Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I have to say that I am not terribly pleased about this amendment. It may well be fine in the east of England, but it would not be very helpful in north-west Scotland. For their own reasons,
 
26 Oct 2005 : Column 1290
 
the Icelanders have opted to observe GMT, despite the fact that Reykjavik is 18 degrees west. The noble Lord's amendment would impose on the citizens of Stornoway, for example, even darker mornings. Stornoway is seven degrees west. If we were to move the United Kingdom's time forward to GMT plus one, Stornoway would effectively be at 22 degrees west. This would condemn it to mornings in the middle of winter which would be struggling to become light by eleven o'clock. That would not be helpful.

Lord Tanlaw: Before the noble Lord sits down, presumably they have electric light in Stornaway, as they have elsewhere. In fact there is more surplus electricity in Scotland than anywhere else.

I am a hill farmer myself, in Eskdalemuir, although we are not as far north as that. There has been a major change in the farming scene. Farming is done indoors now, and forestry is done with floodlights. The Health and Safety Executive makes sure that builders are no longer frozen on to ladders, another reason why we have to keep the time as it is. The whole situation has changed. I am sorry for people in Stornaway. I am well aware of their latitude and longitude, but that makes no difference: they have electric light, and they get light in the evenings. RoSPA has said there are fewer accidents in Scotland, and there will be fewer with lighter evenings.

Baroness Hanham: Before my noble friend stands up to support this Motion, I have the same reservations about it as the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. Children have to go to school in the morning. We are worried about older people in the evenings, but children have to go to school. These days they are expected to walk to school—they are not meant to be bussed around in cars—and if they are doing so at eight or nine in the morning and it is still dark, it seems to me that is just as bad as it being dark in the evening. I would have thought it best if things were left alone.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful for the customary way the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has introduced this amendment. On the question of children in the morning, drivers of vehicles are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, but in the evening they are tired and make mistakes.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, talked about votes. I would have thought this was a vote-winner. It is beneficial for everyone. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, talked about the problem of Stornaway. We understand the problem, but the amendment does not alter the number of hours of daylight they have in Stornaway in the winter. They do not have many hours, full stop.

I am sure the Minister will point out other difficulties than the road safety aspect. He nods his head. There are advantages outside road safety as well, however; for instance, leisure. September is a nice month of the year—the weather is nice—but it gets dark at eight o'clock, which means it is not such a good time to go on holiday. If we adopted the noble Lord's amendment, it would get dark at nine o'clock, not
 
26 Oct 2005 : Column 1291
 
eight, which would be good for business. Indeed, when we do business, we are adrift from our continental partners.

I cannot see many negative aspects of adopting this amendment. Yes, there will be some more accidents in the morning, but there will be fewer in the evening. There is a thought that we will save about 400 casualties per annum.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: I am an enthusiastic supporter of the amendment. I have been in Parliament now for 50 years, and this subject is debated every single year, rather like fixed Easter. We all know that the reason, let us not beat about the bush, is these Scottish farmers. The fact is that Scotland now claims to be very independent, so they can have their own time. I wager, though, that if this is passed, it will be a greater contribution to road safety than anything else in the Bill.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I rise very briefly. As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has said, RoSPA supports this amendment, and would appreciate a trial period to see how things go.

Lord Berkeley: I very much support the amendment. I have been a great believer in this for years. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is concerned about children going to school in the dark in the morning, but drivers are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning—except for the odd teenager. Coming back from school in the evening, not only will children be more tired, and it is probably better that they are in the daylight then, but they also often go off to after-school activities and they have two journeys in the evening as opposed to one in the morning. So I think that it more than balances out.

If the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, is that worried about cows or sheep which can tell the time in Scotland, could we not remove the reserved status and let the Scots do their own thing and give them independence? We could change the clocks at the border.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for suggesting that; I did not know he was a convert. We also have to bear in mind that before the United Kingdom moves out of GMT, as the largest country in the GMT zone we also have to consider the Republic of Ireland, Portugal and Iceland. They would have to adjust their time if the United Kingdom did so. We have to remember the larger picture.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for the way in which he introduced the debate and for the discussion he has provoked. However, the discussion answers one of his major questions. There is not universal support for the proposition. It is not party managers who in dark
 
26 Oct 2005 : Column 1292
 
corners are perpetrating anti-democratic sentiments and imposing decisions on the rest of the nation—one has only to look at the Conservative Front Bench and the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. I will also be expressing from this Front Bench some reservations about this proposal. Of course, we are reflecting opinion.

I concede straightforwardly that the noble Lord is right when he brings this issue forward in a Road Safety Bill and extols its merit in terms of road safety. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, is absolutely right too. It would be a major contribution to road safety if this change were effected. We know the statistics, and no one is better qualified than my noble friend Lady Gibson in her role as president of RoSPA to identify the figures which show the number of road deaths that would be prevented if we adopted this proposal. So I am not going to gainsay that argument; far from it, I accept the position entirely.

Why is it that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benches and indeed our own Front Bench have reservations about the proposal? It is because the road safety issue, important though it is, is not the only issue. There are wider interests at stake. We are obliged to take those wider interests into account. One could produce maximum levels of road safety if one suspended a whole range of commercial operations in this country that are greatly to the advantage of us all in producing our wealth and happiness, but which are extremely dangerous because they entail moving people around and people can be injured or even killed by transport.

So road safety and safety issues cannot be the dominant matter, although in this Bill they are the issue before us. I accept the noble Lord's statistics and arguments on the contribution to road safety. I am afraid that he is obliged to recognise that we genuinely are taking wider interests into account.

I cannot answer the noble Lord any better than that. However, I can answer one factual point. I will put him out of his misery in trying to find out which department is responsible for this. As he will know, this is a Government without seams. We are so interconnected that there is no question of separating one department from another. Therefore we are all equally responsible for the good things and no one is culpable for the bad. However, I will enlighten him on this point. The department responsible for summer time—and I think he probably did telephone the right department—is the Department of Trade and Industry, which regrettably is not represented here this evening. However, I do not think that it would present the case any differently from how I did. It may not put quite the same emphasis on road safety as I can—as I have learnt at the Dispatch Box from the wisdom of the Benches behind me and opposite.

The department would also attest to the fact that there are wider interests to take into account, which is why we are still unpersuaded of the case. Nevertheless, I do not doubt that there is increasing pressure for it. We would be blind if we did not recognise how many more people argue for it this decade than 10 years ago.
 
26 Oct 2005 : Column 1293
 
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, alluded to that. I wish the noble Lord well in his endeavours. He has not persuaded us sufficiently this evening. I cannot accept his amendment but I accept his statistics.

10.30 pm


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page