Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality DebatePage of 7
Chairman: Members will have received a document on the socio-economic and other implications of autumn and spring time adjustment arrangements. We will discuss these implications now. On behalf of the joint committee, I welcome Mr. Pat Farrell, chairman of the national environment committee of the Irish Farmers' Association, and Mr. Thomas Ryan, the association’s executive secretary for the environment. I also welcome Mr. Jim Curran, head of research of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. I welcome Mr. Gerry Wrynn from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. I thank all of them for attending and supplying information to the committee.
Each organisation will be invited to make some brief opening remarks before we have a question and answer session. We are grateful to the representatives for giving of their time and expertise. We are at the start of our consideration of this topic which has received much attention. It might seem strange that the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is responsible for this issue. There is a long history to this as well. At one stage the Home Affairs Committee in the UK looked at this.
Before we begin I draw the attention of witnesses to the position on privilege. They should note that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members should be aware that under the salient rulings of the Chair Members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I note that the current position of the Minister for Justice and Equality, as set out in reply to a Dáil question on 23 June 2011, is that he has no plans at this time to change the present time zone arrangements or to conduct a cross-department cost-benefit analysis of advancing time by one hour all year round for Ireland. However, in arriving at that decision he referred to activity by other EU member states.
Farming and food producers in Ireland are predominately dependant on the export markets and we must also be conscious of any changes in the summer time rule in other countries. Each year the Irish agri-food sector produces enough beef to feed 30 million people. Ireland is the largest exporter of beef into Europe and the fourth largest internationally. In addition, more than 80% of dairy products produced by Irish farmers are exported into the EU and other markets.
Three different time zones currently exist in the European Union: with Ireland, the United Kingdom and Portugal operating at Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); the central European countries operating at GMT+1; and the eastern European countries operating at GMT+2.
Ireland’s GMT colleagues have all considered proposals regarding daylight saving time. In the United Kingdom, the Daylight Saving Bill 2010-2011 was debated at Second Reading on 3 December 2010, and the House of Commons voted for the Bill to be sent to a public committee that will scrutinise the Bill, clause by clause. Portugal converted to Central European Time, CET, from 1966 to 1976 and from 1992 to 1996. However, the country subsequently reverted to Greenwich Mean Time. Part of the reason for supporting the conversion to CET was to increase tourism with Spain. This point was also articulated in the UK where, as part of British Tourism Week, analysts claimed that an extra hour’s daylight could be worth £3.5 billion a year to their economy, with 80,000 jobs being created because attractions would be able to open for longer. This point cannot be lost, and if such increases in tourism revenues and employment could be generated in the Irish economy, it would be of considerable benefit.
From a farming perspective, we are unclear what proposals the committee may be considering for inclusion in any future draft of daylight saving time legislation. However, if, for example, it resulted in an extra hour of morning daylight, then with modern farm machinery and yard lighting this may not be a significant issue. That said, an extra hour of morning brightness may provide other benefits, for example, to motorists and pedestrians, to the tourism sector as already outlined, to the prevention of crime, and in the sports and recreation sectors.
From the environmental perspective Ireland faces an increasing challenge in achieving post-Kyoto emission reduction targets. Agriculture has been singularly the most successful sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the past two decades. However, emissions from other sectors such as energy, and, in particular, transport, spiral out of control. It is, therefore, suggested that an environmental impact assessment report should be carried out to assess if the introduction of daylight saving time legislation could positively impact on national efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses.
When time changes in October there is less than two months to the shortest day. However, from the shortest day until when the time changes again, is more than three months. It may be beneficial to change the time on the last Saturday in February instead of the last Saturday in March.
I thank the Chairman and the committee for the invitation. Any proposals regarding the introduction of legislation in this area will require full consideration of the impact it would have on the markets into which Irish agriculture exports and the benefits which may arise for farmers, as well as taking into account pedestrians, road users, the tourism sector and meeting environmental obligations.
Mr. Jim Curran: On behalf of ISME, I thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to outline our views on whether Ireland should address daylight saving hours by moving the clocks forward by one hour all year long, which would currently being us in line with Central European Time.
I am head of research and information with ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. With 8,500 members, ISME is the only independent representative organisation representing SMEs in the country. The association’s membership is made up of owner managers, the true risk takers in the economy, who make up more than 99% of all enterprises and employ more than 60% of all employees in the private sector.
The debate on whether Ireland should advance the clocks forwards to Central European Time has been ongoing for several years. It has taken on an added focus in recent months due to the fact that our nearest neighbour, the UK, is debating the Daylight Savings Bill, a Private Members’ Bill proposed by Ms Rebecca Harris, MP, which calls on the UK to analyse the potential benefits of advancing time by one hour on a trial basis for three years. If the Bill is passed, we in Ireland will have a decision to make, either remain as we are or to join in.
In Ireland and the UK, advocates for both sides have put forward several arguments to support their case. Those in favour outline a host of benefits, especially a reduction in road accidents and the positive impact on health, tourism and the environment. Those opposed are concerned about the effect of losing an hour of daylight, particularly on winter mornings. The main body of evidence on these arguments is centred in the UK, with little, if any, evidence on the impact a change would have on Ireland. It is, therefore, important that we start to seriously debate this issue, particularly if the UK decides to go ahead with the change.
The following is the likely impact from the perspective of business, and specifically SMEs. With little factual or scientific evidence in Ireland as to the advantages or otherwise of changing, one must look at available evidence on possible impacts, mainly from the UK and from taking the views of SME owner managers in Ireland. I will address these issues under a number of headings, the first of which is sport, leisure and recreation.
It is anticipated that a change in daylight saving time will assist companies involved in the sport, leisure and recreation sectors due to the fact that there will be an increase in leisure and sporting activities with individuals availing of the additional hour of daylight for recreational purposes, particularly in winter time. It is estimated, for example, in the UK that there would be on average an additional 300 hours sunlight, with more than half of these falling at the end of the working day. The down side could be felt by those businesses that rely on indoor entertainment, particularly in the wintertime, such as cinemas.
As mentioned by my colleague from the IFA, there is a significant impact on tourism. The tourism sector, so valuable to the economy, should also get a boost. First, there would be an additional hour of accessible daylight, which could extend the months during the spring and autumn allowing for a longer tourism period, with an increase in day trips and weekend breaks. The lighter evenings could accelerate the growing trend towards off-peak and short-break holidays and extend winter opening hours. It would also extend the summer tourist season.
Research in the UK indicates that the boost to the UK economy could be in the region of £3.5 billion pounds, creating up to 80,000 jobs. In Scotland, a country of similar size to Ireland with a similar tourism market, the evidence suggests that in the region of 7,000 additional jobs could be created. In Northern Ireland, it is estimated that there would be an increase in annual earnings of up to £100 million pounds and the creation of more than 2,000 jobs. The evidence would indicate that tourism in Ireland would see a similar benefit.
Tourism is an industry largely populated by indigenous enterprises. It is an industry that is deeply rooted in the fabric of Irish economic life, both urban and rural. Anything that would assist in growing Irish tourism is to be welcomed.
The retail sector would benefit from extended daylight hours, with more people, particularly in winter time, prepared to leave their houses and stay longer in shopping centres and retail outlets. Also, local trade is lost in winter as people go home from work, owing to darkness falling across Ireland relatively early.
A study by Cambridge University showed that during the winter months in the United Kingdom having brighter evenings would lead to a reduction in electricity consumption by more than 2%, with a corresponding reduction during the summer. While these figures relate to domestic households, it is not inconceivable that businesses could benefit also. The impact of advancing the clock by one hour may be mixed for businesses involved in outdoor activities, particularly construction, as the darker mornings might prove problematic, particularly where work needed to be started early in the day. This could be an issue in more northern and western counties where the sun rises later than in other parts. However, in some countries, particularly those in Scandinavia, people start outside work one hour later during the winter months. On the flip side, there would be more hours of daylight in the winter, which would give companies additional time.
The indications are that trade with most of Europe could be improved if Ireland was to align with Central European Time. Almost 60% of our total exports are to the European Union, with 40% to the eurozone. Communications would be made easier, as a change would result in our clocks being harmonised with those of most of our trading partners. The change would also assist in the overlap of office hours between Irish businesses and markets in the Far East. However, trade creates one of the biggest issues, especially if the United Kngdom refuses to change and we consider it. While a significant percentage of SME exports go to the rest of the European Union, the reality is that a far greater proportion of SME trade is with the United Kingdom. More than 50% of SME exports go to the United Kingdom; therefore, any changes to daylight saving time without a corresponding change in the United Kingdom would have a negative impact on trade, particularly if we were to change time zones with our biggest trading partner.
Cross-Border trade is another significant issue, particularly for companies along the Border. Besides the obvious inconvenience of operating in different time zones on a small Island, the trading environment would be made more difficult for companies operating on both sides of the Border. The relationship with the United Kingdom, particularly from a trade perspective, is one of the single biggest influencing factors on whether Irish SMEs would be fully in favour of making the change.
There would be many benefits from a business perspective in advancing the clocks by one hour. They include an increase in leisure and sporting activities, with a positive knock-on impact for companies involved in these areas; an increase in tourism; a reduction in energy usage, while the retail sector would benefit from individuals being more inclined to stay out instead of heading home on short winter evenings. There would be a positive impact for businesses through a reduction in crime levels, as the statistics show, and by having extended daylight working hours for companies which predominantly work outside. There would also be benefits resulting from improved trading relations with countries in Europe and the Far East.
The downsides would include the impact for outside employment by having less daylight on winter mornings and the concern that the United Kingdom might decide not to advance its clocks. This would create a disadvantage in trading with our largest trading partner, as well as impacting on cross-Border trade and tourism.
While the association is not averse to moving to Central European Time - generally the business advantages outweigh the disadvantages - a number of prime considerations need to be taken into account. First, we need to conduct more research from an Irish perspective, specifically to look at the socio-economic consequences. Second, we need to look at the impact on Ireland of whatever decision the United Kingdom makes. In other words, the association would caution against switching in the event that the United Kingdom does not. If the United Kingdom does decide to proceed and introduce a three year trial, the association would be in favour of Ireland doing likewise.
With the debate gathering pace in the United Kingdom, it is essential that we start to look at this issue seriously in Ireland. This should be done sooner rather than later, particularly in the light of the ongoing debate across the water. I thank the Chairman and the committee for giving us the opportunity to express the views of the association.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Curran for his well researched presentation in which he covered many issues of concern. The reason we are having the meeting is, as he suggested, to conduct research into this issue and stimulate a debate on it. I now invite Mr. Wrynn to make his presentation.
Mr. Gerry Wrynn: I would like to deal with this issue from the perspective of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, particularly from a business and trade aspect. Before I deal with that aspect, the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, comes within the remit of the Department and is responsible for a range of safety issues. It has concluded that there is no evidence of any issues of concern from an occupational safety and health viewpoint. It has analysed data on accident times and seen no discernible correlation between the time of day and accident rates. I emphasis that this refers to workplace accidents; it does not refer to road traffic accidents because that is not our responsibility.
With regard to trade, as Mr. Curran said, the United Kingdom is our biggest trading partner, with 17% of our exports going there. There is a strong case for following what it does. The status of the UK legislation was mentioned by previous speakers, but it was kick started last week when the British Government endorsed a Private Members’ Bill and provided some money for the research project. That provides it with an impetus which it might not have had. Whether it makes the cut-off point before it dies at the end of the year remains to be seen, but it seems there is a stronger likelihood that the research project will be initiated and it might lead to a change.
Ireland is a key base for many multinational companies, particularly American companies which have come here particularly because they want a base from which to do business in Europe. Ireland is, obviously, far too small a market for them. They come here to use Ireland as a base to exploit the European market. Some 45% of our exports go to countries in the European time zone. When this is combined with the 17% of our exports to Britain, it means 62% of our exports go to countries which are using or might use Central European Time, which is significant. One hour’s difference might not seem much, but it would make life easier for exporters if the country with which they are dealing was in the same time zone as regards communications. There is an extensive business travel between Ireland and the United Kingdom and continental Europe. People constantly travel to engage in business and trade and it would make life a little easier if they could leave and arrive in the same time zone.
There is a slight downside to the benefits for companies located here. There are also American companies located here which provide various services for the parent company in the United States and there is a least a five hour time difference between us. It is even greater for companies on the west coast. If we were to move to Central European Time, the time difference would change to our disadvantage by one hour, but the benefit the other way would outweigh this.
Senator Ivana Bacik: I thank all those who presented. It is helpful and useful to have this discussion. If there is a change, it will impact significantly on people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. This issue has been raised for many years. My colleague, Senator Feargal Quinn, has been raising it for a long time from a business perspective and it is useful to hear from the Department and especially ISME on it.
The debate on abandoning daylight saving time is not relevant, as there is no great support for such a change, but we should give serious consideration to adopting Central European Time. It is always one hour ahead and, therefore, daylight saving time is applied across all European countries using Central European Time at the same time in the spring and the autumn. The clear message the representatives are giving us is that we should only change if the United Kingdom does. It would be difficult to move to Central European Time on our own, given the extent of our trade with the United Kingdom, but, at the same time, given that this issue is receiving active support and consideration there, it is also hugely important that we make our own decision on it, not just automatically follow whatever it does.
I wish to pose a number of questions. First, should the committee undertake research into this matter? The figures, particularly those supplied by ISME, are extremely helpful. However, should the committee - in the context of the savings that could be made in respect of carbon emissions - specifically examine some of the reasons we did not take action on this matter in the past? There is, of course, the old argument relating to children going to school on dark winter mornings. I must admit that I dread the prospect of making the school run on such mornings. Is there a way to deal with that matter? Mr. Curran provided a very helpful suggestion in respect of Scandinavian countries where outside work begins one hour later on winter mornings. Should we consider taking that route in respect of school starting times? If we were to move to Central European Time, are there subsequent measures we could take to ease the difficulty posed by the extra hour of darkness in the morning? That appears to be the major downside, particularly for members of the farming community, those who work outdoors and people obliged to make school runs.
The implications with regard to US trade have been dealt with. In the context of Eastern Standard Time in that jurisdiction, there would not appear to be any great concern in the context of the time difference increasing from five hours to six.
Mr. Jim Curran: In the context of research, the answer is yes. In considering this topic and trying to address it for our members, there was very little evidence available from an Irish perspective. Obviously, we are considering evidence from the United Kingdom. One of the issues with which the Private Members’ Bill brought forward by Ms Rebecca Harris, MP, deals is obliging each Department to consider its responsibilities in this matter and also the benefits which might accrue.
The Senator’s question on schoolchildren is extremely valid and has arisen on numerous occasions. When the trial was carried out between 1968 and 1971, the argument relating to children going to school in the dark was advanced as one of the reasons for reverting to the previous system, the one currently in place. Matters have since moved on, but the Department responsible for this matter should give consideration to the position on schoolchildren.
This matter is extremely important because we are concerned with what the United Kingdom might decide to do. As things can move very fast, we need to get the debate up and running. In addition, we must adopt a position on this matter as quickly as possible. My understanding is that, potentially, the United Kingdom could make a decision by April 2012. In such circumstances, we must consider our position, carry out the relevant research, examine the benefits, etc., of a changeover and make a decision accordingly.
Mr. Pat Farrell: I agree that there is a need to carry out research. I attended national school during the trial period from 1968 to 1971 and the starting time for lessons at my school was put back from 9.30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Many children in the rural area in which I lived at the time walked to school, but that is no longer an issue. People will adapt to changing practices. It is important that we do whatever the United Kingdom does because it would not be acceptable for one time zone to apply in Northern Ireland and a different one to apply here. That would be impractical.
Chairman: I also attended national school during the period in question. The starting time for our lessons was not moved back and I recall watching dawn breaking through the classroom window on numerous occasions. It was surreal.
Mr. Thomas Ryan: It will obviously be necessary to carry out research. In the United Kingdom research has been conducted by the University of Cambridge into the issues of energy and climate change. The findings indicate that a range of energy benefits would accrue. However, a contradictory view was expressed by the Buildings Research Establishment. We are aware that the Government in the United Kingdom “cautioned the Energy and Climate Change Committee that moving the clocks to the same time as other European countries would mean that peak demand would increasingly overlap with other countries”. We must consider what might happen, from the point of the demand for energy, if we were all to move in the same direction. What would happen, for example, if people all turned on their kettles at the same time? One would think that when people turned on their kettles separately in their own homes, there would be no difficulty. However, the preliminary research - it is only that - carried out in the United Kingdom seems to indicate that some issues might arise.
Chairman: Reference was made to the differences between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Between 1880 and October 1916, Ireland actually operated in a different time zone to the United Kingdom. A major debate took place in 1916 in the context of bringing the two countries into line. It is interesting to consider the history of this matter.
Deputy Alan Farrell: I thank the Chairman for the welcome he extended to me. This is the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity to contribute at one of the committee’s meetings. This is a fascinating debate. What we are discussing is interesting from both an informational and a practical point of view. It is similar to unravelling a ball of wool - one does not know what will happen next, nor does one know what information will be revealed.
From a purely practical point of view and as Mr. Curran suggested, it makes sense to initiate a debate on this matter. If the United Kingdom moves, in respect of the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Ms Rebecca Harris, MP, and a decision is made sometime next year, it is obvious that we will need to be ready for all eventualities. Just from the perspective of trade, the implications would be significant. As Mr. Farrell stated, it would not make a great deal of sense to have two time zones on our small island. I was born many years after the trial that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, it would make a great deal of sense to change certain work and all school starting times if the move to Central European Time was to be made.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter and hope the media will assist the committee in starting a debate on it. When he was appointed to his position, little did the Chairman know that his name might be associated with bringing light or darkness, I am not sure which.
Mr. Gerry Wrynn: Everyone has highlighted the importance of carrying out research. In the debate in the United Kingdom reference was made to research carried out which contained three interesting facts, namely, that there would be 80 fewer road deaths each year in that jurisdiction, that 80,000 additional jobs would be created and that tourism revenue would increase by £4.5 billion. These figures are startling and one could infer what would be their equivalents in the context of the Irish experience.
Mr. Jim Curran: Our research shows that the direct cost of crime to SMEs in this country is €590 million annually. That amount increases significantly when costs relating to security equipment, CCTV, etc. are added in. Research carried out by the British Home Office indicates that if the clocks were moved forward, it would reduce the level of crime in the United Kingdom by 3%. If one were to apply a reduction of 3% to the figure of €590 million, it would represent a significant saving for small companies in these particularly difficult times.
Deputy Joanna Tuffy: I am not well informed on this matter, but I am open to being converted. In some ways, what is being discussed seems like a fairytale. The research to which reference has been made must be based on speculation. The idea has been brought forward that if we move to Central European Time, we will attract a large amount of extra trade. I thought trade was subject to market and other forces. There are various factors involved and if one was to take a certain action, there might be a corresponding reaction elsewhere. It was stated a switch to Central European Time would mean that people would use less energy at particular times of the day. However, there is a chance they would use more at other times.
I am sceptical about this issue which has emerged from out of the blue. It was certainly not raised with me when I was canvassing during the recent general election campaign. I have always been of the view that research involves compiling evidence. A great deal of what we have been presented with is speculative.
Mr. Gerry Wrynn: There is no comprehensive research on the implications of trade. I gave the detail of the extent of our exports with countries in the Central European Time zone and the UK, which account for almost two thirds of our total exports. The point I made was on its benefit to trade. Obviously exports will happen and have happened very successfully already. We have a very good success story in exports and that has happened in spite of the time zone in all the European countries, which account for the first 5%. It is a relatively minor part but it is still a factor that it is easier to do trade with people if you are sitting in your office and they are sitting in their office and are on exactly the same time zone. For necessary business travel, it is still easier if people are not falling outside a particular time zone.
Mr. Jim Curran: May I give an example of that, for an Irish company trading with a company on the Continent? At present the Continent is an hour ahead of us and we lose an hour of trade in the morning. They have a different lunchtime to us, that is a loss of two hours and they finish earlier than we do in the evening that is another hour. In a typical day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. there are four hours when there is no overlap whatsoever. That is a long period when dealing with companies on the Continent. As far as we are concerned, if one did bring in a similar time zone, it would have to have a benefit from a trade point of view, from that point alone.
In relation to research, Deputy Tuffy is quite right on a number of issues, the difficulty we have is that we do not have the research in Ireland and we have to go on the experience of those abroad, particularly with our nearest neighbour, the UK.
Mr. Pat Farrell: As regards energy, I find that one needs more heat in the evening when it is dark than one does in the morning. There would be a saving. Most people would have their heat on for a longer period in the evening time than in the morning.
Mr. Curran made the point about the four hours in the typical business day that do not overlap with the working hours on the Continent. That is a very strong economic argument, particularly in the current climate where in the real world of business, one cannot be off the pitch for four hours every day.
Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: It is an interesting debate, the presentations indicate that there are significant advantages in terms of trade. Obviously there are downsides in terms of outdoor and construction work. The most important thing is that we need to get the research done, as everybody as indicated.
It was interesting, as Mr. Curran said, that the cross-departmental report, which has been commissioned in the UK is something that we should be looking at here. This goes beyond the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in many ways. If we are looking at research that would be a very good place to start, to get all the Departments together to do an impact assessment of what the changes would mean. In many ways, if they are looking at doing it across the water, making a decision by April 2012, we have a very short timeframe because once they do it, we will have to follow regardless. I would much prefer to take the decision when we have conducted the research ourselves in terms of the impacts rather than just following suit and not knowing the consequences for us as a nation.
One of the reasons we invited the witnesses today was to find out whether they had major reasons for opposing such a change. I take it that they have not and that they are interested in seeing more research into it, to see if the benefits outweigh the negatives. One lady who contacted me, speaking from a mental health point of view, said that she would welcome longer evenings and more sunshine and daylight because she found that the long dark evenings affected her mental health. Others have been speaking about children exercising more and its impact on the battle against obesity.
Senator Ivana Bacik: On a more serious note, may I ask about the research. I am conscious of the economic times we are in. Does anybody have a view on how costly it would be to undertake that research exercise on an interdepartmental basis? My view is that it would not be significantly costly because we have models. Mr. Curran has set out the headings under which we would do the research and apply the models that are applied elsewhere and we can make the same predictions.
Mr. Gerry Wrynn: I cannot give a definitive answer but I think if by gathering together on an interdepartmental basis, and all of the relevant agencies should be involved, I would imagine it would not be particularly costly. The UK Government allocated £750,000 last week to the research that will be necessary for their assessment, which sounds like a considerable sum of money. It is very difficult to put a figure on what it might be.
Mr. Thomas Ryan: In referring to Deputy Tuffy’s comments and a scoping of headings for information, the document produced by the library in the House of Commons in advance of the commencement of the legislation - its research paper 10-78 published on 1 December 2010, is the basis, as far as I can see, of a great many figures which we have been quoting. In itself, it moves from opinion to the actual facts. From what I can see, agencies such as the Road Safety Authority and others, have the data, so it is a case of developing the heading and pooling the information from the agencies that are already involved. That may be useful.
Chairman: I have a copy of that paper and Mr. Ryan is correct that it contains much useful information. We may now consider our next move, possibly inviting all the other Departments and State agencies to give an opinion on it and then linking up with our colleagues in the UK to see how they are progressing.
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