Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 24th March 2006.

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Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench 11:00 am, 24th March 2006

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

I thank the Government most sincerely for allowing me time to present this Bill, and I thank those Members who put their names down to speak on it. It is rather a daunting experience launching a Bill on one's own, and I could not have done it without the help of the Public Bill Office, Nick Besly, and my researcher Andrew Trotter. Thanks to all who responded to my survey. I sent it because I felt that as a Member of your Lordships' House, not having a constituency, I should do my best by circulating it to as many politicians as I could. I circulated it to 1,500 politicians, including all Members of this House, the place next door and the Members of the devolved Parliament and Assemblies.

I shall just remind people, because it sometimes is confusing, what this Bill is all about. Primarily, it is to find out how to make the best use of the limited number of hours of daylight in winter. It creates a three-year experiment of single/double summer time—SDST as it is called—starting from 29 October this year. That means that there would be lighter evenings rather than lighter mornings during this period. When we advance the clocks at the weekend, we will experience the lighter afternoons and evenings proposed for the winter months of the experimental period. Noble Lords will appreciate that we will get some idea of it after this weekend. This time next year, on the last Sunday of March 2007, the clocks will be advanced one further hour to double British Summer Time. The time will then be in harmony with Central European Time. On the last Sunday in October 2007, the clocks will go back one hour, as will all the clocks in Europe, except in Portugal and the Irish Republic.

Under the Bill, the devolved bodies can decide whether they want to participate in the experiment of single/double summer time. I have allowed for that so that the northern latitudes of the local electorates and the shortness of the winter days can be taken into consideration. On completion of the experiment, the government of the day should have collected enough data from all the interested parties, including the general public, to decide whether to continue with lighter evenings or to return to the present status quo of lighter mornings, which was agreed in 1972.

There have been a number of Bills like this one, and I am nervous about wearying the House with yet another on the subject. It is the Road Safety Bill that has driven me to put this Bill before your Lordships. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents—RoSPA—confirms the conclusion with the results of its 2002 survey, that this Bill, during the period of lighter evenings, will save at least 100 lives on the roads every year. No doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, who are office-bearers in that association, will be able to confirm that more officially than I can.

Nevertheless, a number of people have written to me and have appeared on talkback radio programmes. They are worried about the safety factor with a lighter morning school run, which they feel must be superior to a darker morning school run. However, the facts are clear, and were stated in a debate in the House of Commons on the British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill in 1996:

"Only 18 per cent. of all accidents involving schoolchildren occur on the journey to or from school. Some 82 per cent. of accidents occur after school".—[Hansard, Commons, 19/1/96; col. 992.]

That is an essential factor that we must remember throughout the debate. It is an unnecessary worry for those people who think that darker mornings are going to mean more accidents; statistics say otherwise.

In addition to concerns over road safety, I have received submissions from many differing interests who advocate a change from the status quo of lighter mornings. They fall loosely under the heading, "quality of life", and range from walking the dog in daylight, to deterring early evening crime, to saving more than £1 billion a year through increased tourism, due to an extended season. Does the Minister who is to reply not agree that lighter evenings will also allow schoolchildren to boot a ball about before visiting the chip shop or slumping in front of the family television?

British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA) and similar bodies involved with leisure and sports pastimes have said that they would strongly support the experiment proposed in the Bill. In my view, there is a good possibility that the adoption of SDST for an experimental period will save energy and make a positive contribution to the carbon emissions equation. On 26 January, the Minister for Science and Technology in the debate of my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein disagreed and quoted the Building Research Establishment's absurd and unproven assertion that energy use would increase under SDST due to,

"people leaving lights on all day".—[Hansard, 26/1/06; col. 1384.]

My wife says that I am always leaving the bathroom lights on, but I do not think that all of the people will leave all of the lights on all day to the extent that it would not save energy.

Let us not forget that the father of daylight saving was Benjamin Franklin. He calculated in 1784 that Parisians burned 127 million candles unnecessarily every year, because they did not change their clocks. He proposed a form of daylight saving for that city and suggested that there should be a tax,

"on every window with shutters to keep out the light of the early morning sun".

Is the Minister aware also that in 1909, William Willett, who was the great-great grandfather of the popular singer Chris Martin of Coldplay, drafted Bills for Parliament's acceptance proposing daylight saving in this country as a means of conserving energy? He did not succeed, but Daylight Saving Time was adopted in the Summer Time Act 1916—a year after his death. That Act was designed principally to save coal during the First World War and was followed by the Summer Time Act 1925.

The Policy Studies Institute's Making the most of daylight hours was put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister. She was convinced that it could lead to great energy savings. Former Prime Minister Edward Heath introduced the Summer Time Act 1972, which was well intended, but seriously mistaken, but gave us today's status quo.

I do not know what noble Lords opposite believe, but they are keen on "green" matters these days, so perhaps they would look at this Bill with a view to incorporating its proposals in a future manifesto. Why did the Minister of Science of Technology not mention during my noble friend's debate the California Energy Commission's detailed study of the effects of daylight saving on electricity use? Is he not aware that the commission concluded that there would be savings of,

"hundreds of millions of dollars because it would shift electricity use to low demand, (cheaper) morning hours and decrease electricity use during the higher demand hours"?

If that applies in California—and it is a detailed study which I commend the Minister to read—is there any good reason why the same kind of savings cannot be made here, especially as there is not the same demand for air conditioning during the summer?

The application of SDST in this country would have the added bonus of harmonising with Central European Time (CET). I would have thought that the proposed experiment would benefit the travel and communication industries as well as the City of London. Yet again, the Minister seemed to disagree with that concept in his statement at the close of my noble friend's debate.

It has been suggested to me in a number of letters received regarding the Bill that there could be problems with rescheduling planes and trains to adapt to the new timings during the experimental period. Initially, yes, of course, there would be; but once in place there would surely be less rescheduling if our clocks and travel schedules were in harmony with those in Europe—which they are not at present. There is also the added benefit that the present early morning flights over London and into Heathrow as early as 4.30 am would switch to arriving at 5.30 am under single/double time schedules. Surely no one could object to that.

While I appreciate that in general there could be strong support for lighter evenings, as indeed there is for lighter mornings, it should be remembered that the Bill will prove effectively one way or the other which is the best, by actual experience of single/double summer time. The experiment proposed in the Bill should provide enough data for the Government to decide which is best for the quality of life for the local population in different parts of the country and what effect it has on the overall demands on electricity throughout the year.

A Bill of this kind is bound to raise the tiresome West Lothian question. I have therefore split up the plan so that the devolved governments have a choice. What will the Westminster Members of those devolved areas—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—do? A briefing note that I sent to noble Lords showed how population distribution related to latitude in the United Kingdom and how that would be affected by the lighter evenings experiment. One should note that Westminster MPs who represent English constituencies and 84 per cent of the population will have only one chance, if your Lordships allow this Bill to pass to the other place, to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book; whereas Westminster MPs with Scottish constituencies, who represent less than 9 per cent of the population, can seriously affect the English vote unless they abstain. That point has been raised time and again concerning other Bills. They have no right to vote on a matter that denies their constituents the choice that they may have at home.

I took part in a radio discussion with a Scottish nationalist MP who made it clear to me that the Scottish nationalists would be very happy under my Bill to carry on with the status quo and not adapt to single/double summer time. That is a legitimate political position. The only thing that they need to check is that the people of Scotland who elected them actually want that. I am not so sure, but perhaps I am not in as good a position to judge as they are. So there is no problem with the Scottish National Party, which would be happy with a change of time at the Border.

It has been difficult for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have contact with Northern Ireland MPs. That problem must be resolved, because it is difficult to get feedback. Therefore, I will only surmise that if the people of Northern Ireland accepted my Bill and accepted single/double summer time, the Republic of Ireland might reconsider its position about keeping Western European Time. It should be looked at carefully. As I said, those areas would have a choice, as would Welsh MPs, although, latitudinally, the matter is not so important to them.

Someone is always bound to raise the question of Portugal. How has that country managed to remain in Western European Time as a good example of not falling in line with Central European Time? Let us not forget that Portugal did not do that to save daylight. Lisbon is at latitude 37 degrees north and its citizens enjoy at least 10.5 hours of brilliant daylight during the Christmas period, so they do not need daylight saving. I believe the reason Portugal stays in Western European Time has something to do with working hours but nothing to do with daylight saving.

Portugal has a long border with Spain. More than a million people every year cross that border. They have no problems with altering their watches, and it does not appear to affect the economy or tourism. People all over the world are quite used to changing their watches, as we do as soon as we get on to a plane, so I do not think that that is a problem. To people who promulgate Portugal, I say, "What about Gibraltar?". If anywhere should be on Western European Time in harmony with a mother country, it should be Gibraltar, but it is not. I wonder why.

I return to the survey, the results of which I promised to give. I mentioned how many people were covered by the survey, but the returns indicate a clear majority in support of the experiment proposed under the Bill. That is a different result from the one given by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. He seemed to give the impression that the country does not wish to change, but he has not given any statistics for that conclusion and I should be most interested to know on what basis he makes that very broad statement.

The returns of my survey reflect the results of a similar MORI poll, which was instigated by the Mayor of London last year and was conducted simultaneously in London and Scotland. I have the facts here, but where is the Minister getting his facts from? I have been preparing for this Bill for two months since its First Reading, and I am not getting a massive "no" from any part of the country. As a matter of interest, of the Peers who responded, 74 per cent agreed with the proposed experiment, only 20 per cent disagreed and 6 per cent were not sure. Sixty-two per cent of the MPs to whom I wrote agreed with the proposed experiment, 24 per cent disagreed and 14 per cent were not sure. I shall not trouble noble Lords with endless statistics but, of the whole lot, including the devolved Assemblymen and so on, 60 per cent were in agreement with the experiment proposed under the Bill, 33 per cent disagreed and 7 per cent were not sure.

Statistics are malleable but, from the Mayor's MORI poll and from the simple poll that I conducted using a reputable outside agency at my own cost, there was no overwhelming view that people do not want to change from the status quo. One of us is wrong, so the Minister must come up with statistics or something to shore up his view that the majority in this country is against any form of change. We all know that the party managers are against change, but they do not represent the country. I hope that the time has come when politicians and party managers will not be listened to on this issue, which affects everyone's quality of life. Either I have this terribly wrong or the Government have, and the point of my Bill is to find out what happens when we switch to single/double summer time.

I shall take what the Minister said bit by bit. He mentioned that traditionally there has been slight resistance to a change from the hill farming community, mainly in Scotland. I have been the proprietor of a hill farm since 1965 and have found that that is not true. Can the Minister specify how hill farmers will be adversely affected by single/double summer time, bearing in mind that the feeding of all farm animals is dependent on their circadian rhythm of night and day and not on the chimes of Big Ben?

I remember that in 1968 the forestry and building workers did indeed have to wait for the sun to rise, and they sat around in vans reading papers until things got going. But, today, the timber extractors use floodlights in the early morning and at night to get the job done. I speak from the experience of my own declared interests in the civil engineering and railway engineering industries, where my people undertake work in the dark while most people are asleep in their beds. It is often difficult and dangerous work involving high voltages and the constant passage of high-speed traffic; nevertheless, darkness is not a problem. Floodlights, proper equipment and reflective clothing have made it a very minor problem.

I find it incredible that the Minister is using postmen and milkmen as examples of people who would be affected by dark mornings. When did the Minister last hear the sound of his mail plopping on to the doormat before the sun had risen? We are getting single deliveries these days, and it seems to me that the mail often arrives long after the sun has risen over the yard-arm rather than over the horizon. When did the noble Lord last hear the clatter of milk bottles on the doorstep with the unmistakable whine of the departing milk float? I am sure he would be the first to agree that the supermarkets brought about the demise of milkmen, so why does he think that milkmen will be affected by my Bill in their retirement?

To start enjoying the lighter evenings of summer time, we happily advance our clocks by one hour. But what will happen in autumn if we have to turn them back again because the Government stop the Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill from reaching the statute book? All of us who are part of the political spectrum will be indirectly responsible for at least 100 unnecessary road deaths next year, just as we have been every year since the lighter evenings experiment was terminated in 1972 by the House of Commons.

I hope that the Bill will proceed from this House to the other place, where lighter evenings can be reconsidered on the results of the experiment and then legislated as the new status quo. If the Government are not prepared to look upon an experiment intended to improve the quality of life for all of us, they must give a reason which everyone can understand and pass judgment on at the next general election. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Tanlaw.)


I am in total favour of this trial and yet I have only now had my attention brought to it, after reading a letter in this weekend's telegraph. It saddens me to think the proposal was to commence the trial on the 29th October and I read about it in a newspaper on the same day.
Is there a petition in favour of the adoption of Single/Double Summer Time (SDST) in the UK that I, and my like-minded friends, could add our names to?

Submitted by Lester Noble Read 1 more annotation

Photo of Baroness Billingham Baroness Billingham Labour 11:27 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, it falls to me to give my sincere thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for the outstanding work that he has already done on the Bill and for the way in which he has laid out before us today the issues that we have to address both here in this Chamber and further afield. This is my first opportunity to speak on the issue. It has not come before Parliament since I have been in the House, but I could not be more enthusiastic about any Bill to come before Parliament during my time here. I am certain that the proposals before us today are absolutely and totally right, so let me, so to speak, put my cards on the table here and now.

We have the opportunity to do two enormously important things: we could lift the morale of the entire nation, probably avoiding the debilitating condition of mental depression for thousands of people; and we could help to create a healthier, more active lifestyle, for children and adults, which will combat the national scourge of obesity. And what is to stop us? Myths and prejudice—the twin scoundrels which threaten to hold a nation to ransom.

I shall put my case simply. At a point in the calendar—the autumn—when clocks are about to be turned back, we all have the rueful regret that summer has passed, autumn is here and winter is round the corner. The days are shorter and nights are longer. And just as we enter this naturally low period in our national morale, what do we do? We turn the clock back a whole hour and turn a naturally unhappy syndrome into a disaster.

This self-inflicted pain affects thousands of people with varying degrees of depression and condemns us to five months of unnaturally deepened gloom. It also robs our children—in my case, my grandchildren—of the priceless, post-school day opportunity of charging around the park, sliding down the slide, kicking or hitting a ball and, in general, letting off steam. From October onwards, we invite—no, we force—them into a sedentary state—couch potatoes, or whatever. But we are responsible and, frankly, it is unforgivable. All that comes at a time when doctors and health experts have at last convinced us that we are in danger of becoming a clinically obese nation and that the antidote is a better diet linked to more exercise. To what other national health epidemic do we have such a simple remedy?

What can possibly stop us from doing the blindingly obvious? The answer is our two foes, myth and prejudice. Let me start with the myths. Myth one: we tried it before in the 1960s and it did not work then, so it follows that it will not work now. That, I suspect, is the platform that the Minister is going to try to use to dissuade us today. He will go through the process that failed and tell us that there are no arguments to counter them. Frankly, that is nonsense.

In the 1960s, children's exercise during the school day was at least twice the level that it is today. Children walked to and from school, or at worst from the bus. They had at least three hours of PE in both primary and secondary schools. I well remember my own children in the local comprehensive school having a lunch break of one and a half hours to allow them time for hockey practice, netball practice, gym club, badminton—the list was endless. Then after school there were midweek matches and, yes—wait for it—Saturday morning matches against other schools every weekend of the year. Compare and contrast, Minister, if you dare.

The exercise diets of now and the 1960s could not possibly be more different, nor could the food diet. My mum cooked Brussels sprouts every Sunday, not for several minutes, but for several hours. She reduced them to a pulp, and in the process steamed up every window in our distinctly uncentrally heated council house. The aroma lingered on for days. I am sure she never enjoyed the nation's favourite food of today, chicken tikka masala, or had any concept of convenience food. So contrast that, too, Minister, and ponder on the other threat to our health of meals off the shelf, even if they come from Sainsbury's and assure us that we are being good to ourselves—hence the statistics for today's generation and hence the urgency for us to make a change.

Myth two: the Scots will not let it happen. It is obviously darker further north, but the argument has always focused on Scottish farmers. Do farmers have such a controlling influence north of the Border or is the entire Scottish economy at risk if we ask Scottish crofters to suffer extra morning darkness while bringing in their Highland cattle or, indeed, in reality are Scottish farmers or non-farmers any different in their aspirations from those of us south of the Border? Obviously not.

There are two key factors that I wish to put forward about the Scots. First, they produce highly talented sportsmen and women, from Eric Liddell to Liz McColgan and Andy Murray. Their talent is phenomenal. The Scots care about sport. Could they, would they, resist the proposal before us today if it meant more time for their children to develop their sporting talent? Even Scottish farmers have totally different lifestyles from that of their parents in the 1960s. The old arguments just will not hold.

The Scots have another reason to welcome the Bill. Tragically, they have one of the worst health records in Europe. In parts of Glasgow, the male life expectancy is only 58 years—what a tragic waste. That is mostly due to poor diet and lack of exercise. People in Scotland are acutely aware of the problem and are striving to overcome it. Our Bill will help and support them not only to produce more sporting heroes, but also to live a better and longer life where the balance has been restored.

Myth three: children will be killed in the dark on their way to school. That is not true. I leave that point to my excellent colleagues on the Benches beside me to dispel, as I know they will.

Myth four: it will be damaging to the economy—airline and train schedules, as have already been mentioned, will have to be redrawn, and nobody wants it. That is just not true. Today, colleagues will talk about the advantages of moving to Central European Time and make the business case for coming into step with our major trading partners. From first-hand experience as an MEP, I know the frustration and difficulty of trying to work with constituents and others when we seem to be acting in a parallel universe.

No, the arguments are fragile, but much more worrying is the underlying prejudice, the avoidance—as some may see it—of further harmonisation and integration with central Europe and our European partners with whom we can make a better future. Could it be possible that a political party would sacrifice the health and well-being of our citizens on such a negative premise?

Myth five: what about our milkmen and postmen? My milkman, who still delivers to my door, is up at 3 am every morning. He tells me that the dark, empty streets are his best ally in allowing him to do his round quickly. As for my postman, he parks his car at the end of the road and I am happy to have my letters through my door by 9.30. How things have changed, yet again, from the 1960s. Postmen and milkmen are also family people. Their children's needs are just the same as everyone else's. Are they really likely to allow their particular work style to dictate everyone else's? I think not.

So, Minister, make my day, and not only mine but everyone else's in Britain. Stand up and say, "I am completely persuaded by the value of the Bill. I will urge the Government and all Cabinet Ministers to look at the proposal favourably, to demonstrate joined-up government and to say, 'We are the future, not the past'". Challenge every MP in every constituency to ask their constituents what they think. I know the answer; the answer is yes. Let us give this Bill our fullest support and ensure that it becomes reality at the earliest possible opportunity. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Photo of Lord Laing of Dunphail Lord Laing of Dunphail Conservative 11:37 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I support the Bill from a personal point of view, believing that many thousands of others would take the same view. For 45 years of my life, I left home every morning at 6.30, arriving home after dark, when the hour went back—biscuit manufacturers have to work very hard. I never saw my garden in daylight, except at weekends, and I used to long for the clocks to remain on British Summer Time. So did my dogs.

When the clocks go back, it seems to me that there is a moment of depression, with the long winter nights stretching endlessly ahead. Keeping summer time throughout the year and double summer time for its period, would, I believe, be carried by a very large majority if the question were ever put to a referendum. Of course, I am not suggesting a referendum; I am only suggesting what the result would be.

Lighter evenings can be put to so much better use than lighter mornings. They might also encourage our youth to be outside instead of endlessly watching television. One of the Government's stated aims is to be at the heart of Europe. Then let us keep the same time as Europe. Business meetings in Europe could be so much more easily arranged.

With regard to children going to school in the dark, most are now either bussed or taken in 4x4s—even after the Budget. Figures suggest that keeping summer time throughout the year would save lives. What is being put forward is only a trial and, in my view, the country should take this step. If it were to prove unpopular with the majority, which I doubt, the country could return to the status quo with no harm done.

Photo of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein Viscount Montgomery of Alamein Crossbench 11:39 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Laing, and the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham. Their speeches—one comprehensive and one brief—were to the point. I agree with both of them. So far, so good—three up and several more to play.

In his reply to my Unstarred Question on Central European Time in January, the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said that revisiting this issue was like flogging a dead horse. This horse is not dead; it is very much alive and well and in a very good state of training, as has been demonstrated so far. The Bill introduced so comprehensively by my noble friend Lord Tanlaw is more than adequate proof of this and has my wholehearted support. There is no need for me to rehearse too many arguments on this matter, because I made them in January and during a number of speeches in the 1990s.

However, what is proposed today is a new and quite excellent idea—to have an experimental period. The fact is that circumstances since 1968, as have already been pointed out, have changed radically; lifestyles are different, we are all doing different things and we are much more involved with trade overseas, particularly in Europe, where we do 60 per cent of our trade, as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, knows very well. So we have quite a different situation: we have moved on. There is no doubt that this Bill has considerable support. What is being suggested is the right way to go forward, and I hope the Government will take it seriously.

I have a feeling that this debate will go on longer than originally anticipated, so, before I sit down, I should give an explanation, because I may not be able to stay until the very end. We are currently enjoying a visit from the president of the Dominican Republic. This is an official visit—indeed, we were the first country to recognise that country when it gained independence over 160 years ago—and the first visit by the president of that country. As noble Lords know, I am heavily involved with Latin America, of which this is a member country. Therefore, I must go to lunch with the president on his last day here. I mean no discourtesy to my noble friend Lord Tanlaw or, particularly, to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, from whom I know we will continue to hear a good deal on this subject. I very much hope that this Bill will receive a brief passage through this House and be acclaimed wholeheartedly in the House of Commons. An experiment is an experiment. That is just what we need to do. We have moved on in 40 years, and it is time to try it again.

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour 11:42 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, following the noble Viscount's sporting analogy, I am very happy to bring the score up to 5-0 in support of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. I join others in congratulating him not only on introducing it today, but on his perseverance on the issue over so many years. It is evident that he has a great deal of support in this House and, I think, in the other place. I hope that when my noble friend replies for the Government, he will take note of the support that the measure has.

The noble Lord's timing is absolutely impeccable in getting the Second Reading today with the clocks going forward this weekend. No Member so far in this debate has drawn attention to the fact that this is a very auspicious day for those who are interested in clocks and time-keeping. This morning, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh is unveiling a memorial in Westminster Abbey to John Harrison, who spent half his creative life inventing the perfect timepiece, accurate to one second a month; he then spent the next 10 years of his life persuading the Board of Longitude to pay him the prize money they promised they would pay him when he invented it. I hope the noble Lord Tanlaw will not have to wait 10 years to get his reward.

It is well known in this House that I have a deep affection for and interest in the railways in this country, which I regard entirely as a force for good. I would like to put it on record that it was the railway system in the Victorian age which brought about standard time in the United Kingdom. The Great Western Railway was the first to realise that it could not run a timetable if the time in Bristol was different from the time in London. It adopted a common timetable in November 1840. Other railways followed suit and, by 1847, virtually all were using London time. Indeed, by 1855, the vast majority of public clocks were set to GMT, though some, like the great clock on Tom Tower, which may be familiar to your Lordships who know about Christ Church in Oxford, was fitted with two minute hands, one showing GMT and the other the local time. It may not surprise noble Lords to know that the lawyers were the last group to hold out on standard time. They stubbornly stuck to local time through to 1880. Indeed, you had the extraordinary position where polls in some parts of the country were opening at eight o'clock and closing at four o'clock, while in other parts they were opening at 8.13 and closing at 4.13.

Let us get back to the Bill. It is widely known that this issue divides government departments. If it were being debated purely as a road safety measure and was the responsibility of the Department for Transport, it would get a very fair wind. But the Department of Trade and Industry is in charge of time and we know from quite long experience now that it is—shall we say?—a little less enthusiastic about the change to double summer time. Nevertheless, I hope that my noble friend Lord Sainsbury of Turville can offer some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and tell the House that the Government are prepared, at least, to offer a fresh review of the issue.

The most recent report on the effects of adopting summer time in winter was published by the Transport Research Laboratory back in October 1998, eight years ago. It concluded that if the UK adopted single/double summer time—that is, GMT plus one hour in the winter and GMT plus two hours in the summer—400 fewer people would be killed or seriously injured on our roads. The figures published recently by RoSPA—I declare an interest as a former president of that organisation—and by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety show that the number of casualties would fall by around 450; that includes between 104 and 138 fewer deaths on the road. The reduction in road accidents affecting schoolchildren is likely to be particularly marked, as over four-fifths of accidents occur after school, when children and, indeed, drivers are likely to be more tired and less alert than they are in the morning. So, an extra hour's daylight at the end of the day after the schools come out is likely to be very beneficial from the road safety point of view.

I do not know whether the Government accept those figures. I am pretty sure that the Department for Transport does. But whether or not they do, surely it is time that we had another experiment of the sort proposed in the Bill, accompanied by new authoritative research showing what the effect on road casualties would be from the change.

What the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, is proposing is extremely moderate. He is not suggesting that we change irrevocably to double summer time, with no opportunity to switch back; he is proposing a three-year experiment. Neither is he suggesting that Scotland and Northern Ireland, or Wales for that matter, will be dragged, kicking and screaming into adopting these proposals for lighter evenings. Instead, his Bill gives the devolved administrations in those parts of the United Kingdom an opportunity to opt out, if they wish. This is a novel approach to the issue, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, on thinking of it.

I hope that the whole of the United Kingdom will agree that the proposal makes sense, because I do not think, any more than does the noble Lord, Lord Laing, or other speakers, that the arguments about early morning workers in Scotland, in particular—farmers, those delivering milk, postal workers and so on—are anything like as strong as they may have been in the past, or that the reality is as strong as the prejudiced seem to think that it might be. But, in any event, the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, gives Scotland the right to choose. That seems to me to be a very sensible compromise.

Certainly, when we look at this issue from a business and commercial viewpoint, it is self-evident that we in England do business with many more people in continental Europe than in Scotland. There is strong support for this change for people involved in sport, leisure and tourism, as my noble friend Lady Billingham pointed out. But, for me, the most compelling argument is road safety. We have a good road safety record in this country—a lot better than many others in the world—but we could do better. I am convinced that changing to lighter evenings would make a real difference, particularly in respect of road casualties.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench 11:49 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, the score is about to change to 5:1. I must congratulate my noble friend Lord Tanlaw on the hard work that he has obviously put into preparing this Bill and drumming up support for it, on his presentation today and, above all, on his mastery of the art of spinning. What could be more seductive than the notion of lighter evenings, with nary a hint of any corresponding downside? That is so much more appealing than, for example, a Central European Time Bill, as even absolute dunces at geography are dimly aware that the United Kingdom is not remotely located in central Europe.

I must also congratulate my noble friend on his pre-emptive strike at the prospective objections from what we term, albeit not entirely accurately, the Celtic fringe. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, also mentioned that. Of course, there is no valid reason why there should not be different time zones within a single country. Many countries already have between two and 11 time zones, and not just those running from east to west. The distance from Sydney to Brisbane is almost exactly the same as that from London to Inverness. Queensland, being nearer the equator, never switches to summer time; in contrast, New South Wales does, so, for about half the year, those travelling from Sydney to Brisbane or vice versa have to alter their watches. For the remaining six months, they do not. The Australians take that in their stride, as they are quite used to altering watches when travelling from east to west or vice versa.

What are the main reasons for sticking with the status quo? First, and most obviously, we are not remotely in central Europe. It is objectively ridiculous for London—still more so Cardiff or Belfast—to be in the same time zone as Warsaw. Today, for example, 24 March, the sun will have risen in Warsaw one hour and 49 minutes before it rose in Belfast and one hour and 23 minutes before it rose in London. Yes, Spain is on Central European Time. I am very fond of that country, but Spain is an odd place in one respect. It is unique in Europe—perhaps in the world—in that people have their lunch and dinner two or three hours later than anywhere else. Indeed, Eastern European Time would suit them even better.

I could not speak against my noble friend Lord Montgomery's Motion because I was on my way to Bombay at the time, but we were told how terribly tough life is for London businessmen travelling to Paris. They face no greater hardship than their counterparts who have to travel from Lisbon to Madrid, from Stockholm to Helsinki, from Rome to Athens, from Chicago to Detroit, from LA to Phoenix or Denver or from Adelaide to Melbourne—although I think that the time difference there is only half an hour. None of them seems to make a fuss.

We are then told, as several noble Lords have told us today, that children are put at risk by dark evenings in winter months—dark mornings apparently present no problem. However, Birmingham and Berlin are on the same latitude and are 15 degrees of longitude apart, so the sun rises and sets at a virtually identical hour, local time, in each city. Yet the methodical, pragmatic and scientifically rigorous Germans have concluded that there is no need to switch to Eastern European Time to protect their children.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, among others, asserts that we ought to be in the same time zone as all other EU countries. That is literally impossible. At present, 12 per cent of EU countries are on Western European Time; 24 per cent on Eastern European Time; and only 64 per cent on Central European Time. The latter proportion will fall to below 60 per cent if and when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.

The noble Lord argues that we need an experiment. As is well known, an experiment took place between 1968 and 1971 and was finally rejected. It is claimed that life has changed since then but, much more recently, the Portuguese dabbled with switching to Central European Time but swiftly rejected it after a trial period—not for the reasons that the noble Lord suggested.

Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. The Bill is about daylight saving and maximising the use of daylight. It is not really about time zones; as far as I am concerned, that is a happy coincidence. We are talking about latitude here, not longitude. It would be helpful if the noble Lord remembered that.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

Indeed, my Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. I shall come to that.

Is there any scope for moving to some degree towards the state of affairs to which the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, and others aspire? I think that there is. We can surely all agree that a switch to Central European Time would benefit almost no one in the months of December and January, when most people would still finish work after dark and it is too cold for most non-professional outdoor sports. Lighter evenings would be beneficial in November and the first three weeks of March. Would it not therefore be an excellent idea to try to secure agreement that summer time, being the equivalent of Benjamin Franklin's excellent Daylight Saving Time, should start not later than the second Sunday in March, or possibly earlier, and finish on the first or second Sunday in November—ideally, in conjunction with neighbouring countries, for the sake of simplifying airline schedules?

Obviously, such agreement could not be achieved overnight—it might take two or three years to secure—but other steps could be implemented much more rapidly. It is clear that Britons tend to start and finish work much later than our continental cousins. I have read that in Norway many offices work from 7 am to 2 pm with only a very short break of 20 or 30 minutes for lunch, so that workers can get out into the open air at two o'clock—on to nearby ski slopes in winter or into their boats or on to hiking trials in summer. If those factories and offices that do not already permit flexi-time were to do so, or to agree to start and finish work an hour earlier than they do at present, with schools following suit and shops subsequently obliged to do so for commercial reasons, there would be much greater scope for people to get out after work on to those playing fields that have not already been sold off. That would not require legislation. Even altering school hours would not require legislation from Westminster. Speaking of schools, I seem distantly to remember schools having different timetables in summer and winter. As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, was at the same educational establishment as me and may well have a better memory, he can probably confirm that.

Let us first explore the voluntary, non-legislative avenue of starting work a bit earlier and, of course, finishing earlier, rather than starting to pretend that Britain is located in Mitteleuropa.

Photo of Lord Quinton Lord Quinton Conservative 11:58 am, 24th March 2006

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, on his excellent proposal. I am delighted to think about it and I am sure that many others are as well. A point that I think no one has mentioned so far is that, unlike nearly all proposals put before your Lordships' House, its financial cost is practically nil and its benefits are very obvious.

Of course, that is not to say that there are no costs. Being very old, I can remember endless discussion through the latter part of so-called modern history of daylight saving proposals of one sort or another. As several noble Lords have suggested today, they always come to grief on the well known phenomenon of Scottish shepherds. Surely the thing about Scottish shepherds is that there are not very many of them. It is obviously undesirable to sacrifice a small number for a few, but it is probably digestible, provided that the sacrifice is not very great and the benefit to the many is very considerable. In fact, that does not matter because there is no need for them to suffer. The plain fact of the matter is that the service of breakfast to sheep, or whatever the shepherds are getting up for, is not really governed by the clock, as someone pointed out. They will not kick up a fuss if it is not provided at 8 o'clock; they will be quite happy so long as it is provided at 10. This presents the shepherds with a problem; what will they do in the earlier hours before they deliver the sheep's breakfast? Scotsmen with severe Calvinistic consciences will probably not want simply to lie in bed, as I would in their situation; they will get up and do something such as privately distil malt whisky, fabricate bagpipes or perform other ancient Scottish crafts. There is no reason for them to suffer at all. If anything, it is simply a slight switching of their energies from one direction to another. There is no question of any particular group of human beings bearing the cost of this benevolent proposal, which will benefit many people enormously.

We have heard some very interesting remarks about road safety, which have been made with the benefit of knowledge of statistics—something I am in no position to offer. I thought they were quite impressive, but I felt that one more question needed to be asked—it may have been asked already; perhaps I did not register it: as well as comparing the number of accidents that children have going to school with the number of accidents they have coming back from it, in what degree of darkness do those accidents happen? At any rate, it barely seems to need to be statistically demonstrated that various sorts of monsters, to whose attentions children are exposed, particularly when they are out and about in the dark, are more likely to operate in the evening than in the morning. The morning rapist is a fairly rare bird, so far as I know, but they become increasingly common from drinking time onwards in the evening.

The same is true of the drug-fuelled youth driving a stolen car, who crashes into children walking from school. These monstrous dangers to children, as opposed to the ordinary and sad wear and tear of ordinary road accidents, would be very responsive to the proposed change in legislation. Such a change would ensure that children are out and about in a properly lit environment when they are not in the immediate vicinity of their homes or under supervision, so I very much hope that people will bear in mind the superb economy and magnificent benefits of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw.

Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 12:03 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I, too, support the Bill. I have been involved in the campaign for extra daylight hours since the late 1980s when I was chief executive of Age Concern, which was vigorously involved in the campaign. Having also worked in industry across Europe and run a pan-European NGO, I am aware that bringing us into line with most of the EU would help communications and business significantly. Moreover, to have an extra hour of useable time in the evening would do a great deal to promote healthy living, which is very much on the Government's agenda, as well as outdoor pursuits and activities for people of all ages. It also has huge potential for increasing tourism. It would also help to enable more flexible working practices and work/life balance initiatives to take hold. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Quinton, if the Bill is adopted, there will be fewer accidents, including non-motor ones, as the result of tiredness and darkness, as well as a reduction in the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and crime. We know that people drink more in the evenings.

Many old people, and some young women, feel unable to go out on dark evenings. They do not venture out at all, even though statistically they are less likely to be attacked than young men. We are not sure whether that is because they do not go out or because they are less vulnerable, but it would be nice if they had equal opportunities to lead a full, better quality life as younger people do. The adoption of the Bill would immensely benefit the great majority of people in this country. There are objections from northern Scotland, but it is not impossible to have a different time zone or come to an agreement, as have Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar. I therefore hope that, having listened to the arguments, the Minister will be convinced of the huge value of this experiment to the very great majority of us in this country.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative 12:05 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, it has always been my understanding that the contribution of the speaker in the gap has to be in the form of a question. So although I express my support for the Bill, can the Minister reassure me that no section of British industry would suffer if the Bill became law?

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip 12:06 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I have listened to various speakers, but do not think that anyone has grabbed hold of the fundamental fact that there is only so much daylight. We are therefore talking simply about the management of daylight and patterns of behaviour—how we want to use what is available and what changes we are prepared to make to get benefits from it. Nor has anyone hit on the fact that the further north you go in the winter, the fewer hours of daylight there are, and that Aberdeen, where I spent several years, will not have the benefits enjoyed in London. The fact is that there is not as much light there, whether one plays around with the hours forwards, backwards or sideways. The same is also true the other way round. I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, that having floodlights on a tennis court in the north-east of Scotland is a waste of time because one could probably play tennis there by natural light at 10 o'clock at night anyway. The light there is very good. So there are winners and losers as we play around with the system.

One of the problems with the Bill is that it suggests that there would be different time zones north and south of the Scottish border and east and west of the Welsh border, which would create an immense amount of trouble for small groups of people who cross those borders every day. That is probably the greatest flaw in the Bill. Moreover, let us face it; the noble Lord is trying to square a circle. There are pros and cons. Which bits will benefit the greatest number of people? Is the inconvenience to small numbers of people minor?

Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench

My Lords, the noble Lord is right in a way, but I really do not see a problem. Far fewer people cross the border north and south between England and Scotland than cross the Channel. These days, it is not really a problem for businessmen and tourists to have to twist their watches one way or the other. The noble Lord must be more precise and cite an actual business problem similar to the one we have in Europe at the moment simply by having a time difference of an hour.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson in the Lords (Sport), Culture, Media & Sport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Disability), Work & Pensions, Deputy Chief Whip

My Lords, of course the noble Lord is right; I said that this was a question of management and convenience. People in the United Kingdom cross the border more casually and for a shorter time compared with people who face checks when they cross the Channel, so there would be a slight change there.

I argue that there is no great and wonderful answer. I actually think that we are arguing on the margin. There are minor benefits here and there, backwards and forwards. Lighter evenings become more intense at some times of the year and less intense at others. Coming out of a long, gloomy and, for us, surprisingly cold and dark winter, lighter evenings may seem more attractive than they might have done if we had a mild winter. I suggest simply that the benefits could be wonderful, but they would always be on the margin, and they would change depending on which part of the United Kingdom you are in.

This debate has gone on a long time. The road safety argument, followed by the leisure time argument, probably has the greatest force; but those arguments change as the amount of daylight up and down the country changes. If the Minister knows a way in which we can address this matter more coherently, I should be interested to hear it. However, we are talking about changing matters of behaviour and how we address those who lose out. Does the inconvenience of a change justify the benefits?

On the day-to-day convenience of travelling across an internal border, I live in Berkshire and buy my milk in Wiltshire. For those two counties to have different time zones would be incredibly inconvenient for me at times. That would be the level of boundary for Scotland or Wales. It may be right that one can change one's watch and get used to the pattern, but it is an inconvenience. How much inconvenience are we prepared to put up with? That is the fundamental question.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Hendon Baroness Miller of Hendon Shadow Minister, Trade & Industry 12:11 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, on his tenacity in introducing this Bill to your Lordships' House. I also congratulate him on the hard work and much research which he has done in order to present this Bill so excellently. It is one of the best researched Bills presented to this House for a long time. Not only was it well researched—full of the facts as he saw them—it was also an enjoyable speech to listen to, which is not always the case when someone has to reel out a great number of facts.

A few moments ago, I referred to "tenacity" because after the short debate that your Lordships had on 26 January, initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, cannot be in any doubt about the Government's attitude. Of course, it may have changed since then. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, of the sentence with which the Minister closed the debate:

"I cannot see the Government adopting Central European Time in the foreseeable future".—[Hansard, 26/1/06; col. 1384.]

I am not quite sure what the "foreseeable future" is, other than the foreseeable future.

The topic was also discussed and rejected by the Government during the debate on the Scotland Act 1998. However, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, feels strongly about this issue. It is right that he should have the opportunity to bring it before the House again, especially at this time when the topic of conversation in thousands of homes around the country will be, "Do we put the clocks forward or back?". I know that in spring the clocks go forward and in the autumn they go back, but many people do not seem to know. The second question that people usually ask is: "Does that mean we lose an hour's sleep tonight?", as though that is the most important thing that could ever happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has advanced substantial and credible statistics in support of this Bill, as have other noble Lords. However, I should point out that there are cogent, contrary statistics in opposition to those figures. It is equally difficult to refute the argument about the discrepancies that ensue between Scotland at the northern end of Britain and Sussex or Cornwall in the south, although in a country such as America, time zones also run from north to south: southern California has the same time as Washington State, which is a lot further north. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, mentioned that Australia is another example with different times in different parts.

During the war I was sent to bed in the early evening at what was a normal time for a child: from what I see with my grandchildren, that does not apply to today's children. I was able to read until nearly 10 pm without a light switched on. I must confess that I enjoyed that, but my mother was very concerned that I was losing sleep.

Despite the arguments that have been advanced in its favour, I believe that there is a flaw in the Bill. The title "Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill", ignores the corollary of "darker mornings", although I listened carefully to the noble Lord. Nevertheless, some people do not like darker mornings. Those adverse effects cannot just be disregarded. A few noble Lords spoke about the need for public debate. Perhaps that is the way forward. I forget who suggested a referendum, but I certainly do not suggest that. Perhaps we need a larger debate on these matters.

Parliament has to decide whether the disadvantages suffered by the farming and building industries, and the slight extra inconvenience suffered in the north of England, are a price worth paying for the benefit of fuel saving and the elimination of the many inconveniences of the twice-a-year ritual of changing the clocks. I do not mention Scotland—the Bill gives it an opt-out if its legislature so decides.

I have a problem with the "experiment" aspect of the Bill. We have already had that experiment, not once, but twice: first, during the war when, as I mentioned, I could read in my room in the summer; and, secondly, there was a five-year experiment in the mid-1960s, which was ended by the Home Secretary, James Callaghan. We have therefore had a lot of experimenting. The facts and figures of all aspects of the proposal are known. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, emphasised that there are pros and cons, which need to be considered. Several noble Lords have said that it would be quite a good idea to have an experiment. However, if, at the end of the experiment, it is decided that the measure should not be made permanent, there would be the possibility of more chaos and disruption. Perhaps we should look to the past until we are able to consider it further. Until such a time, I am not sure that there should be another experiment.

Equally, I do not think that there can be justification for the proposal that Wales and Northern Ireland should get an opt out. In theory, we could have a situation whereby Scotland and Wales are on one time, and Northern Ireland and England are on another time. This could bring chaos to business—for example, bus timetables and so on may seem less important, but, from a business point of view, the changes might create chaos.

Nothing like this proposal has been seen since the early 19th century when standard time was established throughout the British Isles, instead of towns operating with their own clocks. Standard time was established to enable the railways to operate. Producing a jigsaw of different times would send us back to the Victorian situation before Brunel dragged us into the railway age. Let us be clear: this experiment would not just test the water for three years. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, would also like the experiment to be successful and the beginnings of what he would like to occur.

I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord on a radio broadcast yesterday. I quote from the BBC website:

"A poll of more than 1,500 MPs, Peers, MEPs, MSPs, Members of the Welsh Assembly and other politicians suggests a substantial majority in favour of the Bill".

I regret to tell the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that I did not receive a copy of his form, so I did not know about that. Had I known, I could have said what I often say about polls: "Do you know, I have never been asked to fill in one and that I have never, ever met anyone who has?". However, I realise that in the House today, many noble Lords will have filled in the form.

I hasten to say that I do not doubt the noble Lord's research for one moment. He has taken great care, which has been backed by many noble Lords, RoSPA and other bodies. We would need a major debate in order to decide on a three-year experiment. Whatever personal views some colleagues on these Benches may have, I regret to tell the noble Lord that we will not support his Bill.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation) 12:20 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for his full and helpful explanation of the Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill. He made an extremely good case as far as one can for moving in this direction, but I have to say that my reply on this may be disappointing to him and to my noble friend Lady Billingham. I also make a fundamental point in response to the noble Lord, Lord Quinton: it is not the case that everyone agrees that there would be huge benefits and no costs. In fact, there is almost a complete split over the benefits and disbenefits.

Noble Lords will be aware that the topic of introducing lighter evenings is a perennial issue and, indeed, was the subject of a debate in the House earlier this year. As those interested in the issue are also well aware, we have already undertaken an experiment of a similar kind. From 1968 to 1971 the British Standard Time experiment was carried out where continuous summer time, in other words GMT plus one hour, was adopted throughout the year in order to test public opinion. Objections were raised by the farming and construction industries, as well as others involved in outdoor work such as postal workers and milkmen, particularly those in the north of England and Scotland who experienced difficulties because of the late sunrise in winter. At the time they made their views very clear and there could be no mistaking their opinion. As a result of the experiment, following a vote in Parliament it was abandoned.

It has been said that not many people start work early in the morning. I am afraid to say that lots of people do so, on construction sites and other places. It is not only the noble Lord, Lord Laing, who gets up to make his excellent biscuits; many others work or are making their way to work. Unlike the noble Lord, they do not like travelling in the dark. The noble Lord was a well-known workaholic, which meant that he produced wonderful biscuits for supermarkets, but I do not know that he is totally representative of the people of this country. I accept that that was a different world, but it is not clear to me that it was different in ways relevant to this particular issue. Yes, it was a horrible world in which people boiled Brussels sprouts to the point where absolutely no taste was left in them, but I fail to see how that is relevant to the question of summer time.

Opinion on a move to Central European Time was canvassed more recently in a 1989 Green Paper published by the then government entitled Summer Time: A consultation document. The responses revealed again the huge divergence of opinion that existed on this issue. In fact, whenever the subject is raised, a wide range of views is expressed. What is also of interest and relevance here is the fact that another country has experimented with this more recently. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, tried to explain away the situation in Portugal, but the point is that it did in fact move to Central European Time in 1992, but reverted to Greenwich Mean Time in 1996. It was concluded that the small energy savings could not justify the inconvenience the change created. It caused particular inconvenience through its impact on schoolchildren, which became a big issue in Portugal. The change had a very disturbing effect on children's sleeping habits as it would not get dark until 10 or 10.30 in the evening. It was difficult for children to go to bed early enough to have sufficient sleep. This had inevitable repercussions on standards of learning and school performance. Difficulties were also encountered with children leaving for school in complete darkness. Moreover, insurance companies in Portugal reported a rise in the number of accidents.

The Government are well aware of the 1999 road study by the Transport Research Laboratory, and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that it provides the most substantial and important evidence here. However, so far as one can make out, it was not borne out by the experience in Portugal. On electricity consumption savings, these were reported to be insignificant.

I shall make one further general point about the Bill before I respond to the specific points. Certain provisions of the Bill amend Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998. Its effect would be to alter the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. No doubt noble Lords will be aware that this would trigger the Sewel convention. The relevant provisions would therefore require the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Without that consent, the Government would be obliged to table amendments to the Bill to ensure that the convention is not breached. There is no likelihood of the Scottish Parliament agreeing to that change. It is also not realistic to talk about introducing a time difference between England and Scotland. If it is not a problem, what on earth is the argument for saying that there are huge benefits in aligning ourselves with Europe? Either there are benefits from aligning with other countries or there are not, but if there are, clearly a time difference between Scotland and England would have to be a disbenefit.

I turn to one or two of the specific points made in the debate. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, I did not say that I know what people think; rather I merely reported that whenever this issues comes to Parliament, there is no surge of enthusiasm for it in the House of Commons, which suggests that members of the public are not going to their MPs and saying that they very much want the scheme. Further, one should always declare the response rate whenever one refers to polls. Polls of this kind can be deeply misleading because those who want to see change will respond, while people who do not particularly care or are against it may not respond. One must be careful with that kind of poll. One need only say at this point that the Bill will go to the House of Commons and representatives in the other place will no doubt reflect what they believe to be people's opinion.

As regards trade with our EU partners, we simply do not find that there is any strong push from business to change the summer time arrangements, which would suggest that it is content with the current system. Indeed, trade investors have not raised it as an issue. Finally, such a change would have a negative impact on trade with the Republic of Ireland and Portugal as they are on Greenwich Mean Time. On energy savings, the Building Research Establishment has produced figures which indicate that a change would not lead to a reduction in energy use. Again, I did not say that all people would leave all lights on all day, merely that more people would do so, which would counteract the effect of any other energy savings. I have not seen the California study, but if it is important I shall reflect on it.

On a reduction in crime rates, again different groups have different views on this issue. Assaults on and thefts from postal workers increase markedly from summer to winter due to the dark mornings, a situation that could only be worsened by imposing extra hours of darkness in the morning. There are just so many hours of darkness and if criminals want to commit a crime during those hours, they will simply choose the darker hours in which to do it. I do not think that they would be put off by the hours being different.

The other main argument has always been the question of health benefits, tourism and sport, and how the change would bring a boost to people's morale and the health of the country by reducing cases of seasonal affective disorder. It is possible that we would all benefit mentally and physically from a change to lighter evenings. The mood of the nation could be improved, but equally other people think that the darker mornings are very depressing. Again, this is a question of balance. Some people would like it and some would not. Further, if it really could be shown that moving to double summer time would have an effect on obesity in children, I must say that I would be enormously enthusiastic about it. But there are rather deeper issues which lead to obesity in children than simply the amount of daylight in the evenings.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, of course it is not easy to change when summer time starts and ends. It is covered very sensibly, I think, by the European Union in the 9th EC directive so that there is co-ordination across countries over when they begin and end summer time. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, that I do not think any part of industry would greatly suffer from this move. It is an issue for people who have to work early in the morning, and that could have an effect on the construction industry.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, I was thinking of the aircraft industry.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I think these issues could be resolved fairly easily. I cannot see this as a great problem. It is a question of individual preference as to when people take exercise and do other things. Industry probably could adapt to the change but, equally, there is no enthusiasm in industry for it.

Clearly everyone has their own views on this issue, with some individuals supporting change and others defending the current arrangements. Recent informal consultations with stakeholders representing both business and workers show that there is no strong desire to change, with some being strongly opposed to it. The present situation therefore appears to the Government to be a satisfactory compromise between those who prefer lighter mornings and those who prefer lighter evenings, and we see no reason to change it.

Photo of Lord Tanlaw Lord Tanlaw Crossbench 12:32 pm, 24th March 2006

My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this very interesting—almost one-sided—debate and I thank profusely all those who have spoken in support of the Bill. I shall not mention them by name but their names will be mentioned and thought about because they have put forward their own expertise to support the case for an experiment.

Perhaps I may take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington—which sounds very valid on the surface—that the Scots and Northern Irish might decide to keep a different time. My point is that they should have the choice. If the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland want to have a separate time, yes, I agree there may be problems—but the case should be properly put to them. The local governance and the devolved governance should ask the people of Scotland more succinctly than they have because every organisation that I consulted in preparation for this debate had never been approached or asked the question before. I hope that, if nothing else, the debate will arouse some greater interest.

I am, first, encouraged by the nice words that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said in relation to the preparation of the Bill, but I am also depressed because I thought that there had been a change of view and that the old Toryism had changed into something that looked to the future and was innovative and different. I regret to say that nothing has changed at all. So I do not think there is much to look forward to there. The Minister cracked on and once more put forward statistics from the last century as the reasons for this.

But, nevertheless, the people will see that both the Government and the main opposition parties are not moving on this because it is politically difficult for them to do so. However, I hope that others may be more efficient than myself and put forward a case in the future that this should be looked at. I would like the Bill to be passed and the other place to be able to make a decision on it.

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