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Daylight Saving Time

Volume 719: debated on Thursday 24 June 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans permanently to move clocks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland forward by one hour.

My Lords, we are aware that there are a range of views on this subject. While the Government do not propose to change current summer time arrangements, we continue to listen to representations we receive and consider any evidence presented to us.

I thank the Minister for that not terribly helpful reply. Repeating facts that have been known for many years, is she aware of research done at the University of Cambridge which suggests that moving forward one hour from GMT would be equivalent to taking 200,000 vehicles off the road? That cannot be something that can just be overlooked in a brief reply.

I am aware of the campaign and in particular the Elizabeth Garnsey report, to which my noble friend has referred. It is important to stress that evidence on this issue has not always pointed in the same direction. In particular, it is suggested that the change would save a significant amount of CO2 emissions. However, work undertaken in 2005 by the Building Research Establishment for Defra indicated that putting the clocks forward an additional hour in winter and summer would lead to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions corresponding to around 1 per cent of total UK emissions.

Does the Minister agree that British business, especially manufacturing, would greatly benefit from the introduction of this time change by affording us at least two if not three extra hours in a trading day to communicate with our mainline European customers and suppliers?

I have been in this House a few years now and I have heard the arguments for and against doing this. Always we come back to the same thing: certain parts of the country would benefit while other parts certainly would not because the time zone would not be helpful to them. There would be an impact on the City, for example. As we are at the moment, the time works very well for us. We are there when Asia is online and we are still there when the United States starts trading. I am not sure that the arguments for and against are as clear as we would like them to be.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is one overwhelming argument in favour of the change, and that is the number of lives that would be saved on our roads?

Yes. Evidence from the Department for Transport suggests that road casualties would be reduced, with a reduction in road deaths by around 80 per year and serious injuries by 212 per year out of a total of 3,000 and 28,000 respectively. Those are not enormous benefits, but benefits none the less.

Does my noble friend recognise that the central European time zone extends very widely from Berlin to Madrid; that the People’s Republic of China has one time zone that stretches from east to west in its entirety; that the people of Wales and Haverfordwest can live in a time zone stretching from Greenwich to Haverfordwest; and that it should not be impossible for us all to live in a time zone stretching from Greenwich to Oban?

That is very interesting and goes back to my original Answer, which I am afraid that I still have to give. While we do not propose to change our summer time arrangements at the moment, we continue to listen to representations and will consider any evidence presented to us, including what has just been said.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the answers she is giving are as disappointing as those which used to be given by Ministers in the previous Administration? The problem we had then was that this Question was being answered not by the Department for Transport, which has a concern for saving life, but by another government department. Could those two departments talk to each other and look at the evidence? The noble Baroness has referred to the lives that would be saved. I cannot believe, and surely she must accept this, that the saving of lives is not more important than any other consideration. The evidence is overwhelming in this area.

That is why we continue to look at these matters and consider the evidence that we have rather than the feelings that we have. The two departments talk to each other; they both briefed me today.

My Lords, following the point so well made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, does the Minister accept that it would protect jobs for Britain as a whole if we were in the same time zone as 374 million people in west and central Europe, who are our main trading partners, and not 15 million in Ireland and Portugal?

I am afraid we do not have evidence that agrees with that completely. If we did, we would act on it immediately and change the time zones. People have been trying to get this right for a very long time and we will continue to do so.

My Lords, I declare an interest as deputy president of RoSPA. I congratulate the Minister on her brilliant start to handling a difficult departmental brief. She inherited this issue from her predecessor, who we knew under several titles, including Last of the Time Lords. Does she accept that there is now a feeling that the campaign for lighter evenings—the Lighter Later campaign—would cut energy costs, save lives, cut emissions and should now be carefully considered?

That is exactly what we are going to do. I have referred to the Lighter Later campaign and said that it has made a persuasive case for change on environmental, safety and well-being grounds, and we will consider all the evidence. I thank my noble friend for his kind remarks.