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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Montgomery, said, in 1995 this matter was discussed in a Private Member's Bill promoted by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. Some eight months later my noble friend Lord Montgomery raised the matter again; and I congratulate him on his admirable persistence in trying again today. On the occasion of the Mountgarret Bill, I found myself answering from the Dispatch Box in the enforced absence of my noble friend Lady Blatch.
I have carefully read that debate, including my reply, and I believe that all the arguments that were advanced in favour of change are as valid today as they were then. The less said about my speech the better. In all
The people of this country hate change; but once change has happened, they soon settle down and forget about their grievances. Perhaps I may give an example. When I was involved with Sunday Trading Bill, I remember officials from the Home Office telling me that 32,000 letters had been received against the Bill and 28 in favour--28, my Lords, not 28,000. That Bill became law and Sunday trading is now taken for granted. I believe that the Scots should make their own decision. Like the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, I hope they will decide to proceed as we do.
If businessmen fear that they lose time when dealing with the United States of America, it is up to them to work the hours most suited to both partners. My son runs the London office of a San Francisco firm of lawyers. He works strange hours, but his fax machine and his e-mail address at his home keep him fully in touch and able to reply to any queries arising from California at any time.
I hope that this Government will bite the bullet and decide once and for all to change our time to central European time. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, that he ignores his undoubted brief and "has a go".
Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, I wholeheartedly support the proposal of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, that the time is right now for Her Majesty's Government to consider aligning the time in Britain with Central European Time. However, I do not believe that this debate should be seen from the context of whether one is a Europhile or Europhobe, but more in relation to the practical benefits of more light evenings.
Time does not permit any of us to elaborate on the raft of statistics and projections on the advantages and, equally, the disadvantages of introducing CET. As the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, mentioned, the arguments have been fully rehearsed and debated in this House in relation to the Private Bills of the noble Viscounts, Lords Mountgarret and Montgomery, and the failed Bill introduced by John Butterfill in another place in 1996.
As a consultant to an investment bank in the City, I think it worth while to mention briefly what I believe to be a crucial advantage. My view is somewhat different to that stated by the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, in his excellent maiden speech. The noble Lord underestimates quite the degree of benefits that the financial services industry would gain from the additional hours. I can only comment as an equity salesman that it was sometimes impossible to get hold of fund managers across the waters, particularly as they were at lunch when we were in the middle of our trading day. It is also worth mentioning that, in 1996, the CBI unveiled a wide survey indicating that 75 per cent. of firms supported a shift from Greenwich Mean Time to Western European Time.
I totally agree with the call of so many who have been canvassed on this subject that time should be adjusted to meet human and social needs. In his Written Answer to the honourable Member for Cannock Chase in another place in November last year as to what plans the Government had to introduce CET, the Minister replied that the Government had none, but that they would continue to listen to all sides of the argument. The last time that the Home Office commissioned a survey of interest groups into options for Summer Time arrangements was in 1988. The excellent Green Paper, Summer Time: A Consultation Document, was published in 1989. That paper indicated a compelling and strong shift in public opinion in favour of Central European Time.
Lord Mountevans: My Lords, European Time is a topic on which the sun never seems to set. I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Montgomery for raising this Question on bringing our time into line with
Harmonisation would be good for business. It would be good for communications, and it would certainly be good for tourism--in which I declare an interest. Tourism is already a £40 billion per annum industry. The change that many of us seek would add another £1.2 billion of general income to that figure, according to the Institute of Policy Studies in a report published in 1995. In turn, that would give the Treasury an additional £100 million in VAT and excise revenue, as well as boosting the 1.7 million jobs in the sector.
The tourist industry and, on a more domestic level, purely recreational activity are strongly biased towards the afternoon and evening. Spring and autumn activity in the sector would receive a special boost, which in turn would lead to a longer season. That is especially important for attractions such as historic houses, gardens and Royal Parks, which tend to close at dusk. Furthermore, an extended season would help to reduce congestion, not least on the roads--and many previous speakers touched on road safety.
Looking back at our earlier debates, the arguments against joining the Continental time band seem largely to be Scottish ones relating to the construction industry, agriculture and safety. But I wonder whether those arguments stand up. I have spent almost a fifth of my life in Sweden or Norway in latitudes similar to, or north of, Aberdeen. In winter in Sweden I started school at what was in effect 6 a.m. GMT. Even in summer, I started work very much earlier than 9 o'clock GMT. Whatever time activity went on, buildings were built, farmers farmed and safety was, as always, paramount. At any given latitude, as several noble Lords pointed out, the hours of daylight are the same regardless of time zone. It is simply our freedom to choose what we do in the hours of daylight that has changed.
I have never been very happy with the Scottish defence of the status quo. On the other hand, I am very much persuaded by arguments in favour of change. Therefore, I echo several other noble Lords in hoping that at least a review will be forthcoming.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, it is customary on these occasions to congratulate the noble Lord who introduces the debate on an Unstarred Question. On this occasion my blood ran cold when I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, refer to his campaign. The notion of a campaign suggests a continuum and that we shall hear more about this subject as time unrolls. I strongly believe that discussing a subject at least four times in three years is more than enough, and I beg for mercy. Let us have no more of this.
The normal repertory company has turned up this evening to debate this matter, as we have done so often in the past. I am glad to say that we have acquired one or two new recruits, notably the noble Lord, Lord Lang
I merely say that it is 45 minutes later by the sun in Glasgow than it is in London. If dawn were at 8 a.m. in London by proper GMT, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, would have it--I did not quite understand his speech but I shall read it later--it would be at 9 a.m. if we were to move in the way suggested by the noble Viscount and at a quarter to ten in Glasgow. I know from my experience during the war that you do not want to hang around in the dark at a quarter to ten in the morning. It does not make sense.
We are in Britain's natural time. An interesting point which the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, did not make about Sweden was that he was dealing with Sweden's natural time. It would become Britain's unnatural time. We should try to avoid that kind of change. I am not always in favour of nature, but on this occasion I am.
I have mentioned the construction industry on previous occasions and shall do so again. At the time of the discussion paper mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, it was estimated that the cost to the construction industry of the change would be £400 million at 1988-89 prices. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, could probably tell us what that figure would equate to today, but it is considerably more. There is therefore a cost to be set against the phantom costs which are said to be borne by the financial services industry under the present situation.
Construction safety is also involved. This is an interesting point which I have mentioned in general terms in the past. I shall be more specific this time and refer to the period of the experiment initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, before he had had any Scottish experience. During that experimental period of three years or so, fatalities in the construction industry rose from 13.5 per hundred thousand operatives in 1967 to 16.3 in 1968 and 18.9 in 1969, falling to 17 in 1971. During that three-year period there was an increase in fatalities per hundred thousand operatives of at least a quarter. That is not an insignificant figure. People talk of road safety statistics. In the construction industry we have a statistic which is significant and dangerous and which would certainly occur again.
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