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Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Trumpington made one comment which gave us slight encouragement. She said that the Government would continue to consider the matter. That indeed is what has been happening for a very long time. But as another 10 months have elapsed I hope that the Government will take a more positive line and I look forward to hearing what my noble friend Lord Courtown has to say about it tonight. Surely, what is now required is not consultation but decision and action. I beg to move.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I rise to speak on this subject with a certain amount of dismay. It is not long since we discussed it last January in a Bill which was, I said then, bizarre. I actually meant idiotic. It created a time zone between Scotland and England. This Bill is much more sensible and therefore has to be taken seriously. However, I must say with a certain amount of distress that the matter is to be raised in another place by a Member from one of the most extremely southern constituencies in the country. He will consider an amendment which allows for a separate time zone in Scotland as against England. Clearly, bizarre notions are not confined to this House. I hope that he pulls himself together before he introduces the Bill.
My objections to the Bill are well known to your Lordships and I do not need to go into them in any great detail--although I might if I am urged! They are simple and have appeared in Hansard on several occasions. Indeed, this is the third time in two years, which is quite preposterous. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis that I do not believe that this is a proper measure for a Private Member's Bill. It is a national matter and should be taken up, or rather left alone, by the Government.
The first objection is what we might call the Scottish dimension. It is a serious matter but has been dismissed in some parts of the press as being the objection of a minority. Some members of the press have said that the minority should yield to the majority. But in this case the minority are put to substantial inconvenience for the
The question of time is not only a matter of north and south but of north and south combined with east and west. The globe is tipped over and the sun goes round it or it goes round the sun. I am not quite sure which but one or the other is right. It amounts to the same thing in the end. Not only that, but the country is tipped over so that Bristol, for example, is further east than Edinburgh. The east-west element is extremely important with the result that the real time in Glasgow is 45 minutes behind the real time in London. That 45 minutes is quite substantial, especially on a Glasgow morning in January or February. I have been there often at that time and I know that it is a dismal experience. It is not a happy time. It is cold, miserable and dank and it is also dangerous.
If we leave things as they are, in the dead of winter the dawn in Glasgow will be at about a quarter to ten. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, quibbles about that and keeps producing the time in Inverness. But Glasgow is more important in that respect. I see that the noble Lord wishes to respond. I give way.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I take the point. I did not think that I would stir up the point quite so readily. I apologise to the House for so doing. Indeed, it was accidental. Had I meant to do so, I would have done it more seriously.
However, if we adopt the Bill, it means that dawn in Glasgow will not be at 8.45 but at 9.45. Let us think about it. It means going to work in the dark. It is bad enough going to work in the light, but it is infinitely worse to do so in the dark. You feel awful. It is dark, cold, miserable and dank. You need to think about it as though you were in Glasgow and not as though you were in Bournemouth, London or some such salubrious spot.
I have nothing further to say in that respect, except to point out that Belfast and Londonderry are on the same latitude as Glasgow but further west. So it is worse in Belfast and Londonderry, but it is even worse in Sligo because it suffers two disadvantages. The first is that it is further west than Londonderry but it is also in another country. If we are going to suggest that there should be a time difference between Sligo and Londonderry--in other words, between Northern Ireland and the Republic--I do not know what Gerry Adams would make of it. I do not believe that he would like it very much. Indeed, it would not help.
The second consideration is the fact that big building construction sites are dangerous places. I say that because they are temporary. The temporary works which they contain are scaffolding, boarding, ladders and so on. They can be slippery because of frost and ice. That frost and ice is there in the early morning and people can be injured. They may fall and be hurt, and yet it is suggested that we add another hour which means that there will be an hour of further danger. It is not an insignificant point. I know that it involves a minority and that there are only about 1.5 million construction workers but, nevertheless, they are a significant body of people. So we have the cost problem to the construction industry and the danger problem.
I should like to say a few words about tourism. I know that my personal noble friend Lord Mountevans--although I am not sure whether that is how I should put it--is deeply involved in tourism. He will no doubt tell us about the advantages to tourism which the extra hour would provide. But I would like your Lordships to consider whether people really visit places as tourists because of the light. Indeed, do they? For example, if you go to Egypt, you will find that it gets dark round about 6 o'clock in the evening, but you do not go there for the light. You go to Egypt to look at the pyramids, or something of that nature. When it gets dark you can easily go and have a martini--and that is a very sound thing to do. That is what you do. You do not say "Oh, it is light in Egypt, let's go there", or, "It's going to be light in Britain, let's go there". That is absurd. Indeed, the argument is preposterous but, unfortunately, because of the politeness of this House, I shall have to sit and listen to it during the debate.
I shall finish by talking about business. I do not wish to irritate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, again. Having done it once, it would be improper to do it twice. When I look back at the record of our previous debate in the Official Report I am staggered to note the amounts of money which the noble Lord conjured out of the air. He referred to millions; in fact I believe he referred to billions, although they were dollars which made the figures higher than if they had been pounds. He claimed that billions could be gained by implementing this change.
The CBI tells us that there is a two hour differential between business practice in London as compared with our overseas competitors. I have no doubt that that is true. If one considers that two hour differential, one discovers two facts. One hour is the time shift about which this Bill is concerned, but the other hour is due to the fact that our dynamic businessmen start work an hour later than their Continental competitors.
Let us assume for a moment that the billions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, are correct. I have no idea whether that is the case, but one thing I do know is that during my 17 years in this House I have heard noble Lords suggest structural proposals such as the one we are discussing which they claim would result in this country gaining billions of pounds, but that has never happened. Over-optimism seems to be the basis of those calculations. But suppose the figures are correct and there is a two-hour differential, is it not a fact that half of that money could be earned if our dynamic businessmen got out of bed earlier and went to work to chase business in the way they tell us they are always doing? If that were so we would not have to bother about the matter.
As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, says, this measure would be convenient for 700,000 people who are engaged in insurance and banking. However, the vast majority of those people are minions and it does not matter when they do their work. They constitute a small number of people. I believe he has chided me for saying they constitute a tiny number of people. They are important but we are talking about a small number of people who would stand to gain from the measure. There is no reason why a large number of people should be put to inconvenience to suit the convenience of a small number of people.
Let me finish because we do not want this debate to go on for too long. I sometimes wish it had started earlier and we could really have got into it. I leave noble Lords with a thought. As I said, the time variance across the globe is, to a large extent, a matter of east and west. Does it never cross the noble Viscount's mind that France is to the south of Britain, as are Spain and Portugal? Would it not be a better idea if his Bill did not ask us to adopt their time but rather asked them to adopt our time? I see that the noble Viscount looks stunned. I do not think that that is plausible, but it is a thought. The noble Viscount is proposing that we change to the wrong time whereas the other countries could join us.
Let me finish by giving advice to the Minister who is to reply to this debate. It is said that the Government have been considering this matter for a lengthy period of time. My advice is very simple: continue to consider it and consider it into infinity. I hope that the Bill is withdrawn.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Of course those of us who have followed this subject knew exactly what he was going to say; it is just that he says it every time in such a vigorous and jovial manner.
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