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Lord Monson: My Lords, perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that Portugal did experiment with a move to Central European Time for a couple of years. They found they disliked it intensely and are now back on the same time as us.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I was about to make that very point, and I am glad that the noble Lord,

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Lord Monson, who has shown great interest in the subject over the years, agrees with me. The Portuguese tried the experiment and abandoned it as soon as they reasonably could.

I wish to refer to the CBI. I have nothing whatever to say about the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, of whom I know nothing. The CBI argued that British businessmen were at a disadvantage compared to their continental competitors. That was partly because of the time lapse, but also because the continentals started work earlier in the morning. Therefore British businessmen lost two hours of business time. That can be remedied. Our businessmen could start work at eight instead of nine o'clock. They would then catch up one hour without meddling with the clock and inconveniencing the rest of us.

I have nothing more to say at this point, except to ask why the Bill has appeared now. We are in the last two weeks of this part of the Session. There is little likelihood of progress being made before we go into Recess next Friday. There is not much more chance of the Bill thriving in the spillover period in October. The Bill seems not to be a serious attempt at legislation. This is gesture politics, of a kind which hints at electioneering. I am not against electioneering in its proper place, but I do not think it is seemly to electioneer in this Chamber.

We do not vote against the Second Reading of such Bills. However, I sincerely hope that if we give it a Second Reading the Bill will then vanish into the sand in exactly the same way as previous attempts to make such changes have done and that we shall hear no more about it, despite the threats of the noble Lord to bring it up again, again and again.

3.39 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howie, mentioned that he and I have been here before. He is quite right. The noble Lord and I are what might be called part of the original cast, going back some years, having participated in several debates and in the proceedings on several Bills. I started by agreeing with what he said, but as he progressed I found that he got up to his old tricks and had failed to understand some of the nuances of the aims of the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare has introduced a Bill that tries to reverse a matter that has already been reserved. It is a valiant attempt to do so, although it does not have much chance of succeeding at this stage. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, made an important point when he said that we are one island and, therefore, we should have one time. The problem with the Bill is that it might create two time zones. As my noble friend Lord Archer said, there was once a different time in Scotland, but that was before the advances in communications, such as railways, roads, telephones and faxes. We are very much one, quite small island.

To devolve this power might be very difficult. My noble friend Lord Archer produced some good reasons, which have been rehearsed before, why we should move to unify time with our continental neighbours--a much

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more important objective. In other words, we should have GMT plus one in the winter and GMT plus two in the summer. I have no objection, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, said, to my noble friend using the Bill to introduce that measure, because at this stage in our proceedings it is almost impossible to have an Unstarred Question or any other type of debate. The introduction of a Bill on a Friday is an interesting vehicle for what I think should be the main object of today's discussion--consideration of measures that could be taken to unify our time with that of Western Europe.

In his catalogue of previous debates on the subject, the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, omitted to mention a debate in which we both participated in February last year. That was a small debate, which I initiated to try to press the Government to conduct a new study of the issue. I did that some six months after we had a new, reforming government. At the time, the Minister--the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn--had said that the Government would try harder and satisfaction would be guaranteed. In subsequent correspondence, when I drew this matter to his attention, I have not received much satisfaction.

The arguments in favour of moving to GMT plus one in winter and GMT plus two in summer are overwhelming. We need not go over them again, because they were well rehearsed by my noble friend Lord Archer. They include a reduction in traffic accidents, the saving of life, and an increase in time available for tourism, leisure and business. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is not in his place, but he has been vociferous on the subject of the reduction of accidents that the change would achieve. Many more accidents happen in the early evening dark hours than in the later dark hours of the morning, because people wake up fresher in the morning than they are in the evening.

The main thrust of the argument should be to get us on the same time as Western Europe. I use the term Western European Time instead of the general usage--Central European Time--because it is more meaningful. Whatever we may think on this island, we are part of Western Europe and that would seem to be a more sensible nomenclature. The powerhouse countries of Europe, such as Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries, are all on the same time and we should be, too.

Unfortunately, the Bill presents a considerable dilemma. If the matter were devolved to Scotland, then England, Wales and Scotland could be on different times. In a small island, that would be absurd. That is an obstacle. On the other hand, if the matter were devolved to Scotland, England would be able to move forward to more sensible arrangements. There is a clear dilemma which the Government need to address.

I return to a proposal which I have made on previous occasions; that the time has come for the matter to be studied again. There are overwhelming arguments in favour of moving to the process which I proposed, but the Government must take action. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, is right that we must have Government

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action, but so far there has been Government inaction. The matter should not need reviewing in detail because we have had so many reviews already, but it needs action. Surely, that is the main thrust.

If the noble Lord, Lord Archer, returns to the subject again and again, I hope that he will eventually succeed because we need to be one island united with the continent of Europe. If the noble Lord does bring the matter back, in view of other legislation I shall not be here to pursue it. However, I am sure that there will be many opportunities when I shall be able to pursue it outside the Chamber, as I have done with the noble Lord, Lord Howie, in more convivial surroundings. No doubt, there will be other occasions when we shall continue to disagree. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from the Government that there is to be action to move the whole of the United Kingdom into unison with our European neighbours.

3.46 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn: My Lords, in my view, the noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, has done us a service in introducing this Bill and thus publicising a problem which is both chronological and chronic, much to the reiterated dismay of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. It is a problem which will not go away and which directly affects the daily lives of the entire population.

The problem is that the majority of people in Britain would prefer to pass winters in GMT plus one, but in the North, and in Scotland especially, that majority becomes progressively reduced. Many people in Scotland would privately prefer darker mornings and lighter afternoons, but the issue has become so politicised that such a change would be regarded as yet another Sassenach intrusion, to be resisted for patriotic reasons.

The noble Lord, Lord Archer, may have Londoners very much in mind in framing his Bill. Some unkind critics have suggested that it may be described as an electoral ploy. But it is evident from the passage of the Scotland Bill that others have the same idea, too. In the long list of matters reserved to Westminster, six are described as "miscellaneous". They range from major subjects, such as equal opportunities and the control of weapons, to relatively minor subjects, such as judicial remuneration and the Ordnance Survey. The six also include matters relating to space and time.

Of those six, only the issue of time exercised the Conservative Opposition during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, tabled a probing amendment seeking to extract all aspects of time from the matters reserved to Westminster and to devolve them to Edinburgh. After a short debate, the Committee divided and the amendment was rejected by 37 votes to 15. Then on Report, my noble friend Lady Saltoun of Abernethy tabled an amendment to devolve only that part of the regulation of time which applied to time zones; in fact, the identical proposal before us today.

After debate the noble Lady withdrew her amendment. However, a week later she came back with a vengeance and moved a new clause by which,

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although time zones would still be a reserved subject, the Scottish Parliament could have a unique right of veto. That shocking proposal, supported by the Conservative Front Bench, was rightly defeated by 103 votes to 42.

The noble Lady's final fling reveals the essential difference between the movers of the earlier amendments and the provisions in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Archer. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, as well as the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, wanted time zones to be devolved to Edinburgh because they believed that the Scottish Parliament could thereby, if it so wished, prevent any change proposed by Westminster. They assumed that Westminster could not possibly alter the time for England unless Scotland's time altered identically; so if Scotland refused to budge, England could not move.

The noble Lord, Lord Archer, on the contrary, wants this devolution because he assumes that if England decided to change, Scotland would be obliged to follow or face the consequences of split time zones in Britain. Here we are in the realm of high politics, a game of poker played for high stakes. Would Westminster dare to change England's time? On the one side is the spectre of Scottish nationalism. What British government would gratuitously feed that monster by provoking such an issue? On the other side is the lazy lion of England, which might turn nasty and force the issue the other way.

Hitherto England has bowed to Scottish susceptibility in this matter. The pattern was set in 1971, when the three-year experiment of year-round GMT plus one was overwhelmingly defeated on a free vote in another place. It is true that many northern English Members helped to secure that defeat, but it was clinched by the tragedy of the Scottish children killed by a bus in the morning darkness, which blotted out any reflective consideration of the lives that had been saved by the afternoon light.

Anyway, all that was a generation ago, and social habits have changed a great deal in the past 30 years. Most recently, in 1995, a Private Member's Bill to advance standard time by an hour was introduced in another place. The then Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, ensured its defeat by arranging that all government Ministers should abstain, save only those of the Scottish Office, who voted against it.

In debating the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Archer, it is worth considering whether it would be possible to have two time zones in Britain. No country in the European Union has more than one time zone, except that the Canary Islands are retarded by one hour from mainland Spain. No autonomous region within those countries has authority over its own time.

However, Britain is not bound by any European treaty in respect of its standard time. We can do what we want. We are bound only by the summer/winter change dates, which are common throughout the EU. Undoubtedly, a zonal frontier would cause great anguish in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It would be very awkward for the schedules of airlines, trains and road transport. Generally, there would be an economic disbenefit, mainly for the

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Scots. Being the smaller community, they would be much more exposed, and being one hour behind England, they would always be running to catch up.

I deduce from that that the Scottish Parliament would be most unlikely to opt for a separate time zone, but there is no reason why it should not do so if it wished, and accept some economic loss for the benefit of perceived quality of life. The same, incidentally, would be true of Ireland. I do not mention Wales, because I cannot accept that there is any geographical necessity for devolving time to the Welsh Assembly or any future English regional governments.

The controversy about standard time is largely confined to what happens in the winter and the use of precious, limited daylight. As regards the summer, the argument for change is not so much social as economic; namely that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said, we should be on the same time as our continental neighbours. But given that for England, as for Scotland, the issues are not solely economic, I do not see why England should not revert to the 1968-71 experiment of GMT plus one, year-round. If Scotland's time remained unchanged from now, it would produce the happy solution that for seven months of the summer there would be a single British time, and only in the five months of winter would there be a divergence.

As a hereditary Peer, this is my swan song in your Lordships' House. My summertime has run out. But I look forward to reading on the website the future debates on this timeless subject, with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, forever bemoaning their repetitive futility and the cunning Clan Mackay weaving their way between tribal loyalty and political expediency, as I expect they have done for many centuries past.

3.55 p.m.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am a novice on this subject, but it seems to me that the question of time zones for the United Kingdom has, as a subject, taken the place of the British Empire, on which--as your Lordships will be well aware--the sun never set. It does not exactly now never set, but it continues to insist on setting at different times.

This is the first time that this ever-recurrent debate has taken place since devolution. It is as well to remind ourselves that the setting of time zones in the United Kingdom is a reserve power of the Westminster Parliament. Primary legislation, such as the Bill presently before the House, is required to alter that status.

As your Lordships are continually reminded, the problem is that the further west one goes, the later in relative terms are the hours of daylight, and the difference in hours of daylight as between winter and summer increases the further north one goes. Since Edinburgh is west of Bristol, the majority of Scotland lies not only to the north of England but to the west. Therefore, the real concern, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, pointed out, is the incidence of dawn in the winter. The extension of summer time is therefore unpopular with northern farmers--as we know--and, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, reminded us, with the construction industry. It is also unpopular with other industries with a practice

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of starting early, but popular with such bodies as RoSPA, already referred to by my noble friend Lord Archer, because motorists, tired at the end of the day, are more likely to be involved in road accidents in poor light at the end of a day than at the beginning.

Many of the arguments advanced have similar pros and cons. It would be a waste of your Lordships' time to rehearse them here. The argument that anyone transacting financial business must have continental business hours ever before him can be countered by the argument that a shift to continental time would result in less of an overlap with North American office hours.

The narrow, nationalistic two-nations argument has been mercifully absent from this debate. However, I leave your Lordships with one thought. Time zones may be described as either "tall and thin"--like Chile--or "squat"--like continental Europe. The United Kingdom falls into the tall and thin category. The taller and thinner, the greater the argument for a unified time zone within that area.

I have looked at various places in the Central European Time zone. The difference between Stockholm and Madrid is 19 degrees in latitude and 21 degrees in longitude. The difference between London and Ullapool is eight degrees in latitude and five degrees in longitude. On both counts, that is markedly less than the Central European Time zone. If the disparate nations within the Central European Time zone can manage on a single time, it is surely ridiculous that two component parts of the United Kingdom with far less maximum distance between extremities should seek to have separate ones. After all, the problem is one with which communities in other countries have learned to live. I make it clear that I am not arguing against our joining the Central European Time zone but against having a split between two time zones in the United Kingdom, as proposed by the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Archer.

There is a more basic reason for not supporting the Bill. Although I speak on this occasion for myself, I am aware that--as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has reminded us--on these Benches we proposed that the question of time zones should be devolved to Scotland. That argument was lost. Now that devolution is with us, the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition is to make it work effectively. That means not only do we wish all success and effectiveness to the Scottish Parliament but also we want to preserve the delicate balance of the precious relationship between the four countries that make up the United Kingdom.

Under the Scotland Act, the powers to fix time zones in the United Kingdom were, as I have said, expressly reserved to Westminster for good reasons, some of which I have alluded to. To tinker with the balance between the two Parliaments and the Welsh Assembly so soon after devolution--less than one month--I suggest would cast doubt on the serious intentions of the Government's commitment to the devolution process. It would also send the wrong message not only to Scotland and Wales, but to the whole of the United Kingdom.

On the matter of whether the United Kingdom as a whole joins the Western European Time zone, I am broadly in sympathy. As a first stage, I suggest that it is

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necessary to win over Scottish opinion to the idea. In that respect, I am interested in the reference by my noble friend Lord Archer to the Scottish chambers of commerce. I am not sure how the statistics work, but if 88 per cent of the country wants this change there must be a considerable majority in Scotland also in favour of it.

If Scottish opinion can be won over, there may be a chance of an all-party consensus on the matter in Westminster. I hear that the intention of my noble friend Lord Archer is to continue this fight. I hope that he will continue it on the basis of a unified time zone in the United Kingdom falling in with that of Europe.

I cannot support the Bill, but in accordance with the custom in your Lordships' House, I shall not vote against it.

4.1 p.m.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Archer, on his success in introducing this Bill. It deals, if only indirectly, with a subject which I know is close to his heart. The noble Lord promoted the Football (Offences and Disorder) Bill, with which I agreed. He knows that is a matter close to my heart.

The House has debated the question of time zones, and whether the UK should adopt Central European Time, on numerous occasions. The noble Lord's Bill has introduced a new element to these now familiar arguments, for which the House is grateful.

The noble Lord has made it clear that he is a keen advocate of Central European Time, at least for England. As the House will know, this is a subject on which the Government traditionally take a neutral position. However, the introduction of Central European Time is not the purpose of the Bill. The noble Lord proposes that the three nations of Great Britain--England, Scotland and Wales--should be able to choose their own time zone, and set their own summertime arrangements. On that essential purpose of the Bill, I part company with the noble Lord.

Before I turn to the substantive arguments, I shall deal first with some basic points. Under the Scotland Act 1998 and the Summertime Act 1972, time zones are reserved to the Westminster Parliament. The Bill seeks to remove those matters from the list of reservations. However, I remind the House that amendments to do just that were defeated during the passage of that legislation, only a few months ago.

Furthermore, we believe that the Bill is defectively drafted in its application to Wales. It purports to rely on the powers in Section 25 of the Government of Wales Act. However, that deals with transfer of property to the Assembly, not transfer of functions. But, in any event, there are no ministerial functions, as regards time zones or summertime, which could be transferred to the Assembly under existing mechanisms.

Devolving the subject matter of the Summertime Act 1972 would also cause difficulty. As your Lordships will know, the 1972 Act provides a mechanism for setting the period of summertime. For several years that period has been agreed by EU partners and is the subject of EC directives. There has been complete harmonisation of both start and end dates of summertime since 1996. The

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Westminster Government are responsible for negotiating those directives on a nation-wide basis and will continue to be responsible for their implementation. As it stands, the Bill is at odds with that.

But we see other problems with this Bill, in both principle and practicality. If enacted, it would enable Scotland and Wales to set their own time zones. The United Kingdom is a small island which does not span the sort of area where there is natural movement from one time zone to another. Countries like the USA and Australia are so vast that they can comfortably accommodate different time zones. None of our EU partners has more than one time zone, even those significantly larger than us, such as France and Sweden. Separate time zones within Great Britain would be an artificial construct, and could cause unnecessary fragmentation. In fact, I fear that this proposal would do nothing to support or strengthen the Union--rather the reverse.

This is not to deny that there are geographical differences within the United Kingdom which can affect people's lives. It is clear that with his Bill the noble Lord is seeking to deal with the objections that are sometimes raised in Scotland to the possible adoption of Central European Time. This is not, as far as I am aware, an issue of controversy in Wales. The adoption of CET would mean that we all experienced an hour less of daylight on winter mornings but an hour more in the late afternoons and evenings.

I understand that even under GMT there are areas in Scotland where in winter the sun does not rise until after 9 a.m. Concern about the potential effect of CET on various aspects of Scottish life is therefore understandable. But the amounts of daylight available in the morning also vary from one part of England to another. Indeed, some areas of England, particularly those near the Border, may have winter mornings as dark as some in Scotland. We also have to remember that time zones are a consequence of longitude rather than latitude. Simply drawing lines around the constituent countries of Great Britain and enabling them to operate their own time zones would not, in my view, be a sensible way to proceed. It is a fact of life that whatever the time zone in a given area, people will be affected differently depending on their specific geographical position.

With regard to the points made by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon, I agree that this is a national issue and that it should remain that way. In relation to the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, it is my view that the issue of Scotland has been resolved; and that is the way, at this point in time, it should remain.

The adoption of CET would constitute a significant change. We do not consider that there is evidence of sufficient consensus to justify that change; but the Government remain willing to listen to all sides of the argument, which I have no doubt will continue to be made.

As I have made clear, we have difficulties with the noble Lord's Bill. Some of these are technical, but there are also real matters of substance here. We do not believe

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that this measure would be in the best interests of Great Britain or its people. For the reasons I have outlined, the Government therefore feel that they would be unable to lend their support to this Bill.

4.7 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords for taking part in this debate and the Minister for his reply. If he will forgive me, I shall turn to his reply at the end and begin with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, who, in a moment of breathtaking disbelief, told us that this was not a House in which to have a political debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Howie, has been a feisty fighter for causes his whole life. Has he suddenly arrived on the Red Benches as some wimpish pawn who no longer wishes to fight for a cause? No. For he then gets up and fights for his cause with all the energy we have grown to expect from him, so we must dismiss that thought. I have every right to bring a political debate to this House and I have every right to fight for a cause in this House in a rough and ready, and indeed populist way.

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