At its meeting on 31 October 2018, the European Scrutiny Committee considered draft EU legislation deposited in Parliament by the Government. In its subsequent Report, published on 2 November, the Committee recommended that the House of Commons debate and issue a Reasoned Opinion on a European Commission proposal to end seasonal time changes.
A Reasoned Opinion signifies that the House does not consider that a proposal for EU legislation complies with the principle of subsidiarity. This principle means that the EU should only act where there is clear added value and similar benefits cannot be achieved by Member States acting at a national, regional or local level.
Shifting to permanent summer or permanent winter time
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, declared in his recent State of the Union speech that "clock-changing must stop. Member States should themselves decide whether their citizens live in summer or winter time." The Commission has subsequently proposed a Directive to this end, requiring Member States to decide to shift either to permanent summer time all year round or to permanent winter time. This choice must be made in 2019.
The Reasoned Opinion is not concerned with the merits of seasonal time changes. It is about the justification for EU action which would not only end seasonal clock changes throughout the EU but prevent individual Member States from deciding, in the future, to reintroduce them. Given the possibility that the Directive may take effect during a post-exit transition period in which EU law would continue to apply to the UK, the Committee urged the House to make its voice heard while it still has the opportunity to do so.
The Reasoned Opinion:
- questions whether there is a sufficient evidence base to depart from the current arrangements in which seasonal clock changes are harmonised across the EU to avoid disruption to cross-border trade and communications;
- suggests that the public consultation carried out by the European Commission was not genuinely representative of opinion across all Member States and did not explore all possible options; and
- says there is no internal market justification for the EU to remove the possibility for Member States, now or in the future, to apply seasonal time changes.
The debate recommended by the European Scrutiny Committee was held on Monday 12 November in European Committee C. The House of Commons agreed on Tuesday 13 November to issue a Reasoned Opinion to the Presidents of the European Commission, Council, and Parliament. The European Scrutiny Committee will consider their responses, as well as the additional information requested from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, at a later date.