It is also practically essential that we should dispose of this Bill at the present sittings. It would, of course, be possible to leave over the Committee and Report Stages until to-morrow. That would, however, necessitate the Seanad meeting to-morrow, and we will probably have no other business. It will be a matter for the Seanad to consider after the Second Reading Stage.
SUMMER TIME BILL, 1924.—(SECOND STAGE).
I have always been in favour of Summer Time, and I think this is a very good measure on practically every ground. There is, of course, a certain amount of objection to it on behalf of the farming community owing to our climate, especially when it comes to the saving of hay or crops. The best time for saving hay is in the evening. When I was a tillage farmer I got over the difficulty by beginning an hour later in the morning. That seems to be a very obvious way of dealing with the difficulty which arises under the Bill. I imagine there are other agriculturalists in the Seanad who have done the same thing. The mere fact of the clock being at eight when it would otherwise be seven, does not make any difference to a practical farmer who can adapt himself to the circumstances. I would be in favour of suspending the Standing Orders and passing the Bill at once through all its Stages.
I rise to offer opposition to the passing of the Bill. I did so last year, and offered certain arguments in favour of my view, which I do not intend to repeat. I merely wish to record my protest against the imposition of this Bill on the agricultural community. It would be a hardship on them to be deprived of the most valuable hour of the day for their work. The remedy suggested of commencing an hour later in the morning would not be of much use to tillage and dairy farmers who have to catch trains at an early hour of the morning in order to provide milk for the cities and towns. In order to save crops at a certain season of the year, both the farmers and the workmen will have to work extra time. I see by the proviso attached to Standing Order 55 that three clear days notice should have been given to Senators after this Bill had been received from the Dáil. That has not been done, and I would not agree to give any extra facilities for the passage of the Bill, which would be a great injustice to the agricultural community.
I objected to a similar Bill to this last year, and I object to this Bill now for much the same reasons. What Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde said, that the agricultural population could begin work an hour later, applies with equal force to the minority of the population who are not farmers. Those people can get up an hour earlier if it pleases them. I do not see why this should be imposed on the working part of the population, who object to it very much and on whom it is being forced unfairly. It is especially wrong in this country, where we not only lose one hour, but one and a half hours, because we are a half an hour behind London, and in the West of Ireland three-quarters of an hour. Therefore, I oppose this Bill.
I hope that the opponents of this measure will not persist in their opposition. The amount of hardship which it is alleged will be inflicted on the agricultural community is negligible in comparision with the benefit which will be conferred on the people of the towns and cities. From a purely economic point of view, it will mean the saving of one hour's artificial light every day. We should also consider what it will mean to the poor, particularly those living in crowded tenements, which are so badly lighted and ventilated, and where they exist in an atmosphere which is not congenial either to health or social development. The passage of this Bill will mean that seven hours more of every week can be spent outside in the fresh air and sunlight. In the country districts where a certain amount of opposition is manifested to this Bill, I think, in the main, it will be found that it is mere unreasoning prejudice. The average farmer will say that it is an attempt on the part of man to interfere with God's time. That is really the basis of the opposition.
There is, of course, the other form of opposition, that this proposal first emanated from England, that it is purely a foreign importation, and as such should be resisted. I hope that Senators, at all events, will be able to reason on a better and more logical basis. In many parts of the country where summer time is not acceptable they simply ignore it. They start work an hour later in the morning and finish an hour later in the evening, and they are really put to no inconvenience. After all, it is quite different here, and the opposition should not be so keen as on the part of the agricultural industry in England. If you take London, for instance, a large number of milk trains come in, probably, at four or five in the morning, and in consequence of summer time those connected with the dairy industry have to get up an hour earlier.
In Ireland there are practically no early trains, certainly very few compared with the number running into London and other cities. If you are accustomed to getting up early and have to rise an hour earlier, that is not much hardship. There was great opposition to the Summer Time Bill in France last year. This year the Bill was acceptable in France, and is in operation. All Western European countries, as far as I can gather, have adopted it. Let us not be an exception to the rule. We have sufficient difficulties in connection with customs and boundaries without creating fresh difficulties by having a different time-table from that of England and other western countries.
I wish to support the Bill, and I am in accord with Senator O'Farrell's views. There are thousands of people throughout the country who have pretty heavy office hours to whom the extra daylight means more fresh air and recreation. In the country it is a common thing for farmers not to alter their clocks, so that I do not think they suffer great inconvenience.
I should like to call attention to one aspect of this matter that has not been alluded to up to the present. In France last year, when the Summer Time Bill was introduced, the French people decided not to have it. After a month or two they found it so inconvenient to be dissociated from the rest of Western Europe that they decided to adopt it. This year they have gone one better, and have introduced summer time about a fortnight, I think, earlier than in any other part of Western Europe. That shows that the fact of a State dissociating itself from the rest of Europe was not a good thing. The French found out that it was a bad move, and they had to go back on their policy. I am very largely concerned in agricultural work, especially in tillage farming, and I find that my men raise no objection whatever to this Bill. They adopt the plan that was suggested by Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde, and that Senator Jackson mentioned. They do not alter the clocks at all, but come to work at 9 o'clock instead of 8 o'clock and leave off an hour later in the evening than the Bill would allow. The only people the Bill really hits are those who supply milk to cities and towns. Undoubtedly they have to get up earlier. People who go to fairs also have to get up earlier. Having regard to the balance of convenience all round, I would like to add my appeal to Senator O'Farrell's and ask the opponents of the Bill to withdraw their opposition.
There is one aspect of this question that it is fitting, perhaps, I should say something as one who would naturally know something about it. I do not propose to say anything on the general question of the advantage or disadvantage of the Summer Time Bill. I am, however, entirely in agreement with the views expressed by Senator O'Farrell. I do not know if it is realised what confusion and inconvenience would ensue if this country dissociated itself from the general programme with regard to summer time followed by other Western European countries. A practical issue will arise, inasmuch as the steamers that ply between Ireland and Great Britain would sail according to summer time. The result would be that the steamers would arrive here, if the Free State did not adopt summer time, too early for the trains, and the passengers would have to wait an hour. That, however, is not so bad, and the people would survive the delay. On the other hand, all trains to the ports would arrive an hour too late, and the steamers would have gone. That would be highly inconvenient. The only way that can be avoided is by re-timing the trains. I need hardly say that that could not be done in five minutes, nor in five days, and probably not in five months. As this country is so dependent upon the cross-Channel service, it would be exceedingly difficult to deal with those services separate from the rest. The result would be confusion. Matters would be further complicated by the fact that the Six Counties would adopt summer time, the same as Great Britain, and communication across the border would be confused. If other countries have adopted the Act we cannot afford to ignore it or to take a line of our own without creating a situation of a most extraordinary character. To do so would give rise to inconvenience and a considerable amount of loss. The time given for dealing with correspondence and letters would be reduced owing to the altered train services. The cattle from fairs would not be able to get to the ports in many cases in time to be shipped for regular sailings. There would be a great loss under both heads. Even if I personally held the view that summer time is a mistake— there is something to be said against it in this country—I would say that we cannot help ourselves, and we must follow it.
There is one possible disadvantage in this Bill, and I have had experience of it. That is where an employee comes to his work by the new time, but regulates his own watch by the old time, and leaves off work by the old time, thereby securing to his own advantage a shorter working day, to the detriment of his employer. We may, however, brush that aside, as it is not of very frequent occurrence. On the whole, looking at it from the various points of view, mentioned by the Senators who have just spoken, such as economy, and the health and well-being of the population, and the point of view of hard cash, I think that we should pass this Bill. It was stated when the Bill was first introduced in England that there would be a saving of something like two million pounds a year in lighting to individuals, institutions, corporations, etc. If it reaches that amount even approximately, there should be a saving herepro rata which would be very important, and which should not be neglected from the point of view of finance. I am in complete agreement with the Senators who say that the Bill ought to be passed into law without delay.
The position in regard to this Bill now stands in this way. Unless Standing Orders are suspended, there should now be an interval of three days between the Second Reading and the Committee Stage. The result of that, in the present case, would mean that the Seanad could not dispose of this Bill to-morrow, and would have to be convened for next week. Any date later than that would be too late, because the Bill has to come into operation by the 13th April, so that unless we suspend Standing Orders and put the Bill through its remaining Stages to-day, it will be necessary for the Seanad to sit next week for the sole purpose of putting this Bill through. I do not know whether that is the wish of the House, but there is this difficulty regarding the matter. The standing order dealing with the suspension of Standing Orders only permits it in cases of urgent necessity, of which the Chairman is to be the judge. The Committee appointed to deal with Standing Orders very recently considered this particular clause, and agreed to report to the House that they thought that the word "urgent" should be omitted, and that the clause should run "in cases of necessity." As it stands, it reads "in cases of urgent necessity." I hope that Senator Linehan and other Senators will not put me to the necessity of ruling on this. I pointed out to them the only alternative which must be that we convene the Senate next week for the sole purpose of putting the Bill through its remaining stages.
So far as I am concerned, as the Seanad is fairly unanimous on the subject, I do not think it is worth while to stand in the way, but what you said, again brings up the point that Ministers do not bring up Bills in time. I suppose this is the hundredth time in which a Bill has not been brought up in time.
That has been a constant subject of complaint here, and while we quite recognise that conditions make it difficult in some cases for these Bills to come to us in any other condition except in a hurry, it is difficult to see how that applies in a case of this kind, but we have to deal with it as we find it.
May I say a word in explanation of that? An international conference was called in Paris, and when we got word by dispatch from the British Government that it was the intention of the French Government to summon such conference we hung up this Bill in Committee Stage in the Dáil. It remained at that Stage for six weeks, and it was only within the last ten days that the result of the conference was communicated to us, and we brought the Bill forward immediately.
I made my protest against the Bill, and, seeing the great volume of opinion being in favour of it, I do not propose to move further in the matter.
I move: "That Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Seanad to pass the remaining stages of the Summer Time Bill, 1924."
I beg to second.