By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday, a Private Member's Bill by Rebecca Harris, the Member for Castle Point, which sought to move British clocks forward by an hour all year round, was brought before the House.
The Government was supportive of the Bill, and there was a strong turnout with wide cross-party support for the proposal. However, a small group of Members, mostly Conservative, managed to talk the Bill out of Parliament. As a result of the Bill not being passed yesterday, the Government has decided not to allow further Parliamentary time for its consideration, and the Bill is now dead.
The main objection to passing the bIll is summarised by Christopher Chope (Christchurch)'s contribution to the debate. He argued:
"[T]he Bill’s Achilles heel is that it has been redrafted in such a way that it would enable the United Kingdom Government to change the time zone in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. We know that the Scottish Parliament, and MPs representing Scottish constituencies, do not support a change that would make winter mornings in Scotland even colder and darker than they are already. … my concern is that if this Parliament changes the time zone for the United Kingdom against the wishes of the people of Scotland, it will give extra ammunition to those people in Scotland who are campaigning for independence. We would be playing into their hands if we forced the Bill through."
Over the last few days, North East Somerset MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has called for Somerset to have its own timezone. This was part of the run-up to yesterday's debate. Mr Rees-Mogg attempted to amend the proposed Bill to make considerations for Somerset, in order to delay its passage. Although his amendment was not selected for consideration, Mr Rees-Mogg did play an active role in opposing the Bill. Mr Rees-Mogg's contributions were very varied and lengthy, but I have chosen a few of his more remarkable comments:
The debate drew strong reactions from frustrated Conservative Members at times, including:
"Angus MacNeil (SNP): We could reduce the inconvenience to 20%, and I am fairly confident that, once we introduce those three months, once we have the attendant misery and once we see what comes of that, lighter evenings will not be seen to have such great benefits after all. We will get the taste of the inconvenience without going through the utter misery of an entire winter period.
Bob Stewart: Why is the hon. Member for the islands of Scotland, where I, too, came from, once, confident that the month of November will give him the results that he expects? He does not know, and the best way of finding out is to have a flipping trial.
Mr MacNeil: Well, if the hon. Gentleman—
Jacob Rees-Mogg: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Will you rule on whether the word—if I may utter it myself—“flipping” is parliamentary?
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Do you know, I think that that word is on the cusp—a bit. It offended me, a little, but I must say that in the heat of the moment I have heard a lot worse in this place."
Sir Peter Bottomley decided to compare Mr Rees-Mogg – unfairly – with a previous effort to delay legislation:
"Jacob Rees-Mogg: There are 28 amendments in this group. If my hon. Friend were to devote just five minutes to discussing each one, it would take two hours and 20 minutes. Surely that is what we want—a proper discussion of all the issues, amendment by amendment.
Mr Chope: I shall come on to the other amendments seriatim, but I doubt whether I shall speak at such length as my hon. Friend suggests.
Sir Peter Bottomley: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), because the attitude of the latter was the kind of thing that helped to delay the abolition of slavery for generations and stopped Samuel Plimsoll from getting a white line painted on ships to make sure that they did not turn over because they were overladen. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is right; he should get on."
Other Members who successfully helped stop the Bill included:
The full debate can be read here.