With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment 58, page 1, line 6, after ‘Ireland’, insert
‘specifically including the interests and concerns of the principal faith communities within the UK.’.
Amendment 63, in clause 2, page 1, line 11, after ‘group’, insert ‘of independent academic experts’.
Amendment 22, page 1, line 12, at end insert—
‘(1A) Membership of the Group must be ratified by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.’.
Amendment 64, page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (4).
Amendment 65, page 2, line 3, leave out subsection (5).
Amendment 12, page 2, line 6, at end insert—
‘(6) Such terms of reference must include an investigation into the impact on energy consumption of advancing time by one hour.’.
Amendment 23, page 2, line 6, at end insert—
‘(b) Membership of the Independent Oversight Group must include at least one representative from each of the four nations of the United Kingdom.’.
Amendment 5, in clause 3, page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (2).
Amendment 25, page 2, line 14, leave out ‘18’ and insert ‘24’.
Amendment 60, in clause 4, page 2, line 19, leave out ‘the time for general purposes’ and insert
‘the period of summer time (within the meaning of the Summertime Act 1972)’.
Amendment 67, page 2, line 21, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 68, page 2, line 23, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 69, page 2, line 28, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 81, page 2, line 32, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 83, page 2, line 36, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 84, page 2, line 40, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 89, in clause 5, page 3, line 10, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 90, in clause 6, page 3, line 12, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 91, page 3, line 19, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 71, in clause 8, page 3, line 34, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 72, in clause 9, page 4, line 4, leave out ‘time’ and insert ‘summertime’.
Amendment 76, in clause 11, page 4, line 25, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
Amendment 61, in clause 12, page 4, line 35, leave out subsection (1).
Amendment 79, page 5, line 37, leave out subsection (8).
Amendment 93, in clause 14, page 6, line 2, leave out ‘daylight saving’ and insert ‘summertime extension’.
I wish to introduce a discussion on amendment 59 and the other 27 amendments, from Members on all sides of the House, that you have included in this group, Mr Speaker. Before I outline the reasoning behind amendment 59, I congratulate my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris on having steered her first private Member’s Bill so far. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] As you know, Mr Speaker, I have been in this House for some 23 years and have never got a private Member’s Bill as far as my hon. Friend, so she is to be congratulated. I did not oppose the Bill on Second Reading, because I hoped that I would be able to change it through amendment, should the opportunity arise. That is the background to where we are today.
Amendment 59 is born of two deep-seated political convictions that I hold. First, I believe passionately in the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That means that I support a single currency for the Union, the pound sterling, and a single time zone. I am a Conservative, as well. In other words, I do not support change unless there is an overwhelming case for making it.
I will not be drawn into having a discussion about the United States, because the Bill is fairly and squarely about the United Kingdom, a far superior country to the United States. I am not unfamiliar with the fact that there are countries with more than one time zone. Last weekend I was in Kazakhstan, which has two time zones and, as my hon. Friend will know, is the ninth largest country in the world.
It is worth pointing out that the coming power of the next century, China, has only the one time zone, and as we know from Noel Coward, China’s very big.
Absolutely, Mr Speaker, and of course the other amendments in this group.
I believe that the original proposals in the Bill were contentious, divisive and essentially selfish. The rewriting of the Bill in Committee, at the behest of the Government, has made it clear that we can have only one time zone in the United Kingdom, which I think is a welcome measure of support for the Union. However, the Bill’s Achilles heel is that it has been redrafted in such a way that it would enable the United Kingdom Government to change the time zone in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. We know that the Scottish Parliament, and MPs representing Scottish constituencies, do not support a change that would make winter mornings in Scotland even colder and darker than they are already.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting his support for the Bill on the record, but I am sure he is not suggesting that his view is shared by all his colleagues from Scotland.
If that is so, and I am sure it is, we are in danger of embarking on a course that will waste an enormous amount of public money and Government time. The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Mr Davey, said in Committee that a trial involving advancing all the clocks in the UK by one hour would not proceed
I am terribly worried, because I normally agree with my hon. Friend, but he says that Scotland has a right of veto, and I want to know who speaks for England. Does England have an opportunity to have its own view heard as well?
I am a little disturbed that the debate is already going down the England-Scotland route. There is a Welsh dimension to it, and there is a UK dimension to the whole thing. Does the hon.
Gentleman agree that tourism and road safety are just as important in Wales as in other part of the United Kingdom?
I agree, and that is exactly what we are doing, but my concern is that if this Parliament changes the time zone for the United Kingdom against the wishes of the people of Scotland, it will give extra ammunition to those people in Scotland who are campaigning for independence. We would be playing into their hands if we forced the Bill through.
Is not the reality that we should have a review and see what the predominant opinion and the strongest arguments are on this important issue? If the general mood right across the UK is that we should have a change, and that sports clubs and tourism should have the advantages that it would bring, surely we should not be denied a review simply because of the views of a small number of people.
As a lawyer, my hon. Friend will know from having read my amendments that they do not rule out a review. Indeed, they support the idea, but would confine it to the issue of extending British summer time while leaving Greenwich mean time as it is at the moment.
It is easy for people to assert, in a rather patronising way, that a particular measure will benefit people in Scotland, but on Second Reading some hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies expressed a completely different view. I would prefer to trust their assessment of their constituents’ wishes than rely upon some academic treatise, which I am afraid to tell my hon. Friend I have not yet had the opportunity to look at.
The hon. Gentleman and I are on the same side on this issue, and I am not totally unfamiliar with Scotland because I had the privilege of spending four years as a university undergraduate there. I remember those cold mornings, as a keen undergraduate, getting up early and facing the stiff east wind in the dark. I understand and feel for the people in Scotland who are faced with the prospect of having even darker mornings.
The hon. Gentleman is making the point that evidence should be discarded and the personal opinions of individual Members should be set on a higher level. Is he not in favour of evidence-based policy making? The Bill would allow the evidence for or against a change to be seen after a trial period. If the result of the trial was that my constituents were going to be put in greater danger, of course I would oppose a permanent change at the end of the trial. Is he not in the same position?
My difficulty is that there is nothing to prevent the Government from commissioning an inquiry and getting the evidence that would enable the hon. Gentleman to reach a decision on this contentious issue. I cannot understand why, if the Government support the Bill, they have not already embarked on getting a body of evidence together. That evidence could then be presented to the House and we could decide whether we thought, in the light of that evidence, that we should make any changes to the clocks. I will refer to that in a bit more detail later.
Certainly there is, and my hon. Friend refers to it, but I believe that the Government and the promoter of the Bill accept that there is not enough evidence on which to take a decision. The Government are saying they need to gather more evidence, which suggests that the evidence to which my hon. Friend refers is not sufficient for either the promoter of the Bill or the Government.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is evidence that upwards of 80,000 new jobs could come from the Bill, if it were implemented? Given the state of the economy, is it not crucial that when we have an opportunity, at little cost, to create new jobs, the House should support it?
I am probably more in favour of developing new jobs in the economy through enterprise and competition than many other Members. My reading of the evidence so far is that those new jobs would come mainly from tourism. My amendment 59, which would confine the experiment to extending British summer time by 1 hour rather than interfering with Greenwich meantime in the winter, would address the area that has the greatest potential benefit and which is most likely to increase the number of jobs.
No, I am not suggesting that all. I am not suggesting that the only money to be made out of tourism is during daylight hours. Indeed, there is a lot of tourism in London in the night time economy that is very beneficial to the country’s economy. I see my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood in his place. He will know that the night time economy in Bournemouth is also flourishing and thriving. That is not dependent on having this Bill on the statute book.
As a former Transport Minister, far be it from me to criticise the Department for Transport. I have to say, though, that most of the alleged benefits—by which I mean the reduction in the numbers of road casualties—would occur in Scotland, but given that road safety is, as I understand it, a devolved matter, if the Scottish Parliament wishes to take action to improve road safety, including by doing something along the lines suggested in the Bill, surely it must be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. I am conscious that on Second Reading mention was made of the fact that during the last experiment in the north of Scotland, notwithstanding changes being made to drink-driving laws and so on, the number of road casualties actually increased.
One of the most significant factors is that over the past year the number of road accidents in Scotland has fallen. Had we passed the Bill on its First Reading, we might have misattributed that reduction to the effects of daylight. In actual fact, however, road accidents have far less to do with the amount of daylight than with other factors, such as how people drive and the weather conditions, for example. I urge caution over some of that evidence.
The hon. Lady’s words are very wise. My experience as road safety Minister in the Department for Transport leads me to believe that we must be careful not to draw the wrong conclusions from experiments. My view is that a stronger law on drug-driving would have a significant impact on road safety in our country. But that is not a debate for this morning.
Dr Whiteford is right to say that the number of road deaths fell from 5,600 a year in 1986 to 1,850 in Great Britain last year. The point is that when we change our clocks back, the number of deaths rises—that happens regardless of the underlying level. If we are seriously interested in cutting the number of unnecessary deaths, we have to go for this review, including for the winter, but, as I understand it, my hon. Friend Mr Chope is suggesting that we do not include winter in the review.
My hon. Friend’s reading of my amendment is absolutely right. We have already had a review of the winter, in the ’60s and early ’70s, but we never had a review of what happens in the summer. I therefore think that the priority should be to have a review of the summer.
My hon. Friend refers to a past review but he knows the figures and he knows perfectly well that it demonstrated conclusively that there was a reduction in the number of road traffic accidents.
The answer is simple: the politicians lost their nerve. The small increase in the morning was heavily outweighed by the reduction in the afternoons and evenings, yet the minority effect was taken as the majority one. That is the kind of thing that can happen outside the House, but it should not happen inside. We should pay attention to the majority arguments. Had we accepted the review, we would never have gone back to what we have now, which has cost us 20,000 deaths and injuries in the past 30 years.
My hon. Friend states that the politicians lost their nerve. I do not know whether that is correct, but surely the important thing is that the House, with the combined political wisdom of all its Members, ultimately takes the decision. Instead of leaving it, as the Bill does, to the Government to introduce an order—albeit one that would have to be approved by affirmative order—the Government should introduce a Bill having first gathered the evidence. That way we could vote on the Bill in an informed way.
Let us be quite clear. If there is evidence, as there seems to be, that changing how we run our clocks will save lives—according to the London estimate, it would mean six fewer deaths and 23 fewer severe injuries a year—we have a duty to consider how we manage our time. That is our responsibility as Parliament.
I do not wish to criticise my hon. Friend in public but he will know that the outstanding Mayor of London introduced facilities to encourage more cycling in London. It is possible to argue, from the figures that I have seen, that as a consequence there have been more injuries and deaths among London cyclists, but I do not think that my hon. Friend would argue that we should ban cycling in London just because it might save lives.
Order. The hon. Gentleman should resume his seat. I say to him for the avoidance of doubt that were the debate taking that shape, I would intervene to prevent it, but it has not yet done so. I am grateful to him for his solicitous concern for the debate but he can happily leave it with me.
These comments about the numbers of road deaths and accidents are misleading. The graph on deaths in the mid to late ’60s shows their number falling before and during the trial but falling more steeply after it. It is possible to argue, therefore, that the trial delayed the downward glide of the number of road fatalities and that there are people who died during that period who might not have done had we not had those three years of dark winter mornings.
I am afraid that I do not accept that. One specious statistic that has been mentioned suggests that more accidents involving children occur between 3 and 6 o’clock in the afternoon than between 7 and 10 in the morning. Of course, most children are at school from 8.30 am onwards, so between 8.30 and 10 am there are hardly any children around, whereas schools break up for the day earlier than they used to, so there is a lot more activity on the road among children between 3 and 6 o’clock. To compare the morning period to the afternoon period simplistically is not intellectually correct.
Does my hon. Friend agree that as the results of the previous review are disputed, and as this debate keeps turning into a debate about the evidence either way, there is even more need for a proper review with proper evidence that we can then debate? My hon. Friend speaks eloquently, and I hope one day to be able to emulate his eloquence, but is it not the case that the more we talk about the issue, the more we risk yet again denying the British public the opportunity to hear a debate balanced in evidence?
The subject has come back to the House again and again. This is possibly less a debate about the pros and cons of daylight saving than it is a debate about whether internal process gets in the way of getting things done for the people outside the House.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I will not be seduced by her generous comments. A review to collect, examine and analyse the evidence can be undertaken by the Government now, without the need for any legislation. If she thinks that that should be done—I agree that it would be extremely helpful—it could be done without the Bill, if the Government had the will to do something about it. That is why I have other concerns about how the Bill is drafted.
The answer is that passing reference by the hon. Member for Christchurch to his view on the merits or demerits of the Bill is in order, but dilation on that matter is not. For that reason, I think that the hon. Member for Christchurch would be well advised to take a gentle hint and focus on amendment 59, which gives a man of his experience, ingenuity and indefatigability considerable scope in any case.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and to my hon. Friend for his point of order. For the sake of clarification, I was suggesting that the part of the Bill calling for the collection of evidence is not necessary, but we can develop those arguments in due course if there are amendments pertinent to it.
The most important thing is that I should make some progress. I have not made much, owing to the number of interventions and the amount of interest in this group of amendments. There is opposition to such a change in Scotland; I can see that there is some support as well. In the past year, the Government have basically done nothing in relation to the Bill since Second Reading. They have not considered the evidence. If they had, we might not need to allow up to 18 months for the proposed inquiry. At the moment, the Government suggest that it could take 18 months rather than one year. My amendment would reduce the scope of that inquiry, thereby reducing the costs and enabling progress to be made more quickly. Those who want progress will see merit in amendment 59, because it would focus the scope of any inquiry.
The effect of darkness has been asserted in the Chamber. In fact, the most dangerous hour on the road is 3 o’clock in the afternoon, which is in daylight all the time. Another point to bear in mind is that since the trial, the fatality rate has dropped from about 7,500 a year to below 2,500 a year. The improvements in road safety have been due to a number of other factors. Daylight does not seem to be as big a factor as some Members would have us believe.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point.
I must get back to the amendments. I believe that most of the opposition to the Bill is based on concern about moving away from Greenwich mean time in the winter: that is, from the last weekend in October to the last weekend in March. Those five months have the least daylight, and rebalancing the clock to achieve an extra hour of daylight in the evening can occur only at the expense of losing daylight at the time when most people are starting their day and going to work or school. Most support for the Bill—certainly as evidenced by the small number of my constituents who have written to me—is due to the fact that it would give longer evenings between April and October.
If one accepts those two propositions, it seems sensible to focus on extending British summer time rather than interfering with the application of Greenwich mean time. It would be lighter later throughout the summer and during much of the spring and autumn, satisfying those who want more time to play outdoor sport in the evenings. I have had representations from people who play bowls in Christchurch. People who play cricket or tennis, or who indulge in golf, sailing or surfing would also benefit from lighter evenings, because they do not normally want to get up early in the morning to participate in those activities.
I have received a number of representations from constituents who are clear that they want to enjoy an extra hour of sport during the whole year. That would be delivered if, as many of us in the House want, the clocks were changed all year round.
With the greatest respect, I do not believe that that could be achieved unless we created more daylight. There is a finite amount of daylight in the winter months. If we reduce the amount of daylight in the mornings and increase it in the evenings, people will still have little time to participate in sport during the working day.
Nobody seeks to play sport at 7.30 in the morning. They are more likely to do so at 4 in the afternoon. That is precisely what they would be able to do if we were to make that change.
Again, it is dangerous to generalise. I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but some Members of the House go jogging at 7.30 in the morning. It would be wrong to suggest that they should be excluded from our discussions. At the moment, at 7.30 in the morning, daylight is just about breaking in London, but if the Bill were passed and the clocks were changed, they would be jogging in darkness.
Order. Just before the hon. Gentleman gives way, and pursuant to the intervention that he has just taken, I know that in focusing on amendment 59 and the amendments with which it is grouped, he will want to turn his remarks to the preparation of the report on the costs and benefits of the time zone.
There are 50 Members in the Chamber at the moment, all of whom have views on the Bill and many of whom, like me, support it. Mr Chope has been speaking for more than half an hour. Does he believe that his views are more important than those of the rest of us in the Chamber, or will he sit down to give others the opportunity to speak as well?
The hon. Gentleman says that I have been speaking for all that time. Actually, I have not. Much of that time has been given to other people who have sought to intervene. As a matter of courtesy, I have allowed those interventions, in the same way that I allowed his. I hope that he will not misrepresent the situation and give a false impression.
I most certainly would not want to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman’s views, but the question is simple: is he going to allow time for other Members to speak?
I hope there will be plenty of time for other Members to speak. That is why I want to make more progress in discussing these amendments. The hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Panel of Chairs, knows the rules of procedure and knows that this amendment has been selected along with other amendments, so it is reasonable that we should discuss it and others in the group. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not supporting the principle of the tyranny of the majority. This House has made its reputation among the democracies of the world on the basis that it allows the minority to have their say. I believe that that is an important fundamental principle.
It is a simple question: is the hon. Gentleman trying to talk out this Bill or does he believe that others should be able to express their views, as they have the same right to speak as he enjoys?
It is basically the luck of the draw. If an hon. Member’s amendment is selected as the lead amendment in a group, it is obviously that hon. Member’s responsibility to speak to that amendment and conduct a debate around it. [Interruption.] I think this is developing into a rather puerile discussion.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s response to my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg, because the attitude of the latter was the kind of thing that helped to delay the abolition of slavery for generations and stopped Samuel Plimsoll from getting a white line painted on ships to make sure that they did not turn over because they were overladen. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is right; he should get on.
Let me summarise what I think is the strength of the argument for amendment 59. It would ensure that the change applied only to seven months of the year, so it would take less time and cost less to prepare and publish a report, for which clause 1 provides. The straight pro rata saving would be, on my calculation, about 40% in time and cost—well worth while in an age of austerity. The savings should be even greater, because the most contentious area of inquiry would not have to be addressed—namely, the costs and benefits of advancing GMT by one hour in the winter across the whole of the United Kingdom.
I have received many representations from the tourism sector in Thanet. My hon. Friend talks about reducing Greenwich mean time, but would it not be much simpler to do this universally right across the year? How many representations has my hon. Friend had from his tourism sector locally because, as I say, I have had a huge amount of them and he represents a similar coastal community?
I am sure that I represent a similar coastal community, but I have to tell my hon. Friend that I am not aware of having received a single representation from the tourism industry, although I have had a number from constituents, some of whom, for all I know, might be involved in the tourism industry. I have written back to all such constituents and explained that I was concerned about the integrity of the Union and believed that many of their concerns could be addressed by looking at having an extension to British summer time while leaving GMT unchanged.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend has not had an opportunity to speak to tourism operators in his constituency. He will know that his constituency is next door to mine, and I have had a chance to visit the tourism operators in his constituency. I apologise for not letting him know in advance, but they were and are very much in favour of this Bill. I add that we are supposed to be debating the report and that people’s attitude to my hon. Friend’s idea of not moving the clocks in winter but only in summer could be discovered when people react to the Government’s request for information when the report is put together. My hon. Friend’s amendment and request are, in effect, already in the Bill as it stands.
I am almost lost for words.My hon. Friend has come into my constituency on I do not know how many occasions to talk to I know not which businesses about the Bill. I hope that he told them that their prime responsibility should be to communicate with me as the Member for Christchurch rather than through him as the Member for Bournemouth, East. Be that as it may, I have yet to hear from these businesses. They might be run by people who are resident in my hon. Friend’s constituency, so I have no problem with that. With the greatest respect, my hon. Friend misunderstands the purpose of amendment 59, which is to bring some focus and simplicity to this issue by concentrating on the summer months rather than complicating matters by including GMT.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that tourism is more a function of temperature and that it dies down in the winter months because it is colder? If any group of people can get up an hour earlier, take advantage of the entirety of the daylight and are free to do so it those who go on holiday. On holiday, we can choose when we go to bed and when we get up without reference to an employer or anybody else.
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful and persuasive point—one that I must admit I had not considered. He makes a worthwhile addition to our deliberations on this aspect of the Bill.
Before moving on to other amendments in the group, I urge the Minister to give his unqualified support to Government research on the potential costs and benefits of my proposal in the event of this Bill not reaching the statute book this Session. The Government do not need legislation or even the authority of the House to prepare a report. I have noted a certain reluctance on the part of the Government to engage in the lively debate consequent on the introduction of this Bill. If the Government are supportive of the Bill, as amended at their insistence in Committee, why have they not already produced or started work on producing a report from experts? I shall not be rude to the Government by suggesting that they have been sitting on the fence and wanting to have it both ways. That is not my nature, but I think that the Government and the Minister have to answer a number of questions about this matter.
At the behest of my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg, let me turn briefly to some of the other amendments in the group. Amendment 58, tabled by my hon. Friend Philip Davies and others, picks up a concern articulated in Committee that the Bill’s proposals could impact particularly adversely on faith communities. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to have specific regard to
“the interests and concerns of the principal faith communities” in the UK. It seems a perfectly sensible amendment to me, as I would expect any amendment by my hon. Friend to be. If amendment 59 were carried, however, I believe that many of the concerns of faith communities such as Orthodox Jews would be addressed in any case because their concerns are centred principally around having darker mornings rather than lighter summer evenings. I recognise that amendment 59 would not satisfy amateur astronomers who would have to stay up even later to get a good view of the stars, but it would address the concerns underlying amendment 58.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley will be able to answer that question, because it relates to his amendment. I certainly think that the representations of mainstream religious organisations—the reference is to the mainstream, rather than to any quirky group—should be taken into account.
My hon. Friend is making an eloquent speech and is listening to all sections of opinion within the House. Does he agree that we should consider not only economic issues and concerns, but quality and well-being issues, such as the impact that the Bill would have on people’s religious observance, which many of my constituents have contacted me about?
My hon. Friend makes a good point—of course he is a signatory to amendment 58 and he made the same point in Committee. This is about not only collecting evidence, but evaluating that evidence using the relevant criteria, including those to which he refers.
That is probably one reason why he has misgivings about aspects of this Bill, as do a number of other hon. Members.
As my amendment was mentioned, I am anxious to ensure that it is not misrepresented. Does my hon. Friend agree that it does not say that the concerns of those faith groups should take precedence over everybody else’s view? The amendment merely asks that regard be given to their concerns when a decision is taken.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point.
Amendment 3 stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset and I look forward to hearing his speech in support of it. The amendment proposes to leave out clause 2, and I may well share the scepticism of my hon. Friends who have supported that amendment, because they obviously feel that the Bill would be better if it made no reference to what is described as the “Independent Oversight Group”.
One thing seems to be absolutely clear: this so-called “Independent Oversight Group” will not be independent of the Government. Its members will be chosen by the Secretary of State, who will be able to remove them on a whim, and subsection (3) provides that they will not even be entitled to have all their expenses defrayed, because instead of using the word “must” the Bill refers only to “may” in this regard. They will not be allowed to choose their own terms of reference and they will have to do as they are told by the Secretary of State, even to the extent that he will be able to order them not to publish their advice quickly. They might produce their report quickly, but the clause means that the Secretary of State will be able to say to them that they should not produce the report based on their findings until a given time, perhaps closer to a year or 18 months after they had been asked to start their work. So I can understand the scepticism.
My hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh), and I have tabled the more modest amendment 63, which would require the independent group to be comprised of “independent academic experts”. We did so not because we believed that a group of independent academics is necessarily best suited to this task, but because the Minister promised in Committee that the group would be so limited and the amendment would prevent him from changing his mind later. The amendment would also provide the opportunity to probe him further as to how and why he believes that independent academic experts are the best people to advise on a report on the potential costs and benefits.
I have been campaigning for a long time for the Government to carry out work and produce a comprehensive report on the costs and benefits of UK membership of the European Union. I find it interesting that although the Government resolutely refuse to do that, they are prepared to contemplate such an inquiry into the costs and benefits of changing the time zones within this country.
Did the hon. Gentleman fear, as I did when I heard Bob Stewart talk about sharing a time zone with Europe, creeping Euro-harmonisation, which perhaps would not be helpful at all in this instance?
I am much more in favour of harmony than harmonisation, particularly on the European Union.
Amendment 22, which again stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, states:
“Membership of the Group must be ratified by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.”
It introduces a modest safeguard to try to ensure that the group is truly independent. What could be wrong with this House having an opportunity to ratify the membership of the group or to table amendments to remove individual members from or add them to it?
Given the slightly different tack that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset and I have taken in our amendments, does my hon. Friend Mr Chope feel that if my amendment were accepted, the necessary safeguards would be in place and he would then be happy for the independent oversight group to take shape?
It would go some way to addressing the problem, but what the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset bears out is that there is a certain amount of scepticism about whether the “Independent Oversight Group” will actually be independent. Giving this House the opportunity to ratify the membership or otherwise might obviously provide some safeguard, but this is not my preferred approach. If amendment 22 was, however, incorporated in the Bill, a Select Committee could perhaps try to get involved in the process and interview the people who were going to be cited on the Order Paper as appointments needing ratification from this House.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend about that.
Amendment 64 stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough and for Gainsborough. It proposes to omit subsection (4) from clause 2—this is the subsection that, above all, constrains the activities of the so-called “Independent Oversight Group”. From the Government’s perspective, the group can be independent, provided that it does as the Government say—I shall try to illustrate that with two specific examples. Under this subsection, the Secretary of State could prevent the group from examining separately the issues of whether to have experiments advancing the clocks by one hour: in the summer alone; in the winter alone; or across the whole year. Why do the Government insist on holding the whip hand? Another example of what could happen unless subsection (4) is removed is that the Government could prevent the publication of any minority report from the group. They could suppress dissent, because although the group might contain people who took a different view from the majority, the Government would be able to use their powers to say, “You are not allowed to produce a minority report.”
I often think that I understand what is going on. I thought that the oversight group was supposed to look at methodologies—the sort of thing for dry statisticians, rather than for people with strong personal views about what the outcome should be.
My hon. Friend is right, as that was what was said in Committee. If one closely reads the Bill, however, one sees that it does not say that at all. It gives the impression that the oversight group might be able to give some advice on policy rather than just being a group of technocrats, but that is not what the Minister said in Committee. My hon. Friend is right to recall that in Committee we were told that this would be a technical group, but that is not what is on the face of the Bill. As a very experienced legislator, he knows that we must judge things on the basis of what is in the Bill rather than on what the Government say they intend. That is the background.
Amendment 65, which was again tabled by me and my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough and for Gainsborough would leave out clause 2(5). The subsection is a major constraint on the independence of the group. It appears from what the Minister said in Committee that the Government want the group to establish facts but not to give too much, if any, advice to the Government. If the Government are choosing and controlling the membership of the group, however, why are they not willing to trust its members to behave responsibly and bring forward a comprehensive report of their own choosing? It is very difficult to find the best people to serve on independent groups, but it will be much more difficult to get the best people on to this group if they know that they are joining a group that will not be independent and that they will not be able to use their judgment because they are always beholden to the Government, who will be looking over their shoulder. Leaving out that subsection would enhance the independence of the group.
Amendment 12, tabled by Mr Reid, would require the terms of reference to include an investigation into the impact on energy consumption of advancing time by one hour. One might assume that such an investigation would be essential if the group were to produce a definitive report on the potential costs and benefits. The amendment, however, exposes the fact that the Secretary of State could specifically prevent the group from looking into such a matter. Some might say that I am being unduly suspicious of the Government and might ask what possible motive there could be for their doing that, but we know from the experience in Indiana that, with darker mornings, more energy was consumed than was offset by the reduction in energy use in the lighter evenings. I see that the hon. Gentleman is nodding in agreement.
The hon. Gentleman mentions an important point about the Indiana study, and there was also a study in this country. The Building Research Establishment conducted some modelling in 2005 and found that advancing the time by one hour would increase energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 2%. That is why the investigation into the energy consumption is extremely important.
I accept that point, but my hon. Friend must also accept that there is other evidence. For example, in London, there will be an annual reduction of 80,000 tonnes of CO2 and energy savings of £20 million a year.
We do not know the facts, which is all the more reason why we should have a trial to find them out as best we can.
In that case, my hon. Friend will obviously be very supportive of amendment 12. It would ensure that the facts to which he has just referred would have to be examined by the independent panel. I am sure that our hon. Friend—if we can call him that as a member of the coalition—the Member for Argyll and Bute would be very supportive of the view taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. I hope that amendment 12 will find favour with the Government and with the promoter of the Bill.
That brings me to amendment 23, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, which would require the independent oversight group to have at least one member from each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That seems eminently sensible, because what can the Bill’s promoter or the Government have against having somebody from each of the four nations of the United Kingdom represented on the group?
I should have anticipated my hon. Friend’s intervention; I am sure that the Government would wish to receive representations and would be very sympathetic towards representations along those lines. Let us hope that that is so. As somebody who spent quite a lot of my late childhood in Cornwall, I think it would also be useful to have a representative from England who came from the far south-west, as the circumstances there are rather different from those in what might be described as the soft south-east. I do not know what, if anything, the Government have against the amendment. I know that in Committee it was proposed that the independent panel should have three experts from each of the four nations comprising the United Kingdom. This amendment is modest in comparison, but it introduces a worthwhile safeguard to ensure that any report is fully informed by the perspective of all parts of the United Kingdom.
Amendment 95, tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Shipley, for Hendon (Mr Offord) and for Hertsmere (Mr Clappison) and others, addresses the same issue as amendment 58 in slightly different language. The amendment talks about the impact and effect on the practices of the mainstream faith groups in the United Kingdom. It is a very sensible amendment although, as with amendment 58, if my amendment 59 were agreed, it would be redundant.
Amendment 5, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, me and my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough and for Gainsborough, would leave out clause 3(2). Clause 3(1) requires the Secretary of State to publish the report of the independent oversight group within one year of Royal Assent, but subsection (2) gives the group a possible additional six months. Why? Why do they need an additional six months?
If amendment 59 were accepted, the group would have less work to do but, in any event, surely one year is long enough for its work. If the group's members know that they have a chance of extending their work by another six months, they might be tempted to do so, but they should get down to the work they are being asked to do. In this country, we have a tendency to delay and delay and to think that that is a solution to our problems. As I said earlier, last weekend I was in Kazakhstan, where they have built a new city of 800,000 people in less than 15 years. If they can do that in 15 years, why will it take more than a year for this group to consider such a modest issue? We tolerate delay to far too great an extent and if we want to get on with this, we should get on with it—I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point, who is promoting the Bill, would agree—for better or for worse. We should not, however, use the delaying tactic.
That brings me to amendment 25. I am rushing through these amendments, but I think it is important to address them. Sometimes, the people who are impatient to take the debate forward try to move a closure motion, which means that Members with amendments in the lead group do not have a chance to speak about them before there is an attempt to curtail such debate by using the procedures of the House. What I am doing by going through these amendments seriatim is giving those who tabled them the opportunity to expand on them if they so wish. In any event, I am ensuring that the full nature and extent of the amendments is officially on the record so that if the Bill goes to the other place for debate, those who pick up these issues there will be able to look at the report of today’s proceedings and decide which, if any, of the amendments find favour with them.
Amendment 25 would leave out “18” and insert “24” in line 14 of subsection 2(b). This is the only one of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley with which I do not agree. I think it contradicts absolutely amendment 5, which he has also signed.
My hon. Friend is right that it does, but the time scale for the independent oversight group surely depends on its terms of reference. The amendment was tabled in case the terms of reference were extended in the way I have requested, considering the impact on other faith groups, and the way the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute mentioned, considering energy consumption. If those amendments were accepted, the group would need longer to consider those issues, but if they were not accepted, the shorter period of time that my hon. Friend mentioned earlier would be more than acceptable.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for explaining the thinking behind amendment 25.
On the amendments relating to clause 4, amendment 60 is consequential on amendment 59. Clause 4 gives the Secretary of State the power to make an order advancing the time in the United Kingdom throughout the year by one hour. Following on from my lead amendment 59, amendment 60 would restrict that power to advancing summer time alone by one hour.
Amendment 67, in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough and for Gainsborough, would change the name of such an order from a “daylight saving” order to a “summertime extension” order. That wording would promote both accuracy and transparency. Frankly, I object strongly to the expression “daylight saving” because it is against nature to be able to save daylight. I think the Bill’s promoter is effectively committing daylight robbery of the English language in using that expression.
The expression might have been used by that distinguished former leader of our country during wartime, but we know that in a wartime atmosphere people sometimes use expressions that are designed to raise morale but that might not be 100% in line with the English language. If that was what happened, and I have no reason to doubt my hon. Friend, that is probably what caused Sir Winston Churchill to lapse into that sort of language, which is not appropriate in legislation. I do not think my hon. Friend is suggesting that Sir Winston Churchill had that language incorporated in a piece of legislation.
That brings me to a group of 11 amendments that are identical to amendment 67, but I would be trying the patience of the House if I did anything other than say that those amendments—to lines 23, 28, 32, 36 and 40 of clause 4, to line 10 of clause 5, to lines 12 and 19 of clause 6, to line 34 of clause 8, to line 25 of clause 11 and to line 2 of clause 14—all change the wording from “daylight saving” to “summertime extension”.
Amendment 72 in clause 9, line 4, would delete “time” and insert “summertime”. Clause 9 addresses what happens at the end of any trial period, and the amendment would give the Secretary of State the option of advancing summer time by one hour permanently.
Amendment 61, in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough and for Gainsborough, in clause 12, page 4, line 35, would leave out subsection (1). Clause 12 is the interpretation clause and subsection (1) defines what is meant by the expression
“advancing the time for general purposes in the United Kingdom”.
That is an extraordinary expression to incorporate in a piece of legislation. Clause 12 says that it means adding one hour to Greenwich mean time in the winter and one hour to summer time in the summer. As I hope is apparent from my introductory remarks, I regard adding an hour to Greenwich mean time in the winter as unacceptable—hence my amendment.
Amendment 79 is the last amendment to which I need to speak in the Chamber. [ Interruption. ] I hear people saying, “Hear, Hear”, and I agree. It has taken much longer to discuss this group of amendments than I expected, but that is because of the lively interest that so many Members have shown in the content of the various amendments in the group. Amendment 79 would leave out subsection (8) of clause 12. In a sense, this is a completely different topic than anything I have spoken about hitherto. I do not know whether everybody has looked at subsection (8), but it provides that
“A duty under this Act to publish a document may be complied with by publishing it on an internet site.”
I think that is wholly unsatisfactory. The issues raised in the Bill are far too important not to be the subject of physical, hard copy documents. Indeed, we have such documents before us today and they enable us to consider these issues and the amendments. I therefore think that hard copy documents relating to this very important issue should be available to individuals, organisations and businesses the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and that to publish such documents merely on an internet site would be a false economy.
I cannot assure my hon. Friend about that, because there is a large number of amendments in this group and, ultimately, it is within the discretion of the person in the Chair—in this case the Deputy Speaker—to decide how many amendments on which he is prepared to allow a Division. However, the point that my hon. Friend makes about this is very—
The hon. Gentleman would have to claim to move the closure under
Question put forthwith , That the Question now be proposed.
The House proceeded to a Division.
I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate a delay in the No Lobby.
The House having divided:
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I briefly say that the issue underlying the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Chope is whether we will align our waking hours and working hours to the available daylight?
It is quite clear that we should do that and I hope that the amendment is rejected and that we move on to the other two groups of amendments.
I am sure you will be relieved to know that I will be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Bill strikes precisely the right balance on oversight without overburdening the working times of the House. I am mindful of the needs of religious communities and for their observances to be considered, as well as of the crucial importance of considering energy consumption. I envisage that that will be done in a robust, academically researched review, with a strong oversight committee to consider the matter, which will be vital to ensure public confidence in the research. We have already seen this morning that there are many different views on the potentialities of this measure in both summer and winter, so it is crucial that they be considered. That is why I oppose the amendments, and I urge the House to do so today.
I too will be brief. I just want to take the opportunity to pay a glowing tribute to Rebecca Harris, who has brought the Bill to the House. She has conducted herself in a manner that every hon. Member should follow; she has been constructive in her dealings with the Government and the Opposition on the Bill, not just with regard to today’s amendments, but in Committee at the beginning of December. She deserves great credit for introducing the Bill.
I hope that not too many Members feel that this is Groundhog day. As a new Member, I have not debated daylight savings before in the House, but many Members who have been here for slightly longer than I have will have had a number of such opportunities. As I said in Committee, I hope that we can conclude today’s debate, reach Third Reading and get moving on the Bill before it gets dark. That in itself would be a great tribute to the Bill.
I will not give way, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind, because we want to move on. It is important that the Minister hears the debate on the amendments in the first group, which relate to the independent oversight group that will look after how we go forward with the in-depth report. There have been calls for faith groups to be consulted, and that is important. The energy issues put forward by Mr Reid should be at the top of the agenda. At a time when the Government are cutting too far and too fast and household incomes are—[ Interruption. ] It does not actually say that here, as someone claims from a sedentary position, but everyone in the country knows that the Government are going too far and too fast. Perhaps if those on the Treasury Bench would listen to Opposition Members, we might be a little further forward in terms of growth. I was making a serious point about energy, and such matters have to be taken into account.
The Minister has to be clear and specific about the role to be played by the devolved Administrations in putting together the report.
Amendment 3 talks about the independent oversight group. Mr Chope seemed to misunderstand what the group is about. It is about providing the appropriate challenge to the evidence and methodologies to ensure that they are robust. Amendment 3, which would dispense with the independent oversight group entirely, would be a retrograde step. The Committee welcomed the way in which we had approached the issue of the oversight group.
The amendments that seek to change the membership of the group misunderstand the role of the group. They seek to suggest that it is about representation, when it is not. Trying to confine it to academics only would be a mistake. There might be an appropriate expert who might not be described as an academic. I hope the House will understand that the oversight group is formed in the right way with the right terms of reference. I am surprised that Members want to amend the terms of reference to make them more prescriptive, because that could narrow them down.
Members have talked about the faith impact. Amendment 95 is not needed, because it is clear that this is one of the qualitative potential effects that the report would look at. To reassure hon. Members further, I can say that specific legal provision requiring that the impact on faith communities be considered is unnecessary because the Secretary of Sate is subject to the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010. So, in preparing the report and taking a view on whether to exercise the powers for a trial, the Secretary of Sate would be required under that duty to take into account the impact that a change might have on people of a particular faith and, indeed, on other people with protected characteristics.
That is not a point of order. It is up to the Minister how quickly he speaks. We do not place a limit on how fast or how slowly Ministers speak, and thank goodness for that.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I should like to speak to the lead amendment in this group, amendment 59, which seeks to turn the Bill into a summer time extension Bill by changing the dates on which summer time ends. I think that the hon. Member for Christchurch realises that that would not be compatible with the EU directive on summer time arrangements, which has been in force for many years. The House might wish to reflect—
Mr Chope, as a long-serving Member of the House, you know, as I do, that it is up to the Minister whether he gives way or not.
I am showing the hon. Gentleman the courtesy that he showed to the other Members of the House who wished to speak on this matter.
The House might wish to reflect on the fact that, when the directive was passed, other member states changed their dates to coincide with those of the United Kingdom. I therefore do not think that we should change the nature of the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point and amended in Committee. We should now proceed to debate the next group of amendments.
I had intended, along with my hon. Friend Meg Munn, to speak in the debate this morning in support of the Bill, and to draw the House’s attention to the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership and to the impact that the Bill would have on reducing road accidents. I will not now do so, in the interest of saving time, but I would like to make the point that I have been lobbied on this issue by a wide variety of constituents. Unusually, I hope that they are not watching the debate today, because if they are, they will be appalled by the attempts of a tiny minority of Members to frustrate the overwhelming will of the House and of the country to support the Bill.
I wish to speak to my amendments 3 and 5, and to speak more broadly to some of the other amendments tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Chope. However, I hope that I do not do so at such length that my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips decides to move a motion to get me to shut up—the Commons equivalent of the Lords procedure to move that
“the noble Lord be no longer heard”.
We have just heard from the Minister, and I listened to him with great interest.
I am impressed that the hon. Gentleman listened to the Minister. Was he able to understand, or even catch, some of the words that he enunciated?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question; it is always good to have an intervention from him. I did manage to understand the Minister—or at least, I think I did—but I was shocked by what I heard. Once again, we heard that this House must be craven in front of the great power that is the European
Union. We cannot even set our own time any more without the say-so of our friends in Brussels, and that is a pretty sorry state to have got into.
On the point about harmonisation with Europe, many people have mentioned the costs for businesses. Surely, however, that argument should apply in reverse. If the gains are so great, would not the Eurocrats want to change so as to be in the same time zone as the world financial centre that is London? Perhaps this reveals the lie in the argument: there is no gain. The gain would be greater for those on the other side of the English channel than for those on the north side.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point, as he so often does. Na h-Eileanan an Iar is enormously well represented in the House, and it is one of the great arguments for maintaining the Union that he should continue to have an audience here for his wise words. I wanted to propose the introduction of Somerset time, a new time zone for the world, which the Europeans could come over to. Sadly, however, my amendment was not selected, for reasons that I fail to understand. The mysteries of this place to a relatively new Member remain manifold.
I should like to speak briefly to amendment 59 before I come to my own amendments. It is a wonderfully wise amendment, because it understands that in the winter there is a shortage of daylight and that Greenwich mean time has the great advantage—a somewhat old-fashioned one, perhaps—of the sun being at its highest point at noon. This gives us an even balance of sunlight during the course of the day.
The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. Surely midday is not called midday by accident. It is called midday because it is in the middle of the day.
As always, my hon. Friend makes a wise and pertinent intervention.
There has been one occasion in history on which daylight was extended. Those hon. Members who are up on their Bible will remember their studies from their student days. They will recall the book of Joshua, chapter 10, verse 13:
“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hastened not to go down about a whole day.”
That is really what amendment 59 is all about. It is about accepting what verse 14 goes on to say, which is that that happened only once; it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. God allowed the sun to stand still in the heavens on that day only, and never again.
There is absolutely nothing that we can do about that. No great Act of Parliament or—dare I say it—regulation from the European Union can create more daylight. We are therefore faced with a simple choice in the winter. Do we get up in the dark and have teatime when it is a bit brighter, or do we have murky, dank, dark mornings—I am sorry, I meant that the other way round. Do we instead get up with a spring in our step and go to work with enthusiasm, full of beans and ready to face the world, and sacrifice a little bit of daylight at teatime?
In seeking to leave us on summer time, my hon. Friend’s amendment would allow all the supposed advantages to be investigated, including having an extra hour of daylight in the evenings so that people could have their barbecues and all that sort of thing, but it would not upset the mornings. That is particularly important for our friends in Scotland, which is why I want to mention amendment 23.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for my amendment 59. Did he notice that, when the Minister made his very brief response to my amendment, he completely misrepresented the effect that it would have? He suggested that it would alter the date on which summer time came to an end, and thereby cause problems with the European Union. He was wrong about that.
I am enjoying the hon. Gentleman’s contribution, although I am disappointed that he is being rather flippant about such a serious issue. He has mentioned the sacrifice of a spring in our step as we get up in the morning, as though that is the only sacrifice to be made. I am slightly more concerned about the number of road accidents in my constituency and throughout Scotland. The sacrifice of people’s lives and health and the level of their injuries are slightly more important than whether we get up from our beds with a spring in our step.
I have the greatest respect for the hon. Gentleman and, had I thought that he would welcome it, I would have supported his candidacy for the Labour leadership in Scotland. I kept very quiet about that, however, because I thought that I might do him more harm than good.
As has been pointed out by other Members, particularly my hon. Friend Mr MacNeil, it is easy to argue about such statistics. Given the general trend in the reduction in the number of casualties on the roads, the arguments are not as straightforwardly causal as some suggest.
My hon. Friend may be aware that the Select Committee on Transport, of which I am a member, is embarking on an inquiry into road safety measures. It will consider a range of matters, including speed limits and MOT tests. I think that it would be difficult to isolate the effect of changing daylight hours on the road accident figures.
My hon. Friend makes an extraordinarily good and wise point. People sometimes see things happen and figures change, and then claim that A led to B. Somerset county council switched off all its speed cameras and the number of accidents fell dramatically, but, much as I dislike speed cameras, it seems unlikely that in that instance A led directly to B. We should be enormously careful about advancing arguments based on theoretical statistics relating to what might happen when there is a strong general trend.
The key issue—I now return to the subject of amendment 59—is that of what people like. Why do we not learn the lessons of history? We have tried this before. We tried it during the war, but people did not like it, and as soon as the war ended we got rid of it. If it had been such a fantabulous idea, we would have retained it in the later 1940s, and in the 1970s.
Let us consider Portugal, our oldest ally and our ally since the treaty of Windsor in 1386. Portugal made this mistake. The Portuguese erred: they decided to abandon the proper time, as set by the sun, and get closer to Europe. That failed, and they reversed their decision.
The hon. Gentleman mentions Portugal. Only yesterday, I discovered that according to Mr João Grancho, president of the national association of teachers in that country, the time change had
“generated irritability and inattention among the youngest and many fell asleep in class”.
Of course they fell asleep: they had been woken in the middle of the night to go to school. That is exactly what would happen here if we were so foolish as to forget the lessons of 30 or 40 years ago.
A simple look at any map reveals that the whole of Portugal is far to the west of the United Kingdom. Were the United Kingdom on the same degree of longitude, I should be with the hon. Gentleman, but it is not, and therefore I am not.
As the hon. Gentleman may know, Na h-Eileanan an Iar—which he pronounces so well—is 7.5 degrees, or a full half hour, west of the United Kingdom. We are penalised for that as well as being to the north of the UK. We have a problem of both latitude and longitude.
That is an extremely important point. If one is a Unionist—if one believes that this is one great country consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and that we should be united as a single people—one has to maintain that if the poorest crofter in Na h-Eileanan an Iar is inconvenienced for a ha’porth of extra business in Cornwall, that is most unreasonable, because it has a disproportionate effect on our friends and allies in Scotland.
I was surprised when my hon. Friend defended communist China, as opposed to the land of the free. I do not understand why he is against the operation of different time zones in the same country, given that according to evidence in the United States and elsewhere, they need not prevent countries from remaining entirely united.
My hon. Friend has already heard me say that China is very big. It must be acknowledged that the United States is also quite big, although not as big as China. For a huge country to operate different time zones is one thing, but when I proposed that Somerset should have its own time zone—because it struck me as perfectly rational that time should be set from the centre of the universe—my proposal was considered slightly eccentric. It was felt that the United Kingdom should not be divided in that way. I do not see why, if this is not considered appropriate for Somerset, we should suddenly do it to Scotland.
I also think it hugely important symbolically to our standing as one country for there to be no difference in time in different parts of that country. The Bill, as it stands, seeks to ignore the Union for the sake of some rather narrow and selfish benefits that are, in fact, trivial in comparison with the great history and breadth of our country’s tradition.
I am concerned by the suggestion that a shared time zone enables us to live happily together in one country. We can live happily in many countries together. I believe that the Republic of Ireland proves that point. I hope that we are not seeing any hint of a return of 19th-century imperialism, or any wish for the Republic of Ireland to be ruled directly from the House of Commons.
As it happens, I think that it would be good manners to consult the Republic of Ireland as well, because the Irish economy is very dependent on the UK economy. I should like to see that covered in the Bill, although it is not mentioned in the amendment. As I have said, a rather selfish approach has been taken .
My hon. Friend has spoken of the importance of obtaining a spread of opinion, including the views of people living in the extreme north-west of Scotland. Should that spread of opinion not include people living in places such as Dungeness in my constituency, which is in the extreme south-east of England? The fishermen there might welcome the time change.
Of course we should take into account the views of the whole country, but the real problems come in some of the furthest-flung parts that are the most remote from us in Westminster, where people’s livelihoods may require them to get up earlier in the morning.
At one point, I felt that much of the Bill was aimed at lie-abeds—those who do not get up very early in the morning, but snooze on, remaining fast asleep in a relaxed and happy way. Many people get up in the winter at times when it would be dark not only until they had got up, had their breakfast, shaved and so forth, but by the time they had reached the office, even if they had quite long commuting times. All those people are being ignored.
At the risk of extending the hon. Gentleman’s speech, may I point out that he is pursuing a false path by suggesting that the Bill is in some way anti-Scottish—that it is somehow against the interests of Scotland? I support it because I, as a Scottish MP, believe that it will benefit my constituents and my compatriots in Scotland. It is ridiculous, and very dangerous, to conjure up some kind of false division, or false sense of grievance. Mr MacNeil is very good at that, but Jacob Rees-Mogg should be very careful about going down the same path. This is not about Scotland versus England; it is about considering the evidence for a case of improving the lives of people throughout our nation.
I am very interested by what the hon. Gentleman says, but if it were simply a case of looking for the evidence the Government could do that anyway. The Government produce Green Papers, White Papers and discussion documents, and set up inquiries that publish reports. If every one of those required a private Member’s Bill to be passed by the House, we would be saved a large number of inquiries.
If the Bill is not anti-Scottish and if people are happy with it, there will be no problem with ensuring that the oversight group contains members from all four parts of the United Kingdom. Does my hon. Friend agree that if Mr Harris is right, the amendment should be accepted by all Members, regardless of whether they support the Bill?
As Mr Harris pointed out, there is a range of opinion in the nations, as one would expect. In that sense, having one person from each of the devolved Administrations would by no means be an adequate way of taking into account the wide range of public opinion on these issues. As I understand it, time is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, a consequence of the very asymmetric devolution across the islands. Northern Ireland will be very affected by this, but the Assembly effectively has the power of veto under the current devolution arrangements.
I think that that wanders slightly beyond the parameters of this rather narrow amendment, although I do accept that there could be an unlimited number of people to try to represent all shades of opinion, but I think that it would be a good idea if the one person to represent Scotland represented the majority party in Scotland, which would clearly be sensible, and perhaps one or two hon. Members present would be able to volunteer to do that.
On that occasion I meant the majority party in the Scottish Parliament, but I see the hon. Gentleman’s point, so perhaps we should have two representatives from Scotland, which means we must also have two from Somerset, because Somerset would feel let down if the numbers were not maintained with the rest of the Union. [ Interruption. ] I did not quite catch the comment Mark Tami made from a sedentary position but will happily give way if he wishes to intervene.
I want to move on to my amendment 3, which proposes a cost-cutting measure, and I know that some hon. Members think that taxpayers’ money should be spent willy-nilly and that part of our job here is to take money out of people’s pockets and waste it, but I thought that we would get rid of the whole of clause 2, which sets out the independent oversight group. The relevant Secretary of State and President of the Board of Trade, Vince Cable, is known to one of the wisest men in Parliament. Lenin’s brain after his untimely death was kept for scientific research to see how such a great brain could operate and why it was different from other brains, and I am sure that this will happen in the sad event of the death of the President of the Board of Trade—may that day long be put off.
The reason I brought it up to be linked is that by getting rid of clause 2 the President of the Board of Trade, which can meet with a quorum of one, would then be able to consider the issue by himself. Such a great brain—a brain that competes with Lenin’s and will be a matter of interest to scientific research—could consider this without the huge extra cost that might be incurred by paying the expenses of the members of the proposed oversight group, making facilities available to it and giving it written terms of reference.
I have not, but I know that these things always cost more than is anticipated and that any great project, adventure or public spending scheme starts with the expectation that it will cost a few thousand pounds here or there, then a few tens of thousands, and then a few hundreds of thousands. Before we know it, the experiment is in place and we find that the cost to the British people runs into millions. Would it not be better to get rid of this group of experts and give it, as I have suggested, to the President of the Board of Trade, who would then be able, should he so wish, to convene a meeting to discuss it.
The Board of Trade is one of those fantastically underutilised bodies in British public life. It is a Committee of the Privy Council, established in the reign of His late Majesty King George III, and it last met in 1986 to celebrate its 200th anniversary. If the president were to summon the board’s members, it would have all the wisdom that the country would need to deliberate on this complex matter, because its members include His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Speaker himself—that would certainly set us on the right course—the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Treasury Ministers. It would bring together a fantastic conference of wisdom and brain power—[ Interruption. ]
I am willing to accept the closure—the references to Lenin’s brain finally persuaded me.
Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.
The House proceeded to a Division.
I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.
The House having divided:
I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.
The House having divided: