I know it was done in wartime. I used the word "limit" in the sense that there is nothing in this Subsection which prevents that happening in peacetime. We did it in wartime under Defence Regulations, but the same powers are inherent under this Subsection. I wanted to be sure that in passing this Subsection, among other things, we are making it possible for summer time to be introduced throughout the year, as it was during the war, by Order in Council. That seems to me to be a very great change in policy. Up till now, with the exception of during the war, the Act of years ago passed out of the consideration of this House. The hon. Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) wants to bring it back and have the issue raised again, according to his speech on the Second Reading, but in normal years we did not debate the question of summer time, and it automatically came along each year. I am surprised that any Government looks forward to this as being a question for annual debate, which seems to me to be what will happen in future. I should have thought they would be much happier to leave things as they were, taking special powers for the year 1947, which we have already granted, and leaving it at that. That is the object of these Amendments.
We have heard three Ministerial speeches today, and one of the oddest things which seems to emerge about this fuel crisis, or power crisis, as I see it described in some newspapers, is what an extremely small amount of coal has made all the difference. In the first place, it was the small amount of coal which made the difference between adequate stocks to carry us over the II or 12 days, and here the difference in saving of fuel is only about 150,000 tons. One hopes that all these factors will have been got right after 1947, and for that reason it makes it unnecessary for the Government to take these powers in perpetuity. If through some mischance we cannot build up the stocks, or provide the generating plant necessary during the next 12 months, then it would be much better for the Government to come down to the House again and say that they require another Act for another year before going back to normal, leaving the question of summer time on the Statute Book for good and all. I did not realise how pessimistic the Government were about our prospects. I hoped they would not find it necessary to bring about this considerable hardship to great sections of the community for any period longer than necessary. I think it would be neater and tidier that we should make this Bill the 1947 Summer Time Act, and leave it at that.
If, next year, it is necessary to have a different form of summer time from that which is on the Statute Book—and I am not persuaded that it will be necessary—then the best thing that the right hon. Gentleman can do, in the circumstances, is to ask the House for the powers he then requires, and to give us what he cannot give us now—a real balance sheet. One of my hon. Friends, who is very knowledgeable in these matters, estimates that the cost to the agricultural industry may be as much as £8 million, and that the extra labour may well run into 10, 12, or 15 hours a week per workman. These are very serious factors. If it is necessary for that sort of expenditure in time and labour to be continued after 1947, we say that the right thing for the Government to do is to come to the House, with all the formality and importance of a Bill which can be amended, as distinct from an Order in Council, which cannot be amended. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will, on mature reflection, be willing to accept this Amendment.