HL Deb 19 January 1994 vol 551 cc689-712

8.36 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the fact that the European Community will delay the termination of Summer Time until 20th October, they will now take action in accordance with the Summer Time Consultation Paper (Cm. 722), the result of which demonstrated a majority in favour of this country adopting the same time as the rest of the European Community.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should perhaps explain at the outset that I may have the phraseology of the Question somewhat wrong in that I have referred to the date upon which the Community proposes to end its Summer Time as being definitively 20th October. I obtained that piece of information from a respectable newspaper; namely, the Daily Telegraph. It was only when I happened to look at the day upon which that date fell—a Thursday—that I realised that there might be some mistake. The seventh directive from the European Community refers to the fourth Sunday in October. The difference is only marginal and does not alter the subject matter of the Question.

Let us be clear about the Question that I am asking. It is, definitively, whether Her Majesty's Government: will now take action in accordance with the Summer Time Consultation Paper of 1989. I do not advocate, one way or the other, whether it is right or wrong to make any change, and, if so, what, or whether we should keep the status quo. It is a far-ranging question. I suggest respectfully to noble Lords that if we went down that route we should be here for a long time. It is a matter for proper and serious debate.

I suppose that we have to hark back to the Summer Time Order debated in your Lordships' House on 14th July 1992 from which I should like to take one or two remarks made by my noble friend which appear in Hansard (cols. 198 to 202) of that date. We have been assured frequently—I repeat the word "assured"—that we should have an opportunity to consider this matter after the Community had come up with its own suggestions and requirements. For instance, during that debate my noble friend Lord Astor said: Strong views were expressed on both sides of the argument, and … we concluded that more time for reflection was required before bringing this matter to a decision".— [Official Report, 14/7/92; col. 198.] That was nearly two years ago. It is a long time to be considering a matter. My noble friend went on to say that the Government also would wish to take account of a review of the future of Summer Time within the Community. That review has been completed.

In that debate support came from the party opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, asked whether the Government also had in mind that at the appropriate time there would be a proper parliamentary opportunity for a debate. Therefore, it would seem that the party opposite would like the opportunity of considering the issue in further detail.

At the end of the debate my noble friend Lord Astor said: it would clearly be premature to ask Parliament to reach a decision before the Commission's approach is clear. We shall keep in close touch with developments and report back to your Lordships in due course".—[Official Report, 14/17/92; col. 202.] That simply has not happened.

In response to my letter of March 1993, my noble friend Lord Ferrers concluded his reply by stating: The short answer is that we shall want to wait until the European Commission has divested itself of its deliberations before we take any action ourselves". I do not wish to play upon words but that appears to be a reasonably definitive statement; that when the Commission has made a decision there shall be a review of the matter or action will be taken by Her Majesty's Government.

The seventh directive from the Commission was proposed in September 1993 and it laid out the proposals. In essence, it was proposed that the termination of European Summer Time should be deferred from, I believe, 1st September to the end of October. The Commission wanted to fall in line with Great Britain and Northern Ireland and put back the change of the clocks on the Continent until the fourth Sunday in October. It was proposed that that situation should continue until 1998, some four years hence. I understand that no less than 10 member states of the Commission agreed with that; they actually agreed to harmonise with Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is only half a loaf, but I suppose that half a loaf is better than no bread at all. It avoids the infuriating business of changing all clocks and timetables twice within four or five weeks. However, I do not believe that it goes far enough.

The fact that 10 member states agreed attempts to harmonise their time with this country indicates that it is appropriate that we should at least be seen to be addressing ourselves to the point and that we should reach a definitive decision on what we want to do. Apart from anything else, it is not good manners towards our colleagues in Europe to do otherwise. We know that they want to harmonise completely. I should not have tabled the Question if I were not slightly inclined to that opinion myself. What will happen if, in four years' time, the Commission finds that it does not like the change on the fourth Sunday in October and wishes to return to the status quo? Is it not therefore eminently desirable that we in this country should reach a decision on what we want to do?

The results of questions circulated in the 1989 Green Paper broke down as follows: in England, Wales and Northern Ireland 96 per cent. of those who answered the questions indicated a wish to adopt Central European Time. In Scotland—and we know that there is a problem in Scotland —only 13 per cent. went along with that idea. The overall position for the United Kingdom showed 81 per cent. in favour.

I wish to choose my words carefully because I do not want to be seen to be anti-Scottish. I respectfully point out that there were only 5,475 responses from people in Scotland whereas, somewhat naturally, with a larger population, the responses from people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland totalled 25,392. It is a point for consideration that perhaps the tail ought not to wag the dog too much. If a majority in the rest of the United Kingdom wished to see a change it would not be right for the smaller minority to carry so much sway.

Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention to a magnificent publication entitled Time for Change published by the Policy Studies Institute. It is a clear and concise report and makes interesting reading. With reference to the 1989 Green Paper, the report states: In the event no action was taken. Given the convincing case for change which the Green Paper had presented, the survival of the status quo was bewildering. What the Guardian called 'a classic case of the views of the vocal minority triumphing over those of the silent majority' I need not elaborate any further on that. I could not have raised it better myself.

Are not Her Majesty's Government logically obliged to bring forward the necessary primary legislation, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Astor, and which would be required to adopt Central European Time? Should they not have it fully debated and aired and, it is hoped, voted upon in order that the matter can be settled in one way or the other? At least we would know then where we were going. Have there been any Cabinet consultations on the subject? What was the cost of setting up the inquiry? I have been unable to discover that because the analysts do not appear to be able to tell me. The fact is that public money was spent on the inquiry and it is pointless to publish a Green Paper, to ask questions, to receive the answers and then to pigeonhole the matter. If the Government are not prepared to do anything about it, will the Minister tell the House whose decision it was to pigeonhole the Green Paper?

As your Lordships can imagine, I feel strongly about the matter. If, when my noble friend replies, he finds that he is unable to provide even a chink of light at the end of the tunnel to indicate that there may be a reasonable opportunity of a debate and a decision taken on this matter within the very near future, I feel that it is incumbent upon somebody—it may be myself—to set in motion the necessary machinery to implement primary legislation. The matter can then be put to a vote and we can see what everybody wants. I make no pre-judgments about that. I believe that we, and the country, are entitled, to know that the matter is being properly and widely considered.

8.50 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, it is customary on these occasions to congratulate the noble Viscount who has tabled the Question, and I gladly do so. However, I rather wish that he had not done so.

The Green Paper was published in June 1989, and apart from a slight flurry of excitement a few months later and another palpitation two or three months ago, it has lain fallow for most of that time.

I should like to see the Green Paper lie fallow for all eternity because I do not at all support the notion that we should take up what the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, called Central European Time. The Government prefer to call it single double summer time—SDST. By doing that, I do not believe that they mean to dissociate themselves in any way from Europe.

We must remember that we have twice been round this course. During the war when I was a student in Glasgow, I lived in Troon. At that time we had double summer time. We had that experiment during the war because it seemed appropriate then —and no doubt it was. We take certain actions which seem appropriate in war time which may not seem appropriate in peacetime. It had an up-side. At the height of summer, on the longest day, towards the end of June, one could play golf at midnight. Not many people want to do that but it is possible. There was a down-side; namely, in January, in order to reach my college in Glasgow, I would catch a train from Troon at two minutes past seven in a kind of stygian darkness which is difficult to imagine. I arrived in Glasgow at quarter past eight, made my way up to college and I was in good time to watch the sun rising at around ten o'clock. That is ridiculous. That is the actuality of what life is like not very far away.

The point is that when one looks at one's diary and sees the time zones, one thinks in terms of the sun behaving in a neat way so that the zones are along the lines of longitude, which of course they are. But that is an idealised and inaccurate representation of what actually happens. Sunrise and sunset do not occur in a neat east-west configuration which fits snugly along the lines of longitude. If the sun behaved in that way, it would be necessary merely to shift the clock an hour or so for every 15 degrees that one moved east or west. But, in fact, the world is tipped on its axis and instead of being a north and south line, the path of the sun is like a spiral around the globe. That is demonstrated by the fact that Cape Town, which is almost due south from London, is in a plus two hour time zone. Although it is on the meridian, near enough, the time there is not the same as it is in London.

The effect of that is exaggerated by the fact that the United Kingdom does not lie north and south. We think of it as lying north and south but it is tipped to the west. For example, Bristol is further east than Edinburgh. Therefore, the effect of the axis of the earth in relation to the sun is compounded by the fact that the country is tipped over towards the west. That means that the sunrise in Glasgow is something like 40 minutes later, and in Inverness it is rather more than an hour later, than it is in London. That is not a trivial matter. It is not a matter of the tail wagging the dog but rather of the dog taking a good look at what happens to the tail; and it should do that.

In effect it means that if the change were made and the Londoner were to arrive at his office at dawn, at round about 9 o'clock, his counterpart in Inverness would arrive an hour before dawn. That is no way to treat our fellow countrymen.

If that is uncomfortable for office workers, it is dangerous for construction workers. We must recall that the average hours of work in the construction industry are from about half past seven in the morning until about half past four in the afternoon. At half past seven in winter, the conditions are uncomfortable. They are obviously dark, although there is artificial light these days on building sites. It is cold, miserable and uncomfortable. Because it is cold, miserable and uncomfortable, it is also dangerous. People fall off scaffolding at half past seven in the morning. If the clocks are changed, we are not talking about half past seven in the morning but half past six in the morning when it is colder, darker, more miserable and more dangerous.

It may be said, "Oh well, the construction industry can change its hours and work later in the day". That is possible. However, the only effect of that would be to throw something like 1 million workers into the rush hour in the morning and in the evening. That would make the situation worse than it is at present.

There are technical difficulties. At this point, I should remind the House that I have been involved with the construction industry for many years. I may be said to be speaking on its behalf in a sense although it has not asked me to do so. One problem is that the wet trades—concreting, plastering, and so on—are affected considerably by temperature. Concreting cannot be carried out at a temperature below about three degrees centigrade. Generally speaking, that is reached at about half past nine in the morning. In SDST, that would be at about half past ten in the morning, and that would mean the effective loss of one hour's construction work. It is estimated that the cost of that would be about £400 million. I should add that that was the estimate when the Green Paper was published. No doubt there would be a higher estimate now. That would be a burden on society.

There is another group of people which we must remember; that is the postmen. In that regard I merely wish to draw the attention of the House to a debate in another place on 27th October 1993, a few months ago, when Mr. Nigel Waterson of Eastbourne proposed a Bill to amend Summer Time. He received a reply from my honourable friend Mr. Peter Hain, a man with whom I hardly ever agree. However, I agree with him on this occasion. He argued the case for postal workers and referred to the dire effects on them of the proposed change. I do not wish to do any more than draw attention to that passage in the Official Report of the other place at which noble Lords may feel inclined to take a look.

We had another such experience in the late 1960s when the country was eager—indeed, avid—to go into Europe. It was felt that taking up European time would be a great aid to business. Well, we have been in Europe for 20 years and I must say that I cannot imagine that any of our difficulties in our European experience have actually been due to the time differences among ourselves, France and Germany.

The idea of time zones over a community the size of Europe is not unusual. Let us think, for example, of the United States. Suppose one were to superimpose the United States on a map of Europe. New York would be round about Constantinople—or, perhaps we should say, Istanbul—and California off the coast of Africa with Arizona somewhere in the Sahara Deserts. But the general mass of the United States would be not unlike that of western Europe, although somewhat further to the south.

The United States manages with four time zones. It is quite capable of carrying on business despite that fact. Last August, I travelled from Chicago to Pittsburgh, which is a distance of about 400 miles. That is about the distance from here to Glasgow. I am not asking for a time zone between London and Glasgow, even though it may come to that in due course. However, it is a little shorter than the distance between London and Frankfurt.

In my experience, businessmen in Chicago seem to be able to carry on business with businessmen in. Pittsburgh, despite the fact that they have to cross a time zone. It does not cause them the slightest bother. For example, if they have to telephone a man in Pittsburgh at 9 a.m., they actually get out of bed and telephone him at 8 a.m. Chicago time. It is quite possible. Indeed, my own colleagues do so. In my magazine publishing activities, we have advertising agents in Holland, Italy and elsewhere in continental Europe. My colleagues—happily, not myself—are involved in the advertising business. They get out of bed in time to telephone their counterparts in continental Europe. So far as I know, they suffer no great harm as a result. Sometimes, I dare say, they call from their motor cars using their mobile phones. Therefore, businessmen can get around the problem.

I have noticed that the argument in the press has changed a little. Whereas on the first occasion we spoke about war time and the exigencies of war and in the 1960s we spoke of the need for businessmen to get into Europe, the concentration now is on road accidents and how the proposed change would lead to increased road safety. I dare say that that is probably right. However, I have just two points to make in that respect. First, the most exciting and dire road accidents that happen in our country happen in the morning. They happen on the motorways and in conditions of fog. Of course, we have motorway madness, and so on, compounding the situation; but those catastrophes would undoubtedly be made worse. There is no questioning that fact.

In conclusion, I should like to remind the House that the last experiment in the 1960s was brought to an end because a group of schoolchildren in the North of Scotland were mown down on their way to school in the darkness of the early morning. That had a salutary effect on the other place and the experiment was brought to a close with a vote, I think, of something like 360 or so against it and about 80 or so in favour. The other place expressed its views quite convincingly at the time. I have no reason to suppose that those views have changed. I sincerely hope that the Minister tells us at the end of the debate that he has had an interesting evening and that he proposes to put the Green Paper under his pillow and leave it there.

9.5 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, I must say, first, that I do not really think that two years is a very long time to be considering such a very basic matter. Secondly, I think—and I say so unashamedly —that I shall speak for Scotland and explain how the people there feel about the proposed change. When the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, speaks about the country, I rather think that he is not really speaking about Britain; he is speaking about England.

When I opened the consultation document I started at the back with the appendices. In the list of those organisations wishing to retain the status quo which appears in Appendix E, I noticed without surprise that exactly half the 128 names—that is, 69—were Scottish. Then I looked at Appendix D containing the list of those in favour of SDST (that is, GMT plus one in winter, and GMT plus two in summer): only 15 out of 188 organisations were Scottish.

Appendix C—those favouring harmonisation of Summer Time dates—had eight Scottish names to it, or just under a fifth of the total, the population of Scotland being about one-tenth of the total. There was no appendix giving a list of those opposed to harmonisation, I presume because no one was.

I then looked at Appendix B—the comparison between the sunrise and sunset times in London and Glasgow. I looked at it with disgust for Glasgow is well south of the middle of Scotland even if you take no account of Orkney and Shetland. When you get to the far north, the time difference is far greater. It seems to me that, so far as the Home Office is concerned, Scotland stops at a line drawn between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Perhaps they think that north of that lies nothing but uninhabited wilderness.

I then turned to the conclusions and to the arguments in favour of SDST in paragraph 97. I must say that I do not think much of them. I cannot see that there is any proof that the adoption of SDST would reduce the number of accidents. In fact I believe the reverse might be the case. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has just said on that matter. I should think that, if we adopted SDST, there would be more accidents in the morning and fewer in the evening. I do not think it would save much electricity, certainly not in the north. Consumption would merely increase in the mornings and decrease in the evenings.

As regards crime, surely the way to combat crime is to hang or punish adequately criminals and not to monkey about with the clocks. As the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, further stated, businessmen cope perfectly well with different east/west time zones and I cannot see that there is any problem in coping with north/south time zones. As the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has also said, the adoption of SDST would pose all sorts of problems for construction workers and also for farmers. Finally, why should the Scots be forced to accept something they do not want because the Scandinavians have it?

The most important argument of all is that the Scots, particularly those living in the north and those living in the country, do not want this provision. It is important to remember that we had a trial run in 1968 to 1971 for three horrible years. Therefore we know what the proposed measure is like and we hated it. Where I live, which is about on the same parallel as Inverness, it was dark until nearly 10 o'clock in the morning, and further north it was dark until far later.

If people in England want SDST, let them have it, but let us in Scotland retain the status quo. I believe that that is what most people want. I have to say that the Government are extremely unpopular in Scotland at the moment and forcing SDST on the Scots will merely make matters infinitely worse, and I think it would be a foolish thing to do. What I am arguing for is a form of subsidiarity. It should be possible to have the Border as a demarcation line, or alternatively the 55th or 56th parallel. Personally, however, I should favour the Border. I believe that that would be much simpler. On the other hand, having argued like a tiger cat against synchronisation of times, I would certainly support the suggestion that Summer Time dates should be harmonised. I note that no one seems to be quarrelling with that.

9.12 p.m.

Lord Vinson

My Lords, we are indeed indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, for raising this issue. The arguments for setting clocks forward by one hour throughout the year to coincide with continental time are well rehearsed. Indeed I believe that the social and economic advantages to the United Kingdom are so overwhelming that the tardiness of the Government in introducing this reform is near incomprehensible.

I hope noble Lords will not mind if I follow two speeches that have accentuated the negative by trying for a moment to accentuate the positive aspects that might come out of this move. Noble Lords will recall the end of the 1971 experiment. At that time the vast majority of local authorities and organisations that were consulted—it was a comprehensive consultation—voted in favour of the change but their MPs failed to echo that opinion in the House of Commons. The reason for that failure was the rather emotional stance that was adopted—it was adopted tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon—that children would be killed when going to school in the morning because it would be darker. First, I wish to remind your Lordships that children in Scotland already go to school in the dark and that sunrise in Inverness is already 40 minutes later than that in London.

There are advantages at the other end of the scale: children will come home in daylight, construction industry workers will be able to work longer in the afternoon in daylight, and the tourist industry will benefit enormously because there will be greater recreational time in the evening. All of that will greatly benefit the economy of Scotland. It seems to me that to take this decision on the entirely emotional basis that more children will be killed on their way to school is to miss the balancing statistic that very many fewer children will he killed in the afternoon on their way home from school. If we are to look at this matter objectively and not too emotionally we must try to weigh that in the balance.

The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, dismissed the fact that there would he many fewer accidents. This matter has been extremely well researched. There is no doubt that the figures put forward have great merit. We are not talking about the lives of one or two people being saved as a result of the change. We are talking about annual savings of 140 fatal injuries, 520 serious injuries and 1,300 minor accidents. Those are quite apart from 32,000 fewer cars being damaged, which is one of the projected benefits if this change is introduced into the United Kingdom. What is more, in Scotland alone 60 deaths and 270 major injuries on the road will be prevented, quite apart from the car accidents themselves.

These are very important figures to bear in mind. One thinks about how the Government reacted to the Hungerford massacre where a lunatic got hold of a gun and killed a few people. The House was subjected to days and nights of legislation designed to prevent people being killed in such a manner. One would have thought that in any balance of priorities the significance of the huge saving of life and injury from which this country could benefit as a result of the time change would be a primary consideration in our minds.

There is more to it than that. Lighter afternoons will bring about a huge social benefit, not just tourist and recreational benefits. The fact is that an increasingly elderly population of this country are curfewed in their homes by darkness. Another hour's light in the afternoon will give them more freedom and pleasure and broaden their lives significantly. That is why on those two counts alone, quite apart from the economic advantages, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and such well trusted organisations as Age Concern are very much in favour of this measure. Almost every major national body that one can think of is in favour of it. Therefore it is extraordinary that the Government resist it for what I believe are somewhat uninformed, emotional reasons put forward by those in Scotland. Those in the extreme north will no doubt be affected but no more than those in parts of Scandinavia who seem to be able to live perfectly satisfactorily with this situation.

At the end of the day, it is the job of the Government to lead and reach a balanced and statesmanlike decisionon on such serious matters. I have not stressed the economic advantages of co-ordinating time fully with Europe because they are self-evident. It is a paradox, to say the least, that in the year that we joined the EC (1971) the Prime Minister, Mr. Heath, took us out of the same time period.

I understand and accept the sensitivity that the Government have about Scottish opinion. No doubt if I lived in the north of Scotland I would also feel strongly about the matter. However, perhaps I may draw a parallel between this measure and the recent introduction of the measure to co-ordinate male and female retirement ages at 65. It appeared that the Government dodged and put off biting the bullet on that issue for about five years, but subtly during that period they let the arguments speak for themselves. Right is might. The expected vociferous feminist opposition to this very sensible co-ordination simply never happened. It did not happen because the facts spoke for themselves. The logic of the need for change was quietly put and the case was self-evident.

I believe that it is the job of the Government not to run away from the decision to effect this change, but to take the trouble to explain the facts, take Scotland by the hand, point out the economic and social advantages which would flow to Scotland—not just the disadvantages that have been accentuated tonight—and honestly to admit that, though there will be some inconvenience to a very small minority of people in the north, in a democracy the massive overall public gain that will flow elsewhere has to be regarded as paramount. Therefore I urge the Government not to continue to run away from the issue, but to face up to it and to make the change that will be socially and economically beneficial to the country.

9.20 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I normally agree wholeheartedly with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, says. However, on this occasion I have to part company with him. In introducing the Question, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, drew attention to an error in the wording to do with 20th October. I have to point out another error in the wording which refers to the possibility of this country, adopting the same time as the rest of the European Community". There is no way in which this country can have the same time as the rest of the European Community because there is no way in which the European Community can have the same time throughout. It is not the case that the United Kingdom is unique in the European Community in not adhering to central European time. As noble Lords would expect in a Community which spans 39 degrees of longitude from the Dingle Peninsula in the west to Kastellorizon, just east of Rhodes, in the east, the Community contains three different time zones, just as Australia does. Australia spreads across 40 degrees of longitude and in that respect is almost identical to the European Community.

The western time zone, GMT, contains the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Madeira and the Canaries. Until last year it also contained mainland Portugal. However, the Portuguese—I think mainly in an effort to attract well-to-do tourists from Spain where people are used to light evenings and eating late—changed to Spanish time in 1993. My Portuguese friends are still reserving judgment on the change.

In the centre zone one has most of western and central Europe and in the east one has Greece. I am sure that the proponents for moving to central European time would not suggest that the mere fact of EC membership obliges all member states everywhere to adhere to a common time. For example—it seems fanciful in the extreme at this moment but miracles happen—if Russia ever became democratic and prosperous enough to qualify for EC membership, presumably she would be admitted to the Community in due course. There is a seven-hour time difference between Moscow and Vladivostok—the same time difference that exists between London and Denver, Colorado, in one direction and London and Bangkok in the other. It would be amusing in the extreme if M. Jacques Delors or his successor were to decree that, nevertheless, all European Community countries should adopt a uniform time zone.

What is the EC doing issuing directives on this matter? What has happened to the principle of subsidiarity about which we have heard recently? In the United States, the land of the free, individual cities are free to decide their own starting and finishing times for the adoption of Summer Time. For hardheaded, economic reasons most of them decide to co-ordinate their starting and finishing times. Nevertheless, any city which wishes to break away from the crowd is free to do so. In the centralised dirigiste Colbertian entity in which we now find ourselves, such freedoms evidently will not be permitted.

A few days ago, a well known Cabinet Minister, Mr. Michael Portillo, attacked elites who, he claimed, were mocking and undermining long-admired British traditions and institutions. What could be more of a British institution in which to take pride and from which to draw inspiration than Greenwich, and everything that goes with it—its magnificent architecture, its observatory and, of course, the Greenwich Meridian?

If Britain—followed in due course, I dare say, by Ireland, north and south—decided to become part of the central European zone, then the only territories left to adhere to the once-famous GMT would be, roughly from north to south: the Faroes, Iceland, Madeira, the Canaries, Morocco—the only country of any size in population terms —Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, Liberia and half-a-dozen other very small West African countries, Ascension Island, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha. What a come-down!

Some may argue that these considerations of sentiment and tradition are all very well, but what about practical considerations? What about the poor businessman who has to get up at some ungodly hour to fly to Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf or Milan to arrive at a meeting in the office that day at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m.? As the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, reminded us, exactly the same problem is faced by our American counterparts when flying from Chicago to New York or from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona. Our Canadian counterparts face the same when flying from Vancouver to Calgary or from Toronto to Halifax. Indeed, they are rather better off than our Australian counterparts who have to fly from Perth to Adelaide because, as your Lordships know, there is a time difference of one-and-a-half hours between Perth and Adelaide.

One of the reasons that London is still about the world's most highly favoured financial centre is because, from the time point of view, it lies nicely between the financial centres of New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo, and so on. Some of those advantages, especially vis-a-vis the USA, would—"evaporate" is too strong a word—diminish if we switched to central European time.

That may be so, some would argue, but the switch would nevertheless massively reduce crime and road accidents. Under the present dispensation—in other words with ourselves sticking to the GMT time zone—sunset and sunrise in midwinter would occur at almost exactly the same time in Berlin as they do in London and almost exactly the same time in Copenhagen as they do in Glasgow, give or take five or six minutes. So if the hard-headed, practical, highly scientific Danes and Germans believed that there is anything in the argument that darker mornings and slightly lighter evenings would reduce crime and traffic accidents, they would surely have switched to eastern European time many years ago.

Do I think that any further change from the status quo is desirable? Yes, I do, as a matter of fact. I urge Her Majesty's Government to do their best to persuade our continental partners of the merits of switching the starting date of Summer Time from the end of March to mid-March, as used to happen in this country until quite recently. Such a change would not be at the expense of the Scots, the Northern Irish, the farmers or the construction industry. It is a modest example of harmonisation which would bring disadvantages to practically no one and would find favour with and benefit practically everyone in whatever country they happen to live.

9.28 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I too welcome the opportunity given by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret to debate the issue tonight, not least because I found myself largely in sympathy with many of his arguments. I have to say at the outset that I was not desperately sympathetic with those advanced in favour of Scotland.

We, or Europe, have taken a small and tenuous step in the right direction by agreeing to harmonise the autumn changeover date. That will be of enormous benefit to a very successful branch of our industry—the carriers. I know that when I mention the word "carriers" my noble friend on the Front Bench twitches a little; but I shall not go down our usual path tonight. The fact that one no longer has to produce three different timetables every year is an enormous advantage to them.

However, I believe that at the moment we have the chance to build on Europe's example and to go further by means of joining a European time zone rather than lagging behind it. Business would benefit because there would be an extra hour of the day when most of Europe's businessmen are in their offices at the same time as British businessmen are.

I declare an interest on behalf of the British Tourist Authority. When I worked in Stockholm, London was always one hour behind. When I worked in London, Stockholm tended to be one hour ahead. That complicates matters because it shortens the time that is available to one. Also, because we come in one hour later, we all get onto the international dialling network at the same time. I wonder how many noble Lords can remember that dulcet tone: "All lines to Brussels are engaged. Please try again later". In that sense, the change would certainly be of benefit to businessmen. There would also be the benefit of face-to-face contact, since travel patterns would be changed.

I said that the harmonisation of the autumn date would benefit the carriers. But I believe that harmonisation throughout the time pattern would benefit them even more. To support that, there is the timetable point that we have already raised. There would be some reduction in the need for British airlines to night-stop aircraft in Europe in order to take account of the morning peak period for travel into Britain. At the same time, they would benefit a little as there would be a disadvantage to European carriers, who at the moment get into London in particular so early that they can take advantage of the outward rush from London into Europe at the end of the morning peak. Common time zones would certainly reduce that advantage a little; and it would be to the advantage of our aviation industry.

As has already been mentioned, the tourism industry certainly believes that a common time pattern would be advantageous. On the one hand, the industry believes that more daylight later in the day would extend the autumn tourism season by some two months. Such a change must benefit the industry, which is already one of Britain's fastest growing and successful ones. That would increase both domestic tourism—Britons travelling within Britain (dare I say it, English people travelling to Scotland?) and also international tourism, which would be of benefit to our tourism balance of payments, which is not, alas, as favourable as I should like it to be.

Furthermore, the Sports Council has established that additional daylight later in the day would be of great benefit in exploiting the many sporting facilities that are nationally, municipally or privately owned in this country.

I have one final reason for hoping that eventually we shall get into the same time zone as Europe. It is a more personal one. I like daylight, and I prefer to have it when I am up and about than when I am down and abed.

Of course I take note of the Scottish anxieties. But I should like to put the counter-argument. I have spent a quarter of my life in Sweden and Norway. Much of that time was spent in Gothenburg, which is on the same level of latitude as Aberdeen, and much of it was spent in Stockholm and Oslo, on approximately the same latitude as the Fair Isle Channel. Having done so, I have become used to the Scandinavian life-style, which maximises the use of available daylight. Schools start early. Business starts early. Shops are increasingly opening earlier. Everything happens much earlier. The rush hour on my local train in Stockholm was 6.30 to 7.30 a.m., whereas in London it would probably tend to be 7.30 to 9 a.m. That is an important point. Obviously, if one is to try to change people's life-styles—and quite clearly a time zone change would have a major impact in Scotland—one has to give the people whose life-styles one is changing the facilities to make that change.

I am a European by heredity (through my grandparents), by environment, upbringing, education, eventually by marriage, and by career. I hope that it will not be too long before I am also a European in terms of time zone.

9.35 p.m.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, I am very pleased to take part in this discussion. However, I feel that there are some elements of confusion in it. Apart from some noble Lords who may have confused longitude with latitude, there may also be some confusion in the wording, some of which was referred to by the noble Viscount himself.

I should like to ask the noble Earl who is to wind up the debate for some clarification. The Question implies that the European Community has already decided an agreed day of termination of Summer Time. However, I understand that that is not the case. The noble Viscount mentioned that Denmark and the United Kingdom have still not signed the directive which requires that all the clocks be changed on the same day. It would be very helpful if the noble Earl could clarify the position and tell us whether the document has been signed or when it will be signed and, if there is any delay, the real reason for it. This country is one of the main beneficiaries of having clocks set at the same time all over Europe.

That day is the day following the third Saturday or, if that day is Easter Day (which will not be in this century), the day following the second Saturday in March and the day following the fourth Sunday in October. If those specific days can be agreed throughout Europe it will help enormously in time-tabling, which was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, and other speakers, especially on the cross-Channel rail service, which is to come into operation this year. Millions of pounds will have to be spent on rescheduling the timetable and on additional train services, and so on, if this matter is not sorted out before then. Despite the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, I see no advantage in delaying or forgetting about the directive. It is quite right that it should not go away.

Speaking as a fellow Scot to some noble Lords who have already spoken, I feel that there is always a general hostility to any suggestion that comes from south of the Border or across the water and affects Scotland; that such a suggestion must be a bad one, and therefore rejected. This proposal is just one more. I sometimes allow myself the luxury of sharing with many other Scots, and possibly some Members of the other place who speak on this topic, the feeling that Scotland somehow should be preserved independently of both time and space. It can be seen as some sort of "Brigadoon" where every night is Burns' supper night—somewhere that is different from the rest of Europe and something that is entirely Scottish. The debate about time is a perfect example of how the Scots can show their independence.

As the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, and others asked, how is it that people in Norway, Sweden and other Northern latitudes are not bothered by this situation? It seems to bother some of the noble Lords who have spoken. They seem to be bothered by the time and the dark. There are adequate proper lighting systems in their streets. People do not walk about in the dark. They walk abut in the light. Scotland exports more than 50 per cent. and possibly 70 per cent. of all the electricity that it generates. I feel that perhaps some of the local councils should not be quite so mean as they are by not providing adequate public lighting in small villages and around schools and places where children are picked up by cars in the morning. That is something that could be done. With the lighting systems that are now available on the market it is possible to have more lighting without polluting and obscuring the night sky with a horrid orange glow.

There have been one or two misalignments in longitude and latitude in some of the comments so far. If noble Lords will bear with me for a second, I shall try to explain. Since time immemorial in Britain the reasons for the various daylight changes have been astronomical. They are changes which are due to the two equinoxes and the two solstices that occur every year. At the equinoxes the local times of sunrise and sunset are roughly equal all over the world. Most of the year the variations of sunrise and sunset in different northern latitudes do not affect the working day. They affect the times of leisure, a point which again has been mentioned by other noble Lords, but not the working day.

At the summer solstice there is an early sunrise in the north of Scotland combined with a late sunset. In fact, if double Summer Time were in operation the sun would set in Inverness about half an hour into the next day—0030 hours. It is in the months of November, December and January that difficulties begin to arise in the working hours. For instance, today the sun rose in London at approximately 0755 hours and set at 1628 hours, while in Inverness the sun did not rise until 0844 but set around the same time as it did in London. A number of noble Lords did not make the point that sunsets are virtually the same in winter regardless of the location in Britain; it is only the sunrise which varies. I shall not go into the complications of why that occurs.

The difference in the times of sunrise and sunset are governed by nature and cannot be altered. What can be altered are the times of the working day to suit, for instance, the schools in those latitudes. There is a strong case for the Government to do more than they are at the moment to try and persuade local schools and councils to consider putting back the time of the morning school in northern latitudes. There is also a case for doing more to supply school children with reflective clothing or belts, again in northern latitudes.

My noble friend Lord Monson asked what was to happen in Russia. When the noble Earl replies perhaps he will confirm that, as I understand it, Russia has agreed to take Central European Time regardless of the extraordinary time zone differences in that country. They want to do business with Europe and are prepared to move into Central European Time. That was bound to happen. Businessmen the world over are trading in markets on a global basis. I see nothing wrong or peculiar in their using Europe, even an expanded Europe, to use the same time zones for business.

We must recognise that there are changes which are due to nature and nature alone that cannot be altered. It is us, as homo sapiens, who must adapt to them as best we can; we must obtain the best out of our working day and maximise the use of the natural sunlight that is given to us in northern latitudes. I therefore ask the noble Earl a final question. If the directive is to be signed shortly, as I understand it is, can he confirm that there will be harmonisation on the day that all the clocks change? I refer to the day I described in March and the day in October. That will be simple to achieve and will not affect any of the problems that other noble Lords seem to experience. It will take us a great step forward.

The British Horological Institute, to which I am a consultant—which does not seem to have been consulted under the Green Paper but I hope that it was, even though it is not recorded—would like confirmation that the Government intend to do something about the situation. It makes obvious commonsense and takes us one step nearer the possibility of a global synchronisation of those days which recognise the natural changes by which the planet is affected.

9.43 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu

My Lords, the gratitude of those of us on this side of the House to the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, for bringing this matter back before the House is, at the same time, matched by sympathy for the Minister who must shortly reply. Yesterday evening he faced a barrage of criticism from every part of the House during the Second Reading of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. He manfully defended the Government with his characteristic swash and buckle against charges which included introducing unnecessary legislation without seeking proper consultation.

No sooner has he bandaged up his wounds and limped back to his post tonight than he finds himself under attack yet again, somewhat less extensively and less comprehensively perhaps, but this time for the Government's inaction, for their failure to legislate and for the interminable consultation on this matter. I am not in the least bit surprised that the Government have chosen to prevaricate on this one.

When he was last called upon to deal with this matter in the House back on 10th December 1992 the noble Earl described the whole subject as one of, beastly and foul complexity".—[Official Report, 10/12/92; col. 312.] I can well understand the Government's reasons for indecision. If they take one course on Summer Time they will surely incur the wrath of 15,000 members of the Scottish NFU. I have no doubt that the noble Earl can picture thousands of elderly crofters, led perhaps by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, packing into the Peers' Lobby to complain that they are going to be forced to milk their cows in darkness and thus incur additional paraffin costs for their Tilley lamps. If the Government do nothing then I suspect that the noble Earl fears for his safety at the hands of some crazed Eurobond dealer who, with millions at stake, has been sitting drumming fingers on his desk top, trying to telephone Continental offices when everyone has gone home due to the time change, and has finally snapped. But I am afraid that the Government can prevaricate no longer over this issue.

The consultation document on the whole issue of Summer Time was presented to Parliament as long ago as June 1989. Those consultations could scarcely have been wider. Among those who made submissions, according to the appendices at the end, were the Briar Pipe Trade Association, Butlins, the Jockey Club, Friends of the Earth and the Zip Fastener Manufacturers Association. Indeed a list of those who did not make submissions would have been very much shorter. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has managed to identify one of them.

An overwhelming majority of those who made submissions or were consulted found in favour of the adoption of a Central European time. Did the Government reach a decision as a result? In the inappropriately titled "Conclusion" section of the paper the Government's position is set out. I quote from page 27: the Government recognises that there are many, particularly in Scotland, who are opposed to any change in the present position. This paper is intended to stimulate discussion on the issue and the options to assist the Government in reaching a decision". That was the Government's conclusion at the end of that paper. That was four and a half years ago.

Two years later, on 14th July 1992, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, was sent into bat introducing the Summer Time Order in the House. That gave the Government a further two years of the status quo in order, to enable the Government to complete their consideration of the options for future Summer Time policy including whether there is a case for change". The noble Viscount promised to discuss the position and report back to your Lordships' House.

Six months passed and by December 1992 the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, was growing restless about the position and asked Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the single European Market in early 1993 and the imminent opening of the Channel Tunnel, they would expedite their review of the desirability of adopting Central European time. The noble Earl then told him that the Commission was reviewing its position, and added: We shall bring forward our proposals when the approach of the Commission is clear".—[Official Report, 10/12/92; col. 312.] Another two years have passed by and now the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, wants some answers, as do some of the rest of us. The Government, I fully understand, may not wish to upset the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, which argued for the status quo in the consultative document, or the British Edible Pulse Association, which wanted single/double Summer Time. But in the words of a well known television quiz master, it must surely be "Make your mind up time".

I speak for myself in expressing a personal view. But at the very least, when France is only about 30 minutes away; when we are part of a single market; when, like it or like it not, we are daily more closely linked to the European Community and when many people are commuting regularly to and fro, both for work and pleasure, business, travel, communications and tourism would all be simplified if we shared the same time as our European partners or at the very least, if the question of Summer Time dates was harmonised.

Apart from some of those who live in Scotland, who, if their arguments tonight are right, are doomed to live short lives in total darkness until, perhaps mercifully, they are wiped out on the roads should Central European Time be adopted, I suspect that it does not really matter to most of us in practice what dates are adopted for Summer Time or how that time is calculated, so long as the dates are the same as those of our close European neighbours and we all know where we are.

So I ask the Minister tonight to muster such strength as he can command after last night; to take his courage, as usual, in both hands and to tell us at last what the Government intend to do.

9.51 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, is always a fascinating person both to listen to and to follow. I shall cogitate a little on what she has said. She spoke in reply to the Question of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. He has always had a longstanding interest in this subject which he has frequently expressed in that characteristically forthright style of his when expounding the views which he holds. Of course, in this he is not alone.

I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, for what she said. She began her speech, and I thought, "Now, there is a person who really understands the difficulties". In what she said she encapsulated exactly what I was thinking. Yesterday we had the police Bill and I, as the representative of Her Majesty's Government, was castigated for being, as I believe someone said, a young man in a hurry who wants to get on and do things. Why can he not listen and take note of what everyone else says? Today I am being castigated as an old man in a rut who will not get on and make up his mind and come to a conclusion. The noble Baroness understood that. I wish she had been here yesterday, but she was not—anyhow, not participating in that respect.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret is always keen on getting a move on on this subject. When he made his speech it seemed to me pretty obvious that that is what we should do. That was until the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, said that the whole thing is totally different in Scotland and that he could not think why on earth anyone should agree with my noble friend sitting behind me. Then the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, said that she agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon.

As they were talking, I recalled the days when I was in Scotland during the war. We had Greenwich Mean Time plus two. We were in Stranraer, which is only just north of the Border. I remember that it was light at night at 12 o'clock. I always wondered how that was. It seemed to me that, if you subtract two from GMT plus two, two hours from that would mean it would still be light at 10 o'clock. But it is not like that in the south of England. I always think of that as part of my childhood which I shall always remember. The curious part was that my school was moved to Stranraer, oddly enough, to the home of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. I well remember the headmaster saying to us, "We have a new boy coming this term. We must all be polite to him because this is his house. He is a fellow called Simon Mackay". That fellow, Simon Mackay, appeared in a kilt and we all thought that was very strange because we had all come from the south of England. We still think that he is quite strange—in a very agreeable way. I shall always think of that occasion whenever I think of that castle; and whenever I do, I think of the very light nights as a result of GMT plus two but, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, said, that is nothing compared with the light in Inverness.

I was fascinated, too, by the argument of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that if we were to move to Central European Time, crime would decrease. She had a very abrupt answer—that we should hang everyone but not monkey around with the clocks. We can all understand that very simplistic attitude. Some of us might agree with her—but not everyone. However, I think that comparing whether one should hang people for certain crimes or whether we should move the clocks back is rather like saying, "Would you like a slice of Gorgonzola or would you prefer to go for a drive in a motor car?" There does not seem to be total relevance between the two.

My noble friend Lord Vinson then came along to say that he thought that the Government should take, as he described it, a strong and statesmanlike decision on this matter. In other words, why do the Government not get on and agree with his point of view? My noble friend Lord Mountevans said that he likes daylight to be when he is up and not when he is in bed. So, there is an enormous divergence of view over what appears to be quite a simple subject. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, encapsulated that by saying that he cannot see any reason why on earth we should not change to Central European Time now. All that I can say to that is that it shows that those who hold views on this matter are quite convinced that only their view is reasonable and that everyone else's view is totally unreasonable.

There are many people who would agree with the firm conviction of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret of the benefits which would accrue if the United Kingdom were to adopt Central European Time; but others take the opposite view. I hope that my noble friend will at least be reassured to hear that the Government are actively considering whether there is a case for moving to Central European Time and that we expect to reach a conclusion soon. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, always an impatient young lady in a hurry, wants to know the answer straight away, but she must wait just a little. We shall need to weigh both sides of the argument carefully and we shall have to take proper account of the many issues which my noble friend and others have raised.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret referred to the change to the end of Summer Time which is proposed by the 7th European Community Directive. This directive proposes that, from 1996 onwards, all member states should end Summer Time on the last Sunday in October. This would have the effect of bringing the rest of Europe, which at present ends Summer Time one month earlier at the end of September, into line with the United Kingdom and Ireland. And so, in the words of 1066 And All That, that would be a "Good Thing".

Negotiations on the directive are not yet complete, but the outcome will be relevant to our consideration of future Summer Time arrangements, as it will, in effect, change the periods of summer and winter as they occur under Central European Time.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, was concerned about the European Community directive and subsidiarity. I can only tell him that the European Community's interest in Summer Time is confined only to the start and the end dates. The United Kingdom is content with the terms of the latest draft directive; but we have argued in the negotiations in Brussels that, on subsidiarity grounds, it should be a matter for a recommendation—in other words, for guidance rather than for a directive, which is a European Community law.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, was also concerned about the directive. A common position on the directive among member states has not yet been reached because the procedures which are required by Community law, including consultation with the European Parliament, have not yet been completed. No member state has yet formally indicated acceptance of the directive. I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in answer to a specific question, that if the latest European Community directive is adopted it will mean that all European Community countries start and end Summer Time at the same time. I cannot say when the Council of Ministers will be in a position to decide upon the directive. It will depend upon when the procedures under European law are complete.

Although the European Community proposes harmonisation of the end dates of Summer Time, there is no question of the European Commission obliging the United Kingdom to join Central European Time. In other words, it is not seeking harmonisation of time zones. Whether the UK should move to Central European Time will be decided on its merits, and I fear that that is not as straightforward an issue as my noble friend or others would seem to suggest.

As many of your Lordships will recall, the 1989 Green Paper canvassed opinions on options for future Summer Time arrangements. The retention of the status quo—that is, Greenwich Mean Time and Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour from the end of March to the end of October was the option most strongly favoured in Scotland. In England and Wales there was considerable support for the adoption of GMT plus one hour in winter and GMT plus two hours in summer; in other words, moving to Central European Time.

Opinions were strongly divided, and the Government concluded that, as there was such a divergence of view, it would be in the wider interest to allow more time to enable the arguments to be given the consideration which they deserved.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret asked about the cost of the Green Paper. The information on the cost of the consultation exercise is not readily available, but apart from the cost of publishing the Green Paper, which would be at least partly met by sales through HMSO, there was no significant additional expenditure. The cost of drafting the Green Paper and analysing and advising the responses was met within established resources. It has not been pigeonholed as he rather obliquely suggested; it has merely highlighted the extraordinary divergence of opinion.

The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, taking, as usual, the opposite view, said, "Put it under the pillow and forget about it". A child's joy in putting a sweet under the pillow is that it can always pick it out later and suck it. I dare say that that is what will happen.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret was worried about the responses to the Green Paper. He quoted various figures. They include both the letters and the signatures on the petitions. In England and Wales, a total of 598 letters and 100 per cent. of the signatures on petitions supported Central European Time. In Scotland, of course, the reverse is the case: 90 per cent. of letters and 80 per cent. of petitions supported the status quo.

The arguments put forward in support of a move to Central European Time rest mainly on the expected reduction in road traffic casualties, to which my noble friend Lord Vinson, referred; the easier communication between the UK and Europe, to which the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, referred; and the social advantage of lighter evenings. Of those, the savings in road casualties is the one which is the most easily supported by statistical evidence.

My noble friend Lord Vinson gave figures. I can give him the same or different figures. My figures are that the Department of Transport has estimated that, if Central European Time had been in force in 1991, about 140 deaths, 520 seriously injured people and 2,000 casualties in total would have been saved. I do not quite understand how one works out such mysterious figures, but the statisticians have a remarkable way of doing those things. I have no reason to think that they are incorrect. It is of particular interest that three-quarters of those savings would have occurred in the 22 weeks during the winter months when GMT is at present in force.

The move to Central European Time would also be supported by many in the business community. They argue that by entering the Central European Time zone the United Kingdom will gain a competitive advantage from the longer period in which business can be transacted. Business travel will also become easier, reducing the need for very early starts and overnight stays. Against that, it must be acknowledged that countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia straddle several different time zones and there appears to be no evidence that businessmen there cannot adapt themselves perfectly satisfactorily. Of course, the harmonisation of our time with that of our European partners would widen the difference between members and the United States.

Among the other arguments for Central European Time is that tourism, which is a major growth industry in the British economy, would benefit by enabling the tourist season to be extended. The responses to the Green Paper also showed that the opportunity which might be afforded by lighter evenings for greater participation in sport and leisure activities after work and school weighed particularly heavily. While there is no evidence that a change to Central European Time would affect crime rates, it could help at least to reduce the fear of crime, in particular among the more vulnerable members of society such as the elderly, who are less willing to go out after dark. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, who has such an abrupt reaction to crime, will no doubt take comfort from that fact.

While there would undoubtedly be benefits from a move to Central European Time, we must also recognise that there could be drawbacks. This would apply in particular to those sections of the community who would be most affected by the darker winter mornings which Central European Time would certainly bring. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that, for instance, Central European Time would have the result that the sunrise in Glasgow in December would not be until 9.48 a.m.—that is, nearly 10 o'clock. It would, of course, be later still for places further north.

There are reservations too about a change to Central European Time among those groups which start work early, especially those who work out of doors, such as postmen, building and construction workers and farmers. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Howie, they are concerned that under Central European Time there would be a longer period when they would be working in the dark before sunrise, which would not only be unpopular but which could, they fear, lead to more occupational accidents and slower working. The National Farmers' Union has said that the darker winter mornings would necessitate arable farmers delaying an hour before beginning work on their crops in the growing season. As a farmer, I have never followed that argument but I am sure that if the National Farmers' Union says so it must be true. Livestock farmers would be similarly disadvantaged because, I suppose, the cows would eat their food an hour earlier or later depending on how the clock moved. It is argued that the time could not be spent on other important tasks such as the maintenance of machinery. Again, I am surprised by that because it seems to me that one can maintain one's machinery in the dark just as well as one can in the light. Apparently, the National Farmers' Union find that an important factor.

Builders, like farmers, also spend most of their working time out of doors. Traditionally they start work early, usually between 7.30 and 8 a.m. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, referred to that and said graphically that they fell off their scaffolding at 7.30. He does not want the change because, as he explained, they will then fall off their scaffolding at 6.30. I thought that that was a cavalier argument. I should have thought it more important that they should not fall off their scaffolding at 7.30, 6.30 or 5.30. Apparently, in the view of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, that is an important reason not to change the time.

The noble Lord, Lord Howie, also said that it would be colder at 6.30 a.m. That is a forthright statement. He said that it would also be more miserable and more uncomfortable at that time. I must say, he paints a horrible picture of the country from which he comes but he must be right in saying that it is horrible, colder and more uncomfortable. No doubt that is why he is always down here—

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, it was not a picture of the country; it was a picture of half-past six in the morning.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I can only suggest that the noble Lord accepts the advice which my grandfather used to give to me. He said, "I always sleep slowly". If one does that one does not have to get up at 6.30 in the morning.

As the noble Lord, Lord Howie, said, builders are concerned that on cold winter mornings it would be necessary to delay work for an hour because plastering, concreting and so on does not set until there is a temperature of three degrees centigrade.

There are other less obvious groups of people who would object to a move to central European time; for example, the community of Orthodox Jews whose hours of prayer are governed by the times of sunrise and sunset. Those people feel sufficiently strongly about it that they have written to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Therefore, there are many problems associated with moving to central European time. It is possible that some of those difficulties may be overcome by changes of routine, working practices and even prayer practices. But inevitably some general inconvenience would be caused by darker winter mornings which would need to be set against the general benefits of lighter winter evenings.

From the representations which the Home Office and other departments have received and from the responses to the Green Paper, it is apparent that feelings on this issue are just as strong as they ever were. Therefore, it is important that the fullest consideration should be given to all the arguments before a decision is made which will affect the daily lives of every man, woman and child throughout the United Kingdom. Those arguments within government are the same as—and, indeed, a reflection of —arguments which have prevailed today.

I should love to tell my noble friend Lord Mountgarret and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, this evening that the Government have reached a wonderful, clear, concise conclusion. I cannot do that. I cannot say when a decision will be made, but, in reaching a conclusion, we need to determine where the balance of advantage lies for the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. If there is to be a change, primary legislation will be needed.

House adjourned at twelve minutes past ten o'clock.