HL Deb 05 December 1967 vol 287 cc554-90

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Stonham.)

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD JESSEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [British Standard Time]:


I should point out that Amendment No. 1 pre-empts Amendment No. 2. If Amendment No. I is agreed to, I shall not call Amendment No. 2.

THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY moved, in subsection (1), to leave out, "(to be known as British standard time) shall be one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time", and insert "shall be Mid-European time (one hour in advance Greenwich mean time)". The noble Earl said: With the exception of one Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrier, the Amendments on this Committee stage of the Bill are confined solely to the matter of the name of the time it is proposed to adopt and of course, the Title of the Bill. The name of the time is surely a simple enough matter. As your Lordships know perfectly well, we have had up to this point, and we still have, two times in force. Since 1916 we have had Greenwich Mean Time, on the one hand, as our basic time, and we have had British Standard Time for a varying number of months in the year, on the other hand. This Bill seeks to do away with that and to extend British Summer Time throughout the winter. Obviously, we cannot continue to call it British Summer Time, so we must call it something else.

The effect of the Bill, as your Lordships also know, is simply to move us Eastwards from one time zone into another, so that we adopt the time for the zone immediately to our east, which is known as Mid European Time. That name is known not only to the 35 countries that use it, but also to all the other countries in the world. I believe almost without exception, it has been for a long time part of the world's standard time system based on Greenwich. That, therefore, is the name of the time, and we presumably should use it, like everybody else. But we prefer not to, and the Bill proposes that we should call it British Standard Time.

There has been a great deal of argument and discussion on the matter, and I dare say that much of it has been quite entertaining. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, told us on Second Reading: More than a hundred different names were received from many sources, including Members of Parliament, the public and the Press. Two newspapers ran readers' competitions, and one of them chose 'British Standard Time' which was easily the most popular choice among the letters received, and this was the title chosen by my right honourable friend, after careful consideration of all the alternatives. It appears to be a general wish that the word 'British' should appear in the title…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23/11/67, col. 1186.]

This is perfectly understandable, and we are entitled, if we choose, to give our own private name to this very public time, just as one would be entitled to own a dog which might be a pedigree bloodhound named, say, "Champion Thundercloud of Tillington", and call it "Spot". But in international behaviour this kind of thing is apt to look a little ridiculous, and also to be at times tiresome. If I may take a rather more close analogy, it is as though I were to join a club; shall I say, if I dare to, the Carlton Club, of which I am not a member. This might be my only club, and after my name in the reference books would appear the name, "Carlton Club". If I wished to go there by taxi, I would ask the taxi driver to take me to the Carlton Club. At home, it being my only club, if I was telling my wife where I was going I would simply say that I was going to "the Club"; in rather the same manner as our own time will be referred to domestically as, "the time".

But suppose that, for some rather curious, whimsical piece of vanity of my own, I preferred to call it, privately, "The Cork Club," and had those words engraved on my visiting card. This, I suspect, would cause a certain amount of irritation to the members of the Carlton Club, and would induce the world at large to think that quite possibly I was not entirely right in the head. I do not think we really want to be thought either tiresome or not quite right in the head, and I think it would be a great deal more to the point if we used the same name as everybody else uses for this time, which is "Mid-European Time".

There is another point, slightly more subtle, if I may use the word, than this. This is a time that will affect every one of us from the cradle to the grave—perhaps not continuously from the cradle to the grave, but it is going to affect every man, woman and child throughout the months of winter, which is the only time of the year that this time will have effect. It will affect us all, in the sense that we get an hour's extra daylight in the evening, which will be agreeable; but I believe it will also bring a certain amount of hazard, possibly hardship and conceivably even death—I do not wish to be melodramatic, but this can happen—to three main groups of people, that is, schoolchildren going to school in the morning in the dark, motorists on the road going to work in the last hour before the dawn rather than the first hour after it, and chronic bronchitics and people with weak chests who will have to put up with an extra hour of darkness, cold and fog in the morning.

If this is to be so, it is a serious matter. I do not wish to exaggerate, and it is not a thing about which one should be flippant, but I think it is reasonable and just, to say the least, that we should say in the Bill exactly what it is that we are doing. We are not moving to some new, slightly whimsically-chosen form of British Standard Time. There is no point in clinging to the word "British" when in fact it is British no longer. I see very little object in trying to retain the initials "B.S.T." because they are the same as those which were used for "British Summer Time", as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, suggested. I might equally well, perhaps with rather more justification, and perhaps with a certain charm, call it, "Baron Stonham Time". But it is not: it is Mid-European Time. This, I submit, is its name; it should remain its name; and it is this that I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, leave out from beginning to ("throughout") in line 7 and insert ("shall be Mid-European time (one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time)").—(The Earl of Cork and Orrery.)

4.17 p.m.


As has been rightly pointed out by the Deputy Chairman, the effect of carrying this Amendment would be to exclude discussion of my own, and I think it may be for the convenience of the Committee that I should now deploy the argument for my own. I think it will probably be for the convenience of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I think of the whole Committee, if we know the case for the two Amendments that are suggested. There are two new names suggested as alternatives to the one in the Bill. My noble friend behind me and I are agreed that the name in the Bill ought to go, and I think that each of us would agree that one or other of the two Amendments that we have put down should be adopted. I think they should both be considered.

I was a little astonished, on one minor point, that my noble friend called it Mid-European Time, because I thought that what most people call it, and what it is known as throughout the world, is Central European Time.


Will my noble friend forgive me for interrupting him? This is quite likely a fault in my own research, which has not been carried far enough, but it has been carried out with the assistance of the Library and the Public Bill Office. I believe it is called Mid-European Time, but I am sure no one would complain greatly if that name were found to be wrong; and perhaps the matter could be adjusted by a small drafting Amendment at a later stage.


I entirely agree. Subject to that, I certainly support my noble friend as against the words at present in the Bill; and I think that, if his Amendment is not adopted, he will also probably support me in what I suggest.

I shall now give the case for my Amendment, which, it will be seen, is to change the name to "Advanced Greenwich Time". I want to show why the name in the Bill will not do, and why I think that the name I suggest is the best alternative. Since the Second Reading I have had the great advantage of a most helpful letter and memorandum from Mr. D. H. Sadler, the President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the man named in the Preface of the Nautical Almanac as one of the two men under whose immediate supervision the Nautical Almanac is produced. I thought of reading to your Lordships the preface to the Nautical Almanac. It is the first time I have brought it into this House. It is a work of some fame and one with which I think the Home Office will be familiar—although I rather gather from a letter in the Press from my friend A. P. Herbert that the Home Office, although familiar with longitude, has not yet studied latitude.

Mr. Sadler, who has been good enough co help me in this way, was one of the four signatories to the letter from the representatives of the scientific interests concerned which was published in The Times on October 24 this year, the letter that has been mentioned previously in our debates. I will, if I may, quote just one sentence from that letter: However, we understand that the name British Standard Time is being considered: this is ambiguous, is likely to lead to confusion and misunderstanding and should be rejected as being, in our view, geographically inconsistent with the system of Standard Time lanes. Mr. D. H. Sadler has also drawn up an admirable statement for the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society. It is headed "British Standard Time Bill 1967. Statement of the arguments against the use of the name British Standard Time", and is dated the 8th of last month. I take it that Her Majesty's Government have seen a copy of this document and have already studied it. If they do not accept one of the two Amendments that will be before them, then I hope they will say why they ignore the considered opinions of this scientific body. The document first sets out the background of the problem. Since 1884 the zero meridian of Greenwich has been recognised and used internationally. If I may, I will read a few sentences: As everyone knows the zero meridian from which longitudes are measured is that defined at the old Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park (actually by the Airy Transit Circle). It has been recognised and used internationally since 1884. That zero meridian defines Greenwich Mean Time which is used internationally for purposes of astronomy, navigation, surveying and other sciences; it is also known as Universal Time. For civil purposes it is desirable to use a measure of time differing from Greenwich Mean Time, by a constant time-difference, depending on longitude, in order that the alternating periods of day and night should fall at convenient clock times. For practical usage it is essential that there should be only a few well-defined such measures of time; and, arising from the International Time Conference of 1884, there is in existence a well-recognised and internationally adopted system of Standard Time Zones. There are 24 such Zones, centred on longitudes of multiples of 15°, with corresponding Zone Standard Times differing from Greenwich Mean Time by multiples of one hour. So far I have been quoting from this document. The great objection to the name "British Standard Time" is the fact that, if this Bill is passed in its present form, there will be, in fact, in this country two standard times; that is to say, the standard time of the zone in which the Meridian of Greenwich is situated (that is to say, Greenwich Mean Time) and the standard time, one hour in advance, which is mentioned at present in the Bill. All round the globe Greenwich Mean Time is the world standard time for other countries and for us. To take one example, members of the Committee may be familiar with the form of announcement that the B.B.C. uses in its Overseas Services.

I think I had better now read the very important paragraph which sets out the case against the name given in the Bill, and it will be safer if I quote the actual words of the document. It says: Choice of name. The natural Standard Time for any country is that of the Zone Standard Time corresponding to the Standard Time Zone in which the country (or the bulk of the country) lies; the use of the combination of the name of the country and the word Standard for a Zone Standard Time that differs from that corresponding to the Standard Time Zone in which the country lies is unnatural and likely to lead to confusion. This is the nub of the argument against the name British Standard Time for permanent Summer Time; both logically and naturally British Standard Time should be identical with Greenwich Mean Time, and its use for a different measure of time is likely to cause confusion. If British astronomy had not been honoured by the choice of the Greenwich meridian as the international zero of longitude, the time used in the British Isles would probably have been known as British Standard Time (instead of as Greenwich Mean Time) since this is the logical and obvious name. In other words, the only reason that we call the time "Greenwich Mean Time" instead of "British Standard Time" is the compliment internationally given to this country by the recognition of Greenwich as the Zero of Longitude. Otherwise, British Standard Time would have been the name always known; in fact, it is still so known for many purposes.

I hope the Committee will agree that we cannot ignore these objections of the men of science. Why should we decide a name by newspaper competition among laymen and not consult the learned societies? Is that the way by which Her Majesty's Government wish to show their sympathy and respect for science and technology: to ask innumerable bodies what should be the name, but not to ask any of the learned societies? I wonder what is the view of the Astronomer Royal. We have not been told. I believe that an effort to find out in another place did not succeed because he is a civil servant. That may be the reason. Another reason may be that his views may not be printable.

If the Committee reject, as I hope they will, the name chosen in the Bill, what should they put in its place? There are two names, as my noble friend has said, which already describe the time called in the Bill British Standard Time. They are British Summer Time and Central (or Mid-) European Time. The first, British Summer Time, is clearly now inappropriate; because, whatever else you think about the word "summer", it is not a very useful word to describe the winter. The second name is, I think, less desirable than the one that I have put forward. Mr. Sadler, in his letter to me, has made it quite clear that when he and his friends in the other learned societies wrote their letter to The Times they fully expected some notice would be taken of their objections to the name, British Standard Time and that they would be consulted.

May I read one paragraph of his letter? It says: We have deliberately avoided putting forward proposals for a name because this is largely a civil matter; however, we feel that we have the right to ask, as we did in the letter to The Times, for the exercise of the greatest care, implying that the appropriate authorities, both in Government and non-Governmental circles should be consulted. Although wide consultations were apparently made in respect of the principle of the change, there do not appear to have been any such consultations in respect of the choice of name. He then goes on to give the names that he thinks will be clear and do no harm. Of the names he puts forward I believe that far the best is the one which I now suggest—"Advanced Greenwich Time". It is short; it is accurate and it is free from confusion; and that is the name I would ask the Committee to adopt.

4.32 p.m.


Very briefly I should like to support my noble friend Lord Conesford. I shall not take more than a minute or two. I have always disliked very much the thought that the name "Greenwich Mean time" should disappear. Even if it has to be altered, I greatly prefer my noble friend's Amendment to any other suggestion, because we are all used to the name and so are foreign countries. I am not myself either a mid or a central European. I do not know where one of them begins or the other one ends. I do know where Greenwich is, and I have even been there. I hope sincerely that we shall continue (I do not say this as an old Tory backwoodsman), for very obvious historical, scientific and other reasons, to adhere to the name "Greenwich".


I must confess that I am a little astonished that the Government are so keen on retaining British nationality so far as time is concerned when we have been told, as regards the Common Market, so often that we are definitely part of Europe—a fact, I may say, about which I have the gravest doubts—and that the sooner we realise that the better. My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery has suggested that we use the term which is used all over the rest of Europe, and I suggest, with all due respect to my noble friend Lord Conesford, for whose views I always have the greatest respect, that it seems rather foolish in the circumstances to have two names for the same thing.


I rise to support my noble friend firing on my port bow, and I do not agree with my noble friend's "broad" on my port bow. It is, I suppose, about 50 or 55 years since I had to use the Nautical Almanac professionally, and I must confess that I have not used it very much ever since. I should like to congratulate my noble friend on the masterly use that he has made of scientific data, if that is the right word. Why I support his name "Advanced Greenwich Time" is that Greenwich Time is known right round the world, and it is used right round the world by air-lines, shipping and all the rest. I think it would be a disaster if we got rid of the word "Greenwich", for the same reasons that I, with others of my noble friends in this House, fought and voted against the last Administration to retain the word "Admiralty". For much the same reasons I think we should retain the word "Greenwich"; therefore I support my noble friend Lord Conesford.


I freely admit that I greatly prefer the Amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Conesford on both æsthetic and patriotic grounds.


Does that mean that the noble Earl is withdrawing his Amendment?


No, it does not. I was about to say that my personal prejudices are not what really count. It is a matter of confusion. I do not think that we should lessen the confusion by having two Greenwich Times—Advanced Greenwich Time and Greenwich Mean Time. We should increase it by inviting navigators and others to use both at once, as they might have to, and to convert one to the other in the course of a cruise or a flight. We should only invite confusion in the minds of unfortunate people visiting our shores from countries who use Mid-European Time. They would come to a country where they were told about some other time, only to be told, in brackets after that, "But it is just the same as your own." This seems to me unnecessary; and despite my feelings (I entirely sympathise and agree with both my noble friends in front of me: I oppose them only with the friendliest respect), I think we should be realists and admit that we are abandoning Greenwich Time and adopting Mid-European Time; and we should do well, for the sake of honesty of policy, plainness and lack of confusion, to make absolutely plain what it is we are up to.

4.37 p.m.


As I understand the position, we are discussing the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. He has not withdrawn it, and therefore it is incumbent on me to deal with it. The noble Earl indicated that if he does not carry the Committee with him on his Amendment he will then be in a position to support the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, when he moves his Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, indicated that both he and his noble friend would agree that one or other of the two names would be better than "British Standard". I submit first that this indicates somewhat less than 100 per cent. confidence of either of the noble Lords who have put down Amendments in the name they have submitted to the Committee. I would also point out that neither Amendment affects the principle of permanent Summer Time which is enshrined in the Bill and which is its main purpose. Both Amendments are confined to the question of what we should call the time.

Having said that, I shall be grateful if I may be allowed to go outside the strict terms of the Amendment to acknowledge an error which I made on Second Reading and which Sir Alan Herbert has pointed out in the columns of The Times in his own inimitable way. It will be recalled that I not only moved the Second Reading but I also wound up the debate. In the course of that debate every noble Lord who spoke mentioned the times of sunrise, and I ventured to suggest, not that the Home Secretary was superseding the Almighty but that the time of sunset would thereby be moved forward by one hour and the length of the time of daylight would not be affected; and that if people got up in the dark they would stand a better chance of going home in the light—which seemed to me not an unfair point to make. But in doing that, and having on my knee the times of the sunrise and sunset of about 14 European towns, including a number of British towns, I somewhat hurriedly worked out the hours of daylight in between. I regret that I made a mistake of one hour in one only—that was Rome. In this the gallant Knight is quite right, and I hope that I have made full and proper amends.

May I now move first to the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, because, though in principle he suggested another name, I submit there is a difference between his Amendment and that of his noble friend; therefore I should like to deal with them separately. In the course of his speech the noble Earl said that we could use the same name as everyone else uses. I submit to him that that would be quite impossible, because there are several names widely used in Europe indicating the same system of time. A major difficulty in the noble Earl's Amendment is that it would virtually deprive the new time system of a name. That does not seem to be his intention. While his Amendment states what the time is to be, it does not say what it is to be called.

On Second Reading, the noble Earl said that in his view, whatever name is given to the new time system here, it will be called "Mid-European time". He has embodied that in his Amendment. That is an opinion, a perfectly fair and valid one, but it is an opinion that we do not share.


Am I not right in thinking (though I do not know whether the noble Lord will agree) that when one makes a statement on some subject and writes it in block capitals, that is the statement as one means it.


I am considering the Amendment and its effect on the Bill if it were accepted. May I read to the noble Earl how this clause would read if his Amendment were accented? The time for general purposes in the United Kingdom shall be Mid-European time (one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time).… That does not say what it is to be called. It is what the time is to be. That is an important difficulty in the noble Earl's Amendment.

It is essential that the new time system should be given its own easily recognised statutory name, which can be adopted for general use. The name should be one that is generally acceptable, because obviously the new time cannot be known by more than one name. "Mid-European Time" is admittedly an alternative title, but the commonest term for the time system on the Continent is Central European Time, as the noble Lord said. This was considered with other titles embodying "Europe" and we rejected it, because the change is being made not primarily to bring us in line with the countries using Central European Time, but to introduce a time system here which is best suited to the domestic interests of the country as a whole. It is identical, of course, with the Central European Standard, but there is understandably a considerable body of opinion in favour of including in the title the word "British".

I do not agree with the noble Earl in saying that we do not want to cling to "British" because it is British time no longer. One feature about the suggestions we received was that so many of them wanted "British" in the title. Moreover, in so far as people think of the Continental connection, it is with Western, not with Central or Mid Europe. To those noble Lords who are unaware of the technical reasons the reference which the noble Earl proposes tends to be somewhat puzzling, and to suggest an affinity to peoples in Europe with whom people here do not commonly feel such an affinity. Therefore, particularly in view of what he said a short while ago, I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.

I turn now to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. In view of the Powerful speech he made on behalf of the scientists and the support given to him by the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, may I point out that the Bill expressly reserves Greenwich. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 reads thus: ( ) Nothing in this section affects the use of Greenwich mean time for purposes of astronomy, meteorology, navigation or other purposes for which that time is adopted by international usage, or the construction of any document referring to a point of time in connection with any of those purposes. That conclusively and rightly reserves the term "Greenwich Mean Time" for all the international and scientific purposes for which it is commonly used and internationally famous.

I submit that the issue boils down to this. Does the use of the name "British Standard Time" inflict such an injury on the use of "Greenwich Mean Time" and such a confusion that it ought not to be used? Alternatively, if there is such a damage, is it right that the scientists should pre-empt a title and deny it to the vast mass of laymen who have been consulted through their organisations about the title which is proposed? The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, quoted at length from a letter from Mr. Sadler.


I quoted one paragraph from the letter and more extensively from the document, which I assume had also been sent to Her Majesty's Government.


My information is that the document has not been sent to the Home Office. I inquired immediately, and we cannot trace having seen it. But Home Office officials went down to Hurstmonceux and discussed the name with Mr. Sadler. The fact that he does not agree with our choice does not mean that he was not given a chance to explain his views to us. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, rather reproached us for not having consulted the scientists, but in fact we consulted a universal agglomeration of interests.

The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, mentioned the airlines and shipping lines. Of course, we consulted them, and they supported our proposals and do not find any difficulty about them. The Admiralty do not find any difficulty about them. I do not want to mention all the many bodies which were consulted, but they include the British Airports Authority, British European Airways, the International Air Transport Association, the British Medical Association, the British National Export Council and the British Overseas Air Corporation. We consulted virtually everyone we could think of who has a direct interest in this matter. We have gone into this very thoroughly over a period of years. After all, we have had Summer Time now for over half a century. And the name we put before your Lordships certainly represents a consensus of strong support by a substantial majority.

I come now to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, in which he suggests that instead of calling it British Standard Time we should call it Advanced Greenwich Time. I have in my hand a three-page list of all the names that were suggested and considered. They include Willett Time, Churchill Time, Civil Time, Mean Civil Time, Permanent Time, Advance Time, Common Time. Then we have no fewer than 14 names, all of which include Greenwich: New Greenwich Mean Time, Greenwich Time, G.M.T.A.—that is Advanced—G.M.T.I., Greenwich Ante-Meridianal Time, Greenwich Global Time, Greenwich British Time, Green-which Plus Time, Greenwich Less One, Plus Greenwich, Greenwich Advanced Time, Advanced Greenwich Time and Advanced Meridian Time. We rejected all those names for the very reason, in effect, that the noble Lord has advanced in his Amendment—because we did not want to create confusion with Greenwich Mean Time. We submit that if we accepted the Amendment and called Permanent Summer Time Advanced Greenwich Time, then inevitably the public would call it Greenwich Time, without the "Advanced", and inevitably, in our view, it would create confusion.

The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, advanced, as he always does, in a perfectly fair way, the argument that for scientific purposes the world is divided into 24 standard time zones, of which one has its centre on the meridian at Greenwich and the others are related to it, so that the Standard Time cannot be other than Greenwich Mean Time. That is the point the noble Lord made. But in ordinary usage the term carries precisely the right meaning for the purposes of this Bill—that is, British Standard Time—and we see no reason for abandoning it on technical or specialist objection. We do not accept that confusion would be caused by the use of "British Standard Time", because laymen are completely unaware of the specialist implication, while the specialists themselves are in no danger whatever of being misled, and there is this special exception in the Bill.

On this question of the name, we really have thought about it carefully. We have had the most extraordinary names: SATYR Time, Same All the Year Round, Orbitime, Orbitum, Orbitim, Solar Time, Solar Plus and Solextra. But of all these technical varieties the one that emerged as the outstanding choice was British Standard Time. There were more than five times as many people who suggested British Standard Time as the nearest number favouring any other choice—nearly six times as many as the others.

We have had a debate on two Amendments. Obviously, the noble Lords who moved them are not supremely confident that theirs is the right choice. I hope that I have convinced them, and certainly I hope that I have convinced your Lordships, that the Amendment moved by the viable and should be withdrawn; and, noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, is not secondly, that the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is not necessary, because the confusion which he alleges will not arise, because the scientists are already protected by the Bill, and because, if we accepted the Amendment, then clearly we should create confusion. I hope that in the light of those explanations the Amendments will be withdrawn.

4.55 p.m.


The noble Lord the Minister of State has made a sincere defence of the Government's choice of the words "British Standard Time" for the new time. He was, of course, perfectly right in saying that we are not discussing in either of these Amendments the main principle of the Bill. We are simply discussing the name, which is a fringe matter compared with the heart of the Bill, which says that we are to have time an hour in advance of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year. I thought, however, that the noble Lord was claiming a little too much when he sought to make the point that there was in the Amendments less than 100 per cent. support for any alternative. That may be so, and it is not surprising; but in the Amendments there is nil support for the Government's proposal. Both of these Amendments are quite clear in objecting to "British Standard Time".

I think the House would be grateful if the Minister of State would tell us a little more about this consensus among those who were consulted. He made two statements. He said that there was a general consensus in favour of "British Standard Time" when the Government consulted various bodies; and he also said that of the people who made suggestions five or six times as many suggested "British Standard Time" as suggested any other name. I do not pay very much regard here to the suggestions that came in, as it were, casually from members of the public. I doubt whether it is a good way of governing the country to invite people to write in and then to say that the majority of those who have bothered to write in are probably correct. One would hardly do that in any other field.

What is more important, however, is the method by which the Government consulted those bodies of which the noble Lord gave us a list. Did they say: "We are suggesting "British Standard Time". Is that acceptable to you?" Or did they say: "Here is a number of varied suggestions;"—including "British Standard Time", "Advanced Greenwich Time", and perhaps several others—"which of these would you prefer?" There is a difference in those two methods of consultation, and it is only the second method which would really elicit from these authoritative bodies what they actually thought.

I myself in the Second Reading debate mentioned "Advanced Greenwich Time" as a name that was worth considering, and I was honoured when I found that my noble friend, Lord Conesford, had made it the subject of his Amendment. I certainly like his Amendment more than I like that of my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery. I do not wish to be tied up in advance to Europe by taking either "Central European Time" or "Mid-European Time" for the purposes of this Bill; and I was not convinced by my noble friend's argument that it would be confusing to tourists if we had a different name in this country. Indeed, I would invite him and other noble Lords to consider whether when they have travelled to the Continent they have been confused by not knowing the name of the time under which they were living. My own concern is simply to find out whether the time in France or in Germany or wherever I am going is the same as in Britain or an hour different. What they choose to call it seems to me to be a matter of complete indifference, so far as the interests of tourists are concerned. If there were any difficulty, I am sure it would be quickly overcome by tourists from the Continent visiting this country.

I think we should probe a little more carefully into the objection of the scientists. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that "British Standard Time" was acceptable broadly to all except people who had a technical or specialist objection. I confess I was a little surprised to hear this used as an argument on behalf of a Government who have prided themselves on being the Government who really take science seriously. I suggest most strongly to your Lordships that we ought not to dismiss the opinion of the scientists merely on the ground that they are a relatively small group of people who talk their own language; or indeed on any other ground, for example, the further ground given by the noble Lord, that the name of "Greenwich Mean Time" will after all be preserved in subsection (2) of Clause 1 for scientific purposes.

I cannot see that this is a subject into which Party philosophy enters at all. I have been a Party politician most of my life, and though I will not challenge comparison with some of your Lordships in the understanding of Party philosophy it appears to me that one could be a good Socialist, a good Conservative, a good Liberal—or indeed a good Communist—and take whatever view one wished to take of this question without being untrue to one's Party. Perhaps I ought to have omitted the Communists from that statement: they perceive deviationism more quickly than the rest of us. But I confess that I see considerable sentimental attraction—and indeed I would venture to say patriotic attraction—in retaining the word "Greenwich", which is now known throughout the world; and I find it quite impossible to believe that any confusion would be caused in any quarters that matter if we were to use a different adjective in this case and call it "Advanced Greenwich Time".

I am simply expressing my personal views. I would not dare to urge my noble friends to vote in one direction or another, if either of these Amendments comes to a vote, but I think the arguments against "British Standard Time" are somewhat stronger than the Minister of State, on behalf of the Government, allowed.


My Lords, I should like to make one small point. "British Standard Time" is bound to be abbreviated to B.S.T. If we ever have, as we did during the last war, what was then called "Double Summer Time" this would presumably be called "British Summer Time", as it would then be one hour in advance. That also would be abbreviated to "B.S.T." and I think it would cause confusion in timetables. Therefore I think it would be desirable to have a word in the middle which did not begin with "S". Other than that, I am rather impressed by the name "British Standrad Time". I think it rings rather better than the alternatives.


My Lords, I wonder if the Minister is able to say whether anyone in France talks about "French Standard Time"? Do the Portuguese talk about "Portuguese Standard Time"? Do any of the countries of Western Europe use the name of their country in the official description of the time that they use? If none of them do, why is Britain being invited to be so quaintly nationalistic in this particular context?


In regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has just said, may I say that usually people will call things by the name they prefer, whatever an Act of Parliament says. Therefore while I am somewhat comforted by Lord Stonham's reply and what he said about my own personal view, I object to the loss of the word "Greenwich". I support my noble friend Lord Conesford, because I like to use the words that people know, such as "Greenwich". We all know where it is and we are not just guided, as in "The Hunting of the Snark". In that regard I think the Bellman's remarks were good, when he said: What's the use of Mercators, North Poles or Equators, Tropic zones and Meridian lines?', So the Bellman would cry; and the crew would reply, 'They are merely conventional signs'. I am saying it from memory, and I hope I have got it right. At any rate, people will be guided by using the words, sometimes short and sometimes even obscene, but nevertheless the words of which they know the meaning.


I want to say a few words, but one thing I shall not say is that it is now 5.7 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. In point of fact we do not use the words "Greenwich Mean Time" or any other reference except when we change our watches. The ordinary person who travels changes his watch to Greenwich Time, and under this Bill he will change it to whatever name we give and then he will use the appropriate words. But on no other occasion, unless you are a navigator or an air pilot, do you use expressions like "Greenwich Mean Time". We must legislate for the greatest convenience of the greatest number of people. There will be Americans who will come to Europe and they will alter their watches to Central European Time, and they will keep their watches at that time unless they go to Russia. Likewise Russians and Asiatics coming from the East will change their watches to Central European Time, I suppose, when they cross the Iron Curtain, or wherever it may be. But surely for the convenience of those who are doing trade with us and who are the only people, other than the experts, who will use any description of the time, we should use what is most convenient for them and for us.

5.9 p.m.


There is a great deal to be said for convenience; there is very little indeed to be said for showing complete contempt for scientific opinion. The scientists who have stated their objections have not done so because they think scientists are going to be confused. They have pointed out the real dangers of confusion, and they have done so in arguments that I endeavoured to repeat. Of course the word that causes the trouble is the word "Standard", because it is already used, and used frequently, in connection with standard time zones, and to make people living in the standard time zone of Greenwich say "Standard Time" when they do not mean Greenwich Time is to breed confusion.

We were not told, in the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, what the Astronomer Royal thought about all this. I do not blame him for not telling us, though I think his omission was noticeable. My reason for putting down this Amendment is that I treat scientists and scientific opinion seriously. I think it would be a terrible insult to scientific and technological opinion if the Government settled the matter by a newspaper competition among laymen, and decided to consider the convenience of the large body of people who were consulted, but took no notice whatever of the considered opinion of the scientists. I do respect their opinion.

I believe that the name "Advanced Greenwich Time" will be free from confusion. It has many advantages and is much better than the name at present appearing in the Bill. The noble Lord read out a whole series of names that have been suggested, some of an idiocy that showed near-genius in the minds of those inventing them. But this suggestion of Advanced Greenwich Time is not ridiculous in any way, and I hope that the Committee will support it.


May I ask the noble Lord what do you do with the clocks when you go to Advanced Greenwich Time? Do you put them on or back?


I should have thought the experience of a lifetime would have told the noble and gallant Lord the answer to that. If you want to know the time—


Ask a policeman.


When you advance the time you put it on. I am using the expression in the Bill as drafted, "one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time". Is it now clear to the noble Lord?


You put the clock on an hour?




If you change the meeting of the House of Lords from three o'clock to two o'clock you advance the time of the meeting by an hour. That is the confusion.


I said at the outset of this debate that it should be simple. It evidently is not. I am not altogether surprised. I will be very brief. I have the impression that only the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, himself grasped the central point of my Amendment. Even the noble Lord has confused it and turned it upside down by complaining about it. This clause is a clause about what we are going to do

with our time. We are going to put the clocks on: we are going to put our clocks one hour forward. This is a statement of fact. This is what the Bill says. There is no necessity under this clause to say what name we are going to give to this time. The time, so far as we are concerned, is the time.


I must correct the noble Earl. The clause reads: The time for general purposes in the United Kingdom (to be known as British standard time) … and so on. He proposes to delete those words, and that is why I said he was not calling it anything.


Yes; I agree with that; it is not emphasised but thrown away in a bracket, as it were. I find it difficult to accept the noble Lord's contention that the clause without these words is not viable. It still remains a statement that we shall be using Mid-European Time. This is a perfectly good statement of truth. It is what we shall be using and the statement is quite truthful on the basis of fact.

I wish to exonerate myself entirely in the eyes of my noble friend Lord Conesford from any suggestion of disrespect to scientists. I do not think anybody has greater respect, or even greater respect for the Nautical Almanac, which even I have used, although I do not think I could now. This is a specialised field. I do not think that scientists enter into it very closely: they have their own language and departments. There is no reason why 50 million of us should be guided by something of convenience for scientists alone. The Bill says that we are going to have a particular time. This is a final statement. There is no confusion about it. We are going to change to Mid-European Time, and that is it.

5.18 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 96.

Airedale, L. Cork and Orrery, E. [Teller.] Henley, L.
Albemarle, E. Craigmyle, L. [Teller.] Iddesleigh, E.
Audley, Bs. Denham, L. Killearn, L.
Barrington, V. Faringdon, L. Monson, L.
Byers, L. Forbes, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Ogmore, L. Sempill, Ly. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Rea, L. Somers, L. Strathclyde, L.
Teynham, L.
Aberdare, L. Fortescue, E. Monsell, V.
Addison, V. Fraser of North Cape, L. Moyle, L.
Ampthill, L. Fulton, L. Newton, L.
Arwyn, L. Gage, V. Noel-Buxton, L.
Atholl, D. Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Pargiter, L.
Auckland, L. Garnsworthy, L. Phillips, Bs.
Beswick, L. Granville of Eye, L. Plummer, Bs.
Blyton, L. Greenway, L. Raglan, L.
Bourne, L. Grenfell, L. Rhodes, L.
Bowden, L. Gridley, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bowles, L. [Teller.] Grimston of Westbury, L. Rowallan, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hall, V. Royle, L.
Brockway, L. Henderson, L. Sainsbury, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Heycock, L. St. Davids, V.
Buckton, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Sandys, L.
Burden, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Segal, L.
Caccia, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. Shackleton, L.
Cawley, L. Hughes, L. Silkin, L.
Champion, L. Hurcomb, L. Sorensen, L. [Teller.]
Chorley, L. Ilford, L. Stonham, L.
Citrine, L. Kennet, L. Stow Hill, L.
Collison, L. Kinloss, Ly. Strabolgi, L.
Conesford, L. Kinnoull, E. Strange, L.
Dilhorne, V. Kirkwood, L. Strathcarron, L.
Douglas of Cleveland, L. Latham, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Effingham, E. Leatherland, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Lindgren, L. Swanborough, Bs.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Falkland, V. McLeavy, L. Tayside, L.
Ferrier, L. Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Fiske, L. Maelor, L. Williamson, L.
Fleck, L. Merthyr, L. Younger of Leckie, V.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.


We have already discussed my Amendment. I therefore do not wish to make another speech. I beg formally to move my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, leave out ("British Standard") and insert ("Advanced Greenwich").—(Lord Conesford.)

5.32 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49 Not-Contents, 61.

Ampthill, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Inglewood, L.
Auckland, L. Falkland, V. Killearn, L.
Audley, Bs. Falmouth, V. Maelor, L.
Balerno, L. Faringdon, L, Monsell, V.
Barrington, V. Ferrier, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Bourne, L. Forbes, L. Oakshott, L.
Bowden, L. Fortescue, E. Rowallan, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Gage, V. St. Just, L.
Buckton, L. Goschen, V. St. Oswald, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Grenfell, L. Salisbury, M.
Conesford, L. [Teller.] Gridley, L. Sandys, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Somers, L.
Craigmyle, L. Hall, V. Strange, L.
Daventry, V. Horsbrugh, Bs. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Denham, L. Iddesleigh, E. Strathcarron, L.
Dilhorne, V. Ilford, L, Stuart of Findhorn, V. [Teller.]
Swansea, L.
Addison, V. Greenway, L. Raglan, L.
Arwyn, L. Henderson, L. Rhodes, L.
Atholl, D. Heycock, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Beswick, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Royle, L.
Blyton, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Sainsbury, L.
Bowles, L. [Teller.] Hughes, L. St. Davids, V.
Brockway, L. Hurcomb, L. Shackleton, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Kirkwood, L. Shepherd, L.
Burden, L. Latham, L. Silkin, L.
Caccia, L. Leatherland, L. Sorensen, L. [Teller.]
Champion, L. Lindgren, L. Stonham, L.
Chorley, L. Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Stow Hill, L.
Citrine, L. McLeavy, L. Strabolgi, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Merrivale, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Fiske, L. Merthyr, L. Swanborough, Bs.
Fleck, L. Mitchison, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Fraser of North Cape, L. Moyle, L. Tayside, L.
Fulton, L. Pargiter, L. Teynham, L.
Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Phillips, Bs. Wells-Pestell, L.
Garnsworthy, L. Plummer, Bs. Williamson, L.
Younger of Leckie, V.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.38 p.m.

LORD FERRIER moved, in subsection (1), after "document" to insert "except any contract for the supply of electricity". The noble Lord said: This Amendment is perhaps on a different plane from the one we have just discussed. Nevertheless, it raises a matter of principle, there may even be in it a matter of law, and it certainly is of considerable importance to the public. As the Committee will be aware, I opposed the Bill on Second Reading, and I have had a substantial "fan mail" as a result. I can only say to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who said that one advantage of the Bill is that it will bring to an end the bi-annual crop of complaints, that I am afraid that they may not merely be bi-annual but, if this Bill becomes law, will last throughout the winter. However, your Lordships having given the Bill a Second Reading, it is our business to improve it wherever we can and to make it less unbearable to the public.

The object of my Amendment is, first, that if contracts for the supply of off-peak electrical power are affected by the Bill then such contracts will be excepted from the terms of the Bill. Secondly, I wish to draw attention to the fact that tens of thousands of contracts are going to be affected unilaterally, if indeed the Bill is intended to alter the terms of contracts already entered into by the public for the supply of off-peak electricity. I have my own paper here. It is not a contract but is a statement of terms, and it clearly says: The hours quoted above are Greenwich Mean Time", and so on.

In many cases it is fair to say that for these contracts to be frustrated or altered unilaterally may be markedly to the disadvantage of consumers. If I can help the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, I can accept straight away—I think we can all accept—that this extra hour is an important matter in the overall load pattern of the supply boards. Here we are chiefly concerned with thermal storage type apparatus, and even in regard to domestic heating I am prepared to say that the Bill will have little effect on the convenience of thermal storage type domestic space heating in the southern part of the country. But it is more than possible that this will be a very important alteration in the colder North.

Again in order to help the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, we must accept that in terms of the new time the hours of supply in the evening will be an hour earlier as the hours of supply in the morning will also be an hour earlier. But apart from domestic space heating, what about horticulture, farming, industry, office accommodation, retailers and the like, many of whom use off-peak power and thermal storage apparatus, sometimes of a very complex and expensive nature, for their space heating? I should like to know how such consumers are going to be treated, if they are indeed affected by this Bill. I think it is as well to remember that off-peak tariffs have risen sharply since the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I were instrumental in getting thermal storage equipment made available for domestic use. My tariff has increased by 50 per cent. in five years.

The questions that I have in my mind are these. How are off-peak contracts going to be affected by the Bill? In other words, will the passage of this enactment then and there alter electricity contracts unilaterally? Have consumer councils been consulted and, if not, will they be? If the hours of supply are unilaterally so altered, will rates be reduced to compensate for adjustments which may be necessary to equipment, or indeed for the frustration of the contract? In view of the widely varying conditions of daylight and cold in the winter in the different parts of the country, will different Boards offer different off-peak tariffs to their consumers?

That is all I have to say at this stage. I should be very grateful if the Minister could answer these points before I decide whether or not to press my Amendment. I can say now that in view of the lateness of the hour I have no intention of pressing the Amendment, but if the noble Lord's answers do not quite clear up my worries I contemplate putting something down at a later stage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 9, after ("document") insert ("except any contract for the supply of electricity").—(Lord Ferrier.)

5.44 p.m.


The noble Lord's interest in and knowledge of this matter are well known, and I am not surprised that he has received a substantial fan-mail. But I am bound to say, and I hope I can prove it to him, that I think he is expressing concern over a matter about which there is no real need for concern. First of all, I am obliged to deal with the Amendment as an Amendment and to point out certain defects, so that even if I do not satisfy him on the question of principle I can at least show that the Amendment itself would not be such as your Lordships could be expected to support.

The noble Lord has made it quite clear in his speech that his object is to prevent Electricity Boards from revising the terms of their off-peak electricity tariffs, and any special agreements with consumers, to reflect the change to British Standard Time. The actual effect of the noble Lord's Amendment is uncertain, because nothing is applied in place of British Standard Time. In his speech the noble Lord assumed that if British Standard Time were not there, or if electricity agreements were excepted from the purposes of the Bill, then Greenwich Mean Time would take its place. But the Amendment does not achieve that. If the noble Lord looks at the Bill and at one of the repeals he will see that the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880 is to be repealed in toto. Therefore, once this Bill becomes an Act the statutory recognition of Greenwich Mean Time will be confined to the matters dealt with in subsection (2) of Clause 2, relating to scientific matters. So much for the technical aspect of the Amendment.

With respect, I do not think that the Amendment, even if it were viable, would in any event achieve any sensible object, because it says merely that where a contract for the supply of electricity refers to a specific point of time the rule in the Act that this should mean British Standard Time is not to apply—that is, not to apply to electricity contracts. It thus leaves completely obscure what system of time is to apply. The Amendment would make sense only if one knew in what connection a point of time was going to be mentioned in a contract, and there is nothing in the Amendment to show that. The contract might say that electricity should cost less between certain hours, or that heat should be stored between certain hours, or even that meters should be read between certain hours. But it is useless to make a general provision of this kind without suggesting how it would apply.

As I understand the principle of the noble Lord's objective, which I think is misconceived, it is apparently that electricity storage heaters should continue to store heat up to the same time in the morning relative to sunrise as they do in winter now, though up to one hour later by the clock under British Standard Time; that is, up to 8 or 8.30 a.m. instead of 7 or 7.30 a.m., or in the South of Scotland up to 9 or 9.30 a.m., instead of 8 or 8.30 a.m. But the heaters give off the greatest amount of heat at the time when storage ceases, and thereafter continue to lose heat gradually throughout the day. So for warmth of rising on dark winter mornings it is, if anything, preferable that storage should cease at 7 or 7.30 a.m., or 8 or 8.30 a.m. in the South of Scotland, rather than one hour later. The gain would come from the stored heat lasting longer into the day, when under British Standard Time it would, if anything, be less needed. But the whole justification for the special tariff for these heaters is that they use electricity outside the peak periods, as the noble Lord and I have made clear on previous occasions, and the additional hour of storage in the morning which is contemplated by the Amendment would begin to overlap the morning peak, and probably would not be justified on economic grounds.

There are other quite strong objections to operating with electricity contracts in the way the noble Lord proposes. I think that these are the crux of the objection, and the reason why the Amendment is not necessary, because the precise terms of tariffs and contracts are essentially commercial matters for the Electricity Boards and their customers, the consumers, which they should settle in the light of their circumstances. It is not a suitable matter for legislation. There is nothing to prevent the tariff for the special rate being varied similarly if this is necessary. There is plenty of warning. It is a matter for the suppliers and the customers to settle between themselves. They must agree, in individual contracts, when things in question are to happen, and then frame their agreements accordingly. The Amendment is wrong, since it operates only on a provision which applies in the absence of a contrary intention, so that its effect could be immediately circumvented, if it were accepted, because a contract for the supply of electricity can be varied from one quarter to another, from quarter to quarter. In any case, the existing contracts, when extending into the period of Summer Time, refer to British Summer Time, and will therefore become inaccurate unless they are amended to accord with the Bill.

In one sentence, the argument is this. There is in my view nothing for the noble Lord to fear. There cannot be any question of unilateral alteration of contracts. It must be by agreement between the Boards and their customers, and unquestionably the Boards and the customers, working together, will be able to decide when are the best times, talking about time on the watch as it will then be, to have the heat stored.


I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me on one further point. As I understand the situation, the Electricity Boards have their hands to some extent tied as to the periods when they can provide off-peak tariffs, because they have peaks which depend upon two things: one, the time when people get up and cook and go to bed, and the other the time at which it gets dark and it gets light. They can supply cheap electricity at the non-peak period in between, and to this, of course, they are tied. I know that they do their best to be fair to the customer and to give a good bargain, but that is the basic situation in the electricity industry.

The customer may have installed equipment for a specific purpose, and in the past he has done so upon the basis that it was going to get dark and light at a given time, which has always been, since memory ran (except, perhaps, during the war), the time when it did get dark and get light. I do not know that it is a matter only of those with thermal storage in their houses. I wonder about horticulturists. They may have lights which go on in the middle of the night to make the flowers grow more quickly; and it may be that farmers have equipment which turns on the light in the middle of the night to make the chickens think that it is another day. For all I know, they may have equipment—and quite expensive equipment—which has been installed upon the basis that cheap electricity will be available between certain times which are related to the time it gets dark and the time it gets light. That relationship is now going to be changed, and for all I know it might make a difference to the process which is being carried out by that horticulturist or by that farmer. Has the noble Lord made any inquiries on this point to find out whether there are people whose actual processes will be upset by this, and whose equipment has been installed upon the basis which has hitherto prevailed and which will be made invalid by this Bill? If he has not, it might be worth while finding out about this, because if it is true that there are such cases then I can foresee hardship resulting.


I am most grateful to the noble Viscount. Does the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, wish to add anything before I reply to the noble Viscount?


I was going to say something because I owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Viscount who has just sat down for saying so clearly what I have had in mind. Perhaps it would help the noble Lord if I built up on what the noble Viscount has said in replying to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. First of all, as to the point of time, the point of time is mentioned in the contract. Here it is—A, B, C and D tariffs; 7 o'clock to 7 o'clock, 12.30 to 3.30 or whatever it is. There are the points of time, and there is the clause saying, "Greenwich Mean Time". So, if I have done nothing else, I have succeeded in drawing attention to this very tricky matter which the noble Viscount has developed. It means that apparatus which has been installed will not work in the same way as it did when Greenwich Mean Time, which is the basis of the contract, was directly related to hours of sunrise and sunset.

In regard to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, I might say that my fan-mail concerned general objection to the Bill as a whole. I think that very few people, including a large number of your Lordships, could "tumble", from my Amendment, to what I was getting at. We shall hear much more about it now, I think, than we have done hitherto, because I entirely agree with the noble Viscount that this is a very tricky matter. The point of time is mentioned in the contracts, and processes will be upset. I can assure the noble Lord that they will be upset, because, after all, it means that the off-peak heat will go off one hour more before dawn, which, as I pointed out on Second Reading, is, in Inverness at the end of December, at 9.57 a.m.

There is one point that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned in regard to the times of sunset. It is most interesting to study the times of sunset in the North, because if you look at the time of sunset in December you find that, as between December 1 and December 31, there is a difference of two minutes, whereas in the case of sunrise there is a difference of 27 minutes. That is why, in all that I said on Second Reading and say now, I refer to sunrise as the most important matter in regard to off-peak tariffs.

I said in my speech that I appreciated the noble Lord's point that if these electricity supply contracts are to remain at Greenwich Mean Time then the load will impinge upon the overall load curve of the Board; and I am very glad that the noble Lord mentioned customers. This was a word which the noble Viscount also used; and it is in terms of the customer's position that I speak as emphatically as I can. I feel that we are too used to accepting that these Boards of the nationalised industries, after consulting their consultative committees (which are, I regret to say, pretty ineffective sometimes), can dictate to consumers what they are to have. That is why I moved this Amendment, and that is why I made my speech. I believe that if the apparatus which they have installed is going to be interfered with, in terms of its effectiveness, by this Bill, then there must be a revision of the tariffs, of the hours and of the terms under which such consumers have hitherto been supplied.

5.58 p.m.


I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has just said, and that is the crux of the matter. But perhaps I may now deal with the points put by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—and I join with his noble friend in thanking him for putting them so lucidly. The noble Viscount asked me whether we had made any inquiries and whether I had encountered any difficulties of the kind which he instanced; for example, of the poultry keeper wanting to have the lights on at night to encourage his hens, or of the horticulturist also wanting lights on at night. The answer is that I have not had any such difficulties brought to my notice. I am not aware of any of those points having been raised by the organisations representing horticulturists or farmers.

I would point out, however, that we are at present dealing with a Bill which will come into operation on October 27 next year. Meanwhile, for the first time, under the Summer Time Order which your Lordships agreed a few months back, we shall have Summer Time starting early in February next year and going on until October 27, the day on which this Bill will come into operation. In other words, we have put forward a measure before Parliament which would have, as it were, the effect of this Bill on time for the whole period of next year except for about six weeks at the beginning of the year and about nine weeks at the end of it. The February period, at least, will be likely to be a period of acute cold in many parts of the country, and certainly in many parts of the country the darkness in the morning will be that much later; but, even so, we have not had a single objection. There were no objections of this kind made when we considered that Order, although we had quite a debate on it.

As the noble Viscount will remember, his noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford put forward points on behalf of agriculture and asked me for an assurance (which I was able to give him) that in spite of the later hours of darkness in the morning in the winter, it was thought nevertheless that we had enough provision of electricity to carry out the additional load at that peak hour. We have not had these difficulties put to us; and I should have thought that had there been a difficulty of that kind it would have shown itself by now. I cannot answer for individual time clocks. There are many mechanisms which operate by electric time clocks. One advantage of permanent Summer Time, or British Standard Time, will be that there will not be the need as there is at present during the course of the year to alter those clocks.

That difficulty apart, I want to come to the general point of off-peak periods. The only difference which this Bill can make to off-peak periods is that the off-peak time could be, other things being equal, one hour later in the morning and one hour later in the evening. If, for example, the peak load at the moment is 8 a.m. by current time, then under the Bill it would become 9 a.m. by current time and therefore the off-peak period must be advanced one hour because it is in the morning that it is darker later. The noble Viscount does not seem to be following me.


I am not sure whether this is altogether true. It seems to me that there may be a different sort of peak, because people will have to get up at a time which, in relation to the period of darkness which is continuing in front of them, will affect their habits. In the winter different lights will be put on by different people doing different things with electricity from what they do now. I doubt whether there will be a complete shift in the peak, as the noble Lord indicated.


My assumption is that the things people are doing at 8 o'clock by current time now they will be doing at 9 o'clock in the future.



The off-peak period will go forward; they will be getting up at 9 o'clock by the sun. I am not making an issue of this; I am trying to say that, broadly speaking and unless people change their habits, in the spectrum of the 24 hours starting from the morning it is likely that the peaks, both of the morning and of the evening, will shift forward one hour in relation to the sun. It seems likely that the off-peaks will move in relation to the sun in the same way, and that, therefore, is the only change with which we are concerned.

The fear of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, is that unless we exclude electricity contracts from this Bill either people will lose some of their cheap off-peak electricity or they will be having it at times which, in part at least, are not consistent with their needs. My answer to that is, as I made clear in the answer to the last question that he put to me, that if this should arise then the Electricity Boards on their behalf and the customers on their behalf must make different contracts as to time.


Or as to rates.


And they can do that every three months. The contracts can be changed every three months. Therefore, not only is there no need to exclude electricity contracts from this Bill, but there is every need to include them in order that consumers can have the off-peak heat when they want it and in order that the supplier can supply the off-peak heat at the proper times and when it is properly off-peak. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.


I thought the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had got it wrong when he said that what people will be doing in the morning at 8 o'clock by the sun they will be doing at 9 o'clock by the sun this time next year. I should have thought that they would tend to be doing it at 7 o'clock by the sun. They will have got up an hour earlier by the sun if they are to be at work at the same time under this new régime. But there are certain people such as foresters and agricultural workers, whose time of starting work depends not on the clock but more on the state of daylight or the lack of it.

Therefore, the pattern of demand for electricity probably will alter. I think that only in the light of experience will the Electricity Boards be able to decide on the hours at which they can offer off-peak rates. It is going to be extremely difficult for them to decide in advance; for I am sure that the load factor will vary enormously from area to area. Therefore I think it should be written somewhere in the Bill that all present contracts will be cancelled and that new contracts will have to be drawn up within, say, three months of the coming into operation of the Bill. This would seem to me to get over everyone's difficulties and to be a fairly common-sense solution.


We do not need to do this by means of anything in the Bill. The arrangements between the electricity supplier and consumer are a matter for the two parties concerned. It seems to me to be quite clear that the off-peak periods will change and, therefore, it will be in the interests of the electricity supplier to "change the clock" to some extent. In this, of course, the electricity consumer will be glad to participate, because the fact that he is getting off-peak electricity means he is getting it cheaper. I must admit that this seems to me to be rather much ado about very little. I cannot imagine that this problem can be solved by an Act of Parliament.

But I am absolutely sure that both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, are right in calling attention to this, and that the electricity supply industry ought at this time to be setting about the task of ensuring that, when the change takes place, the contracts have been altered in a way which will provide the mutual satisfaction that is normally experienced by the people who are the consumers. I also agree with the point about horticulture and, indeed, the question of battery hens and hens that are fed indoors, and so on. This is a problem which has to be solved between the parties concerned, and it would be nonsense for us to include a sentence in an Act of Parliament Which attempted to solve it.

6.10 p.m.


I am sure that your Lordships do not want to go on worrying about hours and times. I would only say that I have been intimate with the electricity industry for many years and I would never dare to talk about it without having a graph in my hand to work out whether it is an hour on or an hour off. I will withdraw the Amendment, but before doing so I would, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, differ from something he said. What is to happen on February 18 is quite different from what is going to happen when this Bill comes into force. On February 18 Summer Time is going to begin, and under the contracts between electricity supply companies and off-peak consumers the consumer can elect to have his clock altered by the supplier on payment of a fee of 7s. 6d.; and I think it fair to say that very few consumers bother about that.

That brings me to the iniquity of this Bill because it is not Standard Time throughout the year; it is Summer Time in winter. On February 18 the clocks will go forward, but the electricity clocks controlling off-peak supply will remain the same as they certainly do in Scotland throughout the summer, where the long days do not require the clocks to be put forward. If I can help the noble Lord with some of my graphs, and things like that, I will gladly do so. I am sure that your Lordships do not want to hear any more about it at this juncture, and so I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

6.12 p.m.


I should like to put one point to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. He may not be able to answer forthwith, but I should like him to consider it before the next stage of the Bill. He may be aware that the B.B.C., in all its foreign services, begins with this type of formula: "This is the World Service of the B.B.C., 18 hours Greenwich Mean Time". I think that on the true construction of Clause 1 there is nothing to prevent the B.B.C. in its broadcasts from this country continuing that desirable practice, but I should be grateful if the noble Lord would look into it and make certain that his legal advisers take the same view.


I will certainly look into it. I should not like to give an answer off the cuff now. I should have thought that the interpretation of Clause 1(2) would not interfere with the continuance of that practice, but I should like to go into it and possibly on Third Reading I shall be able to inform the House on that point.


I asked the Minister whether he knew if any other countries in Western Europe use the name of their country in the official description of the time they use. I do not know whether the Minister has the answer to that now. If they do not it is rather curious that this country should be invited to be so quaintly nationalistic in this particular way. Perhaps at some stage the Minister could let the House have the answer to that question.


Yes, most certainly. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for not replying to his question. In fact, I made two speeches on that previous Amendment and I thought I should not make a third. I can say now that I am not aware that any European country uses French time, or Yugoslav time or West German or Polish time. I know that in America you have Eastern time, Pacific time and several varieties of that kind. I will give the noble Lord a firm answer to this question when we come to the Third Reading. On the other hand, I do not regard it as being nationalistic to have decided that we should call it "British Standard Time". There was certainly a very strong feeling throughout the country that the Title should be "British", and without being in any way jingoistic I am bound to say that I strongly agree with that.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to. Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment. Report received.