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I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) for their contributions. On a day on which I came in for a fair amount of criticism, it was nice to have someone on my side supporting me. I should thank my hon.
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Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller), too—I nearly missed out one of my star lieutenants. I thank the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), although I disagreed with him. He seemed to say all the right things about workers’ protection and wanting to protect the vulnerable, but he came to a different conclusion, and said that the way to protect them was to give them no protection. However, he did so in a witty way, which I appreciated.

The hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) expressed a balanced view. She tried to put the TUC view and the CBI view but, unfortunately, she fell on the wrong side of the fence. Listening to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) was like stepping back into the past and going back 30 years. It was the old, tired politics of them and us—the unions are all bad, and business is marvellous. I do not believe that there is any sensible person in the House who thinks that way any more. We all recognise that trade unions have a part to play in society and, at the same time, the Government have managed to create an economic situation that allows private investment companies to thrive. As a result, we have allowed the economy to grow. I am sure that there are no Government Members who want to kick business for the sake of kicking business, so I am sad that the debate descended to that level.

I will end by saying two things. Like Opposition Members, I picked up on the Minister’s comments on the European Commission. I wrote down what the Commission said, because I thought it was significant. It said that such a measure was not justified “at this stage.” That brings me back to what I said at the beginning of our debate. Without Government support, the Bill is going nowhere, and I am realistic enough to accept that. To use the Commission’s phrase, at this stage, the measure is not going anywhere.

The fact that two sets of workers have different protections is unsustainable, and at some stage in future I think that something will be done to address that. I accept that the Bill is not the right vehicle to do so, but I welcome the opportunity that the Minister gave me to carry the issue a bit further and engage with the BVCA, other parties who are interested in such investment, trade unions and others to try to see whether there is a solution to the problem. I do not know exactly what it is, but if we have proper discussions, I am sure that we will find it and, in doing so, help investment companies in the private sector to participate in proper competition and, at the same time, protect their workers’ rights. With that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and Bill, by leave, withdrawn.

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Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

2.9 pm

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and to the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell), who spoke on the previous Bill, for their restraint in allowing me a few minutes to put the case for the Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill for the second year running. I am delighted to have this chance to return to the House with the same private Member’s Bill. I waited 24 years to get a place in the ballot and then, just as buses come along all together, I got it two years in a row. When I got it for the second time, I had absolutely no hesitation in choosing the same issue—in fact, it is the same Bill. I think that I was being environmentally responsible in doing so. We had to change the dates, but in every other respect it is an identical measure to the one that failed to get a Second Reading a year ago.

In the past 12 months, I have been encouraged by the enormous number of supportive e-mails, letters and other communications that I have received. In that period, the groundswell of support for what I believe is a common-sense and overdue change has risen significantly. This is an idea whose time has clearly come.

My Bill would put the clocks forward by one hour all the year round. We would have double British summer time in the summer and British summer time in the winter, which we can summarise as single-double summer time—SDST for short. The clocks would still change twice a year, as they do now, but there would be an extra hour’s daylight in the afternoon or the early evening on every single day of the year. I cannot, I am afraid, produce more daylight during the day, which is a shame—I may work on that in the future—but for the time being it would be sufficient and very advantageous to move that daylight to the time of day when people are up and about rather than when they are asleep in bed. Of course, the change comes at the expense of losing an hour’s daylight in the morning, but the benefits of more daylight in the afternoon are considerable.

I am also aware of the current imbalance between the dates on which the clocks go back in October and when they go forward in March. They go back about seven weeks before the shortest day of the year and forward about 13 weeks after the shortest day. Several people have advocated bringing forward the date on which the clocks go forward. I would support that, but I think that they are, in a sense, accepting the principle behind my Bill. They are saying that it is better to have more daylight in the afternoon or early evening for more weeks of the year. I believe that they should follow the logic of that position and say, “Let’s back the Bill and have it all the year round.”

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying—I am a fan of symmetry either side of midwinter—but I think that his logic is extreme. If he is bringing back the same Bill, he hit his head against a wall last year and is coming back
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this year to do it again. Had he taken on board the suggestions that were made on the Floor of the House last year, he might have had more support this year, but he comes back with the same Bill, and I fear the same result for him.

Mr. Yeo: In my judgment, this is an idea whose time has come. Support for it is growing, the case for it is getting stronger, and the evidence is getting stronger. That is why I felt encouraged to bring back the same Bill.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): It was good to wake up to the sound of my hon. Friend’s voice this morning on the Today programme. When Scotland was mentioned, he said that the Bill would allow Scotland to do what it likes, which is in clause 9. Scotland has special problems with his Bill but can do what it likes. I represent a north-western constituency that is only a few hours away from Scotland and where we have similar problems, if to a lesser extent, but there is no provision for us to have a different time zone. It would be ridiculous for the north-west to be on a different time zone from other parts of England, and just as ridiculous if Scotland were to have a different time zone from the rest of the UK.

Mr. Yeo: My hon. Friend is a stout champion of his constituents’ interests, but I do not accept that it is necessarily impossible for a country to have more than one time zone. Many countries do, and the people who live in them, even those who live on the borders, and on the cusp of the different time zones, seem to arrange their affairs in a perfectly satisfactory way. I would point out to him that a significant proportion of the UK population resides very close to the continental European time zone and frequently travels there. Many people in London would travel to the continent more frequently than they would even to my hon. Friend’s constituency. The inconvenience suffered as a result of different time zones already affects an awful lot of people.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing the Bill to our attention for a second time. Let me place on the record the fact that Conservative Front Benchers will not object to it and believe that the benefits in terms of tourism, energy reduction, CO2 emissions and lives saved make it worthy of further debate in Committee.

On the issue of devolution, I would be more inclined to support the Bill if clauses 5, 6 and 7 were amended, so that we had one decision for the United Kingdom, rather than the matter being split up into the various devolved areas.

Mr. Yeo: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the general principle of the Bill. I recall that during the debate last year, he intervened on my speech to express support from the point of view of his constituency. I recognise that the provision to give Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales their own opt-outs in the Bill is somewhat controversial, but I believe that that aspect could be dealt with in Committee or perhaps on Report. I am not wedded to that provision, but to the principle of extending the afternoon lighter hours—that is the crucial thing for
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me in the Bill. The detail about whether different parts of the UK have an opt-out and the sort of remit given to the review panel are matters on which I will be quite flexible when the Bill gets to Committee, which I hope it will one day.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman talked about more daylight at the end of the day. Does he realise the effect that the Bill would have on rural communities, farmers—particularly in the north of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland—and postal workers, which is why the Communication Workers Union is opposed to it? Those up earlier in the morning would be at a disadvantage, even if there were some advantage at the end of the day.

Mr. Yeo: There is indeed a group of workers who have to work in the mornings. It has interested me that the farming community is far less resistant to the idea than it was 20 years ago. In fact, my dialogue with the National Farmers Union suggests that it is almost in a position of neutrality on the Bill, compared with its opposition some time before. As for the postal workers’ union, I wish my post arrived during the hours of darkness. The post that I receive in London—less than a mile from here—arrives at about 11 o’clock in the morning, so I do not think that the people who deliver it are going to be too badly affected by a change in the time.

Kate Hoey Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Yeo: I cannot, I am sorry. I am running out of time and I want the Minister to have five minutes.

There are four reasons why this change is so important. The first is the saving of lives on the roads, particularly young lives. When the Road Safety Bill was in Committee, the then roads Minister, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) said:

That would happen simply through making this change.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Would the hon. Gentleman accept that it is already within the power of education authorities throughout the country to amend school times to address that point? Perhaps they should do so.

Mr. Yeo: It is, but that would not achieve the other benefits that I am about to describe. The evidence on road safety is absolutely unambiguous, and I draw attention to the helpful leaflet that all hon. Members have now received from the Lighter Evenings campaign.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Yeo: No, I am sorry, I cannot give way again.

The leaflet states that

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When the previous experiment with single-double summer time was conducted, 2,500 deaths and serious injuries were avoided each year. For Parliament to refuse to take such a simple step puts on the conscience of every hon. Member the fact that during the lifetime of this Parliament, almost one person in every constituency will die unnecessarily. That is a deplorable state of affairs.

The benefits of safer roads apply throughout the whole United Kingdom. The Transport Research Laboratory analysed the effects of the previous experiment, and found that the benefits get disproportionately greater as one goes further north. The biggest advantages come in those parts of the country that seem to find the idea least acceptable.

The road safety grounds are sufficient ones on which to introduce the Bill, but a second and equally important advantage concerns energy use. We are more conscious today than we were 20 years ago of the importance of energy saving and cutting carbon emissions. A Cambridge university study showed that peaks in demand for electricity and energy consumption would be lower if this change were made, particularly in the winter. Carbon emissions would be cut by more than 1 million tonnes a year at no cost whatever to GDP.

Mr. Chope: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Yeo: No, I am sorry, but I will not have time to let the Minister get to his feet.

The Policy Studies Institute concluded that the change would reduce energy use and fuel bills, which was confirmed by the National Grid Company. A more recent study, which took place since I introduced my Bill last year, showed that the change would reduce the overall UK electricity price in winter by as much as 5 per cent. because early evening peaks in demand would be reduced, and the need for as much power to be kept on standby would be obviated. Those findings were also confirmed by the National Grid Company’s modelling a year ago and would also address the matter of fuel poverty, which is rightly of great concern in many parts of the House.

There are other, unquantifiable benefits for energy, such as people’s greater willingness to use public transport or to walk or cycle in the hours of daylight. Only today I received an e-mail from someone who says that they often cycle through my constituency and would do so far more often if they could complete their journeys in daylight.

The third reason the policy would be so advantageous is the boost that it would give to tourism, Britain’s fifth largest industry. The change would lead to more inward visits, generating an extra £1 billion of inward revenue and thereby reducing the huge balance of payments deficit that currently exists in the tourism industry. It is estimated that a further £2 billion of spending would be generated in the leisure sector if people had the opportunity to visit historic sites and other attractions in the hours of daylight in the afternoon. The tourism industry is important to Britain. It has jobs that cannot be exported to the Asia-Pacific region. It is a 21st-century industry and we should give it as much help as we can.

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The fourth reason for the change is quality of life. Again, only this morning I received an e-mail that said:

and indeed to millions of other people.

There would be health benefits, too. The opportunity for more physical recreation and outdoor activity would help to address the problem of obesity and its associated consequences, with great, unquantified savings to the national health service, including through avoiding lost production capacity.

On energy use, I should also mention that the amount of carbon emissions saved is not insubstantial, but equivalent to half the current amount of electricity being generated from renewable sources. That would amount to 15 per cent. of the European Union’s challenging 2020 target, which Britain has accepted, to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources. There would be advantages to those, particularly in Scotland, who are concerned about the requirements for large numbers of wind farms. The Bill would be an easier way of achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

The opportunity that the Bill provides is enormous. There are many other benefits, including for the Olympic games and training opportunities, with perhaps a chance for the children inspired by the games to participate in outdoor activities under better conditions. People who do business in Europe currently find it difficult to get to morning meetings in countries on continental European time. That difficulty would be eradicated.

Most measures that come before the House that save lives, cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce energy bills, boost an important industry and improve the health and well-being of many citizens carry a price tag, in the form of higher taxes or higher prices for consumers, or involve the imposition of more regulations and red tape on business. My Bill does none of those things. It is all gain and no cost—a change that carries no penalty for anybody.

My Bill is an idea whose time has come, and I am certain that within 10 years the change will have been made, but each year that Parliament delays making it, another 100 lives are needlessly lost on the roads and another 1.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted. I hope that the Minister will use the seven minutes that remain to announce the Government’s support for the measure. If he does not, he will have some searching questions to answer.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood), the Opposition spokesman, has the chance, I know that he will make it clear that the Conservative party now feels sympathetically towards the policy. I hope that that sympathy will be translated into a strong commitment at the next election. If we had had a full day’s debate today, I am confident that
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many hon. Members would have expressed their support for the Bill. I hope that one of them will pick up the same measure next year, if the Government have not already done so.

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