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Lord Henley: My Lords, I start by offering my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton. I was very interested to hear his non-controversial speech because I shall be joining that happy band, which includes my noble friend and the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Howie, in objecting to and opposing the suggestions put forward by my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein. In saying that, I should make it clear that this is not a party matter in that I refer to those speaking on the same side as myself from the Government Benches, the Opposition Benches and the Cross-Benches. I believe the same is true for those supporting my noble friend Lord Montgomery. I should also make it clear that although I am speaking from the Dispatch Box, I am speaking very much for myself. The Opposition have no view on this matter, just as my noble friend Lady Trumpington made it clear that when we were in government we had no very strong view, though we stressed that we did not believe that the time was right to make such changes as were suggested.
This matter has been debated in the House on a number of occasions. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, referred to this as being the fourth debate in something like three years. But, as we know, it is a matter that has been up for discussion for much longer than that. We have to go right back to 1908 to the first Daylight Saving Bill put before both Houses of Parliament. My noble friend Lady Trumpington then referred to the experiment from 1967 to 1970, an experiment that was overturned by a vote in another place in 1970, and overturned by what my noble friend Lady Trumpington referred to as a quite small majority. When I look at the excellent research paper produced by the House of Commons Library I see that the vote was 366 to 81. I do not call that a quite small majority. My noble friends and I were beaten on quite a number of occasions on one measure or another in this House when we were in government. I do not think we were ever beaten by majorities quite as large as 366 to 81. I think the other place came to the right decision back in 1970 when it rejected that experiment by what I would describe as an overwhelming majority.
I want to make only two brief points as to why I oppose this measure. The first one, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, relates to Scotland. I do not want to rehearse again, as have been rehearsed before, the arguments in favour of Scotland; but I want to make it clear as someone who lives in the north of England--my noble friend Lord Lang referred to north of Carlisle: I live north of Carlisle but in England--that it affects us in the north of England just as much as it affects a lot of people in Scotland. I think
My second point concerns what I would describe as the fundamental dishonesty about so many of these schemes. I appreciate that many of those proposing a measure of this kind have made it clear that we are not talking about adding any daylight to the day. If we go back to the original Act that started this nonsense of shifting the hours around--the Daylight Saving Act 1908--that was referred to as daylight saving. As we all know, not so much as one hour of daylight has been saved by that Act or subsequent Acts from that moment until now. All we are talking about is shifting the time which we call any given hour from one hour to another hour.
I am in complete agreement with the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Howie of Troon, and my noble friend Lord Lang in saying that I would prefer to stick to what is natural time. When the sun is at its zenith, that should be midday, and that is what I should like to see continuing. For that reason, with some regrets, I have to say that I cannot support my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, before I start--I say that guardedly because I am sure that many noble Lords will disagree with me as I am going to be neutral in what I say in relation to this measure--I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lang, on his maiden speech. We know each other from another place. We have not always agreed all of the time but we have always respected each other in what has been said. If that was his maiden speech, in which he was expressing the strong views that I know he holds on many subjects, I am sure that we shall listen with rapt attention to his future contributions. There is one thing I would say. When he is speaking, no one will be able to ignore what he has to say to us. I look forward to him bringing his knowledge and expertise of the other place and of the Cabinet to our future debates.
My noble friend Lord Howie said that we have been here four times in three years. I think he was saying something like "Enough is enough". I do think that not a lot that is new has been raised. I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, for providing us once more with an opportunity to debate this subject. He has an honourable track record in raising this issue in the House. He brought forward his Western European Time Bill in 1995 and he was right to say that it was overtaken by John Butterfill's British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill. Although that received a majority in the other place, it did not have sufficient support to proceed.
What we are really talking about here is whether we go over to Central European Time. Some of the arguments are familiar, but that does not reduce the potency or the firmness with which views are held on
They said that statistics show that there is a difference in this matter. It was related to a question concerning a new study undertaken in that respect. Although the results have not yet been published, I can say that the report confirms the early calculations for Great Britain as a whole. Despite the projected reduction in the number of deaths shown by this and the previous study, other people remain concerned about the safety of school-children and others travelling on darker winter mornings. That was one of the reasons for the overwhelming vote referred to when British Summer Time was brought in. That meant that we did not have to change the clocks at all. There was an overwhelming defeat of 366 votes to 81.
Another matter was referred to by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret; namely, Scotland and whether we could have two time zones. I cannot think of anything worse. I do not believe that would command universal support in this House. If we had two time zones it would have a significant effect on transport, business and communications links. It is often claimed that the current arrangement of being one hour behind much of the rest of Europe adversely affects our dealings with our European partners. That was one of the major points raised tonight. I suggest that that argument applies even more strongly to different time zones within the United Kingdom. Noble Lords may consider the disruption that would occur in one small island. Those who travel from north to south and vice versa would continually have to adjust their watches and body clocks. That would apply even to those who travelled just over the Border such as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who is so near to it. The cost to the transport sector in re-jigging timetables would be considerable.
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord giving way. I would like to set the record straight. I believe that when he reads Hansard tomorrow the noble Lord will find that I did not support two time zones. I agree with every word that the noble Lord said. I said that if Scotland or the people in the north were upset by the possible suggestion of what is being debated this evening, they could take the decision themselves. I was not suggesting that we should encourage it.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I apologise. I realised that that was what the noble Viscount was saying. I assumed that what was behind it was that it was possible, if Scotland took its own decision, that there might be a difference of opinion between England, Wales and Scotland. For the reasons I have given, that is why the Scotland Bill, currently being considered in another place, reserves to Westminster the power to determine time zones.
We have had a very good debate tonight. In many ways we have gone over familiar ground. I could go on to deal with the reasons that have been put forward for change such as the advantage to the business community. I have mentioned road traffic casualties. I could go on to talk about crime. There is the argument that a change would reduce it. But there are others who believe that longer hours might cause a rise in certain types of crime. We have heard of the effects on tourism, but a lot of its attractions are indoor entertainments.
There might be an energy saving, but possibly not overall because of the need to use more energy in the early mornings. Mention has been made of the effect on the construction industry. In that context, my noble friend Lord Howie made a telling point when he referred to the rise of almost 25 per cent. in fatalities in the construction industry.
Having mentioned all of those points, no one factor can determine government policy in such an important area. A move to CET would clearly have many different consequences. I know that noble Lords are impatient for action, but we believe as a government--as has been said previously, this is not a party matter--that any change must be made in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole. The adoption of CET would constitute a significant change and we do not consider that there is evidence of sufficient support to justify that change.
The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, asked whether the Government would undertake a review. At the moment, we have no plans to do so. As has been said, the issue has been examined several times and we are not convinced that a further review would add to the information that is already available to the Home Office about the advantages and drawbacks of central European time. As I have said, in making any change, we would need to be satisfied that the proposal would benefit our people as a whole and that there was wide support for it across all sections of the community. At the moment, the Government doubt whether there is a good case for going over this ground again. However, I advise the noble Viscount that I shall pass on to my colleagues the request that he has made tonight. I shall bring it to their attention because other noble Lords have also made that request, as well as the noble Viscount.
In the meantime, I say again that we recognise the strength of feeling on this issue on both sides and that that is unlikely to abate. I finish by saying that I assure the House that the Government will continue to listen to all sides of the argument.
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