Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 27 November 1985



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Amess, Mr. David (Basildon)

Bermingham, Mr. Gerald (St. Helens, South)

Bidwell, Mr. Sydney (Ealing, Southhall)

Carttiss, Mr. Michael (Great Yarmouth)

Cohen, Mr. Harry (Leyton)

Corbett, Mr. Robin (Birmingham, Erdington)

Couchman, Mr. James (Gillingham)

Favell, Mr. Tony (Stockport)

Gardiner, Mr. George (Reigate)

Hampson, Dr. Keith (Leeds, North-West)

Jones, Mr. Gwilym (Cardiff, North)

Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine (Lancaster)

Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)

Meadowcroft, Mr Michael (Leeds, West)

Mellor, Mr. David (Party Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

Mikardo, Mr. Ian (Bow and Poplar)

Neubert, Mr. Michael (Romford)

Nicholls, Mr. Patrick (Teignbridge)

Wookey, Mr. C. M. H. (Committee Clerk)

3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 27 November 1985

[Mr. JOHN FORRESTER in the Chair]


10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Summer Time Order 1985. I welcome you, Mr. Forrester, to the Chair. I also welcome the opportunity to lock horns—or whatever metaphor may be appropriate—with the hon Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). He had two supporters in a Committee yesterday; now that his reputation has spread further among his colleagues he has only one—his hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), though is a distinguished and senior Member and makes up in quality for any lack of quantity. We can take the order briefly. On 29th November 1984 I moved a motion, which was approved by the House: "That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 8175/84, Proposal for a Third Council Directive on Summer Time Arrangements, and while recognising the reasons for the proposal, urges Her Majesty's Government to press for the retention of the existing arrangements." [Official Report, 29 November 1984; Vol. 68, c.1183.] All who spoke in the debate agreed that existing arrangements for the beginning and ending of British summer time should be retained. This order gives effect to the will of the House by stating that the present arrangements for British summer time will continue for a further three years. On that basis, I hope that the order will commend itself to the Committee.

10.31 am

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): I echo the Minister's welcome to you, Mr. Forrester. The Minister and I must stop meeting like this. The Opposition reluctantly see the sense of the order. On 11 October 1984 that august organ, The Times, said: "In a recent briefing to Conservative members of the European Parliament the Home Office supported an EEC proposal to synchronize the end of summer time because 'the United Kingdom wishes to play its full part in the development of the Community'." If our agreement to the order to end summer time a fortnight earlier is a mark of our willingness to become yet more communautaire, I can only say that that institution is in a parlous state. During the period in which the order is in force I hope that we can take another look at it. I do not want to prolong the sitting but we seem to have an 4 annual debate about the merits of summer time and arguments for double British summer time are put forward. Chambers' Encyclopaedia reminds us that "Summer time was originally a measure of war emergency, calculated to save light and fuel." If summer time was designed to save light and fuel for those dire purposes, that gives us cause to ponder. Summer time has energy implications; energy savings can be made from keeping summer time permanently in place. Furthermore, the construction industry is concerned about tampering with the clock, but as the Government have done so much to put so many construction workers on the dole, perhaps that does not pose such an immediate problem. I have spoken to a number of people whose jobs require them to start early in the morning, for example, postmen, milkmen and milkwomen. They loath the existing arrangements and claim that they seem to be asked to pay a price for the rest of us, although they do not benefit from the arrangement. There is, of course, sense in our conforming with the rest of the Common Market. It is interesting to note that in 1981 we agreed to start summer time on the same day as other members of the European Community and, to show our British eccentricity, it has taken us five years to agree to end it on the same day. I hope that we can investigate the matter during the next three years. I believe that a Minister at the Department of Transport is considering road safety aspects of the issue to see whether the figures show a sharp increase in the number of accidents, especially in the few days after the clocks are changed. With those few words, the Opposition will give the order a smooth passage.

10.36 am

Mr. Mellor: Let me respond briefly to the hon. Gentleman's comments. We try to work towards harmony in the Community, when that is a proper aim to achieve, and we have participated in all the discussions. However, I think that the story in The Times was inaccurate as it conveyed the impression that we were prepared to change our summer time arrangements because they did not fit in with the rest of Europe. The order enables the Republic of Ireland and ourselves to retain the arrangement whereby summer time ends at the end of October, whereas summer time ends earlier for the rest of Europe. There has been considerable debate over the years about whether we should have summer time at all or whether we should continue summer time throughout the year. Although I was not around at the time and I do not think that any other Committee Members were, I recall that between 1968 and 1971 there was a trial period when summer time ran for the whole year. I apologise to the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) as he was here at that time and may remember the trial. At the end of it, in a free vote, the House decided to return to the traditional arrangement by an overwhelming majority of over 5 360 to less than 100. That is why we have adhered religiously to the summer time arrangements. Obviously, people who have to get up early in the morning will take a different view from those, whom I suspect from the majority, who appreciate the extra hours of sunlight at the end of the summer days—assuming, of course, that we have a summer, which certainly was not the case this year. The Government believe that the proposed arrangements conform with most people's wishes and that few 6 People will fail to see the logic of our proposals. I therefore commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Summer Time Order 1985.

Committtee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven O'clock.


Forrester, Mr. John (Chairman)

Amess, Mr.

Carttiss, Mr.

Corbett, Mr.

Couchman, Mr.

Favell, Mr.

Gardiner, Mr. George

Jones, Mr. Gwilym

Mellor, Mr.

Mikardo, Mr.

Neubert, Mr.

Nicholls, Mr.