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As I said in an intervention earlier, the climate as much as the lack of light precludes outdoor activities in the winter. Sport, social activities and tourism may all be affected. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) recounted his experiences when he was teaching
in Musselburghthe dark dull afternoons and the dark days. We undoubtedly witness that. Sometimes lights go on as early as 2 o'clock in the afternoon. That can happen down here as much as further north. It is the climate as much as the daylight that determines that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) mentioned that there was little Glasgow rugby activity taking place for strong young individualsmen and women nowadays. I reminded him that that was down to red blaes pitches more than anything else. Only those who had something akin to suicidal tendencies would be diving about on those pitches. They are not good for the complexion.
John Robertson: To add to my hon. Friends story, the other reason was that, if we had gone out to play rugby and dived about, my mother would have killed me if I came in with my clothes covered in mud.
People probably participate in more sports and leisure activities in the evenings where it is warmer, rather than lighter. A lack of sleep caused by later, lighter evenings could have repercussions for children's sporting performances. That has not been mentioned this morning. We all know that if we can rise from our slumbers refreshed in the morning, that gives us a good start to the day. I get anxious that some children are wandering our streets on summer evenings much later than perhaps they should. They need their sleep and encouraging them to be out during lighter evenings can cause a problem for their performance in sporting terms but also in academic terms.
I want to come back to the points that I made earlier about the Portuguese experiment, which showed fairly clearly that the habits of children in Portugal were such that the experiment was impacting on their education. I picked up informationI do not know how reliable it isthat people also had difficulty sleeping. I hope that that referred to adults. People in Portugal resorted to tranquilisers and medicines to aid sleep.
Mr. MacNeil: Are not the two failed Portuguese experiments and the failed experiment in the UK indicative of the fact that much of this is cultural? The experiments tried to bring about a cultural change. Inevitably, they are doomed, no matter what part of the time zone we are talking about.
I come from an industrial background where safety is vital. I always used to say to colleagues when I was their representative in the workplace that I never ever wanted to go to a household to explain to someone in the family that there had been a horrible accident. The risk of industrial accidents is an important consideration and we must consider seriously opportunities to avoid them.
Road safety is another vital issue. Colleagues have talked about the Bills potential to save 100 lives. As far as I am concerned, that should be roundly applauded
by everyone. If we can save one life, we are saving families from the trauma and tragedy that they face when they regrettably get that knock on the door. As someone who lost a member of my family in a road traffic accident a number of years ago, I know that that hits families very hard. It can be hard for them to recover from that; we are discussing time, but time is not the great healer for some households.
Road safety is important, but under the terms of the Bill, which provides for daylight hours to be changed as people see fit, some localities will clearly benefit, while others may face long, dark mornings. If we were to examine the detail of the body of statistics that has been built up over the years, I am sure that we would find that it is likely that there will be more tragic accidents, deaths and injuries on the roads in Scotland.
Mr. Greg Knight: Is not that last point totally erroneous? Most peoples first journey of the morning is to a fixed and known placesuch as to their place of work, or to college, or to take someone to schoolwhereas their driving in the evening tends to be more adventurous in that they might go to the shops or to a restaurant for a meal. Would it not be safer for them to undertake in darkness the predictable and known journey in the morning, rather than the unpredictable, adventurous journey of the evening when they might drive along roads that they have not driven along before?
Mr. Brown: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I accept that there is a great deal of logic in that point. However, although in an ideal world what he says would be the case, tragic accidents also often occur when people are making their routine trip to work or doing the school run because sometimes what can result in an accident is not an action by the right hon. Gentleman or me or any other driver who is concentrating on their routine trip, but what happens around us.
Mr. MacNeil: Some of the proponents of the change are trying to encourage such adventurous journeys: a Member said that the change will encourage more adventurous driving and that people will be more likely to undertake first-time journeys along unknown routes. People might do more driving around in the afternoon as well. Therefore, the argument that has been put to the hon. Gentleman might be counter-productive.
Mr. Brown: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Some of the arguments that are being made in this debate can be shaped or moulded into whatever form we want, but the fact remains that for some individuals and families todays roads can result in tragedy. What is significant is not merely the fact that people are on the roads, but how they use that time on the roadsfor example, they should drive with proper care and attention. The Department for Transport and my colleagues north of the borderas well as those in the other devolved Administrationsneed to do much more to ensure that we have greater road safety.
People in the workplace is another important issue. We have heard about the postal workers. Unfortunately, some of the statistics show that darker mornings result in greater risk to them. Some people
might say, Well, its an insignificant risk but any risk is a risk, and it is probably not a risk worth taking. I accept that there is no evidence that accidents at work would increase as a result of a change in the hour, and I am aware that there is pressure for change, but that pressure is not necessarily coming from health and safety representatives in workplaces.
As I have said, this is something of a false choice; Scotland and the rest of the UK go along with what happens here. We all know of the problems that can arise; however, the hon. Member for South Suffolk has decided in his wisdom to include these clauses in the Bill, thereby allowing the Scottish Parliament to examine this issue. Let me make it clear that I have every confidence in my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament taking the decision that is right for the people of Scotland and to their full benefit, but I do have anxieties based on the geographical location not only of my constituency, but of where I live.
As I pointed out at the beginning of the debate, following the boundary changes of almost two years ago, I no longer live in the constituency that I represent. My MP is the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell)[Hon. Members: Where is he?] He is not here today, unless he is elsewhere on the parliamentary estate. The Bill undoubtedly raises issues for the 3,000-odd people who cross the border daily for employment purposes and to attend social events. It is not just a one-way process, moreover; people cross from both directions in the morning to go to work, for example.
Business would be affected by the Bill. Someone mentioned earlier those who drive delivery vehicles, for example, for a living. I tried to imagine how the Bill would affect a small business with depots either side of the border that employs, say, 10 drivers. They would have to drive from one depot across the border to deliver to customers in one time zone, and then go to the other depot to pick up the next delivery. They would have to hurry in order to deliver to businesses before they closebusinesses that they would not previously have expected to be closed.
The hon. Gentleman must concede that people have to cross various time zones throughout the world, such as the central and eastern standard time zones in the US, and the various Australian time zones. One could make an equally strong argument for the opportunities that creating two time zones would
provide. One could start shopping an hour earlier across the border, and finish an hour later on ones own side.
Mr. Brown: I am delighted to have taken the hon. Gentlemans intervention. Perhaps I am demonstrating my ignorance, and if so I apologise to the House. I can understand the argument for the longitudinal time zones that exist elsewhere in the world, but we are talking about journeys north and south across the border between England and Scotlandand, potentially, journeys east and west to and from Wales. I cannot understand the benefit of clauses 5, 6 and 7, which have done nothing more than muddy the waters.
Tourism is important to Cumbria, south-west Scotland and the Scottish border region. Indeed, one of Scotlands greatest tourist attractionsit is in the top 10is the blacksmiths shop in Gretna Green. People do not necessarily remain in the same location when on holiday. It is not uncommon for people to visit the area, stay in Carlisle in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) and visit the borders and Dumfries and Galloway. There would be nothing more frustrating for visitors than to work out their timetable for the day, visit a few places and then cross the border only to find that everything had closed an hour earlier than they anticipated. Some people may argue that that is a minor consideration, but those complexities need not be caused.
The Bill would have an impact on businesses and how people operate them. The Bill has much in its favour, but I am concerned that the hon. Member for South Suffolk has drafted it in this way for his own reasons. I could be cynical and suggest that it has something to do with the big debate we are having about the Union, independence and other issues now, in January 2007. I am a Unionist and I believe that this is the finest nation, with the smaller nations involved. I am a Scot, I am British and I am also a European, but I see an element of divisiveness in this Bill. The hon. Gentleman may wish to comment on that later, but in any case I cannot support his Bill.
Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on his success in the ballot. I am sure that many other hon. Members envy that success, but I am naturally disappointed by the subject that he has chosen, because it would have a serious impact on my constituency.
The hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) mentioned that Stonehenge was in his constituency. I represent Callanish, on the west side of Lewis, which is of equalif not greaterantiquity to Stonehenge. Time has been well marked on the islands for many years. Callanish and Lewis are to the north of my constituency and I am from Barra to the south. Barra is on the line of latitude of 57° and Lewis is on the line of latitude of 58°, so there is a 10-minute difference in the length of the day between the northern and southern ends of my constituency.
One could say that today we have been struggling against the forces of darkness, which want to plunge us into darker mornings. As the representative of not only
a northerly constituency, but a westerly one, I am beholden to ensure that we are not unduly damaged by what isas the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) pointed outan effort by those from below a line from the Wash to the Severn. There was a part of me that thought that that very attitude is the reason that Camerons Conservatives are not marching well north of the border, but that was dispelled somewhat by the hon. Gentleman, who made a good case for retaining the status quo.
As hon. Members know, I am primarily a Scottish nationalist, but I have become a bit of an English nationalist in the past couple of years, as shown by my lapel badge, which has a St. Georges cross on it as well as a St. Andrews cross. We should bear it in mind that if the Bill were to become law it would leave vast areas of what is currently the United Kingdomeverything north of Manchesterwith no sun before 9 am for two months of the winter. So my English nationalism comes to the fore in an attempt to ensure that many of my friends in England are not plunged into darker mornings by what I have called the forces of darkness. It is important that we make sure that significant portions of the year are not spent in darkness.
Unfortunately, we cannot go down the two time zones route. The UK is an unbalanced union; as we know from the composition of this place alone, which has only 10 per cent. Scottish membership, the Union between Scotland and England is not a union of equals. The broadcasting situation would make the time zone possibilities a non-starter. We cannot have two different time zones in the UK.
Mr. Hands: I am amazed by such a speech from a Scottish National party MP. The Bill enshrines the right of Scotland to set its own time zone, so surely, as a member of the Scottish National party, he should be absolutely in favour of Scotland setting its own time zone rather than it being set in London.
Mr. MacNeil: I absolutely welcome further devolution of powers from Westminster to Holyrood; indeed, I hope that the Conservatives will go much further and devolve to Scotland all powers pertaining to Scotland that currently reside in Westminster. The reality, however, is that we have to live in the world we are in, where for the broadcasting situation in particular we cannot operate two time zones. That is why I have to exercise my right as a Scottish constituency Membercurrently; it might not last too much longer, because we may not have Scottish Members for ever and a day. As a Scottish Member of the UK Parliament, I have to make sure that my constituents and those of many other Members are well represented.
Often, the SNP cites examples of other small European countries that operate independently in the EU or in a larger union; Estonia and some of the Baltic states have been mentioned. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that over the past 15 years the Baltic states have benefited enormously from being able to set their own time zone, free of another time zonethat pertaining in Moscow? If the SNP is in favour of
independence for Scotland, does not he agree that it would make perfect sense for Scotland to have the right to set its own time zone?
Mr. MacNeil: That is absolutely right, and I welcome the hon. Gentlemans appreciation of independence throughout Europe, but the reality is that we cannot change things at the moment because they are controlled in London. While that situation remains, we have to make absolutely sure that our constituents are not disadvantaged in any way, shape or form.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentlemans position as the representative of a very westerly and northerly constituency. However, his point about broadcasting does not seem convincing. In England, people with cable television can receive the BBC channels for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, which often show different programmes from those on the English channels. Surely, the broadcasting system could easily adapt to new conditions.
I am not suggesting for a moment that I am completely in favour of everything in the current system. It contains many difficulties; there is a strange asymmetry, for example, in the fact that we change our clocks 50 days before midwinter and change them back again about 90 days afterwards. I never welcome changing the clocks. Of course, it marks the change of season, but my gut instinct is a preference for a shorter period of changeperhaps 40 days. However, that is not on offer at present. Indeed, I gather that it would not be possible, because of European directive 2000/84/EC of 19 January 2001 on summer time arrangements. Article 2 states:
From 2002 onwards, the summer-time period shall begin in every Member State at 1.00 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on the last Sunday in March.
in every Member State...on the last Sunday in October.
it is important for the functioning of the internal market that a common date and time for the beginning and end of the summer-time period be fixed throughout the Community.
The argument is not that each area should have the same time, but that the changes should occur at the same time. That, unfortunately, is the situation, which is why we are stuck with asymmetric winter time and why the House is not completely free to reach a more optimal period of winter change. The situation is not perfect, but it is far better than what the Bill suggests, which would leave areas north of Manchester with darkness beyond 9 am for two months every winter.
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