My Lords, this is an unusual topic for me to intervene on, but I support all the arguments already put by noble Lords on all sides of the House. I want to address the objection often raised that, if we were to follow the advice underlying the proposal to establish SDST—single/double summer time—so well advocated by the noble Lord a moment ago, it would hugely inconvenience a massive proportion of our population: those with certain professions, mainly in Scotland. Somehow, it is argued, we must retain this huge shift away from the time zone adopted by all our neighbours in continental Europe to care for those people's eccentricities and difficulties.
I do not suggest that there would be no problem in adjusting to this proposal, but it must be put into proportion. I do so by referring to two examples. Central European Time—SDST—is followed by no fewer than 27 countries, covering two complete time zones. All the people in those countries are able to adjust their life pattern to the way in which the sun rises and falls, within the single time framework they have. If they get on Eurostar, travelling north-south or east-west, they enjoy the benefit of not having to work out when they will arrive in the other country.
That is only a modest example. The People's Republic of China manages to have one time zone covering four time zones, stretching from Vladivostok on the Pacific corner in the east across to the capital of Xinjiang in the north-west, Ürümqi, which is still 500 miles short of the ultimate western frontier of China. That is 2,500 miles, stretching from Vladivostok to a place just about in line with New Delhi and Calcutta, and Novosibirsk in the north. If people can adjust their normal patterns of behaviour over that spread of 2,500 miles, it seems to me absurd to cling on to what we have, which cannot be proven to have any inherent advantage, for the reasons that have blocked us for so long.
I went to China for the first time in 1978 with my noble kinsman and my noble friend Lord Brittan of Spennithorne. We found ourselves at Ürümqi, way up in the north-west. At the end of the day, emerging from a most important cinema show between midnight and one o'clock, we came out into daylight. That did not disturb or alarm us; more to the point, it did not disturb or alarm all the people who lived around us. Two days later we were in Shanghai with a completely different pattern of behaviour of the sun. However, one and a half billion people manage to live without discomfort within this four-hour time zone. I suggest that the time has now surely arrived to accept this often-debated proposition, which has never been refuted by any rational argument, save the need to be sensitive to the consequences of change, which are modest. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure—intervening for the first time in an energy debate, which is wholly beyond my normal capacity—to support the proposal made by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery.