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The experiments suggested would appear to be cyclical: they come along every few years in various areas—in Portugal, they come along every 20 years—and then they go back again. There could be many cultural reasons for that happening. Being further north, the UK seems to have a longer memory than
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Portugal of how bad the situation was—it may have been more extreme here—and it is coming round again after a 40-year period. I confidently predict here and now that if this change were to occur, we would see ourselves changing back again after three years. It would be the fourth unsuccessful experiment on the changing of time zones in western Europe. Do we really have to go through it one more time? Cannot we look at the experience of Portugal twice and of the UK once rather than mess about in a way that is not practical or sensible?

Let us look into the times of sunrise and sunset on this very day in various parts of the UK. I look at the extreme fringes of the UK, starting in London. This morning, London’s sunrise was at about 7.49 am. In Shetland, it was 8.35 am. In the north and west part of my constituency in Stornoway it was 8.44 am and in the south end of the constituency it was 8.46 am. Already, the latitude lottery winning is evident and it is heartening for the south-east of England, which has an earlier morning.

It is also instructive to reflect on the times of sunset. It is 15.58 in Shetland, 16.30 in Stornoway and 16.36 in London. Again, it is already clear that the day is longer in the south-east of England. When one different area has already won on the latitude lottery, it seems particularly small minded further to impose on the Scots—though not just the Scots, as it applies north of Manchester—a day that does not start at 25 minutes to 9 or quarter to 9 in the morning, but at 25 minutes to 10. I really think that those who have won the latitude lottery are and should be thankful for their luck.

Latitudinal problems have an effect on my constituency, but so do longitudinal problems. The fence on my croft happens to be about 7.5° west of Greenwich, which means a full half hour. We lose out not only on latitude, but on longitude as well. I would wager that major unhappiness would be caused if this experiment were to go too far. The cultural habits, which I alluded to earlier, have not been fully looked into or explained.

I notice that trade union groups are against this. My father’s old trade union, the Communication Workers Union, is against the change—and for many good reasons. There are risks of injury and accidents, particularly to postmen in the mornings. We look back to Portugal and see that the safety side of the experiment there was inconclusive. The insurers in that country reported an increase in the number of accidents.

Mr. Kidney: Will the hon. Gentleman tell us about the incidence of casualties on the roads during that Portuguese experiment?

Mr. MacNeil: I would dearly love to, but I do not have the figures to hand.

The lighter evenings will make the postbags of MPs a lot fuller. We may see antisocial behaviour of youths exacerbated for an extra hour. We already know that many people complain about a summer time bounce of antisocial behaviour, particularly in some housing areas and on some housing estates and certain streets. The extra hour in the evening will surely allow many
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more people to hang around and create an unwelcome disturbance on the streets. That might well lead to more letters going to MPs in a call to action. That would add yet again to the pressure to end this ill-conceived experiment, if it ever goes through.

To return to the cultural aspect and what happened in Portugal, one issue that has been played down in the debate is the effect that the change had on children, their sleeping patterns, learning and attainment at school. I frequently hear from Ministers at the Dispatch Box of the emphasis that they place on attainment in school. This ill-conceived experiment will put some of the gains at risk.

Robert Key: The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to Portugal, but is he not aware that it is so far south of England, let alone his constituency, that it has much more equal periods of day and night at all times of the year? To quote what happened in Portugal is no argument worth its salt. It is a desperate argument to deploy.

Mr. MacNeil: On the contrary, if what the hon. Gentleman says is correct, the Portuguese would not have changed their time zone. They would have carried on with the experiment but, for very valid reasons, they changed back. It would be foolish for us not to learn from Portugal and consider why they changed back.

Mr. Hands: The hon. Gentleman has been very selective with his examples. Does he not agree that the changes of time zones in the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine, proposals for which featured in their national liberation movements, are instructive in their success?

Mr. MacNeil: I absolutely take on board what the hon. Gentleman says, but I would argue that those countries were perhaps forced into what was not their natural time zone in the first place. When they changed, they reached a far better position.

Some of the proponents of the change have said that it would help to cut carbon emissions. In particular, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) suggested that longer evenings would allow people to drive, go further afield and engage in more tourist activities.

Mr. Kidney: I mentioned walking.

Mr. MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman says walking, but people might drive before they start their walk. Again, that would lead to greater carbon emissions when the original argument was that the proposal would reduce them and save energy. In fact, many more unseen activities may happen during an experiment if it were ever to come to fruition. That would lead to pressure building to end the experiment during the three-year period.

I do not see the experiment being successful in any way, shape or form. It has not been successful in Portugal twice, it has not been successful in the UK once and it will not be successful again. Areas will be plunged into darkness for long periods and they will want to change back.

The experiment to move to GMT plus one in the winter and GMT plus two in the summer—commonly known as central European time—would be for far too
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long. Even if there were an experiment, an experiment of a year would be enough. Three years would be far too long. Even if the experiment were for only a year, I would object to that for the reasons of latitude that I have already mentioned. People in my constituency lose on the latitude lottery at a particularly important time of the year—winter—and they also lose on the longitude lottery because we are 7.5° or a full half hour west of Greenwich. Some of the voices for change may see a small gain for some people against a big loss for many others.

1.43 pm

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil), who has spoken about the forces of darkness. That is strange, because he is usually part of the forces of darkness. For once, we seem to be on the same side and fighting the forces of darkness. We usually differ, but we agree in this case.

I have made many notes on the speeches in the debate. I wrote a note to myself that we were having an anti-Union debate. But the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) helped to relieve some of those fears when he agreed that he would be happy with the withdrawal of clauses 5, 6 and 7. Having said that, there were many other Members who did their best to try to send me down the road of making a speech on that subject. I will try to avoid that, although I will touch on it in a few places.

Why are we having this debate? Business was mentioned earlier. We have 24-hour news coverage, permanent access to the internet, flexible working, flexible hours of working and working from home. It strikes me that changing time to suit businesses and how people work is spurious. We can cover every angle of 24 hours. People who are in employment know what their employment consists of, and when they take on a job it is explained to them what their hours of work will be. Under those circumstances, the question of whether Tokyo, London, Frankfurt or New York is up and running should not be part of our discussion. Opposition Members might feel differently, because business might be more important to them than it is to me.

I share something with the hon. Member for—I will call it the Western Isles, because I am not very good with the Gaelic. His father and I were members of the same union. I would like to think that we probably shared the same politics, but perhaps not, because fathers and sons are very close with their politics—although in some cases, they are completely opposite. I happen to have the same politics as my father.

Climate change was also mentioned. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am the chairman of the all-party group on nuclear energy and, as such, and given the Government’s energy review last year, I take a great interest in energy and its various aspects. As a group, we put in a submission that I am glad to say was similar to what the Government came back with. In looking at those matters, we had discussions about climate change and its effects.

While I was a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, we visited the United States. It was explained to me that summer is a peak time for energy
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usage these days, because more and more people have air conditioning, large fridges and various other bits and pieces on the go all the time. I was surprised by what I learned, particularly in an area such as Chicago, which has severe winters. I would have thought that the peak time for energy use in that area was the height of winter. But, no, the peak time now applies equally to summer and winter. In effect, energy consumption is practically a straight line for 365 days of the year in the United States. When we came back, we took evidence from various energy companies. I asked, “What was—

Mr. Yeo rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Will the Serjeant at Arms please investigate the delay in the No Lobby?

The House having divided: Ayes 32, Noes 20.
Division No. 038]
[1.49 pm


Austin, John
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Conway, Derek
Cruddas, Jon
Davies, Philip
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Greening, Justine
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hendry, Charles
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Howarth, David
Jones, Lynne
Key, Robert
Kidney, Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
Ottaway, Richard
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Randall, Mr. John
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Thurso, John
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Wilshire, Mr. David
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Tim Yeo and
Mr. Greg Knight

Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Brown, Lyn
Bryant, Chris
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Heppell, Mr. John
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McCabe, Steve
Merron, Gillian
Munn, Meg
Pound, Stephen
Roy, Mr. Frank
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Tellers for the Noes:

John Robertson and
Mr. Russell Brown

It appearing on the report of the Division that fewer than 100 Members had taken part in the Division, Mr. Deputy Speaker declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative.

John Robertson: I was talking about climate change. Our energy usage in this country is changing. The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs took evidence from energy companies, which said the same as the United States companies about an increase in power
usage during the summer. They estimated that in less than a decade, energy use during the summer, through air conditioning and fans in offices and homes, would match that used for heating in winter. There has been much emphasis recently on climate change and global warming. This winter—apart from this week—has been mild. Scotland has had the heaviest rainfall recorded there. The ice and snow that we are inclined to get in winter has not appeared. There is, therefore, a problem.

Some hon. Members have used statistics that date back many years to show that extra daylight hours can help combat climate change. However, if we examine the matter in the round and look to the future, as we have done with our energy policy when we discussed having to replace old and redundant power stations and use cleaner energy, we must also consider energy usage. More daylight hours will increase global warming. The UK, as well as other countries of the world, which we must also consider, will start to use more and more energy in the summer and perhaps less in winter. I should be interested in the energy use figures for this winter, especially north of the border, where we are supposed to have more severe winters.

Mr. Russell Brown: I intervened on a previous speaker about the energy that was estimated to have been saved in the previous trial between 1968 and 1971. A significant saving happened then. Any energy that we save can only benefit us and the planet. However, in view of the increased use in the 21st century, does my hon. Friend have any idea of the savings that the experiment would make, compared—in percentage terms—with the savings on the previous occasion?

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but the answer is no. We do not know how much the increase in usage will be in the years ahead in order to compare it with past usage. It would be interesting, however, to compare this year’s figures with those for 1968.

I remember 1968 well. I was still at school—it is hard to believe, but I was. Funnily enough, I was staying only a couple of miles away from where I live at present, but on the other side of the road. I have a slightly bigger house now. In those days, I stayed “one up left” in a tenement, albeit one of the better tenements. I was a red sandstone boy, as Billy Connolly called it in one of his album contributions; and very glad I was too. That did not solve the problem of whether my sister, my mother, my gran and myself—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Even for a Friday, that is going an awfully long way down memory lane. There is little time left for the debate, and I am sure that we are anxious to proceed.

John Robertson: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for saving me from myself. I have probably given away too much information anyway.

Suffice it to say that 1968 was quite a severe winter, although perhaps not as bad as 1967. Walking two miles to school, as I had to do, was not great. I did so in the dark, and when I finished school I came home in
the dark. In the day and age of cars and the school run, that might not mean much to people. Hon. Members have talked about loss of life and climate change, and yet by increasing the hours of darkness in the morning we encourage the school run, especially in the morning, not only to continue but to increase.

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): Surely the point is that while many children are taken to school by car, many more make their way home on foot, because the school day finishes before the working day. Increasing the daylight in the evening would reduce the number of children killed or injured walking home in the dark.

John Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I do not agree with his point. With the Olympic games in 2012, we are trying to encourage our children to become the sportsmen and women that they can be. I believe that extracurricular activities will be provided in all schools, so our children will be going home later. I hope that there will be extra activities in order to provide the high-jumpers, runners, long jumpers and swimmers that we want for the 2012 games. In Glasgow, about which I can speak at first hand, a new world-class swimming pool is being built, along with a velodrome and indoor facilities that are second to none anywhere in the world, not just in this country. Children might go from school to the sports centre, but they will still go home from there.

The Government have tried to increase the number of people who walk to school. Families have been encouraged to walk their children to school, to give them exercise and to cut back on obesity. We have to get children exercising not just after school, but on the way to school. It is difficult for anyone to encourage a child to walk two miles to school, as I used to do, when it is a pitch black, rainy, snowy, icy or completely miserable morning. Kids do not like the dark—I am not completely pleased with it myself; I like sunshine. I had to walk, however, and I did. Nowadays, children do not have to walk because more cars are on the road.

It is a well-known fact in Glasgow—and I assume that we are no different from any other city in the United Kingdom—that most accidents more or less coincide with the school run. They may not involve fatalities or severe injuries, but they tend to happen at about the times when schools open and close. The Bill would encourage more people to drive their children to and from school. With the best will in the world, the Government do not want that, and I doubt that any member of the Opposition parties wants it either.

Mr. Russell Brown: As its title shows, the Bill is about energy saving. While it would have some benefits, as the debate proceeds I begin to see an equal if not greater number of liabilities. In some areas, at least, it could lead to increased energy consumption.

John Robertson: That is a good point. As I have said, climate change and energy use are both factors. That cannot be denied. We know that there are already more cars on the road, because we all complain about it, and the congestion charge was introduced to try to reduce car use. As for climate change, as I said earlier, we have had the wettest weather in Glasgow since records began.

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