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Daylight Saving Bill (Money)

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 22 November 2011

Queen’s recommendation signified

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Daylight Saving Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—

(1) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by a Minister of the Crown or by a government department, and

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided.

If I may, on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), who is responsible for consumer affairs, I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) for her tireless work on the Bill. I also thank her for working constructively on a number of proposed amendments, which mean that I can now confirm the Government’s intention to support the Bill on an amended basis.

The House last debated the Bill on 3 December 2010 when, despite the Government’s Opposition, it received its Second Reading. Altering the clocks is something that we have thought about long and hard, and, as the Prime Minister has said, it is an issue that needs consensus right across the country. The amendments that we are seeking address our earlier concerns, including on the need for UK-wide consensus as to any change. Accordingly, the Secretary of State will be required to consult the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales, and to obtain the consent of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland to any proposed trial. I wish to emphasise that the Government would not expect to introduce a trial if there was clear opposition in any part of the UK. A further amendment we propose is that the “independent commission” be changed to an “independent oversight group”, whose role would be to advise the Secretary of State on the preparation of any report.

The Government’s interest in this legislation is welcome, even if a little late and even if forced by a Division in this House, which they opposed. Why has it taken them 11 months to bring this money resolution before the Chamber, given that the common practice in years past was that once the House had made a decision on the Second Reading of a Bill a money resolution would be introduced within two or three weeks?

As I said, we wanted to make sure that we gave this careful consideration, because this is a complex matter. [Interruption.] I say to my hon. Friends that I have seen this matter brought to this Chamber four separate times in the 10 years that I have been in this House, so it is right that we give it due consideration.

Not at the moment, because I wish to conclude the point that I was in the middle of making—I hope that my hon. Friend will bear with me. As we intend to seek to amend the Bill, it would have some relatively small expenditure implications. Our rough estimate of the amount of expenditure that would be needed is a figure of up to £750,000, which we think would be for the cost of researching and reporting on the potential benefits of trialling the advancing of clocks—that is obviously what the Bill seeks to achieve. Naturally, as it is also fair to point out, a subsequent proportional report may well be required on the monitoring and evaluation of any such experiment. The Bill, in its current form, would be likely to involve somewhat more expenditure than that, and the production of a report within three months of an Act being passed may well add to additional costs.

However, I must emphasise to the House that there is no guarantee that any trial advancement of the clocks will happen. We cannot rush that decision. A considered process is required, the starting point of which—this is the essence of the point that has been rightly made—is that there should be a proper robust assessment of the likely costs and benefits. On that basis, although the Government do not enter lightly into any expenditure, as I am sure you will understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, the expenditure in this case is justified and I commend the motion to the House.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that I support wholeheartedly the Government’s request for money to be provided by Parliament in respect of the Daylight Saving Bill. First, I want to put on record my great thanks to the 94 Members of Parliament from across the Chamber who voted in support of its Second Reading nearly 12 months ago.

As the Minister said, this has not been a time of complete inactivity for the Bill. Negotiations have been ongoing between me and the Department to find amendments that would allow the Bill to progress while maintaining the spirit of the original. The Bill principally provides for a robust Government study of the likely effects, good or bad, of advancing our clocks forward by an hour and whether the nation as a whole would be better served by that. Tonight’s debate reflects the fact that the Bill will cost the Government money, but the potential benefits to the UK economy and the public purse could be enormous.

Proponents of the change argue that it could prevent more than 80 fatalities on the UK’s roads every year and create considerable economic benefits, including 80,000 extra jobs and £4.5 billion in new domestic tourism revenue alone. It might also reduce our heating and lighting bills, which would be extremely welcome at this time, increase participation in sport and recreation and help tackle our growing obesity epidemic, as the recent report from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has suggested. It has also been argued that it could reduce crime and the fear of crime as well as improving quality of life, particularly for older people.

If such a simple measure as not turning our clocks back one autumn could really achieve all those benefits, I submit that it would be a scandal if the Government did not devote some resources—primarily civil service time and energy—to investigating it.

Does the hon. Lady think that the benefits she has outlined would be spread equally throughout all parts of the United Kingdom?

I do not know the answer to that question, which is why I am calling for the Government to do a comprehensive review. The proponents of the measure tell me that the benefits would be spread equally throughout the United Kingdom, particularly those on the road casualty figures.

Personally, I would try to claim that I am entirely agnostic on whether we should advance the clocks, although some might not believe me. My primary aim throughout has been to advance the debate through a review. The proposals in the Bill, or something similar, have been debated in the House repeatedly over the years. Some might say that the somewhat sterile arguments have been rehearsed again and again on both sides in what seems a little like Parliament’s own Groundhog day.

This time, I am pleased to say, the debate has advanced slightly further than usual, as the Bill passed Second Reading. I attribute that to the excellent support of the growing Lighter Later campaign in the country. The argument is also clearly less polarised than it used to be. Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in Scotland have called very strongly for the measure and the traditional resistance of the farming community also seems to have subsided. The National Farmers Union Scotland now fully supports a study of the potential change.

I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way and I am grateful that a Member of the Scottish National party has finally got around to joining us—perhaps they are on a different time from us. I met NFU Scotland very recently and it is clear that it supports not the idea of changing the time but a study to evaluate the issues. Is the hon. Lady clear on that point?

I am entirely clear on that point and that is precisely what my Bill intends to do. NFU Scotland has also intimated that if the benefits in other parts of the country clearly outweighed the disbenefits to its members, it would not stand in the way.

In Committee, as the Minister mentioned, I and the Minister responsible for the Bill will table a number of amendments that will give the relevant Departments flexibility to minimise the financial burden of the Bill. They will also recognise our asymmetric devolution settlement. The power to change time zones is devolved to only Northern Ireland and not Scotland and Wales, so the devolved Administrations will be consulted at every step, including being asked for evidence for analysis that is specific to their geography and economy. The Bill will not and was never intended to force time change on anyone without consensus in the UK as a whole.

Although it seems to have taken a surprisingly long time for the Bill to reach this stage, I believe that the result will be a better and, I hope, more effective piece of legislation, which recognises the concerns that the Government and others have had about it whilst retaining and in some ways strengthening the analysis and available evidence. Given the possible benefits that I and others have identified, I believe that the measure warrants further investigation. I commend the motion to the House.

I rise to oppose the money resolution and I welcome this opportunity to state why I believe the Daylight Saving Bill is a complete misnomer. There is no daylight saving. All that is proposed in the Bill is that the hours of darkness be moved further into the morning. I am responding, Madam Deputy Speaker, to the arguments that have been put by the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris).

The hon. Lady makes the salient point that there will be no more daylight. What is actually happening is that people are being moved into the darkness. Clocks started off measuring time and ended up governing people’s lives, and people are going to find—as they found 30 or 40 years ago—that they will be living their lives in the early part of the day in darkness. When push came to shove at that time, the vote in this House was 366 votes to 81. That was not just Scottish Members but Members from all over the UK. Once they had experienced it, they would not have it again.

Order. Perhaps it would be timely for me to remind the House that we are not debating the Bill itself or the merits of the Bill. We are debating a money resolution to commission a study that will look at the evidence. I will rule Members out of order if they try to re-debate the Bill. That is not the purpose of this money resolution.

I simply submit, Madam Deputy Speaker, in response to the points made by the Minister and the promoter of the Bill, that there would be no benefits and that the cost estimate in the money resolution of £750,000 is a conservative estimate that covers only the cost of the research. The Minister has not put to the House this evening what any potential costs to other Government Departments or local authorities would be. It is disingenuous to say that it would not put lives at risk to have darker, colder mornings and I regret that we are not having this debate on the money resolution in January or February when mornings are at their darkest. It is true that the evenings are getting lighter in January and February, but the mornings are most certainly getting darker.

My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech, and I agree that the Minister was woefully lacking in not telling us what the full cost would be. However, does my hon. Friend agree that these are matters for debate in Committee and Third Reading and that it would be normal to let a money resolution go through so that the debate in principle could occur elsewhere?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making those points, but I have heard for the first time this evening that the Government support this Bill. My understanding was that that was not the position—and that was from the Prime Minister down. I think this is the first occasion on which the House has been informed that the Government now back the Bill on the basis of amended proposals in my hon. Friend’s Bill, which will now proceed to a Second Reading.

Order. The Bill is not having a Second Reading. This is a money resolution and the Bill has had its Second Reading. The content of the Bill has been discussed; this is a money resolution to provide for a study. I have already pointed that out to the House and to the hon. Lady and I would be grateful if Members would stay in order.

I am most grateful for your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a result of the money resolution going through this evening, the Bill will pass to the Committee stage. Were the House to reject the money resolution this evening, that would not prevent the Bill from proceeding to Committee. It would allow the Government to do a more thorough account of what the total costs would be. Perhaps the Minister responding at the conclusion of this little debate will address my particular concerns about what the cost will be to local authorities in England.

We on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have called for evidence on the potential effects on rural communities and farms. The Minister and the House will accept that it is all very well to consult the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments, as the Minister informed the House, but remote areas such as north Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumbria and other parts a long way from Essex and the south-east will not have the opportunity to be consulted.

We had the trial from 1968 to 1971. It was resoundingly rejected, as the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) so eloquently stated, and I do not believe that there is any compelling argument for subjecting the country to a further trial when, as we understand from the Government and as I entirely accept, we are living through a time of economic crisis. Will the Minister inform the House where the sum of £750,000 is proposed to come from in his departmental budget?

The hon. Lady is making a number of very good points. Is it not odd that after we have just had a debate on the winter fuel allowance and been told that there is absolutely no money available to pay our poorer pensioners to help them stay warm this winter, the Government are coming forward with £750,000 to fund a study on an issue on which they know there is no consensus across the United Kingdom?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that point. I do not want to see a north-south divide on the issue. I want the people of north Yorkshire to feel that their voice is being heard—[Interruption.] The Scots are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. I shall leave time for colleagues to contribute.

I shall keep my remarks brief as a number of Members on both sides of the House wish to speak.

I am open-minded about what we do ultimately, but I have some questions on the money resolution that I hope the Minister can address. As my colleague, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said, the Committee will shortly be taking evidence on the merits and demerits of switching the start of the day. Do the Government propose to wait until the Committee has had a chance to consider the evidence before embarking on a significant spend of money?

I see that the Under-Secretary of State, Scotland Office, and the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, are present to hear the debate—but I will not dwell on why there is an Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and a Minister of State for Northern Ireland. Do the Government expect the Wales Office, the Scotland Office or the Northern Ireland Office to incur expenditure as part of the consultation? Will the Minister also confirm whether any of the devolved Administrations—the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies —would be expected to incur costs as part of the consultation that would be ongoing?

If indeed there were any costs, surely if this measure originated in Westminster, those costs should be met at Westminster.

The hon. Gentleman teases me down an avenue which if I were to pursue and consider why the Scottish Parliament would seek even more money from this place when it is more than amply recompensed for the jobs that it is asked to do, you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would robustly close me down.

I hope that the Minister can give some clarity. I hope that he has also heard today that this is not a Scotland versus England issue, but an argument across all four nations of the United Kingdom.

I checked the clock; I was two minutes late. But the substantial point is that the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. This is not a north versus south or an England versus Scotland issue. Indeed, I feel quite an English nationalist in the midst of this debate, having to represent many of the good people of England who lived through the experiment of the late ’60s and early ’70s , and who write to me with their concerns looking for a voice. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct when he says that this is not a north versus south or a Scotland versus England issue.

Very interesting. The hon. Gentleman should face the Chair when he speaks so that I can hear him. However, I heard what he said and now that he has made his point I would like Mr Docherty to return to the money resolution.

I am most grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I will stick to your guidance.

It is welcome that the Government are restricting the total sum that they believe they will spend. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) that it is interesting that this afternoon Tory MPs voted against spending money on issues that really matter to people such as winter fuel payments. Will the Minister give a guarantee to the House that £750,000 will be the total expenditure of all Departments, not just his own, and the devolved Administrations, and that we will have a speedy and just resolution to the issue?

Will the Minister in his reply say how much of the money that he has referred to relates to paragraph (1) of the motion and how much relates to paragraph (2)? In addition, as has just been said, may we have the total cost, not just the limited cost?

I would normally argue that we should vote specifically on the money resolution and how much it will cost the Exchequer, and if this related to a Government Bill, that would be quite in order. But this relates to a private Member’s Bill, and by tradition money resolutions automatically follow Second Reading. If a Member had managed to overcome all the hurdles and get enough Members here to pass a Bill on Second Reading, which I would probably not have voted for, they should have the right to go into Committee, have the Bill debated there and brought back to the House for a Third Reading, where, if Members so wished, they could defeat it. My concern about this money resolution is the length of time that it has taken from Second Reading to come to this House. It appears that we are looking at a new procedure here, where the Executive are trying to block Bills that they do not like. Apparently, they have now agreed changes to the Bill, so they like it, so they are bringing forward the money resolution. I believe that that is an abuse of Parliament.

There is another private Member’s Bill, whose promoter is my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), which has had its Second Reading, but it has had no money resolution, so it cannot get into Committee. Because of the way the Government gerrymandered the number of days for private Members’ Bills in this Session, there is only one more private Members’ Bill after this Friday. Unless the money resolution is agreed tonight, there will be no chance for this Bill to get into Committee.

My hon. Friend says that there is no chance of the Bill getting through, but I know from a conversation I had earlier this evening with my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) that, if the Committee stage cannot be dealt with by 20 January 2012, the hope is that another day will be made available for private Members’ business.

That is rather a surprise to me. I am now tempted to vote against the money resolution in order to allow another day for private Members’ Bills, but that would not coincide with my principles. What we must decide tonight is very simple. The money resolution is not about the money that would be spent, but about whether there should be an almost automatic passage through the House for a private Member’s Bill that has gone through Second Reading. What I am seeing tonight is an attempt to block that, and I do not like it. I do not like the way the Government have used that to put pressure to change the Bill. The House should support the money resolution, but I think that we should be wary of what the Government have done.

It will take me less time to make my brief points than it takes to boil an egg. The argument is simple. It is about how best to align our lives to maximise the benefits of daylight. For most of us our lives are not aligned in that way; we get up after dawn and go to bed much later than sunset.

You spoke about studies, Madam Deputy Speaker. I conducted my own study when in opposition and recommend to the House my leaflet, “Time to Change the Clocks”, which goes through the benefits of daylight saving, particularly the studies that break down the benefits across the country. There would be a benefit in shifting the clocks. It would provide more time after work and school have finished. I recommend to the Minister and to the Bill Committee, if the Bill reaches Committee, that that aspect be brought into the study. For example, an additional 175 hours of daylight would be provided in Scotland if the clocks were moved—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is trying to be very ingenious in getting back to the main points of the Bill in a debate on a money resolution. He said that he would make his points briefly. We are talking about the money resolution and the study. Can we concentrate on that and not re-enact the debate on the Bill itself?

I was going to invite the hon. Gentleman to return to the money resolution and address the points that have been made by others on that, which I am sure he will now do.

I have now been advised to do so twice, so I will heed that advice. I am pleased to support the Bill. This is the furthest the proposal has ever got in Parliament since the original daylight saving experiment in the 1970s. I should add that that experiment was overturned not because the nation did not want it. The polls at the time were very much supportive of it. It was overturned because the farmers of the day—

Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I cannot understand what is complicated about this. We are dealing with a money resolution and I would appreciate it if Members stuck to that. Mr Dodds, I do not need any help and can manage it. Mr Ellwood, would you now refer to the money resolution and not to previous polls or debates unless they relate specifically to the money being spent?

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is one of the subjects that people get very passionate about, which is why there is a tendency to wander off the subject. I will complete my contribution by congratulating my hon. Friend the Minister on bringing this motion forward and hope that it will receive the support of the House today and the Bill will move on to Committee.

I wish to speak to the money resolution because I am concerned that we are seeing an abuse of the parliamentary process. It has been the tradition for many years in this place for a money resolution, which can be tabled only by Her Majesty’s Treasury, to be tabled within a fortnight or three weeks of a Bill passing Second Reading, particularly a private Member’s Bill. What we are talking about is private Members’ legislation, which is extremely precious to the individual Members concerned and very precious to the House as a whole.

The name of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) luckily came up in the ballot, she duly tabled her Bill and there was a most interesting debate on Second Reading on 3 December 2010, when despite the opposition of Her Majesty’s Government the legislation was passed by 92 votes to 10.

The context is that we are sitting through an extended Session of Parliament. Instead of there being an annual Session, we have a two-year Session, so 40 private Members’ Bills should have been tabled, but only 20 have been, because the Government have not allowed extra Friday sittings on which to table extra Bills. There has been only one ballot for private Members’ Bills, in which my hon. Friend was lucky to be successful, so private Members have had a reduced opportunity to table legislation.

I contend that the Government have used the extra time in the Session to delay the passage of my hon. Friend’s Bill, because it is now almost a full year since that Second Reading debate. My hon. Friend the Minister’s answer to my earlier intervention was not good enough, because the Government should not use this delay in tabling the money resolution to sort out their attitude to any particular Bill; they should table the money resolution to go along with the will of the House as expressed on Second Reading, and then sort out their attitude to the Bill prior to Committee. Members may not appreciate that a private Member’s Bill cannot proceed to Committee unless the money resolution is passed, so the Government are using that device to delay the progress of the Bill.

Is it not the case that, if this Session had been of normal length, the Bill would have already fallen?

That is absolutely right, and my hon. Friend makes an extremely perceptive intervention. In fact, the Government have used a whole year of this two-year Session to delay the Bill, thereby denying the House the scrutiny it needs to improve legislation. I cannot understand why the Government are so frightened of scrutiny, because the better that Back Benchers do their job, the better the legislation, and the better the reputation of the Government of the day.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying essentially that we should not be here tonight talking about the Bill, because it should have been dead and buried in the past year?

That could have been an outcome, absolutely. We should not be here tonight, because we should have been here almost exactly a year ago. That is when the Government should have tabled this money resolution; then, the Bill would have proceeded into Committee; and on one of the subsequent private Members’ Fridays the hon. Gentleman and I could have debated its merits and demerits. The law would have been either passed or not by this stage, but Her Majesty’s Government have effectively taken a whole year out of the process, meaning that the legislation is right up against the wire.

There is a private Members’ Friday this coming Friday, but then there is only one other such Friday, 20 January 2011. The passage of the money resolution tonight means that there will not be time for the Bill Committee to sit before this Friday, so if the Bill is to go through Committee the only remaining Friday on which it can return to the House is 20 January. On that day, it will need to complete its Report and Third Reading if it is to make any progress, meaning that its subsequent passage through the House of Lords will be squeezed between the end of January and the beginning of April. That is going to be a rushed process if the Bill is to succeed.

My simple contention is this: whether someone is for or against the Bill, if the time and scope for the scrutiny of any legislation is reduced, it will probably not be as good as it otherwise might have been. There is absolutely no need for this process to have taken so long. I simply do not understand why it has taken Her Majesty’s Government almost 12 months to make up their mind—indeed, to change their mind—on the merits of this Bill.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Bill of the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) has, in effect, been destroyed because of the time that has been taken away from the consideration of it and the fact people will not have the opportunity to consider it? Is he also saying that there is a great danger the Bill will not become law and, as a result of the Government’s actions, the Bill has been utterly destroyed?

I do not think the Bill has been destroyed because it still has a chance of passing through both Houses. The point I am trying to make is that if it does succeed in becoming an Act, it will only be by the skin of its teeth because there effectively is only one more sitting Friday for private Members’ Bills in this place.

It has certainly not been the best use of parliamentary time in making sure that, as a piece of legislation, the Bill is as good as it could be. I am very worried that the Government are setting a precedent to abuse the private Members’ process because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) said, another Bill has passed its Second Reading in this place. The Local Government Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill was passed on a private Members’ sitting Friday on 10 June. The will of this House was that that Bill should have its Second Reading, but here we are five months later and the Government have not yet moved a money resolution for that Bill.

The hon. Gentleman has spoken for eight minutes. Is he determined that the Minister will not be able to respond to his comments?

No. I am about to resume my place because I want to hear the Minister’s response, and I particularly want to hear him address this point. Why are the Government using money resolutions to delay the passage of Bills when they should be allowing the House to pass money resolutions at an early stage? The Government can then come back in Committee to debate the merits and demerits of the Bill. Would that not be a far better way for legislation to proceed in this place, rather than the abuse of the system that we are witnessing?

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) on her perseverance and determination in pursuing this matter over the past 12 months—and, indeed, during the period before she was drawn fourth in the ballot.

I do not want to detain the House long. I am conscious that there is not a great deal of time left and that we all want to hear from the Minister. Although I voted against curtailing the Second Reading debate—and I remind the House that it was curtailed—I did vote for the Bill to proceed on Second Reading. I, along with many others—indeed, millions of people outside the House—have been waiting for the money resolution finally to move its way up the Order Paper to be debated.

On the issue of money, may I ask the Minister to explain in his winding up whether the figure of £750,000 is an estimate? If so, what is that estimate based on? What analysis has been made of the cost of the trial that was held back in the 1970s, and how that has been used to inform the present-day estimate? In addition, has any assessment has been made of whether any work that was done at that time is still of value today? I reiterate the points made by the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) on how the cost of the trial is to be split between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Finally, in the seconds remaining, I point out that, with inflation running at 5% and an estimated cost of £750,000, the delay has already cost £37,500. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to those questions.

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. On the money, £750,000 is the estimate that I made clear in my opening remarks, and that is the figure that relates to the benefit analysis with this motion. I believe that the motion should be supported by the House.

Question put and agreed to.