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Lord Gladwyn: My Lords, in contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, I congratulate the noble Viscount on his persistence in seeking change to our time system. In framing his question today, he seems to be concentrating his fire on one aspect of the argument; namely, the desirability of having the same time as our continental neighbours. I am emboldened to speak for the first occasion on this subject from the perspective of having worked in the management of British Airways, which, together with other transport operators, is intimately concerned with local timings for the efficiency of its scheduling.
The problem is that we are an hour behind our neighbours every day of the year. The classic instance of the disadvantage of this is to travellers originating in Britain and flying to other European Union countries. As compared to their counterparts from those countries travelling to Britain, they suffer not a one-hour but a two-hour handicap. For example, a flight leaving Paris Charles de Gaulle at 8 a.m. will arrive at Heathrow at 8 a.m. but travelling in the other direction it will arrive at 10 a.m.
British Airways calculates that, properly managed, a one-hour advancement could benefit them by up to £25 million a year as a result of the longer effective working day for British business travellers and a better competitive position in flight timings. It also calculates that the reduction in the need to night-stop aircraft in European cities could bring an annual saving of some £5 million.
Of course, it is not just British Airways which would benefit. The previous debates here and in another place, together with the weight of commercial and financial opinion as expressed in the consultation document of 1989 and subsequently, all demonstrate that, in terms of our travel and communications within our common European marketplace, we would gain a great advantage if we advanced an hour.
Having made these points as a good airline man, I have to say that, powerful though they are, they can hardly be taken in themselves as the reason for us to change. Domestic issues are surely of greater importance. Of these the most impelling are those relating to road safety, electricity saving and the social benefits of lighter evenings. In considering all these, it seems to me that the main weight of benefit from time advancement applies to the winter rather than the summer months.
For this reason I believe that, if only we could ignore the continent, as in the days of our Imperial isolation, the truly optimal solution for our country today would be to have an unchanged time throughout the year on GMT--whatever that may mean--plus one, or, in other words, our present summer time. Our summer sunsets are surely sufficiently late. It will be recalled that this was precisely what we had during the ill-fated experimental period from 1968-71. Had it been endorsed by Parliament, it is presumably what we would still have today.
During that period our time was the same as continental time, which had never had a summer-winter split. Subsequently a summer time of GMT plus two was introduced on the continent. This excessive summer advancement has since proved highly unpopular in France, so much so that last year the French Government went to the European Commission to seek to rescind it in France, despite the acute disruption that this would have caused on their common land borders. Unfortunately, the Commission was able to quash that reversal because France had entered into a treaty for a commonality of time. Incidentally, that treaty does not apply to Britain, thus leaving the decisions on British time levels entirely to ourselves.
Had France succeeded, I believe that we should have joined her in a common Anglo-French time. That may well have graduated to a common west European time, to include Spain and Portugal in addition to Ireland. After all, there is never going to be a common time throughout the whole of the Union because the future eastern members are bound to join Finland and Greece in being one hour ahead of it.
But things being what they are and steering prudently away from the problems of Scotland, I feel that, in the balance of choice between the status quo and one hour's advancement, I support the noble Viscount in his campaign. If he succeeds, he will have revived the time we had during the last war, specifically on D-Day when his distinguished father launched an attack at 5.25 GMT. That was 7.25 in British time and, strangely enough, 6.25 in French time.
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, reference has been made to my Bill of 1995, to which your Lordships were kind enough to give a Second Reading. It would be impossible and unproductive in this short space of time for me to try to cover all the points made there, many of which have not been referred to this evening. However, I should like to draw attention to one major and important point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley.
The noble Lord, Lord Vinson, was chairman of the late lamented Rural Development Commission, and I hold a copy of his letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, of the Department of Transport. I congratulate her on the desirability of trying to reduce deaths on the road through reducing the drink-drive limits--a totally different matter to that we are debating tonight. But we might bear in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. To that extent I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to col. 247 of Hansard in the Second Reading debate on 11th January 1995. With permission, perhaps I may repeat what I said, which came from the Road Safety Research Laboratory statistics. In essence, it was calculated that between 1969 and 1970, 1,330 deaths and serious injuries were saved. It also calculated that had the experiment been made permanent in 1971--that is the experiment in relation to the change of time--approximately 20,000 deaths would have been saved and £200 million. If that is so--I cannot say whether it is--and if we are going to look at the drink-drive limits with the admirable
There is great concern by those who live north of the Border, including the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, that the Scots would experience enormous difficulty in their existence. However, my noble friend Lord Monson admirably demonstrated how we could live perfectly well with two different time zones and he quoted Latin America. The Scots being nicely devolved and being able to organise their own affairs, if they wished they could keep their own times, and we could have two time zones. It is not for Westminster to tell them what they should do. I believe it would be illogical, but that is up to the Scots. I do not believe that the Scots should turn around and say, "Though it is beneficial for England"--which it now is--"it is unhelpful to us and therefore the whole thing must fail".
Something else to which I did not refer in my Bill--this may well go down badly--but the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, nearly touched on it, relates to the fact that there are a couple of months in the year when there is an argument for having Greenwich Mean Time. At that time it is dark in the morning and dark in the evening and it would not make any difference whether we were one hour ahead or one hour behind. But today it does make a difference and we would benefit by having time one hour ahead in line with central European time.
Though the noble Baroness--perhaps I may call her my very good friend--Lady Trumpington, said that she does not wish her speech to be referred to, I cannot refrain from so doing. She was shackled because her noble friend Lady Blatch was unable to be at the Dispatch Box and therefore she had to be somewhat restrained in her enthusiasm for this measure. The noble Baroness had to say that, "the lady did not say yes and did not say no". I suggest that this is a moment when we must support the request for a serious review again by the new Government in order for the lady to know what she wants.
Lord Levene of Portsoken: My Lords, I have for some years closely followed the debate as to whether British time should be changed to coincide with timing in continental Europe. Indeed, I had some previous involvement in this issue during the period I spent in the Cabinet Office. But I speak now as a businessman who travels frequently to Europe and who also deals with our colleagues on the continent on a regular basis.
There has been much emphasis in recent years on the question of our competitiveness and the importance which that has for the national economy. I can think of few greater barriers to the competitiveness of the UK in its dealings with continental Europe than the divergence of time. I should like to take as a practical example the question of travel and I have done a little research into the matter. I make no apology for re-emphasising some of the points made by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn.
I have taken as an example the requirement for a businessman or woman to attend a meeting in a European business centre which starts at 9.30 a.m.--hardly the crack of dawn. I have looked at this from the point of view of business with some of our major trading partners--France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. In every case, a business traveller coming in from any of those countries would have no difficulty in arriving at a meeting in central London at 9.30 a.m. I am working on the basis that there would be one hour's journey from the airport into the centre of the City. Conversely, however, for travellers from London to Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Zurich or Milan, in only one case--that of Brussels--would a passenger departing from London be able to achieve the same thing. In every case they would either have to insist on a later meeting or be put to the added expense of spending the previous night in the city in question.
Furthermore, for most of the cities which I quoted, a local traveller coming to London would not even have to catch the first flight in the morning, whereas our London-based traveller going to Brussels (the only attainable city) by 9.30 a.m., would certainly have to catch the first flight in the morning, which leaves London at 6.30 a.m. Bearing in mind that he needs to be at the airport half-an-hour beforehand at 6.00 a.m., one can assume that he would actually have to get up at about 5.00 a.m., or perhaps even earlier.
I have no difficulty with the question of getting up early in the morning, but I really wonder whether we are sending our business colleagues best equipped for important meetings in Europe, firstly, armed probably with very little sleep and, secondly, where in most cases they cannot even make such a meeting. If you look further afield in Europe than the cities I quoted, in many cases the London-based traveller would not be able to arrive at a meeting much before 11.30 a.m., which is almost wasting half the working day.
From the past experience I have had with this issue, I know of the problem that a change of time of this nature would raise with farmers. I have to say that I have always found this to be an extremely difficult argument to understand. I cannot understand why the farmers, and in particular those who deal with animals, need to be strictly regulated by the hands of a clockface. Surely, if a farmer wishes to handle his animals according to the time established by the sun, there is nothing to prevent him from so doing. Although I of course appreciate that the farmers must interface with other members in the community, nevertheless, their lives are far more self-contained than those of the international business community and I would have thought that, with a certain amount of adjustment, a change could be manageable.
Perhaps I may also suggest to your Lordships that if we were now on the same time as continental Europe, and it was then suggested that we should adjust our clocks to be one hour behind in order to ensure that farmers and their animals did not have to get up one hour earlier, such a suggestion would be greeted with astonishment.
Therefore I hope that the Government will finally see fit to consider favourably the request of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, in agreeing to change the time in the UK to coincide with that in continental Europe, particularly now, as has already been stated, that we are in the period that this country holds the presidency of the EU.
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