Daylight Saving Bill Debate Talked Out Of Time In Commons By Handful Of MPs

Attempts To Change The UK's Timezone Debated In Commons

A debate on whether to look at changing the UK's daylight saving times has dominated backbench business on Friday, with many MPs remaining at Westminster to discuss the Bill. A small number of MPs appear to have torpedoed the Bill, however, and it looks unlikely to proceed any further due to a lack of parliamentary time.

Reports circulating yesterday that an alliance of Tory and SNP politicians (yes!) would conspire to filibuster the Bill by Rebecca Harris proved accurate. A series of amendments were tabled and discussed throughout the session, and delaying tactics - including a handful of MPs taking an unsually long time to walk through the division lobbies - prevented the Bill from making any further progress.

Although supporters of the Bill triggered a closure motion to the Bill half an hour before the Commons adjourned, repeated attempts by a small number of MPs meant the Bill ran out of time on Friday. 100 MPs are required to stop a bill being talked out of time by one or two disgruntled backbenchers.

The Bill would see a consultation on moving the UK timezone forward by one hour, leading to lighter evenings in the winter. The Bill received tacit support from the government, and was knocked into shape during its committee stage at the end of last year. But as the UK discovered the last time it trialled the change in the 1970s, it would mean the sun wouldn't rise in much of Scotland before 10 o'clock in the morning for the three darkest months of the year.

SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford said many constituents who'd lived through the previous trial had written to her saying they remembered how awful it was. "In my part of the world it's going to have more impact than in other parts of these islands," she told the Commons.

A key sticking point in the Bill was its failure to enshrine Scotland's ability to determine its own timezone. Under a quirk of devolution, the Northern Ireland Assembly has the powers to set the clocks, but the Scottish Parliament does not. This caused a small number of SNP and Scottish Labour politicians to raise repeated objections to the lack of safeguards in the Bill.

The business minister Ed Davey insisted the government would not proceed with any clocks change - even for a trial period - if there was opposition to it from any part of the UK. However he reiterated the government's position - clearly and repeatedly backed by David Cameron - that the UK should only have one time-zone.

When the MPs came to vote an amendment which would have enshrined formal consultation with the devolved institutions was rejected by 11 to 119. However in a further delaying tactic, the ten or eleven MPs determined to scupper the Bill took an unusually long time to walk through the division lobbies, causing Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to send the Serjeant-at-Arms to investigate whey they were taking so long.

After two votes, further delaying tactics by the Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, meant the house moved on to other business at 2:30pm.

Davies had questioned whether moving the UK forward one hour would mean the country was observing "Berlin time".


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