Tory time bandits warned over daylight robbery

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by a Newsnet reporter

As the clocks move back an hour this weekend, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan Iar Angus MacNeil has rejected Tory suggestions that the UK should shift to Central European Time, arguing that the move would adversely affect everyone living north of Manchester.

A proposal that the UK adopt Central European Time was put forward in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Rebecca Harris.  Ms Harris’s proposal has now gained the support of David Cameron and the Coalition Government, which says it is in favour of introducing a three year trial.  Ms Harris’s private member’s bill is due to move to the committee stage in the House of Commons next month.

However the UK Government has announced it will table an amendment to the bill requiring the move to be approved by the devolved administrations.  Currently the ability to alter the time zone is reserved to Westminster for Scotland and Wales, but is devolved to the Northern Irish Assembly.  Although there have been suggestions that England should go it alone on this matter, David Cameron has let it be known that he wants the entire country to remain within a single time zone.

Speaking for the Government, business secretary Edward Davey said: “This is an issue which affects everyone across the country, so we cannot rush headfirst into this.  As the prime minister has made clear, we would need consensus from the devolved administrations if any change were to take place.  We have therefore tabled amendments to the current bill to make sure that it addresses these concerns.”

Those in favour of the move argue that lighter evenings would reduce energy use and lower carbon emissions, as well as reducing the toll of road deaths.

The proposal to shift the clocks an hour forward so that the UK is in the same time zone as France and other European countries has a long history.  An experiment called “British Standard Time” was carried out during Harold Wilson’s time as Prime Minister in the late 60s and early 70s.  During the trial the clocks advanced one hour forward and the UK remained on Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour throughout the year.  

The trial was abandoned in 70 after producing mixed results.  During the period of the trial there was a substantial increase in road traffic deaths and accidents in the morning, mostly in the North of England and Scotland, and a reduction in road traffic deaths and accidents in the evenings, which were lighter.

Opposition to moving the clocks to European Central Time remains strongest in Scotland and northern England.  In Northern Ireland the measure will lead to the border with the Republic of Ireland becoming a time-zone border unless the Irish Goverment simultaneously adopts the new time setting too.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

“It is no secret that Tories in the south want to leave Scotland in darkness, but fixing the clocks to British summertime would mean that dawn wouldn’t break in Scotland until nearly 9am.  That would have massive implications for the safety and wellbeing of everyone living north of Manchester.

“The evidence put forward supporting this change is dubious at best and the proponents of this change have ignored the sound reasons why this was abandoned after being trialled in the 1970s, and more recently by other European neighbours who found that the shift had a damaging effect on safety, health, energy consumption and commerce.

“There are alternatives which would balance the interests of all who share these islands – including setting Daylight Savings Time closer to midwinter.

“It would be unacceptable if any move on this was made by Westminster without consultation with the devolved administrations.”