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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been a most important, wide-ranging and, for me, emotional debate. It has brought home to me just what a privilege it has been to work in the National Health Service for

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25 years. Ethos, comradeship and team work, yes, but, above all, it has been to be part of a noble, selfless and community-spirited enterprise.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this excellent debate. In particular, I acknowledge the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight of Collingtree. Her remarks about the need to remove mixed sex wards in many of our hospitals certainly struck a chord with many of your Lordships.

I pay tribute also to my noble friends Lady Jeger, Lord Bruce and Lord Prys-Davies for reminding us vividly of the history and the struggles to get the NHS into being. I thank also the Minister for the comprehensive and excellent way in which she summed up our debate.

I am left with an overwhelming sense of support for the NHS in your Lordships' House, past, present and future. We have identified many pressures and challenges which we must face and they are important issues which deserve our keen attention. But nothing I have heard today leads me to believe that we cannot meet those challenges. Nothing I have heard today leads me to believe that the NHS cannot continue to provide a comprehensive service.

I have little doubt that the future of the NHS is in good hands. Long may that continue. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

British and Continental Time

7.58 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider changing British time so that it coincides with arrangements such as those in France and Germany.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in asking this Question, I am conscious that we are completely changing direction from what has been an extremely important debate.

As this is an Unstarred Question, to which I have no right of reply, I begin by thanking all those who are to participate. In particular, I welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton is to make his maiden speech, although I have a feeling that he is not entirely in sympathy with the ideas which I am propounding. However, the number of speakers demonstrates that there is considerable interest in this important subject. I have calculated that if one excludes the maiden speaker and those speaking from the Front Bench, there are about 10 in favour of the change and two against. There would have been even more speakers if the Liberal Democrats had not been distracted by the fact that they have a major and important party in honour of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who recently retired as Leader of their party in this House. Hence the fact that the Liberal Democrat Benches are empty at this moment.

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I start by reminding your Lordships of the point that we have reached in relation to this important subject of trying to move forward the campaign for what is sometimes loosely referred to as single/double summer time.

On 11th January 1995, my noble friend Lord Mountgarret moved the Second Reading of the Central European Time Bill. That can be found at col. 243 and following columns of Hansard. That Bill completed all its stages in your Lordships' House but never reached the other place. The next move in the saga was on 29th November 1995 when I moved the Western European Time Bill, the proceedings of which can be found at col. 660 onwards in Hansard. That Bill changed the concept slightly from that of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret in that it was a simpler measure and one which I thought had a slightly better title which was more in sympathy with what we were trying to achieve.

That Bill went through all its stages in this place and was actually introduced in the other place. However, it coincided with a Bill being introduced by the Member for Bournemouth West, Mr. John Butterfill, called the British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill which was talked out. I always feel that that was a slightly unfortunate title because of course it is not possible for us to have more daylight, although it is possible for us to have the daylight at times which provide the most economic benefit to the nation. That is what we are trying to achieve by reopening the subject this evening.

Although I shall not outline the arguments and the whole saga that we have gone through, there is no doubt that such debates explored all the advantages--for example, as regards energy saving, tourism, road safety--both in England and in Scotland--industry, commerce and banking. There is a plethora of statistical and institutional evidence to support all those sectors.

This Government, of all governments, want to be at the heart of Europe. The last government also said that, but they seemed to be rather half-hearted, if noble Lords will excuse the pun. If this Government mean to make this important commitment, with which I entirely agree, we should be on the same time as the key countries in Europe, such as France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy, to name but a few.

However, it has also become quite clear that initiatives to achieve the same time system as our main EU partners cannot be implemented from the Back-Benches by Private Members' Public Bills; the initiative must come from the Government. This new Government are a reforming government, with a great mandate to rule. Indeed, they are reforming all sorts of things, including your Lordships' House, although I think that that probably has more to do with removal rather than reform at this stage. But I digress.

This Government have instituted many reviews. I have already given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that my main purpose in raising the issue was to press for an in-depth review as a prelude to future legislation on the subject, possibly a

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White Paper to start with; but, whatever the substance, what we need is a major review. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, will be able to respond positively to that suggestion.

8.3 p.m.

Lord Desai: My Lords, I, too, shall be brief like the noble Viscount who has just introduced tonight's debate. I am glad that the noble Viscount is not moving the Second Reading of a Bill because I notice from the list of speakers that the majority are hereditary Peers and I know that they are in favour of such a change. Therefore, if we were to pass such a Bill, we would only blame those Peers for passing yet another Bill through Parliament.

Basically, I feel that, like decimal coinage and metric measurements, all sorts of arcane objections could be made against this very simple measure. To me it is a simple and rational measure designed to co-ordinate our activities with the rest of western Europe. After all, we do a lot of business in that respect: we travel, we make calls on the telephone and we make purchases across Europe. It is an inconvenience to have such a time gap.

As the noble Viscount said, it has also been demonstrated quite comprehensively that, although we may not be able to have more daylight, this measure would enable us to enjoy more of the daylight that is available. Indeed, that is the object of the exercise. Moreover, there is also an advantage in terms of traffic and road safety. Again, I am sure that we have had comprehensive reviews in that respect, as I suspect other noble Lords will mention. If that is not so, perhaps the review that I hope my noble friend on the Front Bench will promise will study such matters. If the matter is examined, I believe that it will be found that it is a simple and rational thing to do. I trust that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give us a hopeful answer.

8.5 p.m.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, I was very pleased indeed to hear the noble Viscount ask the Minister for a review of the whole subject. That is something which is long overdue and something which is highly necessary before we can proceed further in any sensible fashion.

However, before I continue, I should like particularly to say how pleased I am that the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, is to speak after me. I look forward very much to hearing his maiden speech and to welcoming him to this really elite band of horological Peers who discuss the ins and outs of time once in about every six months. He is also a fellow neighbour in Scotland. Indeed, it was his constituency that first got me into politics. The noble Lord was more successful in getting into the other place than I was, but I got here before him. Therefore, I am not sure who won. Nevertheless, I am very pleased to see him here this evening.

I did say that there was need for a review. I shall put forward a suggestion which I very much hope will be incorporated into such a review of the whole subject of time and Europe. There are two main types of civil time in use throughout the world today--there is local time, based on UTC (atomic time), and the World Time Zones

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(calculated from the Prime Meridian--that is zero longitude--at Greenwich. In this country we have a Minister for each function. They are the Minister for science for our local time scale and the Minister for the Home Office for our local time zone.

How can it arise, despite the luxury of having two government departments, each one fitted out wall-to-wall with civil servants who have access--via the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS)--to all the leading horological scientists in Europe, that this country neither has the correct time scale on its statute books nor is in the correct time zone for Europe?

Does the Minister agree that, up to 1975, the agreements negotiated at the Meridian Conference held in Washington in 1884 held good? They were that the world's time would be Greenwich Mean Time--based on the earth's rotation as calculated from Greenwich and the world's time zones defined as differences in longitude from the Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

Can the Minister who is to reply state quite emphatically, first, that, with regard to civil time, Greenwich Mean Time has not existed since 1975? I sympathised with government Ministers when I asked that question previously. It is rather like telling one's children that Father Christmas no longer exists, and that no one comes down the chimney to give presents. It is an awful responsibility to bear, but perhaps the Minister will go that far this time.

Will the Minister also confirm that all the clocks in the country are set to the so-called Greenwich "pips"--that is, Co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is the atomic time and frequency transmitted by the BT transmitter from Rugby on the MSF wavelength? Will the Minister also confirm that we now have a rather strange situation; namely, that the local clock time on the town hall at Greenwich cannot be correctly expressed as GMT, but the world's time zones, which are calculated from the Prime Meridian a few hundred metres away, are expressed as plus or minus hours relative to GMT; and that that is how they appear in the BT international book and on the World Service of the BBC?

I did touch on that anomaly when I had the privilege of putting my own Co-ordinated Universal Time Bill before your Lordships. However, I realise now that I may have made the mistake of putting technical integrity before political feasibility. That might account for it not being passed in the other place. But no one wants to write Greenwich off the statute book. I believe it could remain there if my suggestion regarding a new value for GMT, which I am about to define, is taken up by the Government. If this idea finds favour with the Government, I should be happy--when the time comes--to resubmit my original Bill to the House, but with the new title of GMT [Greenwich Meridian] Bill. Alternatively, I should be pleased to support any government measure which would achieve the same result.

I have put the case for harmonisation with Europe with much force in previous debates. I shall leave other noble Lords who will speak later to do that for me this evening. Meanwhile, I agree wholeheartedly with the

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noble Viscount's objective in his Question. But might not harmonisation be achieved more effectively by turning the situation completely around? Why cannot the western and central parts of Europe adjust their clocks to "new GMT", which would be local British time (UTC) spanning 15 degrees of longitude on either side of the Prime Meridian at Greenwich? Might this also not prove to be a much more popular and acceptable measure than the prospect set out in the noble Viscount's Question? Can the noble Viscount recall that the world's Prime Meridian for longitude and time used to pass through the old observatory at Greenwich up until 1st January? It no longer does so; it passes by somewhere else. I shall try to explain the significance of that in my Unstarred Question on 4th March. Therefore I shall not trouble with the technicalities now, although I have given the noble Viscount a sheet which will help him.

Is it not possible that during the British presidency of the European Union there will be a timely opportunity to persuade our European partners to recognise the new Prime Meridian at Greenwich as the benchmark for all local time in Europe, and to accept new GMT (Greenwich Meridian Time) as the time standard for all central and western European nations, as well as for the rest of the world's time zones? Is it not possible that the two government departments concerned with local British time and the world time zones might consider merging their horological responsibilities in the interests of efficiency? It might then be possible for Her Majesty's Government to focus more fully on the benefits which harmonisation can bring to Europe.

What is the point of spending £750 million on the construction of a temporary dome to celebrate the new millennium at Greenwich if Greenwich will not receive a permanent legacy in the field of horological science, for which it has been justly famous for the past 300 years? What better legacy could there be for Greenwich than to re-establish GMT? Greenwich Mean Time may be dead but could not GMT, reborn as Greenwich Meridian Time, find its permanent and proper place as Europe's time scale in the next millennium?


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