Energy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Billingham Baroness Billingham Labour 3:15 pm, 28th October 2008

My Lords, this is a straightforward and simple request. We are asking for a scientific paper to review the potential effect of introducing a daylight saving scheme. The Minister, we hope, will acknowledge that there could be merit in linking waking hours to daylight hours in a quest for energy saving. If he does so, he will follow his two predecessors at the Dispatch Box who made it perfectly plain that they saw the strength of the argument. However, they both demonstrated that they were instructed to resist any movement for change.

It is inexplicable—in fact, inexcusable—that the Government, of whom I am a wholehearted supporter, should shy away from this project. It is a project that brings so many benefits to the people we seek to serve. We are shackled with the past, with dubious evidence constantly quoted in order to stifle the debate. The last experiment took place some 40 years ago. It was abandoned for political reasons, backed by overhasty and flawed examination. Some of the evidence was indeed misleading. Tim Yeo, in the other place, spoke powerfully on his Private Member's Bill. He said:

"The decision to abandon that experiment was a seriously wrong judgment. In any event, we must now judge the issue on the basis of what it does in today's conditions".—[Hansard, Commons, 26/01/07; col. 1679.]

That is the crucial point of today's debate. Forty years on, the argument for daylight saving is so powerful and overwhelmingly obvious.

To resist this helpful, positive amendment would appear to most of us to be unreasonable. Other speakers will lay out further evidence. But against the background of the global crisis in economies and the fragile nature of our energy supply, surely any saving should be grasped. If we add to that the pressing issues of climate change, obesity, inactive lifestyles, personal happiness and, most poignantly, the avoidable loss of young lives in accidents on the roads, plus the potential for benefit such as links with continental Europe and tourism, there is an imperative. I can think of few measures that would be more beneficial to more people at so little cost.

I fear that the Minister, my noble friend, will try to persuade us otherwise and that both sides will feel uneasy as a result. Government is nothing if it fails to change policy when it is necessary. Our request today is to seek an assurance that our proposal will be thoroughly scrutinised with today's facts before us. Let us seek scientific evidence and opinion from all parts of the United Kingdom, from all groups who will be affected by change, so that a rational debate can ensue. It is a straightforward request: we hope for a positive response on this amendment, which is solely based on the notion of the greater good.