It is with a heavy heart that I rise to oppose the new clause tabled by Mr MacNeil—I hope my pronunciation is acceptable. As he mentioned, we had an interesting debate on the private Member’s Bill on daylight savings before Christmas. He and I, along with an eclectic mix of Members, went into the No Lobby to oppose it. I agree with him about the effects that central European time or double summer time, whatever we call it, would have on Scotland, on other parts of the UK and on various categories of workers in different industries. I am at one with him on that and have great sympathy with his motives, but I cannot agree with the methodology he uses to arrive at his conclusions. I agree with my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Beith, who noted that the new clause, if successful, would make it easier for the House to approve a move to central European time or double summer time and that we would end up with two time zones in the UK.
Before moving on to some of the practical difficulties that such a move would entail, I caution the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar against opening up head L5 of schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, because along with
“Timescales, time zones and the subject-matter of the Summer Time Act 1972”,
a host of other matters are reserved, including
“The calendar; units of time; the date of Easter”.
We are already in enough trouble with Cardinal Keith O’Brien about other matters before we start tinkering with the date of Easter, so I urge some caution in going down that route.
As Members have explained, it would be hugely impractical to have different time zones within the UK. Other countries, of course, do have different time zones: Australia has four, Canada has six and Russia has eight. However, Australia is 2.9 million square miles in size, Canada 3.8 million square miles and Russia 6.6 million square miles. The UK is 94,000 square miles in size. To have different time zones in a relatively small geographic area is ludicrous. I can think of all sorts of practical difficulties that that would entail, particularly for people living in areas on either side of the border. People in Carlisle and Dumfries, for example, would have all sorts of problems adjusting their clocks as they went back and forward over the border. Would “News at Ten” be subject to the Trades Description Act if it did not broadcast as “News at Ten (but Nine o’clock in Scotland)”?