Don Foster MP

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Daylight Saving Bill

December 6, 2023 by admin in Don in Parliament, News

Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD): My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour, the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), who is no longer in his place, made a telling intervention in which he pointed out that nothing in the Bill-and, indeed, nothing that Parliament can do-will increase the amount of daylight in any particular location in this country. The Bill seeks to find the most effective way of using daylight for the benefit of our constituents, whether they be in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England.

I was delighted to hear the speech by the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long). Her contribution was one of the finest that we have heard. She clearly fully understood the purpose of the Bill. She rightly expressed concern that there had not been much debate on this issue in Northern Ireland, and pointed out that limited research had been carried out there. She also said that she had a number of concerns about what might happen if we adopted the proposals. She went on to say, crucially, that because of the lack of evidence, and because many people believe that there will be real benefits from the proposals, the Bill should be given a fair wind so that the appropriate research, and the appropriate analysis of that research, can be carried out, and decisions could then be made on whether any further action should be taken. It has to be said that her speech was in marked contrast to those made by representatives of the Scottish National party.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) made a valuable contribution. She began by saying that she was agnostic about the issue. She admitted that she had approached it with an open mind and that, having reviewed the evidence, she was not particularly impressed by it and was now ambivalent about the matter. That is fine, and at least she did not deny that there might be merit in the proposals, and in continuing with the research. That was in stark contrast to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil).

Dr Whiteford: If the Bill dealt with no more than the research phase, I would be very happy to support it. It does not, however; it proposes a trial and, in the light of all the evidence that I have seen so far, I do not believe that the case has been made for such a trial.

Mr Foster: The hon. Lady condemns herself out of her own mouth. She says that the evidence to date does not persuade or convince her. Fine. Then let us carry out the research, and the independent analysis of that research, and bring back a proposal to the House through an order so that we can decide whether to go on with a trial.

Mr MacNeil rose -

Mr Foster: I will give way briefly, but the hon. Gentleman has taken up a lot of the House’s time today.

Mr MacNeil: I am not sure whether that is good or bad. The hon. Gentleman is arguing for research, and analysis of that research, to be carried out. If that were covered by one Bill, and the trial were covered by another, many of us would feel a lot more secure. This Bill, however, sets us on a slippery slope, and we would go from A to B to C very quickly. We would have three years of misery, followed by repentance from all sides as we changed back to the current system.

Mr Foster: The hon. Gentleman seems to change his tune with almost every intervention. Only a few minutes ago, he was intervening on the excellent contribution from the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) to ask whether she would be willing to change her mind on the basis of empirical research. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will change his mind on the basis of such research-

Mr MacNeil rose -

Mr Foster: I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He would do well to read in detail what the Bill says. I applaud the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) for introducing a Bill that addresses all the approaches to this issue that might exist in this House. Perhaps it is worth reminding Members and others listening to the debate what the Bill actually says. It states:

“The Secretary of State must conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part, of the year, including…a breakdown, so far as is possible, of these costs and benefits for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

It goes on to state that the analysis must take into account research that is done

“by such bodies as the Secretary of State thinks fit.”