HL Deb 26 October 1987 vol 489 cc311-2

2.47 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, in view of the reminders given in this House that the review of British summer time would shortly take place as the issue is to be renegotiated with our EC partners, a circular seeking the views of interested parties was not issued until mid-August, with a six-week deadline for consultation and reply.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the current arrangements for summer time apply until the end of 1988. The consultations referred to will enable the Government to survey a wide spectrum of interests to detect any significant changes in attitude since the last inquiry in 1984. The consultations have been undertaken at an appropriately early stage and most of those consulted have replied. The Government continue to welcome representations on this subject from any quarter. No new proposals have as yet been received from the European Commission.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer, but it hardly answers the point concerning the timing of the questionnaire. Is my noble friend aware that the tourist boards and the Development Commission believe that thousands of jobs would be created and that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents consider that up to 700 deaths or serious accidents would be saved by having longer daylight hours'?

Does not my noble friend further agree that these matters could be considered at a better time other than the middle of the holiday period, giving only six weeks at that, when it is difficult to obtain an authoritative consultation from the questionnaire? Further, is my noble friend aware that on Friday last the majority of the people in this country went home from work in broad daylight whereas today they will be plunged into pitch darkness?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the flaw in my noble friend's argument on the six-week period for response is that the deadline was met by the majority of the respondents.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, is not the gist of this matter that one would expect mid-summer and midwinter to fall in the middle of the period of British summer time and Greenwich mean time respectively? However, they do not. The position has become lopsided and needs to be adjusted.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, if it needs to be adjusted that will be shown as a result of the consultations we are now undertaking.

Lord Morris

My Lords, is not my noble friend's haste reflected by the consultation period? Does not that indicate that Her Majesty's Government are in a hurry to reach a decision on this matter?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we have to come to a decision because summer time in Europe runs out at the end of next year. We await a directive from the Commission on this matter and I confirm that any order will have to be debated in this House.