturally grateful. I have nothing to say, therefore, about the opening date, which is in accordance with the 1925 Act. I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman, and to the Government, that the closing date is something that is causing concern in the northern parts of the country; in fact, the further northward one goes, the more concern it causes. I hope, therefore, that the Government will see their way next year to revert to the old state of affairs under the 1925 Act.
It is, after all, nearly five years since the end of the war. These hours were departed from only as a war measure. I realise that there are conflicting interests to consider, such as the fuel and power position, but I would remind the Home Secretary that the continuation of Summer Time into the late autumn, or at least towards the end of October, is a heavy additional cost on the farmers in those parts of the country where there is a late harvest. The farmer cannot do his harvesting until late in the day, with the result that he runs into overtime earlier than would normally be the case. The sun still performs its usual function in getting the dew off the grass at the normal time.
I always think it is rather foolish that the human race should have invented clever devices for time-keeping, and then, having worked them effectively for so many years, should now resort to these new devices, fooling ourselves, by legislation, that the time is not what it ought to be. As we all know, neither the animals nor the sun descend to these devices. I often think that if the cow could speak to us, she would tell us how stupid we appear to be, looked at from her tranquil point of view.
I ask the Home Secretary to bear in mind that his responsibilities in this connection do not cease at the Border. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will impress upon him the necessity of taking care of our northern interests. If the Government cannot tell us today that they will revert to the normal prewar practice, I hope that next year they will do their best to achieve this end—if they are still in office. At any rate, we are grateful for small mercies, and, as I have said, we hope that we shall get back to the pre-war position in 1951.
I wish to say a few words in support of what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. J. Stuart). It is difficult to exaggerate the importance agriculture attaches to this question of Summer Time, and no one feels more strongly about it than the farmer in the north of England or in Scotland. We realise that there is a conflict of interests in this matter, but we in the north feel very strongly that, at a time when we are being exhorted to reach a very high target of production, on the one hand, and our efficiency is being questioned on the other, the imposition of this artificial handicap has the effect of preventing us from achieving either.
In my part of the country, because of the imposition of Summer Time, practically nothing can be done before the dinner hour. That means that overtime has to be paid in the evenings, which adds to the costs of production and lowers our efficiency, for which, in the end, the consumer has to pay through the price reviews. We look upon this matter, therefore, as being a serious one from the point of view of efficiency and maximum food production.
We welcome the slight concession that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman this year. But I cannot understand why we have not reached the stage when we can return to the dates laid down in the 1925 Act. If the argument is that each year must be judged on its merits, which, I understand, was the argument put forward last year by the right hon. Gentleman, then surely, today, when every ounce of food is needed to feed our people and save dollars, there is a very strong case, not only for the return to the old dates, but for the complete abolition of Summer Time.
Industrialists have told me that its effect upon industry is doubtful, and all agriculturists will tell us that its effect on food production is adverse. I cannot help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman got down to the problem and weighed up the balance of what is in the best interests of the nation, he would come down on the side of a return to the 1925 Act dates. We, in Scotland, feel that we are moving too slowly in this matter. I hope that if it falls to the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a similar Order next year, we shall be able to return to the old dates.
Although this is an improvement on the position last year, it is still not wholly satisfactory. I confess I take the view that it is wrong to have Summer Time at all, although that is not a matter under discussion today. I would remind the House that our Scottish friends are not the only people who have to suffer on account of this late ending of Summer Time. In Yorkshire, we also have a heavy dew in the autumn. A point we must bear in mind is that food production efficiency is as much in the interest of the townsman as of the rural areas, and that efficiency and cost of production bear today more precisely upon consumers in the towns than they did before the war.
The argument advanced by the Home Secretary, that electricity undertakings are concerned in this matter, seems to me to require more explanation. I was not aware that the industrial and domestic load was particularly heavy in the first few weeks of October. When the cold weather starts, there is some strength in their argument, but we get serious spells of cold weather early in November and also in the middle of the month. I feel that we have a right to an explanation and some figures which will prove that the electricity load requires to be eased by this extension of Summer Time beyond the date of 8th October. Finally, I should like to reinforce what has been said by my hon. Friends. It seems to me that to pass Acts of Parliament to make the urban population of this country get up an hour earlier than would otherwise be the case, is nothing short of crazy.
I should be very grateful if the Home Secretary could enlighten me on one point on which I am far from clear. There is much to be said for the powerful case of my hon. Friends and that of cows, against having Summer Time at all, but without entirely associating myself with them, what I do not understand is, what is the case for varying Summer Time year by year? If we are to have Summer Time—I admit there is a balance of interest here—I cannot see why it has to be varied and why it is different from year to year. The Home Secretary says that he is steadily getting back to the statutory period. I know right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have great respect for the memory of Sidney Webb and the inevitability of gradualness, but I cannot see what is the point of altering the time each year. Why cannot Summer Time be settled once and for all? I do not see why it should be a different problem each year, to be rehashed and repeated.
I suggest to the House that the farmer should take a hint from the example of the cows and adjust his habits by the sun. I was under the impression that, generally speaking, farmers worked irrespective of the clock, and that they planned their daily work according to the seasons of the year which are determined by the sun. Therefore, I cannot understand the opposition of the farming interests to this particular measure. I have never been able to understand it.
It seems to me rather reasonable to regard the sun as the chief factor in allocations of work on the farm. I cannot understand the difficulty farmers have in re-arranging their working programme to fit the sun irrespective of the clock. I fail to recognise the difficulties these people are supposed to have.
The point is that many of these farmers have to employ farm workers, and that is the difficulty. There are certain rules laid down by the trade unions and after negotiations, which necessitate working to the clock.
I have some knowledge of these rules and I have never found any specific rules such as those to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, which would prevent a re-arrangement of working hours to suit the lime of the sun, and which would not be inconvenienced particularly by the bringing in of Summer Time.