This very brief measure, whose object is to bring the standard time observed in this country into line with that in Western Europe, is on the same lines as a Bill at present before the British Parliament. Our present standard time which is the same as that observed in Britain, is one hour behind that observed in Western Europe. The effect of bringing our standard time into line with that in Western Europe will give us what is referred to as "summer time all the year round".
An examination of our position in this respect was prompted by the proposed change in Britain and Northern Ireland and the views of interested organisations and individuals were sought. Formal advertisements inviting comment were inserted in the daily newspapers. The vast majority of the organisations that offered views, which included industrial and employers' organisations, chambers of commerce and semi-State bodies, considered that we should move into line with Britain and Western Europe. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions indicated that it would not object to the change. About 130 letters were received from individuals and a little more than half of these were in favour of the change now proposed in the Bill.
I am fully conscious that there are some disadvantages in advancing the clock throughout the Winter in that the normal working day will begin in darkness during some months of the year and this can give rise to inconvenience for some sections of the community. We are one of the three European countries that are wholly west of Greenwich and, because of this, our time by the sun is behind that of Europe as a whole. In this context I think I should mention that in the Dáil one Deputy feared that the extension of "summer time" throughout the Winter would be detrimental in the case of very young children, who would be going to school in darkness. I have had this point put to the Department of Education and I understand that if experience showed this to be a problem consideration would be given to making some change in school hours, though there might be difficulties.
In view, however, of the great and growing intercourse, commercial and otherwise, between this country and our close neighbours, in Europe, the advantages of having a common system of time are obvious. The Government, as I have said, have sought to elicit the views of the public on this question and are satisfied that the weight of opinion is in favour of the change now proposed. They are confident that the balance of advantage for this country lies in observing the same time system as Britain and Western Europe.
The new standard time, proposed in the Bill, will be one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time. The Bill also proposes the repeal of the existing legislation on this subject. The legislation to be repealed includes the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act, 1880 and the Time (Ireland) Act, 1916, which together make Greenwich mean time the standard time in this country. It is also proposed that the Summer Time Act, 1925, be repealed.
The Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962, provides that licensed premises may remain open until 11.30 p.m. on weekdays in the period of official summer time as compared with 11 p.m. during the rest of the year. Subsection (2) of section 1 of the Bill proposes to preserve this difference in the hours of opening. The period during which opening until 11.30 p.m. is to be permitted is roughly mid-April to early October. The period of summer time has been somewhat longer than that in recent years but that was simply because the British were experimenting with the period of summer time and we made special orders to keep our period in line with theirs—the effect on the Licensing Acts was purely fortuitous. The period provided in the Bill is the normal period of summer time as it has been since 1926.
I trust the Seanad will accept this Bill as a progressive and non-controversial measure, and I ask the Seanad to give favourable consideration to it.