In an attempt to alleviate the effects of Britain’s economic downturn, Prime Minister David Cameron is looking to change time as we know it as part of a new tourism strategy. The PM has highlighted tourism as a key component of the UK’s economic recovery, and is keen to maximise the potential of future cash cows like the Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics in 2012 by pushing the clocks forward permanently. New plans have been unveiled which could mean the death of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter and British Summer Time (BST), and in their place, the implementation of Central European Time (CET), which would lead to more daylight hours in the evenings but darker mornings.
Road safety campaigners, environmentalists and sunshine-lovers alike are all backing the plan in which all year round the clocks would be pushed forward by one hour. Britain would permanently be on GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in summer, in line with the rest of Europe, or alternatively on GMT+1 (British Summer Time) for the whole year. This should mean more time to spend outside indulging in sport (Cameron loves tennis you know). Whilst many have voiced fears of an increased number of road accidents in the darker mornings, driver alertness is lower in the evenings than the mornings, with more accidents occurring in the former than the latter. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has endorsed the Daylight Savings Bill, arguing that it could save eighty lives a year by reducing traffic accidents.
Support has also been heard from another corner, with environmental groups supporting the Bill. They argue that the extra hour would save energy – people would be relying on artificial lights less, therefore reducing carbon emissions. Tourism experts also predict that an extra £3.5 billion could be made for the country’s economy – not a sum to be scoffed at in the current economic climate.
Predictably, there’s already been a backlash from Scotland with many arguing that some parts of the country will not benefit as much as the south, with the furthest north areas not receiving sunlight until 10am. Britain is not vast enough to demand more than one time zone, like Australia and the USA, but many have suggested it as a plausible solution to the problem. After all, one could argue that Scots have their own version of British currency and own Parliament – would another time zone really be a step too far? Apparently so says David Cameron, who is pushing for Britain to collectively adopt a ‘united’ time. Dr Mayer Hillman of the University of Westminster quashed Scottish fears with a report, arguing that “the change would mean that adults in 9-to-5 employment would enjoy a yearly total of almost 300 additional hours of daylight,” with the same benefits obviously also being extended to Scottish children. He also argued that it would do much to boost the Scottish economy, providing 7,000 jobs and an extra £300 million in income. A survey from Npower ascertained that Scotland is, overall, in favour of the Bill, but the plan is not as popular with their government.
The proposal would also have an effect on our relationship with the continent: Pushing the clocks forward would unify us with the rest of Europe, with countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Malta all running on CET. However, this would push us further out of sync with the USA, as Britain would be up to nine hours ahead of the west coast of America.
This synchronisation with the rest of Europe would hugely benefit companies who deal with international clients. The BBC notes that it would “enable people to attend morning meetings in Europe without staying overnight,” and provide 40% more business time overlap. The proposed clock changes would make travelling around Europe easier, and also assuage our dread at night-time descending as early as 4pm on the shortest day in winter in Britain. If this Bill were implemented, the earliest it would become dark would be 5pm. On a sunnier note, in June 2010 London enjoyed a late sunset of 21:21pm. If the GMT were pushed forward two hours in summer (nicely dubbed ‘double summer time’), this would extend to 22:21pm.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson also concurs with plans to change to Central European Time (CET), acknowledging that, “It’s barmy that a great trading city like London is so out of kilter with the rest of Europe.” Lighter Later, the organisation lobbying for clock changes from the current ‘daylight robbery’, provides some compelling numerical arguments, citing the creation of 600,000 – 800,000 new jobs, the reduction of carbon emissions by 447,000 tonnes and up to 300 hours more time for sport and activity per year. How these extra jobs will become available due to one extra hour (evening paper rounds?) is anyone’s guess.
Lighter Later also assert that most people sleep through the precious hours of daylight we are privileged with in the mornings (something which many students can attest to). They argue that energy can be saved if we match daylight hours more closely to our waking hours, and as sunset occurs as early as 5pm in some parts of the country, perhaps we could even afford to live on GMT+3. This way, sunrise would occur at a very respectable 7am, with the sun setting a little after 11pm in the luckiest parts of the country. With lectures commencing at 9am, it would be daylight from then until nearly midnight, by which point we’ll already be in Ocean/Rock City (delete as appropriate).
What does this all mean for the student? Longer hours for studying and socialising, an increase in sport (late night Frisbee on the Downs anyone?) and more general happiness, as sunshine has been proven to boost mood. The Daylight Saving Bill dictates that if moving the clocks forward is to benefit the UK, then a three-year trial of this will be implemented to gauge its effects. The proposed change would appear to have positive effects on areas such as business, commerce, tourism, general happiness and increased safety for commuters. Historically, clocks went back one hour in winter to give farmers brighter mornings in 1916, but nearly one hundred years later technological advances in farming and the keeping of animals indoors with artificial lighting have rendered many of the arguments in favour of early morning farming obsolete. These daylight hours that occur between 4am-6am in the mornings are being squandered and it would be beneficial to the majority of the country and the continent to implement CET. With it, even if we don’t take European currency, we can still run on their time.