§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
After the Budget debate and the Statements that we have had at some length, we move briefly to a subject which I hope will produce greater consensus. In bringing this matter to your Lordships for the second time in the same calendar year, I have two objectives in mind: first, to persuade Her Majesty's Government to take the matter seriously, and to stop sitting on the fence; and, secondly, to ensure that time to consider it properly is given in another place.
The Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret did not even start in the other place. I have had a number of conversations with Members of another place to see whether we cannot rectify that position. I have also had a great piece of fortune in that Mr. John Butterfill, the Member for Bournemouth West, who drew first place in the ballot, has decided to take this subject for his Private Member's Bill. In the event that we give the Bill a Second Reading tonight and that we pass it in due course, we can look forward to a twin-track approach to the subject in another place—twin-track is fashionable at the moment.
This is a short Bill, comprising eight lines only. The Bill differs from the Central European Time Bill, which was so ably presented by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret on 11th January, in three main aspects. The first is the title which I feel better represents the geographical area of which the UK is a part, comprising France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Benelux countries, and Switzerland. Those countries are normally considered to be part of western Europe. Secondly, it carries a clear definition in Clause 1 which explains what is intended—that is, that we would have what is normally called British summer time in winter and British double summer time in summer. Thirdly, it covers the whole of the United Kingdom. Even the most severe opponents of the proposal will agree that whatever we do the United Kingdom must remain in one time zone.
I do not believe that it is necessary to rehearse the arguments at any great length. They are set out in detail in the Second Reading debate which took place on 11 th January and which noble Lords can read in Hansard at col. 243. In summary, the objectives of the Bill are supported by all outside organisations concerned with transport, road safety, tourism, sport and leisure together with industry, commerce, banking and all the financial services of the City of London which contribute so much to the national well-being.
I believe also that there has been a groundswell of public opinion supporting the idea. For instance, the issue came up recently in the radio programme "Any 661 Questions?". After discussion, the programme presenter took a straw poll of the large audience. That produced a near unanimous vote in favour of the proposals. There has been a great deal of correspondence following on from that.
When the matter was previously discussed in this House in January my noble friend Lord Mountgarret was fobbed off by my noble friend Lady Trumpington—she is normally a most robust Lady—with a lengthy speech which regrettably signified little. As an aside, noble Lords may be aware that my noble friend Lady Trumpington is recovering from a knee operation. I am sure that it is the wish of the whole House that she makes a speedy recovery and returns to us in her normal full vigour.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Trumpington made one comment which gave us slight encouragement. She said that the Government would continue to consider the matter. That indeed is what has been happening for a very long time. But as another 10 months have elapsed I hope that the Government will take a more positive line and I look forward to hearing what my noble friend Lord Courtown has to say about it tonight. Surely, what is now required is not consultation but decision and action. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.)
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I rise to speak on this subject with a certain amount of dismay. It is not long since we discussed it last January in a Bill which was, I said then, bizarre. I actually meant idiotic. It created a time zone between Scotland and England. This Bill is much more sensible and therefore has to be taken seriously. However, I must say with a certain amount of distress that the matter is to be raised in another place by a Member from one of the most extremely southern constituencies in the country. He will consider an amendment which allows for a separate time zone in Scotland as against England. Clearly, bizarre notions are not confined to this House. I hope that he pulls himself together before he introduces the Bill.
My objections to the Bill are well known to your Lordships and I do not need to go into them in any great detail—although I might if I am urged! They are simple and have appeared in Hansard on several occasions. Indeed, this is the third time in two years, which is quite preposterous. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis that I do not believe that this is a proper measure for a Private Member's Bill. It is a national matter and should be taken up, or rather left alone, by the Government.
The first objection is what we might call the Scottish dimension. It is a serious matter but has been dismissed in some parts of the press as being the objection of a minority. Some members of the press have said that the minority should yield to the majority. But in this case the minority are put to substantial inconvenience for the 662 convenience of another minority. It is not for the convenience of the entire English people, such as they are, but for a small group within them.
The question of time is not only a matter of north and south but of north and south combined with east and west. The globe is tipped over and the sun goes round it or it goes round the sun. I am not quite sure which but one or the other is right. It amounts to the same thing in the end. Not only that, but the country is tipped over so that Bristol, for example, is further east than Edinburgh. The east-west element is extremely important with the result that the real time in Glasgow is 45 minutes behind the real time in London. That 45 minutes is quite substantial, especially on a Glasgow morning in January or February. I have been there often at that time and I know that it is a dismal experience. It is not a happy time. It is cold, miserable and dank and it is also dangerous.
If we leave things as they are, in the dead of winter the dawn in Glasgow will be at about a quarter to ten. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, quibbles about that and keeps producing the time in Inverness. But Glasgow is more important in that respect. I see that the noble Lord wishes to respond. I give way.
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, although he is quite right, the sun set today in Glasgow and in Inverness only a mere 15 or 16 minutes before it did here in London?
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, it is the word "mere" that bothers me. I am not talking about November; I am talking about January and February.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I take the point. I did not think that I would stir up the point quite so readily. I apologise to the House for so doing. Indeed, it was accidental. Had I meant to do so, I would have done it more seriously.
However, if we adopt the Bill, it means that dawn in Glasgow will not be at 8.45 but at 9.45. Let us think about it. It means going to work in the dark. It is bad enough going to work in the light, but it is infinitely worse to do so in the dark. You feel awful. It is dark, cold, miserable and dank. You need to think about it as though you were in Glasgow and not as though you were in Bournemouth, London or some such salubrious spot.
I have nothing further to say in that respect, except to point out that Belfast and Londonderry are on the same latitude as Glasgow but further west. So it is worse in Belfast and Londonderry, but it is even worse in Sligo because it suffers two disadvantages. The first is that it is further west than Londonderry but it is also in another country. If we are going to suggest that there should be a time difference between Sligo and Londonderry—in other words, between Northern Ireland and the Republic—I do not know what Gerry Adams would make of it. I do not believe that he would like it very much. Indeed, it would not help.
Perhaps I may turn to my second objection about which the House is already aware. I shall be very brief. I refer to the dangers and the technical difficulty which 663 would be experienced by the construction industry if such a change took place. I have explained the technical difficulty before; namely, that you can conduct concreting on a construction site at a temperature of about 3 degrees centigrade. On winter mornings, you do not get that at dawn; you get it much later. Therefore, what would happen in such a case is that the time at which concreting could be done would be thrown an hour further into the day, with damage to the construction industry. That damage has been calculated, but such calculations are always very subjective. Unfortunately, when we last debated the matter, the Official Report quoted me as saying that the damage to the industry would be £4 million a year, but it is actually £400 million. Nevertheless, the Government are doing damage to the construction industry every time they open their mouth, so perhaps that £400 million a year would be a minor—yet serious—matter.
The second consideration is the fact that big building construction sites are dangerous places. I say that because they are temporary. The temporary works which they contain are scaffolding, boarding, ladders and so on. They can be slippery because of frost and ice. That frost and ice is there in the early morning and people can be injured. They may fall and be hurt, and yet it is suggested that we add another hour which means that there will be an hour of further danger. It is not an insignificant point. I know that it involves a minority and that there are only about 1.5 million construction workers but, nevertheless, they are a significant body of people. So we have the cost problem to the construction industry and the danger problem.
I should like to say a few words about tourism. I know that my personal noble friend Lord Mountevans—although I am not sure whether that is how I should put it—is deeply involved in tourism. He will no doubt tell us about the advantages to tourism which the extra hour would provide. But I would like your Lordships to consider whether people really visit places as tourists because of the light. Indeed, do they? For example, if you go to Egypt, you will find that it gets dark round about 6 o'clock in the evening, but you do not go there for the light. You go to Egypt to look at the pyramids, or something of that nature. When it gets dark you can easily go and have a martini—and that is a very sound thing to do. That is what you do. You do not say "Oh, it is light in Egypt, let's go there", or, "It's going to be light in Britain, let's go there". That is absurd. Indeed, the argument is preposterous but, unfortunately, because of the politeness of this House, I shall have to sit and listen to it during the debate.
I shall finish by talking about business. I do not wish to irritate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, again. Having done it once, it would be improper to do it twice. When I look back at the record of our previous debate in the Official Report I am staggered to note the amounts of money which the noble Lord conjured out of the air. He referred to millions; in fact I believe he referred to billions, although they were dollars which made the figures higher than if they had been pounds. He claimed that billions could be gained by implementing this change.
664 The CBI tells us that there is a two hour differential between business practice in London as compared with our overseas competitors. I have no doubt that that is true. If one considers that two hour differential, one discovers two facts. One hour is the time shift about which this Bill is concerned, but the other hour is due to the fact that our dynamic businessmen start work an hour later than their Continental competitors.
Let us assume for a moment that the billions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, are correct. I have no idea whether that is the case, but one thing I do know is that during my 17 years in this House I have heard noble Lords suggest structural proposals such as the one we are discussing which they claim would result in this country gaining billions of pounds, but that has never happened. Over-optimism seems to be the basis of those calculations. But suppose the figures are correct and there is a two-hour differential, is it not a fact that half of that money could be earned if our dynamic businessmen got out of bed earlier and went to work to chase business in the way they tell us they are always doing? If that were so we would not have to bother about the matter.
As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, says, this measure would be convenient for 700,000 people who are engaged in insurance and banking. However, the vast majority of those people are minions and it does not matter when they do their work. They constitute a small number of people. I believe he has chided me for saying they constitute a tiny number of people. They are important but we are talking about a small number of people who would stand to gain from the measure. There is no reason why a large number of people should be put to inconvenience to suit the convenience of a small number of people.
Let me finish because we do not want this debate to go on for too long. I sometimes wish it had started earlier and we could really have got into it. I leave noble Lords with a thought. As I said, the time variance across the globe is, to a large extent, a matter of east and west. Does it never cross the noble Viscount's mind that France is to the south of Britain, as are Spain and Portugal? Would it not be a better idea if his Bill did not ask us to adopt their time but rather asked them to adopt our time? I see that the noble Viscount looks stunned. I do not think that that is plausible, but it is a thought. The noble Viscount is proposing that we change to the wrong time whereas the other countries could join us.
Let me finish by giving advice to the Minister who is to reply to this debate. It is said that the Government have been considering this matter for a lengthy period of time. My advice is very simple: continue to consider it and consider it into infinity. I hope that the Bill is withdrawn.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Of course those of us who have followed this subject knew exactly what he was going to say; it is just that he says it every time in such a vigorous and jovial manner. 665 I must say he brought tears to my eyes when he mentioned the poor Glaswegian going to work in the dark. As far as I can work out, he does that now anyway. I do not quite see why we should especially cry if he had to do that for another 20 minutes.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, I stand corrected. As I said, the noble Lord brought tears to my eyes when he mentioned the Glaswegian who would suffer three-quarters of an hour more darkness whereas, as was made clear in the summertime consultation document which was published as long ago as June 1989, there are innumerable advantages in changing this measure. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, referred to those when he introduced his Bill so succinctly. As far as one can gauge, the general opinion is moving very much in that direction and in favour of the change. That change could be made almost painlessly. It is merely a question of changing the clock for two hours instead of one on a particular occasion.
What puzzles me in all of this is not so much the views of the majority but the continuing uncertainty in Government circles. The noble Viscount referred to the fact that we had been told in this House earlier this year that the Government were still considering the matter. On 30th October this year in another place it was stated that:Our policy on future summer time arrangements remains under review, including whether or not it would be right to move to central European time".—[Official Report, Commons, 30/10/95; col. 711
Therefore, up to 30th October the Government's position was that they were still considering the matter, no doubt much to the satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon.
As usual, one has to go to the press in order to find out what is really going on in government circles. According to The Times of 24th November 1995, which is slightly later than 30th October, the Home Office has not yet decided whether to back the Bill of Mr. John Butterfill, and the Treasury is known to support the change, as is the Department of Trade and Industry. It adds that a large number of businessmen are also prepared to do so.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us what were the views of the Scottish Office.
§ Lord Ezra
My Lords, I am always ready to oblige. The article states:However, the Scottish Office is extremely resistant to the idea".
We knew that anyway.
I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to respond when the various government departments are going to get together to reach a unified view on this matter. We can see why the Department of Trade and Industry should be in support. I am delighted that for once the Treasury should be in support of something as positive as this proposal. Why is the Home Office so reluctant to go ahead with this idea, bearing in mind that 666 according to the information in the Green Paper to which I referred there will be a reduction in crime because most crime is committed in the hours of evening darkness rather than morning darkness, and there will be a reduction in accidents and fatalities on the road and all the advantages to which the noble Viscount referred?
We need a little enlightenment as to the Government's thinking on this matter. The matter is continually debated. The arguments are advanced very firmly by a clear majority in favour, with a vocal but absent—the noble Lord has gone—minority opposed. We have now been through this process three or four times. Presumably they will also go through it in another place. Therefore, we should very much like some enlightenment from the Government tonight.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, I am very pleased to be taking part in this debate, particularly as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, seemed to doubt whether I should because on a previous occasion I had declared an interest as being a consultant to the British Horological Institute. I can inform the noble Lord that that is an honorary position. A number of other noble Lords also have that duty. I am not paid anything, but occasionally I award prizes.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am delighted to say to the noble Lord that I am sorry that I doubted that in any way. Of course, holding an honorary position, he is entitled to take part in the debate. Indeed, the debate is enriched by his contribution.
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, it is very kind of the noble Lord to say so. In case other skeletons fall out of the cupboard, I can declare an interest. Twenty years ago my company was responsible for stopping and starting the great clock at Westminster, known wrongly as Big Ben. I also designed the timing devices that noble Lords have been using for the past 20 years. That may be unknown to your Lordships because I have never mentioned it before.
I should like to declare my interest because I wish to say that I know something about the subject. I am able to correct noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, by saying that the earth goes round the sun and not vice versa. That may be helpful in a debate on this subject, especially as we have covered the area a number of times before.
At this late hour I do not intend to repeat the facts and figures in what has now become almost an annual general meeting on the subject of Central European Time. The details can be found in past debates: the Unstarred Question of the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, on 14th January 1994; the Summer Time Order debate on 18th October 1994; and the Central European Time Bill on 11th January of this year.
I have not changed the views expressed in those interventions, although I was hoping that this debate might give me an opportunity to withdraw a statement that I made when venturing briefly off script at col. 267 667 of Hansard on 11 th January when I described the attitude of Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's Opposition parties towards harmonisation of the time standard with Central European Time as "pathetic". I used this somewhat unparliamentary epithet at the time to express my frustration, combined with many others outside Parliament, about the total lack of progress in this area. The current situation is no different, as this Second Reading debate of yet another Private Member's Bill implies; and I see no reason to withdraw my statement at this stage but merely to underline it.
I therefore repeat the question, as I have done on other occasions to noble Lords who sit on the Government Benches, as to why this important issue was not included in the Queen's Speech and was purposely left, as it has been on previous occasions, to a noble Lord's Private Member's Bill which has little or no chance of reaching the statute book through lack of support and time allocated to it in another place. Exactly the same is true for the other identical Private Member's Bill under the name of John Butterfill to which I shall refer later and which I suspect will suffer precisely the same fate as the noble Viscount's Bill.
I must also ask noble Lords on the Opposition Benches why, in so far as I am aware, they have not remarked on this important omission in the Queen's Speech; and why, in so far as I am aware, they have not included Central European Time as an essential plank in their pro-European policies. Can it be that there has been some collusion between the two main party managers in letting the issue of Central European Time once again fall by default? Does the forthcoming general election have any bearing on the matter? Is there not, therefore, a serious defect in our parliamentary system of government when an issue such as the time standard, which affects every man, woman and child in the country, is deliberately and consistently not allowed proper time for inclusion in the Queen's Speech or in the Opposition parties' manifestos?
I can think of no other issue where the gap between party political expediency and the reality of everyday life is greater. Why is it apparently so difficult for active politicians to address themselves to real events which take place outside the Palace of Westminster? In the past debates on the subject in your Lordships' House the Government and the Opposition Front Benches have consistently proclaimed that Central European Time is not a political issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, so stated at col. 198 of Hansard in winding up the debate on 18th October 1994.
If that is so, why cannot Members of both Houses of Parliament obtain the much-needed update on the inconclusive and outdated consultative document of 1989? Could it be that the latest evidence is being withheld from us because it will clearly indicate the necessity of harmonisation of the time standard with Central European Time?
Could it be that both Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition parties do not wish to admit to the electorate just before a general election that harmonisation will be on the statute books—just in case 668 it affects voters at constituency level? I shall need a great deal of persuasion that the delay in addressing the issue by both main parties is not a "political issue". If it is not a political issue, is it some sort of party political fix?
By that I mean why has not more been done by both the Government and the Opposition parties to educate the electorate on this rather complicated subject? As there has been little or no enthusiasm to encourage a public discussion of the advantages or disadvantages of harmonisation with CET, is it surprising that there is an inevitable and natural hostility towards altering the status quo?
This is a genuine view which has been supported by some of my noble friends and other noble Lords in past debates, and no doubt they will do so in this debate. That in turn seems to reflect the national rather than rational attitudes in Scotland, combined with the misplaced patriotism of those who prefer to live in "little England" south of the Border. Whether those views have evolved out of ignorance of the true facts or simply by ignoring them, I do not pretend to know. But can anyone be in a position to say so until there has been a national referendum based on a trial period of actual harmonisation with Central European Time?
Perhaps noble Lords on the Opposition Benches can at least clarify part of the situation this evening. If they are in a position to deliver devolution for Scotland and Wales after the general election, can they say categorically that Standard British Time, regardless of whether it is harmonised with Central European Time, will continue to be controlled by Westminster and be applicable throughout the land, as it is now? Alternatively, will it become a devolved issue to be settled in Edinburgh or Cardiff, with the extraordinary possibilities and consequent anomalies that will be created by different English, Scottish and Welsh time standards? Have the party managers of the Opposition parties addressed themselves fully to the question? If so, what is their considered opinion?
I have read reports in the media on 24th November, thanks to our excellent Library service, about the good fortune of the Private Member's Bill of Mr. John Butterfill MP. It is identical to the noble Viscount's Bill in many ways, as I understand it. Apparently, the honourable gentleman will be allowed a free vote. But the chances of the Bill getting on to the statute book must surely be remote, unless the Government back it and insist on the support of the Scottish Office, which I understand is against the Bill. I ask the Minister to say whether the Government will support it. Can noble Lords on the Opposition Benches say whether the Scottish Opposition Members of Parliament will support the Bill as well on a free vote or will they vote against it? If they do support it, why then is harmonisation with Central European Time left to the chances of the ballot and not included in the Queen's Speech?
I suspect that the Butterfill Bill is no more and no less than an all-party delaying tactic. That is, unless the noble Earl who is to reply can persuade me otherwise, or noble Lords on the Opposition Benches.
669 What is Her Majesty's Government's excuse for not supporting Central European Time? Is it simply due to lack of foresight or just dogged implementation of laissez-faire on all policies connected with Europe? I suspect that it could be the latter. Has it not taken more than 15 years since the initiation of the Channel Tunnel for a high speed rail link Bill to be included in a Queen's Speech?
Therefore, how much longer will it take the Government or, for that matter, the Opposition party, if it becomes the Government, to recognise that it is equally necessary to eliminate the time differential currently acting to the detriment of the travelling public and the business communities in the City of London? Will it be 10 years or 20 years? Perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply can give us a proper explanation as to why a number of leading international banks have suddenly decided to abandon the City of London as their traditional financial base for Europe and have moved instead to Frankfurt. Is the air so much purer there than the motor-polluted atmosphere of London? Possibly. Or is it because they can enjoy a full day's trading on the financial market without the time and travel restrictions imposed by British Standard Time which can reduce their daily trading turnover by as much as 30 per cent.?
I shall not go back to answering the noble Lord, Lord Howie, on the point. The statistics were not mine; they were taken from the CBI and various other organisations. Therefore, he may argue with them. The Confederation of British Industry has in the past submitted papers showing that its members are in favour of harmonisation with CET. It has done so again—in fact in the same papers as it sent out last time in supporting the noble Viscount's Bill. However, I regret that some of the more recent papers which have been circulated by the CBI to noble Lords on European travel seem to have excluded the issue of Central European Time. I think that that is a pity. It is a rather strange exclusion when the travel industry will gain approximately more than £1 billion per year if harmonisation were in place.
I wonder whether the CBI should not start to be more aggressive in its support for Central European Time by representing its members in Scotland and England more forcefully. Should it not try to bring politicians more up to date than we are at the moment with the real statistics that operate in the business world? I hope that the CBI will cease sitting on the fence, especially in Scotland. If the main political parties are not prepared—for what can only be party political reasons—to give a commitment one way or another on the subject, and if, for the same party political reasons, the electorate is not allowed an opportunity to express its views through a referendum, what can be done?
Will the noble Earl who is to reply not agree that there is now a case for doing two things? The first would be to get all-party agreement to instigate a trial period of harmonisation with Central European Time. It has been done before; what is wrong with doing it again? For surely it would allow proper statistics, particularly in regard to road safety and crime figures, to be gathered scientifically. Is that not more preferable than using the 670 device of failed Private Members' Bills as an excuse for doing nothing? Secondly, would not an all-party agreement on a referendum be a correct basis for this controversial subject? The whole population would have experienced the effects of harmonisation with Central European Time in reality and would be in a position to judge it accordingly. Is that not a far more preferable and democratic input than the feeding out of doubtful, dated and possibly politically-biased statistics, which is what is happening now?
A referendum following a trial period would also scuttle once and for all the rather dubious arguments put forward by the Scottish NFU and the Scottish construction industry, which are against harmonisation with Central European Time. The NFU still seems to fail to recognise, first, that arable crops do not grow in winter but in spring, summer and autumn; and, secondly, that modern animal husbandry is undertaken mainly indoors in northern latitudes in a controlled environment. Animals left out on a hill do not feed until daylight and are quite oblivious as to the time on the face of the hill-farmer's clock.
The Scottish construction industry, on the other hand, makes what appears at first glance to be—I believe the noble Lord, Lord Howie, made this point on a number of occasions in the past—a good safety point against harmonisation with CET. Its owners indicate dangers to workers exposed to the elements on open scaffolding, as well as their having to ascend icy ladders in darkness during the winter months. But how is it that more modern construction industries in North America, Canada and Scandinavia can carry out their building work in far harsher winter conditions by protecting their workers in completely controlled environments?
Therefore, are not the poor conditions for workers described by the Scottish construction industry equivalent to those prevailing when boys were sent up to sweep chimneys in the time of Dickens? Should not these outdated practices be scrapped forthwith, regardless of whether the United Kingdom harmonises with Central European Time?
In conclusion, would not a trial period of Central European Time, followed by a national referendum based on experience throughout the United Kingdom, answer this question once and for all? The usual problem as to how referendum questions are to be posed fairly could be overcome by asking the electorate one very simple question: "After living in a trial period of CET, do you wish harmonisation with Central European Time to be permanent? Yes or no?".
Will the noble Earl who is to reply say what is wrong with this not entirely original suggestion, and why it was not put forward as a practical solution to this problem long before now? Will he say why he thinks that two identical Private Members' Bills, that originating in this House which is before us this evening and the other to be debated next month in the other place, will offer better solutions than the one I have proposed?
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I must say to him that I was not speaking for the Scottish construction industry. My 671 "Scottish" comments referred to Scotland as a whole; my comments on the construction industry referred to construction throughout the country.
I want to ask the noble Lord a question. He speaks of harmonising with Central European Time. That is not quite the phrase used by the noble Viscount, but we know that it means the same thing. He will realise that what one might call central Europe has three time zones in it. There is ours, the middle bit and the part where the Greeks reside. Does he suggest that we could harmonise the whole of that part which we might for convenience call central Europe into one time zone, which would be—the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will correct me later if I am wrong—perhaps the widest single time zone in the world with the exception of China?
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, I feel that a step-by-step approach would be the answer; but basically the answer is yes.
§ Lord Chesham
My Lords, in view of the hour, I wonder whether it might be possible to make the discussion slightly shorter?
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. The arguments have been very well rehearsed before, a year ago. There is very little further to say.
We are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Montgomery for reminding the Government yet again that it is the wish of your Lordships' House—at least it was its wish last January—that this whole matter should be discussed. It has gone on for a long time. A question paper was sent out and we have the view of many organisations. It is time that Parliament is invited to give a view. After all, that is the function of Parliament. It is there to lead and enact legislation. It does not necessarily dictate legislation, unless it is a matter of government policy, and on a issue of this kind, it is a matter for the feeling of Members of Parliament and your Lordships.
I should like to refer to the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that there should be a referendum. I am most opposed to that. It would be quite improper and wrong. Members of a club do not elect a committee to run it and then everlastingly have the committee ask its members how they feel about some matter. Only on an issue of major national or constitutional importance, such as joining the ERM, having a single currency or something of that nature, may there be a justification for having a referendum; not for something like this matter. It is up to Parliament to decide.
Last year, I was very upset when your Lordships were kind enough to give my Bill a Second Reading but unfortunately the Government—it was not unconstitutional but surely it was a little less than polite—seemed totally to ignore it. That was not very polite. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, suggested in his speech and also in correspondence recently in The Times, that my Bill was utterly bizarre and that is why your Lordships gave it a Second Reading. I find that 672 bizarre in itself. If I may say so, there is a certain amount of legislation which, with the benefit of hindsight, would have been called bizarre, anyway. I do not believe that that is a good enough excuse for the matter not to be discussed.
The main reason why my Bill was considered bizarre was that Scotland was left out of it. That is as may be. If the noble Lord, Lord Howie, had read my speech, he might have realised that I was happy for the Scots to be permitted to decide for themselves and consider opting into my Bill. However, my noble friend's Bill is now in front of us—I personally like its title much better than the title of my Bill because it is far more to the point—and it embraces Scotland. So all that is happening is that the Scots might be invited either to opt out of the Bill if they do not like it or to opt in to my Bill if they so wish. It is exactly the same thing but the other way around.
The noble Lord, Lord Howie, made some rather upsetting remarks, if I may say so. He said that it was bad enough going to work in the daylight. Some people actually enjoy their work. It is their life and what interests them. To suggest to them that it is bad to have to go to work even in the light is rather presumptuous. Many people who work outside think it is pretty awful to have to work in the dark, as they have to do in the winter months. Consideration should be given to them also.
The noble Lord went on to say that if businessmen, financiers, and so forth, want the same working hours as their counterparts in Europe, they should go to bed earlier so that they are fit enough to get up earlier. That is an appalling suggestion.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, I shall not give way; I shall say why it is an appalling suggestion. Does not the noble Lord have a social life? If he had to go to bed earlier because he wanted to get up earlier, he would have to give dinner parties earlier.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I have been enjoying the noble Viscount's speech very much but cannot let it go on—I know the Chief Whip wants to get home and so do I. I did not say anything about when businessmen went to bed. I said that they should get up earlier to do their work. I do not care when they go to bed or indeed if they stay up all night.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, I apologise if I misheard the noble Lord. But is he seriously suggesting that financiers, businessmen and the like should have to work a longer day than everyone else in order to satisfy the noble Lord's countrymen in the north of Scotland? That is a most selfish remark.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Howie, has been to Northern Ireland, as I have. I can assure him that though there is a difference in the light in winter, it is not substantially different from the light on the mainland. But the further north one goes—to Inverness or Fort William—then it is a longer night. It is not only 673 the further west one goes, it is also the further north one goes that must be taken into account. The noble Lord's arguments therefore do not add up.
I like the title of the Bill and hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will take the message back to his colleagues in the Government that if the Bill is passed, as I sincerely hope it will be, the Government must take on board the fact that the Bill of the honourable Member for Bournemouth West, if he introduces it, must be given time. I do not say that they should support it or oppose it. But it must be a free vote and the Government should provide time for it. In the meantime, I wish my noble friend's Bill fair speed and a safe homecoming.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, although I wholeheartedly support this Bill, I must admit to being a beneficiary of the current status quo today, having left Russia at around 2 o'clock this afternoon for Copenhagen, and then taken an onward flight to London, arriving some five hours later at 5 o'clock.
Before giving my reasons for supporting the Bill, most of which were extensively debated during the course of the Second Reading of the Central European Bill moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, I wish to raise one simple issue, summarised on textline following the recent gracious Speech. It read,Later Tory Viscount Montgomery of Alamein introduced his backbench Western European Time Bill, seeking to bring Britain in line with the Continent. It stands no chance of becoming law without Government support".
Surely in light of the Government's Green Paper on this subject in 1989—mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra—atid with the results of the National Opinion Poll in October last year showing such strong public support from throughout the United Kingdom, now must be the time for this issue to be given serious consideration by the Government and at least a free vote in the other place. I was very pleased to hear that the Butterfill Bill, as it is called, will receive a free vote in the other place. As I am the sixth speaker in the debate, the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, will be interested to see that the score is now 5:1.
As noble Lords will be aware, there have been two experiments with adopting permanent summertime. One was during the Second World War to ensure that children could get home from school before the blackout and also to save energy in munitions factories. The other was the experiment between 1968 and 1971. I understand that one of the main reasons for the 1968 to 1971 experiment ending was that at the time the tabloid press took up the cause of objectors—mainly builders, farmers, postmen and, of 674 course, the Scots. There was also a lot of slanted evidence with regard to statistics on child casualties from motor accidents in the mornings.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
s: My Lords, it was actually because a small group of children in, I think, Stornoway were massacred one morning in the dark. There was nothing slanted about it. They were dead.
§ Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, if the noble Lord looks at the statistics from the Transport Research Laboratory for that period he will soon realise that my figures are correct. There would be more casualties in the morning than in the afternoon if the experiment were to be tried again, which I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, said, will be the case.
As a consultant to one of the stockbrokers in the City, I suppose I should be referring to myself as what the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, mentioned when the issue was debated earlier in the year. He referred to,The noisy young men in red braces who transact the business in the City".—[Official Report, 11/1/95; col. 252.]
As a consultant, I am particularly concerned about the cost to British industry and commerce of resisting this legislation. I am sorry to pick on the noble Lord, Lord Howie, but he mentioned the time the average City yuppie, as I suppose one would call them, goes to work. The average time is eight o'clock in the morning, and for many eight o'clock is late. It should also be remembered that 58 per cent. of British exports go to European Union countries and that there would be, as the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has already mentioned, almost a 20 per cent. increase in the daily turnover of foreign exchange and a similar increase in the insurance and stock markets as a result of an increase in trading hours with Europe. There would also be increased revenue from tourism. Those are all resounding fiscal reasons for supporting the Bill. I really ask what cogent reasons can the Government give to refute those statistics and refuse giving the legislation the go-ahead.
Mention has also been made in the past of the 1993 Policy Studies Institute conclusion that the move to harmonise British time with the rest of Europe would mean fewer road deaths and accidents, would reduce crime, would be a benefit to sport and tourism and would cut electricity bills by more than £250 million.
I wish to make two final points regarding children and the elderly. If the Bill is passed I believe that the major beneficiary will be the ability of many children to play sport in the longer afternoons, an issue which is very close to my heart. Children do not have nearly enough opportunity to play sport in the afternoons during the winter months. I am sure that the Bill would also be warmly welcomed by older people. I am not just referring to noble Lords but to the 9 million elderly people in Britain who have no need to rise early. Age Concern firmly believes that an extra hour of daylight in winter would enable millions of older people to travel, shop and socialise more easily, especially as many are worried about being mugged after dark. Both the Home Office and the Police Federation statistics suggest that the cover of darkness encourages greater 675 criminal activity, more specifically, burglaries, assault and vehicle theft. A Guardian leader of 17th October was headed,Stop turning back the clock—And thereby boost tourism, save energy and cut crime".
Let us see action, possibly a trial period, rather than further procrastination by the Government.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, it is now absolutely apparent that there is considerable and wide-ranging support for a common European time zone, and a recognition that it is this country which is out of step with its Continental colleagues. The Bill which my noble friend Lord Mountgarret sought to introduce in January of this year is very similar to the Bill which we are now considering. But he omitted Scotland which, I suppose, on reflection, was probably not a very good idea.
I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Montgomery makes no such exception. As I recall saying in January of this year, ours should in all senses remain a United Kingdom. I understand well that in Scotland, where winter days are short and the nights already feel very long and cold, there is more opposition than elsewhere in the United Kingdom to the prospect of the sun rising even later in the morning. But in Scotland, even more than in the rest of the country, there are surely commensurate benefits to an hour's more daylight in the afternoon. These have been touched on already. There have been signs that in Scotland there is growing appreciation of this. An NOP survey a year ago showed that Scottish opinion was not so firmly set against harmonising our time with Europe as had been thought previously. On the contrary, 62 per cent. of Scots surveyed said that they thought it was a good idea. As an aside, I really do fear for the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Those involved in selling Glasgow either as a business centre or as a tourist destination will hardly take kindly to the pretty awful description of dark, dank, cold Glasgow.
However, for those accustomed to rise at unearthly hours in the morning far north in Scotland, the idea of waiting a further hour for daylight might appear bleak indeed. As someone who is familiar with London's 5 a.m. darkness, I believe that I understand how they feel from time to time.
But, for heaven's sake, even now we all adapt our habits by an hour every summer and spring. We get an extra hour in bed or we lose an hour and what difference does it make? Harmonisation will not greatly change the adjustments that we now have to make. If in Scotland it creates particular problems we should find ways of helping to overcome them rather than simply saying, "It is all too difficult, so let us forget it".
I am sure that your Lordships need no reminding of the commercial benefits that an extra hour's afternoon daylight would bring. Business supports it; tourism needs it and Scotland more than anywhere else should really be conscious of that. There are overwhelming economic reasons for providing an extra hour of 676 daylight in the afternoon when it can be used to best advantage, as the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, has just pointed out.
The sheer inconvenience of starting work later than our Continental colleagues, taking our lunchbreaks at different times from them, and calling them late in the afternoon to find that they have packed up for the day, will be all too familiar to anyone who does international business. Meetings on the Continent all too often involve the additional cost of hotel accommodation and the disruption of the previous day, simply in order to be there to make a 9 a.m. meeting, when we are constrained at this end by actually being unable to take off earlier on early flights because of noise restrictions.
Let us just pause for a moment and note how the Daylight Extra campaign, which has worked for several years to encourage the adoption of Central European Time, Single or Double Summertime, call it what you will, is not just supported by commerce. It is also supported by several large, reputable and national safety organisations such as RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. I hardly believe that any of those need any introduction to your Lordships or require my recommendation to noble Lords. The Police Federation, too, supports the campaign and for very good reason. None of those organisations excludes Scotland from its support.
A friend of mine was a schoolgirl of 11 when the permanent summertime trial of 1968–71 started. She still remembers the road safety lessons that she attended to highlight the need for extra care, and still has the fluorescent armbands that were given to her and all her friends to wear over their dark winter gaberdine coats.
Yes, we must be responsible about such a move. We must ensure that the right support is given to all those who are affected and ensure that all children are well trained in the highway code. At present our children may make their way to school in daylight, but they return at dusk. Indeed, if they have extra curricular sports or drama interests which take place after school, they come home in the darkness. I am informed that three times as many children are injured in road accidents between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. as between 7 and 10 a.m. I suspect also that children who are tired after their day at school and possibly distracted as they walk home with friends are more vulnerable than in the morning. It may be necessary to change the hours of the school day further north where daylight is generally in shorter supply, but I simply cannot understand the opposition to the principle of harmonisation.
However difficult this decision may appear to be, that is not a reason for failing to take it. We have spent many years and many parliamentary hours since 1971 avoiding any decision on this matter. It is time to make such a decision and we now have a double opportunity with a Bill in the other place and one here. We are unlikely to get such an advantageous situation again. Now is the time to make a sensible decision. I commend the noble Viscount's Bill.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Lord Berkeley
My Lords, I should like first to declare an interest in Eurotunnel. I do not think that Eurotunnel has any strong views on Central European Time except that we believe that it is generally good for business. However, it does not have the same effect on our company as it would if we were running an airline or through trains. I have supported the Daylight Extra campaign for many years now in an unpaid capacity. I am supporting it today and hope that I may be of some assistance to Mr. John Butterfill and his Bill in another place. I congratulate the noble Viscount on introducing his Bill.
As we have all heard, this debate has been going on for 30 years and during the two world wars previously. This country achieved a single time zone only in late Victorian times with the coming of the railways. We have talked today about a "twin-track" approach so perhaps it is appropriate to say that, before that, this country had about 15 different time zones. I really cannot resist the thought that with rail privatisation comes the possibility of having 19 train operators in the future and that each may bring back its own time zone. We have talked about through ticketing at length in this place. Perhaps through journeys as well as through ticketing will become even more difficult and unreliable than at present if that happens. I hope that it does not. To me, Daylight Extra sums up what we are talking about. We are talking about more daylight in the afternoon and evening when most people need it.
I should like to concentrate in a little more detail on preventing road accidents, because I believe that that is the main, possibly the only, reason for supporting change. I should like to quote from the two reports of the Policy Studies Institute, which in turn drew heavily on studies conducted by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, based on the accident statistics during the experimental double summertime period between 1968 and 1971. Projecting those figures forward to two years ago, it is estimated that the number of road fatalities in the UK would have been reduced by 140 per annum and that the number of serious injuries would have fallen by 520 per annum. The basis for that is that more accidents occur in darkness—I think that we can understand that—than in daylight. As we have heard, children make one journey to school in the morning but they may make several journeys after school for sport and leisure or to see friends. Therefore, they are much more exposed to traffic after school than before.
The report states that only 11 per cent. of child fatalities occur on school journeys. That confirms what I have just said. As we have also heard, in the afternoon children and other people tend to become more tired and less attentive. So it follows that, if time after school is in daylight, there will be many fewer accidents, although against that there will be a small increase in the number of accidents in the morning. There will be 140 fewer fatalities per annum in the UK if we change to Daylight Extra.
Perhaps I may turn to Scotland now. I am wary of saying too much and beating the competition for interventions by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, 678 but I will try. The problem in Scotland is that there is not much daylight around in the winter—six hours a day, I believe. I am an engineer like the noble Lord, Lord Howie, and in the late 1960s I spent two years working on a construction site just west of Glasgow. The problem was that the men wanted to be paid for at least eight hours a day, if not 10, and there was only six hours of daylight.
We managed to pour concrete by making the concrete with hot water and other things. We introduced this extraordinary idea of electric light on a construction site, which meant that we could work in the darkness. It did not matter if the electric light came on in the morning or the evening. In fact it was so dim and dull on some days that we had the lights on all day. The other thing I found in Scotland was that between about 20th December and somewhere near the middle of January, not a great deal of work went on anyway. Something called Hogmanay took place. So I do not really believe that the construction industry lost a great deal of time during that period when it is darkest. It could put on the lights and put up scaffolding boards to stop people falling off the scaffolding, and people could get on with their work like everyone else does.
I shall deal briefly with road safety in Scotland. It is interesting that there is lower vehicle ownership than in England and Wales but proportionately there are more road fatalities and injuries. This, it is said, is because more people walk. I assume that that is a good thing. Using the same arguments in Scotland, there is more to be gained in the road accident business by the change to Daylight Extra. The report estimates that Daylight Extra would cause an annual reduction of about 60 deaths and serious injuries in Scotland.
I do not know what the Scottish Office is doing with all these statistics. Perhaps we can hear from the Government later whether they are about to produce a report rubbishing what the Transport and Road Research Laboratory has produced. However, I hope that they will not, because that will get us into an English/Scottish debate, which would be pretty unhelpful.
In conclusion, the reduction in road accidents (140 fatalities a year) is the strongest argument for changing to Daylight Extra. It will not cost the taxpayer a penny. Perhaps that is why the Treasury is not opposing the proposal. Statistics and forecasts do not have faces attached to them, but there will be 140 faces attached to those fatalities—people who have died unnecessarily this year, next year and so on until we change. I strongly support the Bill.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Lord Craigmyle
My Lords, a great deal of learning has been shown and a great many statistics quoted, some of which can probably be challenged, although I do not know, because I am not in the business of challenging statistics. No one seems to have got down to the basic principle of the matter: clocks are there to tell the time of day, and one expects the clock to tell the time of day where that clock happens to be. That is just the thing which the Bill will abolish.
679 When our clocks strike 12 in the summer under BST—if the Bill is adopted it will not be the summer only, it will be the winter—it will not be midnight or midday here in Britain, but in Bohemia. Again, if the Bill is adopted, in the summer when the clock strikes 12 we are supposed to imagine that it is midday. Will it be midday? Not a bit of it, it will be midday in St. Petersburg. One may for convenience abandon reality to a certain extent but certainly not to the extent of 30 degrees longitude. That is overdoing things.
Does it matter? Can we not all go about doing our own things in our own time and not be ruled by clock time? Yes, we can, but that defeats the purpose of the Bill, which is to urge us to do things not at what we have come to regard as standard time but an hour or two earlier than we want to.
That kind of ploy works for a time. It worked with double summer time in the Second World War. But it works only for a short time. In the longer run, people will do things when they feel like it and when it is natural for them to do so, because people have in-built body clocks just like animals. We have not heard much about animals tonight; they are usually spoken of a lot in these debates.
If the official clock time disagrees too greatly with our body clock we are increasingly inclined to ignore the official clocks and heed our body clocks. We are seeing that phenomenon already in the increasingly late hours being kept on the Continent. I am told that in, for example, Madrid the streets, cafés and restaurants are thronged with people well after midnight. I suspect that the people of Madrid like to be in their beds by midnight as much as most of us but that, by midnight, their bodies mean midnight in Madrid and not midnight in Cairo. Cairo is an awfully long way east of Madrid. So the apparently late hours of the people of Madrid are the consequence of having the clocks two hours away from reality.
We in this country have succeeded at least in part in keeping to natural time in winter. As the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, observed, we mere offshore islanders have kept a better tradition. Why is it that we with the better tradition propose to desert it and go for the less sound tradition of our continental neighbours?
I am all in favour of having the same time zone but let it be a sensible time zone based upon reality and not merely for the sake of neighbourliness having Ljubljana time in the winter and Istanbul time in the summer.
One radical solution occurred to me only last night. I could not help laughing at myself because I thought that it was too daft. Then I began to wonder whether it was as daft as all that. Could we not do as all air navigators do; that is, to reduce everywhere all over the world to one time zone? Could we not have all the clocks throughout the world indicating the same time and everyone in different areas working their way around those clock times? It seems a sensible answer but I admit that it is radical and would require international agreement. I believe that clock time should be real time wherever possible. To get away from reality is artificial.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle. I agree with much of what he said. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, is following in the well-trodden footsteps of his noble colleague, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret. However, my noble friend, as he is in reality outside the four walls of this Chamber, has been cleverer in choosing the Short Title for this Bill. "Western European", with its connotations of plucky democracies standing firm against communist imperialism, is more user friendly than "Central European", with its traditionally murky connotations.
However, a time zone by any other name smells no sweeter. I must remind the noble Viscount that he is still proposing that we should harmonise our clocks with those of Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, Banja Luka, Sarajevo and so on—none of them exactly western European. Yes, of course, Paris, Rome and Madrid are also included. But the point is that the geographical centre of the time zone which the noble Viscount wishes us to join would appear to be Leipzig, and I do not think that Leipzig is exactly in western Europe.
The alleged benefits of the Bill for road safety, tourism and so on are speculative and unproven. My noble friend Lord Berkeley cited the statistics emanating from the experiment in 1968 to 1971 from which projections have been made as to what might happen today if that experiment had been continued. But I must remind my noble friend that it was during that period that the 70 mile-an-hour maximum speed limit and the breathalyser were introduced. Therefore, it is quite possible that those projections are based on a false assumption. I would only repeat that if daylight in the afternoon were really safer than daylight in the morning, then East Germany, Poland, Austria and so on would surely have switched to Eastern European Time decades ago.
As always, the business case has been pleaded. But American, Canadian and Australian businessmen are astonished at the apparent wimpishness of their European counterparts who moan at minor time differences that they—by which I mean the New World businessmen—take in their stride. There was an interesting letter in the Financial Times to that effect about a fortnight ago.
The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, is certainly the greatest expert on Latin America in your Lordships' House. He will, therefore, know that Latin America has four time zones; North America has eight; Australia has three; and the Russian Federation has no fewer than 11, all embracing, on average, approximately 15 degrees of longitude. Los Angeles lies 34 degrees west of Atlanta, Georgia, and is on approximately the same latitude. There is a three-hour time difference between the two, so that when it is 9 a.m. in Atlanta it is 6 a.m. in Los Angeles.
Significantly, Tralee in County Kerry also lies approximately 34 degrees west of another place, Brest Litovsk on the Polish/Russian border, and is also on approximately the same latitude. Yet if the Bill goes 681 through, both would be in the same time zone, even though the sun will rise in Tralee two hours and 17 minutes later than it will in Brest Litovsk. Yes, I know that Tralee is in the Republic of Ireland and not in the North, but if the North changes, the South is bound to follow suit before long.
The examples which most supporters of the Bill are unwittingly copying—and which my noble friend Lord Tanlaw, judging by his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, is consciously copying—is that of communist China, where there is one single time zone spanning 61 degrees of longitude, so that if the sun rises at 8 a.m. in the east near Vladivostok, on the North Korean border, it will rise at 12 noon in the west near the border with Tadzhikistan. I would respectfully suggest to the noble Viscount that the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians and even his Latin American friends are better mentors than Chinese communists.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I am delighted to support the Bill which would, if enacted, have significant benefits for the tourism and transport industries. In both those industries I do, as ever, declare an interest. My former colleagues in the British Tourist Authority support the Bill. They welcome the calculation of the Policy Studies Institute that enactment would add another £1 billion of spend to what is already a £36 billion per annum industry. A £1 billion increase in revenue would directly lead to an additional £100 million in Treasury, VAT and excise receipts. It would also lead, indirectly, to significantly new employment opportunities. Further, it would make our tourism product much more user friendly. Perhaps here I could pick up the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, about not going to Egypt for the light. It could be argued that no one goes to Lapland at this time of year for the light either, and yet it is difficult to get a charter flight to Lapland at this moment in time.
Let me pursue that a little. The user friendliness would derive from the fact that many of our tourism attractions do not open before 10 in the morning and, particularly in the winter, they shut at dusk. At 10 in the morning the average recreational traveller is still taking life easy. That is part of what a holiday is all about. What he wants is to be active in the afternoons. Therefore, if we moved the daylight—we are not getting extra daylight, we are simply moving it—to some extent the traveller would have greater leisure opportunities which must be good for the many attractions which face the problems of the long winter evenings.
I believe that following the route proposed in this Bill would have advantages for Scotland because Scottish tourism to a certain extent finds itself in a vicious circle. As the noble Lord, Lord Howie, admitted to me earlier, tourists do not go to Scotland much after September because many of the attractions are shut for reasons that I have already explained. Why are many of the attractions shut? They are shut because tourists do not go to Scotland in October. If we stretched the day a little 682 and delayed the daylight a little, perhaps we could stretch the Scottish tourist season, and in particular the short break business which is important to that industry.
I also believe that transport would be a major beneficiary if we were to go down the route proposed in this Bill. Every carrier—maritime, air, the Tunnel—has problems in terms of having to run different timetables at different times of the year, but in particular—it has more or less disappeared now—because of the one hour difference. Eurostar still gets many Continental visitors turning up at Waterloo an hour early for a departing train. Many British visitors turn up an hour late, or even just 10 minutes late—there are recorded cases of Members of another place suffering from that—because, again, they have not quite absorbed the time difference.
As regards our railways, the scheduling of Channel Tunnel passenger and freight services, not to mention their integration with the domestic network which they still use, would be greatly simplified. A bonus would be the fact that international passenger services would conflict less with London's morning peak, whether that be a matter of arriving passengers at Waterloo, or perhaps one day, St. Pancras. Furthermore, the longer evenings would encourage leisure travel which must be good for the railways. Passenger perceptions of personal security would be improved and I gather from the British Transport Police that the change would lead to a reduction in crime.
In making my final point I take on board my noble friend's wish for us to be brief. At the outset I should say that this is an expression of experience and not an attack on the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Today in Tromso in arctic Norway the sun has set, not to rise again for some two months. Tromso schoolchildren will still go to school safely; motorists will still drive; pedestrians will still walk or ski; ships, planes and the construction industry will continue to function, as they must. If the Norwegians can cope with so much longer periods of darkness, let alone so much greater cold, surely our innovative Scottish friends can cope too. Rather than let them rule our councils, we should, indeed we must, push on with this Bill.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, sits down, does he agree that the tourist industry would benefit almost as much if Europe-wide agreement could be reached to start summertime in mid-March so that Easter always fell during summertime, and end summertime on the first Sunday in November when the weather is still pretty good in most European countries?
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Lord HolmPatrick
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Montgomery for introducing this Bill to the House.
Getting up early in the morning for many years and saddling up a pony to find a few sheep in the hills or getting into a freezing cold lorry to fetch some gravel from a quarry has led me to conclude that getting up in the dark knowing that daylight is just on its way is infinitely more pleasurable than the frustration of working on in fading light into total darkness.
I still get up early, to do the school run. By the time my son and I are suitably dressed in our motor cycle attire it is broad daylight, and we proceed to school at our leisure. On the way we meet school buses which have set out before us, and as they stop to drop off their charges we overtake with care knowing that one or more children may appear suddenly in our path. But that is not a problem because we are prepared and we can see the children because it is broad daylight.
The scene of road safety awareness I describe to your Lordships applies to all motorists. It is particularly relevant to drivers of heavy transport who are likely to be around in great numbers at that time of the morning. Good visibility is essential.
Under the present arrangement for winter time the light is fading at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the good visibility that we enjoy in the morning is not available in the afternoon to proceed with care. The risks are increased when our children are coming home. By 5 o'clock it is dark, and pedestrians on their way home are at risk. Motorists will know that people coming home from work tired and lacking concentration do not always use pedestrian crossings and observe the lights as they should.
We have adopted metrication, not without some grumbling. Would not coming into line with Western European Time reduce some of our commercial headaches?
Finally, if we accept that Western European Time would give us an extra available hour of daylight in the evening and not deprive us of daylight in the morning at the crucial times I have indicated, does that not mean that an extra hour of daylight on winter evenings would greatly increase the health, safety and leisure of our children and reduce the number of accidents on the road?
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, but I shall express a personal view rather than the view of my party. When the noble Lord came to this House he was a member of a political party. Now that he has the luxury of being on the Cross-Benches he is free to criticise those of us who have other considerations to take into account, regardless of party.
I support the Bill, and I wish that my party supported the Bill. I do not expect that most of my colleagues will disagree with me, but they will speak, as I do, on a personal basis, both here and in another place.
684 There has been a certain amount of talk about the history of the matter, but no one has put it as well as my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon on the previous occasions when he urged the Government to continue procrastinating. That is certainly what has happened up until now. There was the experiment of 1968 to 1971. For what appeared to me to be inadequate reasons, that experiment was abandoned. Since that time there has been a fair amount of consultation and research, none of it as rigorous as I would have wished, all of which seems to lead to similar conclusions.
I shall not rehearse the arguments about road safety or sport and leisure, or indeed about business, although when we talk about the time that our business people are in contact with people in other countries surely it is far more important to be in contact for more of the day with Europe than it is to be an hour further away from New York, as we would be, or an hour closer to Tokyo, as we would be if the time were changed as proposed in the Bill. There are no doubt also arguments on the basis of energy, pollution and crime, and arguments for agriculture and construction.
However, we ought to come down to fundamentals about daylight and night time. Nothing in the Bill will increase the amount of daylight by one minute or one second. The sun will rise and set at the same time as now occurs and that will be different in different places. So none of this measure saves daylight in the absolute sense. What is true is that instead of having an infinitely adaptable series of time zones—I rather like the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, of having the same name for time throughout the world, but what happens when you reach the international dateline on his system?—with crude time zones set by every 60 minutes there will be 24 time zones around the world and light and darkness will be different at the edges of those time zones. That is a fact of life; and one cannot get round it.
Noble Lords have been speaking a great deal about midwinter and midsummer. However, our seasons, like our time zones, are a continuum. They are not the extremes. If it is darker in midwinter in the morning in any country, it will be lighter at midwinter and as spring and autumn proceed one will progressively gain or lose daylight. That, again, has nothing to do with how we keep our clocks or how we define our time zones.
I take it that none of us proposes to go back to the time before Bradshaw when you could take a train from Paddington and find differing times at Didcot, Oxford and Gloucester. I understand that Gloucester kept its own time for very much longer than anyone else.
No, my Lords, we shall not increase the amount of daylight. If we put ourselves more in the centre of a time zone, we can increase the amount of useful daylight. By useful daylight, I mean the time in which it is light and during which we are awake. The fact is that for most people in this country a very considerable amount of daylight through spring, summer and autumn is wasted in the morning before most of us get up. That is wasted daylight. If we change our time as the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, proposes, we should increase the hours of useful daylight. That is the best that we can do. I hope that we shall do so.
§ 10.32 p.m.
The Earl of Courtown
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his success in introducing a Bill on this subject. As we know from last year when my noble friend Lord Mountgarret introduced a similar Bill, the question of time zones continues to exercise the minds of many in this House and always produces a vigorous expression of views. The debate this evening has once again demonstrated the strength of opinion felt on both sides of the argument. I must apologise for the absence of my noble friend Lady Blatch on this occasion. She sends her sincere apologies for not being here this evening but she is addressing the annual general meeting of the Society of Voluntary Associates.
This is a Private Bill and the Government will not be opposing it. In the debate this evening many relevant questions have been raised and they have been answered in various ways. Your Lordships have heard most of the arguments before and I do not propose to run through them all again now, but there are a few comments I should like to make.
What my noble friend's Bill seeks to achieve is to move the United Kingdom from its present time zone to what is variously termed Central European Time, Single/Double Summer Time or now Western European Time. Whatever terminology we use, the effect would be to change from a system of GMT in the winter months and GMT plus one hour in the summer to GMT plus one in the winter and GMT plus two in the summer. I was grateful for the clear explanation by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.
If I may, for the purpose of my comments this evening I shall refer to Single/Double Summer Time, or SDST, since this is the terminology used by the Government on previous occasions, although I understand why my noble friend Lord Montgomery has chosen this title.
The Government recognise that there are many who share my noble friend's opinion that the United Kingdom would derive great benefit from being in the same time zone as many other countries in continental Europe, both members and non-members of the European Union. However, it is only right to point out that there remain others in this House—and I note the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howie—and in the country at large who feel equally strongly that such a change would have significant disadvantages and that we are perfectly well served by the status quo.
From the correspondence which Ministers receive, it is clear that my noble friend is not alone in wishing to see a decision reached, although the various correspondents differ as to the conclusion they are looking for. Nevertheless, I have to say to your Lordships that nothing has changed in the past year to alter the Government's stance. We remain to be convinced that the time is ripe to conclude our deliberations.
We continue to listen to representations. For example, my noble friend Lady Blatch met representatives of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety earlier this year. Your Lordships may wish to know that, despite the obvious interest in 686 this House and the reference by my noble friend Lord Montgomery to a groundswell of opinion, the volume of ministerial correspondence on this topic is not large. There was a recent flurry of letters after the clocks were changed in October, but otherwise, since our last debate on this matter, the volume of letters has declined to only four or five a month.
There has been no recent large-scale test of public opinion on a proposed change to our time zone, but we are often told, as we have been told today by my noble friend Lord Montgomery, that public opinion is largely in favour of such a change. Whether or not this is so, the Government have a duty to consider wider issues than public opinion alone.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to intervene? It is all very well to say that the Government have the duty to consider wider issues than public opinion, but surely they should do so having first found out what that public opinion is. Is there not an obligation on the Government to carry out some effective opinion poll on the views of ordinary people? At the moment, the statistics we have are about consultation, which is vastly inferior to proper social research.
The Earl of Courtown
My Lords, noble Lords will find that later in my speech there is something which will cover the point. If that is not the case, I shall no doubt write to the noble Lord.
We have heard today from my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, who referred to a 62 per cent. majority in favour of change in Scotland in last year's NOP survey. I must remind your Lordships that the survey result was based on just 92 persons interviewed in Scotland.
The Government have a duty to consider all the arguments on an issue which affects everyone living in this country. That is what we have been doing and I will undertake to bring the points made in the debate to the attention of my noble friend Lady Blatch.
We have heard what has been said by my noble friend Lord HolmPatrick and the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Ezra and Lord St. John of Bletso, about road traffic accidents and the advantages of travelling home at the end of the day in daylight. The House is familiar with the estimates of the Transport Research Laboratory on the net savings in road traffic casualties which might result from moving the clocks forward by an hour, although the noble Lord, Lord Monson, suggested some reasons which might not have been taken into account in the calculations.
On the other hand, we know that there are some contrary concerns about the safety of certain groups of workers, for example, postal workers and those in the farming and construction industries, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, set out for us. Their spokesmen believe that the increased risk of accidents could be considerable. It may be that some individuals could adjust their working day to take account of darker mornings if those prove dangerous, but it is difficult to alter such arrangements unilaterally. I note with interest what the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, had to say regarding the construction industry.
687 Another important consideration for the Government is the possible effect on crime of any change in the spread of daylight. It is clear that elderly people and women of all ages are anxious about being out alone after dark. Fear of crime is a serious problem and one which needs to be addressed on a wide front. Well-lit streets, concerned neighbours and better public awareness of the real dangers and how to avoid them can make a major contribution to reducing fear, but the extension of daylight by one hour in the evening could also help.
Fear of crime is, of course, an important element in people's sense of well-being. However, according to recent studies of crime patterns, the potential effects on the incidence of crime of a move to SDST are less clear than was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. Lighter evenings could reduce the number of thefts of or from cars, which take place more often in the dark. On the other hand, if longer evenings result in more people going out and leaving their house empty for longer, burglary rates could actually rise. Similarly, if lighter evenings encourage more people to go out, stay out later, and possibly drink more, then the number of assaults could increase. Changes in behaviour—in particular that of offenders—are difficult to predict, so that the net effect on crime figures is uncertain.
We heard from my noble friends Lady O'Cathain and Lord Mountevans, and the noble Lords, Lord St. John of Bletso and Lord McIntosh of Haringey, about the potential benefits of the proposed change for industry, tourism and transport. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, was indeed persuasive about the advantages for tourism, even in Scotland.
However, on the transport side, the most serious difficulty for the transport industry in recent years has not been adjusting timetables to different time zones in the UK and Europe—this, after all, is not a new problem or one that is confined to Europe—but rather the different dates hitherto adopted for the end of summer time. The industry has therefore welcomed the news that this year was the last one in which the periods of summer time will vary. Those noble Lords who are concerned that we may be too ready to harmonise our arrangements with others in Europe will be pleased to note that from next year our European partners are to harmonise with us. They have recognised the benefits of UK practice, and from 1996 will end summer time on the last Sunday in October.
While timetables might be further simplified if we were in the same time zone as much of Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, suggested, it has become apparent that this would also create some significant new problems for UK airlines. They would need to renegotiate their take-off and landing rights at many European and international airports and could also face difficulties in this country if the effect was to increase the number of night flights.
Business travellers are used to adjusting their watches when they travel, whether between the UK and Europe or, for example, crossing the United States, where this is not seen as a problem. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, also pointed out the multiple time zones in Russia and 688 elsewhere. Noble Lords may also wish to note that even within the European Union we are not alone in having a different time zone. The Republic of Ireland is, of course, at the same time as us; but two other members, Greece and the new member, Finland, occupy a different time zone, being two and three hours ahead of GMT in the winter and summer respectively.
The adoption of SDST would indeed bring the working hours of the United Kingdom more closely into line with those of our major trading partners in Continental Europe, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lady O'Cathain. It would at the same time deprive business of the one-hour overlap with the working day in North America. For much of international business, however, neither of these considerations is any longer important. In a global market, business and financial centres are open around the clock. Methods of communication are becoming faster and more flexible. Working hours in the City of London have for some time extended both earlier and later than in the past—as was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso—to link up with the Far East in the morning and North America in the evening.
We have heard from those in favour of change about its advantages. Defenders of the status quo point both to some specific disadvantages which would flow from the adoption of SDST and to the need for strong and compelling reasons to justify altering a system with which everyone is entirely familiar. As the Government made clear on the last occasion—and in this regard I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon—whatever decision is eventually reached must take into account the balance of advantage for different regions and groups in the country and must be applied to the United Kingdom as a whole.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that the Government have no intention to support separate time zones within the United Kingdom.
The Government would, of course, bring forward a Bill if and when they considered it right to do so. It will be clear from my earlier remarks, and indeed from the differing views expressed so emphatically in tonight's debate, that we do not think that the time has yet arrived. As to one report in The Times—
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Perhaps he will clarify one point, if he can. I asked whether the Government would consider a trial period continuing with Central European Time in order to obtain the statistics which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, suggested. I hope that he will make some remark about that or give some consideration to that suggestion.
The Earl of Courtown
My Lords, I believe that I have some notes relating to that matter. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary co-ordinates policy on these matters and these are the only authoritative statements of policy made by or on behalf of the Government as a whole.
As to the Butterfill Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked what the Government's attitude would be. I remind him that the proposed Bill has yet to be 689 introduced. If it is, the Government will make their views known at the proper time. In any event it will be a matter for the other place.
My noble friend Lord Mountgarret raised the question of a free vote on Mr Butterfill's proposed Bill. I must point out that it is not the practice of the Government to make an announcement on procedure before the introduction of a Bill.
The noble Lords, Lord Tanlaw and Lord St. John of Bletso, asked why there had been no updated version of our 1989 Green Paper on the pros and cons of the various options. We have not received any such request, but I shall certainly invite my colleagues to consider the case for providing one.
§ Lord Tanlaw
I thank the noble Earl for giving way again. I raised this matter the last time that we debated the subject and asked why that consultative document was so out of date. So did many other noble Lords. I do not quite understand why he says that there has been no request made for it in your Lordships' House.
The Earl of Courtown
My Lords, I shall bring the views of the noble Lord to the attention of my noble friend Lady Blatch in due course.
We shall consider the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, about all-party agreement to an experiment, as we shall consider all suggestions. But it is not immediately evident that this is a party political matter suited to such an agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked whether major banks have not moved to Frankfurt because of the present differences in time zones. I am not in a position to answer for the commercial decisions of individual banks. I imagine that such moves may have had to do not with time zones but with the fact that Frankfurt could be the home of a Central European Bank.
As to the suggestion of the noble Lord that there might be a referendum possibly following an experiment, your Lordships will know that successive governments have seen serious difficulties in reconciling the character of referendums with the proper functioning and authority of Parliament. That point was made with persuasive force, if I may say so, by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret.
As I said at the outset, no material change has occurred since your Lordships last debated the matter in January this year. I note that the Opposition have not altered their stance either, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.
My noble friend Lady Trumpington remarked on that occasion that the Government do not look for an easy answer. I say to your Lordships now that the Government look for the right answer for the country as a whole. At that point I shall ensure that my noble friend Lady Trumpington receives a copy of Hansard to be able to note the kind words of her noble friend.
We continue to listen to representations. I have been listening carefully this evening and the Government will take note of all the arguments presented by your 690 Lordships during the proceedings of this Bill. The Government have not shut the door on change. It remains our position that we do not believe that now is the time to bring our deliberations to an end.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I must first thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. It has been extremely interesting and much more wide ranging than I expected. A number of different views have been expressed. I find myself with the great temptation to wish to continue the argument with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, whose knowledge of geography is somewhat eccentric, if not deplorable. But owing to the lateness of the hour, I shall not do so. That would extend matters. Anyway, some of the arguments that he produced were refuted very effectively by the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Mountevans. I look forward to continuing the debate with my good friend, if he is not my noble friend, outside in another environment. That will be a great pleasure.
As I count the score, until we came to the Government it was 10 speeches in favour and three against. That is quite encouraging. But I must admit that the reply from my noble friend on the Front Bench was disappointing to say the least. I had hoped that in the intervening period we might have moved this cause forward and the Government would be prepared to take some kind of decision.
What was slightly surprising in one of the comments made by my noble friend was the mention of the number of letters that Ministers receive on this subject. It would be quite easy to organise "Rent-a-letter"—it has happened before—and then he could have as many letters as he liked on these subjects. But that is not the point. We are trying to achieve a quality argument, and that is what was displayed in this evening's debate. A number of ideas were suggested and I believe that the matter has been moved forward because this Bill has found more favour than that so cogently argued by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret earlier in the year.
I feel that we must continue with this Bill because, if it is passed in this House, it will go to another place and there will be an opportunity to discuss two Bills. As I said earlier, there is to be a twin-track approach, with this Bill as it is presently couched and another Bill couched in any way that the Member for Bournemouth decides. As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, that is not yet known. How it will be dealt with by the Government in another place remains to be seen. But at least we shall have a shot at the bird with both barrels, and that may be better than hitherto.
I hope therefore to conclude this matter today. I thank all noble Lords for their participation. I commend the Bill to the House and ask your Lordships to approve its Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at nine minutes before eleven o'clock.