HC Deb 21 July 1967 vol 750 cc2674-94

11.45 a.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Alice Bacon)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Summer Time Order, 1967, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 6th July. As the Order this year may be the last to be made under the Summer Time Act, 1947, it may be of interest to say a word about the background.

In general, the Summer Time Acts of 1922 and 1925 provide that summer time should run from the Sunday after the third Saturday in April until the Sunday after the first Saturday in October. In 1947, during a serious fuel crisis, an Act was passed which provided for summer time to be varied in any year by Order in Council. It is under the provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of that Act that the draft Order has been laid.

This power has been used to extend the period in the years 1948–1952 and again from 1961–1967, so that summer time ends this year on 29th October. Hon. Members will know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently announced the Government's intention of introducing legislation early next Session to apply the equivalent of summer time throughout the year. This morning our discussion is limited to this Order. But hon. Members will, of course, have ample opportunity to discuss the merits of the proposed permanent change when a Bill comes before the House next Session.

It would be idle, however, to pretend that the terms of the Order have not been influenced, at least to some extent, by the Government's decision on that larger matter and the result of the inquiries which preceded it. The intention is that the period laid down in the Order should cover the interval before the new legislation becomes operative and as my right hon. Friend told the House it is proposed that next year summer time should begin earlier than it has previously.

Over the last seven years summer time has begun towards the end of March—I stress "summer time" and not "summer"—and the present Order proposes an earlier start of four to five weeks, on 18th February. Hon. Members will want to know what the Government had in mind in choosing this date. We felt that this earlier start might help to accustom people to the projected change to permanent summer time.

But, this apart, our experience of the extension, during recent years, of the statutory period by a further three or four weeks, and its almost entirely favourable acceptance by the public, would have persuaded us that the time had come to make a further move in the direction which this Order takes.

The effect of the choice of 18th February, which I would stress is only four or five weeks earlier than has been customary, is broadly that on that day the time of sunrise by the clock will be almost exactly what it was on 21st December under Greenwich Mean Time —in London, this is just after eight o'clock. Hon. Members need not fear, therefore, that this will create any novel problems or difficulties.

On the other hand, the position is, of course, very much better at the end of the day than it is in mid-winter. Sunset is already some 90 minutes later and the extra hour added by summer time means that sunset by the clock in London will not be until 6.30 p.m.—about 21 hours later than on 21st December. Hon. Members will appreciate that this will allow most people to get home from work in the light and the more fortunate ones who get home around 5.30 p.m., will be able to take full advantage of the extra hour of daylight. In February, too, the days are drawing out rapidly both mornings and evenings so that any disadvantages of having a later sunrise by the clock will soon disappear.

I hope that for these reasons, and irrespective of their views on the introduction of permanent summer time, hon. Members will agree that the date for the present Order has been aptly selected. One other feature to which I should draw the attention of hon. Members is that special provision has been made for the Isle of Man. There summer time will not begin next year until 7th April.

This has been done at the request of the Isle of Man Government who, on this subject, would be competent to legislate for themselves, but which has been left, as a matter of convenience, to be covered by our legislation, with the power for special variation. The implication of this is that, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, the wish of the Isle of Man Government should be respected. This has been done by the variation in the Order.

It may appear at first sight a little unusual that, for seven weeks of next year, the Isle of Man will be working to a different time from both Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But it is for the Government and the people of the Isle of Man to judge what is in their own best interests. This is an almost entirely rural community, with limited commercial and industrial contacts. It has few dealings with the Continent of Europe, and its chief contacts with Great Britain are through the tourist trade, which does not properly start until Easter, which falls next year during the weekend 12th to 15th April. By then the time system in the island and the United Kingdom will again be harmonised.

There are no other features of the Order which call for hon. Members' special attention. It is, with the differences I have mentioned, the successor of many others which the House has approved in previous years, and, if the Government's intentions are fulfilled, it will be the last.

Mr. Speaker

It might be convenient if I advise or warn hon. Members that we are debating this Order and not the legislation which it is proposed to introduce next year.

11.52 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

This is not the first time that I have had the pleasure of opposing these extensions of summer time legislation. While I have in mind what you just said, Mr. Speaker, I am bound also to have in mind what the Minister of State said; that it would be idle to pretend that the Order is not a paving arrangement for the permanent legislation which is to be introduced in the next Session. The right hon. Lady was frank enough to say that it was hoped, in this way, to accustom people to what that legislation would propose.

In as much as the Order will introduce summer time from the middle of February and keep it going until the end of October, leaving a mere three months or so of winter, one cannot escape some intermingling of the considerations which arise in this matter. I say that in view of your remarks, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that I shall remain in order.

The Minister gave some of the history of this matter. It would be more complete to say that this came in 1916 as a provision to assist during the course of the First World War. On that occasion the Act laid down—as did the Summer Time Act, 1922—a definition of the summer season with which most people would not be disposed to quarrel, unless they had undue regard to the weather.

However, what is proposed now is nothing to do with summer. It is really, getting away from euphemisms, introducing Central European Time to Britain for almost all the year—and doing so, in the explicit words of the Minister, to accustom us to this so that we shall the more readily accept it for 12 months of the year next Session. I suppose that this shows that the present Government are the last survivor of those who believe that the world is flat. We have heard the justification for this operation—it is being done so that everybody can be doing things at the same time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The fact that the Minister, when introducing the Order, made incidental reference—said just a few words—to the legislation which is ahead does not allow the hon. and learned Gentleman to open up the whole question whether we should synchronise with central Europe.

Mr. Bell

I am content that my remarks should be related simply to the Order—that is, from 18th February to 29th October—and I am not going to be greatly fussed about the little runt, if I may call it that, which is left for demolition in the next Session.

The extension of the period under the Order has been already—not today, but earlier—expounded to us as something which is justified by the commercial advantages which it will bring, in that it will make people do the same things at the same time in this country and in central Europe. The Minister obliquely mentioned that, because, in excusing the exclusion of the Isle of Man, she said that it would not be too bad for the people there because they did not have many commercial relations.

I take it that the reason for the Order —and I must have in mind the legislation for next Session—is this conception which the Government have of people in Britain working to the same time schedule as people on the Continent of Europe.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that we are discussing whether summer time should come in five weeks earlier.

Mr. Bell

I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, and, of course, we are also discussing summer time lasting for some weeks longer. We are, therefore, discussing whether this extension should take place at both ends of the period. The Government are saying that it should take place because it will assimilate us with the countries of Europe. I am not making a fanciful point or indulging in some private foible, for I think that the Minister wll not deny that that is the motive behind laying the Order.

I believe that the Government also have the motive of preparing us for the next stage, and I submit that if the right hon. Lady considers that this proposal is before the House on the ground that it will help with the next step, then, if that is an argument in favour of the Order, it should be a relevant argument against it to say that the next step is not a virtuous one.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman will have an opportunity to talk about the next step when the next step is before the House. I allowed the Minister to make only an incidental reference to it. The hon. and learned Gentleman is, therefore, entitled to make only an incidental reference to the matter. The incidental part of his remarks is over, and he must now address his comments to the Order.

Mr. Bell

I could make a further submission to you, Mr. Speaker, but I am not particularly concerned to make those points. I am arguing that the Order, with its extension of the period, is laid before, and commended to, the House because of its assimilating effect. This is the case for the Order, with its extension in the spring and autumn. This is the case which I seek to rebut.

This proposal is not put before us on the ground that it will be a boon to the population. The Minister said that people will not experience great inconvenience and that may be so if one looks at the negative side. This assimilation will, the right hon. Lady said, not cost much because sunrise on 18th February will be no later under the proposed system than it would have been on 21st January. This, therefore, is accepted to be the rub or disadvantage. The advantage—the bribe or inducement—being set before us is assimilation. It is to that point that I wish to address my remarks and I do not believe that we could debate the Order except on that principle.

If one puts away the euphemisms about summer time, one must accept that this proposal is designed to extend Central European Time to this country for nine months of the year because, we are told, it will be commercially good for us. That is the case which I want to put.

Mr. Speaker

We are acting under a Summer Time Act. This Order, in carrying out that Act, fixes the date on which summer time shall come into force. The Order extends it by five weeks at the beginning and at the end. The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunity to discuss the other question later.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

On a point of order. The right hon. Lady told us today—and, indeed, it was stated by an official Government spokesman in another place—that the purpose is to accustom people to the permanent change which will be effected. This is avowedly a precursor. Once we start summer time in February, we will never come out of it again, if the Government's intentions are fulfilled. Am I wrong in thinking that that enables us to discuss the effect of continuous summer time in future?

Mr. Speaker

If we were to discuss it, then we would traverse the whole question of law which, I understand, is to be introduced next Session. Hon. Members will have an opportunity to discuss the general question then.

Mr. Bell

I am not seeking to discuss the general question of the law which will come next Session. I am arguing against an Order which extends summer time in the spring and autumn. If every argument against the Order is impermissible, then I do not see how we can debate it.

The right hon. Lady has asked the House to approve an Order. She has to adduce reasons in favour of it and give some advantage which will accrue to the public from it. I am saying that no advantage will accrue to the country from extending summer time in the spring and autumn. We have to ask ourselves what advantages the Government allege will arise from the Order. The advantage which they allege is not some domestic convenience of the population in going about their daily chores.

The right hon. Lady said that she did not think that the inconvenience would be marked. One approves an Order of this kind, not because the inconvenience will not be marked, but because there is some counter-balancing advantage. However small the inconvenience and the advantage which is alleged, the Government say that this is a god thing to do because it brings us closer to Europe. For the moment, because they are operating under the Summer Time Act, they say no more and I say no more. But I want to rebut the argument that we shall gain a national advantage from extending summer time in the spring and autumn.

To do that, I must return to my point that "summer time" is an inappropriate name and that the proper geographical, scientific name for what we are proposing is "Central European time". The Government appear to be the last people who think that we can gain that sort of advantage by this sort of proposal. The idea is that we will outweigh the disadvantage of getting up in the dark by doing the same things at the same time as people on the Continent.

But that is not so, People in Britain do things at different times from the times that people in France, Germany or Italy do them because the sun rises and sets at different times in different countries. Nothing that can be done by way of an Order like this can make people do things at the same time on different parts of the earth's curvature.

This Order abandons all pretence at dealing with the summer. When dealing with a period in the summer before, one could say that the range of daylight on either side was so great that by having this device one was persuading people to get up an hour earlier during that period and to do an hour earlier by the sun the things which they would be doing an hour later. When applied to nine months of the year, that argument is bound to go because there is no longer this elbow room of daylight on either side and people will begin to be regulated in their actions by the rising and setting of the sun. We may alter the time in the second half of February from nine o'clock to eight o'clock, but we will not make people do things at different times. They will accommodate themselves by the facts of lightness and darkness.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must come to the five weeks which we are discussing.

Mr. Bell

I am discussing summer time in the second half of February. If I cannot discuss that, then I cannot debate the Order, because the Order is about whether it should start on 18th February or the beginning of April. It is difficult to deploy a case against a proposal like this. The Order is of the utmost importance. The fact that the Government have tabled it for discussion on a Friday morning does not alter that. The fact that there are only a few hon. Members present does not alter it. It affects everybody in many important ways, and I do not think that it should be difficult to deploy the case against it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. With profound respect, it is difficult but not impossible to deploy the case against the Order, but it is both difficult and impossible on an Order to permit a debate on the law under which it is imposed or the law of next Session which might or might not be introduced.

Mr. Bell

I am trying to address myself to the effect of the Order compared with the previous Orders which we have had. This is a very different Order from the previous Orders. It is a striking departure from all previous Orders on the subject in that it extends the period of summer time to nine months in the year. That raises considerations as to the effect of this change which surely must be in order in this debate. By taking the period back to 18th February we get to a point in the year when people will not be bullied by changing the clock. We should, therefore, be defeating the object of the exercise by making the dates too extensive. People will be regulated by the way in which the sun rises and sets. Therefore, the idea that the new dates will give the public a great commercial advantage is obviously nonsense.

It could have only the slightest relevance in relation to the Central European Time zone. We are not proposing to go on to Eastern European Time. As for the advantage which it is hoped to gain, I believe that one country in the Central European Time zone—Italy—is already playing this game again and is going a further hour forward. Are we to chase those who do not—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That would be a legitimate question on the Measure that will be taken next Session.

Mr. Bell

I venture to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it is a legitimate question today—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Bell

Well, in that case, Mr. Speaker, I simply cannot deploy my arguments. One is driven sometimes by the rules of relevance to put one's thoughts into words, and I feel that it is a waste of time to deploy the arguments which I wish to deploy against the Order.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. and learned Member disapproves of my Ruling, he has his Parliamentary remedy.

12.11 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

I dislike the Order equally with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). I shall endeavour to keep myself strictly in order, but the few comments which I desire to make will apply as much to the extension of summer time to periods anterior to 18th February as to the period covered by the Order and its institution on 18th February. I will make my observations in a very few words.

It seems to me that a great many people who have to get up very early in the day and who, by 18th February, 1968, would in normal circumstances have been looking forward at last to beginning their day by daylight, will be condemned by the Order to beginning their day in the dark.

I concede that there is a case for saying that there are great advantages in having longer hours of daylight at the end of the day, and that it is one of the purposes of summer time generally. I concede that there are advantages in having the same time as our continental neighbours, but in matters of this kind advantages and disadvantages have to be weighed against one another.

School children, agricultural workers and women who rise early to clean offices, who by 18th February in any year would be saying, "Now we can go out by daylight", will now be getting up and going out in the dark if the Order is implemented. For that reason alone, which is important because it affects the daily lives of a very large part of the community, I deprecate the Order and would be sorry to see it carried into effect.

There is the further consideration that those people will be more liable to meet with accidents in the early hours of the morning than they would otherwise have been. For these reasons, I join my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South in asking the Minister of State to think again.

12.13 p.m.

Mr. A. H. MacDonald (Chislehurst)

I support the Order, although I am conscious of the difficulty of keeping within the relatively narrow confines of what is before us. I hope that I shall succeed in doing this, but I well understand the difficulty against which the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) was chafing. Indeed, I share his feelings and I hope that when the fundamental major matter comes before the House we may have an opportunity of discussing it.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State offered some of the background leading up to the Order, but she did not mention—I wish that she had—that the whole concept of summer time was started in 1912 by a gentleman named William Willett, who lived in Chislehurst, my constituency, where there is a memorial to him. The reason why he introduced summer time, which is germane to the Order, is that he was an early riser. As he rode about in the early morning, he was conscious that other people were still lying abed asleep. He therefore introduced this device as a means of getting people up earlier.

I appreciate the value of this, because I am a sluggard, a lie-abed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are all interested in Mr. Willett, but we must connect Mr. Willett and his own domestic habits to the five weeks which we are discussing.

Mr. MacDonald

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I simply wish to say that I am grateful for this extension of a device which provides a little measure for me to get up earlier.

The campaign started in 1912, but summer time did not come in, as the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South rightly said, until 1916, when it was brought in because there was a war and it was found to be necessary. Once it was introduced, the benefits were instantly manifest. I hope that we will not have to wait for a fearful cataclysm of that kind before the hon. and learned Member sees the merits of a further extension.

12.16 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I support this narrow Order on the ground that it will benefit the business fraternity in the south of England, particularly those who have connections with Europe. That is the argument why it should be extended by even these few weeks. The business fraternity do not reach their offices in the London area generally until about half-past nine or even ten o'clock. They wish to telephone their business friends in Europe, who have already been at their offices about two hours—

Mr. Ronald Bell

On a point of order. If it is in order for my hon. Friend to deploy the commercial advantage, Mr. Speaker, why was it out of order for me to deny it?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member has anticipated my calling his hon. Friend to order. The question of the convenience of using the telephone must be related to the period of the five weeks in question.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

If I may develop that briefly, that is an advantage, Mr. Speaker, because people in countries like Switzerland get to work as early as half-past eight. By the time we get to work, a couple of hours of their day has already gone. They go to lunch—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is discussing the general issue. An Act about this was passed some time ago. The Order is being introduced under it. The Order specifies certain dates. The hon. Member must address himself to that. He will be able to talk about the parent Act and further Acts on a future occasion.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Act was passed as long as 40 years ago, and that conditions have changed.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a perfectly proper remark, as would be most of the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), to be made in another debate.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I therefore come to the Order.

I am glad that the Minister of State is not extending it much beyond 27th October, because I agree with my hon. Friends that in the north of England, as the right hon. Lady will know, to get up in the morning in the dark for the two or three winter months is a great disadvantage and hardship for those who live in the north of England.

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

In that case, what about the business fraternity in the south-east of England?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

For about three months of the year, they must lump it. The business fraternity will get an advantage for nine months of the year. I have lived in the north of England when there was summer time in winter. In my view, it is not advisable to have summer time for the two or three winter months for those who live in the north of England.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)

I hope that I shall keep strictly in order in discussing this Order, and before doing so I will say at once that I welcome the fact that summer time is to be permanent.

I have a few questions I should like the right hon. Lady to answer. First of all, have there been any precedents for having a different time in the Isle of Man and the rest of the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands? Does she not consider that this will cause considerable inconvenience to a large number of people? Surely the House will agree it is highly anomalous that while we shall have summer time in the United Kingdom and Channel Islands on 18th February next year summer time will not exist in the Isle of Man till 7th April. That, I think, is one inconvenience of this Order.

If the Government are going to change the whole law of summer time why bring in a period to end on 27th October next year? If that is the intention of the Government, why not have an Order with no date? If it is not the intention of the Government, what have they in mind? I think the Minister should tell the House exactly what is the significance of the date 27th October next year. If it is going to come to an end then, all very good, but if it is not going to come to an end why does she want those three months?

Although it may be beneficial to extend summer time throughout the whole year, would it not have been very much better not to have put into the Order the extra five weeks next year, but to have had the normal period of summer time, and just not have it come to an end? It seems to me that in putting in the five weeks the Government are having the best of both worlds.

The right hon. Lady should explain to us what her thinking is about this and why it is necessary to have this extra five weeks. Is it her case that, as with the sonic booms, she is going to test the reactions of the public during this time? By some of her remarks she gave the impression that this is to be the precursor for the years that lie ahead. If, in that period, public reaction is violently against any change, is she saying the Government are still open to representations about the matter?

Finally, I should like to know, if what this Order is really doing is to extend summer time by five weeks, whether she can say what the position will be between 18th February and 7th April in the various time zones in Europe, because it is on that matter that the House should be satisfied that there will be some extra convenience to the inhabitants of this country. We shall have in Britain itself a difference of time in the Isle of Man and the rest of Britain in that period. What will be the position with the Republic of Ireland? It is extremely relevant, as to whether or not Northern Ireland should have summer time six weeks earlier. This is a matter of great relevance to the introduction of summer time in any one particular year.

Can the right hon. Lady also say, if this Order is passed in its present form, what the effect in relation to the rest of Europe will be during that six-week period? Will they be having the same time as well as the British Isles?

Whatever the arguments are in favour of the Order it still seems to me that it would have been better to have done what I suggested, and that the better solution would have been not to have put in an earlier period but to have let summertime come in at the normal time, and then continue it or let it lapse. I think the right hon. Lady ought to convince us about these points before we agree to this extra period of summer time.

12.24 p.m.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on having made almost every point that could be made about this Order and having done so while remaining strictly in order.

This is a matter we have discussed in previous years but the two new factors are, first, that there is to be a substantially earlier bringing into force of so-called summer time, and. a factor of greater significance, and the most important factor, as my hon. Friend said, that this is a precursor to permanent summer time.

Indeed, summer time brought into force now on 18th February is not, in one sense of the word, summer time as such, and it would be lunatic in future to refer to this as summer time. Indeed, we have been invited to put forward other names for the time. We shall have to consider that later on, but this Order is bringing so-called summer time into effect on 18th February. I understand that there have been about a hundred suggestions for the new name for so-called summer time. "Central European Time" was suggested, but I think it has rightly been discarded, but in view of the time at which this debate is taking place one might consider the possibility of calling it "Greenwich boom time" or "sonic boom time". No doubt the right hon. Lady has discarded that on economic grounds—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not the time to discuss the nomenclature.

Mr. Buck

Having enjoyed my moment of latitude, during which, perhaps, outside there has been another sonic boom, I will come to the provisions of the Order itself.

A substantial part of the argument for having summer time earlier is, I think, that there will be something in the nature of a trial period before having permanent "summer time". We want some assurance why it has been decided that we should start it so early, and why the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West have not yet prevailed. Why should it not be brought in at the normal time and then allowed to run on gradually, rather than take this course and plunge us suddenly back into darkness or into a greater degree of darkness?

With the additional five weeks there will obviously be problems—problems for the schools and in the countryside. We wonder if they have been dealt with, and we shall be interested to hear what precautions have been taken to see that school timetables are adjusted, for they may have to be altered. We do not want the children in the country to be subjected to great inconvenience. It would perhaps have been better, as my hon. Friend said, to have had it about a month later and just let it continue, and then the problems could have been considered and met.

The farming community may be put to some inconvenience by this additional summer time, and one wonders if there have been full consultations with the National Farmers' Union, and what it had to say. One has not had representations oneself about this from constituents but, obviously, it will cause considerable inconvenience to some farm workers, and I shall he interested to hear if the farm workers' union is in favour of the order. I understand there was a great deal of consultation before the Order was drafted, but I think we ought to hear about it from the right hon. Lady.

It comes to this, whether it is good, tactically, to bring this Order in, so as to bring in so-called summer time five weeks earlier, or whether it would be good, tactically, as my hon. Friend suggested, to bring in summer time at the normal time, and to let it flow on. It seems to me that the arguments are fairly evenly balanced.

If the Order goes through—this may be the answer to my hon. Friend—I understand the position will be that the right lion. Lady will have achieved that all the clocks throughout Europe beat in time in harmony—with the exception of those in the Republic of Ireland and Portugal.

Mr. Channon

Would my hon. Friend not agree that the point I was making about Ireland is extremely relevant?

Mr. Buck

I do indeed. It is extremely relevant, that on 18th February all the clocks throughout Europe will be striking in time, except in Ireland and Portugal, which as far as one knows, have not come into step. I understand that Portugal will be the other European country which remains out of step—as, of course, will be the Isle of Man, by the very terms of this Order.

Mr. Grieve

Is it not a fact that the clocks will not be beating in time? The result of having summer time in this country in any part of the winter will not mean that the clocks in Europe will beat at the same time, because times will change, as they always have done.

Mr. Buck

That which is indicated on the clock will be the same from 18th February, as I understand it, other than in the two countries which I have mentioned. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend is not putting forward the backdoor case for returning to local time in various parts of the country.

Mr. Speaker

Order: If the hon. and learned Gentleman were to do that, he would be out of order. However, I do not think that he would do it.

Mr. Buck

I rather suspect that he would indeed be out of order if he were going that. In any event, I think that that is the position, but the right hon. Lady will be able to tell us.

With our economic sights forcused on Europe, perhaps it is a good thing at this early stage that we should have an opportunity of correlating the position, because undoubtedly it will be of advantage to the business community. If I pursue that any further, however, I shall be out of order.

I am surprised that there have not been many representations from Scotland, because I understand that on the date on which the Order comes into force, on 18th February, lights in Glasgow will have to continue to be on until about 9 a.m. One is concerned, too about the position in the north of Scotland, and it is rather surprising that there have not been representations by the Scots. Perhaps they recognise that it is a good thing to get uniformity of the position from 18th February and they are prepared to put up with the inconvenience. It is perhaps a little unusual to find them so ready to put up with inconvenience for the benefit of the rest of the United Kingdom but if that is the position, one is grateful for the attitude which they have adopted.

Our other concern is for the children. From 18th February, it is hoped that schools in remote country villages may alter their opening times. In answer to a point made by one of my hon. Friends, it is understood that there is likely to be a reduction in road casualties, since most of the rush hour will be in daylight from February. As for assaults on children, statistics show that these take place far more often in the evening and night-time hours of darkness than in early morning hours of darkness. All the evidence shows that children run the risk of molestation to a greater degree on their way home from school than on their way to school in the mornings. With an extra hour of daylight in the evening, therefore, this Order will be of advantage.

On the hole, we welcome it, but I shall be grateful if the right hon. Lady will deal with the points raised by my hon. Friends and by me particularly with regard to schools.

12.34 p.m.

Miss Bacon

Mr. Speaker, I find considerable difficulty in replying to a lot of this debate since you have ruled so much of it out of order. However, I look forward to the lively debate which obviously will take place next Session when we have the Bill before us and hen many of the arguments ruled out of order this morning will be deployed.

The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) accused me of saying nothing about this proposal being for the benefit of the people. I remind him that I devoted part of my speech to pointing out that many workers will be going home in daylight after 18th February as a result of this Order who would otherwise go home in darkness. Apart from paving the way for legislation, there will be a benefit in that respect.

Mr. Ronald Bell

But surely that is offset completely by the fact that they will be going to work in the dark. Incidentally, may I point out to the right hon. Lady that the winter solstice occurs on 22nd December, and not 21st December.

Miss Bacon

I pointed out that some people would be coming home in daylight and would have the benefit of an extra hour's light at the end of the day.

I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) for raising so many matters which were in order. He questioned whether we ought to have had this Order for February rather than leaving the starting date for summer time as it had been previously. However, we have not always had the same date for its introduction. Over the years, there has been a tendency to make it earlier. It started by beginning late in April and, over the last few years, it has been brought back to March. Even without the contemplated legislation, the Order is continuing a process already begun in earlier years.

Mention has been made of the Isle of Man. They have the right to legislate for themselves by themselves. It was at their request and to be more tidy in this respect that they were included in the Order. It is a matter entirely for them, and they wanted their summer time to begin in April. If we had refused to include them in the Order, they would have legislated for themselves.

As for Central European Time, we shall be in step with Europe, with the exception of Portugal—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Eire."] I agree that Eire raises a problem with regard to Northern Ireland. We have no official agreement with Eire for this, but Eire usually follows the United Kingdom in legislation of this kind, and we hope that the same will apply in this case.

Mr. Buck

Have there been consultations with the Government of the Republic of Ireland about this, which would seem to have been the courteous thing to do?

Miss Bacon

Up to now, there has not been consultation about the Order, but usually Eire follows the United Kingdom in these matters.

The hon. Member for Southend, West asked if it would have been better not to have put in the date of October for the lapsing of the Order since there will be legislation and probably we shall not go back from summer time in October, 1968. Obviously, we cannot anticipate what the House will do about the Bill which is to come before it next Session. Therefore, we have had to put in the date of October. If the Bill was turned down, it would be necessary to have the October date in the Order.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) raised some very important points about children going to school. It is a fact that most accidents to children take place at the end of the school day, rather than at the beginning of it. This extra hour of daylight in the five weeks from February to the end of March will be of great benefit in preventing accidents to school children. As the hon. Gentleman said, incidents involving the molesting of school children usually occur after school and not in the mornings before school.

Mr. Grieve

For reasons which are quite obvious, I concede that the molestation of children is more likely to take place in the evening than in the morning. However, will the right hon. Lady deal with the point which I made, that there will be a greater danger of accidents to children in the mornings if they are going to school in the dark?

Miss Bacon

That is a debatable point. I should have thought that, if children were coming home in daylight, a great many of the accidents which take place at the end of the day would be prevented. I think that it is when children dash out from school that the accidents occur. This is a debatable point. I do not think that anybody can answer it, but it is my impression that it will prevent more accidents at the end of the day, which is the time when children are most in danger.

Although there has been some opposition to this Order, as no doubt there will be to the Bill when it comes before us, I think that in general it has been welcomed, and I hope that the House will now approve it.

Mr. Speaker

Before I put the Question, may I observe to those hon. Members who have clashed with the Chair that I have every sympathy with hon. Members who, on an Order, seek to discuss the broader issues of the parent Act or any subsequent Measure. I suffered from the same disability in the days when I was a back bencher, but I must observe the rules of the House.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Mr. Speaker, may we have your guidance? Here we are extending an advantage, or a so-called advantage, to the country for a period of five weeks. Is not one entitled to argue whether that is, or is not, an advantage, to the nation during that period?

Mr. Speaker

With respect to the hon. Member, that is what I was humbly try-mite to suggest to the House during the last half hour.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Summer Time Order 1967 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 6th July.

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