§ Leaders of both Britain's major political parties are preparing for the clock to go back."
That is fine as far as it goes, but then there were the rather ominous words:
The main difficulty is that, even with a decision by this autumn to drop B.S.T. it would almost certainly have to continue for another winter. The delay would be largely the time needed to readjust international travel schedules.
That is arrant nonsense. I emphasise that, particularly as this was the line taken by the then Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department—the hon. Member for Dover—in Committee on the 1968 Bill, when he was arguing for a three-year period. He said:
We feel that at least two winters of British Standard Time are required ".
We have had that, and we all know the results.
The intention would be, after the second winter, that there should be a survey of representative opinion.
No doubt the Minister will tell us what the results of the survey are.
Such a survey could not be undertaken before the spring of 1970 and could not, at best, be completed in time for reversing to Greenwich Mean Time to be effective the following winter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing Committee A, 2nd July, 1968; c. 113.]
I say that that is wrong. If the will is there, it is possible to revert to G.M.T. in this coming winter.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
The right hon. Gentleman is enjoying himself. Does he intend to develop a more substantial argument than Gallup polls and his personal opinion? Will he help the House by giving a list of accidents which have happened in the morning and the evening and not just give subjective views?
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Gentleman must exercise a little patience. He says that I am enjoying myself. I always enjoy myself particularly in his company. I intend to develop my argument. If the hon. Gentleman will give me time, I think that I shall be able to convince him of the benefits of reverting to G.M.T. I am glad that he is so impatient to hear more from me.
I was saying that it seems so obvious that this change can and should be made now. If the majority of the people want to revert, surely it cannot be sense to say that it cannot be done before the coming winter. Does the convenience of those who are concerned with international timetables and such matters take precedence over the wishes of mothers of small children, of the building trade, or of the farming community? This is a nonsense. Ministers know that it can be done if the will is there.
The Minister will no doubt remind us that the Home Secretary will tell us the results of his own review. I should have thought that, even if the review is not yet completed, the Home Secretary has sufficient information from the various organisations to show just what the position is from his point of view. Therefore, it should be possible to legislate. It would be deplorable if there were delays because we were told that the Minister had not yet got all the figures. The time to legislate is now; and the vehicle for it is this Bill.
I shall now discuss the various categories of both national and sectional interests where the influence of changes in time scale are most significant. I take, first, the safety factor. Here I place first small schoolchildren going to school on very dark mornings. I have studied a large number of figures and statistics and find it difficult to disentangle the 1629 aspects which worry me most. Accidents to schoolchildren take place on the roads and will continue to do so, whatever time scale we have. Undoubtedly these accidents are more likely to occur in times of darkness.
It was claimed soon after the change that the improvement in accident figures to schoolchildren in the light afternoons more than compensated for the increase in the mornings. If that is so, it is certainly an important point, but I have seen no recent figures to substantiate it.
However, it cannot apply to the smallest children of all—those who are the most vulnerable group. In the main, these youngest classes finish school by 3.30 p.m. at the latest, so in most cases they could be home before dark even under the old time scale. This would certainly be so for the youngest children; and it is they who I think we should seek to safeguard above all. Therefore, on the aspect of safety for schoolchildren, unless overwhelming figures can be produced—I have not seen them—we should think of the smallest children of all.
Apart from children, there are plenty of other examples of greater risk of accidents in particular categories of workers. On 13th AprilThe Guardiancarried a report on accidents to postmen as reported by their union. I quote:A detailed report which the Union of Post Office Workers has sent to the T.U.C. shows that for 100,000 postmen on delivery duty between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. the accident rate was 2.3 after B.S.T. compared with 1.1 per cent. before.In other words, it had more than doubled.Another alarming increase, according to the report, was reported for road accidents in which postmen were injured by private vehicles. In the first year after B.S.T. these doubled. The following winter they redoubledThose are staggering figures of increases in accidents to one particular section of the community.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
These are interesting figures, but I do not see how they prove the right hon. Gentleman's point, as they doubled in the first year after B.S.T. and redoubled the next year when there had been no change. There must have been another factor.
§ Mr. Godber
There may have been some other factor of which we are un- 1630 aware. I am giving the facts as I am presented with them. If they doubled the first year and then redoubled, some part of that must be due to the greater degree of darkness. Apparently that is the view of the Post Office Workers' Union, anyway, and it is something of which the hon. Gentleman should take note.
Then there is the building industry. Quite apart from the economic arguments, the report which the building industry has submitted says that official accident figures show that, although there was a clear improvement in the third quarter of 1968—that was just before the advent of B.S.T.—compared with the same period of 1967, there was a marked worsening of the situation in the fourth quarter, with deaths rising from 35 in 1967 to 44 in 1968 and total accidents from 9,520 to 9,785. Those are directly comparable figures which strongly reinforce my point.
On general road safety, many correspondents point out that the morning peak traffic has been made much more dangerous for a variety of reasons, not always compensated for by better evening conditions. TheDaily Expressof 23rd May last year pointed out that there had been an increase of 45 per cent. in road accidents between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. compared with the previous year—this is the first winter of B.S.T.—and a decrease of only 9 per cent. in evening accidents between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. This showed that there was some improvement in the afternoon, but a dramatic increase in the morning.
Therefore, on the whole safety argument there is little doubt that the change has on balance been adverse.
I turn to the economic argument. No one can deny that the building trade has suffered severely with increased costs due directly to the change of time. Many estimates have been given. The figure of an additional £100 on every new house has been quoted from time to time. This week theFinancial Timesgave some interesting figures of a report submitted to the Ministry of Public Building and Works by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers—"B.S.T. has added £30 million to industry's costs during the 1969–70 winter."
1631 In view of the effect this will have on the industry, one can well understand the industry's vigorous opposition to the new time scale. I am told that no less than 98.4 per cent. of the building trade wants to revert to the old time scale.
I freely admit that the argument for agriculture is not so strong as it was 20 years ago. Conditions in agriculture have changed. Greater mechanisation, improved use of buildings, and so on, has made a change. That I acknowledge, but I do not think that anyone would deny that the majority of farmers would still prefer to revert, and the opinion poll to which I referred showed clearly that 73 per cent. wish to.
The other factor in agriculture is that it increases costs for many farmers due to wasted time in the mornings. That is all the more serious in an industry which this Government have depressed more than any other and which, therefore, is less well equipped to face the additional costs imposed on it.
Building and agriculture are the two most obvious industries, but I have had many letters from people in other industries who are adversely affected in one way or another. One of them is wholesale markets, and an example comes from a correspondent who says that wholesale markets have to operate early in the morning because they open early and then close so that their customers can go back to their retail shops. In this case, there is the added burden of extra lighting in the darker mornings, with no compensation in the afternoons because these markets usually close by midday or early afternoon.
This correspondent writes from the North-East Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in Gateshead, and he says that increased costs in lighting work out at another £600 per annum due to this change to B.S.T. Those figures are striking when one considers their economic effect on these types of people.
It would take much too long to go through all the categories, but right at the other end of the economic scale I come to the position of retirement pensioners. I have been amazed by the number of letters that I have received from old people. many of whom have told me in detail how their electricity bills have gone 1632 up. Just one example is that of an old lady living alone who says that her electricity bill has gone up by £2 4s. 10d. compared with a similar quarter the year before and with no change in the domestic rate per unit. That may not sound very much, but it means a great deal to her, and, when multiplied up, makes a very formidable figure for retirement pensioners in similar circumstances.
Many housewives with families have made similar points to me. They point out that on dark mornings lights have to be on in a number of rooms in the house—bedrooms, bathrooms, as well as living rooms—whereas in the evenings normally only one or two rooms are affected. This makes a difference in the consumption of electricity in practically every home. This fact was acknowledged in 1968 when emphasis was laid more than once on the need to give the Central Electricity Generating Board time to provide the extra electricity which would be required for the morning peak hours.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the people who have made these statements to him have young families? In my own home, it is in the evenings that rooms are full. My children are doing homework, my wife is in the kitchen, and I am in another room. I have lights on in the evenings in my home, not in the mornings.
§ Mr. Godber
It would be improper for me to comment on the hon. Gentleman's family, but very many housewives with families have made this point to me. Among them there are those with families of two, three or four children. I will be glad to show the hon. Gentleman the letters after this debate, when he will see that they bear out my point.
Still on the economic argument, I come to the case of a stockbroker who specialises in overseas business, notably with the United States. He points out that the change may have helped him in relation to Europe by one hour, but that it has taken away one hour from his trading day with the United States, he says:New York and Toronto reverted to normal (winter) time in October"—they have summer time and winter time—and as we do not, we now are six hours ahead and so lose one hour's trading.1633 In other words, out of the two hours when the markets overlapped, one has gone, and his trading time is cut by 50 per cent. Clearly that represents a financial loss to him, and a loss to the country in foreign exchange.
That is perhaps an esoteric case, but it is an example of the different cases which have been brought to my attention. While it may amuse hon. Gentlemen opposite, it cannot be fair to impose this burden on such people when there are all these other categories who are affected as well. I bring that into my argument to show the breadth of feeling that exists against the present system.
There are so many arguments against on the economic front that I cannot cover them all. Equally, there are no doubt a number of economic arguments in favour. I shall be interested to hear them, but I doubt whether they can come anywhere near equalling the economic harm being done to categories of people such as those whom I have mentioned. One of the most questionable figures was that used by the Minister in 1968 when he spoke of a 20 per cent. advantage of business contact time, presumably with Europe. That is a figure that I have never seen adequately explained, and I hope that the Minister will touch on it today.
In my view, it is wholly immaterial. There has never been any shortage of contact time as far as I am aware, and no advantage has flowed from this change. After all, there are many countries which have different time zones within their boundaries. In the mainland of the United States, for example, there are four. I have not heard of businessmen in Chicago or San Francisco being inconvenienced by being in a different time zone from New York. That is an entirely bogus argument in favour of the system.
Then there are the medical arguments. I have received a significant number of letters from doctors emphasising the effects of stress and strain in abnormally early rising, especially for those who are getting on in life. It is said that this is taking its toll in lowered resistance to disease and in mental strain, of which we see too much today.
In these various arguments against the present system, I come finally to the most basic of them all. That is the argument based on geography and time zones round 1634 the world. The 24 hourly time zones round the world are split at this latitude into zones approximately 750 miles wide. With B.S.T. in operation, we form part of an hourly time zone which stretches to the eastern border of Poland. That amounts to almost 1,500 miles, which is about twice the average. The effect of this is that on 1st January of this year, when the sun rose over London, or is said to have risen, at eight minutes past nine o'clock, it rose over Warsaw at 7.44 a.m. in the same time zone. I have a strong feeling that the residents of Warsaw found it much more agreeable to get up that morning than did the residents of London. I see no reason why we should be put at this disadvantage.
The time zone in which we are operating now is the widest in the world. We, at the western extremity of it, have put ourselves in the most uncomfortable position of any country in the world in the winter months.
The British people are a tough and hardy race. If it could be shown clearly that we gained real advantage by rising when, with the sun in a comparable position, every other country in the world is sleeping on until the advent of dawn, no doubt we could face this need with resolution. One of my correspondents writes of… the bitter hour before the dawn ",and goes on to say that it should be spent in bed. I think that most hon. Members would agree with that.
When this has happened because of the arbitrary decision of men who have forced it on us without giving real and full consideration to what is involved, and forced it on us by making it a matter of party decision enforced by party Whips, then it is time to look again both at the Measure itself and at those who forced it upon us.
When it became apparent that I might be fortunate enough to move the Second Reading of my Bill today, I wrote to the Home Secretary to ask what his attitude to the Bill would be. I offered it as a vehicle to carry through the change back to sanity, which, I believe, he himself now realises must take place. I have received a reply from the Home Secretary. and I wish to quote from it because I feel bound to criticise one aspect of his attitude in this matter.
1635 The right hon. Gentleman's letter is dated 29th April, and he says:I agree that there is no need for British Standard Time to become a party issue, for the experiment was begun only after consultation and with the agreement of large numbers of representative organisations. The comprehensive review of the effects of B.S.T. which the Government have put in hand has been designed to enable Parliament—and the public—to form a view on the basis of the fullest possible information ".All right so far. The Home Secretary goes on:Merlyn Rees will be giving the Government's view during the debate, but if the Government decide that legislation is necessary, before the end of the statutory experiment, they will themselves accept the responsibility for the introduction of any necessary legislation.I do not usually accuse the present Home Secretary of arrogance, but I regard that as an arrogant letter. The last paragraph says, in effect, that it does not matter what decision the House comes to on my Bill; it means that the Government will either put the Whips on to prevent it being passed, or, if it is passed, they will find other ways of dealing with it. They are not concerned with the decision of the House freely come to on a Private Member's Bill but they will provide their own legislation.
I want to know why, particularly when the time factor is important. If we are to make the change back before next winter, it is necessary to have a Bill on the stocks and before the House. We have such a Bill now. It could go through, and, with a short Committee stage, be law in a short time. On the other hand, if the Government themselves intend to bring in a Bill of their own, by this delay harm will be done to the needs of the nation, and the desires of the House will be disregarded. In any case, why should the Government take that view in relation to a Measure when they do not even know what attitude the House will express on it today? I must, therefore, condemn an attitude of that kind as unreasonable and unjust.
I have not dwelt at length on the social aspects of the matter, and I have already spoken for longer than I intended. The arguments for retaining B.S.T. are, no doubt, strongest on the social side, but I cannot regard them as overwhelming, and they do not offset the safety and economic factors which I have 1636 emphasised. Moreover, there are many people who, on the social aspects, too, have no desire whatever to retain the present system.
Also, on the social argument, I have noticed on occasion that Ministers have argued that particular categories of people harmed by the new system could adjust their working hours. In fact, it is not possible for them to do so without disrupting their social life as well. This is an important matter. People condition their lives, or their lives are conditioned, according to the arrangements of others, by such things as television, sports fixtures, and so forth, which cannot be altered simply because one section of the community—farm workers, building workers or whatever it may be—take a different time. All have to be considered together.
I give one final quotation. It comes from a letter which I received this week—Even my dog thinks it is crazy when I have to take him out for a walk on a winter morning ".It is not just a question of human beings; we must think of the animals as well.
I hope that the House accepts that I have put cogent reasons why the change back should be made. I hope that I have shown that adequate time has been given for people to judge the experiment. I hope, therefore, that I can with confidence commend the Bill to the House. When Ministers take a line such as that taken by the Home Secretary in the letter from which I quoted, it is the duty of the House to bring them back to reality. This is yet one more reason why my Bill should be supported. Let the House of Commons decide on a matter which should never have been an issue for Government or party, and let the House decide on the basis of common sense, massively backed, as I believe it to be, both by economic need and, above all, by public desire.
I know that the Bill is right. I know that it accords with the wishes of the majority of the people. I invite the House to give it full support.
§ Mr. Speaker
It will help the Chair if those lion. Members who are opposed to the Bill would let me know. I wish, if possible, to secure a balanced debate.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
I do not intend to speak either in favour of or against British Standard Time. What I wish to stress is that there are arguments on both sides and that the Government believe that it would be irresponsible and over-hasty to reach any decision on the merits or demerits of the new time system before the full facts of the situation are available. The full facts of the situation have not been put to us this morning. For this reason, I advise rejection of the Bill.
I should like at the outset to dispel the common misunderstanding that the sole purpose of introducing British Standard Time was to bring this country in line with the rest of Europe. This was one of the effects of the change and could be considered one of the advantages, but the original—
Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)
In fact, it did nothing of the sort. Italian time is quite different. It is ludicrous to suggest that it brings us into line with Europe.
§ Mr. Rees
That is true, and the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) did not make that argument. It has been argued in other places, on, so to speak, the conspiratorial theory of politics, that it was all done because it had something to do with the Common Market. In fact, it just is not so, and my hon. Friend has proved it with his practical knowledge.
The original pressure for change did not come from those with commercial interests in Europe. It came from the large number of ordinary people who wrote to the Home Office saying that an extra hour's light in the evenings, when they could dig their gardens, when their children could enjoy an hour or two out of doors, when their young people could play football or hockey, was much more beneficial than an extra hour's light in the morning when the habit of leaving the electric light on was so strong that it did not matter whether sunrise was at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., and when getting up in the cold and dark was already so much a part of winter life that a few extra weeks would make no difference.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
Did anyone in Scotland write curious letters of that kind to the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Gentleman may laugh at the letters which were received. I am sorry if he laughs at the people who wrote to the Home Office. I have no letters here, but I shall deal with the situation in Scotland. The letters of that kind received at the Home Office were similar to letters which had been written to the previous Conservative Government. In my view, they should not be laughed at.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I do so for this reason. He will recall that I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham what sort of representations had been made during the period of Conservative Government and what inquiries that Government had made. Could my hon. Friend deal with that while discussing the question of public opinion?
§ Mr. Rees
Yes, I shall try to give the information at the appropriate point.
The pressure came also from those who gave no particular reason for requiring a change but who clearly thought that the logical way to look at the situation was to assume that it was preferable to have one consistent time system throughout the year and that a dual system should be retained only if there was conclusive evidence of the need for different times in winter and summer.
The House will recall that, during the passage of the British Standard Time Bill, full details were given of the extensive inquiries made by the Government, as a result of this pressure, before the decision to introduce British Standard Time was made. Extensive inquiries were carried out in 1959–60 under the previous Administration among about 180 organisations. Of the 160 which expressed definite views, 80 favoured the change, 43 preferred an extension of the statutory 1639 period in spring and autumn, 8 supported an extension in the autumn, and 29 wanted no change. Full details were given during the passage of the Bill.
Hon. Members who followed the Bill through the House will be aware that a large number of representative organisations were consulted and a majority of them were in favour of the change—a point which the right hon. Gentleman fairly made.
At the time these inquiries were made, however, it was not possible to say conclusively whether or not the benefits of the new time system to this majority would be great enough to outweigh the obvious disadvantages to certain minority interests. The indications were that the economic effects of the change would be fairly evenly balanced, but the social consequences could not be assessed with any confidence without actual experience of how the exchange of an extra hour of darkness in the morning for an extra hour of light in the evening would affect the everyday lives of most people.
Yet it could with reason be said that it is the social effects even more than the economic ones which should form the basis of any judgment on whether the change should be made. If it could be clearly demonstrated that the change would improve the quality of the day-to-day life of most people in this country and increase their enjoyment of their leisure time it could well be argued even on a cost-benefit basis that economic or minority disadvantages were outweighed. If, on the other hand, it could be shown that the change would have little or no effect on the majority of people the disadvantages to the minority would be of major importance.
But, as I have already said, without actual experience of a different time system it was impossible to assess what the effects of the change might be. This was made clear during the debates on the British Standard Time Bill and was the reason why the Government decided, after careful consideration, to introduce British Standard Time for an experimental period of three years in the first instance. This is why the Government oppose the suggestion that the experiment should be abandoned now before the experience of the last two winters can be analysed and assessed so that the 1640 effects of the change can be clearly demonstrated.
§ Mr. Godber
I dwelt on this point in some detail. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will answer some of my points and explain why it cannot be analysed early enough to take a decision now.
§ Mr. Rees
I was coming to that point in a moment. Before I describe the arrangements the Government are making to ensure that the final decision about British Standard Time is made on as comprehensive a basis as possible, it may be helpful to remind hon. Members of the terms of the British Standard Time Act, 1968 The Act provided for British Standard Time to be introduced on 27th October, 1968, and to remain in force until 31st October 1971, when there will be a reversion to Greenwich Mean Time unless—and this is the crucial point—British Standard Time is made permanent by an Order passed by affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament before the end of 1970.
I am coming to the point that the right hon. Gentleman has quite properly raised about the time sequence. If there is to be an alteration next year the matter will have to be attended to before the end of this year, because there are problems which I shall mention a little later.
The effect of the Act is, therefore, that British Standard Time is the statutory time system for the three winters 1968–69, 1969–70, and 1970–71. Why three winters? It is unlikely that one winter's experience would be sufficient to make a valid assessment of the effects of the change to a new time system. People take time to adapt to any change. Reactions may be affected by the severity or mildness of the weather, which obviously varies from year to year. Effects which might appear to be attributable to the change might in fact be caused by different factors which are not immediately evident from only one year's experience.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
The Act was not introduced as an experiment but was changed, partly as a result of an Amendment I introduced in Committee. The Minister is wholly wrong in saying that we need three winters to assess the change, 1641 because the existing statutory arrangement is that the decision will be reached after two winters, which we have already had. The third winter, as was made clear in Committee, is simply the unavoidable time lag in implementing the change.
§ Mr. Rees
I shall come to that point. I am sure that many hon. Members can take credit for this. I would give a great deal of credit to my colleagues from Scotland, particularly my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because there are particular problems in Scotland which my right hon. Friend has pressed very forcibly on all occasions.
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. and learned Gentleman claims that he was one of those responsible for the change. I am dealing with that point and shall now deal with the point about having the experiment for two or three years. I have said that one winter's experience would hardly be enough. So the Government decided that the experience of at least two winters was necessary in order to draw any valid conclusions. But since the period during which the change has effect runs to nearly the end of March it was clear that, if the experiment was to be properly assessed, it would be at least the July or August after the second winter. or possibly even later, before the full picture would emerge. I would like to give details of the social survey and the change of opinion, which is different from the public opinion poll argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. There has been a swing of opinion. I should like to come to the facts. That is why I thought I should speak first.
Will my hon. Friend also give details of the survey carried out by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in relation to the building industry?
§ Mr. Rees
Hon. Members are keen to pre-empt my time. I have a very long speech, and I am sure that I shall satisfy everyone.
Statistics relating to March would be unlikely to be available before May or June. Organisations would need at least four to six weeks to co-ordinate and 1642 analyse the views of their members, and it would take another four to six weeks for all the relevant material from different sources to be collected, analysed and assessed.
This meant that if the evidence suggested that a reversion to Greenwich Mean Time was desirable there would be probably less than three months at the very most between the time when the decision to revert was made and the time when Greenwich Mean Time would come back into effect. Such a short period of notice would create virtually insurmountable problems for those responsible for arranging and printing timetables and work schedules, and for those involved in overseas travel and communications.
The Government therefore decided that in order to ensure the minimum of disorder and inconvenience, the best plan would be to introduce British Standard Time for an experimental period of three winters instead of two so that there would be no doubt or uncertainty about the third winter while the review of the first two winters' experience was under way.
The requirement that a final decision as to the retention of British Standard Time should be made before the end of 1970 was inserted to ensure that everyone would have ample notice of which time system would be in use during the winter of 1971–72. The fact that the Act provides for an automatic reversion to Greenwich Mean Time in 1971 if no Order is made relating to British Standard Time means that parliamentary time need not be wasted unnecessarily if there is an obvious desire for reversion.
I hope that the picture is now clear. The Government are undertaking the review of the effects of British Standard Time which was promised during the passage of the British Standard Time Bill through Parliament. The final results of this review will not be known until late July or August, too late for any action to be taken on them before next winter, but the final decision as to whether or not British Standard Time should be retained for the winter of 1971–72 and thereafter will depend on the results of the review.
Hon. Members may remember that because of the adverse publicity given to British Standard Time during the 1643 winter of 1968–69, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary undertook to make an assessment of the effects of British Standard Time at the end of that first winter. This assessment was based on road accident figures, reports received from the agricultural, construction, and postal industries, and on the views volunteered by various representative organisations and many members of the public. The Home Secretary announced on 19th June, 1969, that the difficulties revealed by the assessment were those which were foreseen and taken into account during the passage of the British Standard Time Bill and that the Government therefore intended to continue the experiment.
I wish to make it clear that the current review is quite different from that assessment. No attempt was made in the earlier assessment to identify the benefits of British Standard Time or to weigh them against the disadvantages. The sole purpose of that assessment was to find out whether any of the alleged disadvantages of British Standard Time were great enough to justify premature termination of the experiment. The information available suggested that they were not.
The current review, on the other hand —and I should like to give some of the information that we have had so far—is intended to find out as much as possible about all the imaginable advantages and disadvantages of British Standard Time, to assess their relative importance, to weigh them against each other, and to decide where the balance of advantage lies.
As I explained earlier, the main reason for the original decision to introduce British Standard Time was the stream of correspondence suggesting that an extension of British Summer Time would be beneficial to individual people in their private lives. Since the experiment was introduced there has been, the right hon. Member has said, a similar stream of correspondence demanding a reversion to Greenwich Mean Time. Perhaps all that can therefore be concluded from Ministerial correspondence is that people who are satisfied with thestatus quodo not bother to write about it whereas those who want a change have no hesitation in expressing their views.
But, whatever conclusions one may draw, there can be no doubt that this, 1644 more than the majority of political decisions, is a change which people feel affects their personal lives, and for this reason the central feature of the current review is a social survey based on samples of people drawn from the whole of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the whole of Great Britain. I understand that his Department is also responsible for Northern Ireland which also is affected by British Standard Time. Has no survey been taken there? I ask because in Northern Ireland they feel very strongly about it.
§ Mr. Rees
I will check on that. I think the answer is that the information which I have is for England only. [HON. MEMBERS. " What?"] There is information for Scotland as well, and I shall be coming to that in due course. I was referring to England and Wales. I would be the last person to forget Wales—or, for that matter, Northern Ireland.
The survey was conducted in two parts, one at the beginning of December when the adverse effects of the change in the hours of darkness were most likely to be noticeable and one at the beginning of March when the lighter evenings were more evident than the darker mornings. This was to ensure that the results were as balanced as possible. The people interviewed were asked a series of interrelated questions concerning the actual effect of British British Standard Time on their own lives and their opinions as to its general effects. The analysis of their replies to these questions should enable the Government to identify the effects of the change on people in different circumstances throughout the country.
At present—and this is one of the reasons why it is genuinely difficult to make early decisions—only the results of the December half of the survey are available. We have not got the March figures. The body carrying out the survey has the figures but it has not been working on them in sufficient detail to give an accurate decision on the March figures.
It would be wrong to draw any definite conclusions from these because the two parts of the survey should be regarded as a whole. The results of the survey as a 1645 whole will, of course, be made available when the results of the review are pub-lilted. Before the House takes a decision we shall make public the information on which a decision can be taken. Meanwhile, the indications are that more people are in favour of retaining British Standard Time than are in favour of a reversion to Greenwich Mean Time and that many of those who favour reversion do so because of what they think the effects of British Standard Time are on other people rather than because of its specific effects on their own lives.
This was last December. It was a carefully structured question—[Interruption.] I shall give the figures for Scotland in a moment. These were not loaded questions. This survey was properly carried out.
Could my hon. Friend have the answers broken down for particular types of industries? For example, if somebody who works in an engineering factory is asked what effect this has had on his life he will probably answer " None at all ". He might even say that his conditions have improved. If, on the other hand, a building worker or a postman is asked, the attitude may be quite different.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What I am giving are the collected figures from a social survey taken last December. I will give the percentages for England, Scotland and Wales. Then I will give the figures for England and Wales, after which I will give them for Scotland separately. This was a social survey asking a number of questions—not just " for " and " against " but whether people definitely wanted a change. There are also " don't knows ".
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
In what geographical position does the hon. Gentleman put the northern counties of England? He may or may not be aware that when I want to tease my Scottish friends I say that I live on the right side of the Border. But geographically the North of England has got the same problems as Scotland. I should like to know whether it has been possible to divide the survey into the North of England, the middle of England and the South of England.
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Lady has a very important point. In fact, to be technical, it is not just a straight North-South distinction. Because of the position of the sun in the winter and the movement to the west it is a diagonal from the bottom lefthand corner of the map to the top righthand corner. These are some of the reasons why it is not just a matter of asking questions; it is a matter of asking the right questions in the right places—properly structured questions. I assure the hon. Lady that we are aware that it is darker in the North than in the South.
§ Mr. James Johnsonrose—
§ Mr. Johnson
I accept that this matter of the geographical position is most important, but I object to the Minister talking about the bottom lefthand corner of the map. Will he kindly talk about the South-West'?
§ Mr. Rees
I temporarily forgot that my hon. Friend has an honours degree in geography at the most outstanding university in England, namely, Leeds.
May I continue with the figures because I am sure that hon. Members want to take their decision on the facts and not on fantasy. In England, Scotland and Wales 9 per cent. did not know; 41 per cent. wanted to go back to Greenwich Mean Time and 50 per cent. wanted to keep the existing system. It was 50 to 41 with 9 " don't knows ". That was for England, Scotland and Wales.
In England and Wales the percentage was still 9 per cent. for the " don't knows "—it is not surprising that there were fewer " don't knows " in Scotland—39 per cent. wanted to go to Greenwich Mean Time and 52 per cent. wanted to keep British Standard Time. This was in December.
In Scotland with 6 per cent. " don't knows ", about 61 per cent. were in favour of reverting to British Mean Time and 34 per cent. for keeping British Standard Time. Individuals were questioned on this matter in the social survey, and I will come to the views of the various industries and other interests shortly.
1647 The decision on B.S.T. in Northern Ireland is a matter for the Government there. The review has not extended to that country because the Westminster Government's decision will not affect the Northern Ireland decision, which will be a matter for Stormont to decide in the light of the decision taken by this House.
§ Mr. Rees
As one who is married to an Irish wife, I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I spend my time doing precisely that. Constitutionally. this is a matter for the Stormont Government.
I have given the social survey figures. Not unexpectedly, the majority of people interviewed in Scotland in the December poll were in favour, at that time, of a reversion to G.M.T. The Government recognise the effects of B.S.T. in Scotland and the North of England, where sunrise occurs rather later. The survey was, therefore, constructed so that the views of people in Scotland could be separately identified.
Because of the very strong feeling about B.S.T. which is known to exist in Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is undertaking a special review of the effects of B.S.T. there, in consultation with those sections of the community most directly affected by the change.
§ Mr. E. Hudson Davies (Conway)
My hon. Friend has indicated the great difference between the Scottish situation and that of Wales. Is he aware that on 1st January the sun rises 40 minutes later in Glasgow than in London, but that it rises 20 minutes later in Holyhead? There is, therefore, half the difference between Wales and Scotland. Curiously, because of his diagonal, the sun sets in Holyhead exactly at the same time as it sets in London, though it rises earlier.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend has explained with much greater knowledge than I could what I meant when, in my amateurish way, I spoke of the diagonal going from south-west to north-east.
All the inquiries which I shall describe are being made separately in Scotland so that my right hon. Friend will be able to assess the overall effects of the change in Scotland separately from England and Wales. The problems caused by later sunrises are not, of course, peculiar to Scotland. They occur equally in the North and North-West of England and in Holyhead.
In assessing the relative advantages and disadvantages of B.S.T., it will, therefore, be possible to give due weight to the views of those who are geographically most adversely affected by the change. There is no question of the Government overlooking the particular difficulties encountered in those parts of the country where the hours of winter daylight are shorter and where the sun rises later.
I turn to the inquiries which will be supplementing the social survey. The assessments made last year demonstrated that the adverse effects of the darker mornings are felt more by those who work out of doors in the mornings, particularly farmers, builders, postmen—
§ Mr. Rees
—and fishermen. I wish that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) had given me notice that he would be taking a keen interest in this matter because I would have been more geographically correct and looked up the figures for Hull. Suffice to say that special attention is being paid to the effects of B.S.T. on these sections of the community.
The N.F.U., the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers and the agricultural section of the Transport and General Workers' Union have each been approached for information as to the effects of B.S.T. on them and inquiries are also being made of other interested organisations.
The Ministry of Public Building and Works has received more than 1,000 replies to a questionnaire which was sent 1649 to construction firms throughout Great Britain and has consulted the National Consultative Council of the Building and Civil Engineering Industries on this issue. Additional surveys have been undertaken by both that National Consultative Council and the National Federation of Builders and Plumbers Merchants. A considerable amount of material is, therefore, available about the effects of B.S.T. on the construction industry.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is making inquiries about the effects of B.S.T. on postmen and, in this connection, the views of the Union of Post Office Workers will, of course, be taken into account.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Will my hon. Friend ensure that the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications looks into the impact of B.S.T. on Post Office engineering workers, who are also suffering badly in Scotland and the North of England?
§ Mr. Rees
That is, of course, being done. My hon. Friend may be sure that we are referring to Post Office engineers; and I appreciate his interest in the matter.
The assessment made in 1969 revealed that considerable concern was felt about the effects of B.S.T. on schoolchildren, and particularly those who had to travel long distances to school in the dark. Having young children and having formerly worked in education, I am particularly interested in the matter.
The Department of Education and Science has sent a letter to all L.E.A.s to try to find out what the effect on schoolchildren has been, and several of the questions in the social survey have some bearing on this. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science yesterday gave some information on this aspect. It can be summarised by saying that 74 of the 163 L.E.A.s in England and Wales told the D.E.S. that they were in favour of B.S.T.; that 29 authorities would prefer G.M.T. to be restored; that 16 expressed no firm view and that another 44 have not yet replied. That is the current state of play.
§ Mr. Rees
That is not revealed in the figures, but I agree that it is an aspect which must be taken into account.
I am seeking to illustrate that, in reaching a decision, we have not yet got all the information, and that for the experiment to be worth while we must have all the facts of the situation.
Because the inquiries made last year were concerned only with finding out how detrimental the adverse effects of B.S.T. were, no attention was paid to any possible beneficial effects. Hon. Members naturally have personal views on the subject. I urge them to bear in mind that views on this issue are stronger against B.S.T. in some parts of the country than in others, where there is an even balance. I am endeavouring to illustrate some of the factors which the Government of the day must weigh up before taking a decision; for example, the way in which this change affects schoolchildren.
The opposite side of the picture cannot be ignored—for example, the fact that fewer children now travel home in the dark—and inquiries are being made to try to assess the advantages. I accept that infant schools which finish at 3.30 p.m. are in a different position from schools which finish at 4.0 p.m. In the winter months many schools have a shorter lunch hour, so enabling children to leave school earlier in the evening. All sorts of factors must be taken into account. One must also bear in mind that many parents take their children to school in the morning. Some parents are not in the happy position of being able to do this, and this must be borne in mind.
When B.S.T. was first introduced it was suggested by a number of people that there would be fewer assaults on children if they travelled home in the light, and several police forces are providing statistics to see if this is a quantifiable effect of B.S.T.
My right hon. Friend is hoping shortly to have access to figures on this issue from the Home Office. The figures are not yet available to enable us to include them in the amalgam of information on which to make a decision. Although this may seem a somewhat small point, it is regarded by some people as a most important one. This is why we cannot take a decision yet. I have given the time 1651 scale. It will be August before, in consultation, we can do something about it, and it would be too late to take the decision this year.
The greatest fear expressed in relation to children as well as adults was that the darker mornings would lead to an increase in the number of road accidents. The Road Research Laboratory and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who were both consulted before B.S.T. was introduced, thought that the change might mean a greater number of journeys would be made in daylight and that there might be a decrease in the number of accidents. Happily, the results of last year's assessment suggested that this hypothesis was probably true.
I have the figures here, but I still, nevertheless, say " probably ", because one winter, or two winters, are not enough, since there are other factors to take into account—namely, the state of the weather. Although there was an overall increase in the number of serious and fatal casualties during each of the winter months in 1968–69, there was an overall decrease of 36 in the number of serious and fatal casualties occurring during the hours most greatly affected by the change. There was no indication that British Standard Time had increased the number of accidents involving children.
The figures for this winter, which would obviously carry considerable weight in the review, are not all available at this stage, but those for November and December, 1969—these are the ones in the completed survey—suggest that British Standard Time has had an even more marked effect on road accidents this winter than in the previous winter. A comparison of the number of casualties during the hours most greatly affected by the change in November and December, 1969, with the number occurring during the same hours during the last winter of G.M.T., that is, November-December, 1967, shows that there was a net decrease of 236 in November and a net decrease of 63 in December during those hours despite the fact that there was a considerable increase in the overall figures for serious and fatal road casualties in each of these months.
As I have said, these are not the figures for the whole winter, and other 1652 variables need to be taken into consideration, but it seems from a preliminary examination that this is one area in which British Standard Time has had distinct advantages. The figures which I have show that this is true throughout England, Wales and Scotland and also in Scotland itself, when isolated.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
The hon. Gentleman said that the figures for 1968–69 showed a net decrease in fatal and serious accidents to children in the hours affected. How does he reconcile this with ROSPA's own figure in its June bulletin, in which it says that the figures of fatal and serious child casualties on weekdays showed a net increase of 46 during the affected hours over that period?
§ Mr. Rees
Well, all I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that I have obtained these figures, and this is one more reason. The hon. Gentleman wants to take a decision today on an important issue of this kind, and he is giving figures obtained, quite properly, from a magazine. I have had the benefit of the research facilities which are available, and I am told that there is a marked advantage in the country as a whole and particularly in Scotland, yet he will take a decision today to go the other way, whereas accidents, whether to children or to adults, are one of the most important factors, and he has not proved his point. I hope that he will take these figures which I have given in the best faith, because the Government's view is still one of neutrality, and of trying to give the information on which people can make a decision.
It was thought that darker mornings might also contribute to an increase in accidents other than road accidents, particularly to those in agriculture, construction and the postal service. The assessment last year gave no indication that this was true, but this is another aspect of the situation which is being closely examined in the review taking place at the 1653 moment. We do not have all the information, for quite proper reasons, so ii would be inordinately foolish to take a decision today on inadequate information.
I mentioned that the assessment did no more than attempt to evaluate the alleged disadvantages of B.S.T., but the review is going much wider. Each of the local authority associations has contributed to the review by circulating a questionnaire about B.S.T. to the majority of its members. The T.U.C. and the C.B.I. have undertaken to provide comprehensive information about the effects of British Standard Time on industry. We have not yet had this information. Again, it would be extraordinarily foolish to take a decision today without it.
The Board of Trade has consulted the main travel interests, the English, Welsh and Scottish Tourists Boards and a number of associations and firms representing those interests not covered by the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. Their consultations should enable the benefits of increased communication with the Continent to be isolated and assessed. The Electricity Council, the Gas Council and the National Coal Board are being consulted about the possible effects on fuel consumption. Sporting interests and those concerned with work among young people have been asked for information about the effects of lighter evenings on their activities. I have a long list here, which I will not read, of all the other inquiries which are being made. But those which I have mentioned are sufficient to show that this is no superficial inquiry.
The Government are determined to obtain as much information as possible about the effects of the change. Something with such far-reaching consequences is neither perpetuated nor discarded without proper consideration of all the facts. It must be obvious that the amount of material which will be obtained from all these inquiries cannot be digested overnight. If full advantage is to be taken of the work which has gone into eliciting relevant information, it is essential that the analysis of this material and the assessment of the advantages and disadvantages which it reveals is done methodically and with great care. This will inevitably take time.
1654 The Bill seeks to nullify the whole purpose of this experimental period. " Take the decision without the information "—that is really what the right hon. Gentleman is asking. We do not have this completed information. This is what it is all about—taking a decision this Friday. We have not got all the information, but it does not matter. B.S.T. was an excellent thing to knock the Government with. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to decide on inadequate facts instead of allowing that final few months which might provide conclusive proof one way or the other.
If the hon. Gentleman is so confident, let me ask him this. I have given the figures of the social survey, which shows that there is a swing of opinion. When I saw the figures earlier this week, I thought of Conservative Central Office issuing alternative advice and coming out, perhaps, in favour of " added value time " or something like that. But there is a swing of opinion already. The right hon. Gentleman has given inadequate information on which to take a decision as important as this. He is wrong to suggest this to the House.
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Member is being grossly unfair. It was a deliberate distortion to bring in a reference to Conservative Central Office. This is a purely personal matter which I brought forward and he should deal with it honourably on that basis. My point is that he has sought to say that it is impossible to get an adequate analysis of questionnaires in time to make a decision before the coming winter. What he means is that he is putting the convenience of those concerned above the safety of the people of this country.
§ Mr. Godber: But I do.
§ Mr. Godber
I have been studying other figures given by other Ministers in HANSARD, which certainly do not seem to bear out the Minister's figures.
§ Mr. Rees
The right hon. Gentleman agrees that there is a difference of opinion, yet on an important issue like this 1655 he wants to take a decision today, and says that it does not matter that there is a division of opinion. I am not saying that this has in fact been the advice of the Conservative Central Office. What I said was that the Conservative Central Office, having seen the information I have given this morning, would take it up.
I brought the matter in because up and down the country in the last two years people have not been as honourable as the right hon. Member for Grantham but have been making great political play of this issue when it has not been a political matter. It is time this morning that we had the facts and cleared the air. The Government have not made up their minds. The Government are saying, " For heaven's sake, let us have the facts before taking a decision."
§ Mr. Hogg
Would not the hon. Gentleman withdraw what he has been saying about party aspects? He must know, and knowing it he would be misleading the House, that on each occasion when this matter has been discussed there has been no Conservative Whip whereas there has been a Labour Whip. As I understand his advice, the same is true today. Will he not withdraw the reference to the Conservative Party, which has never made a partial issue of this matter? It is the Government which have put on the Whips.
§ Mr. MacArthur: Rubbish.
§ Mr. Rees
I have described in some detail the care taken by the Government to see that the final decision as to the future of B.S.T. is based on full and comprehensive consultations. The original inquiries into the possibility of making Summer Time permanent were instituted in 1959. It was the right hon. 1656 Gentleman opposite who in 1959 consulted about 180 organisations representing a wide variety of interests. That inquiry showed two outstanding preferences, one for Summer Time all the year round and one for an extension of the period of Summer Time.
The inquiries made by the present Government in 1966–67 did no more than bring the inquiries of hon. Gentlemen opposite up to date by consulting again the major organisations approached in 1959 and most of those who had been opposed to any change to see if there had been any further swing of opinion. It was these latter inquiries which showed a substantial shift of opinion, with a mounting desire for change, especially for social reasons, and which led to the present experiment. This was the least political legislation that could be conceived.
We are therefore doing no more than completing inquiries left in mid-air over ten years ago. We are attempting to bring them to a satisfactory conclusion by ensuring that what they reveal is analysed and evaluated in as scientific, as detailed, and as careful a manner as possible. We are hoping to be able to show, with at least a degree more certainty than before, in what ways the change to a new time system affects the country as a whole. We are hoping to enable a final decision on this matter to be reached on the basis of the views of the majority and not of the few. We are trying to ensure that the time system adopted for permanent use in this country is the one most acceptable to the largest number of people, whatever their occupations, wherever they live. This is what the right hon. Gentleman's Bill seeks to prevent.
There is not yet sufficient information available on which this or any other Government could make a correct decision. What weigh with me more than anything are the accidents to children. When we read that the figures show a marked change in Scotland, the matter cannot be just dismissed. It would be quite wrong to come to a decision today.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
The Minister has mentioned several times the Government of the day making the right decision. Surely he recognises that this is a decision for Parliament. It is a legislative 1657 matter. Why are we to be the only representative body to be left out of these monumental consultations?
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. and learned Gentleman does me less than credit. The decision is to be taken about when the information is to be available, as it will be, to the House of Commons. That is all that is involved this morning. All the information will be put forward and will be publicised. A decision will then be taken. That is the correct way to do it and not to go ahead on the inadequate information which has been put forward this morning.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind the House that half the time for this debate has now gone. Many hon. Members still wish to speak. Brief speeches will help.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
I do not propose to take up very much time, but I must add two or three minutes to the time I had intended to take to say quite bluntly to the Minister that we are not prepared to accept his strictures on the Tory Party for making this a political issue. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) pointed out, this is a free vote so far as we are concerned and it is the Government which have put on the Whips.
We shall read with interest in HANSARD the partial information from the survey which the Minister has given. But there are various aspects which perhaps time did not permit him to reveal, and if they are not available in published form it will be necessary for us to ask for further information. I refer, for instance, to the fact that the views of individuals as to how B.S.T. has affected them and the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence will depend exclusively on the nature of the person interviewed. It will depend on his occupation, whether he lives in town or country, and so on. I suspect that inadequate weight in relation to those to whom the questions are put are given to those who live in the countryside as compared with those who live in the towns. If it is to be done purely on a population basis, I would not regard such a survey as satisfactory.
Furthermore, if we are to interpret figures of accidents in different periods of 1658 time before and after B.S.T. as they affect accidents to school-children, then the weekends must be eliminated from the information which has been gathered. There has been no statement from the Minister of State that weekends have been excluded. If the weekends have not been disregarded, then the impact on the school-children cannot be discovered from that information.
I was concerned to hear the hon. Gentleman refer to a cost-benefit analysis, which by implication means that the Government intended to apply such an analysis to the information collected. I am highly suspicious of the ability of people correctly to interpret cost-benefit information and I will give two brief instances.
First, it is alleged that the value placed on cost-benefit analyses in regard to the time of air passengers is such that the cost of the third London Airport is to be four times the cost of construction when evaluated in terms of passenger times. This self-evidently is utter nonsense. Secondly, I learned when cross-examining the Road Research Laboratory that in assessing the benefits or otherwise of the Hyde Park underpass time of the traveller was valued at 18s. an hour. I cannot imagine what the result would have been if it was valued at 15s. or 20s. I mention this is passing to make clear that the modern scientific methods of cost benefit analysis may have their uses, but unless they are interpreted with common sense along with other facts being brought into account, besides the mere figures, we shall be faced with utterly false conclusions.
I reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) said in his outstanding speech when mounting an almost unanswerable case in favour of the Bill. I support his protests that this should not be made a party matter by the Government threatening once again to put on the Whips when there is no need for it. It would be easy to go over ground which has already been covered by others either in this or in a previous debate, but I will confine myself to one issue.
It is not doubted, even by those who believe that the present arrangements are to be preferred to the old, that the effect of the change in the morning is 1659 objectionable and that there are a number of factors which make it disadvantageous. I was amazed at some of the figures quoted by the Minister to the contrary. If we are to believe them, darkness is a safer time for driving and for taking children to school than is daylight—and frankly, I do not believe that to be so.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
It is argued—I do not know whether it is right or wrong—that the care and attention exercised seems to be greater in the morning than in the evening.
§ Sir S. Summers
If that is the case, perhaps we had better reverse the process and do all our business in darkness, paying proper care and attention to it in the process, and sleep in the daylight. If it is alleged that darkness is advantageous to taking children to school, I do not believe that conclusion.
It is, therefore, fair to say, whichever side one supports in the argument, that the disadvantage in the morning is objectionable to a large number of people and that all those who seek to argue the merits of B.S.T. all the year round do so on the ground that the advantages in the evening outweigh the disadvantages in the morning.
I have been to some trouble to get a pictorial view of the scene. I have in my hand a chart on the subject. I do not know whether you can see it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or whether you are fully acquainted with the problem with which we are dealing. This chart shows the time at which the sun rises over a period of six months, getting later in the morning to 1st January and then getting earlier again. It also shows the time in the evening at which the sun sets, first becoming earlier in the afternoon and then later, after the depth of winter. The gap in between shown on the chart indicates the daylight hours.
I take the view that the advantage of the extra hour of daylight in the evening does not effectively arise until 6.30 p.m. It is not until that time that those who have been to work, have returned home, have tidied themselves up and have had a meal, can make some use of the extra daylight hour. The fact that the sun sets at 4.30 p.m., 5 p.m., 5.30 p.m., or even 6 p.m. by the clock, therefore does not bring with it any advantage, for 1660 the advantage does not arise until a little later in the evening. It is not until 6.30 p.m. that the advantage eventually accrues with extra daylight and extra opportunities for recreation.
§ Mr. James Johnson
The case made by the Minister, and that which those of us will make who follow him, is that when we are considering the number of accidents we are speaking in terms of the school population. The point which the hon. Member makes does not deal with that.
§ Sir S. Summers
I am no longer talking about the school population. I am talking about the alleged advantage of the extra hour for recreation and other activities in the evenings which, it is alleged, more than compensates for the suffering of other folk in the morning.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin
Perhaps the hon. Member will later be kind enough to pass the chart around the House so that we may look at it and understand it. I am trying to understand it from his description. Surely the beneficial effect of the extra hour of daylight in the latter part of the day will vary according to the season of the year, so that at one time of the year it will affect schoolchildren and at another time of the year it will more affect adults.
§ Sir S. Summers
We are talking only of the four months November, December, January and February. The other eight months will be unaffected by our decision to pass or not to pass the Bill. And it is only after a certain time in the evening in those four months that the advantage accrues to those who want to make use of the additional daylight hour for recreation and other activities. Incidentally, my chart is available to anyone who cares to look at it. I am pointing out that in the months from November to March, moving on the clock by one hour brings no advantages after 6.30 p.m.; except in the very last week or so of February—and yet these are the advantages argued for the change.
There is another feature worth mentioning which I did not discover until I had done my homework in this form. In the period of two months between 1st November and 1st January, darkness advances by one hour, but in the same period the time at which the sun sets changes only by half-an-hour. My 1661 teacher of geography never taught me why that is so, but it may be that hon. Members will give me the reasons. The fact is taken from the appropriate almanac and it is not in dispute. It means that in the two months November and December, the objectionable features experienced in the morning are suffered twice as much in terms of time as the advantageous effects which supposedly accrue to those in the evening, as a result of the change in the hours of sunrise.
§ Mr. E. Hudson Davies
Perhaps I might help to clarify the hon. Member's mind. On the same latitude line the change in the times between sunrise and sunset would be constant day by day throughout the year. In other words, that is true of London and Bristol, which are on the same latitude line. It is true that the sun would rise a little later in Bristol but it would set precisely that much later, too. When the longitude lines are taken into account, however, there is a difference. The problem is that many parts of Scotland are not only north of London but west of London, too, so that although there is a gap on 1st January of 40 minutes between the rising of the sun in London and the rising of the sun in Edinburgh, the difference in the time of sunset is only 10 minutes.
§ Sir S. Summers
I hope that if the time between my first rising and my final sitting down is regarded as unreasonably long, the blame will not fall exclusively on me. I am sure that we do not wish to become involved in a geographical dispute.
I merely make the point that the suffering in the morning is greater than the alleged benefits in the evening and, secondly, that it is only after a certain hour that advantages occur in the months with which we are concerned, so that the alleged benefit in the evening is a great deal less than the supporters of the present system would have us believe.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Hudson Davies (Conway)
I will develop shortly the arguments on which I have been able lightly to touch once or twice already in the debate. I have some reservations about British Summer Time. Clearly there are some disadvantages to it, and they have been 1662 indicated today. Probably there are advantages, too.
But the important point to remember is that if the Motion were carried it would destroy a very important experiment. The experiment is one which this House agreed to have and it has embarked on a thoroughly worth-while project in order to look in considerable depth at both sides of the issue.
It would be tragic if this experiment were cut short, unless there were dire consequences resulting during the threeyear period during which British Standard Time will, under the present arrangement, be observed. If there were dire consequences and outstanding arguments against the experiment we would have heard something of them in this House today, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), although he touched on a wide range of subjects, did not put any strong and powerful argument which would make this House want to retract from what it has set its hand to in this experiment.
From that point of view I agree entirely with what the Minister said, that the case is not proven either way. That is adequate reason for going through with the experiment, and waiting for the figures and considering them in depth—the figures for last year, and the figures for the past winter, which are not yet available. There are many inquiries still being made. I was very impressed by the comprehensive range of inquiries listed by the Minister.
I know that there are certain sectors of the community where there are problems. The farmers certainly have problems, but I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham say that the farmer's problems are possibly less than they were. That is quite true, but one does find an element of discontent among farmers on this question.
One of the most powerful arguments, I feel, is a psychological one. On this, the evidence as yet seems to break even either way. There is something awfully nasty about getting up early in the morning, and many people in many walks of life feel it to be so. I was talking to some schoolteachers yesterday about schoolchildren. There is some dispute in the debate about this evidence, and 1663 that is another reason for waiting and seeing—waiting till we have all the evidence and all the figures. However, there does not seem to be dramatic evidence that there are more dangers to schoolchildren resulting from British Summer Time.
There is, however, a psychological factor. I think back to a period during the war when, for several months, in a long winter, I had to go some 15 miles to the school which I attended daily and I had to travel that distance every morning. It meant starting out to school early and in the hours of darkness. I remember that vividly still, as probably the most unpleasant period of my life. I think there is a psychological point here. It is not very pleasant for children to start out for school and to start their lessons in the hours of darkness. But it is a very open question. Certainly some teachers feel this, but, again, I think the important thing is to look at the kind of evidence which will be forthcoming.
There is a further point about the children. Children tend to finish school at different times, the younger ones at 3 p.m. or 3.30 and the older children at 4 o'clock. This makes it very difficult for parents to organise the collecting of their children from school. However, most schools start at the same time, and in that respect it is easier for parents to arrange the taking of their children to school, but I gather that there is, in certain parts of London, for example, a certain problem here. Parents who go out to work like to take their children to school early, and the children are left in the playground for 20 minutes or half an hour before school starts, and if that time is in the hours of darkness this is a problem. Undoubtedly it is one which we shall have to look at in the final appraisal.
There is a point which I should like to bring out and which, I think, is perhaps not clearly seen even by those people who are opposed to B.S.T., and it is that we generally tend to feel that people in Scotland, as the sun rises later there, will make up for that at the end of the day. There seems to be an assumption of that kind, but of course, it is not true. There are two factors here. One is, that the farther west one 1664 is, the later the sun rises, and the later it sets. The other is as one goes north the day becomes shorter.
§ An Hon. Member: Not in the summer.
§ Mr. Hudson Davies
Not in the summer, but in the winter the day is shorter. In the summer the day is longer. So there is an offsetting, I grant, of advantages in the summer, although it can be a nuisance, according to some people, in that it is still daylight at 11.30 at night.
A curious thing, because of the shape of Britain, is that London, in the southeast corner, has the earliest time of sun rising and in winter the latest time of sun setting. Then we draw a diagonal line to, say—as I mentioned earlier—Holyhead. Holyhead is farther west and farther north, so that the sun rises 20 minutes later, but it sets at exactly the same time on 1st January as it does in London, because the farther north the shorter the day. In other words, one has two factors—the sun rises later because one is farther west, and the sun sets later because one is farther west; but going north one finds that the sun rises later and also sets earlier. These two factors can cancel each other out regarding the time the sun sets. So we have a situation in which while there may be an advantage—shall we say—to London of early rising and late setting, one is a lot worse off in Scotland and the disadvantage cannot be made up at the end of the day because Scotland is farther west as well as farther north than London and so has a later sunrise and an earlier sunset.
This, I feel, is a powerful argument, because it is very easy to think in terms of how things are down here in the southeast of England. Certainly, in Wales and the north of Scotland we have the problem of the short day. We can make our arrangements for the starting time of the working day, but the length of the day is something over which we have no control. I am sure that this is a problem, as the Minister indicated, which will be taken into account in the final appraisal which will be made.
It will be very interesting to see the evidence. Many of us will look forward to seeing the evidence. The important thing is that the decision, which is not a 1665 party political decision, shall be made on as extensive evidence as possible, taking into account also the feelings of people. I was very glad that the Minister was giving us not just accident figures and other statistical facts of that kind but was considering how people feel. Matters such as changes in the accident figures, children's safety, and so on, all have to be taken into account, but it is also a question of whether people want this B.S.T. or not. The important thing is that the decision is made on evidence, and on that kind of evidence.
What I deplore about the Bill is not that I object to the criticisms made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham about British Standard Time, for I think there can be a great deal of valid criticism about this, but that he wants to jump ahead and destroy an important and worth-while experiment. More attention has been and will be paid than ever before to this problem, which is being given consideration in depth not given to it before. This House should wait for the evidence, and ensure that this kind of decision is made in a technical and proper way at the proper time.
§ 1.19 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
I think that both the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. E. Hudson Davies) and the Minister have been less than fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) in suggesting that by introducing the Bill he is seeking to have a decision made before all the information becomes available. My right hon. Friend himself, in a letter to the Home Secretary, suggested that the Bill should be used as a vehicle for assembling all the information. Although we are seeking to give the Bill a Second Reading today it will not become the law of the land today. What we are seeking to do is to speed up the collecting of this information, instead of having this B.S.T. for yet another winter. We are in fact going to take a decision about it before the winter, but that is the attitude which the Government have taken.
In assessing all these matters there are so many imponderables. The number of accidents to children is not influenced by whether or not we alter the clock by an hour. In the magazine of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce there has appeared during the last few months a 1666 series of articles from people in different walks of life. One of these articles was by the regional controller of the Automobile Association in Scotland, who said:Whether B.S.T. is retained or not, the one good thing that has come out of the experiment so far is the long overdue introduction of safety elements in school dress.Such factors as that have to be taken into account.
What tabulation has been made of the hours at which schools start? In certain parts of Scotland, school starting hours have been altered. Teaching is one of the occupations in which it has been possible to alter the starting time in order to fit in with available daylight—
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin
The points which the hon. Gentleman is making are very forceful, but are they not all against making a premature decision?
§ Sir J. Gilmour
I think that to a certain extent it can be reasonably argued that the case should be put the other way round. It is said that by altering the clock there will be either an advantage or a disadvantage, but in our argument we tend to pick on certain things, such as accidents to school children. That is certainly one of the things which matter, but it can probably be said that constructive measures can be taken to prevent those accidents irrespective of what sort of time we use. The most terrible thing would be to argue in any way in the sense of bartering in respect of casualties to children. The trouble is the very conflicting evidence we have.
In the series of articles to which I have referred, the Chief Constable of Dundee gave his personal opinion. He wrote:During extra morning darkness Dundee showed an increase in serious injuries to adults, whereas there was a decrease nationally. The increase in serious injuries to children was even more pronounced in Dundee than the substantial national increase. Dundee followed the national trend in slight injuries to adults, but not in slight injuries to children, in which category Dundee had an increase as against the national decrease. The overall increase in injury accidents to children during morning darkness following the introduction of B.S.T. could truthfully be described as alarming.Dundee is not as far north as many places in Scotland, and the situation would be, presumably, worse in Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick—and very much worse further north still.
1667 I feel that we are using statistics to try to prove whether or not it is right to make a change rather than, as we should, looking at the matter as a whole. Is it right, as my right hon. Friend has said, to continue with such a wide time zone as we have in Central Europe, to which time zone we are at present attached? Living, as we do, on the north-west corner of the Continent, it seems that we are thus bound to have the worst deal in regard to daylight.
Could not a great deal of the difficulty be overcome by sticking to G.M.T. and, if necessary, using Summer Time for certain months? One of our troubles in Scotland is that in summer we have so much daylight we do not know what to do with it. The problem is to get the balance which is best for the majority of the people.
The fact is that we would all probably be very much better off if we started work half an hour earlier. Then, instead of monkeying about with an hour either way, we could make common-sense arrangements, obviate difficulties about the clock and, at the same time, take constructive steps to cut down accidents to children—which, in any case, in many cases probably have little to do with how we alter the clock.
Serious economic arguments have to be taken into account in considering whether or not this alteration is in the general interest. One section that is affected is the fishing industry. I and some of my hon. Friends have in our constituencies considerable inshore fishing interests, and inshore fishermen have told me that they lose, so to speak, one day's fishing per week by this alteration in time. The days are short in winter time. The men can only fish effectively during daylight hours, and they cannot postpone the market time at the end of the day. Because of that, they reckon to lose one haul per day. That is one-fifth of their productivity, so that in a five-day week they lose one day's fishing. Farming and forestry are also affected.
British Standard Time also has a big effect on tradesmen doing repairs. For instance, they cannot climb on roofs, until it is daylight, and perhaps not until the frost has gone.
1668 How much late arrival is there even in factories, which are warm and well-lit, and where the hours of daylight do not make any difference to working conditions? I am told in my constituency that people tend to be late at their work. There is therefore a general loss of productivity, which is probably just as high in the south as in the north.
The effect on the average family of the alteration of the clock is also underestimated. My right hon. Friend spoke very sensibly about the extra cost involved there. If a family has to get up in the dark, three or four bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen will all need to have the lights on. In the evening, it may just be a question of washing one's hands before sitting down to a meal in one room. By the time a meal is finished, darkness will have fallen in any case and perhaps only one other room will be used.
Many other arguments could be adduced, but I know that other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I only hope that we shall not seek to prove something which is not there. There is only so much daylight, and we want to make the best use of it with the least possible inconvenience to the majority of people. I believe that, because of our geographical position, we would be at a disadvantage if we used B.S.T., and I am certain that we should give it up.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Hobden (Brighton, Kemptown)
I support this Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour will not mind if I do not comment on his speech, because he said nothing which was controversial and certainly nothing that I need to take up in my speech.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who is not present now, was I thought a little hard on the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). I thought the right hon. Member's spech was reasonable in all the circumstances. The facts were, apparently, well marshalled and I found nothing to which I could take great exception. There are, however, two points I wish to take up. One concerns British Standard Time itself and the other is whether in the earlier debate the Whips were on. The Whips were on, but hon. Members opposite know that, although the Whips may be 1669 put on, not only on this side but on the other side of the House, if hon. Members want to ignore the Whips they jolly well do so. They do not appear to be afraid of the ultimate sanctions.
When the right hon. Member for Grantham was speaking I could not help feeling that this was probably another example of the shadow boxing which takes place between the two sides of the House on some occasions. If there had been the misfortune, either in 1964 or 1966, of hon. Members opposite being on these benches, I have a sneaking suspicion that British Standard Time would have been introduced by now by the party opposite.
I was much impressed by the speech made by the Under-Secretary. He gave some interesting facts. I was also interested in the length of that speech. I thought that perhaps he was trying to talk the Bill out rather than to deal with it on any other basis. As to my personal views and the way in which this matter concerns my constituency, I originally had no firm view one way or the other about the introduction of British Standard Time. In the light of my experience in the last two years, through the reaction of constituents and organisations I have found it necessary to change my view. I am now against any extension of British Standard Time.
I have made a little research to find how international time came about. I gather that most countries are bound by an International Convention of 1844, which lays down specific time belts of one belt per 50 degrees of longitude. The Government have apparently contravened that international agreement. Whether it was passed by a majority or not, that is what happened. I then looked at reasons given to show that this change is necessary. There seemed to be four, which the Under-Secretary appeared to deny.
One was that we had to make the best use of daylight with Standard Time. Secondly, there would be a 20 per cent. increase in business contacts through the telephone system. Thirdly, the change was considered to favour afternoon activities of old-age pensioners and sporting events and the activities of families at weekends. No. 4 was the estimate of road accidents given by 1670 the Road Research Laboratory. I think all those reasons can be contradicted and some facts brought against them.
The Under-Secretary emphatically denied that a reason for introducing Brtish Standard Time was that of bringing us into line with Common Market standards. We heard at the time that this could not be so because of Italy. Some of us might be forgiven for thinking it was so because almost every other aspect of our life is being gradually standardised and brought into line with practice in the Common Market countries. I find it a little difficult to accept that this has nothing to do with the Common Market. That may be because I have a suspicious mind.
I was completely flabbergasted when the Under-Secretary said what he considered was the actual reason for introduction of British Standard Time. He said that it was because of letters sent to the Home Office. It appeared to be a surprising departure in British political life that legislation should be based on letters sent to a Ministry. If this is so, we can be hopeful about other matters in future. The Government have not been so consistent on other matters. However, I do not want to be niggardly in a friendly debate such as this.
I come to the question of business contacts by telephone and the difficulties which were alleged to exist before 1968. The mover of the Second Reading said that if we took the position of the U.S.S.R., the United States of America and North America with their vast land masses we found that there were a number of different time belts in those countries. I believe that in the United States of America there are at least four. Yet they have had no particular difficulty in coping with this problem. I deny that that has anything to do with this question because the alteration in time, although it puts us on a par in the main with Common Market countries and assists telephonic communications there, virtually cuts off British offices from those in the North American market. The eastern seaboard time in America is six instead of five hours different. Offices in the Mid-West and in Canada have now lost all contact with British offices during business hours. When assessing this question and whether we should come into line with the Common Market we should 1671 remember that the difference there is very marginal.
Road safety for children has been borne in on me in my constituency. There are roughly two categories of children, those who leave at 3.30 in the afternoon and those who leave later. The under 11s, who leave at 3.30, formerly went to school and came home in the light. Under British Standard Time they go to school in darkness and come home when it is light. I see no particular advantage in that. It brings all kinds of problems for parents. It is said that if this change is continued we should alter the hours of attendance at school, but it has been drawn to our attention that then working mothers would have to alter their hours of employment, and that is not a practical proposition. There is another difficulty because, if children go home later in the day there is less traffic density than there is if they are sent to school in the dark in the mornings. This is why British Standard Time is a step backward instead of a step forward.
An hon. Member opposite has quoted figures which were different from those produced by the Under-Secretary with reference to accidents. I do not think anyone can be blamed for that, because the figures quoted by the hon. Member and those which I shall quote have come from Ministerial sources. On 23rd April last year, the Secretary of State for Scotland said, in reply to a Question on British Standard Time, that the number of accidents for the period 27th October to 15th February had risen from 8,800 to 9,100; fatal accidents to children had risen from 19 to 29.
On 19th June the Home Secretary, in reply to a Question relating specifically to the changed hours of daylight in both the morning and the evening, said that in January, 1969, there had been an increase in child accidents during those hours of 96.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
In Scot- 1672 land, during the hours with which we are particulary concerned, the figure for fatal and serious casualties to children in 1969–70 is much better than that for 1968–69.
§ Mr. Hobden
During the same relevant hours there had been an increase of 152 accidents in January of last year. These figures must be treated with caution.
I do not need to deal with the effect on outdoor workers in the construction industry, because my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) may deal with this question later.
The statistics we have been given relating to Post Office workers deserve the most serious consideration. The Union of Post Office Workers has been strongly opposed to B.S.T. both before its inception and since. The union's statistics show that in the two winters immediately following its introduction—1967–68 and 1968–69—accidents to delivery postmen have overall, startlingly increased to more than double what they were in the winter of 1966–67, the year immediately preceding B.S.T.
The report the union has sent to the T.U.C. shows that for 100,000 postmen on delivery between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. the accident rate was 2.3 per cent. after B.S.T. as compared with 1.1 per cent. before B.S.T. A high proportion of accidents was due to falls, and in this category increases of 325 per cent. were recorded for falls on level ground in conditions of ice and snow. Falls on uneven ground increased by 150 per cent., whilst falls down steps were increased by 75 per cent. Another alarming increase was recorded for road accidents in which postmen on foot were injured by private vehicles. In the first year after B.S.T. these doubled. In the second year they redoubled.
These statistics show the need for urgent action. Despite what has been said from the Front Bench, I am of the same opinion. Should this matter be taken to a vote, I shall be compelled to go into the Lobby against my hon. Friends.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) on introducing the Bill. The whole House will 1673 that his temporary descent to the back-have appreciated the care and attention he devoted to his opening speech. I hope benches will not be prolonged and that we shall soon see him back on the Opposition Front Bench. My right hon. Friend rightly said that we are concerned with a mere four months—four months of deep winter. This is a crucial period for the civil population as well as for some of the specialised parts of the economy, such as agriculture and fishing.
This period sees the onset of calfing on breeding farms. Particularly with out-wintered herds, when the night is very long, and with the men coming to work at the same time as they always do, it is very difficult to check upon the herds.
It is significant that a Motion appeared on last week's Order Paper condemning British Standard Time. The Motion was signed by all 21 Scottish Conservative Members. It is also significant that within two days of the original Bill being published in the Lords we made a statement condemning it. At that time British Standard Time was to be for all time— there was no question of a three-year trial period. We outlined in that statement some of the more unfortunate results of the introduction of B.S.T.
A number of accident statistics, particularly statistics of accidents to children, have been quoted. There is a vast difference of opinion about them, and many statistics are being quoted. The House cannot decide this issue without knowing the full situation. Before the result of the final review is known, the Government should tell us exactly what the position is in various parts of the country.
My right hon. Friend said that 90 per cent. of the letters he had received about the Bill had been in favour of it. One hundred per cent. of my correspondence about the Bill and about B.S.T. have been against B.S.T. There has been no change in my correspondence in this respect.
As a result of the Act, the Government have been forced, by reaction in the House and in the country at large, to undertake a number of surveys and inquiries. This is a total waste of money. At the time that the Government introduced the original Bill, they should have appreciated how unpopular B.S.T. would 1674 be. The House is entitled to know how much public money has been spent so far, although the surveys are not yet complete.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department dealt most inadequately with the Scottish situation. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland can give us a better fuller and more informative picture of the reactions of the Scottish public. I thought that the Under-Secretary was somewhat hypocritical in his remarks about party advantage being sought in this matter. In the first place, the original Measure, when introduced into the Lords and when it finally came to this House, was for a permanency of British Standard Time. It was only after agitation and a great deal of pressure from this side of the House—and, I have no doubt, from some of his hon. Friends as well—that an Amendment was carried to make it an experimental period of three years. It is quite wrong for the Government to claim that this was an experiment. It was not an experiment in the first place. The experimentation was forced on the Government by opinion in this House and outside.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the whipping. Of course, the Government had to put on the Whips to force an unpopular Measure like this through. I believe that, of all the measures which the present Government have been putting forward in the last five and a half years, the two most unpopular were S.E.T. and B.S.T. Both, in my opinion, make a hen's breakfast of legislation and it is high tithe that we got rid of both. Here today we have a possibility of the initial step in getting rid of B.S.T., and I shall support that step.
Various statistics have been given to the House, and I should like to give some from the North-East of Scotland. In February of this year a survey was carried out by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce. It sent out 620 questionnaires to members, and one-third of that number gave replies. The number of members who supported the continuance of British Standard Time was 85, or 42.3 per cent., and the number of members against the continuance of B.S.T. was 113, or 55.5 per cent. The number of members who were neutral in their 1675 views—which, it seems to me, having listened to the other statistics produced today, is a low figure—was five, or 2.1 per cent.
In the questionnaire the main points against retention of the system were requested. As regards agriculture, the following were the most important points mentioned: unable to inspect wintered-out stock until daylight; disruption of livestock management and marketing routines; increased cost of heating and lighting; agricultural workers prefer to start early and finish early.
There was also a reaction from married women concerned for the safety of their children going to school in the darkness. This is a very big point in the North of Scotland where the collecting points for buses may be miles from where the children live. They have a long journey to go before they get to those collecting points. Another reason given was an apparent falling-off in productivity and increased absenteeism as a result of the extension of morning hours of darkness and shorter working daylight. Those are some of the points made relating to agriculture.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) referred to the fishing industry. I have had a number of complaints from the inshore fishermen in my constituency and from some of the councils of towns where the fishing vessels are based. I think I can do no better than quote from a letter which I have received from the Town Clerk of Buckie. He mentions a number of factors, all militating against British Standard Time, and I should like to quote from his letter:The fishermen from Buckie most affected by the clock being put forward one hour to British Standard Time are those operating on the west coast of Scotland who are landing their fish more or less daily at west coast ports and consigning them to east coast markets for sale "—notably in Aberdeen.Most of the Buckle fishermen at present working at the west coast are trawling for nephrops. Fishing takes place during all the daylight hours throughout the winter months but the best time to catch nephrops are the hour before daylight and the hour before nightfall. Most boats presently fishing out of Gairloch shoot their nets shortly before 8 a.m. (7 a m. G.M.T.) and stop fishing about 7 p.m. (6 p.m. G.M.T.). They normally arrive at 1676 Gairloch about 9 p.m. (8 p.m. G.M.T.) to land their fish. Only two boats can discharge there at one time and if as many as sixteen boats arrive around 9 p.m. (8 p.m. G.M.T.), as usually happens, it is sometimes after 11 p.m. (10 p.m. G.M.T.) before the last boat has completed discharging. Lorries must then take the fish approximately 200 miles to Aberdeen on single track roads which are frequently made difficult with snow and ice. There have been a number of occasions this winter when lorries have failed, by less than one hour, to reach the market in Aberdeen prior to the sales commencing. This has resulted in the fish having to be held over for sale the following day. It will be appreciated that lying for another 24 hours does not improve the condition of the fish and this is invariably reflected in the price paid.As I said, I can do no better than quote that statement. It is a very serious situation which is arising not only in the Gairloch but, as regards markets, in other areas as well.
I very much hope that the House will see fit to support this Bill and that it will become law. I hope that by next winter we shall have done with B.S.T.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
I listened with very great care to the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker). He made a number of serious and valuable points which, no doubt, will be taken into consideration by the Government, together with all the other material of importance and relevance to this issue when eventually they come to make their decision and present that decision for the approval of the House.
I regret, however, that the hon. Gentleman found it necessary to introduce into what was otherwise a very serious speech the remarks about party. What has struck me about this debate so far on the subject of party is that whereas on the other side of the House every speech has supported the Bill, on this side of the House there has been—and, no doubt, will be throughout the rest of the debate—a diversity of opinion, and it is far from true to say that we on this side are speaking on party lines. I hope that any such suggestion will not be pursued.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker
I did not say that hon. Members opposite were speaking on party lines today. I said that the Whips were on when the Bill was originally going through the House.
§ Mr. Silkin
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. There has been much talk about party during the debate, and I thought it right to point out that on his benches speeches have followed a single pattern.
Turning to the subject matter of the Bill, I start with a certain prejudice against legislation the effect of which is that we all pretend that something is which, in fact, is not. I had not, and I have not, made up my mind whether the present system should be continued as a permanency. I understand from what was said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State that the original reason for introducing the British Standard Time Act was that there had been a strong movement of public opinion in favour of the introduction of British Standard Time. That strong movement of opinion had, apparently, manifested itself through inquiries made by the previous Conservative Government and continued when the present Government made their own inquiries.
To a large extent, the gravamen of the case made by the right hon. Member for Grantham is, I gather, that public opinion has completely changed. He said that the Act was unwelcome to the majority people, that he had had a flood of correspondence from all parts of the United Kingdom, and that the case based on public opinion was strong. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Banff reinforced that by saying that the correspondence which he had had on the matter had been 100 per cent. in one direction. I could say that the correspondence which I have had has been 100 per cent. in one direction. All three of the letters which I received when the original Bill was introduced opposed it.
We need a serious survey of how public opinion stands today. Hon. Members have spoken from the viewpoint of their constituencies—perhaps agricultural, perhaps fishing constituencies—while others speak from the point of view of particular industries, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) for the construction industry, no doubt, and so on. We can all look at the matter from the standpoint of a special case and the views held by people concerned with that special case.
1678 My constituency is certainly not agricultural. Although the sole remaining tollgate in London still advertises a charge for the passage of sheep, no one would be more surprised than the tollgate keeper if a flock of sheep went through his gate. Equally, it is not a fishing constituency. But it contains a representative cross-section of the sort of people who live in a London suburb. It contains workers in the construction industry, many of whom are close political colleagues of mine, transport workers, dock workers and postmen, all of whom are close political colleagues of mine, too. I have the pleasure of visiting the postmen at their sorting office every Christmas and of speaking to them on other occasions.
I take the trouble to ask these various people from time to time what they think about British Standard Time so that I may at least have some idea of opinion in my constituency. I can only say that, apart from the relative handful of letters opposing the original Bill when it was introduced in 1966, I have had virtually no opposition to it at any time since.
That seems to be consistent with the kind of experience one has whenever an innovation of this kind is introduced. It is consistent, for instance, with what happened when the 70 m.p.h. speed limit was introduced. One had a certain amount of correspondence in opposition then. As time went on, and people began to realise the advantages of the new measure, one ceased to have that sort of opposition. The same has been true in my case in connection with British Standard Time.
I can find no evidence whatever to support the right hon. Gentleman's contention, which he made so large a feature of his argument, that there is a strong case for his Bill on grounds of public opinion. It may be that, as a result of this speech, I shall have a flood of letters, but I have not had so far, and from those to whom I have spoken, people of the kind likely to be affected, I have not had expressions of opinion supporting the view which the right hon. Gentleman has put.
Here is an illustration of what I mean. Like most hon. Members representing urban constituencies, I am constantly faced with the problems created by traffic 1679 and its impact upon children going to and from school. I have had to deal with many such problems, trying to ameliorate traffic conditions, to persuade the authorities to introduce improvements, and so forth. Not once when dealing with these matters in the last few years while the Act has been in force have I been told by the parents or teachers concerned that the hour now in question affects the matters which they have raised. Not one suggestion to that effect has been made.
As regards children, although there is the possible extra danger in the morning, a danger which is offset in the case of the very young by their being, for the most pant at least, accompanied to school by a parent or another child's parent, the great advantage in the evening is that they have extra daylight when they are able to play, if the weather is suitable, and from the standpoint of safety I cannot see that alteration of the hour is likely to have an adverse effect upon them.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the special case of the younger children who return home from school at 3.30 p.m. But they are the very children most likely to be accompanied to and from school and least likely to be in danger. When they return home, they will get the maximum benefit from the extra daylight. That is a valuable consideration.
I agree with the Under-Secretary that if it were clear that there was an increase, even a relatively small one, let alone a substantial one, in the statistics of casualties to children in the material period, that would be a formidable consideration. The hon. Member for Banff said more than once that the three-year experimental period was not in the original Bill. But it was an experiment to gauge the effect of this Measure, introduced because of the movement of public opinion, to see whether public opinion would maintain the same momentum and whether those most affected would benefit.
I do not say that, although Parliament had intended to make a decision by the end of 1970, a different view should in no circumstances be taken now, but the change of view must be so strong as to justify an alteration before the time laid down. Therefore, should the right hon. Gentleman's case override the fact that 1680 the Government are still collecting the broad spectrum of information on which the House should decide? As always, I listened to the hon. Member's views with great respect and wanted to be convinced or not convinced. I was not convinced that the facts are so strong as to justify this course.
The opinion polls which he mentioned seemed a forceful argument in support of his view that public opinion had moved, and when he mentioned dogs I was hoping that he would produce a poll of dogs—but perhaps that was not possible. The Under-Secretary gave figures from the Home Office Survey which seemed to produce a totally different picture. I am not saying that one or the other is right, but taking the two together one cannot be convinced that public opinion has shifted so much in these few years as to justify a premature decision, contrary to Parliament's intention.
§ Mr. Godberrose—
§ Mr. Godber
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, but this is relevant to the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. He is basing himself on the three-year period. I assume that he noted the previous Under-Secretary's clear statement in Standing Committee:We feel that at least two winters … are required before any reliable views can be obtained.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing Committee A,2nd July, 1968; c. 113.]Two winters have passed.
§ Mr. Silkin
I appreciate that point. The right hon. Gentleman listened as carefully as I did to my hon. Friend, who made it clear that the survey during the first winter was for a specific and limited purpose, and that the present one is an extremely thorough survey of every aspect of the problem. I hope that he will agree with that, having heard my hon. Friend. It is only when the House and the nation have the full results of that broad survey that we can make a fair judgment, and that will not be long now. We have to consider the whole picture and there is some danger in considering individual points.
This was illustrated by the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the accidents to postal workers. I recognise that they 1681 are a section of the community most affected by the Bill. They deliver in the mornings and only collect in the afternoons. It is right to consider them. The right hon. Gentleman was right to draw our attention to these accident figures, but his statistics might be taken to contradict his own argument. He said that the accident figures for postmen doubled in the first year of the experiment and doubled again in the second year. If he says that the doubling in the first year was evidence of greater danger to postmen because of the experiment, what certainly cannot be true is that the doubling in the second year was due to the same thing. One is there comparing the second year of the experiment with the first. So we have to look for other factors which may have been the cause of the original doubling and of the redoubling. That kind of consideration ought to be one of the many facets of this matter which will be examined finally in the broad survey that will result from the close study which the Government are undertaking.
Valuable though it may be to have an interim discussion of this sort, the House would be wrong, before it has the fruits of this extensive survey to come to a conclusion that the experiment should be brought to an end. When the time comes for the survey to be published and for the Government to come to a decision, we must make up our minds independently. To do so now would be to decide the matter with our eyes blindfolded.
§ Several Hon. Membersrose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that I have appealed for reasonably brief speeches. About nine hon. Members still wish to speak.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Whatever views hon. Members have about the advantages or disadvantages of British Standard Time, there can be no doubt that it affects almost every section of the community from the very old to the very young. For that reason alone, this debate is of great importance.
I was disappointed to learn from the Under-Secretary that the inquiry now being undertaken will take so long. Like 1682 my right hon. Friend, I had the impression that the worst that we could have would be two winters and that a decision would be taken before the third. From what the Minister said, however, I understand that the results may not be available in time for a decision to be taken by the third winter. If that is so, the Government have been singularly dilatory—
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
My impression was that it was to be tried for two and not three winters.
I heard nearly all of the Minister's speech, and at one point he was discussing the comparison of road casualties involving children. He said that 1969–70 had proved to be better than 1968–69. But how do the 1969–70 figures compare with those for 1967-68, before we went on to British Standard Time?
My next point concerns the Government's survey. I do not know how anyone is to evaluate the answers. They are bound to be very different, depending on where people live and the nature of their work. I find it difficult to know how we are to produce any intelligible answers to the amalgam of questions put to different people doing different jobs.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Perhaps my hon. Friend would also ask the Minister whether he can say how many local education authorities allow their children to come to school half an hour later because of British Standard Time. That is very important.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will deal with that extremely important point.
Getting up in the dark in the morning must have a depressing effect, and there can be little doubt about the extreme inconvenience which is caused. Attention has been drawn already to the fact that the time tables of buses taking men to work in the mornings have not been altered, despite requests that account should be taken of the difference in time. We also have the curious anomaly in many cases that children leave home for school before their fathers go to work.
1683 I want to concentrate my remarks on the effect on agriculture. I think that it can be judged simply by whether or not the industry is more efficient as a result of British Standard Time. I claim that it is not. In fact, the balance of information points the other way.
The difficulties of farm management and of sorting out what is to happen in the extra hour of darkness at the beginning of the day and the extra hour of daylight at the other creates enormous problems. I have in mind vegetables which have to be cut and packed in the daylight before the lorry or train leaves for the market. Then there are cows to be taken along a main road to graze kale when it is not safe to do so until daylight. However, I am aware that there are compensating advantages in British Standard Time for the dairy farmer.
My right hon. Friend laid emphasis on the problems in forestry and building. One is a small but vital industry associated with agriculture. The other is a very big industry. In neither can work start until daylight. Anyone attempting to work in darkness would find it extremely dangerous.
I know of an agricultural estate in the Midlands, the owner of which has kept a careful record of costs since the introduction of British Standard Time, a brief outline of which he has been good enough to send me. The estate is part forestry and part agricultural. Figures were kept from 1st November, 1968, to 15th February, 1969. The number of working days involved was 88. The average time at which it was sufficiently light for anyone to work in that period was 8.45 a.m. The effective number of hours lost per man was 66, and the number of employees concerned was 64. The total number of working hours lost was 4,222. The average cost per man per hour, including wages and National Health Service contributions, was 10s. The value of the time lost in that period works out at £2,112. That is about a 3 per cent. increase in labour costs on the estate over that period.
However, that is not the end of the story, because the figures relate only to a period in 1968–69. In view of the increasing costs in wages and so on since that time, the comparable figures for 1969–70 are a great deal higher. Any measure 1684 which costs an agricultural estate sums of that kind and which is within the control of the Government cannot be argued to improve agricultural efficiency. I am sure that it does not and that very great weight should be given to the ill effects on agriculture. For that and many other reasons, I shall support the Bill.
§ 2.30 p.m.
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
We are indebted to the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) for bringing the Bill before the House. It is no secret that I was opposed to the introduction of British Summer Time. I was against the concept when it was first presented and I remain opposed to it.
I was asked the other day why I did not vote against the Measure which introduced B.S.T. To be honest, I believe that in the week when I might have opposed it I had voted against the Government on three occasions, and I thought that I should treat them a little more fairly on that occasion. I am not sure, but I believe that I abstained.
Certainly, I did not support the Bill. I spoke against it on Second Reading and urged that, if we were to have B.S.T., it should be introduced for an experimental period of one year. Unfortunately, that proposal was not accepted. But instead of its being a permanent Measure, the Government agreed to introduce B.S.T. for a three-year experimental period.
I opposed the original Measure not because of any great expertise on my part—after all, I was not competent to speak of the various problems in Scotland and elsewhere resulting from the introduction of B.S.T.; it was obvious, however, that problems would arise—but because of the effect that I knew it would have on building operatives and employers. The view that I expressed then has come true.
At the request of the National Joint Council for the Civil Engineering and Building Industry, the Ministry of Public Building and Works carried out a survey. There had been an employers' survey the previous year and that had come out against the continuation of B.S.T. It was felt, however, that the Ministry should conduct a survey so that no question of bias would arise.
1685 Accordingly, the Ministry sent forms to 2,239 building firms and received 1,610 replies. The results are interesting because 70 per cent. of the firms were against B.S.T., 15 per cent. were in favour and 15 per cent. were indifferent.
It is, of course, important to consider this matter from the regional point of view. If one lives in the South-East one can easily be in favour of B.S.T. or, at the worst, indifferent to it. However, if one lives in the North, one is more likely to be opposed to it. Although the employers said that the introduction of B.S.T. had cost the building industry an additional £30 million, there is no doubt that an added burden has been placed on the industry, even if £30 million is somewhat of an exaggeration.
I urge hon. Members to read the results of the survey which the Ministry conducted. The replies in Table 5 show that the accident rate worsened by 9 per cent. using artificial light. Without artificial light, it worsened by 14 per cent. The further north one goes, the greater the worsening in the accident rate, with Scotland having an increased rate of 14 per cent. and the southeastern counties 5 per cent.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
My right hon. Friend examined this factor last year. One must bear in mind the normal fluctuations which occur between years in the building industry. It was difficult to make the figures for the one year to which my hon. Friend is referring an exception and, therefore, to arrive at a conclusion based on only one year's figures. Would not my hon. Friend agree that there is every reason for having more than one winter's figures to examine before arriving at a definite conclusion?
The figures do not relate to only one year. The employers carried out their own survey before the Ministry's survey. We therefore have the figures for two winters. The conclusions in both, while not being identical, were very similar.
It is interesting to examine the reaction of building operatives to the continuation of B.S.T. In the Northern Region, 5 per cent. favoured it, 26 per cent. were indifferent and 67 per cent. were opposed. 1686 In Scotland, 1 per cent. favoured B.S.T., 28 per cent. were indifferent, and 70 per cent. were opposed. Even in the London area, the majority of operatives questioned about the continuation of B.S.T. were against the idea; 8 per cent. being in favour, 29 per cent. indifferent, and 61 per cent. opposed.
I recall that when the introduction of B.S.T. was first mooted I said that hours of work would have to be altered, mainly because building operatives could not start work at eight o'clock in the morning without artificial light.
This must be so with an outside building contract. Generally speaking, they cannot begin until 9 a.m. and, the further north one goes, the more the position worsens. The building worker who is due to start work at 9 a.m. must probably leave home at 8 a.m. It is not like working in a factory. The building operative must often travel far afield to get to his contract and, once that job is over, he must travel to another contract.
Having arrived at work at 9 a.m., the building worker will not finish at, say, 4.30 p.m. but at 5.30 p.m. or even 6 p.m. This means that, without doing any overtime, he will not get home until about seven o'clock. This must have an effect on the social life of the building operative, who will probably sit down for his evening meal at 7.15 p.m. without having had an opportunity to relax before eating. Maybe by then the mother will have said that the children should be off to bed, and he does not have any time with them.
What is the trade unions' view? There is a note at the end of the survey saying:In addition to the returns from the construction industry on which this paper has been based, the Department has received comments from the following bodies: Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers," —my own trade union—Institution of Civil Engineers, London Brick Co. Ltd., National Federation of Construction Unions," —which is the federation of all the building trade unions—Scottish Timber Merchants and Saw-millers Association.The important words at the end are:The consensus of opinion is in general agreement with the conclusions of the main 1687 paper that the construction industry is opposed to British Standard Time.It is quite clear from that that the biggest trade union in the industry, which is mine, is not happy with B.S.T. We shall discuss it at our annual conference this year, and are generally opposed. The federation of the building trade unions is opposed, and the employers are opposed. Just about every organisation concerned is opposed.
Minorities as well as majorities have rights in this country. If our people are being forced to work under conditions which are not good enough, the majority of people, who are not really affected one way or the other in the main, should not put this imposition on the minority of workers in the building industry.
What has happened? To try to overcome the difficulty—and the building trade unions are always very amenable people—we reluctantly agreed to a constitutional amendment to the working rule agreement. It meant that we could operate on a regional basis, if it was agreed regionally, a 5½ day week. We had passed that years ago. When I first entered the building industry as an apprentice we worked a normal 5½ day week. We always argued for a five-day week, and we got it. British Standard Time has put us back to the 5½ day week.
The workers are not having it. In area after area there has been a revolt from below on this question, and there will be more unless there is a change. I can imagine even now what the decision of my union conference will be. I do not need to be a prophet to know the outcome of that debate.
So I hope that my right hon. Friends will have second thoughts before we go through another winter with B.S.T. But if they do not and there is a vote on the Bill I shall almost certainly vote in favour of it, like my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden).
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I apologise to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for hearing only the first part of his speech.
I shall make my comments considerably briefer than I had intended since the 1688 hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has made a good part of my speech for me. There are a remarkable number of Scottish Members on this side today. Many of us who are here, which is unusual on a Friday, are here because we are convinced that we should support the Bill, which would be of such great benefit to the vast majority of the Scottish people. It is very strange, if this is a non-partisan matter, that there are no Scottish Members on the Government side of the House.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I will accept the hon. Gentleman as a fellow Scotsman but not as a fellow Scottish Member His views are more likely to represent the car industry, in which I too have an interest, than to represent the people of Scotland.
I think that we are all agreed that those most adversely affected by B.S.T. include predominantly those in the construction industry, in agriculture, and schoolchildren.
Here I should like to make two points which I am sorry to make in the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), but which should be taken up. Those with a particular interest in the Post Office will accept what I am about to say. If one really wants to know what postmen think about a Measure which they consider to be against their interests one is not likely to get their views in the sorting office at Christmas time when hon. Members pay their annual visit. I would have hoped that all hon. Members would recognise the distinction.
Second, when children go to school in an urban area they have to go up perhaps a couple of divisions of the street, but children going to school in less densely populated areas, which means practically all Scotland except the central belt, have to go a very long distance. It is a serious consideration when they have to go in the dark. I always regret it when facts are stated in the House which ignore large sections of the community or conclusions are drawn from very limited information.
I shall cut to the minimum what I have to say about the construction Indus- 1689 try, because it has been better said by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton, though I should like to re-emphasise his points about Scotland. The construction industry there is faced with the most serious end of the problem purely on account of its geographical situation. The late start is the most serious factor of all, and the climatic conditions at the time of start are such as to make working conditions extremely danggerous on unlit sites, of which there are still many and I fear will continue to be many. I fear greatly that the accident rate cannot be tackled to the advantage of the building worker.
I endorse what has been said about costs. I have here an analysis of the construction industry's problems as shown in my part of central Scotland I do not want to go into all the on-costs, because this matter would obviously introduce a highly partisan approach in some aspects with which we are not concerned today. But in the construction industry the on-cost per man is running at about £9 16s. 1d. a week. The Minister nods assent, because he knows that I am deliberately pitching this at the lowest possible figure.
Included in that on-cost are a number of items, but not the paid time lost under B.S.T., because it is very difficult to cal-cu ate. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Walton at least put a timing on it, because there is a significant figure in the on-cost shown under the heading of travelling expenses. In the central part of Scotland, where the building industry workers travel least, that on-cost figure is published and unchallenged at 19s. ld. If that is the travelling expense for a building worker in a day, he is travelling quite a long way, and automatically adding to his time away from home. When we add that to the late start forced by British Standard Time we begin to recognise the social problem as well as the economic problem for the building industry.
The figure of 14 per cent. accident rate in Scotland has been quoted as opposed to a 5 per cent. accident rate in the London area. This is the second factor affecting the construction industry. Finally, there is the overall figure of £30 million which the industry gives as the cost of this ill-conceived and unacceptable measure.
1690 We have heard today of difficulties in highly concentrated agricultural areas, but the agricultural industry in the North of Scotland can benefit in no way from the present legislation. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will redeem the record of the Government and will accept that Scottish agriculture has real problems on this subject. We will not solve that problem if we simply accept the Government's view that they alone should determine when this timing will be changed.
The arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) are supported by the widest possible section of the community. In my correspondence about the effect on school children—and the Under-Secretary is well aware of this matter since I had a lengthy correspondence with him on the subject about a year ago—it has been shown conclusively that the vast majority of parents are still highly exercised about the dangers to school children. He will also recognise that certain zoning arrangements which are now in operation compel many children to travel considerable distances.
The argument is still put forward—I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman has put it forward—that the economic advantages of B.S.T. outweigh the disadvantages. It is said that there are advantages in being able to conduct business more ably with overseas countries. But unless we are prepared to turn night into day, we will not make it possible to lift the telephone to the United States and other countries with great convenience to them and at the same time to us. We must accept some difference in time scale the world over and it is ridiculous to use that argument in support of B.S.T.
Many thousands of people will be deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising this subject, for giving an opportunity to publicise their views, and for allowing those of us who feel strongly on this subject to express briefly, but with great conviction, our wish that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
Temperamentally I am rather opposed to Standard Time, as it is called. I admit that in the depths of this winter when I awoke each morning in November, December and 1691 January I felt frightful. I have no doubt many other hon. Members did, too. But being of a reflective nature, it occurs to me that I feel frightful when I wake in the summer as well. On such few occasions as I take a long lie-in on a Sunday and get up at 11 o'clock in broad daylight I still feel terrible. The fact is that for many people it is not the darkness or the light that causes discomfort but getting up.
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is not leaving the Chamber since I was about to touch upon the building industry, which I have known for a number of years. In view of the references to Scotland made by the hon. Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), I recall that during the early years of the war when I was at school in Scotland, though I am now a kind of emigré, I did not fare at all badly from the arrangements then in regard to summer time. I did not fall into any terrible accidents on my way to school, but that may have been because in the housing scheme where I lived nobody had a car and these things have now changed.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that even if people had had cars they would have been unlikely to have had petrol at the time to which he refers. Furthermore, he is unlikely to have gone very far to school from the area in which I think he went to shcool since he did not have very far to walk.
§ Mr. Howie
I had not forgotten any of these things, and if left to myself I would have got on to them. However. I thank the hon. Lady for making part of my speech for me. I do not object, since those facts are undoubtedly true. The major thing to be remembered is that something of this nature occurred 30 years ago without any dire effects, although the situation was not quite the same as it is today.
Two main arguments have been raised today. The first involves the effect on agriculture and on certain kinds of workers. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Walton put fairly the disadvantages of this change in time for the building industry. He said one or two other things which weakened his case slightly, though his argument 1692 still remains strong. He said that in order to meet the disadvantage of the change in time the building industry would have to change its hours of work. I do not find that quite so terrible as he seems to regard it. My view of the building industry, which I know quite well, is that any change at all would be an improvement. However, I will not push that argument too far.
He drew a picture of building operatives working from 9 in the morning until 5.30 in the evening with journeys of perhaps an hour or three-quarters of an hour at each end of the day, and went on to draw conclusions about the effect of such a day on their social lives. That was a fair point to make, but exactly the same span of time applies to a large number of commuters in all parts of the country. Although the point made by my hon. Friend is valid, it is not unique and has not quite as much strength as that which he seemed to attach to it.
A point about travelling time which he might have made is that in quite a number of cases, on contracts which are a little remote, travelling time is within the working day. One economic advantage of this time change is that the morning travelling time will be in darkness and therefore less working time will be lost.
§ Mr. Golding
Will my hon. Friend deal with the point that if building workers and Post Office engineers have to start work later, they will move into commuting time and add to the pressure on peak hour travelling? Will he deal with the changes in the social lives of the manual workers which will arise if such workers have to change their hours of work? Will he deal with the difficulties which are faced by postmen and will be faced by milkmen and newspaper delivery boys, because the public will still insist on having their fresh pint of milk each day before nine o'clock and their newspaper by breakfast?
§ Mr. Howie
No, I will not deal with those points. Everyone who knows me knows that I am prepared to entertain interventions, but I do not intend to pay the slightest heed to an intervention which seeks to restructure my entire speech. There are limits beyond which even the most tender-hearted cannot be expected to go. If my hon. Friend wishes 1693 to make those points, he can rise and make them in a speech in his own inimitable way—and I shall then perhaps intervene and seek to restructure hi.; speech. Of course those points have to be met and they show the disadvantages of the experiment.
Another major industrial group with which we are concerned and which is presumably adversely affected includes agricultural workers and farmers. An agricultural spokesman said,The difficulties are completely insuperable. The big dairy associations say that they would find it absolutely impossible in the majority of cases to provide the towns with fresh milk nearer to sunrise than at present.That comment was made in 1909 when a Bill to introduce summer time was brought in for the first time. But in fact these insuperable difficulties were surmounted. The same arguments were rehearsed during the Summer Time Act, 1924, when a six-months period of summer time was introduced. The farming industry then argued that it could not possibly meet a six-months period of summer time. But in fact the industry did meet it.
That is not to say that the arguments which these industries raise are unreal. They are real. But the point made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State was that they would be taken in conjunction with the whole and were to be weighed according to their position in the whole. That was the weakness of the case of the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber)—a man whom I and many of hon. Friends much respect. He gave a certain amount of evidence but he gave it all equal weight, whether it consisted of letters from constituents or interested parties or of statistics of one sort or another. The statistic:; which he produced about accidents to postmen were of no help to his case. I questioned them in an intervention during his speech, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) dealt with them when he spoke. I will do no more than remind the House that the statistics have no bearing on the argument whether we should have standard time.
Another argument which he used which did not help him very much was that in which he laid some weight on the 1694 width of the time band—750 miles, he suggested. In fact, it is not a vertical time band of that sort. He drew attention to the fact that the sun rose at a certain time in London and at different time in Poland, and he concluded that we were at the extreme western end of the time band and therefore in a position of acute disadvantage. But he overlooked the fact that the time of sunrise on the occasion which he mentioned—I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber —was identical with the time of sunrise in Brittany, which is rather to the west of London. Incidentally, Brittany is a country where British Standard Time has been in operation since, I think, the time of Napoleon, or even, perhaps, of Charlemagne; at any rate, for a very long time indeed. Also Brittany is a country where agriculture is the preponderant industry, so that the agricultural arguments which have been heard here so much today must apply to Brittany. In fairness, I must say that agriculture in Brittany is of a somewhat inefficient kind, but whether or not that is due to the time scale which is used there I am not at all sure.
What I think is really wrong with the Bill is this, that if we embark on an experiment we should try to see it through.
§ Mr. Hogg: Why?
§ Mr. Howie
I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interjection, but Parliament is not a place which relies very much on scientific method. This is very much to its disadvantage. Parliament, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman in particular, rely very often on hunch—sometimes brilliant hunch; even, sometimes, accurate hunch; but by no means always accurate hunch. I happen to have a preference for scientific method as the best way of doing things.
Having embarked on an experiment, it seems absurd to unsaddle ourselves in midstream, so to speak, and to abandon the experiment. When we are fairly near the end of it the gain would be very slight indeed.
Thinking of the accident statistics, we notice that in the first month, November 1968, during the relevant hours serious accidents to school children increased by 17; in the second month 1695 after the experiment started they were reduced by 17. Over that very short period no conclusion of any kind could have been reached from those figures. Over a lengthier period we could come to some sort of justifiable conclusion.
I notice that there seems to be some confusion between the accident figures produced by the Home Office and the figures quoted earlier today by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. BruceGardyne), figures which he had obtained from some other source.
§ Mr. Howie
That does not really make any difference to what I am saying. The Royal Society is no more reliable on this than the Home Office is; possibly no less reliable, either. The point I am making is that there is confusion between the two sets of figures, and the sensible thing would be to assess them and not leap to a conclusion, and that was the point which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State made earlier today.
I am quite sure that the Bill is mistaken. As I say, I am not at all enamoured of British Standard Time, but we are not really arguing about British Standard Time today. We are arguing about a Bill and whether it should become law, whether we should bring an experiment to an end, and whether we should leap prematurely to a certain conclusion. No case of any kind has been made out for that, and I conclude, therefore, that the Bill should not receive a Second Reading.
§ The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER.
§ WhereuponMr. SYDNEY IRVING, The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS,took the Chair asDEPUTY SPEAKER,pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie), who I suppose it might be said was representing his absent friends the Labour Members from Scotland. I do not think that the hon. 1696 Gentleman could claim to speak also for the Liberal Party, which has failed to make any appearance today.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I did not suggest that the hon. Gentleman was. Although the hon. Gentleman may have been representing absent friends, I do not think that his views would command very much respect or enthusiasm in Scotland.
I had intended to be at home in Angus this morning, but when I saw that this Bill was to be the first business today I thought that I had an over-riding obligation to be here to support the Bill, which was admirably moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). I can think of few Measures passed by this Government which have caused greater irritation and inconvenience for no useful purpose than the Bill introducing British Standard Time has done to my constituents.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) must vote for the Bill, because, although the hon. Member for Luton failed to appreciate it, the Under-Secretary told us that even if, as I think is possible, the results of the survey were to show conclusively that the disadvantages of B.S.T. overwhelmingly outmatched its advantages, we would have to endure it for another complete winter, because the Government for some reason cannot get round to changing the timetables in time. If the Bill is accepted, we shall know where we stand for next winter.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
The risk of that mishap—I would not regard it as a mishap—arising is small.
I was not surprised at the Under-Secretary's reply. He was the spokesman for the Home Secretary. Although I have no doubt that the Home Secretary has many admirable qualities, I have always thought that amongst his qualities are to be found arrogance and obstinacy in equal measure. The whole history of B.S.T. has been a classic example of what happens when a perfectly respectable 1697 bureaucratic proposition becomes involved with a Minister's idea and his personal prestige.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
No. The present Home Secretary was responsible for introducing B.S.T.
It is important to recall a little past history. The Under-Secretary told us an Second Reading and in Committee on the 1968 Bill that the Government had gone to considerable lengths to consult representative institutions and obtain their views. I accept that the majority of those representative institutions, including the majority in Scotland, favoured the change at that time. I interrupted my right hon. Friend, because it became clear between the Second Reading of that Bill and the time that it went into Committee that many of the representative institutions had discovered that they had not represented the views of their members. Indeed, substantial grounds for opposition were building up.
The Under-Secretary quoted a whole series of individual letters which he said had been flooding into the Home Office before this proposal was originally put forward. When asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) how many of those letters came from Scotland, not surprisingly the Under-Secretary became rather evasive. He had not worked that out. I suspect that if he examined the tile carefully he would find that none, or if any an insignificant number, had come from Scotland. Whatever the bias of opinion may have been, the figures quoted by my right hon. Friend showed that the bias not only in Scotland, but above all in Scotland—is very much in favour of going back to G.M.T. in the winter months at present.
The Under-Secretary produced some figures resulting from his social survey and laid great stress on the fact that 50 per cent. of the survey were in favour of retaining the change in December. The significant point was that even on his figures, which we shall have to look at carefully, the percentage opposed to the present system and in favour of the change that this Bill would introduce, in 1698 Scotland was 61 per cent. We should bear in mind throughout discussion of this proposal that when faced with a situation in which we may offer some marginal convenience to a majority of citizens by at the same time imposing a very far-from marginal inconvenience on a minority of citizens, we have a strong obligation to give overriding priority to the interests of the minority.
Of course the Home Secretary has dismissed, almost with contempt, all the representations made to him on this matter from north of the Border. He made one foray to Glasgow two years ago in the depths of winter and seems to have been rather taken aback by the reception he got. Thanks to that, we had the intermediary survey last year, but, once he had undertaken that, the result was a predictable one—he was prepared to carry on with the experiment.
There is an element of poetic justice in this matter. That is the position of the Minister of Public Building and Works. In his previous incarnation as Patronage Secretary, he was responsible for bulldozing this Measure through the House by a Government Whip. Now he faces the consequences because he is the Minister responsible for the building industry. As has been clearly pointed out, there is probably no industry more gravely and directly inconvenienced by British Standard Time than the building industry. This case was made so clearly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) that I do not see a need to add to it except to say that the survey carried out by the Minister of Public Building and Works suggested an increase of 3 per cent. in the cost of house building directly due to B.S.T. That is the United Kingdom figure and in Scotland the increase must be substantially higher. If we add this gratuitous increase to other costs, such as those of S.E.T., it seems hardly surprising that we are facing a crisis in the construction industry today, particularly in Scotland. Probably, on balance, the building industry's representations have made such an impact on the Minister of Public Building and Works that he will now belately use his influence to get this ridiculous experiment withdrawn. Fortunately, if the Press is right, we have 1699 had some indication that even the Home Secretary is being forced to recognise that he may be obliged to withdraw the experiment. But unless we accept the Bill, we shall still be left with another hang-over year during which, although we know that the case against B.S.T. has been proved to the hilt, we shall have to grin and bear another three miserable months of morning darkness.
The Joint Under-Secretary devoted a considerable part of his argument to the subject of road accidents. We must take that subject very seriously, but I cross swords with him over his figures. I have obtained one or two figures which I should like to give to the House. Ministers have always implied that those of us who have opposed B.S.T. from the very beginning have done so on the argument that it would lead to an increase in accidents. We have never said that. We have always said that there was likely to be an increase in accidents in the mornings and a decrease in the evenings, which is precisely what has happened.
It was the Road Research Laboratory which really stuck its neck out. It was not content with predicting that accidents would fall, but was even prepared to predict the extent of the fall. The Minister told us on Second Reading that the Road Research Laboratory had calculated that if B.S.T. had been in force in 1964 there would have been 580 extra fatal and serious accidents in the mornings and 870 fewer fatal and serious accidents in the evenings.
The outturn for the winter of 1968–69 was somewhat different. According to Ro.S.P.A., fatal and serious accidents rose by 870 in the mornings and dropped by 941 in the evenings. But, and I thought that this was rather interesting, it said that in the case of children there was what it described as a " rather less pronounced trend ". That is indeed so: it was a trend in just the opposite direction.
As I told the Minister this morning in an intervention, according to Ro.S.P.A., during the relevant period, fatal and serious child accidents on weekdays during daylight hours showed a net increase of 46 in 1968–69. Those are the United Kingdom figures. The Scottish figures should have given an even greater shock to Ro.S.P.A. and the Road Research Laboratory, because according to an 1700 Answer given to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) by the Secretary of State for Scotland, they showed that fatal and serious casualties during the B.S.T. period 1968–69 rose from 3,041 in 1967–68 to 3,125 in 1968–69.
Ro.S.P.A. was quite unmoved. It announced last June:It would be inappropriate to draw any firm conclusion at this stage, before a more detailed and sophisticated analysis has been carried out. The facts may then show that B.S.T. is having a favourable effect on the accident situation.I accept that in many ways the accident statistics are contradictory. I accept that there has apparently been a drop in the number of fatal and serious accidents to children in Scotland while there has been an increase in fatal and serious accidents to children over the United Kingdom as a whole. But the simple answer is that we do not need more information and detailed studies. Other factors, and above all the factor of weather, are of infinitely greater importance, and it would be impossible to prove that B.S.T. had affected the situation either way. It is therefore not a question of waiting till we get further detailed statistics from which we can produce whatever answer happens to suit our fancy. This is a marginal factor, and we should not allow it to count for more than that.
One sometimes gets the impression that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have no idea of what B.S.T. means in an area like mine. I am fortunate, like others of my hon. Friends, in that when the House is sitting I do not have to experience the effects of B.S.T. during the weekdays at the worst periods. But when, at ten minutes to eight on Friday morning, I leave the train from London at Arbroath and I know that we shall have another hour and a half of full darkness before there is the faintest glimmering of dawn, I can begin to understand the bitterness and resentment which have been caused by this Measure throughout my constituency—bitterness and resentment caused by the manner in which the Government have consistently refused to listen to all the representations which have been made to them on this subject.
I believe that by supporting my right hon. Friend in the Lobby and by voting 1701 for his Bill we can ensure that this inconvenience will be removed and that we shall not have to suffer it for another winter, above all, knowing, as we may do by then, that the case against it has been conclusively proved, even to the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
It is unusual for a second contribution to be made from the Government Front Bench on a Private Member's Bill, but a number of hon. Members, including some opposite, have obviously expected that I should say something from the Scottish point of view. Perhaps, therefore, I may be allowed a short time in which to make a few comments. I realise that one or two hon. Members still wish to speak, and I shall certainly be quite brief and not cut any of them out if I can possibly avoid it.
Because my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department made a long speech and dealt with these matters exhaustively, producing a conclusive answer to the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), I shall obviously not go back over all the arguments, but I want to reiterate the main points that my hon. Friend made. We simply do not have all the information that we ought to have before making a final decision on the matter. Despite all that the right hon. Gentleman said when introducing the Bill, and despite some of the arguments which have been produced since then, it has become increasingly clear that all the information is not available and it would be both premature and irrational to make a final decision until the information is available.
My hon. Friend mentioned a number of the ways in which the Government were obtaining the information on which a final decision could be made. All the information that we obtain will be laid before the House, both in factual terms and with a Government commentary on it, assessing particular factors, balancing them one against the other, placing a particular level of importance on one factor against another, and so on. All that will be done before the Government announce the decision that they propose the House should take as to whether or not British Standard Time should continue.
1702 I want to repeat what my hon. Friend said earlier, that Scottish views will be taken fully into account. In fact, we are ourselves carrying out exhaustive discussions with interested bodies in Scotland to make absolutely sure that when we make a final decision as a Government we shall have the separate Scottish considerations firmly in our minds and that we shall have all the information which will be relevant in a Scottish context and not just in a United Kingdom context. We shall be able to judge the situation not just for the United Kingdom as a whole but also in relation to Scotland separately where, it is generally accepted even by Welshmen and Irishmen, the disadvantages of British Standard Time are likely to be more pronounced, generally speaking, than in any other part of the United Kingdom.
As an example of the kind of discussions that we are carrying out in Scotland —I give this only as an example—I would mention one particular series of discussions that we have been having with the local authorities. A good deal of play has been made in previous debates on British Standard Time about the attitude of local authorities in Scotland. I can tell the House that, at a meeting in December, 1969 between the Scottish Office and the local authority associations, it was agreed that a survey should be made based on a questionnaire prepared by the Department to find out what effect B.S.T. had had on local authority services in Scotland and generally on the community which they serve.
It would be too much for the House to bear if I were to deal with that in great detail, but I shall give the headings of the survey, showing the matters about which we are asking for the views of local authorities, in order to demonstrate that it is an exhaustive inquiry.
We are asking the local authorities for their views on the question of clock changes under the previous arrangement as compared with the present arrangement, for their views on the effect of the extra hour of darkness on vehicular and pedestrian traffic on winter mornings and also winter evenings, for their views on the effect which the change has had on public transport in the winter months, on the effect which it has had on outdoor work and, separately, the effect it has had on other work, indoor work, for which 1703 a local authority is responsible. Local authorities are responsible for a wide range of occupations and work, so this will give us a good deal of information on the economic and social effects of the change which we have had now for two years.
Further, we are asking local authorities to make an assessment of the effect which B.S.T. has had on the performance, the morale and the health of local authority employees, and a similar assessment of the effect which they think the change has had on the health and morale of the general public. Next, we have asked for their views on the effect of the change on the recreational activities of the general public, on additional local authority expenditure which may be directly attributable to B.S.T., on any other aspect of the matter not specifically covered by the headings which I have cited, and, finally, we are asking them to give their overall view of B.S.T.
I hope that the House will accept from the nature and scope of those headings that this is an exhaustive inquiry, and we are going into the matter with the local authority associations in considerable detail. We have already had a number of replies, but, until we have had them all, it would be misleading the House to give a summary of the views expressed so far.
We are making as methodical and scientific an approach to the matter as we can, for at the end of the day in this matter there has to be a subjective judgment by the local authorities as well as by others. But that kind of methodical and, as far as we can make it, objective approach is the approach which we are adopting with the other bodies concerned. In the light of the different circumstances affecting particular industries, commercial undertakings and educational institutions, we are trying to draw as exhaustive an assessment of the effect of B.S.T. as can possibly be done. We are not in a position to know what the balance of advantage or disadvantage will be until we have all the information for which we have called.
I come now to the question of road casualties, to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Angus (Mr. BruceGardyne) made special reference. The 1704 hon. Gentleman founded his argument on the figures for 1968–69. I shall give the figures for 1969–70, comparing the year 1967–68, the last year under the previous arrangement, with 1969–70. This is for Scotland only, not for the United Kingdom as a whole, now that B.S.T. has been in operation for a second winter.
Here are the figures, first, for the hours during which conditions are principally affected by B.S.T., that is, 7 to 9 in the morning and 4 to 6 in the evening. Total child casualties in these periods fell from 560 to 543, and total adult casualties from 2,155 to 1,727. That is a particularly significant drop in the figure for adults, because for the other hours of the day the number of casualties among adults increased substantially over the two-year period.
To complete the picture, I give the number of fatal and serious casualties only, which are part of the figures I have just given. Fatal and serious casualties among children dropped in the two years, during the hours with which we are concerned, from 181 to 140, which is a very significant drop. Fatal and serious casualties among adults in Scotland dropped from 708 to 560.
I will not try to analyse these figures, certainly not at this point in time. They may be fortuitous and perhaps the reduction would have happened in any case, and it is a matter of argument how far the reduction can be related to B.S.T. These are matters which we shall consider very carefully, We shall analyse the figures carefully before we reach a conclusion.
But if reductions in casualties of that sort could in any way be attributed to the introduction of B.S.T., I would hardly regard them, as the hon. Member for South Angus suggested, as a marginal factor. If we wish to measure the marginal convenience for some people against the considerable inconvenience for others, as he suggested—and I agree with him at least on that, whether the proposition is applied geographically or to particular industries—then I certainly extend that proposition to the effect on road casualties compared with some of the inconveniences to which the general population may be subjected. But I do not wish at the present time to draw any definite conclusion from those figures. We need to study them, with many other 1705 factors, much more than we have been able to study them so far.
It is not true, as the hon. Member asserted, that those who opposed the B S.T. Bill did not argue that it would have an effect on road casualties among children. It was said during the passage of the Bill and has been said subsequently that the introduction of B.S.T. must add to the number of child casualties during the period when B.S.T. has most effect. That has been said in Scotland by hon. Members opposite as well as by others. That does not seem to have happened —but I will not say more than that. I will argue no further than that.Prima facie,it does not seem to have happened, and in fact the number of casualties has been reduced.
The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) asked whether we would publish all the figures. That is a legitimate request. We have already published many of them but, in response to his request, I will see that the figures which I have just Quoted and others related to 1968–69—which did not show as favourable as pattern as those for 1969–70—are published in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I will arrange for that to be done in order that hon. Members, particularly those for Scottish constituencies, may see the details.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
The hon. Member must not misquote what I said. He alleged that I said that a reduction in the number of road accidents would be a marginal factor. In fact I said that whatever changes there might have been in the road casualties, B.S.T. was likely to have been a major factor in them and other matters, such as the weather, might have been infinitely more important.
§ Mr. Millan
The trouble with that preposition is that the hon. Gentleman has no evidence for it. That applies to virtually all his remarks today. I am taking a much less dogmatic attitude. I am giving the facts and saying that some of the rather scarifying criticisms of the Act when it was going through the House, particularly about casualties in Scotland, de not seem to be borne out by events. I am saying nothing more, and I am not founding anything more on this argument than I have said.
1706 I repeat what my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said in his excellent speech at the beginning of the debate. It is far too soon to make a final judgment on the matter. The Bill asks us to make a final judgment. That would be a profound mistake, and therefore the Government hope the Bill will not be given a Second Reading.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I must first apologise to the House for having been absent during part of the debate. The reason is that I had not originally intended to speak, but now that we have had rather more than an hour of Government speeches perhaps something should be said from this Dispatch Box.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in an admirably equable speech, which contrasted in marked degree with the somewhat heated peroration of his hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the emotionalism of which I was wholly unable to understand, has basically repeated the arguments that his hon. Friend put forward, namely that this was an experiment which should be completed.
Before I examine that argument, I should like to say this in reply to the rather extraordinary remarks with which his hon. Friend concluded his speech. The difference between the two parties in this case is perfectly simple. The Conservative Party has never put on the Whips and does not think that they should be put on. It thinks that it is really a contempt of Parliament to put on the Whips in a matter like this. But the Government have put on the Whips and show every sign of putting them on now in one shape or another. This is a political difference of which the country should take note, and I hope that when the time comes in October, or perhaps even sooner, when the present Administration is followed by a Conservative Government, we shall as a Government live up to the complaints we have made in Opposition. Not all Governments do, but I hope that in matters of this kind involving no question of principle, we shall not, even if we express a view, put on party Whips. I hope that the country 1707 will be glad to be governed by a Government who take that view.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are no Whips on this afternoon? I have already told his right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) that I am quite happy to be a Teller with him. Even if there were any Whips, I would not take much notice, but there are none.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am very glad to welcome the hon. Gentleman, for once, into a Lobby which I shall also occupy. But nothing will alter the fact that the Whips were on when this law was passed. We were led to believe that there was likely to be a count today, which did not materialise, or that there would be an attempt to talk the Bill out in a few minutes' time. We shall see what happens.
I want to turn to one other political point of a non-party character. It is vital to remember that in this case, whatever may be said about the responsibilities of Stormont or even about the independence of the Republic of Ireland, we are legislating for both Great Britain and Ireland, because it is not practicable to have two time zones in the two parts of the British Isles, if I may use that geographical expression. I have been greatly disappointed in the attitude of the Government for failing to take into account the only point on which all Irishmen appear to be agreed, which is that B.S.T. is an abomination.
I take the same view as the United Irishmen, but for more scientific reasons. It is all very well to say that this is an experiment and that we should carry it through. That sounds nice and in accord with the scientific temper of the age. But the truth is that one should continue with an experiment only when it is properly designed on scientific lines. This experiment never had any scientific basis and should never have been undertaken. This is my conviction about it and, for this reason, I shall join my hon. Friends in the Lobby if we are given an opportunity to vote.
It has no scientific basis and it takes no account of the facts of life. The first fact of which it takes no account is that 1708 the sun will rise at exactly the same moment, whatever we do to the hands of the clock. This is something which the Government have not really fully understood. Of course, in the old days of Summer Time and G.M.T. it made some difference what one did to the hands of the clock, because we kidded ourselves for some part of the year, that the clock was in one position when it was really in another. In other words, we changed our social habits by moving the hands of the clock.
If we have a situation in which the hands of the clock remain the same at all seasons of the year, the value of Summer Time as such disappears and all that one has done scientifically is to ensure that, at the moment when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, the hands are at one o'clock instead of at 12 o'clock all the year round. The result is that, whatever the results of this experiment may be, they are bound to diminish as time goes by, because society will ultimately adjust itself to some time, whatever experiment one conducts. Thus, there is no scientific basis for what is being done.
In the meantime, a good deal of inconvenience is being caused, but it is not being caused evenly throughout the Unted Kingdom and Ireland. Inconvenience is being caused because the Government, for reasons which seem wholly irrational, have chosen to disregard the facts of life.
One does not alter the moment at which the sun rises by checking the hands of the clock, as the Government appear to think. The further west one goes, the sun rises that much later; about one hour, I believe, for every 15 degrees of longitude. That is a fact which the Government cannot alter. They may think they can in the white heat of the Technological revolution, but they cannot.
§ Mr. James Johnsonrose—
§ Mr. Hogg: One moment, please.
§ Mr. Merlyn Reesrose—
§ Mr. Hogg
Patience, dear boy!
I said that I thought that the figure was the same, but it is, in fact, a regular amount by each degree of longitude one goes to the west or east; and the time of rising is different.
1709 The next factor of which the Government have taken no account is that the difference between summer and winter is rather more startling the further one takes the distance in point of latitude. The difference between north and south increases the distinction between summer and winter.
Therefore, the inconvenience caused by a change in the hands of the clock in the short run increases the further west one goes and the further north one goes. These are the facts of life. It is these facts of which the Government have no real understanding in the experiment which they have sought to abuse. I believe the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) wished to correct my figures.
§ Mr. James Johnson
As I said earlier, I hope to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman and correct some of his mistakes. If I am not allowed to do that, may I say that I sometimes wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is an incarnation of Labouchere or Sir Alan Herbert. If he would go back to school he would discover that going west the time is behind one. Going east the clocks are fast.
§ Mr. Hogg
I thought that was what I had said. If I said the opposite, I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction in the spirit in which it was meant. The point was plain to the House. The facts of life are that the time at which the sun rises depends on longitude; and the extent to which inconvenience is caused increases a; the latitude approaches the North Pole.
The Government have caused a very great deal of inconvienience because of two circumstances, neither of which they have taken into account. The first is that it was discovered in the nineteenth century, partly by calculation and partly by experiment, that the width of a time zone had an optimum as regards the convenience of the people. If it was too wide, inconvenience was bound to be caused in increasing proportions the further west and the further north one went.
In this absurd experiment the Government, for reasons which I have never been able to understand, have taken a time zone, bad enough in London, but worse in Aberdeen, and bad enough in Bournemouth but worse in Caernarvon, 1710 and worse still in Killarney. In the old days we recognised that it was better to have a single time zone for the whole of the British Isles starting at Greenwich—and taken Warsaw rather than Greenwich as the basis from which we calculate the rising of the sun. This is wholly unrealistic.
We can wait for 100 years; the Government can collect the opinions of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for 100 seasons; they can consult the trade unions; they can consult the teaching organisations; they can ask the local authorities and they can take opinion polls. But they will not alter the fact of life, which is that they have chosen to be part of much too wide a time zone; and it is absolutely idiotic to take Warsaw rather than Greenwich as their true meridian.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I say sincerely that I have no intention whatever of talking the Bill out; but, honesty, I am forced to intervene for a few moments—I do not know for how long. In view of my recent intervention, I shall encapsulate my speech. I wish to talk for a few minutes at least, to check some of the glaring delinquencies and exaggerations—I might almost say " abortions "—that have happened to geography this afternoon.
Not merely do many hon. Members enter the House for a variety of motives; they also speak for a variety of motives. Some speak because of geography—witness speeches made by Scottish Tory Members earlier, who introduced the question of fishing in the early morning as opposed to fishing at night. Some hon. Members speak because of their constituency interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer), who is an authority on the building industry, spoke very well indeed on behalf of his union. Others speak on occasion because the Whips ask them to, though I myself would not be guilty of that.
We had one or two contributions by hon. Members opposite about inshore fishing. I represent a deep sea fishing port. Although I have every sympathy with hon. Members who represent farm constituencies, this matter of difficulties involving darkness in the early morning 1711 applies only to inshore fishing. It does not apply to deep sea fishing where they fish for 24 hours. This applies to the fishermen in North Shields in the constituency of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). They fish in the Arctic during 24 hours of darkness in November and December.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Would the hon. Gentleman, having mentioned the attitude of the trawler people, now say a word about the fish markets and the selling of fish? The fish markets have to start very early in the morning.
§ Mr. Johnson
I should be delighted to take up that point, but in view of the time I must cut short my remarks. The fishing fleets in my constituency, like those in the hon. Lady's constituency, go a long way. They often come back at 2.30 in the morning with their catches of cod, haddock, hake and the like.
There has been a great deal of nonsense talked about the psychological dangers of people working in darkness. It does not matter to our fish dockers whether it is dark or light since the fish come in at 2.30 in the morning. This also applies to the merchants and the auctioneers. There is not this fear of darkness in the North, and this applies to both the hon. Lady and myself who are both Geordies. For once I am honoured to be in her
|Division No. 115.]||AYES||[4.0 p.m.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Hobden, Dennis||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hunt, John||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Stainton, Keith|
|Booth, Albert||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Brucc-Gartlyne, J.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Dersk|
|Dougias-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Longden, Gilbert||Walters, Dennis|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lubbock, Eric||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Grieve, Percy||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Sir Gerald Nabarro and|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Rankin, John||Mr. Eric S. Heffer.|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. William Hamling and|
|Mr. Terence Boston.|
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Fewer than 100 Members having voted in support of the Motion, I declare that the Question has not been decided in the affirmative.
§ company. When I went to school, no doubt as she did, though I dare say my school days were further back, I got up at seven o'clock in the morning, as perhaps she did.
§ Mr. Johnson
I can only speak for myself. This talk about darkness in the morning is all nonsense. It was dark in Northumberland at seven, eight or even nine o'clock in the morning. But we used to get to school on time quite easily. It is complete nonsense to talk as if the youngsters of today are not as tough as we were.
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Gentleman said that he did not intend to talk the Bill out. Then would he resume his seat so that we may have a vote?
§ Mr. Johnson
I was intervening to question certain things said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and when I was on my feet—
§ Mr. Godberrose in his place and claimed to move,That the Question be now put:
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided:Ayes 35, Noes 1.
§ It being after Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.