Orders of the Day — Summer Time

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1960.

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Photo of Mr Dennis Vosper Mr Dennis Vosper , Runcorn 12:00 am, 12th December 1960

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in pursuance of the provisions of Section 2 of the Summer Time Act, 1947, praying that the Summer Time Order, 1960, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 30th November. Perhaps it would be convenient to the House if I explained briefly the circumstances under which this Order comes to be laid. Summer Time is at present governed by the Summer Time Act, 1922, as amended by the Summer Time Act, 1925. Under that Act, Summer Time at present runs from the Sunday after the third Saturday in April until the Sunday after the first Saturday in October. An exception to that is when Easter falls on that Sunday in April, and on that occasion Summer Time starts a week earlier.

The House will recollect that during the last war Summer Time existed for the whole year and that there was, in fact, a period of double Summer Time. It will also recollect that in 1947 the House approved an Act which had the effect of providing for Summer Time from 16th March to 2nd November and also for a period of double Summer Time. That Act was introduced on account of the fuel crisis and it was used until the year 1952, when the use of the Act lapsed. However, the 1947 Act made provision, for the first time, for Summer Time to be changed by Order in Council. The Order before the House tonight is, in fact, laid under that Act.

In more recent years, public opinion has expressed itself in favour of an extension of Summer Time—in the Press, in the House during last Session, and in letters to the Home Office. I think that that expression of opinion has come partly from the tourist industry, to a great extent, I think, from those interested in recreation and sport, and to a more limited extent from those engaged in industry and commerce. On account of this expression of public opinion the Government sent a questionnaire in the autumn of 1959 to all the organisations thought to be interested in this question. In fact, 178 organisations were consulted, of which only 16 have failed to reply.

The replies were, as I once said in answer to a Question, much of a mixed bag, but, quite clearly, they indicated two particular preferences—first, that there should be Summer Time all the year round and, secondly, that there should be an extension of Summer Time in the spring and autumn. Numerically, there was a preference for the first choice, but, on analysis, it seemed that there were many advantages in extending Summer Time in the spring and autumn which would meet the wishes of those who wanted Summer Time all the year round without, at the same time, giving effect to the disadvantages which arise from having Summer Time all the year round.

The Government have, therefore, decided that for the year 1961 they would favour the second choice, namely, an extension in the spring and autumn of three weeks each, a total extension of six weeks' Summer Time. Therefore, under the Order Summer Time for 1961 will begin on 26th March and end on 29th October—that is to say, it will start three weeks' earlier than it would have done and will end three weeks' later. Since this announcement was made in answer to a Question in the House, there has been very little reaction in the House, in the Press or in letters. My right hon. Friend rather assumes that that is because this extension commends itself to the public. I hope that that will be the view of the House in endorsing this Order.

For the future, this Order applies only to the year 1961, and, therefore, a fresh Order will have to be laid for another year. What we have in mind is to ascertain even further the reaction to this experiment during 1961 and then either to relay the Order for 1962 or, as might be the case, to enact it in some more permanent form. It may well be that the public, having tasted this extension, may wish the further extension of Summer Time all the year round. That does not arise tonight. The Order is simply in respect of 1961 and it provides for a six weeks' extension in that year. I commend it to the House.