Friday, 5 July 2013
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: ] I noted earlier research carried out by Noel Brett, director of the Road Safety Authority, and his staff which showed the start of summer time in late March was associated with reductions in road casualty numbers while the onset of winter time in October showed the opposite with a significant increase in casualties.
My experience as a representative echoes findings that people are safer from crime in longer brighter evenings. Much serious crime and attacks on citizens take place in the hours of darkness. Long, dark murky evenings have always been a godsend for anti-social and criminal elements who plague vulnerable families in many urban estates. Longer evenings would also greatly assist youth diversion schemes such as the brilliant football scheme run by members of An Garda Síochána, the Dublin local authorities and the FAI.
The level of peak demand in energy consumption and the consequent amount of CO2 emissions would clearly be moderated and fall if we changed to summer time and GM+2 all year round. Deputy Colreavy's point about people leaving on lights is well taken. The Lighter Later campaign in the UK estimates that up to 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions would be removed from polluting the environment if the UK adopted British summer time on a permanent basis. There are powerful arguments that moving to single-double summer time, SDST, would enhance the Irish economy and provide sustainable growth. Clearly tourism, which is a €5 billion industry, would benefit and the terrific efforts of the hospitality industry in the winter and early spring periods would clearly be helped if we changed.
I noted the evidence of ISME to the Oireachtas joint committee that the critical retail sector would benefit in winter and early spring. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation made the point that if we were on central European time we would be more in sync with our European neighbours. I note the points made by Deputies on this, in particular Deputy Dooley.
The key objection to moving to SDST and year-round summer time was posed to me by Deputy Kelleher on the day the Bill was published. He asked me why I did not call it the darker mornings Bill. The one downside of moving the clocks forward by one hour is that the sun would rise an hour later throughout the year. However, for all the reasons that have been put forward an extra hour of light is more valuable for the majority of people in the evenings than in the mornings. As stated in the major UK Lighter Later campaign, this extra hour of light is so valuable because "most of the population sleeps through the first hour of sunlight for much of the year".
Besides concerns for our young schoolchildren and farming communities, opponents of the change often cite the experience from 1968 to 1971, to which many Deputies and the Minister referred. They mentioned the opposition of Scotland and the perceived serious difficulties of the Irish Republic changing unilaterally without the UK. I carefully included in section 2(5) with regard to our colleagues in the North and I fully accept that moving to year round summer time and CET without the UK presents a serious difficulty for our economy and society.
The point I make continually is that the British, from the Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, down, are seriously considering making this change and there is wide-ranging support for the move across the Labour and Green parties and the Liberal Democrats. Deputies referred to a succession of Bills tabled over the past 20 years in the British Parliament. Viscount Mountgarret introduced a Central European Time Bill in 1994. The Bill emerged from the House of Lords but did not pass through the House of Commons. A parallel Bill, the British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill 1995 was moved in the House of Commons. Viscount Mountgarret introduced a Western European Time Bill covering all of the UK in 1995, but this also failed in the House of Commons. His first Bill covered only England, Wales and Northern Ireland and he was prepared to let Scotland do its own thing. A further serious attempt to change the clocks was made in June 2004 when a House of Commons Bill from Nigel Beard, the Lighter Evenings Bill 2004, which extended only to England and Wales, ran out of parliamentary time. A similar Bill was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Tanlaw in 2005. Reference has been made to Rebecca Harris's Bill which resembles this Bill and the Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill introduced by Tim Yeo in 2006 which proposed a move to CET.
All of the above debates referred in detail to the British standard time experiment of 1968 to 1971, which Ireland also followed. By the end of 1970, a majority of Scots favoured a return to GMT, but it is striking that opinion polls conducted by British newspapers and companies in the run-up to the changeover showed a distinct majority were in favour of retaining British summer time. Approximately 50% were in favour and approximately 40% were against GMT+1. Several newspapers campaigned against year-round summer time on the basis of accidents involving children going to school but later analysis by the UK's Transport and Road Research Laboratory confirmed studies at the time showing a net fall of 2,700 people killed or seriously injured on the roads between morning and late afternoon in 1970 and estimated there would have been far fewer casualties during the 1980s if SSDT was in place.
One of the strongest supporters for the change to CET in the UK is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It states 450 fewer road deaths and serious injuries would occur if the change was made and that Scotland's road collision rate would also decline. This brief review of the British campaign to move to CET shows how persistent and serious it is, not least from environmental and road safety groups. I hope one small effect of today's debate, and perhaps future debates and discussions at the committee chaired by Deputy Stanton, is to strongly place a move to permanent summer time on our social and political agenda. We would also be ready if the other countries on these islands decide to move to a new system.
Some opponents of the change I advocate point to the third country in the GMT time zone with Ireland and the UK. As the Minister stated, Portugal converted to CET from 1966 to 1976 and later again from 1992 to 1996 and then reverted back. If one travels from Portugal to Spain, which are both on the Iberian peninsula, one changes time zones and I make this point with regard to the population in Northern Ireland. A key problem identified in literature about the change was the difficulty of getting children to sleep; the summer nights were so long the kiddies would not go to sleep. Latitude is important, as the further north one goes the less sunlight there is. Portugal is much further south which was a factor with regard to the length of the day and night and it may not be as important there as it is here.
In the above remarks and in my introductory speech, I hope I have made a clear and compelling case for this country to move to the single-double summer time model whereby clocks would stay at GMT+1 next October and in spring 2014 we would move a further hour to GMT+2. Long, bleak and often murky winter nights would be shorter and our people would have the widespread benefits of brighter evenings. These benefits include general health, recreation, road safety, tourism, energy and clear economic gains due to brighter evenings in winter and early spring. As the explanatory memorandum of the Bill makes clear, putting the clocks forward for good to ensure brighter evenings is back on the agenda. Our closest neighbour the UK may proceed with the change in the next five to ten years, and the Minister agrees we should at least strongly research and get ready for any change. I believe we should move but practically it would be better for all countries on these islands to move together.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): I thank the Minister and Deputy Broughan. The agreement reached in the debate is commendable. I have enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot. I am in a technical dilemma as I am advised by the Clerk the question must be put to the House, which is unfortunate because the debate has arrived at a-----
Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): It is tremendous, creative and constructive. A friend of mine, who is a good golfer and bridge player, recommended the book Longitude to me. It would have a very good context-----
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