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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I greatly support what the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, is attempting to do. During all my time in another place I was very much in favour of Greenwich Mean Time in the winter. Indeed, when we had a Bill before us some two or three years ago, we were very much in the lead in defeating it. I feel it is most important that we try to remain a United Kingdom in dealing with this matter. I have read what my noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare intends to do but I would gladly have quite a big bet with him that he will not get his Bill through either House of Parliament.
I live as near the Border as anyone in this House and I know how totally impossible it would be if we ended up having two timescales in the United Kingdom. I really could not chop and change my watch three or four times a day, and that would go for many of my former constituents and many of those who live in Cumberland but come to work in Dumfries and Galloway. In addition, there are all the chaotic issues of train and airline timetables and so on.
Many people tend to forget that longitude is as important as latitude in dealing with Greenwich Mean Time. Few people seem to realise that Edinburgh is west of Liverpool and that the country has a very westward lean. The further west one goes, the worse it becomes. If one is in Stornoway, it is a very serious situation even as compared with being in Aberdeen. We have to bring it home that the whole issue of summer time must remain on a United Kingdom basis. I would be most disappointed if any United Kingdom government tried to introduce different timescales within the United Kingdom or, more importantly, underestimated the serious impact it would have on Scotland if we went to summer time in winter--not that we seem to get any summer time any time. But the position is so desperately different in Scotland. As the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has rightly said, we must not be carried away by
So I hope that this will remain a United Kingdom responsibility and I trust that whichever government are in power they will ensure that we have one timescale throughout the United Kingdom and will bear in mind the representations they will receive from the Scottish parliament that we must not go away from Greenwich Mean Time in the winter.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Monro. I understand very well what the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, is saying and what her aspiration is but I would just point out to her that, should this matter be devolved to the Scots parliament, it would be very much easier for the rest of the United Kingdom to decide to change the arrangements. They would then be changed without having to consider Scotland and then Scotland would be obliged to follow suit. We would be more likely to get the wrong answer by having the matter devolved than we would at the moment. At the moment, the United Kingdom Parliament is hanging on to the present arrangements largely out of consideration for Scotland. If the matter were devolved, it would not have to do that. Therefore, I think that what the noble Lady is saying might well prove to be counter-productive. So I do not think I can support her.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I rise to speak on this subject yet again with a certain feeling of dismay, as we have discussed it five times in the past four years. There is a kind of repertory company which always appears to debate the matter. However, we have so far managed to kick it away into the far distance.
I should very much like to support the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun--I know what she is trying to do--but I do not think I can, if only for consistency--something for which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, keeps asking. I say that because a Private Member's Bill a year or two ago proposed precisely that. We managed to torpedo it in another place and it disappeared.
The noble Lord, Lord Monro, makes a salient point. He states correctly that this is a matter of longitude rather than latitude. Edinburgh is in the extreme east of Scotland and is further west than Bristol--let alone Liverpool--which is in the west of England. Often it is forgotten that the country is tipped over in that way and it is not simply a north-south question.
I am tempted to support the amendment moved by the noble Lady for one reason; namely, that if this were devolved to a Scottish parliament it would prevent the United Kingdom Parliament from doing anything so daft as to abandon GMT in favour of Central European Time. Oddly enough, this is one of the very few occasions on which Britain is not out of step with the rest of the world; it is the rest of the world that is out of step with Britain. (Noble Lords should not chortle so quickly.) Strictly speaking, France and Spain should be in the same time zone as Britain: Greenwich Mean
What I should like to gain from this debate is an assurance from my noble friend Lord Sewel that whatever happens to this amendment, the Government, of which he is an outstanding member, will not under any circumstances abandon GMT in favour of Central European Time.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I might well have been in favour of this amendment since it is not moved by the clan Mackay. But I believe that we must stick to one time in the United Kingdom. The argument advanced by my noble neighbour Lady Carnegy of Lour (not "Lower", for the benefit of those on the Front Bench) is correct. The disadvantage of having any form of separation in timescale would be excessive. That point has been made by the noble Lord who has just spoken. In spite of its origin, I cannot support the amendment. Britain must have one simple timescale. I have been considering the arguments that have been adduced about accidents at night as compared with accidents in the morning. I believe that that must be taken into account when considering timescale, but that it must be a British timescale I have no doubt.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has observed, we have debated this matter on a number of occasions. Previous debates usually reveal differences inside the clan Mackay. My fellow clansman, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, is one of those who is vigorously in favour of Central European Time. Unfortunately, he is not here and so the clan is united this evening. I am not entirely sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, joins our clan. Clearly, one of his forebears could not spell correctly and got it slightly wrong.
The danger of the amendment was spelt out by my noble friend Lady Carnegy. It is that, if the Scottish parliament were to have the decision for itself and the Parliament of the United Kingdom were no longer responsible for Scotland in this regard, the pressure which your Lordships and Members of the other place from Scotland and the north of England could exert on the UK Government might be diminished. Those foolish voices that would like to put us in a time-zone in which nature has not put us may win the day, which would be difficult for Scotland.
I would prefer to put an arm-lock on this issue and say that the United Kingdom Parliament could make no change unless the Scottish parliament agreed. That would put a double-nelson on the whole issue. The Bill does not contain such a provision, but between now and
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has made her point. The danger is that, with Scottish pressure off this place, it might decide to go its own way. That would be extremely difficult because much of Scotland is to the west and the further west one goes the more ridiculous is Central European Time. Equally, as the European Community expands to the east the more ridiculous Central European Time will be for people at the far end, especially if the argument about children going to school in the daylight and coming back in the dark is true.
The United States manages to run a sophisticated, successful country with a number of time zones which do not inhibit communication between one side and the other. Neither is it a problem in the Soviet Union. I believe that we should stick firmly in the Greenwich time-zone where God put us. The issue should be left to the United Kingdom Parliament, perhaps with an arm-lock from the Scottish parliament. Perhaps between now and Monday the noble Lady will consider how to apply the arm-lock.
Lord Hardie: My Lords, as a new member of the repertory company referred to by my noble friend Lord Howie, I regret that, for reasons already outlined, the Government are unable to accept the amendment. We are anxious to have common standards throughout the United Kingdom. For that reason, timescales, time-zones, the calendar and summer time have been reserved.
Reference to the recent announcement of the noble Lord, Lord Archer, conjures up a situation which, putting aside the obvious cynicism, concerns many people in Scotland. The possibility of Scotland ending up in a different time-zone is horrifying and the thought of commuters having to adjust their watches every time they crossed the Border from say, Carlisle to Dumfries, does not appeal to us.
The Government do not support the view that because it happens in America, Australia or Russia, it should happen in the United Kingdom. As regards Central European Time and its possible introduction into the United Kingdom as a whole, a number of Scottish factors would have to be borne in mind if it were to be considered again. I would expect them to be given the weight that they deserve before any United Kingdom decision was reached at Westminster.