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Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, sits down, does he agree that the tourist industry would benefit almost as much if Europe-wide agreement could be reached to start summertime in mid-March so that Easter always fell during summertime, and end summertime on the first Sunday in November when the weather is still pretty good in most European countries?

Lord Mountevans: My Lords, it is my understanding that we are working in that direction.

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10.24 p.m.

Lord HolmPatrick: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Montgomery for introducing this Bill to the House.

Getting up early in the morning for many years and saddling up a pony to find a few sheep in the hills or getting into a freezing cold lorry to fetch some gravel from a quarry has led me to conclude that getting up in the dark knowing that daylight is just on its way is infinitely more pleasurable than the frustration of working on in fading light into total darkness.

I still get up early, to do the school run. By the time my son and I are suitably dressed in our motor cycle attire it is broad daylight, and we proceed to school at our leisure. On the way we meet school buses which have set out before us, and as they stop to drop off their charges we overtake with care knowing that one or more children may appear suddenly in our path. But that is not a problem because we are prepared and we can see the children because it is broad daylight.

The scene of road safety awareness I describe to your Lordships applies to all motorists. It is particularly relevant to drivers of heavy transport who are likely to be around in great numbers at that time of the morning. Good visibility is essential.

Under the present arrangement for winter time the light is fading at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the good visibility that we enjoy in the morning is not available in the afternoon to proceed with care. The risks are increased when our children are coming home. By 5 o'clock it is dark, and pedestrians on their way home are at risk. Motorists will know that people coming home from work tired and lacking concentration do not always use pedestrian crossings and observe the lights as they should.

We have adopted metrication, not without some grumbling. Would not coming into line with Western European Time reduce some of our commercial headaches?

Finally, if we accept that Western European Time would give us an extra available hour of daylight in the evening and not deprive us of daylight in the morning at the crucial times I have indicated, does that not mean that an extra hour of daylight on winter evenings would greatly increase the health, safety and leisure of our children and reduce the number of accidents on the road?

10.26 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, but I shall express a personal view rather than the view of my party. When the noble Lord came to this House he was a member of a political party. Now that he has the luxury of being on the Cross-Benches he is free to criticise those of us who have other considerations to take into account, regardless of party.

I support the Bill, and I wish that my party supported the Bill. I do not expect that most of my colleagues will disagree with me, but they will speak, as I do, on a personal basis, both here and in another place.

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There has been a certain amount of talk about the history of the matter, but no one has put it as well as my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon on the previous occasions when he urged the Government to continue procrastinating. That is certainly what has happened up until now. There was the experiment of 1968 to 1971. For what appeared to me to be inadequate reasons, that experiment was abandoned. Since that time there has been a fair amount of consultation and research, none of it as rigorous as I would have wished, all of which seems to lead to similar conclusions.

I shall not rehearse the arguments about road safety or sport and leisure, or indeed about business, although when we talk about the time that our business people are in contact with people in other countries surely it is far more important to be in contact for more of the day with Europe than it is to be an hour further away from New York, as we would be, or an hour closer to Tokyo, as we would be if the time were changed as proposed in the Bill. There are no doubt also arguments on the basis of energy, pollution and crime, and arguments for agriculture and construction.

However, we ought to come down to fundamentals about daylight and night time. Nothing in the Bill will increase the amount of daylight by one minute or one second. The sun will rise and set at the same time as now occurs and that will be different in different places. So none of this measure saves daylight in the absolute sense. What is true is that instead of having an infinitely adaptable series of time zones--I rather like the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Craigmyle, of having the same name for time throughout the world, but what happens when you reach the international dateline on his system?--with crude time zones set by every 60 minutes there will be 24 time zones around the world and light and darkness will be different at the edges of those time zones. That is a fact of life; and one cannot get round it.

Noble Lords have been speaking a great deal about midwinter and midsummer. However, our seasons, like our time zones, are a continuum. They are not the extremes. If it is darker in midwinter in the morning in any country, it will be lighter at midwinter and as spring and autumn proceed one will progressively gain or lose daylight. That, again, has nothing to do with how we keep our clocks or how we define our time zones.

I take it that none of us proposes to go back to the time before Bradshaw when you could take a train from Paddington and find differing times at Didcot, Oxford and Gloucester. I understand that Gloucester kept its own time for very much longer than anyone else.

No, my Lords, we shall not increase the amount of daylight. If we put ourselves more in the centre of a time zone, we can increase the amount of useful daylight. By useful daylight, I mean the time in which it is light and during which we are awake. The fact is that for most people in this country a very considerable amount of daylight through spring, summer and autumn is wasted in the morning before most of us get up. That is wasted daylight. If we change our time as the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, proposes, we should increase the hours of useful daylight. That is the best that we can do. I hope that we shall do so.

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10.32 p.m.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his success in introducing a Bill on this subject. As we know from last year when my noble friend Lord Mountgarret introduced a similar Bill, the question of time zones continues to exercise the minds of many in this House and always produces a vigorous expression of views. The debate this evening has once again demonstrated the strength of opinion felt on both sides of the argument. I must apologise for the absence of my noble friend Lady Blatch on this occasion. She sends her sincere apologies for not being here this evening but she is addressing the annual general meeting of the Society of Voluntary Associates.

This is a Private Bill and the Government will not be opposing it. In the debate this evening many relevant questions have been raised and they have been answered in various ways. Your Lordships have heard most of the arguments before and I do not propose to run through them all again now, but there are a few comments I should like to make.

What my noble friend's Bill seeks to achieve is to move the United Kingdom from its present time zone to what is variously termed Central European Time, Single/Double Summer Time or now Western European Time. Whatever terminology we use, the effect would be to change from a system of GMT in the winter months and GMT plus one hour in the summer to GMT plus one in the winter and GMT plus two in the summer. I was grateful for the clear explanation by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

If I may, for the purpose of my comments this evening I shall refer to Single/Double Summer Time, or SDST, since this is the terminology used by the Government on previous occasions, although I understand why my noble friend Lord Montgomery has chosen this title.

The Government recognise that there are many who share my noble friend's opinion that the United Kingdom would derive great benefit from being in the same time zone as many other countries in continental Europe, both members and non-members of the European Union. However, it is only right to point out that there remain others in this House--and I note the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howie--and in the country at large who feel equally strongly that such a change would have significant disadvantages and that we are perfectly well served by the status quo.

From the correspondence which Ministers receive, it is clear that my noble friend is not alone in wishing to see a decision reached, although the various correspondents differ as to the conclusion they are looking for. Nevertheless, I have to say to your Lordships that nothing has changed in the past year to alter the Government's stance. We remain to be convinced that the time is ripe to conclude our deliberations.

We continue to listen to representations. For example, my noble friend Lady Blatch met representatives of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety earlier this year. Your Lordships may wish to know that, despite the obvious interest in

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this House and the reference by my noble friend Lord Montgomery to a groundswell of opinion, the volume of ministerial correspondence on this topic is not large. There was a recent flurry of letters after the clocks were changed in October, but otherwise, since our last debate on this matter, the volume of letters has declined to only four or five a month.

There has been no recent large-scale test of public opinion on a proposed change to our time zone, but we are often told, as we have been told today by my noble friend Lord Montgomery, that public opinion is largely in favour of such a change. Whether or not this is so, the Government have a duty to consider wider issues than public opinion alone.

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