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 Lord Rogan Lord Rogan UUP 3:15 pm, 28th October 2008

My Lords, the writer of Ecclesiastes assures us that there is nothing new under the sun, that there is,

"a time to be silent and a time to speak".

This being October, those of us who have literally seen the light of the benefits of daylight saving have the opportunity to impress again on the Chamber the merits of our case.

Daylight saving measures were first debated by Parliament over 100 years ago, and, from what I can see, the essence of the argument has remained similar ever since, albeit that argument against has weakened considerably as the size of the farming lobby from the north of Britain has contracted. Noble Lords will be glad to hear that this is not a debate about feeding time for livestock in north Antrim or Aberdeenshire. It is, though, a serious point about how we manage two scarce resources which are intimately related, namely daylight hours and energy.

Those of a more cynical disposition may believe that this amendment to the Energy Bill is nothing but another excuse for the proponents of daylight saving to wheel out their favourite hobby-horse for its regular canter in the field of parliamentary discourse. That is to miss the point entirely, as one of the strongest arguments for daylight saving has always been that it will save energy. Indeed, Britain's first adoption of daylight saving came in 1916 with the express purpose of saving coal and energy during the First World War, and a variation was similarly applied during the Second World War for much the same reason.

Today we face a similar crisis of confidence in the security of our energy supply: an energy crunch the effects of which may be every bit as serious as those of the credit crunch. We also have the added knowledge that energy consumption pollutes and distorts the world around us, and as a nation we are committed to dramatically reducing the environmental effects of energy use. For that purpose we are prepared to accept and devise any number of astronomically expensive technologies and offsetting schemes but, for some reason, we fail to grasp the blindingly simple yet brilliant concept of just recasting our days in winter to make more use of the daylight available to us. Winston Churchill was an early advocate of daylight saving, suggesting that its opponents were driven by the,

"sluggish inertia of their minds".

I will not be so bold as to level that accusation this afternoon, but I wonder if it is a collective comfort with the status quo which condemns the nation to its needlessly long and expensive dalliance with darkness.

There is much evidence to suggest that daylight saving can deliver energy savings. Academic research has indicated that the move would reduce United Kingdom carbon emissions by 170,000 tonnes per annum, while the American experience suggests that energy use during its daylight saving days has fallen by 1 per cent. Combined with the well known benefits that daylight saving would provide for commerce, tourism and an increasingly obese population, who would have the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, I ask noble Lords to support the amendment.

This is one of those rare political occasions when we have the opportunity to make a practical yet cost-free improvement to the life of the nation. I hope that we will not pass up this opportunity yet again.