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Following on from that, let me deal with the issue of removing the tolls. All the profiling that we did in 2000 to 2001 showed that if the tolls were removed, there would be an increase of about 17 per cent. in the number of people attempting to use the crossing. Therefore, if one thinks about the approach to the tunnels and the difficulties that occur even now if a vehicle breaks down, they will admit that delay and the congestion that it causes are substantial. If there were no tolls and no plaza, the pollution caused by the number of vehicles trying to get into the entrance would be even greater than it is currently.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I hope that the Minister will acknowledge to the Chamber that, under European directives, riparian crossings can be tolled only if they diminish congestion. That is the only mandate; otherwise, tolls are unlawful. If the present congestion were to endure, presumably the Ministry would have to accommodate that or not be in compliance with European directives.

There is much that I would have liked to say, but my final point is that my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate) and I learned about the proposal to increase the tolls at the same time as everybody else, from our local press. We did not go ballistic—we went nuclear. Don’t mess with us.

Paul Clark: One thing I can certainly agree with is that my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) and for Dartford have been the most consistent in arguing their case. In part, that resulted in the discussions that followed and the consultations with residents which led to the residents’ scheme being introduced.

Bob Spink: Will the Minister give way?

Paul Clark: I will give way once more but I want to be able to put answers to the questions on the record.

Bob Spink: The Minister may recall that I raised the matter in a speech in this House about seven years ago, and that I have campaigned on it ever since. Why should the people of Essex and north Kent be discriminated against? Why should they be singled out from all the people in this country to collect tolls in order to solve congestion problems or to raise stealth taxes? Surely, if the argument applies there, it should apply for all the similar road areas around the country. We are being discriminated against.

Frank Cook (in the Chair): Briefly.

Bob Spink: If there are to be road tolls, let us introduce them honestly across the whole country and let everybody pay the same.

Paul Clark: With due respect, the hon. Gentleman and, unfortunately, others seem to assume that the road is used by local people only, but it is not. In the first few paragraphs that I had a chance to deliver, I said that it is part of the strategic road network. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that with the M25 on either side, it is part of a critical route. It is not just the people of Kent and Essex who pay for the crossing.

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I suspect that most of the people who use the crossing day in and day out would not want the additional delays that undoubtedly would follow if there were a free-for-all. Safety in the tunnel would also be impaired, because another matter that hon. and right hon. Members will be well aware of— [Interruption.] It would be a free-for-all, given the substantial tankers that need to be escorted through the tunnel. That is another management issue that has to be considered for the safety of all drivers and motorists going through the tunnel.

Let me remind Members that the arrangements that were introduced in the Transport Act 2000 and discussed by Parliament gave powers to introduce a charge on the tunnel and the crossing at Dartford. The Act gave us that ability, and it said clearly that any surplus revenues after the costs had been met would go into transport schemes. I accept that transport schemes have benefited on both sides of the river, as have those in other places as well, but that is part of the £2 billion that is going in every year to local transport and regional funding allocations. Kent and Essex have certainly benefited directly.

John Austin: When the Transport Bill was going through Parliament, the hon. Member for Thurrock and I were assured by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which was responsible, that although this was a congestion charge the revenue that arose from it would be used for investment in local transport infrastructure. We heard earlier that some investment went to Dartford and some went to Thurrock, but not beyond there.

The Minister will know that the Mayor of London has scuppered phase 2 of the Greenwich waterfront transit, which puts in doubt any possibility of phase 3 ever happening—its extension into Bexley, Belvedere, Erith and, perhaps, on to Dartford. Would the Minister consider making some of this revenue available for public transport improvements in the London borough of Bexley?

Paul Clark: My hon. Friend will be well aware of substantial funds that are made available through the Department for Transport and of various funding allocations, including through Transport for London and elsewhere—in terms of regional funding—through local transport plans for substantial investment in a number of ways and through various funding streams for those areas falling within the Thames Gateway, which hon. Members have already mentioned. Of course, the Mayor has the powers to make those decisions and he has made them under the powers that we gave through devolved administration.

Anyone who is unaware of the scheme would believe that everyone is paying an increase of 50p on every trip
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all the time and that they have to do that and have no choice. Hon. Members will know, if they are serious about this matter, that people can obtain the Dart-Tag, with which they can travel across the bridge for the same price as on 14 November, and not have to pay the increase. We want to move far more to people paying less in cash and using a cashless payment system. That is why we have made sure that there are generous concessions and no price increase at all.

In the few minutes remaining, let me say that I too heard the courier who said that it would cost him £5,000 more a year. I do not know the ins and outs of his business in total. He was talking about small vans and so on, the cost for which would have increased to £2. However, if he bought the Dart-Tag for his vehicles that cross regularly it would cost £1.75, which is 5p less for those very vans than on 14 November. It is unrealistic to suggest that everyone is being clobbered by serious increases.

In terms of residents, the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead has just widened the boundary for free travel to the people of Billericay, Sevenoaks, Erith and Thamesmead, Gravesham, Bexleyheath and Castle Point. The point is that this is a congestion charge in place to ensure that the crossing flows as reasonably as possible. Extending the concession further would not be a practical way of dealing with the congestion.

Mr. Evennett: Will the Minister give way?

James Brokenshire: Will he give way?

Paul Clark: No, I have been very generous in giving way.

Let me deal with one further point relating to the future. It would be wrong for us as a Government to bury our heads in the sand in respect of congestion on the Dartford crossing or wherever. That is why I am more than happy that we work with Essex and Kent, along with our own study in the Department on the possibilities of further crossings, and see how we can manage things in future. That is a long-term programme. It is right that we consider how best to ensure that the people who need to cross at that point can do so in the best and safest way possible. However, we recognise that removing the plaza and tolls and so on, would only lead to further congestion, which would not be good for the constituents of all hon. Members in this Chamber or the people who need to use it as a strategic network.

I give way to the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett).

Mr. Evennett: I am grateful. Did the Minister—

Frank Cook (in the Chair): Order.

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Single and Double Summer Time

4.45 pm

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): It is a pleasure to debate the subject of time under your watchful eye, Mr. Cook.

I am grateful to the Minister for Trade, Investment and Consumer Affairs for being present to reply to the debate. The Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs was good enough, a fortnight ago, to meet me and Colin Dawson, from the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions and Tom Mullarkey, the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. We debated this subject with him and his ministerial colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett). We made a number of points that day, which I am pleased to have the opportunity to make to the wider audience of all hon. Members and, hopefully, the public outside.

Probably the greatest holder of knowledge on the subject of daylight saving in the world at the moment is an American scholar named David Prerau, who wrote the book, “Saving the Daylight”. I was lucky enough to meet him last time he visited this country a couple of years ago. On Monday, I spoke to him on the telephone about this debate. He would agree that the basic goal of daylight saving time is to change the hours of human activity to make the best use of the available daylight. Sadly, it is not within Parliament’s power to increase the number of daylight hours in each day—that is a matter of nature—but we can allocate the daylight hours each day to provide more usable hours of daylight.

In this country, the first champion of daylight saving time was a British builder called William Willett, who wrote a pamphlet in 1907 called “The Waste of Daylight”. The following year, daylight saving time’s first parliamentary champion was Robert Pearce, the Member of Parliament for Leek—he has a Staffordshire connection—who introduced the first daylight saving time Bill in 1908. Today, more than 70 countries around the world now change their clocks each year to make the best use of available daylight.

David Prerau shows in his book that most countries change their clocks to achieve energy savings. To provide an historical illustration, during both the first world war and the second world war, all the main participating countries changed their hours of daylight to focus on their war effort, reduce domestic energy consumption and get the most out of their work force during usable hours of daylight. In 1973, with the first of the oil shocks in the middle east, the United States of America’s instant response to that energy crisis was to change, almost overnight, their daylight saving law to make the most of daytime.

The practice of daylight saving is now common throughout the world and it is still going on today. The USA decided to extend its daylight saving time, and that was done—get this, Minister!—in the Energy Policy Act 2005. That underlines the point that energy saving is the main purpose behind such provisions. That Act changed the start date for daylight saving time in America from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in
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March—three weeks earlier—and changed the end date in autumn from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November.

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman mentions the time of change in respect of daylight. Currently, the change happens on the last Sunday in October and the last Sunday in March, which is seven weeks before midwinter and 15 weeks after midwinter, respectively. Does he agree that a more balanced time, either side of midwinter, might be advantageous to everybody of all shades in this debate?

Mr. Kidney: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. As a member of the European Union, we change our clocks at a time agreed with the rest of Europe, albeit that it is mostly in a different time zone. Co-ordinated action would be required to make the change, and I am open-minded about that, but my argument today is about single/double summer time only.

I want to pursue the point about energy saving in America. When it passed the 2005 Act, it charged the Department with evaluating the change to discover whether there were energy savings. The change was made in 2007, and the Department of Energy produced its first report to Congress in October 2008. It confirms that extended daylight saving time has resulted in a further saving in electricity, and states:

just the extra four weeks—

That is a significant saving.

A point to balance the argument is that the Department of Energy’s report explains:

The crucial point is that because it is darker in the mornings, energy consumption rises a little, but because it is lighter in the evenings, energy consumption overall noticeably falls. That is relevant in this country, because those of us who are keen on the change to single/double summer time asked for evidence of energy saving. Elizabeth Garnsey of Cambridge university has done some research on that, and concludes that there would be savings in energy consumption in this country and reductions in carbon emissions if we moved to single/double summertime. She makes the point that one reason for the savings is that during the evening peak between 1600 and 2100 hours, virtually all our energy production is thrown into meeting that peak, and that includes this country’s most expensive and most carbon-emitting sources of energy. Anything we can do to flatten the evening peak would produce savings. Elizabeth Garnsey concludes that there would be a saving of about 2 per cent. of electricity usage during the year and a reduction in carbon emissions of about 1.2 million tonnes.

Anyone who has seen the recent first report from the new Committee on Climate Change about how we will achieve an 80 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 knows that that is a great challenge. To have a
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starting point of saving 1.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions simply by changing the clocks is not to be sniffed at. Energy saving is a dominant reason for changing our clocks to a different scale.

Another reason, which is particularly important when the Minister responding is from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, is the jobs boost for the tourism industry. Tourism has developed enormously and now generates revenue of about £85 billion a year, and is one of our biggest employers, directly responsible for 1.4 million jobs for one in every 20 people in work in this country. It would flourish even more if evenings were lighter so that attractions could stay open later.

Research by the Policy Studies Institute in October 2008 forecast an increase in earnings of between £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion a year, and up to between 60,000 and 80,000 new jobs in tourism. Those statistics are incredibly important for this debate, and I am fortified in saying that that is a good reason to make the change by the strong response from that sector to today’s debate. For example, the Tourism Alliance, which represents 50 tourism industry organisations and some 200,000 businesses of all sizes throughout the United Kingdom, strongly supports the change, and says:

I shall not read out the 50 members of the alliance, but I draw attention to the Association of British Travel Agents, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Hospitality Association, the British Holiday and Home Parks Association, the Confederation of British Industry, the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK and the National Trust. They are significant players in tourism in this country, as are the Heart of England tourist board, which covers the area of the country that I represent in the west midlands, and the associate members of the Tourism Alliance, including the Local Government Association and Visit Britain. That is a substantial body of opinion.

Mr. MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful argument. I do not fully agree with it, but it has some merits. Does he agree that a move to a winter period that is perhaps five weeks either side of midwinter might go some way towards achieving what he is calling for, while recognising that if he gets his way and moves us to European time all year round, there would be practical difficulties for people living in certain latitudes? In areas north of Manchester, sunrise this morning would have been at 9.23.

Mr. Kidney: Again, the hon. Gentleman makes the point about changing the time when we put the clocks forwards and backwards. It is a valuable point, and I am sure that the Minister heard it. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he has some reservations, rather than complete reservations. There is a traditional view in this place that Scotland opposes changes to the clocks, and he makes it clear that he has an open mind, even if he has some reservations.

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