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Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my intervening for one moment, I do not believe that I referred to the building trade. Therefore I do not believe that I put forward a fallacious argument.
Lord Burton: My Lords, the noble Lord certainly did so regarding agriculture. He spoke about seeing to machinery before going out to work. It is not nice playing about with machinery on a lousy morning. I believe that the building trade was referred to by noble Lords on the other side. However, quite rightly, the building trade will suffer severely if we accept the proposal.
The question arises as to whether we should divide the House tonight. I know that that is seldom done on Second Reading. However, there are precedents and it is seldom that we debate such a damaging Bill as this. I feel tempted to divide to see what support there is. We are told that the issue is evenly balanced. I believe that it is wrong that real hardship should be inflicted on some people, although it is a minority, so that others have more time to enjoy themselves in the evening.
The Earl of Huntingdon: My Lords, as an unlisted speaker in the gap, I realise that I have a particular duty to be brief. I thank my noble friends Lord Burnham and Lord Crawshaw for allowing me to make my point without being too repetitive.
The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, referred to punters paying. It is certainly a weighty argument. But in fact evening racing at present is less profitable in the betting shops than afternoon racing. In a recent survey published two days ago 78 per cent. of the British Betting Office Association were opposed to evening racing.
Speaking as a professional in the racing industry, I suppose that I should be expected to support the Bill. In our narrow world I can see the advantages of the availability of more evening fixtures for the racegoing public. But many trainers and stable staff breathe a sigh of relief when the last evening meeting at Windsor traditionally takes place in late August. That is after four months of five o'clock starts in the morning and late night returns after both day and evening racing.
My northern training colleagues in particular would be seriously inconvenienced by a later start to the morning in winter when they have to supervise their horses' exercise before going off to the races. Unlike the dairy farmers in their milking parlours, the gallops are not floodlit. Most of those colleagues are responsible enough to seek to avoid the worst of the business traffic and any confrontation with cars. A later start in the morning would make that task very difficult for them.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, we have had a lively and instructive debate on what is clearly a controversial issue. We are much indebted to the noble Viscount for having persisted in raising the issue, so long unresolved,
The issue is certainly not new. One can say that it has been with us for decades. The first time the matter of Summer Time was debated in Parliament was 1908; British Summer Time was introduced in 1916, during the First World War, and double Summer Time in 1941 in the Second World War. Then there was the experiment to which my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead so graphically referred, at the time when he was Home Secretary, between 1968 and 1971.
That all demonstrates that the question of Summer Time has evolved over the years and there is no reason at all why, if we come to the conclusion that there should be a further change, we should not have one. It is not something which has always been in the shape it has now.
I believe that the Green Paper which appeared in 1989 was one of the most balanced documents on such a subject that I have read. It set out the issues clearly and if the document were to be written today it would, in my opinion, be in much the same style. We have allowed five years to go by without coming to a conclusion.
The Green Paper looked at the issue from the point of view of the impact which the proposed changes might have, the main change being to move to single double Summer Timethe phrase that has been adopted for Central European Time. I was particularly struck by what the Green Paper said about road accidents. I know that some doubt has been expressed by noble Lords on the subject, but the evidence seems fairly clear from the work done by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory. In recent Questions in another place, very specific Answers were given by the Government on the impact which double British Summer Time might have on road accidents. For example, in 1993 an Answer stated that, based on the 1991 road accident data, the Road Research Laboratory estimated that a total of 29 fatalities, 125 serious injuries and 140 lesser injuries to children under the age of 16 could be avoided in Great Britain if double Summer Time were adopted.
If one used no other argument, it seems to me that, if true, the matter of life and death is a powerful argument. The research has been done; indeed, the Government reiterated that statement in a later Answer. I feel justified in stating those facts because they are the kind of considerations that we should bear in mind when examining such an issue. They indicate that in estimating the position that could arise by the year 2005, with road fatalities, the introduction of double Summer Time would reduce road fatalities among children up to the age of 15, in that case, by something like 4 per cent. Those are serious considerations and as they are supported on the basis of the work done by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory I think that everyone must take them very seriously indeed. If the
Lord Burton: My Lords, perhaps I may just ask the noble Lord: are these UK figures, or are they figures for England and Wales? Where do the figures come from? On cold, dark mornings a child rushing to school will clearly be at far greater risk than at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when it should be awake.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that these are UK figures given by the Government. No doubt the noble Baroness will be able to confirm them when she speaks. They are government figures and can be found in Hansard.
The next issue is that of saving energy, in which I have some interest. There is not the slightest doubtagain based on the work that was done in the Green Paper and subsequently confirmedthat there would be considerable savings in lighting costs. At a time when the Government are committed to saving energy and to meeting their climate warming objectives, this is an important consideration.
Reference has been made to tourism. The latest estimates are that this change could lead to an extra £1 billion of earnings from tourism. I should have thought that that was a matter of some importance to a trading nation.
The report also referred to improved leisure facilities, particularly for elderly people. Then, of course, there are the commercial benefits to which various speakers have referredthe noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, and others.
The report also sets out the arguments against the proposal and sets them out very fairly. But its conclusion is worth quoting. Having set out on page 26 the arguments against the proposal, it then states:
Therefore, at the very least the debate is still open. At the very least we had in the Green Paper of five years ago a most important document. It is regrettable that five years have elapsed, during which time we have not reached a decision. I hope the noble Baroness will tell the House that after that period of five years' gestation the Government are on the point of concluding.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, one can tell at a glance that the Central European Time Bill is not a government Bill. First, it is contained easily on a single sheet of paper. Secondly, it is in plain English and can be readily understood without employing the services of a lawyer. The noble Viscount deserves the congratulations of this House, not just for his brevity and clarity, but also for his truly exceptional patience in this matter.
I hope that the House will forgive mealthough it has heard already tonight something of the historyif I produce some further edited highlights which perhaps give some indication of the reasons why the noble Viscount has at last had to resort to introducing this Bill himself.
But first I have a warning. Anyone who hopes, in looking at the history of this matter, to gain from this sorry story reassurance about the consultative and legislative process must prepare themselves for disappointment. Anyone who hopes to hear the sound of the smack of firm government will strain their ears in vain. For I am afraid that this is a tale of dithering indecision and is as good an illustration of the politics of prevarication and, quite frankly, pusillanimous procrastination as one could hope to find even in the annals of the present Administration.
I shall not go back in history to the bygone age, the golden age, before there were daily calls for the resignation of the Home Secretary of the day. I shall start in August 1987, when, the European Commission having made proposals for summer time arrangements across the Community, the Home Office commissioned its first survey of interest groups. Unfortunately, the Home Office gave five options for consideration. The result, perhaps predictably, was that the Home Office could not understand the results that it obtained or, as it put it on page 6 of its consultative document:
So a year later the Government tried again and in 1988 a second survey was commissioned. This time they wisely cut the options down to three. Nobody can complain that they were not consulted about this matter back in 1988. Everybody was consulted. There were 410 different interest groups which took advantage of the offer and responded. They ranged from Lloyd's of London to the Bee Farmers Association, the Briar Pipe Trade Association, the British Edible Pulse Association, the Friends of the Earth, the Ice Cream Alliance Limited, the National Federation of Fish Friers and the Zip Fastener Manufacturers Association. From Scotland too the responses poured in. Groups which, on the face of it, would appear to have nothing obvious in common groups such as the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, the Scotch Whisky Association and the Scottish Accident Prevention Councilall submitted the same view. No more extensive consultation could possibly have been undertaken one may think on reading the consultative documentthan was then undertaken by that government. The overwhelming majority of those who made submissions or were consulted favoured the adoption of Central European Time back in June 1989, some five years ago.
Perhaps we can now fast-forward the action three years and come to 14th July 1992. We find the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, at the Dispatch Box, on that occasion asking for a further two years of the status quo and using these words:
The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, was beginning to be restive by that time but he bit his tongue and kept his seat. Six months more passed and in December 1992 the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, could bear the waiting no longer. He asked the Government if they would please expedite this review urgently in view of the single European market beginning early in 1993 and the forthcoming Channel Tunnel. But he was told by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers:
By 19th January 1994a year laterthe noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, could no longer remain silent. He asked whether the Government would now take action. On that occasion the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was characteristically decisive. He told the House:
So yet another year has passed. The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, has finally snapped and introduced the Bill himself. Tonight, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has been sent to hold the reins of this somewhat difficult and troublesome hobbyhorse which has so far refused to face the obstacle of decision that is in front of us.
It is perfectly fairthe noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, rubbed salt in the wound this evening with regard to this matterthat opinion on the merits of this proposed legislation is divided. I believe that it crosses all party lines and when I express support for the Billwhich I do without reservationI express my personal point of view. There are others on these Benches, in addition to the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, who do not wish to see change. I am bound to say that, over the passage of the past year and in the light of the concession the noble Viscount makes in his Bill in relation to Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Howie, appears to have changed from acting as champion of the Scots to championing the cause of the Irishthough the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, did not seem unduly troubled by that aspect of the matter.
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