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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to intervene? It is all very well to say that the Government have the duty to consider wider issues than public opinion, but surely they should do so having first found out what that public opinion is. Is there not an obligation on the Government to carry out some effective opinion poll on the views of ordinary people? At the moment, the statistics we have are about consultation, which is vastly inferior to proper social research.
We have heard today from my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, who referred to a 62 per cent. majority in favour of change in Scotland in last year's NOP survey. I must remind your Lordships that the survey result was based on just 92 persons interviewed in Scotland.
The Government have a duty to consider all the arguments on an issue which affects everyone living in this country. That is what we have been doing and I will undertake to bring the points made in the debate to the attention of my noble friend Lady Blatch.
We have heard what has been said by my noble friend Lord HolmPatrick and the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Ezra and Lord St. John of Bletso, about road traffic accidents and the advantages of travelling home at the end of the day in daylight. The House is familiar with the estimates of the Transport Research Laboratory on the net savings in road traffic casualties which might result from moving the clocks forward by an hour, although the noble Lord, Lord Monson, suggested some reasons which might not have been taken into account in the calculations.
On the other hand, we know that there are some contrary concerns about the safety of certain groups of workers, for example, postal workers and those in the farming and construction industries, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, set out for us. Their spokesmen believe that the increased risk of accidents could be considerable. It may be that some individuals could adjust their working day to take account of darker mornings if those prove dangerous, but it is difficult to alter such arrangements unilaterally. I note with interest what the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, had to say regarding the construction industry.
Another important consideration for the Government is the possible effect on crime of any change in the spread of daylight. It is clear that elderly people and women of all ages are anxious about being out alone after dark. Fear of crime is a serious problem and one which needs to be addressed on a wide front. Well-lit streets, concerned neighbours and better public awareness of the real dangers and how to avoid them can make a major contribution to reducing fear, but the extension of daylight by one hour in the evening could also help.
Fear of crime is, of course, an important element in people's sense of well-being. However, according to recent studies of crime patterns, the potential effects on the incidence of crime of a move to SDST are less clear than was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. Lighter evenings could reduce the number of thefts of or from cars, which take place more often in the dark. On the other hand, if longer evenings result in more people going out and leaving their house empty for longer, burglary rates could actually rise. Similarly, if lighter evenings encourage more people to go out, stay out later, and possibly drink more, then the number of assaults could increase. Changes in behaviour--in particular that of offenders--are difficult to predict, so that the net effect on crime figures is uncertain.
We heard from my noble friends Lady O'Cathain and Lord Mountevans, and the noble Lords, Lord St. John of Bletso and Lord McIntosh of Haringey, about the potential benefits of the proposed change for industry, tourism and transport. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, was indeed persuasive about the advantages for tourism, even in Scotland.
However, on the transport side, the most serious difficulty for the transport industry in recent years has not been adjusting timetables to different time zones in the UK and Europe--this, after all, is not a new problem or one that is confined to Europe--but rather the different dates hitherto adopted for the end of summer time. The industry has therefore welcomed the news that this year was the last one in which the periods of summer time will vary. Those noble Lords who are concerned that we may be too ready to harmonise our arrangements with others in Europe will be pleased to note that from next year our European partners are to harmonise with us. They have recognised the benefits of UK practice, and from 1996 will end summer time on the last Sunday in October.
While timetables might be further simplified if we were in the same time zone as much of Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, suggested, it has become apparent that this would also create some significant new problems for UK airlines. They would need to renegotiate their take-off and landing rights at many European and international airports and could also face difficulties in this country if the effect was to increase the number of night flights.
Business travellers are used to adjusting their watches when they travel, whether between the UK and Europe or, for example, crossing the United States, where this is not seen as a problem. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, also pointed out the multiple time zones in Russia and
The adoption of SDST would indeed bring the working hours of the United Kingdom more closely into line with those of our major trading partners in Continental Europe, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lady O'Cathain. It would at the same time deprive business of the one-hour overlap with the working day in North America. For much of international business, however, neither of these considerations is any longer important. In a global market, business and financial centres are open around the clock. Methods of communication are becoming faster and more flexible. Working hours in the City of London have for some time extended both earlier and later than in the past--as was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso--to link up with the Far East in the morning and North America in the evening.
We have heard from those in favour of change about its advantages. Defenders of the status quo point both to some specific disadvantages which would flow from the adoption of SDST and to the need for strong and compelling reasons to justify altering a system with which everyone is entirely familiar. As the Government made clear on the last occasion--and in this regard I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon--whatever decision is eventually reached must take into account the balance of advantage for different regions and groups in the country and must be applied to the United Kingdom as a whole.
The Government would, of course, bring forward a Bill if and when they considered it right to do so. It will be clear from my earlier remarks, and indeed from the differing views expressed so emphatically in tonight's debate, that we do not think that the time has yet arrived. As to one report in The Times--
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Perhaps he will clarify one point, if he can. I asked whether the Government would consider a trial period continuing with Central European Time in order to obtain the statistics which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, suggested. I hope that he will make some remark about that or give some consideration to that suggestion.
The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I believe that I have some notes relating to that matter. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary co-ordinates policy on these matters and these are the only authoritative statements of policy made by or on behalf of the Government as a whole.
My noble friend Lord Mountgarret raised the question of a free vote on Mr Butterfill's proposed Bill. I must point out that it is not the practice of the Government to make an announcement on procedure before the introduction of a Bill.
The noble Lords, Lord Tanlaw and Lord St. John of Bletso, asked why there had been no updated version of our 1989 Green Paper on the pros and cons of the various options. We have not received any such request, but I shall certainly invite my colleagues to consider the case for providing one.
Lord Tanlaw: I thank the noble Earl for giving way again. I raised this matter the last time that we debated the subject and asked why that consultative document was so out of date. So did many other noble Lords. I do not quite understand why he says that there has been no request made for it in your Lordships' House.
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