Shorter Days & Longer Nights: The “British Winter Time” Debate:

How did you feel when the clocks changed on 28th October?  If you were happy about the extra hour in bed, but are less enthusiastic about the fact that the evenings now arrive an hour earlier, then you share the opinion of a majority of people in the UK. Statistics produced by Santander Home Insurance (published in most of the British media on Friday 26th October) have indicated that 60% of those questioned were opposed to putting the clocks back, 47% find the winter months “depressing” (44% of them go out less as a result) and 27% believe that until it starts getting lighter again, they are “more at risk of injury caused by muggings and accidents”. Furthermore, if there was one extra hour of daylight, “14% would participate in more winter sports” and the 21% who are “already struggling to pay their winter heating and lighting bills” would find their costs for these utility services substantially reduced.

A report compiled by the “Policy Studies Institute” (PSI) has described the UK as a “time island” whose trade, travel and communications links with most countries in Central and Western Europe “are made more difficult because their clocks are one hour ahead of ours throughout the year”. This causes a  “problem of synchronicity” for UK companies dealing with business colleagues in continental Europe, where “manufacturing industries typically start work at 7.30am and offices at 8am” – which means that they have their lunch breaks and finish their working day around two hours before their counterparts in Britain. The PSI thus advocates the adoption of “Single Double Summer Time” (SDST) whereby in winter the clocks would be on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) + 1 and in summer on GMT + 2. They estimate that this change would bring in an extra £3.5 billion revenue and create another 80,000 jobs for the tourism sector; most of the country’s population “would have more daylight hours to enjoy in the evenings” which would produce “ a marked improvement in their health and quality of life”; parents would be able to extend the hours they allow their children to be out and there would be fewer road accidents as “the frequency and severity of these are closely related to visibility and lighting conditions”.

The PSI view is supported by (so the “Lighter Later Campaign” contends), 90 national organizations, among then the “Sport Recreation Alliance”, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU): “ The cows don’t understand a clock change when they need milking, the pigs still think its feeding time no matter what the clock says” and the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM): “It would have a positive effect on road safety”. Research by the energy firm Npower has shown that 53% of Scots are in favour of the UK switching permanently to BST (British Summer Time) – though this doesn’t include either the Scottish Government or Angus MacNeil (Scottish National Party MP for the Western Isles), who seems convinced that the Conservatives in the south of England “ want to leave the Scots in darkness: fixing the clocks to BST would mean that dawn wouldn’t break in Scotland until 9am”.

By contrast, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is totally in favour of all-year-round BST – for all the reasons advanced by the PSI and more:  In an article for the “Daily Telegraph”, he asserted that the reduction in gas and electricity consumption would cut CO2 emissions in London by 80,000 tonnes. Moreover: “There would be less seasonally adjusted depression. You would no longer have that terrible Lapland sense that the day was over by 3pm and you might as well go and get drunk. If the Scots really want to stay in bed for an extra hour while the rest of us are up and about, that’s their decision.” Despite all the lobbying and advocacy, however, the “Daylight Savings Bill” presented to the UK Parliament by Rebecca Harris (Conservative MP for Castle Point) had to be withdrawn in January 2012 due to the delaying tactics of a “handful of MPs” who didn’t like the proposal. The “Lighter Later Campaign” insist it’s a temporary setback, declaring that “This is an idea whose time WILL come!”

Most European countries move their clocks forward one hour in the spring and back in the autumn – with the exception of Russia, Iceland and Belarus, who are all on “de facto permanent summer time”. In the USA, what they call “Daylight Saving Time” (DST) ended on November 4th, when the clocks went back by one hour. In Latin America: Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Paraguay and Uruguay all implement DST, whereas (at present) Colombia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, Peru do not. The Southern Hemisphere of course is the reverse of the North: Where DST is applied, it begins (depending on the country) between September-November and ends between March-April. Meanwhile (as “The Register” has pointed out), after 120 years, GMT itself could soon be abolished and “relegated to a footnote in history”.  The International Telecommunication Union and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) no longer (according to the Telegraph columnist, Clive Aslet) want to base their official calculations on the rotation of the Earth, but instead on the pulse from  “atomic clocks”. The BIPM’s HQ is located in the southwest suburbs of Paris – which (by coincidence) is precisely the city which they suggest should now become the “centre of global time”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: General, Society | Posted on November 6th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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