Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 7th March 2008.

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Order for Second Reading read.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 2:09 pm, 7th March 2008

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend Mr. Chope and to Mr. Heppell, who spoke on the previous Bill, for their restraint in allowing me a few minutes to put the case for the Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill for the second year running. I am delighted to have this chance to return to the House with the same private Member's Bill. I waited 24 years to get a place in the ballot and then, just as buses come along all together, I got it two years in a row. When I got it for the second time, I had absolutely no hesitation in choosing the same issue—in fact, it is the same Bill. I think that I was being environmentally responsible in doing so. We had to change the dates, but in every other respect it is an identical measure to the one that failed to get a Second Reading a year ago.

In the past 12 months, I have been encouraged by the enormous number of supportive e-mails, letters and other communications that I have received. In that period, the groundswell of support for what I believe is a common-sense and overdue change has risen significantly. This is an idea whose time has clearly come.

My Bill would put the clocks forward by one hour all the year round. We would have double British summer time in the summer and British summer time in the winter, which we can summarise as single-double summer time—SDST for short. The clocks would still change twice a year, as they do now, but there would be an extra hour's daylight in the afternoon or the early evening on every single day of the year. I cannot, I am afraid, produce more daylight during the day, which is a shame—I may work on that in the future—but for the time being it would be sufficient and very advantageous to move that daylight to the time of day when people are up and about rather than when they are asleep in bed. Of course, the change comes at the expense of losing an hour's daylight in the morning, but the benefits of more daylight in the afternoon are considerable.

I am also aware of the current imbalance between the dates on which the clocks go back in October and when they go forward in March. They go back about seven weeks before the shortest day of the year and forward about 13 weeks after the shortest day. Several people have advocated bringing forward the date on which the clocks go forward. I would support that, but I think that they are, in a sense, accepting the principle behind my Bill. They are saying that it is better to have more daylight in the afternoon or early evening for more weeks of the year. I believe that they should follow the logic of that position and say, "Let's back the Bill and have it all the year round."

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D

Well done Tim Yeo for plugging away with your BST bill. My personal circumstances now mean I prefer lighter mornings, but I accept that the evidence supports lighter evenings. At the very least clocks should change in February consistent with equivalent October change all seem to accept. If the Scots object, let them have their own time zone.

Submitted by David Clark

Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying—I am a fan of symmetry either side of midwinter—but I think that his logic is extreme. If he is bringing back the same Bill, he hit his head against a wall last year and is coming back this year to do it again. Had he taken on board the suggestions that were made on the Floor of the House last year, he might have had more support this year, but he comes back with the same Bill, and I fear the same result for him.

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E

Perhaps we should consider choosing a fine day throughout the country and then at 12 noon stop all clocks and have perfect weather.
We could always follow the lead of environmentally consious supermarkets and import our water from around the world.

Submitted by Eric Shaw

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

In my judgment, this is an idea whose time has come. Support for it is growing, the case for it is getting stronger, and the evidence is getting stronger. That is why I felt encouraged to bring back the same Bill.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

It was good to wake up to the sound of my hon. Friend's voice this morning on the Today programme. When Scotland was mentioned, he said that the Bill would allow Scotland to do what it likes, which is in clause 9. Scotland has special problems with his Bill but can do what it likes. I represent a north-western constituency that is only a few hours away from Scotland and where we have similar problems, if to a lesser extent, but there is no provision for us to have a different time zone. It would be ridiculous for the north-west to be on a different time zone from other parts of England, and just as ridiculous if Scotland were to have a different time zone from the rest of the UK.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

My hon. Friend is a stout champion of his constituents' interests, but I do not accept that it is necessarily impossible for a country to have more than one time zone. Many countries do, and the people who live in them, even those who live on the borders, and on the cusp of the different time zones, seem to arrange their affairs in a perfectly satisfactory way. I would point out to him that a significant proportion of the UK population resides very close to the continental European time zone and frequently travels there. Many people in London would travel to the continent more frequently than they would even to my hon. Friend's constituency. The inconvenience suffered as a result of different time zones already affects an awful lot of people.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing the Bill to our attention for a second time. Let me place on the record the fact that Conservative Front Benchers will not object to it and believe that the benefits in terms of tourism, energy reduction, CO2 emissions and lives saved make it worthy of further debate in Committee.

On the issue of devolution, I would be more inclined to support the Bill if clauses 5, 6 and 7 were amended, so that we had one decision for the United Kingdom, rather than the matter being split up into the various devolved areas.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the general principle of the Bill. I recall that during the debate last year, he intervened on my speech to express support from the point of view of his constituency. I recognise that the provision to give Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales their own opt-outs in the Bill is somewhat controversial, but I believe that that aspect could be dealt with in Committee or perhaps on Report. I am not wedded to that provision, but to the principle of extending the afternoon lighter hours—that is the crucial thing for me in the Bill. The detail about whether different parts of the UK have an opt-out and the sort of remit given to the review panel are matters on which I will be quite flexible when the Bill gets to Committee, which I hope it will one day.

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Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

The hon. Gentleman talked about more daylight at the end of the day. Does he realise the effect that the Bill would have on rural communities, farmers—particularly in the north of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland—and postal workers, which is why the Communication Workers Union is opposed to it? Those up earlier in the morning would be at a disadvantage, even if there were some advantage at the end of the day.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

There is indeed a group of workers who have to work in the mornings. It has interested me that the farming community is far less resistant to the idea than it was 20 years ago. In fact, my dialogue with the National Farmers Union suggests that it is almost in a position of neutrality on the Bill, compared with its opposition some time before. As for the postal workers' union, I wish my post arrived during the hours of darkness. The post that I receive in London—less than a mile from here—arrives at about 11 o'clock in the morning, so I do not think that the people who deliver it are going to be too badly affected by a change in the time.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I cannot, I am sorry. I am running out of time and I want the Minister to have five minutes.

There are four reasons why this change is so important. The first is the saving of lives on the roads, particularly young lives. When the Road Safety Bill was in Committee, the then roads Minister, Dr. Ladyman said:

"I am prepared to accept that approximately 100 lives would be saved and 400 people killed or seriously injured would be spared that fate."—[ Official Report, Standing Committee A, 20 April 2006; c. 288.]

That would happen simply through making this change.

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Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

Would the hon. Gentleman accept that it is already within the power of education authorities throughout the country to amend school times to address that point? Perhaps they should do so.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

It is, but that would not achieve the other benefits that I am about to describe. The evidence on road safety is absolutely unambiguous, and I draw attention to the helpful leaflet that all hon. Members have now received from the Lighter Evenings campaign.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

No, I am sorry, I cannot give way again.

The leaflet states that

"accident rates rise after the clocks change in October when visibility...begins to worsen."

When the previous experiment with single-double summer time was conducted, 2,500 deaths and serious injuries were avoided each year. For Parliament to refuse to take such a simple step puts on the conscience of every hon. Member the fact that during the lifetime of this Parliament, almost one person in every constituency will die unnecessarily. That is a deplorable state of affairs.

The benefits of safer roads apply throughout the whole United Kingdom. The Transport Research Laboratory analysed the effects of the previous experiment, and found that the benefits get disproportionately greater as one goes further north. The biggest advantages come in those parts of the country that seem to find the idea least acceptable.

The road safety grounds are sufficient ones on which to introduce the Bill, but a second and equally important advantage concerns energy use. We are more conscious today than we were 20 years ago of the importance of energy saving and cutting carbon emissions. A Cambridge university study showed that peaks in demand for electricity and energy consumption would be lower if this change were made, particularly in the winter. Carbon emissions would be cut by more than 1 million tonnes a year at no cost whatever to GDP.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

No, I am sorry, but I will not have time to let the Minister get to his feet.

The Policy Studies Institute concluded that the change would reduce energy use and fuel bills, which was confirmed by the National Grid Company. A more recent study, which took place since I introduced my Bill last year, showed that the change would reduce the overall UK electricity price in winter by as much as 5 per cent. because early evening peaks in demand would be reduced, and the need for as much power to be kept on standby would be obviated. Those findings were also confirmed by the National Grid Company's modelling a year ago and would also address the matter of fuel poverty, which is rightly of great concern in many parts of the House.

There are other, unquantifiable benefits for energy, such as people's greater willingness to use public transport or to walk or cycle in the hours of daylight. Only today I received an e-mail from someone who says that they often cycle through my constituency and would do so far more often if they could complete their journeys in daylight.

The third reason the policy would be so advantageous is the boost that it would give to tourism, Britain's fifth largest industry. The change would lead to more inward visits, generating an extra £1 billion of inward revenue and thereby reducing the huge balance of payments deficit that currently exists in the tourism industry. It is estimated that a further £2 billion of spending would be generated in the leisure sector if people had the opportunity to visit historic sites and other attractions in the hours of daylight in the afternoon. The tourism industry is important to Britain. It has jobs that cannot be exported to the Asia-Pacific region. It is a 21st-century industry and we should give it as much help as we can.

The fourth reason for the change is quality of life. Again, only this morning I received an e-mail that said:

"I think this might be the single biggest thing that the government could do to improve my quality of life. Like most people who work full time, I have no time for leisure in the morning; I get up and get to work. My leisure time is when I get home from work, at about 7 pm. Yet at that time it's only light enough to go for a run, or potter in the garden, for about four months of the year. To extend that to perhaps six or seven months would mean...a huge amount to me"— and indeed to millions of other people.

There would be health benefits, too. The opportunity for more physical recreation and outdoor activity would help to address the problem of obesity and its associated consequences, with great, unquantified savings to the national health service, including through avoiding lost production capacity.

On energy use, I should also mention that the amount of carbon emissions saved is not insubstantial, but equivalent to half the current amount of electricity being generated from renewable sources. That would amount to 15 per cent. of the European Union's challenging 2020 target, which Britain has accepted, to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources. There would be advantages to those, particularly in Scotland, who are concerned about the requirements for large numbers of wind farms. The Bill would be an easier way of achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

The opportunity that the Bill provides is enormous. There are many other benefits, including for the Olympic games and training opportunities, with perhaps a chance for the children inspired by the games to participate in outdoor activities under better conditions. People who do business in Europe currently find it difficult to get to morning meetings in countries on continental European time. That difficulty would be eradicated.

Most measures that come before the House that save lives, cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce energy bills, boost an important industry and improve the health and well-being of many citizens carry a price tag, in the form of higher taxes or higher prices for consumers, or involve the imposition of more regulations and red tape on business. My Bill does none of those things. It is all gain and no cost—a change that carries no penalty for anybody.

My Bill is an idea whose time has come, and I am certain that within 10 years the change will have been made, but each year that Parliament delays making it, another 100 lives are needlessly lost on the roads and another 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted. I hope that the Minister will use the seven minutes that remain to announce the Government's support for the measure. If he does not, he will have some searching questions to answer.

If my hon. Friend Mr. Ellwood, the Opposition spokesman, has the chance, I know that he will make it clear that the Conservative party now feels sympathetically towards the policy. I hope that that sympathy will be translated into a strong commitment at the next election. If we had had a full day's debate today, I am confident that many hon. Members would have expressed their support for the Bill. I hope that one of them will pick up the same measure next year, if the Government have not already done so.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 2:24 pm, 7th March 2008

Time is very much against us, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Yeo on getting in as many pertinent points as he could in the limited time. I shall do my best to end soon enough to allow the Minister to make at least a couple of comments if Labour Members will allow. I should like to clarify some of the points that have been raised. The Conservative party would like the Bill to progress to Committee; it has merits, mentioned today, that deserve further scrutiny.

I should like to start with tourism, as I am the shadow tourism Minister. I am grateful for the feedback that I have received from all sorts of quarters, showing that the Bill would extend our tourist season. It would boost inbound tourism by more than £1 billion and overall spending in the UK leisure sector by more than £2 billion. The tourism industry needs a boost, and the Bill would certainly be welcome.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I shall not give way; time is against me—I apologise.

Road safety is one of the main reasons why 70 countries around the world have changed their time slots; they have done so to prevent accidents on the road.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I will not.

Some 82 per cent. of accidents involving schoolchildren happen in the evenings, and only 18 per cent. in the mornings. That fact alone shows what benefit would come from the time shift.

The last experiment on this issue took place in 1969-70. Page 10 of the Library's useful guide on this shows that deaths and serious injuries in Scotland during 1970 went down by 107, and total casualties were reduced by 390. That was in Scotland alone; further down the UK, the numbers would increase.

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I will not, I am afraid; time is against us.

It has been mentioned that there would be knock-on savings of £200 million a year for the NHS, not to mention the lives that would be saved.

Carbon emissions are very relevant these days, and that is why we need to consider the issue of daylight saving differently from how we did four years ago. The National Grid Company has commented that the peak in electricity demand would be lower, enabling the country to operate at a lower capacity at all times throughout the year. Furthermore, school activities would increase, more after-school functions could take place and kids could be helped away from the television.

Crime would also reduce. Obviously, criminals enjoy darkness more than light. There would also be economic advantages: the City and the London assembly are both in favour. However, I stress that there are disadvantages—

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I will not give way, sir.

The disadvantages must be given more scrutiny. We have not heard from many of the relevant voices, although we have heard from the farming industry—

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Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I am not going to give way or be bullied, because there are only three minutes left. I should like us to have more time. I see from the barracking that people want to put their points, but there is simply not the time.

Let us allow the Bill to move on to its next phase, give ourselves the opportunity to understand what is happening to our country and take advantage of the impact on tourism, energy, carbon emissions and the saving of lives across and up and down the nation. I encourage the House to move the Bill to its Committee stage.

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Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall 2:28 pm, 7th March 2008

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill; I had not expected that. In the very short time remaining, I should say that a number of Members from all parts of the United Kingdom want to make a contribution about the Bill, although they would not necessarily serve on the Committee if it were to progress to that stage. It is therefore important that the Bill does not go to Committee.

I oppose the Bill. I am trying to remember when we last tried the experiment. I know that I was a lot younger then, but I cannot remember exactly when it was. In those days, exactly the same words were said by those who wanted the experiment. They said that it would really make a difference to people's quality of life and enjoyment. The reality was, as the promoter of the Bill knows, that it was not a marvellous change to people's lives and it did not bring about a huge change in people's quality of life. Indeed, a number of young children died in accidents during the morning, when people are not so awake or alert and are in more of a rush to get to work or school. Actually, the number of accidents rose.

I have yet to see any statistics that prove to me that people—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 14 March.

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