Belfast Telegraph

Time to wise up: this daft Bill will never see the light of day

By Tom Moseley

The scale of the financial crisis was brought home to me this week when I spotted last year's Christmas decorations being put up in the Parliamentary Press gallery. The Commons hierarchy has put a ban on buying replacements for the battered baubles.

This, plus George Osborne's dose of extra spending cuts and pay freezes last week, leaves no room for doubt: cash is scarce.

But fear not, because some has been found in what I would like to nominate as the daftest project of 2011. Dafter even than the official government survey which last week concluded that we are all fairly happy. I'm quite happy to be grumpy about the £2m we paid the Office for National Statistics to find that out.

The Government is going to spend £750,000 investigating the effects on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland of moving the clocks forward by an hour.

This is madness, not because of the policy per se, but because it has no chance of ever, ahem, seeing the light of day.

Tory backbencher Rebecca Harris has come up with the Daylight Saving Bill (a misleading title if ever there was one, unless she's planning on changing the earth's orbit of the sun), which is working its way through Parliament.

The Government tweaked her proposals, saying nothing would happen without the consent of the devolved administrations.

Incidentally, while Scotland and Wales would be mere consultees, Northern Ireland could veto the plans because, as the small print of the announcement reveals, 'time' is devolved to Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

And Northern Ireland, as was pointed out by the SDLP leader, Alasdair McDonnell, would face the perverse outcome of being in a separate time-zone to the Republic. To laughter from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, McDonnell told Owen Paterson he was frightened about the prospect of "Newry time and Dundalk time".

Alliance's Naomi Long pointed out that the switch would mean sunrise at 10am in Coleraine. She thinks support for the campaign is mounting and asked Mr Paterson to sound out the Irish government. A grinning Secretary of State promised that, if there was a serious prospect of the law changing, he would raise the matter with Dublin.

But don't forget the cost of even talking about it - we learned last week that every parliamentary sitting costs £20,000.

The Northern Ireland Committee has already launched an investigation into "possible implications" of the change. Let's spend the saving on Christmas decorations instead.

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