HC Deb 10 July 1968 vol 768 cc569-87

(1) This Act shall come into force on 27th October, 1968.

(2) Sections 1 to 3 of this Act shall expire at two o'clock, Greenwich mean time, in the morning of 31st October, 1971 unless made permanent under subsection (3) below; and the provisions of Schedule (Provisions contingent on Expiration of Sections 1 to 3) to this Act shall have effect in the event of the expiration of those sections.

(3) Her Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the said sections 1 to 3 shall have permanent effect; and any such Order may repeal subsection (2) above and the said Schedule (Provisions contingent on Expiration of Sections 1 to 3).

(4) No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under subsection (3) above unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament passed before the end of the year 1970.—[Mr. Ennals.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

First, I assure the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that there was nothing Machiavellian in the Government's tabling of the new Clause. It was not designed to destroy the Amendments of the hon. and learned Gentleman, although, if I am to be honest, I cannot deny that I am glad that it did so. No doubt the hon. and learned Member will raise the points which he wished to raise in the debate on the new Clause or on Third Reading.

The Government's intention was aired in Committee. I sought the advice of the Committee about whether it felt that it would be helpful to take the measure which we propose, and it was the general view that we should do so.

Mr. Ronald Bell

The hon. Gentleman says that he sought the advice of the Committee. Are we to understand from that that at that moment, although we did not know it, the Government Whip was off and the Committee was being consulted? If the hon. Gentleman's colleagues had known that, I think that the result would have been entirely different.

Mr. Ennals

It was made clear that I was consulting my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, as we normally do, and taking due account of all the views.

Perhaps it would be convenient if, before I turn to the features of the new Clause and the other proposals associated with it, I explained briefly the underlying object. These proposals are concerned with the possibility of the Summer Time Acts reviving in October, 1971, assuming that it is decided that British Standard Time should not be continued. If it is continued, they will be irrelevant, but if it is not continued by decision it seems sensible that the opportunity of this Bill should be taken to effect a modification of the Summer Time Acts on lines which, as all our experience suggests, are likely to be wholeheartedly approved by the House and certainly by the public.

The present position is this. The Summer Time Act, 1922, as amended by the 1925 Act, provides for the period of summer time to run from the day following the third Saturday in April until the day following the first Saturday in October—a period of five and a half months. The Summer Time Act, 1947, allows that period to be varied in any year by Order in Council. Since that Act was passed the power to vary the period has been used on many occasions by successive Governments, and it was used to extend the period by four weeks in the spring and three weeks in the autumn for each of the three years beginning in 1965 and ending in 1967. During those years, therefore, Summer Time lasted from the end of March to the end of October—seven months.

When the Government embarked on their inquiries preparatory to the Bill, the one fact which stood out clearly was that, whether people wished the equivalent of summer time to apply throughout the year or not—and, as we know, there were differing views on that—almost everyone approved of the longer period of summer time introduced by the Orders. We have had three years' experience on which to draw. There was something approaching complete unanimity of opinion without distinction of place or occupation. This was as much welcomed in Scotland as in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the letter which we have received from the National Farmers' Union in England saying that it has become clear from the experiment about which he is speaking that very many people are against it?

Mr. Ennals

I have not seen that particular letter. We consulted organisations. We did not give them a "take it or leave it" ultimatum. We gave four alternatives. One was that we should continue with an extended period of Summer Time. The overwhelming view of the organisations, economic and social, representing large sections of the community was that whatever else was done about making Summer Time permanent, we should have a longer period of Summer Time.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Would my hon. Friend not agree that, apart from the Scottish T.U.C. and the employers' organisations, many Scottish organisations are opposed to the extension, especially some local authorities and their associations?

Mr. Ennals

With respect to my hon. Friend, the point that he is making refers not to whether there should be an extended period of Summer Time, but whether Summer Time should be applied throughout the year, as this Bill proposes, for an experimental period. No doubt my hon. Friend will be able to express his point of view on that. These two Amendments provide that, should the Summer Time Acts revive, this longer period should be built into them. That is to say, failing any varying Order, the period will be automatically seven months instead of five and a half. There will still be power to make Orders, lengthening or shortening the period, but the state of public opinion as revealed by our inquiries seems to show that there will be little occasion to change this.

It would have many advantages. It would introduce an element of stability which has been lacking in recent years under the present law which involves waste of Parliamentary time in having to come before both Houses, year after year with Orders requiring affirmative Resolutions, which no one is likely to oppose. It is a piece of rationalisation of the machinery of the law which the Government believe to be non-controversial. The same view was taken when I raised this in Committee.

The Amendments dispense with the need for Clause 4(6) which provides for an Order in Council varying the period of Summer Time for 1972 being made in anticipation of the revival of the Summer Time Acts, should that course be decided upon. This was always an awkward provision, though necessary in previous circumstances. It will no longer be necessary, since if the Acts do revive, it will be with the customary extension of seven weeks built into them. For the rest, the changes made by the Amendments are of form rather than substance.

Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)

I am still a little mystified about the purposes of the Government Amendments. Would the result be that the extended period would henceforth apply automatically, without any further regular Parliamentary sanction?

Mr. Ennals

The hon. Gentleman has it right. If it is decided, at the end of the experimental period, not to continue with permanent Summer Time, with British Standard Time, then without any further decision by the House, we would revert to this longer period, seven months of Summer Time. The Government could still make Orders requiring the approval of the House if it transpired that the general view was that it should be eight months, or six months, or some other period. We would not be irreparably tied to seven months, but we would be tied to that figure, short of an Order requiring the affirmative Resolution procedure.

To return to the Amendments, it is convenient to make the modification in a Schedule rather than in the body of the Bill, and appropriate, following that, to transfer to the Schedule some of the material now contained in Clause 4. These are matters of tidy drafting only. I should like to think, and am encouraged by what was said in Committee to believe, that in dealing with these Amendments, the House may at least start on a note of harmony, although it is perhaps unlikely to last through our later proceedings, particularly since I notice the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) ready to leap to his feet.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I can help the Minister by telling him that the calm and harmonious atmosphere he hopes for will suffer a slight rift at this point. I do not take it very well that the Government should have tabled this new Clause rather late in the day, without any notice to us.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is intervening or making a separate speech?

Mr. Bell

I thought that the hon. Gentleman had finished.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

In that case I am bound to propose the Question, "That the new Clause be read a Second time".

Mr. Bell

I am glad that I was right in my diagnosis that the hon. Gentleman had sat down permanently. This matter was discussed in Committee, and we realised that the Government would be putting down some provision to embody the Amendment to the Summer Time Acts, if they should revive. The way it has been done, the new Clause and Schedule, striking out lines 12 to 41 of the existing Bill has ditched all Amendments to the Bill, other than those put down by the Government. Bearing in mind that this was done at short notice, and that we have had a Home Office Bill occupying us all day, until 5 o'clock this morning, I think, with great respect, that the hon. Gentleman might have let us know about this.

I do not want to take this too far. I accept that he was speaking off the cuff and lightheartedly, but it was not right to say that he was glad to realise that our Amendments would be ditched. I know that these things are said lightly, and perhaps not fully meant, but it is not quite good enough to put down a paving Amendment to leave out lines 12 to 41, realising and rejoicing that all Opposition Amendments would fall, and to do this in the circumstances I have described.

I have used the wrong phrase when I said "Opposition Amendments". I should have said Amendments in opposition to the Bill, because on this side of the House we have a free vote. The hon. Gentleman will not need to be told that the opposition to the Bill is not confined to one side of the House. It is very much to the contrary. I suspect that a good many hon. Members in other parts of the House will regret, as much as I do, that there is to be no opportunity of dividing on the issue of whether the experiment should be for three years or one.

Mr. Ennals

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that from this side of the House it is a little difficult to determine whether the Opposition has a free vote, or whether the Whips are on, but we will see what happens?

Mr. Bell

The merits of that intervention can be left to the judgment of the House. The Government should stand in a penitential white sheet for coming before the House with a Government Whip on any Bill like this. If ever there were a matter which had nothing to do with conventional lines of difference between the political parties it is a question of the regulation of the clock—whether it be British Standard Time, Central European or Greenwich Mean Time. I do not know what this has to do with election manifestos, policies or political attitudes of the recognised political groups in the country.

As to the effect of the Amendment, I can only repeat what I said in Committee, that I thought it would be an advantage to have it. The proposal is not to go back to the sort of period of Summer Time that we had this year, starting in February, which I think no one liked, but to go back to the period we had before that, starting in March instead of April, which is what the Act lays down in default of intervention by Parliament. I prefer the period in the existing Act, but one has to recognise that every year for a long time Governments have been introducing draft Orders to change the period to March. If we are to have a draft Order every year, the sensible thing is to amend the Act so that we have a draft Order only for the exception rather than for the rule.

I support the proposed Amendment. Though you have advised me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that anything I want to say about a one-year experiment as against a three-year experiment will be in order on the proposed new Clause, I know equally that there will be no opportunity for us to divide on that choice. Therefore, we shall have to express our views on that on Third Reading and in the Lobby on the Motion for Third Reading.

6.0 p.m.

I regret the Government's insistence on a three-year period. I think that it is far too long. If they had had the sense to give way to the pressure from their own side and from this side and accept a one-year experiment, I think that many, though with great reluctance, would have accepted the Bill as an experiment. But three years is too long. It is unnecessary. The reasons given by the Undersecretary justifying that period convinced no one who heard him. The hon. Gentleman said that we must have two full winters to know what our attitude was and that we had to have a third winter while the Government assessed our attitude and communicated their assessment to those who printed diaries. With respect to those who print diaries, I do not think that their importance in the community is so vast that we should have to endure a bad system for one extra year simply to suit their convenience, more especially since they can always print, as they often have in the past, a cautionary note about the various possibilities.

The main point which we made in Committee, which I repeat now, is that if the British public do not like this system—and they will not—their dislike will be instantly communicated to the Government through their Members of Parliament. It is unnecessary—indeed, it is not very useful—for the Government to canvass organisational opinions about this matter and feed them into a computer and arrive at the wrong result. They will hear quickly enough. The public did not know before what was proposed. That is why we got some rather odd reactions from organisations. When it is put into the shape of a Bill and is introduced into Parliament and there are public debates about it, the matter is mentioned on the wireless and in newspapers and one then gets reactions. When it is brought into force we will indeed get reactions. Hon. Members of Parliament will know, before the first winter is over, what their constituents think about British Standard Time and the Minister will be told immediately. Therefore, a one-year experiment is ample. But at the outside two years would surely be ample. Why must we have three years—two years for trying and one year for mechanics? This is hardly the white heat of the technological revolution.

I think that right hon. and hon. Members would have liked to divide on this issue. They cannot, so they will have to express their disapproval of the Bill as the Government have doggedly decided it will be. I suggest to my right hon. and hon. Friends that, taken in isolation and on the merits, we could not sensibly divide against the new Clause and the Amendment.

Mr. Brewis

I, too, would like to speak briefly on the Amendment. Before doing so, may I say how pleased I am to see present a Minister from the Scottish Office. There is no doubt that our discussions in Committee were made more difficult by the absence from the Government Bench of anyone who could assess the weight of opinion in Scotland. This occurred several times in connection with Scottish organisations like the E.I.S. and the Association of District Councils.

In Committee the Under-Secretary said that the National Farmers' Union in England and Wales was in favour of this experiment. That was so. It was in favour of an experiment, but not a three-year experiment. If it was in favour of anything, it was a one-year experiment, for which my hon. Friends and I argued in Committee.

On 1st July this year the National Farmers' Union in England sent a letter to Members of Parliament interested in the Bill. We already know that the National Farmers' Union in Scotland is strongly opposed to this Measure. The letter stales: It is becoming far from certain, however, that the proposal to have summertime throughout the year does command such widespread support as the Government originally believed. Certainly the brief experiment of extending summertime at both ends of the calendar during the last season has resulted in a hardening of farmers' attitude and a shoal of resolutions to N.F.U. headquarters from its county branches are calling upon the union to press either for the withdrawal of the Bill or for the promised experimental period to be reduced from three to one year. The hon. Gentleman will see that the N.F.U. did not support his arguments.

The letter goes on: We propose conducting a canvass of our members' opinions early next year, and we fail to see what special merit there can be in continuing for three years an experiment the virtues or shortcomings of which can be amply judged after one season. This is the commonsense view of this experimental time. We will be able to judge this quite well by about February next year. Many of us know that extending Summer Time to February this year led to great difficulty. I know, for example, of one firm of builders in the country which finds it has to start half an hour later and cannot work half an hour longer at the other end of the day, so there is a loss of production or an increase in overtime, neither of which is desired at the moment.

If we have a mild winter people will know next spring what British Summer Time in a severe winter would be like. If we have a severe winter, we shall know perfectly well that we do not want this experiment. I am, therefore, strongly against this proposal for a three-year experiment, particularly after the experience of war time, which many still remember, when the extension of Summer Time into winter was an extremely unpleasant experience. I am sorry that we shall not have a chance to vote against the Amendment, but it is right that opinions should be clearly expressed.

Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)

I hope to be guided by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I am out of order in addressing myself to a particular point on this new Clause, the first line of which reads: This Act shall come into force on 27th October, 1968. The entitlement of the Bill reads: An Act to establish the time for general purposes at one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time throughout the year. This is the first opportunity that I have had, on behalf of those whom I represent, to express my total opposition to the whole concept of the Bill, whether it is to be for an experimental period of one year, two years, three years, or at all.

I hesitate to give my reasons for this opposition because they have been given at various stages of the Bill, and previously. I do not intend to bore the House by repeating them—

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I understood that if an hon. Member wished to express his total opposition to the Bill he did that on Third Reading. I have raised this matter for the purpose of clarification. I am patiently waiting for the Third Reading so that I can express my total opposition of the Bill, but I should like to know what the position is.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am listening with care to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson). He asked for my advice, and I was proposing to give it. The hon. Member must relate his remarks to the new Clause which is concerned with particular dates, and I think that he ought to reserve his total opposition for the Third Reading debate.

Mr. Davidson

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was seeking your guidance. That is why I read a line of the new Clause and the title of the Bill. If the general nature of what I have to say is out of order, I shall happily sit down and wait for the Third Reading.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I cannot give guidance in advance. I think that the hon. Member must proceed and allow me to determine as he goes along whether he is in order.

Mr. Davidson

I shall continue for the moment but be prepared to be stopped if I get out of order.

Two matters which have been raised frequently in discussions on the Bill are the general inconvenience to school children, and the inconvenience to farmers, particularly in northern and western areas. Here I must plead an interest, because I am both a farmer in an upland northern region, and I have two young children who have to leave home at 8.15 in the morning to catch the school bus. They sometimes have to stand at the end of a farm road in atrocious weather in January and February, and I feel very strongly about this.

The argument adduced in favour of the Bill is that it will bring us into line with Europe. I think that that is a weak argument, because one has only to look at the time zones of the world to realise that even if we get into line with Europe and Scandinavia, Europe will have two time zones. Australia has three, New Zealand has another, the Soviet Union has no fewer than 11, Canada has seven—

Mr. Ennals

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, shortly before you resumed the Chair the hon. Member for Aberdeen-shire, West (Mr. James Davidson) was advised by Mr. Deputy Speaker on whether it would be best to make his general objections to the Bill on Third Reading, or in relation to the new Clause. The hon. Gentleman is developing an attack against the Bill, which he is en- titled to do, but I submit that he might be happier doing it on Third Reading.

Mr. Speaker

I think that it will be convenient if we follow the practice of my predecessor in the Chair and talk about the new Clause and Schedule when we are debating the new Clause and Schedule, and about the Bill on Third Reading.

Mr. Davidson

I sense the general feeling of the House. I wanted to obtain guidance about what I should base my speech on, but in view of the general feeling which has been expressed I shall sit down and hope to get an opportunity to take part in the Third Reading debate.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I wish briefly to support what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) about the way in which we have to discuss the Government's proposals. I do not think anyone will dispute for a moment that the alterations as such make sense, but it seems to me very unfortunate that the tabling of them has made it impossible for us to obtain the Government's view on the Amendment put down by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South, and that put down by my hon. Friend the member for North Augus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and myself, which are designed in different ways to limit the duration of the experiment to two years.

I do not want a two-year experiment. I think we made it clear in Committee that if we are to have an experiment it should be limited to one year. We divided the Committee on that issue. One has, nevertheless, to face the fact that the Government, with the aid of their Whips and scorpions, will secure a majority to push the Bill through, in fundamental opposition to the views and interests of nearly everybody in Scotland. What we therefore have to consider is whether, given that situation, it is desirable to have a two-year experiment rather than a three-year one.

6.15 p.m.

In Committee the Minister failed to produce any argument in support of the three-year experiment. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South said, all the Minister could say was that the Government needed the extra year after the two years in which people could experience the operation of the Bill to complete their inquiries into people's views and opinions. To my mind it is obvious that once people are alerted to what is proposed they are quick to express their opinions about it, and if necessary their opposition to it. I fail to see why a third year is necessary to enable the Government to make a detailed survey into the results of the two-year experiment.

I dislike the fact that because of the way in which the Amendment is drawn we are unable to get from the Government a reasoned answer to our case for a two-year experiment rather than a three-year one. I do not know whether the Minister will deal with that when he replies. I think that he should, because if we are to have a trial period he must produce a better case than he has done for extending the experiment to a third year. In view of the experience of the hon. Member for Aberdeen-shire, West (Mr. James Davidson), it is clear that we should have an opportunity to express our opinion of the Bill as it will emerge from this Report Stage, but I hope that when the Minister sums up this short debate he will deal with the point I have raised.

Mr. Ronald Bell

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I asked your predecessor whether manuscript Amendments, which I think you have before you, could be accepted so that the House could have an opportunity of dividing on the question of the length of the experiment. They are designed merely to link amendments to the new Clause. I think that Mr. Deputy Speaker is always in a difficulty with manuscript Amendments. I do not know whether you would feel disposed to allow them to be movd formally so that we can divide on them.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and learned Member will be aware that Mr. Deputy Speaker will have conveyed his request to me. I am not prepared to take manuscript Amendments. If the hon. and learned Member wishes to make his point, he can do so by voting against the new Clause.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) said that the opposition was not confined to one side of the House. Nor is the support for the Bill. I regret that when the Minister spoke he implied that he did not know what was meant by a free vote on this side of the House. Having, since the late 1950s, urged my Government, and then Labour Governments, to have a standard British time, and having asked a Question to which the then Home Secretary replied that the Government had at last made up their minds to have a standard time and not change the time in England twice every year, I welcome the Clause and the fact that there is to be a three-year experiment.

I sympathise with my hon. Friends who represent Scottish and farming constituencies, but we are an industrial and commercial nation, and I think that the will of the majority should prevail. We as a nation welcome the change. Of course people will not like the change at once. Of course they will object to darkness at 9 o'clock on New Year's Day in Glasgow, but they will also realise in due course that it is much lighter in the afternoon than it used to be. We cannot change the geography of our country, nor do we like—since we are conservative people in more ways than one—chopping and changing every year—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is drifting into a discussion of the Bill itself. This debate is about the commencement and duration of British Standard Time.

Mr. Tilney

Yes, Mr. Speaker, but the Minister said that if the experiment failed, British Summer Time would apply to only seven months in the year, and I was pointing out that I regretted the fact that it would not apply to nine months of the year, because my experience of Double Summer Time and of Summer Time which went throughout the year during the war makes me think that for the good of our general trade the Bill ought to be given a Third Reading, and in my opinion the new Clause ought also to be agreed to.

Mr. Brian Parkyn (Bedford)

I apologise to hon. Members for my absence at the beginning of the debate. I support the new Clause. During the Second Reading debate I felt some misgivings, but I am much happier now, since my hon. Friend has brought forward the suggestion that we should have a three-year experimental period. No argument that it should be less than three years can be viable; the experiment must run for a sufficient time to enable people to adjust themselves to the situation, and I would have thought without any question that a period of three years was the absolute minimum. With this new Clause in the Bill I feel much happier about supporting it.

Mr. Buck

Difficulties have arisen because of the way in which the new Clause has been brought forward. The Bill was brought in as being a permanent Measure. When it was debated in January there was no question of an experiment or of a further Amendment, such as is provided by the new Clause and the Amendment to the Schedule, and coming at this late stage it raises difficulties, some of which have been referred to by my hon. Friends. It is a pity that we are not now in a position to debate the merits of a shorter or longer period of experiment.

I welcome the extension of Summer Time if the Bill is not made permanent. A further difficulty about bringing in such a fundamental Amendment at this late stage is that we have no adequate opportunity to study its drafting, and if the drafting is found wanting—and Parliamentary draftsmen can be at fault on occasion—the Government will not be in a position to do anything about it. To say the least, the Amendment to the Schedule is curiously worded from a legal point of view.

I refer the Under-Secretary to paragraph 3 of the new Schedule, which reads: Section 1(2) of the Summer Time Act, 1925 (which altered the period of summer time) shall not revive by virtue of paragraph 2 above in any event". We try to do our homework, and we therefore consult Halsbury to discover what is provided by Section 1(2) of the Summer Time Act, 1925, and we find that it merely effects an Amendment to the Summer Time Act of 1922. Halsbury does not reproduce this; it merely says that it amends the Summer Time Act, 1922.

Paragraph 3(b) says: for the words from 'following' (where that word last occurs) onwards there shall be substituted the words 'following the fourth Saturday in October.' This is a reference to the Summer Time Act, 1922. We therefore look at that Act and we find that in its original form it did something totally different, and that it is only to the extent of the Summer Time Act, 1922, as amended by the Summer Time Act, 1925, that the words in paragraph (b) apply. At least there is a strong case for adding the words The Summer Time Act, 1922, as amended by the Summer Time, Act, 1925 ". The whole thing is a piece of very odd drafting. I realise that this is a Committee point, which ought not to be deployed on Report, but we have not had an opportunity of dealing with it before.

I want to make one more very boring lawyer's point. There is another alteration made by the new Clause and the Amendment to the Schedule. The Bill as it came out of Committee did not allow the Government to make it permanent, at least until the end of 1970. I welcomed that fact. It meant that we were to have an experimental period. Under the new formula devised by the Clause, together with the Amendment to the Schedule, however, if the Government did not wish to heed what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House today they would be able to make British Standard Time permanent at once. In the next few weeks they could bring an order and make it permanent whereas under the original drafting they could not, because the provisions of Clause 4(6)—which is now to be deleted—did not allow them to do so. This point might not be of tremendous significance, but there has ben a definite alteration in the way in which the Bill is cast, and the Government are now giving themselves power to make British standard time permanent at once.

If there is any substance in the first lawyer's point and any significance in the second the Government will find it difficult to do anything about it, because we are now at the last stage of the last hurdle in our proceedings on the Bill. It is a pity that there was not an earlier debate. The decision to frame the Bill as it is now to be framed creates difficulties for us in terms of making Amendments, and makes it difficult to subject the drafting to a proper and detailed scrutiny.

Mr. Ennals

First, I assure the hon. Member and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that it was not the Government's intention in framing the Amendments to affect the other Amendments that have been tabled, and when I said how relieved I was it was a light-hearted comment. We had no wish to inconvenience hon. Members. The matter now before us was discussed in Committee and it was felt that it would be helpful to table an Amendment now in order to clarify what the situation would be at the end of the experimental period, if the conclusion was that the experiment was not a success. It was felt that we should draw upon the experience of the last three years in connection with the expanded period of Summer Time in order to bring in some degree of clarity about what was to be done.

6.30 p.m.

I was asked why there should be an experiment. The Bill when originally introduced was intended to be a permanent Measure. On Second Reading, hon. Gentleman on both sides expressed doubts about what would be the outcome and the reaction to the Bill, and we recognise that, although we had a great body of opinion about the consequence if Summer Time were extended, we knew that we should not be certain of the effect until we had tried it out. Therefore, rather than introduce a Bill which a future Government might conceivably wish to alter, we thought that it would be responding to the feeling in the House and to representations from such organisations as the National Farmers' Union that we should conduct an experiment.

We have been asked, why three years? If there is to be an experiment and we are to ascertain the consequences, it would not be sensible to try to reach a conclusion after one winter. I sought to explain in Committee, where this issue was substantially debated, that winters vary substantially in this country and in different parts of the country. There might be one reaction after a relatively mild winter and another after a relatively hard one. If we genuinely wish to know the economic and social advantages, we need to see them over more than one winter.

Having seen this, it is not simply a matter of taking a snap personal decision or of having a public opinion poll. All sorts of people might say that this was a great advantage, and others, in different parts of the country and in different circumstances, might say, "I do not like this at all," but among the factors to be considered are not just the straight personal considerations. There are also such factors as what has been the effect on road safety: have there been more or less serious and fatal accidents? What has been the effect on our trade? How great has the advantage been of having a common time with our trading partners in Europe, the E.E.C., and E.F.T.A.? This is not just a matter of a quiz, but of assessing and having the statistics, which can be drawn only on the basis of a number of months.

Therefore, it is intended that we should pass through two winters and then conduct a survey through the various organisations likely to have an opinion so that, before the end of 1970, we can have taken a responsible decision. There is no point in taking a snap decision.

Mr. James Davidson

The substance of the hon. Gentleman's argument depends on our having two successive winters of varying severity, and the chances against this are pretty high, since winters tend to go in cycles. The hon. Gentleman might be lucky and he might not, but it seems to be a very unconvincing argument in favour of the experiment lasting more than one year. I am certain that he would get all the information he requires, if an experiment is necessary at all, from one year.

Mr. Ennals

That might be a convincing argument for letting the experiment run over three or four winters, to get a variation but it is not a point of view which has been put forward, although one of my hon. Friends thought in Committee that there would be a fairer judgment over five years. There is some substance in that, but it is a proposal which would certainly not have met with the strong support of the House, which we were natuurally anxious to secure.

There is another factor. If one has only one year or even two years with one winter, a substantial proportion of the population will say, "We do not need to try to make any adjustment." We have recognised that certain categories of people in certain parts of the country—for example, some sections of the building industry and some farmers, not to mention some school hours—will need to make some adjustment during the winter hours. They may say, "It is only this winter: we need not make any change." Therefore, it would not be a genuine experiment.

Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)

I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument; he may have gathered that I do not like the experiment any more than I like the whole project. What I find difficult to believe is that, even in a three-year experiment—or, if he likes, even a ten-year experiment—any statistics which can be extracted from any source will mean anything about the increase in our trade with European countries with the same time as ours. I do not believe that any factor, rise or fall in trade, will be significantly affected by this time. How will we assess this statistically?

Mr. Ennals

Some people involved in business feel strongly that there will be advantages, marginal only as they will be, and that it will be possible for them to make an assessment of those advantages and how it has worked out. In some fields, of course, there will be statistics. It has been suggested that, in some parts of the country, there could be an increase in electricity or power consumption and that in other parts there may be a decrease. But if it were an increase, we could estimate that increase, if any, only after a reasonable period. There would be statistics in this connection.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) mentioned the reference in the new Schedule, paragraph (3), to the 1925 Act. It is not necessary to revive Section 1(2) of that Act, since it would be over-ridden by the remainder of paragraph (3). He will find that the wording which has been used is satisfactory.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

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