HL Deb 16 July 1980 vol 411 cc1860-70

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Summer Time Order 1980 be made in the form of the draft laid before the House on 9th July.

The effect of the order before your Lordships is that summer time in 1981 and 1982 will start one week later than would ordinarily be the case, if both your Lordships' House and another place approve of the order and present the necessary Humble Address to Her Majesty. The reason why this change is proposed is that it is intended to arrange for a common date for starting summer time throughout the European Community in the years 1981 and 1982. For their part, the other member states of the European Community intend to start summer time one week earlier in 1981 and 1982 and that will make it possible to have a common starting date of 29th March in 1981 and 28th March in 1982.

The Summer Time Act 1972 provides that summer time in the United Kingdom is the period beginning on the day after the third Saturday in March and ending on the day after the fourth Saturday in October. For the rare occasions when the day after the third Saturday in March is Easter Day the Act provides exceptionally that summer time is to begin on the day after the second Saturday, and then one has a very early summer time. Section 2 of the Act provides that in relation to any year Her Majesty may by Order in Council direct that the period of summer time shall be such period as may be specified in the order instead of the usual period. No such order may be made unless, after copies of the draft thereof have been laid before Parliament, each House presents an Address to Her Majesty praying that an order be made, and it is a draft order of that kind which I am submitting to your Lordships this evening.

Summer time arrangements have existed in this country since 1916, although there have been changes during that time in the period of summer time. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Boston, and I may both remember that many years ago, in our schooldays, there was double summer time, when it was extremely difficult to find any darkness by which to go to sleep until a very late hour at night. The Government believe that summer time is a popular institution in the country at large, and it is of interest that recent developments in other countries indicate that they too have come to appreciate the advantages of having a period of summer time when clocks are put forward one hour in order to have more daylight in the summer evenings.

This year summer time is being applied by all member states of the European Community and indeed by many other states throughout the Continent of Europe. There is, however, a difference in practice between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic on the one hand and the other member states of the European Community on the other. In saying that I am not talking about a difference in time between Central European Time and Greenwich Mean Time; I am talking about a difference in summer time between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic and the rest of Europe. The difference in practice to which I am referring is simply that while summer time in 1980 runs from 16th March to 26th October in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is running from the 6th April to 28th September in other EEC states. As your Lordships may imagine, these differences, which have occurred for a number of years, give rise to considerable complications for transport undertakings, and indeed for many people who have personal or commercial dealings with people in other European countries.

For these reasons the European Community has had under discussion for some time the possibility of adopting common starting and finishing dates for summer time. At the beginning of the period the difference between the United Kingdom and Ireland on the one hand and the other European Community countries on the other is only two weeks, whereas the difference at the end of the period amounts to four weeks. The Government believe at present that the public at large might not willingly accept any shortening of our summer time in October, and we have, therefore, not felt able to support proposals that summer time throughout the Community should end in mid-October. We have explained to our partners in the Community that we see considerable difficulty in achieving a common finishing date for summer time.

For the time being, therefore, the Community has concentrated in its discussions on a common starting date. The Transport Council of the Community agreed in principle in Brussels on 24th June to a draft directive which would require member states to adopt starting dates in 1981 and 1982 which will be one week later than the date which would ordinarily apply in the United Kingdom and one week earlier than usual on the mainland of Europe. The Government welcome this as a sensible compromise but have placed a reserve on the proposal until approval of both Houses has been obtained.

I should emphasise to your Lordships that the draft order before the House this evening provides for a change only in starting dates, and then only for the next two years. Any change that might be proposed for 1983 or later years would have to be the subject of a further draft order, or possibly amending legisla- tion if a longer-term change were in view. Further discussions are to be held in the Community both on the scope for permanent agreement on common starting dates and on the scope for agreement on common finishing dates. I give an assurance that in these discussions the Government will take full account of any views that may be expressed in your Lordships' House or by the public at large.

Those are the reasons for this draft order, but may I just refer to one matter which is in the order which I have not touched on in any way. Articles 2 and 3 each provide for the hour of changeover to be one o'clock Greenwich Mean Time. This means that clocks would go forward in March from 1 a.m. GMT to 2 a.m. summer time, and then in October back from 2 a.m. summer time to 1 a.m. GMT. I mention this only because the usual hour of changeover under the 1972 Act is 2 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. The hour of 1 a.m. is proposed for March in order to bring about the desired result that summer time should start at the same moment throughout the European Community. There is not, of course, the same necessity to observe the new hour of changeover in October, since common finishing dates, as I have been at pains to explain, have not been agreed. But we think it will be simpler to have the same hour for putting the clocks back as for putting them forward.

Finally, may I repeat, after this perhaps rather lengthy explanation, that the proposed changes are limited in scope. They are, first, that summer time in 1981 and 1982 should start seven days later than usual, and secondly, that the hour of changeover should be 1 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. The equivalent changes are to be made by the other member states of the European Community and the combined effect will be a common starting date throughout the Community in the years in question. In view of the present inconvenience caused by the different starting dates currently observed, the Government believe that the proposed changes will bring about a useful improvement, and I therefore commend the draft order to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Summer Time Order 1980 be made in the form of the draft laid defore the House on 9th July.․(Lord Belstead.)

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for explaining this proposed order to the House, and also for the assurances he has given about the views of Members of both Houses of Parliament. Although, on the face of it, the subject matter of this order looks innocuous enough, it is just the type of measure that is capable of arousing deep feelings and of sparking off fierce controversy. No doubt there will be those who will see this draft order as a further example, certainly so far as the starting dates are concerned, of the efforts of those in the European Economic Community who seek to regulate our lives in, as they would put it, an even more rigid and uniform way and who therefore will regard it as most unwelcome. But undoubtedly there will also be those who will claim that the provision is bound to be beneficial and will help tourists and travellers of all kinds and be helpful to industry, commerce and others. I do not find it easy to work up an immense amount of enthusiasm one way or the other, but I would not invite my noble friends to oppose this measure. I would certainly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has said about the popularity of the principle of summer time in this country.

There is just one query which I should like to raise with the noble Lord. I notice that the explanatory note to the order says that: This Order also applies to the Bailiwick of Guernsey but not to the Bailiwick of Jersey or the Isle of Man which have their own legislation on the subject". Also, this is a matter which is dealt with in the Summer Time Act 1972 at Section 5 which says: (1) Unless other provision is made by a law of the States of Jersey or of Guernsey or by an Act of Tynwald, as the case may be, this Act shall, subject to subsection (2) below, apply to the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man in like manner as it applies to Great Britain. (2) An Order in Council made under section 2 above may make different provision with respect to Great Britain and with respect to the Channel Islands the Isle of Man or any of them". I wonder what will be the position in Jersey and the Isle of Man and whether they will have the same summer time as we shall have during the two years that the noble Lord has mentioned.

As the periods of summer time are being specified, I hope very much that the Government will do everything in their power to ensure that those periods of summer time in 1981 and 1982 will contain some time at least which will be seasonably recognisable as summer time. Anything that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, can do in that direction I am sure will meet with universal acclaim not only here, but outside your Lordships' House as well.


My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will appreciate that I mean nothing personal when I say that I, for one, do not welcome the changes in our habitual practices in this country which this order proposes. We are told that shortening the period of summer time by one week is desirable on two grounds. The first is that it conforms with the desire of the EEC to harmonise matters of this sort generally throughout the Community. The second is that it makes life easier for airlines, shipping lines and so on.

As regards the first reason, is the noble Lord aware that, according to the latest public opinion polls, only 23 per cent. of the population of this country now support Britain's membership of the EEC? If people feel that the EEC bureaucrats are depriving them of an hour of daylight for one week prior to Easter, then that proportion is likely to fall even further.

As regards the second reason, I point out that postponing the introduction of summer time by one week may help airlines, shipping lines and so on, but is the noble Lord aware that in the United States there are no fewer than four time zones and seven time zones if we take Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico into account? The United States' economy is pretty successful despite that as I am sure that the noble Lord would agree. After the usual hard winter that we have in this country, which is more often than not followed by an almost equally hard early spring, most people look forward to the day in March when they can return home from work in the daylight. Your Lordships may ask, "Well, does one week matter one way or another?" I suggest that, in this particular instance, it does. I suggest that whatever the advantages to the airlines may be and whatever the advantages to the harmonising zealots of the EEC, the British people as a whole will not welcome this order or rather the changes which it proposes.

Can the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, give us an assurance that under no circumstances will the final day of summer time be brought forward from the fourth Saturday in October, subsequent to 1982, without the very fullest consultation with all representative bodies in this country?


My Lords, I am afraid that I rather find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, not in respect of our membership of the EEC, which I fully support, but because he has pointed out that it is much easier to adjust to different time zones than is often made out. I view this effort at harmonisation as an erosion of a benefit which we have gained and have had for many years. I do not know whether your Lordships know the history of how we came to have summer time. It was due to the efforts of a builder called Willett. In fact, he built a large part of the Cadogan Estate down Chelsea. He used to ride around in the early summer mornings and wish that other people were up at the same time as he was and seeing the beauty of the morning with him. He hit upon the idea of adjusting the clocks because it was easier to adjust the clocks than to adjust people's habits. He brought the matter to the attention of Members of Parliament. Long and complicated Committee proceedings were instituted in the other place, at which all sorts of noteworthy people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Astronomer Royal of the Cape of Good Hope and I do not know who else, gave evidence for days. That took place in about 1908. He had a Bill brought before Parliament every year until 1914 when he died, by which time I believe I am right in saying that the French Government had adopted the idea. But it was instituted in this country in 1916, when the noble Lord, Lord Samuel, was Home Secretary, as a measure to help save fuel, which is surely a topical matter.

So, by losing this one week we are losing not only a general benefit, but the practical side of the matter in that un- doubtedly summer time saved fuel in the First World War and that was why double summer time was instituted in the Second World War in the summer, and single summer time in the winter. So far as I know, there were never any complaints about double summer time. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has mentioned some complaints, but when he was a child he had to go to bed when it was light anyway and he must have become used to sleeping with the sun shining.

I for one very much regretted the passing of the British standard time which meant that we did not have to fiddle about with the clocks at all but that we had an extra hour of daylight in the winter evenings. So, I conclude by repeating that I am very sorry that we have lost this one week in spring. I am very glad indeed that the Government will not yield over our October date and I ask them to press our colleagues in the European Community to extend their period of summer time, if only for the very practical reason that it will contribute a great deal towards the saving of fuel.


My Lords, I regret to say that I did not come prepared for a debate of this nature, although as a Scotsman I kept an eye upon what was going on. It is interesting that the order refers to the Channel Islands. We must recall that there are islands in the North where the situation is entirely different. I recall that we had double standard time or what was called British standard time here in this House. I remember my old friend Lord Conesford moving an amendment to the Title of the Bill that it should be called the Central German Standard Time Bill.

It is wise to remember that the difficulties in Scotland over this are very great, and we can also rely upon the noble Lord the Minister and his advisers to keep in touch with the Scottish Office on this subject, because the degrees of latitude go down very remarkably as one gets up to Orkney and Shetland. If my noble friend Lord Cromartie were here, he would be on his feet at once even about what goes on in Cromartie. It is as well to remember that our problems in Scotland are quite different from those in Guernsey and Jersey, and although we welcome the idea of summer time, it must be judiciously introduced as regards Scotland. Indeed, in order to accord with Europe, I believe that it might be wise to accept the week's difference which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has recommended.


Before the noble Lord sits down, is he aware that many of us, of course, understand that the hours of daylight in Northern Scotland are shorter? ․but by adjusting the clock by one hour one way or the other it does not diminish the length of daylight which is available. It merely puts one hour at one end of the day or the other. Does the noble Lord really believe that it is a problem there, or was the protest against British Standard Time merely an assertion of Scottish nationalism?


My Lords, I live in the South of Scotland and, as I have said, if my noble friend Lord Cromartie were here, he would have been on his feet in a moment. It matters a great deal to the working people as regards the timing of buses, train services and the like. All I can say is that it is up to the Scotsmen in this House to appeal to the Government to keep an eye on this problem of the hours in Scotland.

7.22 p.m.


My Lords, I was sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, give expression to a view which I know he made it clear he does not hold particular strongly but which he realises others do hold, that this could be said to be a further attempt to regulate our lives. I think that the noble Lord and I would probably agree that when one comes to look at the actual terms of the articles of the order one finds that the United Kingdom is going in one direction in one week in order to meet our colleagues in the European Community, and that the other members of the European Community are coming one week in the other direction in order to meet us. Therefore, there is fairness as a basis for the introduction of this order.

If I may say so, there are also sensible reasons, on which I did not embark at any length, and I assure your Lordships that I shall not embark on them at any length now. Perhaps I may content myself with saying to the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Raglan, that I under- stand that the complications of the present difference in the introduction of summer time between the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the European Community mean that there can be, for example, four changes each year in the timing of transport services between the United Kingdom and France and, of course, significant additional costs arise in that sort of way for airline operators. I understand that the complexities of the timetables have led to confusion for some members of the travelling public at least.

Therefore, this is not just being done for the sake of harmonisation. It is being done for sensible, practical reasons. The noble Lord, Lord Boston, asked me what the situation will be for Jersey and the Isle of Man. Article 1(2) provides: … This order shall have effect in the United Kingdom and the Bailiwick of Guernsey". The changes proposed in the order are also proposed to be made in the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man, but those islands have their own legislation on the subject and are, therefore, not provided for in the draft order. That is the mechanics of the way in which it will happen if the legislatures of Jersey and the Isle of Man see fit to bring in the same provisions.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan gave the answer which I should give to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, about the hours of daylight. As I understood him, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that there would be people who would resent losing hours of daylight because of the change in the clocks. In all friendliness to the noble Lord, I would say that if he cares to get up just a little earlier, he will find that during the final week of March, before the clocks go forward there are exactly the same number of hours of daylight as there would be if the clocks had already been changed.


My Lords, if I may correct the noble Lord, I was referring to people coming home from work in the evening.


My Lords, precisely; but I am telling the noble Lord that if they care to get up earlier in the morning they will still find that there is just as much daylight to enjoy. When they come home in the evening, by the time one gets towards the end of March they will find that the onset of darkness at that time of year is not a problem. However, my noble friend Lord Ferrier quite rightly put his finger on the problem when he said that there can be troubles in Scotland as regards the bringing into effect of summer time and the ending of summer time if one made changes which were too drastic and which might be seen to fit the South of England but which might not fit the North of Scotland.

However, I take seriously the question which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, put to me for an assurance. I sought to explain in my opening speech that we are talking only about a starting date for summer time because we have squarely told our European partners that, as things stand at present, we are not prepared to support a move to end summer time much earlier, although of course talks are continuing. I repeat an assurance, which was implied in the words that I spoke that the Government will certainly take account of all that is said in your Lordships' House, in another place and by members of the general public in continuing their discussions within the European Community. In taking into account what is said, we shall, of course, take serious account of what is said in Scotland. With that assurance, I hope that now the comparatively modest scope of this order may be approved by your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn until eight o'clock.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.29 p.m. until 8.]