Hands off GMT!

Honestly, with all the economic and social problems going on in the UK, and now we’re debating time!

Tory MP Tim Yeo laid out the ‘for’ argument in the Telegraph on October 28:

This weekend the change in the clocks heralding five months of depressingly dark evenings is a reminder of a huge missed opportunity. Giving us all an extra hour’s daylight all the year round is long overdue.

Sadly Vince Cable’s Department of Business has said that although this change is a good idea it can only happen if Scotland says yes, a cop out which millions of people will pay for in higher bills, shortened lives, lost jobs and reduced recreation.

A move to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in the summer will bring our waking hours more into line with the hours of daylight with many associated benefits.

Approximately 100 lives could be saved and hundreds of other serious injuries prevented on British roads as the most dangerous period for road users and children is the dark evening rush hour when drivers are more tired and distracted.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil responded:

While the South would benefit from an extra hour of daylight in the evening, for anyone north of Manchester it means dawn will not break until nearly 10am.

This proposal is not a new one. The debate around resetting the clocks has actually been ongoing since 1908 when the first Daylight Saving Bill was brought before the House of Commons.

Since then, there have been a number of other attempts including the Central European Time Bill which proposed England, Wales and Northern Ireland move to the new time but not Scotland, then there was the British Standard Time experiment which saw clocks fixed at summertime for 3 years between 1968 and 1971.

The 1968 experiment underlined that this change simply didn’t work for Scotland – it had a damaging effect on safety, health, energy consumption and commerce. So why would we want to go there again?

MacNeil rightly proposes

a more symmetrical changing of clocks either side of midwinter thus making the winter shorter and extending British Summer Time.

Moving to a timetable of 6 weeks either side of midwinter with a resultant 12 week period off BST rather than the current 22 or 23 weeks would allow would allow us some compromise between the two camps.

Late February is when light starts to increase noticeably prior to the Spring equinox. However, an independent time change is prohibited under EU Directive 2000/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 January 2001 on summer-time arrangements:

(2) Given that the Member States apply summer-time arrangements, it is important for the functioning of the internal market that a common date and time for the beginning and end of the summer-time period be fixed throughout the Community.

That said, there is something odd when the Mayor of London insists on abolishing Greenwich Mean Time.  Increasingly, one gets the impression that Boris Johnson cares little about England or her history. Perhaps he is about playing to the interests of many EU residents living in London, I’m not sure.  However, this debate over time change seems to be yet another example of things not being exactly what they seem.  It’s not really about tourism, fewer CO2 emissions or more daylight but a closer integration with the EU via seemingly innocuous means.

In response to Boris, a few readers’ comments are worth noting. Here’s kgbarrett, Oct. 31, 08:37:

Why do politicians have to be so busy busy busy, annoying us? We don’t want this change, not even in the South, and we couldn’t care less about the illusions that the lying politicians and business leaders conjure up to persuade us it is all for our benefit.

We live by hours that are natural for us: that is why they are what they are. I’m surprised (although not much) that Boris should come out with this twaddle.

And rachel11, Oct. 31, 08:42:

What rubbish. There is a very simple solution. Keep Britain at GMT (Greenwich is, after all, based in London, Boris, so I’m not sure why you don’t want to be loyal to it) and change school and working hours if it’s too dark instead. It’s not rocket science. I don’t see why working times can’t be adjusted to say 8-4 rather than 9-5 rather than time itself. And then Scotland doesn’t need to change at all. One hour difference at each end of the day really won’t affect liasing with other places very much at all.

EU directives aside, if clocks are that big a deal, I still agree with this proposal by gwlincs, Oct. 31, 10:29:

I bet a referendum to move the date for clocks going forward to the end of Feb. would have universal appeal, including in Scotland, as it such a simple idea and makes eminent sense.

Accuse me of historical sentimentality, but I maintain ‘Hands off GMT!’

Where do you stand?

26 comments for “Hands off GMT!

  1. November 1, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Quite right. Changing the clocks is a damn nuisance. We could and should leave the time alone and change working hours and school hours to best fit the daylight, something that would give flexibility to people in the extreme East and West and the North to pick ‘active’ hours to best suit their location.

  2. November 1, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I think we should go back to Bristol time 😉

    That said, I’m looking forward to BST when we get to see some nice long evenings. I hate these months during winter, but that has nothing to do with clocks.

  3. November 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    It seems as if this proposal is an attempt to put Berlin at the centre of Europe. Such a sentiment can easily be termed by the pro-EU contingent as the Little Englander’s being ‘alarmist’ or ‘sour grapes’. Yet it would turn everyone’s attention towards Germany as a leadership base. This, after all, was supposed to be the outcome of the united Europe foreseen during the Second World War.

    All it takes are many small chinks in the armour to fully destroy a nation’s sovereignty, particularly psychologically amongst its people.

  4. November 1, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    I left this comment at The Tele and I don’t think I need to change a word:

    Why not just put the whole world on one time zone and done with it? Say, China Standard Time? Yes, I’m being sarcastic. There’s absolutely no need to change time zones or even to muck about with daylight savings time. There’s nothing to stop those who need to be on the same time as Germany from getting up and going to work earlier, and the same applies for those who gain from DST. Why have everyone change the time on the clocks twice a year when those who need to can simply change the time they do things?

  5. Andy Nicholas
    November 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    In the winter I get up in the dark, go to work in the dark. come home in the dark, and go to bed in the dark. How does changing the clocks make any difference?

  6. Mintee
    November 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    It’s nothing to do with ‘Berlin’ being the centre of anything, Churchmouse, and all to do with the benefits of it being ‘lighter later’ (http://www.lighterlater.org)

    The idiot in the Telegraph who misleads about the sunrise ‘north of Manchester’ – there is @30-40 mins (depends on which end of the day) difference between Greenwich and Edinburgh and so given the change on the shortest day, December 21st, the sun would rise at 9:03 and set at 16:53 in London and 9:41 and 16:39 in Edinburgh (exactly one hour later than will happen now).

    The idea that individuals can do what they want with the clock is laughable as I might want to send children to school early, but it won’t be open. I might want to go shopping and cycle home after work in daylight but that depends on an employer allowing me to fit my criteria.

    The chance to save some lives from a drop in road casualties is laudable. And the cumulative drop in energy consumption in winter evenings would undoubtedly be beneficial, even if to your own pocket. Or do you doubt that too?

    • November 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      I understand (although do not fully accept) the notional reasons they are giving, which I included in the post. However, there is also a negative symbolic and psychological resonance in our giving up GMT.

      I agree with the previous commenters here who advocate either individuals (work) or regions of the UK (uniform change in school hours) getting up earlier, later, whatever.

      • Mintee
        November 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

        I disagree that ‘symbolic and psychological resonance’ is a rational reason to continue to allow people to die in otherwise avoidable RTAs.

        • November 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

          Nor, Mintee, do I find your ‘believe everything the politicians tell you’ a rational reason. You’re just the sort of voter they seek.

          If you read the news and history with a more critical eye, you might find that things are not always what they seem.

          • Mintee
            November 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm

            I do not ‘believe everything politicians tell me’ but I think your tendency to promote some presumed heritage that you imagine everyone should subscribe to is facile.

            Look at facts and make judgements from there. I think a reduction in the numbers of KSI on the roads as well as the savings in energy use are considerable.

            If that adds up the clocks should change, if not they should stay the same. Personal opinions do not really count, nor should a few crofters in the highlands tell us how to live our lives. The ones who need to change their routines are the few that are affected most by any changes, not the majority who will (measurably) ‘benefit’.

            • November 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm

              The ‘against’ argument already refutes your supposed road safety statistics. It’s been tried and it’s failed.

              Your belief in false statistics is every bit a personal opinion as anyone else’s.

              It’s nice (not) that someone so concerned about people dying in road accidents — I’m waiting now for ‘think of the children’ — in the next breath refers dismissively to ‘a few crofters in the [H]ighlands’.

              It seems you’re alive and well after all the years of GMT and BST. Why change now?

    • November 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm

      The idea that individuals can do what they want with the clock is laughable as I might want to send children to school early, but it won’t be open.

      If that’s in response to my comment it’s not quite what I said. I said there’s nothing to stop those who need – need, not want or feel like – to be on the same time as Germany, or China or wherever from doing so. Similarly if you need to work around a school’s opening hours and your employer’s office hours then the same applies. There’s nothing to stop your employer changing its business hours and screwing up your school run and daylight evening bike rides right now except that they’d haemorrhage personnel, and by the same turn if they began to find that they couldn’t retain staff because everyone wanted to work 10-6.30 between March and October and were leaving to work for companies that altered their hours seasonally. That’s not as unrealistic as it sounds – extending trading hours into the evenings during summer isn’t unprecedented and it’s not all that different.

      The thing is that you can’t save daylight when you get the same amount of hours of it and noon will remain noon as whatever you do to the clock doesn’t change what time the sun actually reaches its zenith. Yes, technically this means that it’s a different time in London, Reading, Swindon and Bristol, and only 150 or so years ago people were quite happy with that. They only changed it to a standard nationwide time because even one degree of longitude is four minutes and that made accounting for the differences in railway timetables a pain in the arse. Before trains people just got up and went to bed and lived their lives according to what time they needed it to be where they lived. Standardising makes sense in a country that doesn’t cover all that much in the way of longitude but when it’s many hundreds or even a few thousand miles wide you probably need a few zones, although China doesn’t bother. But I bet you that people living in the far west don’t give a rip what official time it is and don’t wait ’til it’s 9AM all the way over in Beijing, even if it does mean their 9 to 5 happens while their watches say 1 to 9pm.

  7. ivan
    November 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    This whole ‘thing’ of changing the time is the result of the ‘Me,Me’ culture that has been fostered over the last 15 or so years – everything has to fit round those shouting ‘Me, Me’ with no thought of them fitting in with everyone else.

    In days long gone people got up with the sun and went to bed when it became dark. Later there was lighting that let people go to bed later. Eventually clocks came into use with every place setting its own time. Then came the railway which forced the country to work together with a common time. Greenwich was chosen as the prime time setting for the British mariners to find out where they were and became the zero setting for the time zones of the world where everyone worked together. Now we have the ‘Me, Me’ society wanting to change everyone for their convenience rather than them fitting in with everyone else.

    There is nothing to stop those that want to have more ‘virtual’ daylight at the end of the day from starting their day that much earlier. The fact the amount of daylight is fixed depending on the time of year appears to be something they don’t understand. They also don’t understand that all it takes for them to shift that daylight to where they want it is for them to shift their time of getting up in the morning rather than forcing everyone else into their behaviour pattern.

  8. November 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I moved from the South of England to Galway at the start of 2011, and in June and July I struggled to get to sleep during the week as it is still light at midnight. Moving to GMT +2 would make things worse…. Hands off the clocks I say.

    • November 1, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Think one just adjusts.

      • November 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

        Easier said than done (in my case at least)

        • November 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm

          Daniel — I can appreciate your predicament.

          Just out of interest, what plans do the Irish have, if any, with regard to time changes?

          • November 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm

            None that I have heard of Churchmouse, but there are a lot of farms here so I would think if it became an issue the majority would be with keeping the mornings lighter.

  9. Maaarrghk!
    November 2, 2011 at 6:34 am

    I would wager that most of those who support not changing the clocks are generally those who would never have to get up when it’s dark anyway.

    As for the RTA arguement, (yes, won’t someone pleeeease think of all the cheeeeldren being “mown down” on our roads,) all that will be achieved is a change in the peak time of accident occurrence from early evening to early morning. The “let’s not change the clocks” brigade argue that drivers going home from work in the dark are tired, therefore more accidents. I would counter that having them go to work an hour early would be even worse. They may be rested, but they are also half asleep – I encounter plenty of them as I generally set off for work at 5:30am. At least the “tired” early evening drivers are awake.

    • Mintee
      November 2, 2011 at 9:06 am

      Is it really the ‘children’ who would benefit? I thought the feckless fat useless loafers were all shepherded to school in 4×4’s these days?

      • Maaarrghk!
        November 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

        Well, a child based tack was tried the last time round Mintee. Claims were made that the clock adjustment made children miserable for a day or two. Awwwww!

  10. Maaarrghk!
    November 2, 2011 at 6:49 am

    And another thing.

    We were told last year that there would be no change to the current system after that tourism bill thingy. Yet here we are again, same thing, same time every year, same bunch whinging on and trying to fool us into thinking that next year it will be different.

    It all reminds me of that small group of anti-smacking nutter MP’s who try to criminalize almost all parents by attempting to add a ban on smacking naughty kids to every bill that includes the word “children”.

  11. Mintee
    November 2, 2011 at 9:08 am

    For those not blindly ignorant to considering the idea of trying the ‘lighter later’ change, this is worth a read.


  12. Maaarrghk!
    November 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

    But we already HAVE tried it.

    It didn’t work, so we went back to changing the clocks.

  13. Andrew Duffin
    November 2, 2011 at 11:59 am

    There is no messing with the clock that will give you an extra hour of daylight – what complete pish.

    Get up whenever you like, the day length will be the same.

    Stop this pointless meddling, surely we have more important things to worry about.

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