[Relevant document: Minutes of Evidence taken before the Energy and Climate Change Committee on 28 October 2010, on the Effect on energy usage of extending British Summer Time, HC 562-i.]
(Castle Point) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
As someone with a few years’ experience in the Chamber, you, Mr Speaker, are probably more familiar with the measure than I am, as this is far from being the first time the House has debated this subject. The question of how we best use our daylight hours has been debated for well over 100 years. Daylight saving proposals in one form or another have been brought to the House or to the other place on many occasions and by many more experienced and more distinguished parliamentarians than me.
Winston Churchill introduced single/double summer time during the war to save fuel and let people get home more safely during the blackout. In more recent memory, the measure was proposed by Nigel Beard and David Kidney as Labour Back-Benchers. Sir John Butterfill came closest to success in 1996, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo) introduced a similar Bill on two occasions. Finally, I will not leave out my good friend Lord Tanlaw, who describes himself as a Scottish crofter and sits on the Cross Benches, and who, since introducing the measure, has become known as the Time Lord.
The fact that daylight saving has been championed by people all over the country and across the political spectrum suggests that it is not a party political issue. Hon. Members will note the remarkable range of more than 300 organisations backing the Bill as part of the Lighter Later coalition—such unusual bedfellows as the Kennel Club, Greenpeace, the British Beer and Pub Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the AA, the Football Association and Parentline Plus.
The campaign has garnered enormous public support, so much so that yesterday the superb Lighter Later campaigners delivered 9,000 individually written letters to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
I support the Bill. In the early days, organisations such as ROSPA did much to support measures on safety grounds, but does the hon. Lady agree that, with the challenge of climate change and the importance of reducing our carbon emissions, it is more important than ever that the bizarre practices that apply to private Members’ business on Fridays do not prevent the Bill from getting a full and proper hearing and reaching the statute book?
I thank the hon. Lady for that helpful intervention. I agree. The arguments in favour of the measure now are more salient than they ever have been. I will go on to outline some of those issues, including the climate change impact that she is concerned about.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday received letters from people throughout the country—small children who like playing outside after school, elderly people who want to feel safer walking in the afternoon, local football teams who cannot afford to light their pitches, seasonal affective disorder sufferers who long for happier winters, and many doctors keen to reduce road traffic accidents and generally improve public health.
I can confirm that I have had two representations from amateur astronomers, saying that in the height of summer the measure could delay their ability to gaze at the stars for an extra hour, and I have had representations from the orthodox Jewish community that in the deep midwinter there could be problems in getting to work on time after morning prayers, which are daylight-sensitive.
I recognise and appreciate those concerns, and they are all the more reason why I call for a review. Those might not be insurmountable problems, and employers could be understanding in the darker weeks of winter. All those communities could, of course, get all the other benefits that the Bill would bring for their families and their children, so there might be some common ground.
Letters have been sent by parents who simply want their children to be safer on the roads and by environmentalists who are keen to cut carbon emissions. All those people, despite the different benefits they hope to obtain, believe that a small adjustment to our clocks could not only save scores of lives on the roads but make us happier, healthier and wealthier as a nation. Sadly, previous attempts to make progress on the issue have foundered, in peacetime at least.
Previous Bills have been talked out, kicked into the grass or had their Government support removed at the last moment. All too often, we have cast the facts aside, and emotion and, even, suspicion seem to have driven the House. Some hon. Members have seemed keener to explore the minutiae of marginal procedural issues or focused purely on the measure’s effects in deep winter and high summer, as though there were no benefits on those days or during the nine other months of the year—anything, rather than embrace the substance of the proposal.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing the Bill, of which I am an unqualified and enthusiastic supporter. Does she agree that, in addition to bringing benefits to millions of people throughout the United Kingdom, it is likely to increase Government revenues by hugely boosting the tourist trade?
Absolutely, and, as my hon. Friend will know, I have received an enormous number of representations from the tourist trade, which has some quite interesting claims about the measure’s benefits. The Bill might also benefit the retail sector and the leisure sector, including sporting organisations, so its revenue potential is enormous.
My hon. Friend seems rather dismissive of the concerns of those in a constituency such as mine—where opinion seems evenly divided for and against the change—who are genuinely worried, for example, about children having to wait for school buses at the end of country lanes on many more dark mornings than they do now. Those concerns cannot simply be ignored or regarded as procedural.
Perhaps I should not have taken that intervention at this stage, as I shall cover that issue in great detail later, but all the evidence shows that there are three times as many accidents among children in the evening rush hour as there are in the morning, which is why all the road safety organisations very much support the measure.
Previous debates have often generated more heat than daylight. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but it had to be done, I am afraid. Indeed, I have experienced some quite passionate debate myself. Little did I imagine, when I innocently put my name into the ballot for private Members’ Bills, that I would later be attacked for being a barbecue-obsessed Essex girl or, worse, a national traitor trying to take us on to Berlin time.
On the German question, as a Welshman who comes from a constituency equidistant from northern Scotland and the Isle of Wight, I know that opinion is divided but that the vast majority are in favour. Does the hon. Lady, like me, dismiss the argument that we are any less British during the summer, when we move on to European summer time? I am sure that the European fans in her party will benefit from the measure, because many of them go to Europe anyway during the colder months.
I certainly agree. There has been some debate about whether I am casting aside tradition by suggesting that we should no longer be on Greenwich mean time for five winter months. I am a great traditionalist and very proud of the fact that we gave Greenwich mean time to the world, but within only 50 years of our establishing GMT we realised that it was not quite appropriate to the way in which we lived our lives and moved the clocks forward in the summer months.
The issue is not about Berlin or getting rid of tradition; it is entirely about what is right for the residents of these islands and nothing else. It involves a simple question about how we should best use our daylight hours. Time is the most precious resource, and I am grateful to the large number of hon. Members who have given up their precious time today, despite the weather, to be in the Chamber. I refer in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr Brine), who has broken off his paternity leave to join us, and I am sure the House will join me in congratulating him on the arrival of baby William.
We cannot grow time, make more of it than we have or create additional daylight, but it is up to us to utilise both as best we can. We in this House determine what time regime the country uses to regulate everyone’s lives, and all I ask is that we ensure we set our clocks to everyone’s best advantage. Given the wealth of arguments in favour of change, the Government should surely ensure that they have it right. My Bill asks, therefore, for a review of whether we would be better off moving our clocks ahead one hour in winter, in summer or both.
Essentially, we would move an hour of daylight from the morning, when people use it least, to the afternoon or evening, when we could make better use of it, and, as most of us wake up well after sunrise for nine months a year and go to bed long after sunset, we could make better use of our daylight hours. As I have said, the reasons for change are stronger today than ever, which might explain why so many colleagues, particularly newly elected colleagues, are present to support the Bill.
Much of the evidence for change, gathered by a range of organisations and respected experts, seems to be strong and clear—some of it, unequivocal—but there are gaps, and too many people remain sceptical about the benefits that proponents of the measure claim. Without a clearer picture of the advantages and disadvantages, that might always remain the case: the status quo would be maintained, and we might miss out once again.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful case for her Bill, but does she recognise the concerns of constituents such as mine, who experience greater antisocial behaviour in the summer months, when it is lighter later, already, and are deeply concerned that such behaviour will extend well beyond 11 o’clock? She might cover such concerns later in her speech.
Antisocial behaviour is a great scourge, and I understand and appreciate those concerns. People are out more and make more noise in the warmth of summer, but the difficulty that we and the police have is that quite a lot of youngsters escape under the cover of darkness. There is a big spike in antisocial behaviour not just in the summer months, but around Halloween and bonfire night, so there is no clear relationship between such behaviour and daylight hours.
In gathering evidence on the issue, will my hon. Friend ensure that the evidence of those who play and watch sport is taken into account? Sport continuing later can help to deal with antisocial behaviour, so today, with our cricketers in Australia, will she ensure that the evidence recognises how frustrating it is to millions of cricket fans throughout the country when bad light stops play?
There is strong evidence that increased youth participation in sport, in particular, can reduce antisocial behaviour and low-level crime by about 18%. That is a very strong point.
The central problem with our previous attempts to introduce daylight saving has been an absence of all the evidence, so I have sought to draft my Bill differently. My Bill, unlike previous measures, does not enforce an immediate change or seek to enforce my views or those of my colleagues on anyone; it simply asks the Government to conduct a cross-Government study of the benefits of the move.
I should like to investigate the current asymmetry of the clock change, which curiously moves us on to winter time two months ahead of the shortest day and continues for three months after. The clause might be seen as a special gift to the hon. Member for—I shall say “the western isles”, because I do not wish to irk Scottish Members any more than is absolutely necessary—Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil). That is a particular interest of his, so I hope that he will support at least that measure in my Bill.
May I say how pleased I am that the hon. Lady has introduced the Bill? I shall be here to support it later. On the Scottish question, if I can put it like that, given that the hon. Gentleman whom she has just cited is, in particular, anxious for increased independence from the UK, should we not have an option that enables Scotland to have its own time zone if it disagrees with the rest of us?
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not think that it would benefit Scotland, or any other part of the British isles, to have a separate time zone. From the evidence that has been gathered to date, it appears that this move would benefit Scotland over and above England and Wales. The short length of Scotland’s daylight hours in winter makes it all the more critical that they are deployed better. Road traffic accident statistics suggest strongly that to do so would save the lives of Scottish children.
The benefits for tourism could be greater for Scotland, because it is dependent on tourism for 11% of its economy, whereas the figure for England is 3%. There are numerous other benefits, such as saving energy. It would be a mistake for us to see the move as a disbenefit to Scotland and to suggest that it requires a separate time zone.
I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the Library research paper, which refers to the simulation of the previous experiment by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory. It indicates that the number of people killed and seriously injured in the north of Scotland went up during the experiment.
I think that my hon. Friend will find that the figures for Scotland show that there was a higher reduction in road deaths as a proportion of the population of the whole of Scotland. The vast majority of Scots live in the central belt of Scotland. The research found that it was beneficial for Scotland overall and that there was a net gain.
I shall return to my speech, having taken many interventions.
I ask only that the Government take an objective, informed decision based on the best available evidence so that all the questions can be looked at properly before a decision is taken. If the opponents are correct and the evidence in favour of change is not as clear-cut as many organisations and experts suggest, or if the move would unfairly disadvantage any country of the United Kingdom, my Bill would not require anything further to happen. Surely, therefore, no one need fear the study proposed in the Bill. Even the most vehement opponent of change cannot reasonably object to this modest request. However, if I and the supporters of this measure are right that there are clear benefits to the whole—I stress, the whole—of the United Kingdom, it would be wrong not to go ahead with a proper trial.
Although I am certain that hon. Members have had ample opportunity to consider the arguments in favour of the measure, I will rehearse them briefly. First, every single road safety organisation tells me that the measure would save 80 lives on our roads every year, mainly among children under 15 and other vulnerable road users. If a transport disaster of that magnitude occurred in our country and the Government knew that it would happen every year—year in, year out—but proposed to do nothing about it, there would be a public outcry.
However, there remains a kind of race memory that the winter-only trial of GMT plus one between 1968 and 1970 led to increased road deaths, particularly among children going to school on dark winter mornings, as has been mentioned. That persistent myth has hampered the debate ever since, and it is simply not true. Extensive research by the Transport Research Laboratory found that, far from causing accidents—the view that, sadly, led to the experiment being abandoned in panic—the change resulted in an astonishing 1,120 fewer people being killed or seriously injured during the affected hours.
The principal reason behind those figures is that more accidents occur in the busy afternoon rush hour. There are currently three times as many accidents, particularly involving children, between 3 and 6 pm than between 7 and 10 am. In the mornings, we tend to travel directly, we leave just as much time as we need to get to our destination and the roads are less busy. In the afternoons, we make much more complicated journeys and people are much less attentive—children, in particular, feel liberated after leaving school. That is why moving an extra hour of daylight into the dangerous, busy peak time for travel would be beneficial for road safety. As I have said, that applies to an even greater extent in Scotland and, despite the conventional wisdom, I believe that Scotland stands to benefit the most from this measure.
Does my hon. Friend agree that another myth that has grown up around the daylight saving issue is that the country clearly rejected the experiment when it ended in the ’70s? In fact, the Home Secretary of the time presented polling to the House to show that the public were in favour of the switch.
Yes, Reginald Maudling presented evidence to the House to show that a majority of people in the country were in favour of the change. As often happens, the people who are against something, nervous about it or frightened of it speak more loudly than those who are in favour. We have all experienced that. Unusually, the campaigners for this change have been the louder voices.
Poll findings are important. I am uncertain what the polling said in 1970 when the experiment was abandoned, but today, even in Scotland, the majority is in favour of the measure, because, among other things, transport infrastructure has changed radically. As a Member who represents a rural constituency, I point out that the National Farmers Union in Scotland is neutral on or in favour of the measure.
It is clear from the last three polls conducted in Scotland that there is a majority in favour. If one explains to people from Scotland the road safety evidence of an 11% drop in accidents in England and Wales and a 17% drop in Scotland, the number of people in favour goes up.
I have tried, as best I can, to assess the opinions in my constituency. This is in no sense scientific polling, but the majority of opinion seems to be in favour of giving the proposal the green light. Having said that, the views are most mixed among those who remember the last experiment. That is why we need a proper assessment of the evidence.
As I understand it, under the Bill, the commission would make the final decision on whether to introduce the new time arrangements and the House would not have an opportunity to have the final say. That concerns me, and I would be interested to hear the hon. Lady’s comments. Perhaps the issue could be addressed by amendments at a later stage.
The matter would have to come before Parliament again, but such matters could be ironed out in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the experiment in the late ’60s. It should be remembered that that was a winter-only trial. No one experienced the benefits of the change in the seven summer months. The enormous benefits to everyone of longer evenings are much more noticeable in the spring, autumn and summer. That should be borne in mind when we consider that experiment and the reactions to it at the time.
I confirm that I had misread the provision regarding the matter coming back to the House. However, it is important that there is as full and objective an assessment as possible, because what is relevant for my constituents in south-east Scotland might be very different from what is relevant for the constituents of hon. Members from further to the north and west. Those points must be considered properly.
I understand the hon. Lady’s arguments as they relate to summer—most of the arguments are much stronger for the summer months than for the winter months. Is she really convinced that the people of London will be happy when they realise that in midwinter, they will enjoy sunrise 18 minutes later than Aberdeen currently enjoys it in mid-winter?
As I said at the outset, one of the strange aspects of every discussion of this measure is the tendency always to look at the extremes rather than the benefits across the country. Of course, a darker morning means a lighter afternoon—somehow, we always seem to forget that in debates.
The road safety figures for deaths and accidents have been examined, re-examined and updated over and again by the experts. The Department for Transport does not dispute that this measure would save lives and prevent injuries. That is why the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has been campaigning for the change for more than 60 years. It is backed up by every other road safety body, and I am afraid I am going to list them: the road victims charity Brake, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, the road traffic committee of the Magistrates’ Association, GEM Motoring Assist, the AA, Road Safety GB, the Royal Automobile Club and the Institute of Advanced Motoring. I apologise if I have left anyone off that list. Those organisations are unanimous in backing the Bill, and hon. Members will already have received correspondence from many of them encouraging them to support it.
The opportunity to save the lives of 80 people a year, mainly children, is enough reason on its own for the Bill to pass. However, there are other, economic benefits. Our tourism and leisure industry is a major employer, accounting for 3% of gross domestic product in England and Wales, 4% in Northern Ireland and 11% in Scotland. Tourism bodies such as the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, Visit England and the Tourism Alliance have been pleading for the change for more than a decade. Just this week the Caravan Club has also given backing to my Bill, and I think we can all agree that it and its more than 1 million members probably know a little bit about holidaying in the UK.
An extra hour of daylight at the end of the day would not only be an extra hour all year round for many attractions to stay open and trading; it would also extend the summer tourist season. In effect, the long hours of the average June would become the hours of May and July, giving our tourism businesses the longer summers that their continental competitors take for granted. The industry confidently estimates that an advance in the clocks would result in increased revenue of between £3 billion and £3.5 billion and the creation of up to 70,000 to 80,000 new jobs. That would amount to a significant fiscal injection, with no input from the taxpayer.
The hon. Lady rightly raises the important issue of tourism, which would receive one of the many benefits of moving in the direction that she proposes. Will she remind the House that the figures that she has just referred to are for the United Kingdom overall, and that in Scotland alone, the evidence shows that the change would bring something in the region of 7,000 additional jobs?
When I was examining the tourism issue, I was interested to learn of the importance to Scotland of the walking industry. People who say that walking is part of their holiday in Scotland contribute close to £100 million a year. On top of that, the change would make it easier for rescue agencies, who say that one problem is the fast-closing nights at certain times of year. It would be safer and better for tourism in Scotland.
Does my hon. Friend agree there would be particularly disproportionate benefits to seaside towns, which have struggled to regenerate down the years? Many workers in inland towns come to the seaside for their holidays during their two precious summer weeks off, particularly those from heavy industry. There would be a particular benefit for seaside towns and the workers who holiday in them.
Brighton is a very long way from Scotland, but 14,000 jobs there depend on tourism, and nearly 9 million visitors spend a staggering three quarters of a billion pounds there each and every year. There is a lot of benefit to the whole country in the proposals.
Cases are being made from around the country, and the tourism case holds true everywhere. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board has supported the change since 1996, and National Galleries of Scotland is backing it today.
It is also worth noting that whereas the farming industry objected to increased daylight saving 40 years ago, it has now adopted a much more positive stance. That is not just because farming practices have changed considerably over the years but because farmers have now diversified into tourism and leisure, with farm stays and a range of outdoor activities. The National Farmers Union in England and Wales has been officially neutral on the matter for years, and now NFU Scotland has come out in favour of my Bill. I should like to read what its spokesman has said:
“We have been described as being vigorously opposed to this but it is not quite as simple as that. To move the discussion forward”—
that is what I am hoping to do through my Bill—
“we do support the private member’s bill…which would propose in-depth analysis of the impact of any change—a key concern for Scotland—before any permanent change to the clocks is proposed.”
I have never doubted the common sense of farmers in any part of the country. Visit Scotland has taken a similar stance, in view of its interest in visits to Scotland.
The tourism and leisure industry is not the only potential beneficiary, however. Extra daylight could be of enormous benefit to the entire retail sector, and according to a recent Greater London authority report promoting a clock change, even our very popular and well-loved financial and banking sector stands to benefit from being an extra hour closer to the markets in Asia.
I thank my hon. Friend for taking so many interventions. I am a great supporter of the Lighter Later campaign, but does she agree that this discussion is not just about the arguments for and against the change, which are being debated excellently this morning, but also about what the Chamber is for? We must represent the country outside these four walls. This issue has arisen again and again and is of concern to people outside, whereas some issues that we debate may not be of so much concern. Does my hon. Friend agree that allowing the Bill to go forward for further scrutiny will be testament to the fact that the House represents the people outside these four walls?
I agree entirely, and as I said earlier, Bills such as this have come around again and again. They are usually talked out and run out of time, and nothing further happens. They are not taken forward, so various Departments do not get their heads together to investigate the benefits or enter into discussions with the various parts of the United Kingdom. The proposal dies again until some brave or naive soul such as myself picks it up in a private Member’s Bill. There is then a vigorous and exciting campaign for six months, and then if it does not get through to Committee, the Government do not decide to examine properly the benefits across all Departments. Nothing happens, the debate does not move forward, entrenched views stay the same for ever and we never get over the hurdles.
I thank my hon. Friend for her earlier congratulations. She knows that I support the Bill, and I am sure that baby William does as well, although I have no idea why, because daylight hours seem to mean little to him. I am still standing, however.
We have debated the importance of the Bill’s not dying and disappearing again for another few years. However, Ministers are in Cancun at the moment, and surely the Bill’s energy-saving implications mean that there is real urgency behind the idea that that must not happen this time. Such factors were not discussed, debated and evaluated in the 1970s when the matter last came around.
The hon. Lady has just made a point about the history of Governments’ attitudes to the proposals. Should not the unique attraction of the Bill to any Government be not just that it commands overwhelming support in the country and the House, and that the evidence in favour of it is overwhelming, but that no other piece of legislation has the potential to spread so much happiness across the United Kingdom?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. The urgent need to create new jobs and growth at the moment is another salient point. We are in a challenging economic situation, and I do not believe that any hon. Member can really think that we should ignore a potential boost to the economy of 80,000 new jobs at no cost to the taxpayer.
If colleagues are not yet convinced by the need to save lives or boost the economy, I wonder whether the potential health benefits will sway them. We all know what happens when it gets dark—people go back inside and often find themselves slumped in front of the Parliament channel, and opportunities for far more productive activity are lost.
Hundreds of sports clubs and sporting bodies support the Bill, although I am happy to say that neither FIFA nor Sepp Blatter are among them. The Central Council of Physical Recreation, which changed its name this week—I cannot remember the new name—is an umbrella organisation for more than 300 sporting organisations, including the Football Association, the Lawn Tennis Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board. In a letter to hon. Members, it said:
“We are convinced beyond doubt of the benefits that this move would bring to both the grassroots of sport and the nation’s health as a whole”.
It goes on to point out that increased participation in sport is known to increase social and civic participation, reduce youth crime and reduce chronic illness, not least obesity. I have been flooded—absolutely inundated—with letters from amateur sports groups, youth leaders and schoolteachers, who all describe how much they could do and achieve in their communities if their activities were not curtailed so early in the evening by dusk, particularly in autumn and spring. I even received a very supportive petition from a ladies’ carpet bowls club in Yorkshire. Other likely health benefits have been highlighted by the medical profession. They include relief for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder and reduction in vitamin D deficiency.
The potential for the Bill to reduce crime deserves a Government investigation. A very high proportion of crime takes place under the cover of evening darkness. Back in 1995, a Home Office report stated that an extra hour of daylight in the evening would lead to a 3% reduction in crime. I do not expect that crime patterns have changed all that dramatically since that survey, and a lot of opportunistic crime occurs when darkness falls before people get home from school or work.
My hon. Friend perhaps does herself a disservice, because there has been a change. The peak in crime used to be when the pubs closed, but it is now when the schools chuck out. Extending daylight hours to when schoolchildren are going home could have a real benefit in terms of crime and antisocial behaviour.
My hon. Friend anticipates my next comment. Age UK and Saga have told me how much safer older people will feel, and how their fear of crime will be drastically reduced, with longer daylight hours. A lot of older people suffer a self-imposed curfew when it gets dark. Many will not even answer their door after 4 o’clock in the evening in winter. I am not promoting the Bill because it will help politicians in their canvassing in the evenings, but we all know from our experience of people who are very uncomfortable even coming to the front door.
I have received a large volume of letters from older people. I was quite upset to find that many older people feel lonely and that they cannot get out and enjoy social activities. Some people will not drive simply because of the glare on their glasses. One particularly upsetting letter said:
“Please will you make a point of being present to vote for the Lighter Later bill. Many old people living alone don’t see anybody for up to 18 hours once it gets dark &…lonely. I know as I am one of them! (Peter died last year).”
That is quite heartbreaking.
Finally, there is the clear potential to save energy—I am sure that other hon. Members will speak at great length on that because it is a pressing concern. The Bill has a clear potential to help us cut our fuel use. Because the majority of us get up after dawn for more than nine months of the year but few households go to sleep before dusk, we use artificial light every night of the year. An extra hour of free daylight each day would cut our electricity bills, and that would be offset only by extra electricity bills in the short winter months.
In the shoulder months either side of mid-winter, the peak demand for electricity occurs when dusk falls. We come home from school or work at half-past 5 and put on the lights, the kettle, the TV and computer games, because it is dark. If we move daylight ahead and allow people to do all those wonderful social activities and go to sports clubs and all the rest, we will flatten that peak demand, which will mean that our national grid will not need so much power on standby. We will save not only on what we use, but on the power we must keep on standby to meet peak demands. The Bill has the clear potential to reduce our electricity consumption at no cost whatever.
That issue is very close to my heart. Does the hon. Lady agree that the Bill would lead to savings of nearly £180 million a year on household electricity bills? That would make a significant difference to fuel poverty, which affects so many of our constituents.
Fuel poverty is another problem that we did not have at the time of the winter-only experiment of ’68 to ’71. That is another incredibly important reason why we need the Government to look again at the benefits and details of extending daylight hours. We could achieve the savings to which the hon. Lady refers at no cost.
Extensive research by the Cambridge university department for engineering and National Grid does not dispute that we could cut our electricity consumption by at least 0.5%, which is equivalent to a wind farm of 200 very expensively produced wind turbines. I accept that that is a fraction of the CO2 reduction to which we are committed, but it is none the less significant, and it can be done without the purchase of a single smart meter or a single square foot of insulation.
The modelling from Dr Garnsey’s team at Cambridge suggests that we could cut our carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking nearly 200,000 cars off our roads each year. That is why serious environmental pressure groups such as 10:10 are so heavily behind the Bill.
I believe that the proposal could do a great deal of good for our whole country, which is what I came to this Chamber to do. I appreciate that many simply have an aversion to darker winter mornings—I confess that I am not wild about them—and that may well turn out to be the crux of the issue. However, I might have a different perspective on darker winter mornings if I were assured that a darker start to the beginning of the working day in winter allowed, for example, millions of older people to have a better quality of life. If the benefits were found by a Government review to be as stated by the Bill’s backers—the change could mean that my son and other people’s children were safer on the roads and enjoyed more outdoor play; that people were healthier and there would be more in employment; that more revenue came into the Exchequer; that CO2 emissions would be cut with no extra subsidy from the taxpayer; and that I would have an extra hour of daylight later on to enjoy as I see fit, although obviously only during recess—I might even feel quite positive about dark winter mornings.
My Bill asks not for anything impractical or costly, but merely for the Government to look at the evidence and make a decision that is based on the facts rather than what is politically expedient. I accept that I may be a naive new Member of Parliament—in fact, after taking on this private Member’s Bill, I am convinced of that—but I believe we should always strive to make decisions based on evidence not suspicion, fact not prejudice, and data not conjecture.
This is a decades-old debate, but the arguments are now so compelling that it would be foolish to dismiss the case for change without first conducting a review of the evidence. I do not deny that there is a place for emotion in politics and some may find that emotion is important in the context of the Bill, but Parliament has a responsibility, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, to dictate the time by which our modern lives are regulated. We have a duty to every single one of the 60 million residents of the United Kingdom to ensure that when we set the time for them, we make the right choice. We must ask ourselves whether the proposal is the best, or least worst, option for people living their lives in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. My Bill simply asks that the question be put to the Government, so that we can get a clear answer on which to base our future decisions. With that, I commend the Bill to the House.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), and I congratulate her on promoting the Bill in this debate. I know that she has been inundated with hundreds and thousands of e-mails. I had a private Member’s Bill in the previous Session, and I became very popular very quickly. When a Member dismisses most of those representations, they become unpopular, before undertaking the onerous task of taking their Bill through Parliament. The hon. Lady presented her case with a great sense of humour and a sense of purpose. The Bill is important, and I have supported such measures for a long time.
The hon. Lady listed supporters of the Bill in the excellent Library briefing. She was brave enough to mention the English Football Association the day after the Zurich decision, and she also mentioned the England and Wales Cricket Board. I know that the Ashes are on now, although I do not know the score. If it is positive, I am happy to call it the England and Wales Cricket Board, but if they lose the Ashes, I am happy to refer to them as the England team.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for shining light on the situation.
I support the Bill. I will develop an argument on the energy saving to which the hon. Lady referred, but I make no apologies for emphasising and rehearsing some of the arguments she made on tourism, sports and leisure. In many ways, the Bill is a moderate measure, in that it simply asks the Government to conduct a comprehensive cross-departmental review of the cost benefits of the savings that could be made to the country—she mentioned some headlines to do with that.
I think that we should advance the time by one hour for part or all of the year. I support the latter, and I think that it is important to conduct a three-year study to establish the summer and winter comparisons. It is also important to report back to the House. Perhaps the hon. Lady could intervene on me—although she is having a private discussion at the moment—to clarify something: the Bill does not make it clear whether the commission would have to report to the House after the six months, so that we can have a debate and come to a decision. I am sure that she will have an opportunity, as the Bill develops, to inform the House on that point. It is important for the House to make a decision based on the judgment of an independent commission.
I am proud that the Bill contains special measures for different parts of the United Kingdom. It is important that we consider not just the Scottish question, but the Northern Ireland one as well. It is one of the most north-westerly parts of the UK. It is important that we consider those different parts of the UK when balancing the evidence. I am old enough to remember the 1960s and ’70s, when this experiment was first done, in great detail. At the time, I was—at least I thought I was—working and helping out on a farm, although the farmer probably thought I was getting in the way at times. I remember that period as a child going to school and working in the summer months on farms at early hours of the morning, so I have some experience of that period. It is important to consider the different parts of the United Kingdom, as well as the different parts of Government, in order to get a full picture before making decisions.
As the hon. Lady said, the benefits outweigh any problems that might occur. There would be less crime, fewer road accidents and fatalities, and increased recreational activities and tourism, which would provide a boost for all parts of the UK, particularly those north-western regions. As the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) said, the coastal areas and resorts of the UK will benefit hugely from visitors, not just from overseas, but from different parts of the UK. As somebody who represents a coastal area, I know the benefits that could be achieved.
There could also be improvements in health and well-being. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) said, the Prime Minister is big on a happiness index. Although happiness is difficult to quantify, I honestly believe that the benefits of the Bill will improve the well-being of the people of the UK. I get depressed in October when the clocks go back. Many Members will have anecdotal evidence of the same thing. The benefits of the Bill in the summer, from recreation, sport and health activities, would also be very important.
I want to refer predominantly to the energy savings. The Energy and Climate Change Committee, of which I am a member, conducted a mini inquiry into the matter in October. As the hon. Lady said, the energy saving factors today represent the big difference from the arguments of the 1960s and ’70s. Back then, energy security was not the big issue it is today. We had plentiful supplies of indigenous coal, and then we moved on to the benefits of North sea gas, so we did not think of energy security in the same way as we do today. Obviously, our minds have been changed by environmental and climate change issues as well. That is the big difference.
It was important that the Select Committee considered the benefits of energy savings. The positive nature of the evidence given by the academics from the university of Cambridge study and from a representative of the National Grid was stark. I stress that the mini inquiry considered electricity demand alone. Perhaps we should also have looked at the gas benefits. We might get the opportunity to do that in the future. As the hon. Lady said, the first thing people do in October when the clocks go back, is adjust their thermostats and the timings on their gas boilers, so that gas is used much earlier in the evening. That has an impact. Were we to quantify gas consumption as we can electricity, the environmental, climate change and CO2 emission benefits from the reduction of CO2 would be very obvious. We must take that forward. As the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) said, that would help with fuel poverty. I think that it is estimated that £200 million could be saved in electricity bills alone, and adding gas to that would make a massive difference to vulnerable people in this country. There are massive benefits to be had there.
The question and answer session that the Select Committee held with the academics and National Grid showed that there would be massive benefits, particularly in the shoulder months of November, February and March. That is when demand increases significantly. It is worth pointing out that throughout the UK there would be very little difference in demand in the months of December and January, because that is when, whatever we do with the clocks, there will be the greatest amount of darkness.
Does the hon. Gentleman not feel, when he talks about the shoulder months, that he is actually arguing for a shorter, more symmetrical period of winter time, rather than the seven weeks before and the 14 weeks after new year that we have at the moment?
No, quite the opposite. That is why I pointed out that there would be little difference during December and January.
As the hon. Member for Castle Point pointed out, the benefits from March to October would far outweigh any of the discomfort that people feel during December and January, which are the bleak winter months.
The proponents of the Bill are in danger of taking as fact research evidence that is highly qualified. After it attempted to analyse the figures, the university of Cambridge used words such as “probably increased” and
“could have a range of energy benefits”.
The Government said that the information was not conclusive one way or the other.
Well, I was the person asking the questions, and I know that the Library notes are very thick. One survey, on buildings—particularly office buildings—was not conclusive, but on domestic homes and electricity peak demands, the evidence was to the contrary, which is why I am arguing that we need to consider gas consumption as well as electricity demands. We would then get a much clearer picture to show the benefits of energy savings.
In responding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), surely the hon. Gentleman might have pointed out that the Bill proposes more detailed research on such matters—research that I am convinced will lead to the sort of evidence to which he is referring.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his help. I will develop the argument that what we are asking for is a full review over three years, so that we can have all the up-to-date evidence that we need to make a conscious decision in this House. That is an important point, because in many ways the academic research done by Cambridge university was narrow in its remit. I was disappointed by some of the answers of the academics who had looked at the issue, although I was very much encouraged by the National Grid representative, who talked about the energy savings that would be made immediately—now, today—on the basis of the evidence and the data available to National Grid.
Many of the benefits in the shoulder months relate to the reduction in electricity used of some 1,300 MW. I pushed the National Grid representative on what that would mean. It would mean one power station in the United Kingdom closing for one hour a day during the shoulder months. That would mean a significant amount of electricity being saved, alongside the savings in CO2, which would be in the region of 500,000 tonnes, and—I emphasise this point again because it is important—a reduction in what consumers pay of some £200 million.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there could also be a benefit from reducing the need to import energy? We have an electricity link from my constituency of Folkestone and Hythe to France, from which we need to import electricity at peak times just to meet the demand.
Yes, and I did mention energy security. Indeed, we can break that down and talk about microgeneration, whereby individual houses and community buildings send electricity back to the grid. That is all part of the wider argument about saving energy that I am putting forward. In moving the motion, the hon. Member for Castle Point made strong arguments about other aspects, which I will touch on, but the energy saving argument is the big difference between now and the ’60s and ’70s, and it is one that we should push.
I would just like to draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the evidence from the Building Research Establishment, which indicated that darkened mornings might lead to increased electricity consumption, as people who switch the lights on in the morning may leave them on for the rest of the day.
I responded to the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) about that survey, which looked at offices. Let us be honest: most people who put their lights on in the offices do not pay the bills, so they are reluctant to come into line. However, households do have to pay those bills, so there is a difference, particularly in a climate where energy prices are rising for domestic households. That survey was about major office buildings. A lot of those office buildings were built in the ’60s or ’70s, and do not have proper insulation, so they are not very good buildings in the first instance. However, the National Grid representative made it absolutely clear that peak demand would be reduced if there was an extension to British summer time.
The hon. Gentleman’s analysis is flawed because he is looking only at electricity. Electricity is used for both heating and lighting. There is evidence that lighting costs would be reduced by the change, but that heating costs would be increased. That means that the use of other fuels—gas, oil and coal—would almost certainly increase, meaning that the total effect of the change would be increased carbon emissions.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was listening when I argued that we needed more evidence on gas. However, one thing that is clear is that people in areas that are off-grid—areas such as mine and, I am sure, his—are paying more for fuel. Electricity is pretty universal across the United Kingdom, but there are certain areas—periphery areas in particular—that are off the gas grid. Those areas have to pay for oil or liquefied petroleum gas, and they therefore pay more. Far from the proposal being flawed, the evidence will show that with an extra hour in the evenings in November, February and March, those people will use less fuel. However, that is why the Bill is asking for a trial period. All that evidence will be produced and will, I think, lead to the conclusion—indeed, I am certain that it will to this conclusion, as happened with electricity—that lead consumption would be reduced and energy saved if we had that additional hour in the summer and, in particular, the shoulder months of the winter.
I want to talk about the benefits that the Bill and its outcome—if the commission were to move British summer time—would have for tourism. The United Kingdom has a great product to sell, but often local trade is lost in the winter as people go home from work, owing to darkness falling across the United Kingdom relatively early. The extension of an hour in the winter months and, in particular, the summer months would benefit our tourism industry, retail outlets and sporting activities. There is a massive plus there that we need to consider when we look at the big picture.
We have been talking about the changing significance of the proposal since the previous experiment. Tourism and leisure are proportionately more important, given the changing structure of our industries, so does the hon. Gentleman agree that the employment argument is now very significant?
I certainly agree that tourism is increasingly important to the British economy—there is absolutely no doubt about that—and if we in this House can get extra benefits for it, we will be doing a good thing.
As the hon. Member for Castle Point said in her opening remarks, the Bill would be proportionately beneficial to Scotland, Northern Ireland and periphery areas. It is important for the United Kingdom to have more even economic development for those areas. This Bill offers a win-win situation for areas in Scotland, Northern Ireland and my constituency in north-west Wales. As the hon. Lady also said, the nature of what the study in the ’60s looked at has changed. Agriculture trends have changed considerably, through mechanisation and vehicle transport. That is why the National Farmers Union of England and Wales is now neutral on the Bill—it is not hostile—and why the National Farmers Union of Scotland is in favour. That is hugely beneficial.
The hon. Gentleman is right to put that on the record, but again he is enhancing my argument in favour of the Bill. The National Farmers Union of Scotland was very much against the proposal in the ’60s and ’70s, but it now wants a study because it believes that there could be overall benefits. That is a huge move on the part of an organisation that in many ways is slow to change its policies.
There are, of course, other arguments used by opponents of the Bill. One is that they would feel less British, which I mentioned in an earlier intervention. I am an ex-seafarer. I know how important GMT is to the world. However, that would remain exactly the same, and for the months of March to October we move to European time anyway, so that one can be dismissed pretty easily—
I am entirely in support of everything that the hon. Gentleman is saying. Setting aside the Daily Mail’s xenophobia for a moment, the editor of the Mail might like to recognise that there is one little corner of a foreign field—Gibraltar, which could not be more British—that is on that time the year round.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I am sorry that I misread him. He and I do not agree on quite a few issues, but I am very happy to have him on side on this one. He mentioned the Daily Mail. It is only fair to mention the Daily Express, which has been actively campaigning for the Bill and for extra daylight hours in the evenings. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to point that out, and he is absolutely right about the benefit that parts of Europe, especially Gibraltar, enjoy.
I want to draw my remarks to a conclusion. This is a good Bill. It is a good idea, and it would be good for the United Kingdom. However, I want to see those independent analyses of the four nations, which will be important in making our mind up. This is not an anti-Scottish Bill; it is a pro-UK Bill. It would benefit the whole of the United Kingdom. The proposals would reduce energy consumption. The evidence relating to electricity demonstrates that, and there would also be benefits for gas consumption. Crime would also be reduced, because opportunist crime peaks during October and November when it gets dark before people come home from work, so their properties are empty after nightfall.
The hon. Member for Castle Point mentioned the reduction of accidents and fatalities on our roads, and it is essential that we address that point in the Bill. The increase in tourism would be very positive, as would the increase in sports and leisure. Who likes going to a football match in the winter when it gets dark early and they have to put the floodlights on by half-time?
I agree that there is an argument about summer football, which the hon. Gentleman is making from a sedentary position, but cricket has traditionally dominated the summer period—particularly in England—while football dominates the winter. Also, we now have the Twenty20 series throughout the year, so perhaps we could review that position. That is not a matter for this Bill, however.
The Bill would allow us to take a massive positive step. Although the measure is moderate, its outcomes would be profound.
I will not give way. I shall finish my speech now so that other people can have the opportunity to speak.
I believe that the measure would increase our well-being. In the spirit of cross-party support here, I believe that we should look at the happiness agenda. I think that having a barbecue at 11.30 pm, using clean coal and perhaps serving some salad dishes in the summer would increase the well-being and happiness of people throughout the United Kingdom—
I did say “clean coal”. The hon. Gentleman is always jumping in; he is a bit too keen. I was talking about clean coal, and eating salads and healthy dishes so that we can participate in sport. The measure would increase the well-being of the people in the United Kingdom, and that is what we have been sent to this House for. I am happy to support the Bill and happy to help to take it forward in the House.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on introducing this very sensible measure. I have a sneaking feeling that Sir Bernard Braine would be extremely proud, were he around to hear her speak today. The point has been made, and it will be made again, that, if the proposal before us were adopted, it would enhance tourism and road safety, that it would be very good for sport and for the economy of the British isles as a whole, and that it would probably enhance the happiness and well-being of the nation generally. That is why I wholeheartedly support my hon. Friend’s Bill, and why I believe that we should come into line with Gibraltar time and adopt this measure.
I want to cover just one issue briefly. My friend, the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) raised the possibility of Scotland exercising a choice in this matter. I do not think that that is a ridiculous or improper suggestion, and I do not think that it would in any way damage the unity of the United Kingdom. Scotland has its own Parliament and it takes its own decisions. It is certainly marginally true that there are areas in the far north of Scotland that would be a little more affected by these proposals than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. I am not speaking as a founder member of the Rebuild Hadrian’s Wall Society, but it is incorrect to say that the concept of having one time zone south of the wall, or border, and another on the other side of it is unacceptable.
A gentleman in the Library called Oliver Bennett has been extremely helpful to us all, and we should thank him for his hard work on this subject. He has advised me that, over the four mainland time zones in the United States, there are inevitably towns in which crossing a bridge can take someone from one time zone to another. One such town has two time zones separated by a river. That happens and it is manageable. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys)—I hope that she catches your eye in due course, Mr Deputy Speaker—and I represent part of the United Kingdom that is 25 miles away from a different time zone for part of the year. That is 30 minutes away by train, and the difference is perfectly manageable. It is not an impossibility. In the United States, the Department of Transportation is, curiously, responsible for determining whether a county should change from one time zone to another.
That is also true of the Soviet Union, or Russia, where there are 11 time zones, often separated by rivers and bridges. Having different time zones is undesirable, however, in a small country such as the United Kingdom. Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that it would be desirable for the UK.
I think that the BBC will do what it has continued to do for a very long time, and live in the past.
I was saying to the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr Hamilton) that it is practicably possible to have different time zones, and that if the Scots, who have their own Parliament, genuinely choose, having consulted the people who elect them, to adopt a different time zone, there is practicably no reason why they should not do so. It works right across the United States and across Europe, and we have already established that Gibraltar is in a different time zone from the United Kingdom although it proudly flies the Union flag.
I am going to conclude now; a lot of other people want to speak. When the hon. Member for the Western Isles—I wish I could remember the proper name of his constituency; I did it the other day, but I cannot remember it now—rises to speak, I urge him to consider, instead of seeking to impose a rejection of change on the whole of the United Kingdom, the fact that there is a perfectly viable alternative. If he and those whom he represents, and those in the Scottish Parliament, chose to go down that alternative road, he might find that quite a lot of people on the Government Benches would be perfectly willing to support him.
I do not intend to say a great deal, but I want to address a couple of the issues from the perspective of someone who represents one of the most northerly constituencies in the UK. I must confess that I approached this issue with a very open mind. After 40 years, it is always worth looking at an issue again with fresh eyes in the light of changing times, and I have therefore listened very carefully to the lobbyists, spoken to the stakeholders and looked at the evidence. I live in the far north of Scotland and I represent people who will be disproportionately impacted by the proposed change, however, and I have to say that I remain decidedly ambivalent about the potential benefits and unpersuaded by some of the evidence that I have seen.
I have also been approached by numerous constituents —just ordinary citizens who are not part of any lobby group—who are worried about the impact of the proposals on their quality of life. They tell me how the measure could compromise their safety. One of my main concerns with the evidence that I have seen and heard is that an awful lot of it is simulated, as the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) pointed out. It is speculative, and it is not based on empirical data. It does not take into account other relevant attendant factors that can influence this process, such as the weather. I have been slightly bemused this week to observe how a light dusting of snow in central London seems to have brought the metropolis to a standstill. However, many parts of the country are experiencing very severe weather at present, and I think it brings home to many of us just how dangerous it can be to travel in icy conditions.
The local authority in the area that I represent grits the roads during seven months of the year. Driving before dawn is dangerous, not because it is dark but because the roads are icy. In the dead of winter, there are many days on which the mercury is never going to rise above zero, but on most winter days, the temperature will rise after sunrise, and as the sun gets up, the roads become less hazardous. I have to confess that the thought of having to drive on icy roads does not fill me with relish. That concern is shared by many people who live and work in northern climates. It is not just road safety issues that are of concern. Hon. Members have mentioned the problem of kids standing around waiting for school buses in the cold and the dark. We have bitter, dreich, nasty winter mornings that are already bad. Taking the time back an hour further would make that even more unpleasant.
The other factor that has not been considered is that, when the experiment took place in the 1960s, road fatalities in the north of Scotland did, indeed, increase. That happened despite the fact that, during the same period, speed limits, drink-driving legislation and seat belts were introduced. Unless we believe that none of those measures had any impact on road safety, we have to take some of the evidence on road safety with a big pinch of salt. Early mornings are a hazardous time to be on the roads. We cannot just isolate the one issue of darkness and extrapolate from that without considering the wider context.
I could not agree more with the right hon. Gentleman. He has experience, as I do, of getting up in the dark, going to work and school in the dark and coming home in the dark. The ontological reality that we live with is that there is a limited amount of daylight. As small child, I was very fond of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that begins:
“In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.”
I empathised with the child in the poem, who had to be carted off to bed when it was still time to be playing outside. As I get older, it is becoming very clear to me that getting up in what feels like the middle of the night in the far north is not pleasant and it is not good for our well-being, health or happiness. Such a measure will lead to danger and misery for people who live in the north.
I am very sympathetic to the concerns of the hon. Lady and her constituents. As she will see, I have drafted my Bill carefully to ensure to that exactly those factors are taken into account, so that there will be no danger of any change taking place to the disbenefit of any part of the United Kingdom. I hope that she will look at the science of the road safety experts, who say that even in the shortest mid-winter days in the north of the country, there will be a saving. In parts of Scotland, children go to school in the dark already. At least this measure would mean that they came home in the light, during the lighter period of the day.
I am afraid the reality is that there is a limited amount of daylight. Children are already dealing with the fact that there is half-light. The measure will not make any difference to that. The only difference is that we will have to get up even earlier. We can debate whether the prospect of separate time zones across the UK is realistic or not.
Not just now because I am winding up.
We have to think very seriously about the logistics of having separate time zones. The reality is that we could all get up a bit later, and start schools and work at 10 o’clock. However, that would be very difficult for those people who work for UK-wide organisations and who have difficulty in changing the time of day when they do things. The benefits of the measure are rather untested, and are outweighed by the dangers of driving in hazardous conditions, which have not been properly considered. Some of the evidence we have heard demonstrates that the methodology is rather flawed and the evidence is incomplete. I ask hon. Members to think carefully before imposing the measure across the UK.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on introducing the Bill. She may have drawn accusations that she is a barbecue-obsessed southerner but, considering today’s temperature, that seems irrelevant. I thank the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) for his comments about the work of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, which has recently considered the issue. I am impressed to see a significant proportion of the members of the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I sit, present. It too appreciates the potential benefits of the measure.
The 10:10 Lighter Later campaign has certainly been very active. Little did I know that when I met a member of that campaign during the general election, I would be standing here in December debating the issue. I even managed to convince a number of my constituents to spend a significant proportion of their time phoning hon. Members yesterday to exhort them to stay for today’s debate. I thank all those people from my constituency who did so—I spoke to a good number of them yesterday afternoon. I particularly congratulate those who have struggled through the snow to be here today.
None of the individuals, businesses or organisations that are supporting this examination and analysis are supporting change for change’s sake. What we want is a cross-departmental analysis of the potential benefits of a new, updated trial, so that any evidence is based on modern statistics and current thinking and analysis, rather than on information from the late 1960s. Much has changed since the last trial—in particular, farming technology. I come from a reasonably rural constituency and have family links to the farming industry, so I know that that measure was obviously of concern. However, the agricultural community has rowed back from its earlier position. At worst, it is now neutral on the subject, and some members of the farming community are positive about the possibility of a new trial.
Importantly, as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I know that there are new considerations that were not uppermost in people’s minds in the ’60s and ’70s. I was pleased to hear the Committee’s Chairman, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), make the point about the impact that the measure could have on CO2 emissions. It has massive potential benefits for the UK’s carbon footprint and, indeed, for individual domestic energy bills. More than a 2% reduction in CO2 emissions during winter is a significant improvement. I am sure that we in this House are all committed to meeting challenging environmental targets. That could be done, via this measure, at no cost.
I admit that Romsey and Southampton North is about as southern a constituency as there is, and I am convinced that we will have some interesting and enlightening contributions from some of the more northerly Members shortly. However, there are many options to consider: balancing the time change around the winter solstice; having a permanent change to British summer time, so that my constituents who remain concerned about the difficulties of having to change their clocks twice a year could avoid it; and the proposal advocated by Lighter Later, which would involve a move to GMT+1 and GMT+2. All those ideas are in the mix and are worthy of proper analysis.
If such a measure was good enough for a coalition Government during the second world war, it is good enough for a coalition Government to examine now.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on being successful in the ballot. I wish she had chosen something else but, nevertheless, she has perhaps chosen her specialist subject. As a result, some of us are here fielding or batting in the opposite direction.
I am happy once again to be debating the subject of changing the time when the clocks go back in the United Kingdom. I think this is the third time I have participated in such a debate since being elected in 2005. The matter seems to return to the House fairly regularly. As hon. Members may assume, I will not argue in favour of the change, which will have a disproportionate effect on my part of the world. That is not to say that I am resistant to change. I am happy for there to be a compromise. I would like the period of winter time to be changed from 21 weeks to perhaps 10 weeks. Rather than seven weeks before mid-winter and 14 weeks after mid-winter, there should be five weeks either side of mid-winter. That might be a compromise that we could live with.
Moving to central European time would be a mistake given our longitude. That fact is exacerbated by the latitude differences within the United Kingdom, which mean that the further north we travel, the shorter is the day in winter. There is a great argument for symmetry either side of the mid-winter day. I hope that we will try to change that. However, European directive 2000/84/EC seems to tie our hands to a time change on the last Sunday in October and the last Sunday in March. That directive seems to enshrine the asymmetry.
However, it is only a directive. Given the strength of feeling in this place about matters European, one would think that some Government Members, who are no longer in opposition, as they were when I last spoke about this, would realise that it is not a commandment, but a directive, and perhaps do something about it.
The Bill does not seek to move the daylight, as some would have us believe: in fact, it wants to move us, the people, into the night. I ask anybody watching, wherever in the UK they may be—I am sure that, as the hon. Member for Castle Point said, people will be riveted to the parliamentary channel—to imagine getting up an hour earlier today.
The hon. Gentleman and I have sparred over this issue for a number of years. I think that he inadvertently misleads the House, because in Glasgow, for example, sunset today takes place just six minutes after it does here in London. The statistics for his own constituency suggest that schoolchildren are going to school in the dark and returning home in the dark. The clock change would allow at least one of those journeys to be made in the light. Were this Bill to go through, his adult constituents would benefit from 160 more hours a year after work and children would benefit from 84 hours of daylight after school. That is a useful statistic for his constituents to be aware of.
If the hon. Gentleman’s argument is for one hour, why does he not extend that logic to two, three, four or eight hours? Perhaps we could have our daylight at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when we have all finished work so that we had more leisure time at the end of day. That would be the logical conclusion of his argument.
The crux of the matter is that people getting up an hour earlier face the darkness of the morning for another hour. As I make this argument for the third time, I sometimes feel that we are doing battle with the forces of darkness—I am looking directly across the Chamber at the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood). Some Members will imagine that I am participating in this debate merely to indulge in what is claimed to be the perennial Scottish ritual of opposing any changes to the clocks, but that is not true.
A similar idea was defeated in this House in 1970—this may help the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr Gale) —when the then Member for the Western Isles, the late Donald Stewart, started his Commons speaking career by opposing this very argument 40 years and a day ago, on 2 December 1970, when I was a mere babe in arms of five months. I was reminded of it by one of the Doorkeepers, Mr Robin Fell from the Serjeant at Arms office. He was working in the Commons at the time, and such is his impressive institutional memory that he remembered the debate. Donald Stewart said:
“Public opinion polls would indicate that there is a case for abolishing British Standard Time.”
He went on to say:
“Central European Time is really what we are discussing. It has little relevance to England and none at all to Scotland. It is pleasant to know that several hon. Members from English constituencies, some of them in the south, have indicated to me that they intend to vote for the abolition of British Standard Time.”—[Official Report, 2 December 1970; Vol. 807, c. 1346.]
I hope that, as a Conservative and Unionist, I will not do the hon. Gentleman’s credibility any damage if I agree with that point. Some Members from southern constituencies, although they may be not completely against changing the clocks, do at least have significant concerns about it.
I thank the hon. Gentleman. That is borne out in my next point. The result of the Division on 2 December 1970 was 366 to 81. The hon. Members for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) and for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell) were here, and they voted to abolish British standard time, so I imagine that today they would be on my side of the argument. I would have had 366 Members on my side and there would have been 81 on the other side. I cannot see 81 in front of me today, but I think that those who are most vexed by this proposal are here.
Dawn happens when dawn happens. Supporters of the Bill have painted a picture—
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman referred to the earlier debate. The fact is that we have had an experiment in this country, and we do not need another one. From reading the Hansard record of that debate, it is obvious that members of the public were writing in their droves to their MPs demanding that this awful experiment be stopped. The experiment failed, and we should move on.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. There are of course the interested parties—the busybodies, perhaps—but most people feel that this is just Westminster going through its contortions yet again. This is the third time that this has come before the House in five years, and people feel that it is not as serious as it might seem, or not as serious as it could be if the mistake is made.
The experiment has happened not only here but in Portugal, in the 1990s. Portugal’s dawn is about the same time as dawn here. Its daylight hours would have been longer, but people changed back, I presume because of the disbenefits in the morning. The experiment has happened not once, but twice, and people have changed back both times.
I am reluctant to go with the Portuguese example, but it happened because Portugal had extra benefits already, so that is not a strong argument. I do not think we should be discussing Portugal today, because the only thing that it has in common with England is that both lost the FIFA world cup bid. The hon. Gentleman said that he was happy to compromise and to move forward. All that this Bill is asking for is an analysis of cost benefits and a trial period. Surely, in the spirit of compromise that he mentions, he should support this measure.
The trial period is the dangerous part. A trial period of three years is quite a large percentage of somebody’s life. I would be happier if something could be done about the EU directive. Rather than plunge people in Scotland into misery, we could turn the other way, look south-east towards Belgium—towards Brussels and the EU—and move forward with greater security, but instead we will be shoehorned into this by interests in the south of England aligning with interests in the EU and plunging Scotland into darkness.
The hon. Gentleman says that he is representing his seat and Scotland by claiming that we are going to plunge them into misery. How does he square that with the three recent polls in Scotland in which people said they favoured this move, and with the fact that the farmers, who were the big opponents of this change, have now decided to embrace it because in many cases they have moved into the world of tourism?
I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to an Ipsos MORI poll on changing the clocks, which showed that 19% of people in Scotland were in favour and 28% of people in London were in favour. The average throughout the UK was 25%, so the polling evidence is not as conclusive as he suggests.
In all areas and at all times there is a difference of opinion. The reason many of them are not here is probably that they and their constituents do not think that this change will really happen—that it is just Westminster going through a debate. If constituents did think it was going to happen, we might indeed have 366 Members here to debate against 81. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that that is possible.
In 1968, the image that was often painted was one of slimmer people, the elderly feeling safer, more tourists, more money in our pockets and more lives being saved during the winter. Those arguments have not changed since the ’60s.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that something significant has changed since 1968, which is that we face catastrophic climate change and an energy crisis? This measure has the potential to take the equivalent of 172,000 cars off the roads. Does he not think that that alone merits at least a trial?
A number of things have indeed changed since the 1970s; of course, I have aged 40 years. The hon. Lady is incorrect in the assumptions that underlie her intervention. I will try to come to those matters later; if I do not, I will be happy to take another intervention.
The report to Cabinet spoke of a reduction in Scottish resistance to the idea, as we heard again today, save in the rural areas, which I come from, of course—the Outer Hebrides—but two and a half years later, on 2 December 1970, it was all change. When people had been through the experiment, in its third winter, it was resoundingly defeated in the Commons—let me reiterate—by 366 to 81.
Portugal, as we have mentioned, has dawn around the same time as us. Regardless of what the clock might say, the sun rises in Portugal at around the same time as it does in London—when I say us, I mean this House. Portugal changed back after its experiment in the 1990s, and the 1968 arguments seem to be based on today’s model of simulated modelling and supposition. When we have empirical examples, I feel that the arguments are not borne out at all.
That was the past and now we have a raft of statistics to add to this version of the time change argument. However, in my office we have taken some time to look at the statistics and we have compiled a number of arguments that apply to our situation. First, the arguments about potential increases to the tourism sector are based on several assumptions, most importantly that people here and abroad will choose to spend their disposable income on holidaying in the UK. Surely a bigger factor is temperature. After all, it is winter. If the argument about tourist numbers is so strong, why not move the clocks two, three or four hours, as I have said? Why not have dawn at 5 o’clock?
On the point about people wanting to barbecue, for example, at half 11 at night, it is quite possible to do that on the north coast in Northern Ireland. Not many people do, generally, because it is quite chilly at that time of night.
Once again, we have the voice of experience versus the voice of hope. Experience often triumphs over hope, I have to say. I worry that hon. Members who mention carbon savings in one breath are talking in the next breath about having a barbecue late at night. I wonder whether we have any data on the impact of the increased number of barbecues in Castle Point—or, indeed, in Ynys Môn.
The sleight of hand is that we are not moving the dawn about. We are actually moving ourselves by changing the clocks. Clocks, which started by measuring time, end up governing lives, and we are moving ourselves into the night. Such was the misery in the third winter that this House voted to end it with 366 votes. I would like to point out—I am looking at a couple of other highland Members—that even with the best will in the world we do not have 366 Members of Parliament from the Scottish highlands. Indeed, we do not have 366 Members of Parliament from the whole of Scotland. We therefore must conclude that the decision was made not on a Scottish basis, but on the basis of experience—and, I would say, grim experience—throughout the United Kingdom.
I have a letter here, and some people might think that it has come from Callanish in Lewis, from Castlebay in Barra, from Tobermory, from Isla or just from somewhere else in Scotland, but—no—it comes from Chester. It says,
“Dear Angus MacNeil,
I listened to you on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth’ on Wednesday.
Please do all you can to defeat the moves to bring in year round summer time. In 1968-71 I was a schoolchild and we detested it”—
the word “detested” is underlined—
“It was pitch black when going to school. (You may quote me on this detestation).”
I hope, Mr Roger Croston, that I have done you justice in doing that—[Interruption.] I was expecting an intervention. Any sound I hear, I expect an intervention.
On sporting issues, the same tourism study concluded that more people would go out if it was lighter later, but it also showed that the number of people participating in athletics was fairly constant during the year. The athletics events in which numbers fell were those that took place outside, such as sailing, which is also very temperature dependent.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although people who participate in competitive sport are probably fairly consistent in their participation, it is those with the “jumpers for goalposts” mentality—the people who take part in spontaneous sport—who will greatly benefit from lighter evenings?
I am tempted to say that perhaps people should get up an hour earlier if they are that motivated. Let us assume for a second that the hon. Gentleman has an argument and that he is right—why not go for the compromise of five weeks either side? Without inconveniencing people in Scotland and perhaps in other areas, such as Chester, we could reduce the “winter” period by 10 weeks. That would help us on to a more secure stepping stone than the present suggestion.
Although I would support that move, does the hon. Gentleman not realise that one reason it would be resisted by other members of the European Union is that France, Spain and the Benelux countries are in the wrong time zone and could not tolerate the dark mornings being extended further back?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He makes a point that I perhaps have not fully thought about, but it is worth putting on the record.
I have a serious problem with the proposition that lighter evenings will automatically increase the tourism money coming in to the various isles and decrease obesity—that is, that if it is lighter outside, people might want to get up and go out and exercise. There are various other reasons for doing that, however.
On the environmental aspects of changing the clocks, I have a problem with the arguments that changing the clocks will foster a decrease in energy use. We have not been able to find any domestic studies that use empirical data, but we have found studies from the United States that recorded the use of energy during daylight saving time. In 2008, a study was conducted in the state of Indiana. Indiana has 6.4 million inhabitants and, geographically, it is probably approximately the same size as the UK. Its GDP is comparable with that of this country. Indiana is interesting for this argument because certain counties were able to use daylight saving time whereas others were not.
The study found that household costs and energy consumption increased owing to people heating their homes in the colder winter mornings, doubtless wanting to rise to a warmer home to counter the feeling of darkness and gloom outside. The empirical data from Indiana say something different from the data we are hearing.
The hon. Gentleman cites many trials and much evidence in his speech, and he clearly feels passionate about this. By not voting for this Bill, however, is he not denying the one thing that really matters, which is for this provision to be tested in the United Kingdom for the people of the United Kingdom?
If we could conduct a trial without going through the inevitable misery and changing back, I would agree. I am tempted to suggest that the hon. Gentleman conduct his own personal trial this winter and get up an hour earlier. He could come back to me in the spring and tell me how the experience went. I could see him in the autumn again and see whether he wanted to go through the trial once more. I wager that he would not, but I shall leave that suggestion as it is.
Darker mornings will mean sunrise at 10 am for many people. Indeed, London’s sunrise will be at a quarter to 9. Let us consider some of the sunrise times in the UK this morning, starting in Scotland. In Aberdeen, sunrise was 8.26 am, with a length of day of seven hours and five minutes. In Edinburgh, it was 8.22 am, with a length of day of seven hours and 20 minutes. In London, it was 7.46 am, with a length of day of eight hours and seven minutes—almost an hour more daylight than in Aberdeen, due to the effect of latitude. That would leave London with sunrise at a quarter to 9. Let me draw attention to the west coast of Scotland. Stornoway had sunrise at 10 to 9 today, which would of course become 10 to 10. Tobermory, which some people might think is quite close to Stornoway, has a difference of 13 minutes in its sunrise, which is 13 minutes earlier, and sunset is nine minutes later.
The hon. Lady leads me nicely on to the next part of my speech. In this, I am not only a Scottish nationalist—I feel the mantle of English nationalism, too. I care for the good people of England and I care that for two months of the year, in the area north of Manchester, they would not see sunrise before 9 o’clock in the morning. Somebody has to speak up for the good people of England and I am happy to do that, come what may.
I should hate to leave the hon. Gentleman with that burden unaided. Do his constituents, like mine, have the experience of seeing many children waiting at the roadside for school transport? Some are dropped by taxis from more remote locations and left to wait for the school bus. One of people’s real concerns is that if the clocks were changed, that would have to be done in the dark on many more occasions.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very good point. That is also one of my concerns, but I should like to see a compromise. I wish that others would meet me halfway, rather than railroading us into a situation that we would not enjoy.
Let me return to the issue of Indiana for a moment. The Indiana experiment showed that people spent an additional £5.5 million on energy—
One thing that I am certainly not trying to do, Mr Deputy Speaker, is talk the Bill out. That is not a parliamentary tactic of which I approve. However, some may think my speech long-winded, and I apologise for that. At your instigation, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall try to proceed a wee bit more quickly.
Safety is an important aspect of this issue, but data relating to the saving of lives are often based on projection. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), changes were made in the 1960s. We know that the most dangerous hours of the day are 8 am and 3 pm. The Bill would send 8 am further back into the darkness, although 3 pm would probably not be affected, as it is always light at that time.
Is it not time that we scotched the myth about the rate of road accidents in Scotland during the experiment? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the overall reduction in the number of fatalities and serious injuries was 11% in England and Wales and 17% in Scotland—a significantly higher proportion? A very small increase in the north of Scotland was massively outweighed by the overall decrease in the mornings throughout Scotland.
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan—the new Madame Ecosse—the statistic was greatly affected by the introduction of seat belts, speed limits and drink-driving laws. Let us, however, consider the difference between accident rates in Berlin and Paris, which are in the same time zone although, as one is further west, it presumably has lighter evenings. The accident rates in Paris and Berlin are 31.8 and 14 per million of population respectively, which shows that there are not necessarily fewer accidents where there are lighter evenings. When we compare the rate in Paris with that in London—[Interruption.] Members may not like it, but these are the data. The accident rate in Paris, with its lighter evenings, is 31.8 per million, whereas in London it is 23.9 per million. The evidence is certainly not conclusive; it should be balanced with other evidence.
When it comes to accident statistics, the only evidence that matters is the differential between what happens in the darker mornings and the lighter afternoons. All the hon. Gentleman’s arguments point in one direction: the Government should conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis. Every point that he has made demonstrates that there are genuine concerns in parts of the country, and that is precisely why we should put the argument to bed once and for all—unless, as I suspect, the hon. Gentleman rather welcomes this annual discussion.
I am sorry to keep the hon. Gentleman away from the flight home to Barra, but he is right about the accident statistics. The experiment lasted from 1968 until 1971. I have the official Department for Transport figures relating to deaths on the roads in Great Britain. There was indeed a substantial fall between 1967 and 1968, but, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, that was due to the introduction of the breathalyser. If the clock change had been responsible for a reduction in the number of deaths, there would have been substantial increases after the experiment finished, but that did not happen.
The hon. Gentleman has neatly completed a picture of which we had probably been given only half. The other half is very interesting.
I agree with the hon. Member for Castle Point about the need for an analysis. I have given facts relating to Paris, Berlin and London. However, I do not want any analysis that would involve changing our clocks and making us undergo three years of misery before the clocks were inevitably changed back again. It seems that once the memory of 40 years ago has dimmed, a new generation must learn painfully and slowly over three miserable winters that this is the wrong thing to do.
I am trying to proceed with my speech reasonably quickly, Mr Deputy Speaker.
According to a 2005 survey by Ipsos MORI, Scots are in favour of lighter evenings. That is true: we are in favour of lighter evenings. However, only 19% of Scots who were polled want the clocks to move back permanently. Of course, some people might be in favour of Christmas every week, but they realise that that cannot happen. Similarly, we might want lighter evenings, but we know that the earth tilts. We know that we will have cold and frost.
I have been enjoying the hon. Gentleman’s speech enormously. I think that he has identified the nub of the problem, which is simply that there is not enough daylight in the winter, and there is remarkably little that Government—or even a sovereign Parliament—can do about it.
I welcome that sensible point from a new Member whom I admire enormously. I want to put on record the fact that I have really enjoyed his contributions. I think that I detected some agitation among Labour Members when I paid the hon. Gentleman that compliment! As I was saying, people might be in favour of x, y or z, but they know exactly how things pan out in reality.
The National Farmers Union of Scotland has discussed the issue. Incidentally, when Donald Stewart spoke about the issue, he said that he presumed “NFU” to refer to the National Farmers Union of England and Wales—which, for some reason, does not brand itself properly—rather than the National Farmers Union of Scotland. Anyway, if we are to believe newspaper reports, it seems that every farmer in Scotland is in favour of change. One newspaper stated:
“Scott Walker, NFU Scotland policy director, said today that the organisation had softened its stance towards the move, which would see clocks shunted forward by an hour throughout the year while retaining the changing of clocks forward in March and back in October.
‘If people can put a good argument forward to us as to why there should be change, we’re not going to be the ones who stand in the way of that change, if it’s for everyone else’s benefit’”.
That is not a resounding “yes” to change; it is only a “yes” to listening. I, too, am willing to listen, but I ask those on the other side not to indulge in a kamikaze leap—
The hon. Gentleman is manfully presenting arguments against what seem to be manifestly sensible reasons for moving the times of day. May I put to him an argument that has not been put so far? The unofficial opposition to the Bill appears to have been mobilised by Mr Peter Hitchens. Is that not the clincher in favour of a successful passage for the Bill, or does the hon. Gentleman wish to find himself in alliance with Mr Hitchens?
I am not very familiar with Mr Peter Hitchens. I believe that he writes in The Times or the Daily Express, or perhaps the Daily Mail. I have heard that Mr Peter Hitchens is involved, but I have had no contact with Mr Peter Hitchens, either positive or negative. Perhaps the word “kamikaze” could be attached to Mr Peter Hitchens; I have no idea. However, if Mr Peter Hitchens is on my side, I welcome that. What an eminently sensible man Mr Peter Hitchens must be. [Interruption.] I have just been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan that I did not want to say that. Hansard, strike it from the record! [Laughter.] It seems that Mr Peter Hitchens has been a torpedo to my argument, whoever he is.
I have raised all those issues in order to challenge data that have been used to suggest that opposition to this idea has all but evaporated. It has not evaporated. Eminently sensible members of all parties—and, it would seem, eminently sensible scribes in certain newspapers—are backing the argument against this move.
The Bill offers an even-handed new approach, save one part. It has much merit therefore, and the hon. Member for Castle Point has conducted herself very well in making her arguments, and I have enjoyed engaging in discussion with her. Changing the clocks will definitely advantage the south of England, while sunrise in Manchester and areas north of there will be after 9 o’clock for two months of the year. I was therefore surprised to note that there is no geographical requirement regarding the membership of the commission that will implement the change in the clocks. I hope—indeed, I am sure—the Bill will not pass, but under its provisions the commission’s membership would be selected by the Business Secretary, and we could have a commission comprising 12 people from London, Dover or Blackpool, for instance.
There is also no provision in respect of the Scottish Government or Parliament, and I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr Gale) arguing for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. I say to him, “Join me, brother, and let us have all powers pertaining to Scotland moved from here to Holyrood”, which is the rightful place and the most democratic forum in which to discuss Scottish matters. The hon. Gentleman might be coming my way a little bit. I welcome that and hope that he will move further in my direction.
I do not want to go too far off-piste, but I happen to be in favour of four national Parliaments and a United Kingdom Senate. The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) has not yet mentioned whether this matter has been discussed in the Scottish Parliament, and whether the issue of time zones has been considered.
I understand that it has not been debated in the Scottish Parliament, because they think this is one of the normal Westminster convulsions that happen from time to time. I am not sure whether people there are taking what is happening in Westminster particularly seriously. That might surprise people in Westminster of course, but for many people Westminster is not the most serious Parliament in Scotland. There is another, which deals with health, education and many other matters: the Scottish Parliament.
There is no provision to ensure that the Government or Parliament of Scotland—or, indeed, the Governments of Wales or Northern Ireland—are asked to agree, or are even consulted, on these potential moves, which would make Scottish mornings colder and more dangerous, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan has described very well.
I realise that I have been speaking for about half an hour. I am not here just to rant against the data. I have tried to provide reasoned argument. I am not here to talk the Bill out either; I would not do that. I am not here for purely selfish Hebridean reasons. I am here for Scottish reasons, and for English reasons as well. I understand more than most the effect of darker mornings. As the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) said, when this Bill is foisted on the rest of the UK, other people will understand that too. I would propose changing the clocks for five weeks either side of the middle of winter, thereby maximising the light in the darkest part of the year.
I understand fully that the hon. Gentleman is making these arguments because of where he comes from. If I came from that constituency I might make the same arguments. However, if the Scottish Parliament were to debate the matter and the outcome of the vote was that we should keep things as they are, would he want the Scottish Parliament to put in place separate time zones in the UK?
I feel the hon. Gentleman is coming on to good territory in that he seems to want to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament. It is a welcome move: come with me, brother, we are heading in the right direction.
The situation is confusing. Why is there this asymmetrical period of winter change of seven weeks before mid-winter and 14 weeks after? I have never received a reasonable explanation for that. If we could have one, or if we could deal with the European directive I mentioned earlier, we might be able to make some progress.
I have enjoyed making this contribution, and the numerous interventions.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), and I will address some of the points that he made later.
The principal argument for considering changing the clocks is simple: it is about how we can best align our lives to maximise the benefits of daylight. The idea is not new, of course, but the circumstances in which we are debating the matter are new. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on selecting this subject for her private Member’s Bill and on outlining how the pace of change in our modern busy world makes things different from when the subject was last considered. The second key point is that there is new evidence to support the clock change. Thirdly, the public are more educated in their views than ever before, and that is the case across the country, from Bournemouth all the way up to the constituency that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken represents. That is reflected in the diverse range of constituencies represented by the Members who are attending this debate. The hon. Gentleman said there were an awful lot of voices against this move in Scotland. I am sorry his hon. Friends were not able to find the time to join him and present themselves and their arguments today.
I first came across this issue when I was shadow tourism Minister. I looked at it without prejudice or passion, and it became clear that it is very important for the tourism industry—I say that just as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) departs. The Tourism Alliance has done a lot of work on this. However, I stepped away from the specific issue of tourism and thought about how it might benefit or damage the whole of the country.
It is clear that there would be huge benefits in many corners of our lives. I studied the change’s potential impacts on British society as a whole and why the last experiment was unsuccessful. It is clear that Britain is in a different place today. Our lifestyles, technologies, industries and priorities have fundamentally changed since the last experiment. Most people rise after sunrise and stay awake long after sunset, wasting one of the few things in life that are free: daylight. Essentially, this subject is about how we align our lives with the movement of the sun across the heavens.
I believe my hon. Friend’s constituency contains a community of orthodox Jewish people, as does mine in Hendon. Would he like to speak about how the proposed changes would affect them, particularly in the winter, but also in the summer when their days of prayer are dictated and determined by sunrise and sunset?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. There are many groups, such as the one he has just mentioned, who have concerns in respect of various aspects of life, and those matters need to be weighed up in deciding on the bigger picture of whether this change is worth making. The whole purpose of having this debate and allowing the discussion to progress and the Government to take an interest, is to balance out the various arguments and see whether the change is in the interests of Britain as a whole.
The idea is not new. It is not only various hon. Members of the past who have brought it forward. The Romans adapted their way of life to when the sun was in the sky, using water clocks with various weights to make sure they were up when the sun rose and went to bed when it set. When Benjamin Franklin was ambassador to Paris, he commented on the fact that most Parisians did not get up until midday. He then realised—this is a capitalist viewpoint—that more revenue could be made by putting extra taxes on candles, because they were needed in the evening. He was also encouraging people to take advantage of the free sunlight, however, and he came up with the saying, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
The advent of our railway system moved us on from local timings in towns and villages, as we now had to synchronise time across the entire country. This was measured at the Greenwich observatory, and gave rise to the now familiar Greenwich mean time. Greenwich was referenced as zero degrees longitude and 24 time zones were created around the globe, each covering exactly 50 degrees longitude, but as has been pointed out, not everybody adheres to that. Spain is in alignment with the UK, but it chooses to operate on continental time.
I hope my hon. Friend will pay tribute in his brief history of the daylight savings movement to Mr William Willett of my constituency of Orpington, who was among the very first to bring this idea to the centre of national debate. Back in 1907, the sight of drawn blinds in the homes of Petts Wood, a ward in my constituency, where he saw residents sleeping as the town basked in sunlight, persuaded him to write his highly influential pamphlet, “The Waste of Daylight”, in which he argued forcefully for the changes that were introduced just a few weeks after his death in 1915, during the first world war. I hope my hon. Friend will commend his hard work in bringing this debate into our national life.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for paying tribute to his former constituent. It is also worth mentioning Robert Pearce, MP, who was a friend of Mr Willett, and who then took this idea on. Mr Willett was a keen golfer and he was horrified that the golf courses he used closed down when it got dark. He wanted them to stay open. That was the initial thought that put the idea into his head of taking advantage, from a leisure perspective, of the evening sunlight. So we should thank Robert Pearce for first bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
I wish to bury some of the myths and some of the headlines that we see in some of the press. We are not putting anywhere into the dark; we are not getting rid of any sunshine in any form. We are transferring light from one part of the day to another—from the morning to the evening. We are saying that, on balance, it is more useful to have that light in the evening than in the morning. Some extreme cases have been mentioned, but for much of the year—nine months of the year—we sleep through this asset. When we awake the sun has been out for an hour or more. If we suppose that an average working day ends at 5.30 pm, a clock change would result in about 300 extra hours of daylight a year in London. The figure for Glasgow would be 175 hours and the one for Shetland, at the very north of the UK, would be 160 hours. That change would be life-changing and would have an impact on everybody. It is useful to have that extra daylight at the end of the evening to do whatever one wants to do.
The crucial thing is: will we save lives by changing the hours at which daylight starts and daylight ends? We should check that and the only way we can do so is to give this a trial, 40 years on from the previous one. If we save one life by changing our clocks, it is worth it.
My hon. Friend makes one of the most powerful points for this argument, and it cannot be refuted by any Member or any person in any part of the country. Lives will be saved, as they have been proven to have been saved, through the clock change. Let me further the argument on how our lives will change. Schoolchildren would also benefit if we transferred that hour of light from the morning to the afternoon. In London, they would benefit from 233 hours of available extra daylight between 4.30 pm and either sunset or bedtime taken at 8.30 pm. That is 233 hours when activity could take place, after-school events could happen and, as my hon. Friend just mentioned, people could travel far more safely than they are able to do when it is dark.
Those arguments are also why Help the Aged says that it wants this change. At the moment, darkness acts as a guillotine on when the elderly are out; as soon as it gets dark, they lock the doors and close up shop. They are denied the opportunity to spend time in the town centre doing recreational activities or working in the garden—darkness comes and that is it.
We had an experiment in the 1960s and there was no clear outcome in the studies of the road accident statistics. The Home Secretary of the day, Reginald Maudling, said:
“The figures are not clear enough to base a decision upon.” —[Official Report, 2 December 1970; Vol. 807, c. 1335.]
So we have had the experiment and no clear figures emerged, because of other factors, such as breathalysers, seat belts and so on. Another experiment would simply result in the same unclear figure.
Let us just focus on that debate for a moment. Reginald Maudling did make those comments, but he also read out some statistics that showed that the number of deaths and injuries decreased during the period of the trial. What actually happened, as has been confirmed by colleagues who are now in another place, is that the farming industry—that powerful lobby—pressurised many Conservative MPs by saying, “If you want those precious poster sites in our fields for the general election, you must vote against this.” That is one of the reasons why many chose to follow their heart rather than their head and said, “ We should oppose this motion.” The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, which is why we are calling for more information. We are encouraging the Government to examine the matter more closely, leading up to a trial.
I think I will gloss over that and move straight on to some of the other areas that have been mentioned.
The roads issue is important. There were 1,120 fewer deaths and injuries during that trial period. That is an important piece of evidence. I say to the hon. Gentleman that it is also important to Scotland, because there is a 27% higher risk of an accident in Scotland; more people walk than use cars and so on, so there is a greater likelihood of people being in danger, particularly children. As I said in an intervention, the Cambridge study said that had the experiment continued, more than 3,500 people who died during that period would be alive today.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that he is simply displacing the problem from one end of the day to the other? Children are affected not only by light and dark, but by hot and cold. We have to examine the whole aspect of the climate, not just one isolated bit of it.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on the method and the style with which she is putting her arguments forward. It is very important that we have a full debate on these matters. When children go to school in the morning the people using the roads are normally going to a destination with which they are familiar; they are either going to work or to school, and they have used these roads before. So even when they are doing so in the dark, they are making a safer journey than those they make in the afternoons and evenings, when our world gets far busier and far more complex. That is when the accidents happen. The hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) shakes her head, but she cannot refute the current statistics, which show that three times as many accidents happen in the evening rush hour as in the morning rush hour. That is a powerful argument.
I wrote to Translink, the main public transport provider in Northern Ireland, in relation to this debate and it took the contrary view. Translink said that if it were darker in the mornings, when the rush hour is much more concentrated in Northern Ireland, that could lead to more accidents than if it were darker in the afternoon, when the rush hour is more staggered. The hon. Gentleman can talk about his evidence, but other professionals in the field see things slightly differently.
I looked carefully at the statistics for Northern Ireland, because it is important to include all parts of the United Kingdom, but I am afraid that I did not recognise those statistics that the hon. Lady cited. I would be happy to speak to her about them after this debate. It is important that we get these issues right. A lot of statistics have been thrown around today and were the Government to push this proposal forward, it would be important for them to carry out their own study and present that to Parliament.
A reduction in crime has also been mentioned in relation to this proposal. The Home Office British crime survey has indicated that a clock change would lead to a 3% reduction in vandalism and petty theft. The right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) raised the health and well-being issue, and people are happier and more energetic in the longer and brighter days. Conversely, our mood and spirit declines, and sickness rates increase, during the shorter, duller days. On average, we enjoy about four hours’ spare time a day—that is time when we are not working, travelling to work or sleeping—yet three of those hours are experienced after sunset. That suggests that we are not aligning our lives properly. There is also a 60% increase in the level of television watching when it gets dark, so there is strong evidence to support a clock change. I can see that you are looking at me, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I just wish to touch on some other issues.
I will not give way for now and I shall make some more progress, because Mr Deputy Speaker is giving me that look. Obesity—this has nothing to do with looking back at Mr Deputy Speaker—is an issue with which we need to be concerned in the UK. About 25% of the nation are now clinically obese, which is costing the NHS about £2.3 billion a year. Some 50% of the population in Scotland are predicted to be obese by 2050 unless something changes, such as our providing a greater period in which outdoor activities can take place after school and after work.
The tourism argument has been well made, but I just put on the record the fact that I support the call by the Tourism Alliance for a clock change. The arguments about CO2 emissions have also been put forward; in those terms, the clock change would result in the equivalent of more than 200,000 cars being taken off our roads. That is a major issue and I am pleased that the concept behind the Bill is receiving the support of the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point, which is is worth expanding on. All fuel bills would go down by about 5%, and as fuel poverty is a concern, that is a relevant issue. We need to recognise that we are an importer of electricity. When there is a spike in demand, either we have to buy it in from places such as France or our easy-to-start-up coal-fired power stations come on line. They are dirty and they increase our carbon dioxide emissions. By reducing our net requirement by about 2.2%, we would remove the need to resort to those nasty, dirty coal-fired power stations.
The hon. Gentleman is quoting evidence very convincingly, so I shall quote some evidence:
“National Grid has also recognised that if the UK is on the same time as France, a loss of capacity or severe weather”
would push up energy prices here because we would be competing with France for our needs at the same time.
I am grateful for that clarification.
A time change would bring huge benefits for business and overseas trade. As part of my work as the shadow Tourism Minister I spent some time in Scotland and it was interesting to meet Scottish business people, who were very keen to have an alignment of timing. Currently, 62% of our exports and 50% of imports are within Europe. When we go to work, the Europeans have already been at work for an hour, we break for lunch at different times so two hours are lost there and then we lose another hour in the evening. Four hours a day are lost because of the failure to align our times.
One might say that that is where the idea of Berlin time came from. Let me say a word about Mr Peter Hitchens.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. He has been a passionate supporter of a clock change for some time.
But let us get back to Peter Hitchens. He is one of the few voices that are against the daylight saving, but I believe that he now acts as a drag anchor against that great British newspaper the Sunday mail—[Interruption.] —I am sorry; The Mail on Sunday. He is anti-change; he is anti-technology, so he abhors the idea of moving the clocks. That is slightly odd. Because he does not like inventions and technology, one would have thought that using the light bulb less might appeal to him, but he does not put that argument forward. He would rather put forward a wartime rhetoric with references to Berlin time to foster prejudice against the Bill.
“Why Berlin time?” it has been asked. “Why not Gibraltar time, Madrid time, Paris time or Rome time?” Clearly, those descriptions would not conjure up the same worrying image as the UK crumbling to the mighty powers of Berlin after the sacrifices that we made in two world wars. I say to him, “Peter, you are potty. Clearly, you are a very, very angry man and stuck in the past. You are a cross between Alf Garnett and Victor Meldrew but without the jokes.” He is a restless regressive: the King Canute of politics, fighting the tide of change. He will never lose sight of the past because he has chosen to walk backwards into the future. This is nothing to do with Berlin or wartime images. The only connection with the war is the fact that we first adopted a time change during the war because it was useful. [Hon. Members: “Churchill time!”] Yes, that is what we will call it—not Berlin time but Churchill time!
To summarise, moving the clocks forward would provide the entire country with about 200 hours of extra daylight in the evenings—after a normal working day for adults and after the end of school for children. That would change our lives. It is hard to imagine a more simple, cost-effective piece of legislation that would more dramatically change our way of life for the better. Sunshine brightens our day, our lives and our spirits; it makes our world happier. We should utilise this valuable resource to coincide with the period of the day in which our modern world is at its busiest and most dangerous. Carpe diem, Mr Deputy Speaker; let us seize the day.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on proposing the Bill and refusing to be discouraged by the failure of previous attempts in the House to introduce daylight saving time. I am extremely glad that she has proposed the Bill, because the urgency of the problems of climate change and fuel poverty means that the arguments for bringing the nation’s clocks into closer alignment with the hours of daylight are stronger than ever. Moving our clocks forward by an extra hour throughout the year would bring a range of benefits, as we have heard, but I would like to draw particular attention, again, to the substantial reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions that would result from the simple and effective measures in the Bill.
Daylight saving time would cut consumption, particularly of domestic fuel, in a number of ways. First, it would lower the demand for electricity for lighting, Secondly, it would smooth out fluctuations in demand, particularly in the two daily peaks in the morning and in the afternoon, which reduce the efficiency of power generation. Thirdly, because there would be higher temperatures during the evening period of peak demand in the colder months of the year, there would be a lower demand for domestic heating.
The hon. Lady is, as we would expect, making an argument based on the effect of a time change on carbon emissions. If evidence was to appear—empirical evidence rather than projections—from Indiana, for example, that it would cost more, would she change her mind?
If it were to be proved that such a change would make carbon emissions worse, I would reconsider my position, but I think that is highly unlikely to happen. The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about empirical evidence, but the only way for us to get relevant empirical evidence is to pass this Bill now and have the cost-benefit trials that we are talking about.
Surely, if we passed the Bill, we would be more active at the coldest hour of the day—the hour before dawn—and would therefore use more fuel for heating at that time. The Building Research Establishment investigated this and found that there would be an increase in domestic heating if the Bill were passed.
That was an early intervention in my speech, and if the hon. Gentleman listens to the next bit, some of these questions will be answered, because I do not agree with his point.
On reducing demand for artificial lighting, about 13% of domestic electricity consumption and about 30% of electricity consumed by commercial and public buildings currently goes on lighting. An extra hour of evening daylight would reduce the need for domestic lighting as people arrived home from school or work. Recent research by the Policy Studies Institute shows that the effect of the proposed clock change would be to lower demand for domestic lighting by as much as 9%. In other words, the Bill would lead to household savings of nearly £180 million per year on electricity bills alone. A common argument—I expect this will be made, so I will pre-empt it—against daylight saving time is that any drop in demand for evening lighting will be cancelled by the need for extra lighting on darker mornings. That may be true during the winter months, when the days are shorter, but the Bill proposes an adjustment of clock time throughout the year, which means less need for artificial lighting in the evenings all year round.
Regarding commercial demand for evening lighting, it is more difficult to quantify the potential savings for offices, workplaces and public buildings, as patterns of lighting often vary widely from sector to sector, but again, the studies indicate that overall demand from commercial customers is also likely to be lower. That aspect must be subject to detailed research during the initial trial period proposed in the Bill, as it offers the greatest potential for a nationwide reduction in domestic carbon emissions.
My second point is closely related to the first. Daylight saving will cut carbon emissions from power generation because it will even out the daily peaks in demand for electricity. For power companies, the late afternoon peak period determines the maximum number of power stations that are required to be on stream to match consumer demand. Currently, the extra capacity required for that short period of peak demand comes from inefficient and carbon-intensive sources such as oil-fired stations and pump storage facilities or, as has been said, by imports from France, which can be an expensive alternative.
The introduction of daylight saving would reduce peak demand for electricity on winter evenings. During that famous 1968-71 experiment with retaining British summer time throughout the year, the evening peak was reduced by 3%. Research carried out by the university of Cambridge calculates that lighter evenings now would reduce peak demand by up to 4.3%. The electricity industry also acknowledges that a reduction in evening peak demand would reduce carbon emissions by avoiding the need to keep inefficient and polluting spare generating capacity on stream.
The university of Cambridge study calculated that a move to daylight saving would mean a drop in CO2 emissions from power stations, across the UK as a whole, of about 450,000 tonnes a year. That is the equivalent of taking off the roads about 200,000 cars. There would also be a significant reduction in power companies’ generating costs, both for resources and for the transmission and distribution infrastructure.
In addition to reducing demand for lighting, daylight saving also offers potential for reducing fuel costs and carbon emissions from heating. Domestic demand for heating is highest from November to February. The PSI study found that whereas there is little variation in average temperatures between 6 am and 8 am, when most people leave the house, temperatures tend to fall much more quickly in the late afternoon, around sunset, when people are arriving home from work or school.
Since the introduction of daylight saving will mean that it gets colder later, it is possible that households will be able to save money on their heating bills, while shrinking their carbon footprint. A small increase in fuel use for heating in offices and commercial and public buildings may be likely because of the earlier start to the day, but the resulting carbon emissions will be offset by reductions in domestic fuel use, so overall there is a clear reduction in carbon emissions.
Does the hon. Lady acknowledge that the fact that the temperature does not change much between 6 am and 8 am is because that is the coldest time of the day, and that is exactly the time when the cost of heating to compensate for the cold is at its highest, and that the energy consumption required at that time would be much higher under the changed rules than it is at present?
No, I do not accept that, and I do not think that it is what the evidence suggests. One of the points that the right hon. Gentleman is making has more to do with the way in which we generate energy now and our spare capacity, rather than being a fundamental point to do with changing to daylight saving hours.
In all of the three areas that I have discussed—reducing demand for lighting, efficient management of peaks in demand, and reduced demand for heating—the greatest potential savings lie in household energy use. For this reason, I believe the Bill offers an easy and inexpensive means of combating fuel poverty. Many of us have constituents, often elderly ones, who struggle to pay their electricity bills and their heating bills. In Brighton and Hove, for example, more than 20,000 households, many of whom are my constituents, have been identified as fuel-poor—in other words, forced to spend over 10% of their income on energy bills.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the Bill will allow any of us to relax our efforts to eradicate fuel poverty, or to ignore our duty to take meaningful action on cutting carbon emissions. But the beauty of the Bill is that the action that it requires is simple, while the benefits that it will bring are profound.
I hear the hon. Lady making an argument about what could/will/should/may happen. Can she point to an empirical example? I pointed to Indiana, where there was an increase in energy consumption of 1 to 4% and presumably, therefore, an increase in carbon, methane and so on. Where is the empirical study that she is talking about?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be obsessed with Indiana. There may well be other reasons why the results in Indiana were shown to be what they were. As many people have said, we need to look at what the results would be in the United Kingdom. There is one way to find that out, which is to allow the Bill to progress to the next stage so we can establish that.
I share the hon. Lady’s concerns about carbon emissions. It is important that we take that into account. I also share the concerns about fuel poverty. However, my fundamental concern is that pre-dawn temperatures are so much lower than temperatures towards the daylight hours that people will spend much more on fossil fuel heating for their homes, rather than going out at a slightly less cold time of day. They will have to use heating and lighting in far greater quantities in the middle of the night.
We can trade statistics across the Floor of the House for a great many hours and not become very much the wiser. The points that the hon. Lady makes are serious ones, but the way to explore the matter further is precisely to allow the passage of the Bill and to have the cost-benefit analysis that it proposes.
Perhaps I have misled the hon. Lady!
Why reinvent the wheel? Why not look to other parts of the world where the change has taken place and avoid three years of misery and the inevitable change that the UK and Portugal have experienced before? I say to the good people of England and Scotland, let us make sure that we learn from elsewhere before we go through such misery, because, I must regretfully tell the hon. Lady, the evidence from elsewhere does not support the supposition and conjecture at all.
I thank the hon. Gentleman, who just reminds me never to trust him again! My giving way was an aberration, and it will not happen again.
I return to the point that any impact analysis of the Bill’s proposed changes has to take place in the country and nations under discussion, not in another place with completely different variables that we cannot analyse or factor into our equations.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. Yes, indeed, there is plenty of empirical evidence to support our argument. As I say, however, the most important thing is to move the Bill forward so that, with the same figures on everybody’s laps, we can have that debate and make the same analysis.
In closing, I reiterate what others have said about how the Bill will also benefit tourism in the UK. My constituency owes a great deal of its prosperity to tourism, with about £690 million entering the Brighton and Hove economy last year. In the wider south-east region, the sector employs more than 300,000 people, about 8% of the work force. The Bill enjoys broad and enthusiastic support from all sections of the tourism industry, and it is estimated that moving to daylight saving will boost tourism throughout the UK by about £3.5 billion and create 80,000 jobs.
That is just one more argument to add to the many that we have heard today about why, at the very least, the Bill should progress to the next stage of its passage through Parliament. The issue should be analysed properly. I think the cost-benefit analysis will demonstrate that the trial should go ahead, and as a result all of us will have a much better quality of life.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on the Bill, which I am happy to support, and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on her helpful remarks. I agree that the Bill is about scrutiny and debate as much as anything else, and I find it extraordinary that anybody would want to deny us the opportunity to have the issue sorted once and for all.
I have a long memory, and as colleagues have said we seem to go round and round on the issue. Every so often, it crops up again, we have a debate, it goes away because it is never properly decided on, and then it comes back again. I recall Sir John Butterfill in 1996 introducing just such a Bill.
The hon. Gentleman knows, however, that the problem with a private Member’s Bill is that it has to get over certain hurdles on a Friday, and that depends on how helpful people want to be. Such issues do not receive the proper scrutiny that they deserve unless we bring everybody’s concerns to the table and consider them in the round.
Sir John Butterfill, as Members said earlier, also attempted to introduce a private Member’s Bill back in 1996, and that is when I first became involved with the issue, working with him on his legislation. His measure was called “daylight extra”; the one before us is called “daylight saving”.
We have heard from the lighter evenings campaign, and Later Lighter—or rather, Lighter Later—has also commented.
I think that the measure should be called “Churchill time”, as my hon. Friend so cleverly suggested today. She represents an urban constituency and I represent a rural constituency, and historically farmers have been against such a shift, but I have talked to the NFU, and it is at worst neutral on the issue, so does my hon. Friend agree that the world has changed significantly since it was last debated? Farming in Devizes has diversified; we have a huge tourism industry, and I have had nothing but very strong support for the measure, call it what we will.
I thank my hon. Friend for that point. I was pleased to have a small role in suggesting the good title of “Churchill’s time”, which would be helpful to us patriots who get rather annoyed when people suggest that we are being pushed into this move by an EU directive or that we are going back to Berlin time.
It was Churchill who recognised that by going on to summer time, we would get more out of our factories and generally be more productive. That is why it was so useful during the war effort.
I introduced this matter as a member of the London assembly, because for Londoners, it is a no-brainer, although I appreciate that other regions have concerns and that not every region will think the same way. I was delighted to have full support from all parties on the London assembly. That was the one occasion when I found myself in complete agreement with the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. It was a very happy, if unusual, occasion.
I was contacted before this debate by many of my constituents, urging me to speak in favour of the measure. We must remember that we are talking about a period of scrutiny and a trial, and are not prescribing what will come out at the end. This is an opportunity for everybody to put the facts on the table so that we can sort the matter out once and for all.
Even in the mid-1990s, when I was doing the legwork for Sir John Butterfill’s Bill, I was aware that some of the old Scottish objections had less resonance. We have moved even further beyond that now.
I, too, was very much involved in that Bill. I took part in “On the Record”, which had a live studio audience and a phone-in. At the beginning, the vote was two to one in favour of the idea, and at the end it was two to one against. Nearly all the representations against the idea came from the south and south-west of England, not from Scotland.
General polling suggests that the public feel rather differently from that particularly small sample. At the time, Sir John Butterfill was ably supported by two Scottish Labour MPs, George Foulkes—now Lord Foulkes—and Brian Wilson, who made it clear that the measure would be good for a large part of Scotland. As we have heard today, the move can only be a good thing for the vast majority of the population in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales.
At the time, we were deluged by letters from Scottish farmers saying that the arguments were a bit patronising because they did have electricity in their barns. Some Scottish builders also wrote to us to say that they would prefer to drive to their job of work in the dark if they could have an extra hour of light towards the end of the day, because they would be able to do a longer day’s work.
One reason why farmers in parts of Scotland are less opposed to the measure than they were 40 years ago is that they now have heating and lighting in their steadings. That rather undermines the carbon saving argument. The farmers to whom I have spoken are less than enthusiastic; at best they are neutral. Clearly, they are not diametrically opposed, as they once were, but that is because they are now able to heat and light the buildings that they use in the early morning.
In a sense, that makes the point that we are moving forward. All those arguments can be put on the table when we have the scrutiny.
I went to a Scottish university, St Andrews, and one of my flatmates never saw any daylight. Admittedly, he chose his own hours, but he used to go to bed in the early hours of the morning and rise at about 2.30 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. By the time he had scrubbed his teeth and stepped outside, it was pitch dark again. A little light might have done him some good—he never looked a very healthy colour.
The number of organisations that support the Bill speaks for itself: ROSPA, the police, sports bodies—including my local group, the Old Actonians, which contacted me—the hospitality industry, the tourist industry, the CBI, environmentalists and many more groups say that we should have a serious think about how we set our clocks.
Call me a bit lazy, but I have to admit that were I to be involved in the scrutiny, I would not plump for Churchill’s time exactly, because I think that would have been two hours forward in the summer. I am more of a compromise girl, and my view is that if we have a chance we should go on to permanent British summer time, not least because I get sick to death of changing my clocks twice a year. Having a settled time would be very handy, and it would be a compromise that would give us a bit of extra light in the afternoon when it would be used most effectively.
I am not sure that I want to move as far as keeping it light until midnight. When I was at St Andrews university it was light until about 11 o’clock at night at certain times, and that seemed a little bit too long for me. I am a British summer time girl and I am for sticking with it right through the year, but that is another argument that will be tested if we have scrutiny and a trial. That is the only way that we can move out of the revolving door of private Members’ Bills. Let us have proper scrutiny, so that the matter can be decided once and for all for the benefit of our constituents and the country as a whole.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on securing the opportunity to debate this issue. Things such as environmental, social and economic benefits, fuel poverty and so on have been discussed in detail, but it is disappointing for me as a Member from Northern Ireland that so little thought has been given to the impact on that part of the country. We are not just further north but further west than the constituencies of almost anyone else participating in the debate, and that would have an impact if the changes were to take place.
The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) said that it was important to allow debate, and that that was the Bill’s purpose. I agree, which is why I will support the Bill, but I get slightly nervous when I hear the rather zealous opinions expressed against those of us who have concerns that we want considered. We are simply dismissed as though we were trying to hold back progress in some way.
I would be very disappointed if the hon. Lady were to get the impression that I do not recognise the concerns. I think what I said was that all regions will have very different views, but that there will be an opportunity for those views to be put on the table and discussed and scrutinised properly. Of course all regions will have different views for different reasons, and I hope she accepts that I realise that.
I do indeed, and the fervour that I referred to was not hers. However, some of the questions that have been raised have not been answered. For example, we must consider the coincidence of the last trial with the introduction of drink-driving regulations, speed limits and so on. That has not been effectively addressed by any of the proponents of the change.
Does the hon. Lady not agree that the argument about breathalysers and seat belts in relation to the last trial back in 1968 to 1971 is slightly flawed? Seat belts were not compulsory until 1983, and in my experience very few people used them before that time. In the same way, people did not take a great deal of notice of the breathalyser in the early days of the drink-drive laws.