Single and Double Summer Time

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:45 pm on 17th December 2008.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions 4:45 pm, 17th December 2008

Again, the hon. Gentleman makes the point about changing the time when we put the clocks forwards and backwards. It is a valuable point, and I am sure that the Minister heard it. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he has some reservations, rather than complete reservations. There is a traditional view in this place that Scotland opposes changes to the clocks, and he makes it clear that he has an open mind, even if he has some reservations.

I do not minimise the fact that it would be darker in the mornings if we made the changes, and measures would be required to address the dangers, particularly for children going to school in the dark and people travelling to work in the dark. I do not minimise those issues, but I want to drive home the point that there are jobs to be had and earnings to be made in this country if we change the clocks as I suggest.

I have also received support from the British Resorts and Destinations Association, which represents some 60 local authorities with major coastal tourism interests in England and Northern Ireland, the trade association for the Heritage and Tourist Railways in the UK, which represents nearly 100 members, the Heritage Railways Association, the Business Visits and Events Partnership, which represents the interests of more than 20 organisations and associations in the conference, meetings, exhibitions, corporate hospitality, cultural, leisure and sporting festival sectors. Those sectors represent £22 billion to the UK economy and visitor spend, and account for 28 per cent. of all inbound visits to Britain. Furthermore, more than £100 billion of trade is transacted at business events in the United Kingdom. That is a powerful voice for the change. All those organisations support my argument.

A third argument, in addition to energy savings and jobs in tourism, is a reduction in the carnage on our roads. When we had an experiment in this country for three years between 1968 and 1971 with British summer time all year round, there were 2,000 fewer deaths and serious injuries on the roads. Since then, the Transport Research Laboratory has updated the figures for its estimate of today's savings if we adopted single/double summer time. The last published report from the TRL on that subject was in 2004 and said that deaths would be reduced by adopting single/double summer time in the whole of the United Kingdom by between 104 and 134, and that there would be 400 fewer serious injuries on our roads.

This week, I asked TRL to confirm that that figure is still relevant, and it is not. Because of improvement in reducing road casualties since 2004, it estimates that today there would be 82 fewer fatal casualties per year on the roads, and 202 fewer serious casualties. Those figures do not come from a published report, so there may be some question about them, but even with those lower figures, and six years after I chaired the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, I cannot think of another single initiative on road safety that would save as many as 82 lives every year. There is a very powerful argument for saving lives on our roads every year by making this change.

Other people argue that the change would help in the battle against obesity. On the radio this morning, I heard the chief medical officer describing obesity as a "national crisis". He recommends that there should be more attention to the issue of breastfeeding babies, more information about the nutrition of the food that we consume and more support for cooking. All those are beyond the remit of this debate, but he moved on to say that people should get more regular physical exercise, and one argument for lighter evenings is that people would have time to stroll in the light, to go out, to play sport in outdoor arenas and to get the regular exercise that they do not get at present. There is a very strong public health argument for having lighter evenings in this country to help with that national crisis.

Some people argue that elderly people feel more vulnerable after dusk each day and are fearful of going out of their homes, so lighter evenings would give them the reassurance that they could go out at night. That is why Age Concern and most police forces also support the case for lighter evenings.

As I mentioned, back in 1968 this country undertook a trial of having British summer time all year round. That is not my proposal today, although it has the advantage of not having to fiddle with the clocks twice a year. Nevertheless, there was an experiment for three years.