Summer Time

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st July 1967.

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Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East 12:00 am, 21st July 1967

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Summer Time Order, 1967, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 6th July. As the Order this year may be the last to be made under the Summer Time Act, 1947, it may be of interest to say a word about the background.

In general, the Summer Time Acts of 1922 and 1925 provide that summer time should run from the Sunday after the third Saturday in April until the Sunday after the first Saturday in October. In 1947, during a serious fuel crisis, an Act was passed which provided for summer time to be varied in any year by Order in Council. It is under the provisions of Sections 2 and 3 of that Act that the draft Order has been laid.

This power has been used to extend the period in the years 1948–1952 and again from 1961–1967, so that summer time ends this year on 29th October. Hon. Members will know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently announced the Government's intention of introducing legislation early next Session to apply the equivalent of summer time throughout the year. This morning our discussion is limited to this Order. But hon. Members will, of course, have ample opportunity to discuss the merits of the proposed permanent change when a Bill comes before the House next Session.

It would be idle, however, to pretend that the terms of the Order have not been influenced, at least to some extent, by the Government's decision on that larger matter and the result of the inquiries which preceded it. The intention is that the period laid down in the Order should cover the interval before the new legislation becomes operative and as my right hon. Friend told the House it is proposed that next year summer time should begin earlier than it has previously.

Over the last seven years summer time has begun towards the end of March—I stress "summer time" and not "summer"—and the present Order proposes an earlier start of four to five weeks, on 18th February. Hon. Members will want to know what the Government had in mind in choosing this date. We felt that this earlier start might help to accustom people to the projected change to permanent summer time.

But, this apart, our experience of the extension, during recent years, of the statutory period by a further three or four weeks, and its almost entirely favourable acceptance by the public, would have persuaded us that the time had come to make a further move in the direction which this Order takes.

The effect of the choice of 18th February, which I would stress is only four or five weeks earlier than has been customary, is broadly that on that day the time of sunrise by the clock will be almost exactly what it was on 21st December under Greenwich Mean Time —in London, this is just after eight o'clock. Hon. Members need not fear, therefore, that this will create any novel problems or difficulties.

On the other hand, the position is, of course, very much better at the end of the day than it is in mid-winter. Sunset is already some 90 minutes later and the extra hour added by summer time means that sunset by the clock in London will not be until 6.30 p.m.—about 21 hours later than on 21st December. Hon. Members will appreciate that this will allow most people to get home from work in the light and the more fortunate ones who get home around 5.30 p.m., will be able to take full advantage of the extra hour of daylight. In February, too, the days are drawing out rapidly both mornings and evenings so that any disadvantages of having a later sunrise by the clock will soon disappear.

I hope that for these reasons, and irrespective of their views on the introduction of permanent summer time, hon. Members will agree that the date for the present Order has been aptly selected. One other feature to which I should draw the attention of hon. Members is that special provision has been made for the Isle of Man. There summer time will not begin next year until 7th April.

This has been done at the request of the Isle of Man Government who, on this subject, would be competent to legislate for themselves, but which has been left, as a matter of convenience, to be covered by our legislation, with the power for special variation. The implication of this is that, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, the wish of the Isle of Man Government should be respected. This has been done by the variation in the Order.

It may appear at first sight a little unusual that, for seven weeks of next year, the Isle of Man will be working to a different time from both Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But it is for the Government and the people of the Isle of Man to judge what is in their own best interests. This is an almost entirely rural community, with limited commercial and industrial contacts. It has few dealings with the Continent of Europe, and its chief contacts with Great Britain are through the tourist trade, which does not properly start until Easter, which falls next year during the weekend 12th to 15th April. By then the time system in the island and the United Kingdom will again be harmonised.

There are no other features of the Order which call for hon. Members' special attention. It is, with the differences I have mentioned, the successor of many others which the House has approved in previous years, and, if the Government's intentions are fulfilled, it will be the last.