HL Deb 11 January 1995 vol 560 cc243-84

7.35 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Perhaps I may say how grateful I am to my noble friend the Chief Whip for allowing time for this Bill to be debated tonight and to the many noble Lords who have been kind enough to find the time to come to debate the matter. I believe that it is probably of the greatest interest to everyone in our country. I hope that our deliberations and points made will be taken on board by the Government and, if I may say so, by the parties opposite. They do not seem to have a clearly defined view of the direction in which we should be going. As a result of the debate, I hope that we may have a better idea.

We experimented with adopting permanent Summer Time between 1968 and 1971. This was generally welcomed at the time, but when the matter was debated in another place in 1971 it was resolved by a narrow majority—I understand that that was due to a major accident occurring in the morning which understandably upset many people—to revert to the time to which we had become accustomed since the end of Hitler's war. As far back as 1979 I raised this matter in your Lordships' House with a view to extending the period of British Summer Time. As your Lordships are aware, despite continual Starred and Unstarred Questions, debates on Summer Time orders and other occasions, I got nowhere, except in 1988 when my noble friend Lord Ferrers advised that there had been a pilot study of views and that the Government were to issue a consultation document. That was duly done in 1989. It was circulated on a wide basis. Broadly speaking, the questions posed were to indicate whether this country should adopt Central European Time—which was then known as Single Double Standard Time (SDST)—the status quo that we are now enjoying, British Summer Time throughout the year or Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year.

As many noble Lords will probably know, the replies received for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed a majority of 96 per cent. in favour of adopting Central European Time. In Scotland, 86 per cent. showed in favour for keeping the status quo. But overall in the whole of the United Kingdom, Central European Time was favoured by 81 per cent. of those canvassed. There was little or no support for the other two options. Since then little, if anything, has happened, except that the Europeans have agreed to defer their change of time in the autumn to harmonise with our present date.

On 22nd October 1990 I asked my noble friend Lord Ferrers whether in view of the response given to the Government's consultation paper it was time that something should be done. My noble friend said that the Government had taken note of the observations and that there was a certain amount of keenness on both sides of the argument but that, the Government do not consider there is sufficient support as yet for an immediate change from the present system".—[Official Report, 22/10/90; col. 1135.] If 96 per cent. is not sufficient support, I really have to ask what is.

In 1992, during a short debate on the Summer Time Order, I asked whether in view of the fact that nearly three years had passed since the issue of the consultation document we could have a debate in this House. My noble friend Lord Astor replied: The Government are giving serious consideration to the atter".—[Official Report, 14/7/92; col. 202.] Nearly two years later, on 19th January last, I put down another Unstarred Question asking whether the Government would take action in accordance with the consultation paper. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, reminded the House that my noble friend Lord Ferrers had described the subject as one of, beastly and foul complexity".—[Official Report, 19/1/94; col. 704.] She felt that it was time that we had some clear answers. In her words, she said that it was, make your mind up time". However, that was all to no avail, as my noble friend suggested that I should be reassured that the Government were actively considering whether there was a case for moving to Central European Time and they expected to reach a decision soon.

Getting nowhere, I then sought the help of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. He kindly replied to me on 28th March saying that there were differences of opinion which needed to be considered fully. He also went on to say that there were a variety of ways and means whereby the issue could be raised and that, if necessary, a vote could be taken. I just quote one point from that letter: The points raised in any debate and the strength of feelings expressed will of course inform the Government's consideration of the issues". On 18th October last, when the Summer Time Order was brought before your Lordships' House, I reminded the House that my noble friend Lord Astor, in reply to the Question which I put to him three years previously, had said that a public hearing on the matter would be held after the summer break. As far as I am aware, that was not done. I also asked specifically, bearing in mind the suggestion made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, when the Government would make provision for a Bill in our House so that we had the opportunity to debate it. My noble friend said that the Government would keep in close touch with developments and report back. That has not been done.

My noble friend Lady Blatch said in the debate on the Summer Time Order 1994: The responses to that consultation"— referring to the 1989 Green Paper— did not point to a clear way forward".—[Official Report, 18/10/94; col. 198.] As I said before, I should have thought that 96 per cent. in favour of one of the options was extremely clear. My noble friend also said that from the initial consultations the Government could not have anticipated the adoption of a common October end date as part of the status quo. That is irrelevant. We are not talking about a common end date, much as I welcome it. We are talking about the time to be adopted in this country, either keeping that which we currently use or Central European Time, not just an end date. My noble friend said that the present state of the Government's policy was to weigh carefully the pros and cons of just that. Surely, in a space of nearly five years at least it should have been possible, if the matter had been seriously examined, for all the pros and cons to have been weighed by now.

There are those no doubt who might well feel that there is some connection between the purpose of this Bill and closer affiliation with Europe. That is just not so. Whatever anyone feels regarding a closer or even any political tie with Europe is irrelevant in this context. Whether in or out of Europe, I am concerned only with that which is best for this country. I humbly suggest that the adoption of the time used on the Continent across the English Channel is better than having a different time therefrom.

Well, here we are, after all this time and no decision. This is the reason why I have tabled the Bill—to give the Government the opportunity to listen to our deliberations and, if it is felt expedient, to pass the Bill in this House, as I am sure it will undoubtedly assist the Government in another place. It might just perhaps be worth recalling that in another place in 1983 the debate showed a small majority in favour of change.

That was the historical part. Perhaps I may turn to the Bill itself. It is, as noble Lords will see, nice and short. I regret that my speech is not all that short, nor will the debate be with the magnificent attendance of speakers today. The Bill's purpose is fairly stated to be to adopt Central European Time in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is due to come into force on 27th October 1996, the day on which the clocks are turned back one hour in Europe, obviating the need for our clocks to be altered then.

One point of contention of which I am very conscious is the possible exclusion of Scotland. It has been suggested to me that this measure is most timely in view of the discussions of potential devolution or part thereof for Scotland. As far as I am concerned, nothing could be further from the truth. While I am passionately in favour of the United Kingdom remaining as it is, there are times when common sense might perhaps prevail whereby on localised matters the Scots view might be allowed to prevail. I am very conscious that there is a considerable feeling in Scotland that we should maintain the status quo. However, the Scots have a different legal system, they have different Sunday shopping laws, they have different Bank Holidays. If they wished, they could surely have a different time.

If the English Channel is at present a cut-off point for the time zone in which we are, it is just as logical, or illogical—whichever way round one views it—to have a change of time zone as Hadrian's Wall in relation to Europe. I respect the feelings of the Scots and therefore I have not felt it right to make provision automatically for Scotland to be included in the Bill without their having the option of making their views known. If they feel like it, they can opt in to the Bill rather than opting out, which is much harder. It is not right for a small proportion of the United Kingdom to be responsible for frustrating the apparent wishes of those south of the Border. The much over-used word "democracy" springs to mind. We accept that we are all in one club together and therefore the views of the majority usually and correctly prevail and should do so.

I recognise that there will be many who will say that it would be impractical to have Scotland on one time and the rest of the United Kingdom on another. I would agree with that. But if there are those who feel that Scotland ought to be included, this might be usefully raised at the Committee stage, if the Bill is given a Second Reading.

I turn to some of the advantages of adopting Central European Time, not necessarily in order of importance. First, tourism and leisure: estimates from the Policy Studies Institute calculate that an extra £1 billion would be gained from tourism. In addition, it is thought that there would be an increase in leisure trips, particularly to spectator sports. I know that many on all sides of the House, for example, are keen racegoers. I suggest that if we had Central European Time in this country at present, the owners, jockeys, trainers and everyone else connected with racing would be only too delighted to be able to start later, to give themselves time to get organised and to have racing conducted at a time which is similar to the time in the summer. The increase in spectator sports would lead to a substantial increase in employment in these areas. The retailers would also gain from improved operational efficiency as a later afternoon would spread shopping more evenly across the day. I recognise, however, that shops are now open sometimes even 24 hours a day, but generally speaking most people restrict their shopping to daylight hours. On travel and communication, 58 per cent. of the United Kingdom's exports go to EC countries and it would benefit businesses to have their opposite numbers working identical hours and schedules, including lunch breaks. At present in an average working day there are only four hours when businessmen on either side of the Channel in Europe can communicate with their counterparts. Business travellers could also get to Europe for morning meetings without the cost of overnight accommodation. It is forecast that British airlines would increase their revenue by between £20 million and £40 million by an increase in their proper share of business between major European capitals. The synchronisation of the City with European financial centres would achieve an hour in overlap with the fast growing markets in the Far East, where there is of course a substantial business potential.

Most important is the issue of road safety. The Road Safety Research Laboratory has calculated that between 1969 and 1970 during the original experiment 1,330 deaths and serious injuries and 2,350 other injuries were saved. Had the experiment been made permanent in 1971, it is calculated that over 20,000 deaths and serious injuries would have been prevented. It is estimated that an extra £200 million per annum would be saved through such reductions.

It might also be worth bearing in mind that in the four months alone from November to February inclusive there are 50 per cent. more fatal and serious injuries in the hours from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. as compared to 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and three times as many among children in the peak hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. as compared to[...] 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Increased visibility on the roads in the evenings would lead to a reduction in the number of injuries if Central European Time were to be adopted.

In the field of health, children, for example, do not get enough exercise as the current school curriculum allocates insufficient time for physical education before the onset of an early dusk. Having the clock one hour forward would increase these opportunities and would help to promote the fitness of both adults and children. In addition, adjusting the clocks as suggested would allow more access to summer sunlight, which, being the primary source of Vitamin D at a time of its highest incidence from 12 noon to 4 p.m., would act in the capacity of a prophylactic.

I now turn to agriculture. I have always been puzzled as to why it is that the CLA and the NFU have been opposed to this proposal. I would have thought that it would have assisted those engaged in the agricultural industry enormously. I have been a farmer and I speak with some experience. I welcomed the opportunity during the earlier experiment to be able to work in the fields in the daylight instead of at half-past three in the afternoon in the dark. In the morning, at least half an hour to an hour is taken up (or certainly should be taken up) by farmers seeing to their machinery, their tractors, and what will you, and getting prepared for the day's work. The cows can hardly mind whether they are milked when the clock on the farmer's mantelpiece happens to say 7 o'clock instead of 6 o'clock. In any event, most cattle and nearly all dairy cows are now kept indoors for the winter months and most cows are milked in artificially lit automated parlours. As I said, I find it difficult to follow the reasons why those organisations are against this proposal.

If we consider fuel consumption, it is thought that by putting the clock one hour ahead substantial savings in fuel could be achieved each year. The winter months generally see the consumption of electricity increasing by about 50 per cent. and gas by 400 per cent. It is thought that approximately £60 million could be saved to domestic consumers and £200 million to the commercial and public sectors in the cost of lighting alone if the clocks were advanced by one hour.

In relation to crime, an increasing number of women, children and old people stay indoors during the hours of darkness because of anxiety about assault. The extra hour of daylight would help to address these two problems by allowing the elderly to be out and about longer in the afternoon without the fear of the evil that stalks in the hours of darkness.

There is a tremendous degree of support for this proposal. It comes not only in the responses to the Green Paper. The national newspapers have also indicated over a period of time that the majority of the electorate are supportive. I find it very strange that the Government have not yet sought any form of parliamentary approval. Nor indeed have they had a full-ranging debate on it. To quote the Observer in 1990, this proposal was potentially one of the very few ways in which the Government could enhance the happiness of the greatest possible number at a stroke at no expense to anyone". Sadly, no such action has been taken. Given the convincing case for change, the survival of the status quo is extraordinary. The Guardian called it, a classic case of the views of the vocal minority triumphing over those of the silent majority", which is in itself a reference to the powerful lobbying against the change by groups to whom I referred earlier.

If this Bill is passed it would bring significant improvement to the overall quality of life for the majority of the population. For 10 months of the year there would be a further hour of evening daylight, whereas the extra hour of morning darkness would have to be endured only from early December to the end of January.

For all these overwhelming reasons I urge the Government to move with all possible speed for the adoption of Central European Time, and I urge noble Lords to give the Bill a Second Reading so that the matter may be fully discussed in another place and finally be enacted within this parliamentary Session.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.— (Viscount Mountgarret.)

7.56 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Viscount upon directing the attention of the House to this truly important subject and also on the manner in which he moved the Second Reading, in particular the devastating account he gave of the long years of procrastination, hesitation and postponement. I have no wish to introduce a controversial note but perhaps I may dare to say that there was a time when we ordered these things better. Twenty-eight years ago—an immensely long time, it seems—when I was a young and optimistic reforming Home Secretary, I introduced a measure to do almost exactly (except for the Scottish provisions) what the noble Viscount proposes. That government measure was carried and was in operation for a few years. My noble friend Lord Callaghan, who succeeded me as Home Secretary, extended it for a time. I do not think that he was very keen on the idea to begin with, but he was persuaded that the measure was working well. Then, perhaps because of that single, unfortunate incident, weaker counsels prevailed and the measure was repealed in 1971.

I remain of the view that what we did in 1967 was right. Those three years worked well. There were of course complaints. One memory I treasure is of the late A.J.P. Taylor, who liked to combine being an ebullient narrative historian with writing highly populist articles, mainly in the Sunday Express, denouncing the proposal as being a typical example of what I believe would now be called "Islington Man". It was then called "the Lilac Establishment". He said it was typical that I had proposed to make the working class get up in the dark while the middle class, as he implied, were to be allowed to stay in bed until the winter sunshine warmed their doorsteps, their patios and their routes to work.

That was, of course, absolutely the reverse of the truth. The change of time did not make manual workers get up in the dark. Manual workers had in winter always got up in the dark. What it did, in those more leisurely days before the Stock Exchange operated before ten [...]n the morning and before hard-working Treasury officials arrived at about the same time, was to make the professional classes, for the first time, get up in the dark. It did the reverse of what he said.

There are particular problems relating to Scotland. I remember my dear friend Jo Grimond saying to me rather reproachfully that he much wanted to support such a forward measure but did I realise that in the northern part of his constituency it would mean that there would not be full light until nearly 11 o'clock in the morning? I recall saying to him, "I am sorry about that but I am not sure. Is it a great deal worse than there not being full light until 10 o'clock in the morning, particularly if the price that you pay is that it starts to get dark at 2 o'clock in the afternoon?

I take great pleasure in brilliant winter sunsets such as we had today. But they should appear at a moderate time. I remember in Stockholm, in the splendid opera restaurant, observing one of the best winter sunsets I have ever seen. It was a little unfortunate that it appeared before the main course of lunch was on the table. I remember vividly, as Member of Parliament for Hillhead, Saturday afternoons in Glasgow with the light shining through into the Kelvingrove Gallery in winter. The light has a special quality. But, again, it is a pity if the sunset comes before the coffee cups are cleared from the lunch table.

The basic trouble is that in all our latitudes, even in southern England, we suffer a grave lack of totality of daylight in winter, however we order it. Scotland, particularly the far north of Scotland, suffers from an absolutely appalling lack of it. The problem is latitude, not how the hours are ordered.

Noble Lords may be surprised to hear that I share the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, that this issue has nothing to do with European ideology. One does not have to be part of a common time zone in order to be a good European. The United States, which is a closer polity than I ever expect Europe to be in my lifetime or well beyond it, has four time zones. I am rather of the view that the European Community, certainly as it extends, should have two time zones rather than one.

There can be disadvantages in that, and I have suffered from them occasionally. For example, on a warm autumn evening in the south of Italy, because of the eastward slope of the peninsula, it gets dark a little before 6 o'clock. There can be disadvantages in Portugal when, even on an August morning, the sun may not come up until after 8 o'clock. There is something to be said for two time zones. But that is a quite separate issue. We would greatly increase the convenience and the amenity of life in this country if, rather than being on Central European Time we were on what I should prefer to call double Summer Time in summer and single Summer Time in winter. There is certainly no European ideology about that. After all, during the war years, when we stood alone, we did precisely that, because we thought it the best way to order things in conditions where safety, fuel saving and a number of other matters were of great importance.

Therefore, I strongly support the noble Viscount's Bill. However, I have ambiguous feelings about his Scottish solution. I followed his argument. It has elements of what one might call a Portia-Shylock aspect: yes, you can be independent, provided you pay the price. Probably unlike the noble Viscount, a firm believer in devolution but also a firm believer in the preservation of the union of the United Kingdom, I should not like to see a time frontier between England and Scotland.

It is perhaps reasonable to offer the Scots the alternative of making their own decision. I hope that they would make a decision to proceed as we did. Sensible decisions on time zones are essentially a matter of longitude and not of latitude. The division should go east-west with longitude and not north-south with latitude.

I am completely persuaded that we should do better from the point of view of safety, amenity, convenience and efficiency with the day slung later, both in summer and winter. We shall not thereby increase the hours of daylight—that is beyond human ingenuity—but we will increase the enjoyment of them by a substantial majority of the population. I strongly support the noble Viscount's Bill.

8.5 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, this year has started off in an extraordinary way in parliamentary terms. We spent the first two days of this week debating and attempting to amend a Bill which, because it was a money Bill, we could not amend and, if we had gone so far as to amend it, nobody would have paid any attention anyway. That was an odd way to start the year. Now, we come across this most bizarre offering. This is a most extraordinary Bill and I should like to say at the beginning that I hope that it proceeds no further than this evening.

The Bill is bizarre for three reasons. First, it deals with what is surely a national problem and a matter for government to decide. It is wholly unsuitable for Private Member legislation. Secondly, since Scotland is excluded from the Bill, the result of the Bill would be very odd. That was mentioned by both previous speakers. There would be a change in time zone—if not exactly at Hadrian's Wall, which is still in England, a little further north of it.

Moreover, a point which no one has yet mentioned is that on the island of Ireland there would be different time zones in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. It is quite inconceivable that the British Isles, as a geographical unit which includes the Republic of Ireland, could be divided into two time zones. Whatever would happen if, by any mischance, the English decided that they wanted to have Central European Time (which I prefer to call it, to remind us of what it is) and thereby dragooned the Scots and Irish into joining them? That would be the inevitable result of such a decision. I can imagine the thinking in Northern Ireland. What would Sinn Fein make of it if the British Parliament decided that there should be two time zones in Ireland? They would probably regard that as a somewhat strange form of neo-colonialism. I am not sure whether it would have been intentional, but that is what it would look like to them.

Last January, almost exactly a year ago, we debated this issue in the form of an Unstarred Question. My views can be found in some detail and I do not want to go into detail again this evening. As I see it, there appear to be two reasons for this proposal. The first is in the nature of harmonisation with Europe and the convenience of a smallish number of business people who do business with Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who has some experience of Scotland, accepted the fact that the European Union need not have only one time zone; he accepted that it could have two. But it could quite as readily have three. There would be a fairly broad time zone in the middle, a fairly thin one on the western end, where we would be, and another fairly thin one on the eastern end, where countries like Greece would be. There would be nothing unusual about that.

The noble Lord referred to the United States, where there are no great business problems about time zones. If a man in Chicago wants to do business with someone in Pittsburg early in the morning, he gets out of bed and picks up his telephone. He does not demand that the time zone be changed to suit his convenience. The same thing is true with regard to London and Europe.

The CBI tells us that there is an effective four-hour Euro business day and I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, mentioned that also. Why is that? The CBI explains it by saying that the present system gives European rivals two hours' extra time for business. The reason is that work starts here, it is said, between nine and nine-thirty UK time, whereas the Continentals have already been at work for two hours. That means that the Continentals start an hour earlier. If our businessmen started at eight in the morning, like the Continentals, they would immediately gain back one of those hours without any change in the time zone. They must get out of bed if they are going to do foreign business. After all, some do business not only with continental Europe, but also with the Middle East and Japan. They must learn to get out of bed to deal with it. The noisy young men in red braces who transact the business in the City, do it in relation to when Frankfurt is working, or Tokyo or New York. They deal with the global situation properly; that is, they adjust their time to the time when business must be done. They do not expect time zones to be adjusted for their convenience.

I turn to the question of the reduction in road accidents. That arose as an additional argument. I do not believe that when my noble friend Lord Jenkins brought in his experiment in 1967 or 1968—I remember it well—the road accident question was large in people's minds. They were thinking more in terms of harmonisation with Europe. The problem is that lives may be saved in the evening, but the experiment showed that they can be lost in the morning. People may say that it was only one incident and I know that they will say it was far away—I believe it was at Stornoway, possibly the worst place for something to happen in terms of hours of darkness. The point is not that there was only one such accident, but that such accidents are inevitable and will occur from time to time. They will not happen repeatedly. But every now and again they will occur because of the extra darkness in the morning and, because of the problems of winter—the frost and the cold of early morning—such incidents will occur over and over again.

What is more, there is the problem of motorway madness. When does that occur? It occurs in the morning when people are hurrying through the dark into London or one or other of the big conurbations. There are wintry mornings when roads are icy and fog occurs. That is when motorway madness and motorway pile-ups occur, with severe casualties and large numbers of injured. Such scenes are inevitable. They will become more inevitable if a change in time is undertaken. During that extra hour in the morning the wintry conditions will always be more severe and the dangers of driving will become more severe. The inevitability of such catastrophes is certain.

Let me turn to Scotland. I know Scotland very well, as noble Lords will be aware. From his experiences in that great country, my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead knows Scotland better now than he did in 1967. I can remember the period during the war when I was a schoolboy and a student. I left my home in Troon on the train at two minutes past seven in a darkness so black that one could not see one's hand before one's face. There was of course a blackout in those days, which made the situation much worse. I arrived in Glasgow, still in darkness, around eight o'clock and was in plenty of time to see a delightful wintry dawn around a quarter past 10. It was not as delightful as my noble friend made out. It was extremely undelightful. The reason is not simply that Scotland is to the north of England.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, at what time of year did the noble Lord see a sunrise in Glasgow at a quarter past 10?

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, quite clearly it was in winter. I do not imagine that there can be any divide about that. I have been talking about winter for most of the time.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, I just want to point out—is the noble Lord aware?—that the sunrise today in Inverness was only 15 minutes later than it was here. I am finding difficulty in focusing on what time of year the noble Lord is discussing.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I am talking about the time of year that we are in. The noble Lord will know—I seem to recollect that he is an enthusiast for this kind of reform, as it is sometimes called—that the problem is not merely one of north-south; it is also one of east-west. The country is tipped over on its axis. The best way to illustrate that is to remember that Bristol is actually further east than Edinburgh. As we go west the problem of daylight becomes more difficult. Belfast and Londonderry are at the same level as Glasgow. At the moment Glasgow is around 45 minutes out of sync with the proper sun time. Under the new proposals it would be one and three-quarter hours out of sync with the sun time.

One other problem arises; that is, the difficulties with which the construction industry is faced. I am still discussing winter. The construction industry has a workforce of around 2 million people—or it did have until the policies of the present Government diminished it somewhat. Even so, it is still a large workforce. The wet trades in building—plastering, concreting and things of that sort—are affected by temperature. To the best of my knowledge, concreting can only be carried out if the temperature rises above 3 degrees centigrade. That is a temperature which, under this proposal, will be reached in winter around halfway through the day, thereby losing a substantial part of the construction industry's working day. The construction industry believes that the effect of the change would be to add around £4 million to its costs.

A further problem arises in the construction industry. It is a dangerous industry. A larger number of industrial injuries occur than in any other industry in the country, with the possible exception of North Sea fishing. The dangers arise from scaffolding in frosty, wintry, dark conditions. The effect of this proposal is to add another hour of frosty, slippery, dangerous conditions on the building sites.

I agree with the two previous speakers that the majority should be heard and that their views should carry considerable weight on this or any other question. I do not query that at all. The majority should usually carry the day, but not always; not if the majority having its way is to the detriment of a sizeable minority, such as the Scots, the Northern Irish or the construction industry. This Bill should be opposed and I urge on the Government to continue procrastinating.

8.20 p.m.

Baroness O'Cathain

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, should be congratulated on introducing this Bill which in part will, I am sure, have widespread support outside Parliament. But I have to say that the proposal to exclude Scotland or, rather, not to include Scotland, would, in my view, create a situation which would be even less tenable than the existing situation. I would urge the noble Viscount to revise the proposals, if that is possible, so that we shall be a United Kingdom in time as in so much else.

The situation pertaining of two different time zones in the UK and continental Europe is anachronistic but also very costly to British industry and commerce. It is on that issue that I intend to concentrate. Because of the time difference on the other side of the English Channel and North Sea British business has to bear a significant cost penalty in dealing with the mainland of Europe. We all know that our exports to continental Europe are increasing. Our invisible earnings from the City of London operations in world financial markets, particularly European financial markets, are a significant part of our balance of payments and our membership of the European Union is becoming more important. All of these areas of operation are detrimentally affected by the time difference throughout the year between the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

As an aside, I wonder whether other noble Lords share my view that it seems easier to cope with the five-hour time difference between here and the United States than with the one hour time difference between here and continental Europe. Perhaps it is because I am much more aware of the geographical distance in between.

Many of us must have had the shared experiences of being very frequent visitors to the Commission in Brussels. In a previous job I seem to have been going to Brussels at least twice a month over a very long period. There were endless meetings with Commission officials, with the United Kingdom permanent representation—UKREP—with European trade associations based in Brussels, with lobbyists based there, and others. All of these meetings, or nearly all of them, started at the reasonable hour of 9 to 9.30 a.m. To get to Brussels for the start of the meeting it was essential to travel the previous evening, thereby incurring hotel expenses—not cheap in Brussels, my Lords. Usually the visit to Brussels ate into the previous work day, leaving the office at 4 p.m. or thereabouts to enable one to get to the airport in time for the late evening flight.

There is, of course, a cost in that also. I used to estimate that each of those trips cost approximately £300 more than it would have done if we were in the same time zone. Multiply that £300 by the number of business visits to Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt made each year by British business people and I am sure it would come to a very large sum. All of this money has to be recouped through prices of the final goods and services provided by British businesses. It is quite a competitive disadvantage. It could even be called, in economic-speak, a non-tariff barrier to trade.

This is just one aspect of additional cost to business. Another one, less quantifiable, is the business opportunities lost through our inability to transact telephone business throughout the whole of the working day. It has been brought out twice already that the CBI feels that there are only four hours in which we can actually do that properly. How many times have I unthinkingly lifted the telephone around midday to be told that there is no one in the office because it is the lunch hour. Then, of course, I have a lunch break and forget about it. Not everyone is as inefficient as I am, but one does not always remember the stupid time zone difference.

All British businesses with which I have been or am associated wish strongly that we were operating on CET. British Airways has long supported the Daylight Extra Group, which has campaigned for the adoption throughout the UK of CET. In the case of BA, significant extra costs are involved in having to night-stop aircraft at continental capitals in order to compete with the morning schedules of continental airlines. While the costs vary country by country and by aircraft type, an estimate of the additional costs at just one city, Frankfurt, suggests that for each night stop in Frankfurt the annual costs are in the range of £300,000. Brussels has two aircraft night-stopping each night. In all, there are some 40 aircraft night-stopping in continental European cities.

The airline also supports the view that tourism throughout the UK would be boosted by the longer usable daylight period. I have no need to remind your Lordships of our very valuable tourist earnings.

However difficult it is to operate with the current situation, it would be disastrous if there were two different time zones on the mainland of Britain. I am aware that Scotland has voiced its opposition to CET but recent research by NOP suggests that opinion is now weighted much more strongly in favour. The research was carried out in October 1994 and the question asked was: For a number of years now, there have been discussions as to whether Britain should harmonise its time with the rest of Europe, so that everywhere in Europe is on the same time. This would mean having an hour's less daylight in the morning and an hour's more daylight in the evening. Do you think that this would be a good thing or a bad thing? The research was carried out in four television areas. In the Scottish TV area 62 per cent. said they thought that it would be a good thing, 29 per cent. a bad thing, and 9 per cent. did not know. In Tyne Tees, Granada and Yorkshire, the figures were 72 per cent. a good thing, 21 per cent. a bad thing, and 7 per cent. did not know. In Central, HTV and Anglia, the figures were 70 per cent. a good thing, 20 per cent. a bad thing, and 9 per cent. did not know. In London, Meridian and West Country, the figures were 77 per cent. a good thing, 13 per cent. a bad thing, and 10 per cent. did not know. On balance one could say that the idea of harmonising time would be a good thing. Scotland accounted for 9 per cent. of the sample, Tyne Tees 26 per cent., Central 31 per cent. and London 33 per cent., which I think is fair enough on the population split.

I do think that we should not underestimate the level of support for harmonisation with CET. What was not asked in the research was whether the Scots would prefer two different time zones on the British mainland. This would certainly need to be researched before any action was taken. With the caveat that it is essential that Scotland must be on the same time zone as the rest of the mainland, I welcome the proposal that we should consider changing to Central European Time.

8.29 p.m.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I came to this debate with a relatively open mind although I felt marginally "agin" it. But my feelings were made concrete by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret and by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, because of what I may say, possibly slightly rudely, was their total failure to reconcile the position of Scotland with the rest of the country.

As my noble friend said, the Bill does not include Scotland. I agree with noble Lords who say that we must have the same time in all parts of this country. For those few of your Lordships who have not looked up the times, sunrise in London this morning was 8.3. In Belfast and Glasgow, it was at 8.43 which is only about three minutes earlier than on the shortest day as the days begin to get longer in the mornings some considerable time after they do in the evenings.

I rang the duty officer at Stornoway airport this morning to ask him what time sunrise was there. The answer was 9.5. It is not reasonable to expect anyone to accept sunrise at 9.43 and at 10.5. The duty officer was horrified at the mere thought that sunrise should not be until after 10 o'clock. The mornings are short enough already without taking another hour off. In the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, I noted the use of the words "convenience" and "efficiency". I do not believe that he used the word "logic", but I suspect that that was also in his thoughts.

No one else seems to have this trouble. Noble Lords have described what happens in America where there are six and-a-half hours between Labrador and Alaska. There are four standard times: Standard Eastern time, Mid-Western time, Rocky Mountain time and Californian time. None presents any difficulties for the people working in communication with each other. The frequently quoted difficulty in Europe seems to be that lunch hours are different; I cannot believe that that is insuperable.

The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, stated that British Airways supports the Bill. That may be the case. It is by no means the case among navigators and pilots who have to struggle with Zulu Time and all the variations of it. Until yesterday I failed to appreciate that Greenwich Mean Time in fact no longer exists and that our time zones are based on Universal Consolidated Time (UCT) which reaches us from some time clock in the middle of the Arizona desert and is a micro-second or so different from GMT. Nevertheless, GMT or UCT is the god of all aerial navigators and all flight plans are founded on that basis, which is Zulu Time.

In winter, in Britain, all flights are logged in real time. At least for some period of the year the possibility of error, which is now very prevalent, is reduced. All flight controllers have experience of the considerable number of occasions when flight plans an hour late have been logged wrongly.

I said that I believe the argument in favour of the Bill is logic. There is no logic in the current system. It is true that Portugal has joined Spain on Central European Time, but Hungary is plus one and Finland plus two, Poland is plus one and Greece plus two. Not surprisingly, in Russia the time ranges from plus two to plus 12; Australia from plus eight to plus 10. As I said, America presents the largest variation of all bar Russia.

Convenience and efficiency for industry even so appears illogical. Many of your Lordships will have been consulted or written to by the racing industry which believes that it is making a great deal more money now that there is Sunday racing and that it could make even more if it could have a further two months of evening racing. But I doubt whether that is supported in the same manner, as my noble friend Lord Mountgarret says, by the professionals in the industry. I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, who is a distinguished trainer himself, will express the feelings of that profession on the proposals before us today.

There can be no doubt that the concept has many attractions. But it is not surprising that for so long and for so many years Her Majesty's Government have not found it possible to make up their mind to propose such a change. Therefore, I am with them in suggesting, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, proposed, further procrastination.

8.35 p.m.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, your Lordships will be pleased to know that my contribution will be extremely brief as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, has already covered most of the points which I intended to make. Judging by the way this debate is going I feel certain that emotions will be high by the end of it. I did listen with great interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, particularly to what he said about Scotland. He made a most convincing speech but I am afraid, sadly, I am still not behind him. I am against the Bill. I believe that we have survived for many years with the status quo and it seems to have stood us in good stead.

I must perhaps elaborate a little about the idea of Scotland being on a different time scale and not being included in the original Bill. The idea is farcical and crazy. I live in Scotland and yet my nearest supermarket is in England. I would forever be changing my watch when crossing the Border. Likewise, my nearest rail station is in England. I can imagine the havoc that will be played with the timetables on the main East Coast InterCity line between Edinburgh and London. I even have friends whose house is in Scotland and their garden in England! The whole idea is a non-starter.

Edinburgh too is now a very important financial centre. To be on a differential time to London, would again, I believe, cause havoc. I could go on with examples for ages. I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Howie, in hoping that we see no more of the Bill.

8.37 p.m.

Lord Crawshaw

My Lords, I want to add a few words on behalf of those who live in rural England and Wales and in particular on behalf of those whose work takes them outdoors most of the time. In the farming community I am not particularly concerned about the arable farmer. My thoughts very much turn to the dairy farmer and the herdsman who already have a hard life. Their normal schedule means that they start at about 5.30 in the morning and that goes on for seven days a week right through the year. It is not really very much fun, particularly at this time of year, to be involved with the milking of cows in a very cold milking parlour when there has been 10 degrees of frost the night before, the pipes are frozen and the taps are stuck solid. All that has to be dealt with when, like many noble Lords, one is not feeling at one's best at that time of the morning. It is my hope that the Bill will not in any way make the lives of these people any harder.

My noble friend Lord Burnham mentioned horse racing. In a moment your Lordships will be hearing, as he said, from my noble friend Lord Huntingdon who, I suspect, was up at the crack of dawn this morning. He will be able to tell noble Lords from first-hand experience and straight from the horse's mouth his view on the subject. Suffice for me to say this evening that it can be a very exacting job trying to hold a hard-pulling young horse on the wide expanses of Newmarket, Lambourn, or on the local aerodrome, as I tried to do and probably in the company of my noble friend Lord Oaksey. That was a few years ago. It is a hard job at the best of times. With freezing fingers in the early morning and partially in the dark, it is an even harder job. My thoughts turn very much to the people involved with racing.

I believe that accidents involving cars have been mentioned. But accidents with horses can also be extremely serious, particularly when a great deal of work in connection with horses has to take place in the dark in villages like Lambourn.

Having said that, I appreciate that spectator sports should take place when people are best able to attend. It is for that reason that so many of us in your Lordships' House are in favour of Sunday racing. However, the effects on the personnel involved are not apparent so far. It would be my wish, if feasible, that a change of time should take place gradually. I do not suppose that one can change time gradually, but I hope that your Lordships will understand what I mean. To have such a change introduced quickly on top of the introduction of Sunday racing might be detrimental to the people involved. I realise that farming and racing people can to a certain extent—and only to a certain extent—set their own clocks and times, but the practical fact is that we all have to live in a wider community and in the wider context. In that way, we all have to conform to certain times and certain practices.

Finally, I am encouraged that all the wind-up speeches are to be made by people who will readily understand what I am talking about. My point is to try to raise such matters at an early stage in our deliberations.

8.41 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, is to be congratulated on having mustered impressive support for his contention that Britain will become a land of milk and honey, with everyone living to the age of 100 plus and with a near-doubled standard of living, provided only that we synchronise our clocks with the clocks of Warsaw and Budapest.

I hope that the noble Viscount will forgive me if I say that the only thing that I like about his Bill is the title. It is a thoroughly honest title, which is welcome in this era of double-speak and obfuscation. The title makes it clear that what the noble Viscount proposes is unnatural in the literal sense of that word—flying in the face of nature, in other words. The Bill proposes that the United Kingdom, excluding Scotland, lying as it does off the western fringes of the European Continent, should be deemed henceforth to be part of central Europe. The only situation more nonsensical occurs at the other extreme of geography—in eastern Europe where there exists a four-hour time difference between Poland and the Ukraine although they have a common frontier. When it is 12 noon in Poland, it is 4 p.m. in the Ukraine, just a kilometre away across the border.

The earth is divided into 360 degrees of longitude. It revolves on its axis once every 24 hours. Logically, therefore, clocks should be advanced or retarded every 15 degrees (approximately) that one travels east or west. That is exactly what happens in Australia where three different time zones cover just over 40 degrees of longitude; in the continental United States, excluding Alaska, where four time zones cover 57.2 degrees of longitude and in Canada where, as has already been said, six time zones cover 88.7 degrees of longitude. There is also the Russian federation, as the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, mentioned, where there are 11 time zones. I regret that I have not had the time to calculate quite how many degrees of longitude that embraces.

If the Bill goes through, there will in Europe be a single time zone spanning 32.4 degrees of longitude or 33.5 degrees if mainland Portugal's recent experiment, designed to attract affluent Spanish tourists, becomes permanent. That defiance of geography, as one might call it, is exceeded only in totalitarian China where there is one single time zone, spanning 61 degrees of longitude. In any totalitarian country, nature and common sense can easily be stood on their heads—and usually are.

Although it may seem a minor point to some, if the Bill goes through, the custodianship of GMT, with its associations for which Britain is internationally famed and respected, will pass to Iceland, Morocco, Madeira, the Canaries, a handful of West African countries and a handful of small islands in the South Atlantic. Indeed, Greenwich Mean Time will have to be renamed "Ghana Mean Time" because if Greenwich adopts Central European Time, Accra, the capital of Ghana, will be the only place of any size and significance on the former Greenwich meridian.

We are told that the Bill would be good for business. My noble friend Lady O'Cathain said as much. It may well be good for European business to some extent, but it will certainly not be good for transatlantic business because we shall be an hour further away from the United States. However, the briefing from the Confederation of British Industry effectively admits that businesses here generally start one hour later than on the Continent. Surely they can adapt their habits to conform. British businessmen flying to the Continent or "entraining" (as they will now start to do) face no greater hardship than does a Chicago businessman flying to Detroit, which happens to be almost exactly the same distance from Chicago as Paris is from London. In both cases, one has to put one's clock forward an hour. Such businessmen face no greater hardship than do those flying from Milwaukee to Pittsburg, from Minneapolis to Washington, from Los Angeles to Phoenix (where a number of high-tech industries have relocated) or from Winnipeg to Toronto, yet none of those people complains that business is impossible in consequence of having to change their clocks.

On the basis of some highly speculative figures from the Road Research Laboratory, we are told that the Bill would cut road casualties. If that were really so, would not the pragmatic Germans and Danes already have changed to Eastern European Time, given that sunset in Berlin now occurs at the same time as in London under the present dispensation and that sunset in Copenhagen in winter now occurs at about the same time as in Glasgow? Yet those countries have not done so.

Fewer and fewer schoolchildren walk home nowadays. That is hardly surprising, given the number of vandals, muggers and rapists who lurk our streets. In any case, I find it difficult to buy the argument that dark mornings are safer than dark evenings. On Monday, two days ago, I had to drive here from north of Lincoln for an important meeting in advance of our Second Reading debate on the Bill to increase our contribution to the EC. For the first 50 minutes I was driving on narrow, twisting, badly cambered roads which are prone to black ice (although admittedly the weather was better than is normally the case at this time of year). I would have hated to have to do that journey in the dark, but that is what I would have had to do if the Bill had been law.

There is a further important point. The noble Viscount claims that the Bill is popular in Northern Ireland. I can assure him that that is not so. This morning I rang an extremely senior political figure in Northern Ireland who told me that the noble Viscount is mistaken. That is hardly surprising given that sunrise and sunset in Belfast occur at almost the same time as in Glasgow, as the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, pointed out, and given that Northern Ireland is much more agriculturally based than England is. Is there any change that could usefully be made which would offend or inconvenience nobody anywhere in the United Kingdom? I suggest that there is. Could we not press the nations of Europe to agree to start Summer Time earlier by, say, the second Sunday in March so that Easter would always occur when Summer Time was in force? That would suit most countries because, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, spring normally starts earlier on the Continent anyway—and it would help tourism there.

At the same time, Summer Time could be extended to the first week in November when the weather is still good throughout much of southern Europe and occasionally in northern Europe as well. That is all that is needed to help British tourism. After all, whatever else tourists come to Britain for in December, January and February, they do not come to enjoy long winter evenings. They probably come for the museums and art galleries, but they do not come with a view to sunning themselves on our beaches. The changes that I have suggested are the ones which would inconvenience practically no one and give pleasure to many. That is as far as it should go.

8.50 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, I am happy to support my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. As he reminded us, he has waged a war of attrition on this issue over many years. It is like dripping water on a rock, but I am glad that my noble friend's hand is on the tap. I have many reasons for supporting the Bill. The first is a personal one. Many speakers tonight have put forward practical issues. Perhaps I may introduce a personal one.

I have spent more than a fifth of my life north of John O'Groats, in Sweden and Norway. I am not aware of some of the problems that have been described this evening about mornings, evenings and road accidents. As a school child, Swedish and Norwegian roads seemed safe to me. They seemed safe to me as a pedestrian. They seemed safe to me as a transport user. We would benefit substantially in those terms, and in particular with regard to safety, if, as I hope will happen in the fullness of time, the Bill, or a similar one, receives not just a Second Reading in this House but eventually Royal Assent.

My first reason for supporting the Bill is, as I say, a personal one. I am a Scan. I am a quarter Norwegian; I was brought up in Sweden; I have worked for many years in Sweden. Not just that, I am a European. That is not in any Maastricht, or dodgy sense, but because I married into a Dutch family. I have learned to look at the issue their way. I wish to be in the same time zone as they are, but not because we have to say, "Can we ring them now? Are they still in bed? Have they gone to bed?", or anything like that. No, I give the Bill all the support that I can from a personal point of view.

I turn from the personal to the general. I remember what the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said. She made the case for British Airways very strongly. She made the case for business. She has knowledge of commerce and industry. We must remember that it is not just manufacturing industry which contributes to our national well-being but also the service industries. I shall return to the subject of tourism. It is a problem for British Airways that it has to night-stop aeroplanes. The figure of £300,000 per annum per plane in Frankfurt that she quoted is an understatement, because, if the cost of putting crews into hotels and all the other expenses are added in, the figure will be much higher. There are other places such as Stockholm and Oslo where the cost of living is high, and where I suspect the cost to British Airways is much higher.

In the old days when airlines flew in pools it did not matter with which airline one flew because the two partner airlines—perhaps I may stick with my Scandinavian analogy and take SAS—shared the revenue, but nowadays they do not. They compete head to head and it is in our best interest to ensure that our airline is the best. It cannot be the best in terms of profit without giving the customer what he needs. However, if we can reduce those costs—one way of doing so is to join CET—we shall be better off. We shall have a better airline and better opportunities.

The noble Baroness quoted the NOP survey, which was not commissioned by someone with an axe to grind. It was commissioned independently. It was not unlike the survey which is carried out once a year among your Lordships and which seeks to find out the attitudes of parliamentarians. The survey was independent. The noble Baroness perhaps understated the case. I shall not break down the figures by sex or TV area or do anything like that, but one should stress that the lowest figure in favour of joining the CET was 62 per cent. Stretching it a little, very nearly two-thirds of those asked were in favour. The highest figure in favour was 82 per cent. We should not forget that. Both those figures are substantial. It was a small sample, but the people who carry out the polls try to make the sample nationally representative. I was taken by the lower figure of 62 per cent. because, as I said, that is nearly two-thirds.

The Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety is another national body which supports the proposal. I can understand that, because whatever the noble Lord, Lord Howie, says about the building industry—it should get its act together rather than worry about us—PACTS believes that transport safety is paramount. I, as a pedestrian and a public transport user—I have never had a vehicle licence—believe strongly that safety, especially transport safety, is paramount.

Just as important, and perhaps more productive, is the fact, as has been said, that the majority of CBI members support harmonisation as bringing benefits to business and thus improving the viability of what we might call UK plc.

I started with some personal reflections and then switched to general ones. Perhaps I may finish with just two—tourism, where I declare an interest, and public transport. The tourist industry as a whole would love to see us go into CET because it has a government mandate to extend the season. As a result of having longer afternoons, especially in the autumn, we should receive more foreign revenue. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that foreign tourists do not come to sit on our beaches. That seems to be a rather pathetic point, if I may say so. Of course they come for culture, and culture is available in the evenings, but when it gets dark one tends to think of going home, going back to one's hotel and having a bath or doing other things like that. These cultural attractions are open. They are waiting for people to spend money on them. Foreign visitors are willing to spend money on them. Foreign tourism is important to this country. We are still the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world. We should do everything to encourage them and to meet the Government's mandate to the British Tourist Authority.

I return briefly to transport. We are joined to Europe, not in a time zone, but since last May by means of that marvellous institution the Channel Tunnel. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, agrees that it is a marvellous institution. We are now physically joined to Europe. The people who run the European passenger services through the Channel Tunnel feel that they are penalised because, given our present habits, they cannot run a train out of Waterloo much before 7 o'clock in the morning. Because of the time difference, that train will not arrive in Paris until 11. That is practically lunchtime. Again I pick up what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain —we miss half the opportunities. There is not just the missed opportunity of the time lag, there is the physical cost. Due to the way they have to stack the trains, they estimate that it costs £7 million or £8 million per annum to be geared to the fact that our morning rush hour is later than it is in Europe. We are joined to Europe, as I say, through that magic institution, the Tunnel. I believe that we should be joined in time zone too. I urge your Lordships to support the Bill.

9 p.m.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, on introducing this Bill. I question why a Bill of this importance—and it is a very important Bill because of the implications that it has outside this House; it affects every man, woman and child in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, it is to be hoped at a later stage, Scotland—must be debated at the end of a day at this time without much enthusiasm by the Government.

This Bill is called the Central European Time Bill but it is about British time. There are bound to be noble Lords and Members of another place who will become confused and because the word "European" is in the Title they will oppose it. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, should look more closely at the Bill. If he does so he will see that the Bill is about British time and not about European time for reasons which I shall explain.

I must declare an interest. I am a consultant to the British Horological Institute, which I am pleased to say is in favour of the Bill. In view of some of the comments that have been made by noble Lords, it may be helpful if I go briefly into the history of why the Bills were originally formed in the first place.

Page 9 of the introduction of the Summer Time consultative document, to which the noble Viscount referred, mentioned that the important point about Summer Time is that it is an artificial means of changing working habits. The same effect would be achieved if everybody started and finished work an hour earlier in the summer, but it is easier to adjust the clocks rather than the times of the working day.

That is important. Some noble Lords have said that it is unfair to have a Bill for England and not for Scotland. But I believe the noble Viscount was saying that it would be more democratic for the Scottish Members of Parliament to be able to decide on a Central European Time (Scotland) Bill so that it would be felt that they had been given due consideration for their longitude and, above all, their latitude.

We must remember that up until the 19th century time in Britain was always a very local matter. There was no sense of national time as there is now. For Piers Plowman in the 14th century time was measured in the towns and villages around the Malvern Hills simply by judging the position of the sun in the sky. Accuracy was not a requisite, nor was it possible with sun time. A century later, Chaucer's band of pilgrims might have made a leisurely journey from London to, perhaps, Plymouth without noticing that the difference in sun time was 17 minutes later than it was when they left London. The time differential would have been due to the fact that they were 4 degrees longitude west of London. If they had made a similar pilgrimage to Canterbury, which is only 1 degree east of Greenwich, they could perhaps have been forgiven for overlooking the fact that the Office of Nones was celebrated in the cathedral five minutes earlier than in the capital.

In the Middle Ages local time was usually taken from a sun dial, which was the standard for setting and correcting the mechanical clock in the church tower. It was not until the establishment of a national rail network in the 19th century that there was a need to establish a national rather than local time standard. That was necessary, just as it is today, so that travelling and connecting with trains, and later aeroplanes and ferries, could be achieved by making all clocks register the same time. Business hours were set to harmonise with the new timetables and connections were made by telephones for appointments on the same basis.

That may be very obvious to many noble Lords and I apologise for repeating it, but I think it may have been forgotten. That is why, in the middle of the 19th century, all clocks in Britain were set to the standard of Greenwich Mean Time, which was based on the sun crossing the meridian at zero degrees longitude.

Considering some of what has been said earlier in the debate, it may be helpful if I spell out what longitude is. It is the angle measured in degrees, minutes and seconds between a terrestrial meridian through a place east or west of the standard meridian at Greenwich. One degree of longitude is equal, at the earth's equator, to approximately 70 miles of distance on land or 38 nautical miles at sea. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that you cannot move Greenwich. Greenwich will always be at zero degrees longitude.

On the other hand, latitude is the angular distance, also measured in degrees, minutes and seconds, of any point north or south from the earth's equator equalling the angle between the respective horizontal planes. One degree of latitude equals approximately 111 miles of distance on land or 60 nautical miles at sea. The Palace of Westminster is situated approximately 51 degrees, 8 minutes of latitude north and zero degrees, 1 minute of longitude west of Greenwich.

As the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, has said, sunrise today was at 8 a.m. or 8.03, and sunset was at 15 minutes past four in the afternoon, whereas in Inverness which, as I said earlier, is at latitude 57 degrees, 20 minutes north and longitude 4 degrees, 20 minutes east of Greenwich, the sun rose at 8.16 but set one hour earlier than in London at 15.23 hours. People imply that Inverness will always have a much later sunrise than London, but that is not always the case.

By acknowledging those facts, my intention is to establish two points. The first is that this Bill, like its predecessors, is primarily intended to assist those who travel and communicate over large distances for business or for pleasure. The second point is that for those to whom the first point does not apply—that is, those who remain mainly at one location and do not have to do business over the telephone with Europe or the rest of the world—the effects of the Bill will be minimal. Those people will notice merely that it is lighter for longer in the afternoons rather than in the mornings during the winter months.

I make no criticism, but if a survey were made of Members of another place it is doubtful whether there would be a majority who could give either the longitude or latitude of their constituency or, indeed, who would know whether the clocks are to be put forward or backwards at the end of March. I mean no disrespect. That point was made in the consultative document on the subject in 1989; namely, that in general people were not conscious of the daily basis of whether the time standard was GMT, GMT+1 or GMT+2. Perhaps noble Lords present would indicate whether they know that. Perhaps they will nod if it is GMT, raise their hands if they think it is GMT+1 or raise both hands if they think it is GMT+2. I should be very surprised if we received a general answer. It may be that the noble Viscount when he winds up will put us right on that matter.

The only section of the population that is concerned with the time standard is the travelling public and the business community, as I have said. It is since travel and communications have been speeded up that greater opportunity has been given to many people to travel to the Continent of Europe and beyond which had been hitherto unavailable. The opening of the Channel Tunnel and the European rail service has extended connections with Europe to many more people than would previously have been possible.

I wonder whether the noble Baroness who is to reply—although it was supposed to be the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who was present when we debated the Summer Time Order in this House—will agree that the reasons for making a change in the status quo as outlined in the noble Viscount's Bill are precisely the same reasons which brought about the introduction of the time standard in the middle of the last century. Apparently not. It would appear from a letter that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, wrote to the chairman of Daylight Extra Now on 10th November that there are many other reasons why she does not agree. The letter says that, there are broader political considerations of national identity and cohesion". I wonder whether the noble Baroness can from the Home Office side expand a little more on what is meant by those words, especially in the light of the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and recorded in Hansard on 18th October 1994 (at col. 198) where she stated, when speaking about Central European Time, nor is this a party political issue". Can the noble Baroness also tell us what is meant by the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, further on in the letter where she says: The views of the general population may also be more complex than … [those] revealed by an opinion poll. My office receives a steady flow of letters on this issue throughout the year"? What is complex about asking thousands of travellers who now use Eurostar trains each day whether they want to alter their watches or portable computers by one hour on the outward journey and again on the way back? I should have thought that the answer for most of the population would be quite uncomplex. It has to be either yes or no. Does the Minister agree?

Further, can the noble Baroness say what her noble friend Lady Blatch meant in terms of numbers by the phrase, a steady stream of letters"? Does that refer to more than one letter a day or is it more like one a month? How many of those letters does the noble Baroness's office receive in a year? How many bear the postmark, I wonder, of Tunbridge Wells or its equivalent? Further, can the noble Baroness divulge how many letters have stamped on their envelopes "The Society for the Preservation of Little England" or something similar? Can the noble Baroness also record how many letters in her postbag originate further north than latitude 56?

Earlier in the debate much was said about the important effect that the Bill would have on business. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, said that only a few business people in the City would be affected. Well, according to the City of London handout, A National Asset as it is called, more than 700,000 people work in banking or financial services. It is precisely those areas that the Central European Time Bill will affect and improve. It will improve their business. I see that the noble Lord wishes to respond. I give way.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, when I said a few, I really meant a small proportion of the 55 million or so people who live in the country. Incidentally, I do not imagine that the 700,000 people to whom the noble Lord refers spend their days on the telephone to Europe.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, that may be the point. I am glad that the noble Lord raised it. The daily turnover of the foreign exchange is 300 billion dollars. Its business will be increased by 20 per cent. per day by the increase in trading hours with Europe. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Howie, thinks that a mere 60 billion dollars a day is peanuts when it comes to turnover or business. The same applies to Lloyd's of London. Its turnover is £25 million a day in the insurance market. It is said that that will be increased by another 20 per cent. which would make another £8 million a day available. I do not have the exact numbers for the Stock Exchange, but on my calculations—which I admit may not be accurate—a 20 per cent. increase in the turnover of equity per day by trading in Europe would be 1.6 billion dollars a day. They are not small figures. It is small wonder that the City of London has not become the financial centre of Europe; indeed, it should have done but for the simple reason that businessmen working in financial and banking services will lose up to 20 per cent. of the business when they are operating to Frankfurt or Düsseldorf.

Such considerations may apply for only a few businessmen, so it is said, but in terms of the national economy I believe that it is extremely important that the issue should not be overlooked. I believe that the CBI and the City of London should perhaps do more than they are doing at present to persuade politicians of the importance of the Bill now before your Lordships' House.

I conclude with one point which I have raised previously. What are the attitudes of the three political parties? Not one of them has come out with a definite statement on where they stand on Central European Time. The Government have offered only a consultative document which is now destined, as noble Lords have said, to procrastinate as a definite policy. There are many people outside the Palace of Westminster who actually have to operate—and I use the word reservedly—in the real world. We have to get things done with real people who have real businesses. This kind of thing is pathetic.

Then there is Her Majesty's Official Opposition. They are prepared to offer great things to revitalise and even review the constitution of your Lordship's House and, indeed, to do something about devolution. But what are they going to do about Central European Time as a party? I do not know; I have not heard.

What about the good old Liberal Democrats—the great Europeans? Have they committed themselves definitely to supporting the noble Viscount officially as a party? When all things are said and done, I do not believe it is morally or ethically right that this question should be left to the individual judgment of individual Members of Parliament, or indeed individual noble Lords. Members of Parliament are not competent as individuals to make that judgment. If he has to get elected, no individual Member of another place at election time will risk losing votes by misunderstanding this subject which is quite complex in many ways, although its effects are extremely simple.

I think there is a failure here in the political system. The noble Viscount has put this Bill before us with much persistence. But what is being done about it by the party managers? The party managers seem to be worried that this may affect their political chances in an election. I think that is a totally wrong and immoral view for any political party to take on an issue of this kind. I would like the noble Baroness to be much more specific than to say that the policy is to procrastinate. I wish she would give the noble Viscount far greater credit than has been given so far as regards the importance of this Bill because of the numbers of people it affects. Any political party which for doubtful reasons of short-term political gain does not wholeheartedly support Britain's adoption of Central European Time does a disservice to the nation as a whole and to the British travelling and business communities in particular.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, as he has criticised me twice in his speech, I hope I may put one question to him. He has wrung our hearts with tales of how tough life is for people who have to travel to Paris or Brussels and back in a day and have to alter their watches once on the way out and once on the way back. What about the people who for years and years and years have been travelling from Chicago to Detroit and back whom I mentioned who also have to alter their watches twice but do not seem to worry about it?

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, I think that is their problem. I am talking about British Time and European Time. The position in Chicago is the problem of the people living there and it is for their Congress to sort out. It is not for us to sort out.

9.16 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

My Lords, I hope I may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, who gave us a fascinating and technical exposition, that some of us know that we are now on GMT. At this moment we are on GMT during the British winter. It is quite possible that not only do Members of another place not understand the difference between longitude and latitude but that quite a few members of the population do not understand these things either. That, of course, is a slightly different issue from the one we are addressing tonight.

Like many noble Lords, I agree that we owe a great debt to my noble friend Lord Mountgarret for his persistence and for his comprehensive introduction to this important Bill. He has certainly been involved in this matter for a very long time. I have been following this debate with great interest and have kept the score. The score so far—not counting my noble friend—from the Back Benches, or from those who have spoken since he spoke, is four speakers have spoken in favour and five against. I wish to reassure my noble friend that I am wholly on his side, which makes the score equal, although I suspect that my noble friend Lord Burton, judging by the various noises I have heard him make during the course of the debate, will be against.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

My Lords, that confirms it. When we reach the wind-up speeches from the Front Benches, the score will be six against and four in favour. However, that does not mean to say that this is not a very important issue. I believe it is important for a number of reasons which have been put particularly cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I meant to say the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. A number of reasons have also been expressed particularly cogently by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, lucidly put the business arguments. Those arguments were supported by my noble friend Lord Mountevans. Those are vital arguments.

However, I thought it was particularly interesting that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, should mention his initiative of 28 years ago, which unfortunately failed. It is greatly regrettable that we were not able to continue with that. The noble Lord also reminded us that during the war, for very good reasons, we instituted exactly what is being proposed tonight and it worked because it was more efficient. Indeed it is this whole matter of efficiency which is so important.

We have heard, as one might expect in your Lordships' House, a good deal about the racing industry. I believe that more will be said on that matter. As I understand what has been said in the debate so far, it seems that the punters are in favour of the Bill and the workers are against it. Later we shall hear from the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, who is a most successful trainer. I would remind the workers that it is, of course, ultimately the punters who are the customers and who pay for the whole damn thing. Therefore, ultimately, I suppose they are rather an important element. Perhaps it should be a case of the customers' interests prevailing, but we shall see what happens.

I have little to add because so much has been said and my noble friend Lord Mountgarret's introduction was so extremely comprehensive. However, I should like to make one point to him. There is an obvious psychological obstacle arising from calling the Bill the Central European Time Bill. I wonder whether he would consider at a later stage substituting "Western European Time", because that might have a more favourable connotation in the minds of the public.

Secondly, my noble friend has been extremely persistent over the years. However, with his long service in this House he should have known that when any government, whatever its colour, is "actively considering the matter" that is Whitehall-speak for "nothing is happening whatsoever". That has been proven time and time again. On the Front Bench this evening we have my noble friend Lady Trumpington, who is a very vigorous and dynamic female. I hope that we can rely on her to put her weight (and I speak metaphorically) behind this measure so that some progress is made. She has a reputation for getting things done, and this is a matter on which something needs to be done now and the sooner the measure is on the statute book the better.

9.21 p.m.

Lord Burton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that 15 degrees of longitude was the division between an hour of time. That coincides with my information. I have discovered that the Central European Time zone presently covers 30 degrees of longitude. Therefore, it already covers twice that distance. We would be adding almost all of England west of Greenwich, Scotland another 3 or 5 degrees further west, the Western Isles 6 and 7 degrees further west, and Northern Ireland a further 7 to 8 degrees further west. Do we consider only the south east of England, or the British Isles as a whole?

It is not often realised that not only Bristol but also Carlisle is east of Edinburgh. Nearly all of France is east of Scotland. Belfast is west of Land's End. The further north one goes the shorter the hours of daylight in winter, and thus the shorter the acceptable variations in time that are available.

I am not sure whether I heard him correctly, but I was rather amazed when the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, said that the working class start work in the dark anyway and therefore it did not matter. I was rather shaken. I did not expect to hear that kind of remark.

The trial period prior to 1971 was rejected as unsatisfactory. I cannot see why we should now be returning to the debate and trying to revert to something which was rejected only in 1971.

We were told that Scotland was 80 per cent. against a change, and quite rightly. But to get round that the noble Viscount has sought to give Scotland a different time band from England. That is crazy. If it were to apply to Scotland then why not to Northern Ireland?

Had my noble friend's proposal been in effect today I should have had to get up at 4.45 this morning to catch my plane. As it was, I had to get up at 5.45, but that is another story because I slept in. I just made it. To ask those in the north to get up at a quarter to five in the morning in order to come to London is not very kind.

If Scotland was on a different time band what would happen to the Scottish financial markets, which are very important? I do not think that Glasgow and Edinburgh would be pleased to be on a different time band from London, which is what would happen. Why should they be on a different time band from London when London does not want to be on a different band from Paris? If the whole UK were on CET, we would be in even further trouble. It was said that tourism would benefit. However, I am sure that the Scottish ski resorts would suffer severely if they had very dark mornings. They are not happy about the issue. They are an important part of tourism in Scotland.

I thought that the arguments put forward by the noble Viscount on agriculture and the building trade were completely fallacious, as were those regarding children going to school.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my intervening for one moment, I do not believe that I referred to the building trade. Therefore I do not believe that I put forward a fallacious argument.

Lord Burton: My Lords, the noble Lord certainly did so regarding agriculture. He spoke about seeing to machinery before going out to work. It is not nice playing about with machinery on a lousy morning. I believe that the building trade was referred to by noble Lords on the other side. However, quite rightly, the building trade will suffer severely if we accept the proposal. On a lighter vein, I told my keeper yesterday that I was coming down for the debate. He said, "Goodness, my Lord, I hope that their Lordships will not agree to that proposal. I shouldn't be able to feed my pheasants until 10 o'clock. They wouldn't be off the roost". I believe that it would be quite wrong and rather selfish to seek to treat Scotland in this manner. Throughout the debate it has become clear that Scotland would suffer. To pass this Bill would be manna from heaven for the Scottish National Party. The noble Viscount said that he was in favour of a United Kingdom. But this proposal plays into the hands of those who want to divide the United Kingdom. It is playing into the hands of those who want a separate Scotland. Let us consider newspaper headlines. They might state, "The English Parliament passes legislation highly damaging to Scotland. Schoolchildren put at great risk", and so on.

The question arises as to whether we should divide the House tonight. I know that that is seldom done on Second Reading. However, there are precedents and it is seldom that we debate such a damaging Bill as this. I feel tempted to divide to see what support there is. We are told that the issue is evenly balanced. I believe that it is wrong that real hardship should be inflicted on some people, although it is a minority, so that others have more time to enjoy themselves in the evening.

9.28 p.m.

The Earl of Huntingdon

My Lords, as an unlisted speaker in the gap, I realise that I have a particular duty to be brief. I thank my noble friends Lord Burnham and Lord Crawshaw for allowing me to make my point without being too repetitive.

The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, referred to punters paying. It is certainly a weighty argument. But in fact evening racing at present is less profitable in the betting shops than afternoon racing. In a recent survey published two days ago 78 per cent. of the British Betting Office Association were opposed to evening racing.

Speaking as a professional in the racing industry, I suppose that I should be expected to support the Bill. In our narrow world I can see the advantages of the availability of more evening fixtures for the racegoing public. But many trainers and stable staff breathe a sigh of relief when the last evening meeting at Windsor traditionally takes place in late August. That is after four months of five o'clock starts in the morning and late night returns after both day and evening racing.

My northern training colleagues in particular would be seriously inconvenienced by a later start to the morning in winter when they have to supervise their horses' exercise before going off to the races. Unlike the dairy farmers in their milking parlours, the gallops are not floodlit. Most of those colleagues are responsible enough to seek to avoid the worst of the business traffic and any confrontation with cars. A later start in the morning would make that task very difficult for them.

It would seem that our views would place us in the 4 per cent. minority—but quite a vocal one.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, we have had a lively and instructive debate on what is clearly a controversial issue. We are much indebted to the noble Viscount for having persisted in raising the issue, so long unresolved, and in using the device of a Private Member's Bill to enable us to have this further debate tonight. I hope that the Bill will go through its succeeding stages.

The issue is certainly not new. One can say that it has been with us for decades. The first time the matter of Summer Time was debated in Parliament was 1908; British Summer Time was introduced in 1916, during the First World War, and double Summer Time in 1941 in the Second World War. Then there was the experiment to which my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead so graphically referred, at the time when he was Home Secretary, between 1968 and 1971.

That all demonstrates that the question of Summer Time has evolved over the years and there is no reason at all why, if we come to the conclusion that there should be a further change, we should not have one. It is not something which has always been in the shape it has now.

I believe that the Green Paper which appeared in 1989 was one of the most balanced documents on such a subject that I have read. It set out the issues clearly and if the document were to be written today it would, in my opinion, be in much the same style. We have allowed five years to go by without coming to a conclusion.

The Green Paper looked at the issue from the point of view of the impact which the proposed changes might have, the main change being to move to single double Summer Time—the phrase that has been adopted for Central European Time. I was particularly struck by what the Green Paper said about road accidents. I know that some doubt has been expressed by noble Lords on the subject, but the evidence seems fairly clear from the work done by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory. In recent Questions in another place, very specific Answers were given by the Government on the impact which double British Summer Time might have on road accidents. For example, in 1993 an Answer stated that, based on the 1991 road accident data, the Road Research Laboratory estimated that a total of 29 fatalities, 125 serious injuries and 140 lesser injuries to children under the age of 16 could be avoided in Great Britain if double Summer Time were adopted.

If one used no other argument, it seems to me that, if true, the matter of life and death is a powerful argument. The research has been done; indeed, the Government reiterated that statement in a later Answer. I feel justified in stating those facts because they are the kind of considerations that we should bear in mind when examining such an issue. They indicate that in estimating the position that could arise by the year 2005, with road fatalities, the introduction of double Summer Time would reduce road fatalities among children up to the age of 15, in that case, by something like 4 per cent. Those are serious considerations and as they are supported on the basis of the work done by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory I think that everyone must take them very seriously indeed. If the figures can be properly challenged on the basis of equivalent, detailed, scientific investigation, let that be done. But so far, they have not.

Lord Burton

My Lords, perhaps I may just ask the noble Lord: are these UK figures, or are they figures for England and Wales? Where do the figures come from? On cold, dark mornings a child rushing to school will clearly be at far greater risk than at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when it should be awake.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that these are UK figures given by the Government. No doubt the noble Baroness will be able to confirm them when she speaks. They are government figures and can be found in Hansard.

The next issue is that of saving energy, in which I have some interest. There is not the slightest doubt—again based on the work that was done in the Green Paper and subsequently confirmed—that there would be considerable savings in lighting costs. At a time when the Government are committed to saving energy and to meeting their climate warming objectives, this is an important consideration.

Reference has been made to tourism. The latest estimates are that this change could lead to an extra £1 billion of earnings from tourism. I should have thought that that was a matter of some importance to a trading nation.

The report also referred to improved leisure facilities, particularly for elderly people. Then, of course, there are the commercial benefits to which various speakers have referred—the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and others.

The report also sets out the arguments against the proposal —and sets them out very fairly. But its conclusion is worth quoting. Having set out on page 26 the arguments against the proposal, it then states: It is not clear, however, how decisive these arguments are. The available evidence, though incomplete, does not support the theory that SDST [Single Double Summer Time] would result in more accidents, crime or lost production in winter". Indeed, the contrary could well be the case.

Therefore, at the very least the debate is still open. At the very least we had in the Green Paper of five years ago a most important document. It is regrettable that five years have elapsed, during which time we have not reached a decision. I hope the noble Baroness will tell the House that after that period of five years' gestation the Government are on the point of concluding.

9.37 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu

My Lords, one can tell at a glance that the Central European Time Bill is not a government Bill. First, it is contained easily on a single sheet of paper. Secondly, it is in plain English and can be readily understood without employing the services of a lawyer. The noble Viscount deserves the congratulations of this House, not just for his brevity and clarity, but also for his truly exceptional patience in this matter.

I hope that the House will forgive me—although it has heard already tonight something of the history—if I produce some further edited highlights which perhaps give some indication of the reasons why the noble Viscount has at last had to resort to introducing this Bill himself.

But first I have a warning. Anyone who hopes, in looking at the history of this matter, to gain from this sorry story reassurance about the consultative and legislative process must prepare themselves for disappointment. Anyone who hopes to hear the sound of the smack of firm government will strain their ears in vain. For I am afraid that this is a tale of dithering indecision and is as good an illustration of the politics of prevarication and, quite frankly, pusillanimous procrastination as one could hope to find even in the annals of the present Administration.

I shall not go back in history to the bygone age, the golden age, before there were daily calls for the resignation of the Home Secretary of the day. I shall start in August 1987, when, the European Commission having made proposals for summer time arrangements across the Community, the Home Office commissioned its first survey of interest groups. Unfortunately, the Home Office gave five options for consideration. The result, perhaps predictably, was that the Home Office could not understand the results that it obtained or, as it put it on page 6 of its consultative document: Putting forward five options led to difficulty in the interpretation of replies".

So a year later the Government tried again and in 1988 a second survey was commissioned. This time they wisely cut the options down to three. Nobody can complain that they were not consulted about this matter back in 1988. Everybody was consulted. There were 410 different interest groups which took advantage of the offer and responded. They ranged from Lloyd's of London to the Bee Farmers Association, the Briar Pipe Trade Association, the British Edible Pulse Association, the Friends of the Earth, the Ice Cream Alliance Limited, the National Federation of Fish Friers and the Zip Fastener Manufacturers Association. From Scotland too the responses poured in. Groups which, on the face of it, would appear to have nothing obvious in common —groups such as the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, the Scotch Whisky Association and the Scottish Accident Prevention Council—all submitted the same view. No more extensive consultation could possibly have been undertaken —one may think on reading the consultative document—than was then undertaken by that government. The overwhelming majority of those who made submissions or were consulted favoured the adoption of Central European Time back in June 1989, some five years ago.

So what did the Government then decide to do? As we now know, the answer was, nothing. On page 27 of the consultative document they say: This paper is intended to stimulate discussion on the issue and the options to assist the Government in reaching a decision". That passage was headed "Conclusion"; but it was, of course, nothing of the sort. It was just the beginning, because the Government then went away to decide. Perhaps we can now fast-forward the action three years and come to 14th July 1992. We find the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, at the Dispatch Box, on that occasion asking for a further two years of the status quo and using these words: to enable the Government to complete their consideration of the options".—[Official Report, 14/7/92; col. 199.] The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, was beginning to be restive by that time but he bit his tongue and kept his seat. Six months more passed and in December 1992 the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, could bear the waiting no longer. He asked the Government if they would please expedite this review urgently in view of the single European market beginning early in 1993 and the forthcoming Channel Tunnel. But he was told by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers: We shall bring forward our proposals when the approach of the Commission is clear". That was something of a surprise to those who heard him because there had been no one in any doubt about the views of the Commission since 1987.

By 19th January 1994—a year later—the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, could no longer remain silent. He asked whether the Government would now take action. On that occasion the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was characteristically decisive. He told the House: I cannot say when a decision will be made".—[Official Report, 19/1/94; col. 712.]

So yet another year has passed. The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, has finally snapped and introduced the Bill himself. Tonight, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has been sent to hold the reins of this somewhat difficult and troublesome hobbyhorse which has so far refused to face the obstacle of decision that is in front of us.

It is perfectly fair—the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, rubbed salt in the wound this evening with regard to this matter—that opinion on the merits of this proposed legislation is divided. I believe that it crosses all party lines and when I express support for the Bill—which I do without reservation—I express my personal point of view. There are others on these Benches, in addition to the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, who do not wish to see change. I am bound to say that, over the passage of the past year and in the light of the concession the noble Viscount makes in his Bill in relation to Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Howie, appears to have changed from acting as champion of the Scots to championing the cause of the Irish—though the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, did not seem unduly troubled by that aspect of the matter.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend realises that the Scottish and the Northern Irish are the same.

Baroness Mallalieu

My Lords, I can see that there are similarities between the noble Lord and the noble Baroness; but there are also marked differences!

For myself, when France is only a short distance from Waterloo Station; when we are well and truly part of a single market; when our business links with Europe grow daily closer, whatever people's personal views about that; and when people like the noble Baroness are commuting regularly to and fro for work and for pleasure, it seems to me that business, travel, communications and tourism would be greatly eased and simplified if we shared the same time as our close European neighbours. In addition, there is abundant evidence that the majority of people, at any rate in England and Wales and probably in Scotland too, want that change.

Quite apart from business benefits and benefits for those who travel, those who live here would enjoy considerable benefits also. There is of course the important road safety consideration to which both the noble Viscount, Lord Mountevans, and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, referred. The figures mentioned are plainly those for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is clear also that there would be substantial savings in things like lighting costs and considerable unappreciated benefits in the field of tourism, sport and leisure, to which a number of noble Lords referred. There may perhaps be a side benefit. Who knows, if Members of another place who took advantage of the offer to try the Eurostar train to Paris before the service began, and missed the return train, might not have had to be flown home if Her Majesty's Government had acted earlier and synchronised their watches for them? But it may be that they were delayed admiring the winter sunset over the coffee cups, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, said, and lost track of time.

Of course the decision the Government face is a difficult one. Some may say that it is an almost impossible one because it is bound to upset someone. They have therefore shied away from taking any decision of any sort. It is not possible in this area to please both the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, who spoke so eloquently of the troubles of the dairy farmer on a cold winter morning, and the Milk Marketing Board and the Royal Agricultural Society, which took the opposite view when they responded to the consultative document. It is not possible to please both the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and the British Clock and Watch Manufacturers' Association, who appear to hold a different view, so far as I can understand the consultative document on that matter. It is not possible to please both the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, on the one hand, and the Horse Racing Advisory Council and the British horseracing board on the other, who take the other view.

I therefore sympathise considerably with the Government. But once more tonight we are in the position where—to use the equestrian motif, because racing played a considerable part in the speeches of a number of noble Lords—the reluctant horse is again before us. I hope that tonight things will be different. I hope that, with the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, in the saddle, things will change. I hope particularly, since the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, is now standing on the other side of the hurdle, having led the way and shown how the Government should do it and particularly as he is standing holding a carrot in his hand in the form of an exclusion for Scotland, which may decide to opt back into the Bill at a later stage if it so wishes or stay out if it so prefers (as indeed can the pheasants of the noble Lord, Lord Burton, if they so wish) that tonight we shall see a decision from the Government.

I should prefer the noble Baroness to tell us that the Government will, if not support the Bill, at least let it have a fair passage and ensure that there is time in another place so that a proper debate can take place. If she cannot do that, I should prefer her to say that the Government have decided not to advance this legislation than to hear yet again that the Government are going away to consider what they might or might not do. Can we please have a decision tonight?

9.50 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, one could say, "Here we go again!" I congratulate my noble friend Lord Mountgarret on initiating a Bill on an issue which never fails to produce a lively exchange, reflecting as it does the strong opinions held; and today's debate has been no exception. Before I endeavour to tackle the subject, I must make my noble friend Lady Blatch's sincere apologies for not being here this evening. She is abroad on important government business. So I am afraid that your Lordships will have to put up with me, not as a shining Lady Godiva on horseback but as a pusillanimous pig in the middle.

It is clear that there are those who share my noble friend's certainty that at least part of the United Kingdom would derive great benefit from the adoption of Central European Time, or single/double Summer Time. There remain others who have spoken in the debate, and some who may not have been represented this evening, who feel equally strongly that the balance of advantage is less clear-cut and that we can manage very well with the status quo. Incidentally, for the benefit of my noble friend Lord Montgomery, I make the voting in today's debate eight for and seven against.

I note that, while the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, made great play with the fact that, for reasons I have given and will give, the Government are taking time to consider the matter, she had finally to confess that the Official Opposition, too, have yet to reach a conclusion on the matter. I would venture to stress that it is not a matter of party politics, because opinion is immensely varied, as we have again seen this evening.

In response to my noble friend Lord Mountgarret, I must tell him that the 1989 Green Paper did not produce a clear view. Excluding petitions which were generated by pressure groups, just 50 per cent. favoured SDST and 49 per cent. favoured the status quo. In reply to the reference of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, to opinion poll results, the Government are concerned about public opinion but cannot allow it to be the sole guide. The recent NOP survey used a method of quota sampling and the result for Scotland was taken from a sample of just 93 persons.

I am well aware that the Government have been considering this issue for some time. I know that many Members of your Lordships' House are anxious for a decision to be made: but only if it is in line with their own views. The diverse opinions expressed in this House are reflected in the correspondence which Ministers receive, and your Lordships may be interested to know that, despite the recent campaign conducted by such organisations as Daylight Extra Now and supported by sections of the press, these letters continue to be evenly split between those who favour change and those who equally vehemently argue for the status quo. That is why the Government continue to keep the issue under consideration. To answer one of the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, the office of my noble friend Lady Blatch receives hundreds of letters a year from all over the country.

What we have to consider is whether there is a clear advantage to be gained from adopting Central European Time in place of the status quo—that is, Greenwich Mean Time in the winter months and GMT plus one hour in the summer. If there is, there remain further questions which need to be answered.

Is the advantage sufficient to justify change? Does the advantage accrue disproportionately to one part of the population and impose unacceptable penalties on another? Is the balance of advantage one which the Government can accept for the country as a whole? These are issues which the Government cannot brush aside.

The Government have a duty to consider all the implications of a decision which would affect the lives of every citizen of this country. Many different issues have been raised this evening and I do not propose to rehearse them all now, but I should comment on some of the more notable of them.

It is often said that the most persuasive argument in favour of a move to CET is that relating to road traffic casualties. My noble friend Lord Mountgarret produced some impressive figures. The most recent Transport Research Laboratory figures estimate a net reduction in road traffic casualties of 140 deaths and 2,000 casualties, including 520 serious injuries, each year. The RTL estimates have taken account of recent changes in driving habits, but are based on direct experience which dates back to the 1968–1971 experiment with British Standard Time. I can confirm that the RTL figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, are based on a model for Great Britain as a whole.

While those in favour of a move to CET quite fairly point to the potential saving of road casualties, there are others who are equally concerned that the adoption of CET would endanger the lives of certain groups of workers. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has pointed out the serious nature of some of these concerns. For those, such as farmers, construction workers, postmen and milkmen, who start work outdoors early, the increased risk of accidents could be considerable and the impact would be greater the further north and west one goes. That is one reason why the Scandinavian experience is not as directly relevant to the United Kingdom as my noble friend Lord Mountevans might suggest.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I came here to listen and to learn. Can the Minister say whether the apprehensions which she has mentioned were borne out by experience during the war?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, no, I cannot say that. I know that they are based on experiments that went on after the war. I cannot confirm that they include wartime experiences. The noble and learned Lord will be aware that I was around at that time, too. I shall write to him. I am worried about the time.

My noble friend Lord Mountgarret touched on the subject of crime. The extension of daylight hours in the evening and its effects on the fear of crime is hard to quantify, but we do know that the elderly and women in particular are fearful of walking alone in the dark. Nevertheless, the fear of crime has much wider causes than a lack of daylight, and there may be some force in the view that, in some cases, better street lighting, which provides a benefit throughout the year, could contribute as much, if not more, to improving the sense of security felt by vulnerable groups.

It has also been said that the leisure and tourist industries stand to benefit from a move to CET. The benefits would be generated by an additional hour of daylight in the evenings rather than the early morning, when most people are in bed or at work. The Government welcome greater participation in outdoor pursuits and I am personally aware that the British Horseracing Board is a supporter of a change which would extend the evening racing season, but I recognise that there are other cases. Indeed, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, and the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, some sections of the racing industry are against change. There are other groups such as hill walkers who may prefer lighter mornings. However, indoor sports and exercise programmes have also seen rapid growth in recent years and these sources of well-being are unaffected by a lack of daylight.

Turning to transport, I am happy to say that the problems for carriers will be eased by one recent decision which was welcomed in all parts of your Lordships' House. Our partners in the European Union have now agreed to adopt common start and end dates to Summer Time with effect from 1996. This harmonisation, which will remove an irksome anomaly is, I know, particularly welcome to the transport industry. Timetables for the increasing amount of traffic between the United Kingdom and continental Europe would indeed be simpler still if we shared a common time zone but it would not make any difference to the real time of the journey and it is an adjustment which international travellers and businessmen are used to making on journeys to a variety of destinations.

The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, produced some very interesting figures on air travel to and from Europe. While we are on the subject of business travel, I should perhaps also mention the possible effects on international business and finance of a change to the status quo. On the one hand, the adoption of CET would bring the working hours of the United Kingdom more closely into line with those of our major trading partners in continental Europe (although different business practices would prevent a perfect match). It would also provide an overlap with countries in the Pacific rim. On the other hand, such a change would deprive business of the one-hour overlap with the working day in North America and the advantage this gives us in that market over our European competitors. But then it may also be argued that such calculations are themselves behind the times, if your Lordships will forgive the expression. Do office working hours really matter so much in a business environment which is operational around the clock? Both the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and Lord Howie of Troon, referred to the existence of a number of time zones in the United States although for different reasons. Does business on the east coast of America suffer because of the time difference with the west coast?

To set against the advantages put forward in favour of CET, not all of which are quite as clear-cut as the speech of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret might suggest, supporters of the status quo highlight a number of specific disadvantages which would flow from its adoption. The status quo itself is the standard for comparison. It is well established and well understood.

The arguments in favour of maintaining present arrangements are more than the attraction of familiarity, but defenders of the status quo are right when they say that familiarity in itself counts for something. Strong and compelling reasons are required to justify altering a system with which everyone is perfectly at home, if not perfectly happy, and the cost and benefits to all parts of the country must be carefully weighed up.

Those who are opposed to change, as well as questioning the size of the benefits claimed for CET have argued that such benefits which could accrue to certain sections of the community and parts of the country would be at the expense of increased dangers and inconvenience to others. It is undoubtedly true that those people living and working in the northernmost parts of the United Kingdom would suffer from a form of double detriment with the adoption of CET. Not only would they have darker mornings for more months of the year, but they would also be bathed in daylight in midsummer up to and even beyond midnight in some places—certainly beyond the point of any conceivable benefit to sporting or tourist interests.

But it is not only a matter of geography which distinguishes the opponents of a change. Other groups within the United Kingdom object on diverse grounds. The Orthodox Jewish community is concerned that any change would adversely impinge on its hours of prayer, and some mothers of small children dread the extension of light summer evenings.

I have so far concentrated on the general question of CET versus the status quo and have been speaking on those matters in relation to their application to the country as a whole, as I believe is right. I must now come back to the detail of my noble friend's Bill and specifically to the fact that it suggests that change could be introduced without application to Scotland. In an earlier debate on this issue one of the opponents of CET, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, did indeed suggest that that was a possible answer.

What exactly would be the effect of my noble friend's Bill? It would create two time zones in the United Kingdom, thereby setting up a series of new barriers to trade and communication within the United Kingdom itself. There are both technical and practical objections to this proposal.

The technical background was explained fully by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. But perhaps I may say that time zones occur ordinarily only in countries which are very wide from east to west, as in the case of Australia, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. In the UK the greater part of Scotland falls within the same degrees of longitude as the rest of the country, a situation which would not normally suggest the need for a separate time zone. That last point was amply explored by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead.

In addition, the practical difficulties and anomalies which would arise from the creation of a separate time zone for Scotland must surely rule it out of consideration. First, there would be the creation of a new difficulty for our transport systems between Scotland and the rest of the UK arising from the time difference. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, gave us some examples of peculiarities which exist near his home. The likely solution to this would be a transport system operating on London time in the same way as much US transport operates on New York Central Time. Potentially that would create two time systems within Scotland. In addition, the present mismatch of working hours with Europe would be transferred to business between Scotland and the rest of the country and a company's London office would need to remember that when phoning colleagues in Glasgow or Edinburgh and vice versa.

The Government have never accepted that that is an issue of Scotland versus the rest of the United Kingdom. Opinions are divided across the nation and across the parties, as I said. Not only are there many people throughout England and Wales who support the status quo; there are many in Scotland also in favour of change. It is within that context that political questions of national identity and cohesion referred to by my noble friend Lady Blatch and questioned by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, arise. Whatever decision the Government reach, it must be applied to the UK as a whole.

In no aspect of this question are the answers clear-cut. The Government must be sure of reaching the right answer, even if in seeking it we take longer than some Members of your Lordships' House would wish. I feel now rather like that girl in the song which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, once quoted: She didn't say yes; she didn't say no".

This is a Private Member's Bill and the Government do not therefore propose to vote against it. We continue to listen to representations and to consider them. We shall be listening with particular attention to the arguments presented by your Lordships during the proceedings on the Bill. We have not rejected the arguments for change, but neither are we so convinced by them that we wish to act on this matter now.

10.9 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, in view of the time, which were we on CET would be 10-past 11 and we should have finished, I hope, a very good dinner and be on our way to bed, I shall try to be brief. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not refer to every point made by noble Lords.

Perhaps I may deal first with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, who, alas, I see has had to leave, and the noble Lord, Lord Monson. Both made the same point about Northern Ireland. They were concerned as to whether or not the people of Northern Ireland would be happy about the Bill. All I can say to those noble Lords is that 75 per cent. of the responses received from Northern Ireland were in favour of adopting Central European Time.

The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, went on to ask about the people of Bristol, the West Country and so on. I do not know but again all I can tell him is that according to the responses, in Cornwall, 90 per cent. are in favour; in Devon and Dorset, 70 per cent. are in favour; and in Somerset, 75 per cent. are in favour. I should have thought that that put paid to that anxiety.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, made a suggestion which appeals greatly. He may remember that that is where I started from some years ago; namely, an extension of Summer Time. That would be a very satisfactory way of dealing with the matter. Unfortunately, since that ball was put up into the air, we find that we have to obey many directives from Brussels. One of those directives provided that we must change our clocks at the same time as they do. Therefore, that would not appear to be an available option because it would appear that we cannot operate differently.

Lord Monson

My Lords, perhaps the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting. I was suggesting that we should try to persuade our partners in Europe of the merits of changing Summer Time across Europe, not only in the EC countries but in all European countries.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord but I do not know whether there is anyone with powers which are sufficient to persuade the officials and mandarins in Brussels to move once a decision has been made.

My noble friend Lord Montgomery suggested that we might refer to it as Western European Time rather than Central European Time. I am sure that he will know how to deal with that matter at a later stage were your Lordships kind enough to give the Bill a fair run.

I knew that the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and my noble friend Lord Burton were not entirely happy with the proposals. However, I am amazed to find myself so much in agreement with them. I agree with my noble friend Lady Trumpington that it would not be a very happy situation to have two time zones in the United Kingdom. But, as I said in my opening remarks, I should like to see the representations of Scotland made first to opt into the Bill rather than to include Scotland automatically when one knows that there is contention and differences of opinion so that it then must take the more difficult route of opting out. That is all I say. I agree with those noble Lords about that.

I am grateful for most of the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu. I do not believe that she is entirely fair when she joins forces with me to criticise the Government about their inaction and not showing their hand. After all, I am not sure that her party has any definitive views as a matter of policy. The party to which I have the honour to belong also does not have any definitive views. Indeed, I am not sure that the Liberal Democrat Party as a whole has any definitive views, although I was extremely grateful for, and encouraged by, the excellent speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and Lord Ezra.

I may be wrong but I sense that the general feeling running throughout the country is such that if one of the political parties were to wave the flag for the adoption of Central European Time, it might find its task at the next general election rather easier. I believe that it would be good to follow the route of adopting the same time as Europe.

Indeed, this Bill affects everybody in this country and, as I said, I appreciate that there are wide-ranging views and feelings of foul and beastly complexity. However, I feel that the Government are suffering from the inability to grasp the nettle and make up their mind, primarily due to fear of the reaction of Scotsmen. It is a case of the Scottish tail wagging the English dog. I do not recommend referenda, but if the Government lack the courage to allow Parliament to deliberate then that has to be a logical course.

I do not believe that the Government lack courage to take decisions that might be unpopular with a minority of their citizens. They are bold enough, at times, to take decisions which are highly unpopular with the majority. They might do worse than to draw on the book written by Richard Pape, Boldness be my Friend. May that boldness be manifested in this matter.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.