HC Deb 11 December 1961 vol 651 cc171-8

10.46 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 2 of the Summer Time Act, 1947, praying that the Summer Time (1962) Order, 1961, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 22nd November. Under the Summer Time Acts of 1922 and 1925, Summer Time is fixed to run from the Sunday following the third Saturday in April—unless that Sunday is Easter Day, when it is the Sunday after the second Saturday—to the Sunday after the first Saturday in October. The Summer Time Act of 1947 provided a procedure for varying that period in any one year. The House will remember that an Order was laid last year for achieving that object in this year, with the result that this year we have had an extension of Summer Time by three weeks in the spring and another three weeks in the autumn. The purpose of the Order which I am now suggesting the House should approve is to continue into 1962 the Summer Time arrangements which we have had this year. I would remind the House that last year we had the general support of both Houses of Parliament.

The public reaction to the experiment this year has been generally favourable; indeed, we have had extraordinarily little comment about the matter either way. What is perhaps significant in that, so far—I do not say that they may not do so when they have had more time to collect their thoughts about it—we have had no representations from the various bodies whom we consulted before laying the Order last year for this year's extension. The number of individual complaints from members of the public or Members of this House has been very small; I understand they amount to less than a dozen altogether.

Therefore, in view of the fact that this year's experiment seems to have general favour; that it does not seem to have upset anybody, and that the extension of hours, especially in the autumn, has been generally appreciated by millions of people, we feel that it is sensible to ask the House to approve the continuation of the experiment again next year.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

When the Order to which the hon. and learned Member has referred came before the House a year ago, introduced by his predecessor, it was pointed out that for this year the Government intended as an experiment, to extend the period of Summer Time for three weeks in the spring and three weeks in October. The hon and learned Member's predecessor indicated that if the experiment which we have had this year appeared to find favour with the public he would consider either renewing the Order for a further period or, perhaps, even going further still and introducing an extension of Summer Time all the year round.

Just as last year we raised no objection to the extension then proposed, so equally I now agree with the Minister of State for the Home Department. It seems to me, from such observations as I have heard, that the public reaction to this year's experiment was entirely favourable. That may have been due in part to the fact that we had an exceptionally fine October. There is no doubt that many millions of people were thereby able to enjoy an extra hour's sunshine, or at least an extra hour's daylight in the evening when they had the opportunity to enjoy it and were quite prepared in most cases to sacrifice an hour's daylight in the morning.

It is obvious, from observations I have seen in the Press and elsewhere, that the public welcome well into October an extra hour's daylight. We have now been accustomed for a fairly long period to this adjustment of the clock. It is obviously a device generally appreciated as giving the maximum satisfaction to the greatest number of people. It seems to me that the Government have chosen about the right dates in proposing that next year Summer Time should commence on 25th March and extend to 28th October. I do not think that there would be any great demand for any extension of Summer Time beyond that date.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

When we had a similar Order before us to cover this year's extension of Summer Time it was pointed out that this was a compromise decision and was in the nature of an experiment. The important question now is whether this method is to be adopted each year. If so, we have turned full circle. My hon. Friend the Minister of State said that there had been no complaint or representation. Apparently, altering the clock twice a year has become, like other vices, habit-forming and we have come to accept it as part of normal life.

I have looked up the date at the time when the Summer Time Act, 1925, was passed. It was then pointed out by the mover of the Bill that after 31st December, 1922, Summer Time was renewed each year under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. This practice continued until the 1925 Bill became an Act. The whole point of passing that Act was to make the Statute permanent and not subject to renewal each year. If we are to renew this Order each year, I suggest that we should complete the circle and have this matter discussed when the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is debated.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Order. I hardly think that that arises on what we are now debating.

Mr. Mawby

I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I have said anything that is out of order. I was trying to draw attention to the way we have gone on.

I have read an interesting speech made in 1925 by Mr. Grenfell, who said: During the war many specious claims were put forward for new legislation, and one of the claims put forward for this Measure was that Summer Time would have a very beneficial effect in reducing fuel consumption. It was then known as the Daylight Saving Bill. I do not know whether I am entitled to suggest that the promoters of this Measure were practical jokers. That was the view he took. He went on to say: Hon. Members are sitting here for hours today seriously contemplating the permanence of a piece of legislation for which not a single word has been said in demonstration of its advantages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1925; Vol. 181, c. 1789.] He was followed by the then Home Secretary, whose main point seemed to be that we had to do this to bring ourselves in line with the Summer Time arrangements in France, Belgium and Holland. Indeed, later that year, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs gave an undertaking that Government time would be given for the final stages of the Bill, because France, Belgium and Holland had made their arrangements for Summer Time and ours should coincide with theirs.

Belgium, France and Holland have now thrown out this archaic institution. They have continuous time throughout the year. They do not mess about with their clocks. Therefore, I see no point in our maintaining this rather archaic procedure. We should do one of two things. Either we should stick to Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year and admit finally that we do not save any daylight—the fact that the term "daylight saving" has been dropped suggests that it was untrue—or we should follow Central European time, which is our present Summer Time, but do not let us carry on altering the clock and arguing in this House what day it should start and finish.

10.58 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)

I intervene briefly to support the Order. Last year, I supported a similar Order which gave the people six weeks' extra day-light in the evenings and I am pleased to support it again for next year. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) that there has been no complaint against the extension this year and that it has brought pleasure to millions of people.

An important point which I advanced last year was in connection with road safety. I stressed the help given to transport, to people going home from work in the evenings, whether by motor car or by bus. Everybody would agree that it is much better to drive in the daylight than in the dark. In transport the extra hour in April and October has helped considerably. In addition, it has brought pleasure to young people who take part in sport. The extra hour of daylight has enabled the young people to take part in sports during the October evenings, when otherwise they would be debarred. The extra hour has been a boon to those who want to work in their gardens in daylight during the early evening.

I see no objection to the Order. It means that millions of people will get an extra hour of daylight in April and in October. As my hon. Friend has said, October was a good month this year and people were able to enjoy the good weather. The extension was helpful to seaside resorts, where people can go and have the extra hour of daylight by the sea, either at week-ends or if they take late holidays.

I hope very much that before long the Government will make the terms of the Order permanent. It is a definite improvement for the people and it gives the majority of them an extra hour of daylight in the evenings.

It took the First World War to convince people of the advantage of having extra daylight in the evenings, although there had been a campaign for years. We all know the benefits of Summer Time. I very much hope that before long the Government will make it a permanent feature of our life. I have much pleasure in supporting the Order.

Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemptown)

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes, may I ask him one question? If he values the extra hour which us gardeners enjoy in October and April, why should not we have it in November, December, January and February?

Mr. Hunter

That point could be debated.

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate it now because it would be out of order. It would involve amendment of the Statute.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I rise to support my hon. and learned Friend in this extension and to encourage him to go further in the future. As regards road safety, we all know that all over the British Isles the rush hour is between 4.30 and 6 p.m. That is the most dangerous time of the whole twenty-four hours. If anything can be done to extend the hours of daylight in the rush period, it will obviously be of great benefit.

I want to draw the attention of my hon. and learned Friend to one further point. If in the forthcoming year or in 1963 we were to go into the Common Market and thereby have to conduct more trade—

Mr. Speaker

Order. How can 1963 be in any way related to this Order, which relates to 1962?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. If in 1962 we were to enter the Common Market, we should be confronted with this state of affairs. A constituent of mine has written to me in these terms: We start work here in England say at 9 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. with a break for lunch of from 12.30 to 2 p.m. The Continent has a lunch period from 12 to 2 p.m. which means that we here in England cannot contact the Continent"— by telephone— before 9 a.m. which is the start of our working day and which is 10 a.m. on the Continent, and we cannot contact them any later than 11 a.m. here which is 12 o'clock over there.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This relates to Summer Time. One can telephone in the dark perfectly well, so far as I know. Let us have some regard to the problems before the House.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Office hours do not change from summer to winter but Summer Time affects the ability of business men to make contact with the Continent. My constituent continues: All that is left therefore for business people to make contact on the Continent are four hours—9 to 11 and 2 to 4 p.m. which is rather short and could well jeopardise quite a lot of business, as our Continental counterparts among themselves have much more time to contact each other for business discussions. I am not sure what the shortest day of the year is. I think that it is 22nd December. There is some dispute about which is the longest night. The world make be knocked off its orbit by rockets and the shortest day may not always occur exactly on 22nd December. Assuming that that is so, I suggest that in the future—in 1962—we have one month's winter time before the shortest day and two months afterwards, because that is the coldest period when people.—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may not discuss upon this Order that which requires an amendment of the Statute—10 and 11 George VI. Chapter 16. What he is now saying would do so.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I do not want to break the rules of order, but I do want to encourage my hon. and learned Friend in this Order. I think that I have drawn his attention to certain relevant considerations for the future when he is thinking about this matter. The fact remains that from every point of view this Order is beneficial. I do not know whether it will be possible to extend it a little further in future. I leave that with my hon. and learned Friend.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on this Order, which he has got about right. As a farmer, I know that the agricultural community has sometimes taken a dim view of the extension of the Order, but most farmers are now taking the view that the extra hour at the end of the day has been beneficial. It is now about right, for if it is extended any further, we shall have darkness at the beginning of the working day as well as darkness at the end.

While it is all very well to have light at the beginning and the end of the working day, we do not want to have to have an extra hour's darkness in the morning as well as darkness at the end of the working day. While there is nothing we can do about people having to travel home from work in darkness, we do not want them to have to travel to work in darkness as well. I think that farmers will be satisfied with the present position, and I am glad that the Order is to be continued for another year. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to make it permanent.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Renton

By leave of the House; as you have rightly reminded us, Mr. Speaker, this Order deals only with the position in 1962. I am glad to have received the support which we have had for what we propose for next year, and especially glad, without disrespect to other hon. Members, to have had the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), speaking, as he does, as a farmer.

To those hon. Members who have expressed varying opinions about how we might do otherwise, I need only say that what we do in this Order for 1962 will not prejudice the position for subsequent years.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 2 of the Summer Time Act, 1947, praying that the Summer Time (1962) Order, 1961, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 22nd November.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.