Posted tagged ‘Greenwich Mean Time’

Perpetual summertime?

August 16, 2010

Last October, just as we were about to change the clocks in order to slip back into Greenwich Mean Time for the winter, I suggested that we might like to stop doing this and stay on summer time all year round. Now the whole thing may come on the agenda, as a British Conservative backbench MP, Rebecca Harris, has proposed that the British government ‘conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year’.

To be honest, I’m not altogether sure what she has in mind. The wording of her proposal could mean either that BST (British Summer Time) remains the official British time all year round, with no clock change at any time; or it could mean that the clocks will change as before, but that all year they will be one hour later than where they are now (which would mean that the UK will be in the same time zone as continental European countries); or it could mean something else I haven’t thought of (there is some reference in the report of ‘double summer time’, whatever on earth that means).

Leaving Ms Harris aside (which I can do easily enough, as until the other day I had never heard of her), I might declare that my own preference would be, as I said last year, to stop all this business of changing the clocks, and to stay on one time all year round, preferably on what is now BST (or whatever we call that in Ireland). Changing the clocks is actually quite expensive and, as far as I am concerned, not really beneficial. It used to be argued that changing the clocks back to GMT during the winter helped farmers and schoolchildren, but I suspect that this need not be such an issue now.

Apparently David Cameron is considering supporting Ms Harris – assuming he is better able to understand than I am what she actually wants. If the outcome of that is a new framework for the UK, Ireland will need to decide what to do, no doubt partly because the prospect might arise that Dublin and Belfast could be in different time zones. Or maybe the Irish government could even get into discussions with the British Prime Minister. If so, I say go for perpetual summer time. Why not?

Keeping the time

October 25, 2009

As I write this, it is 1.20 am on Sunday, October 25. If I keep writing for exactly another hour (which I won’t), I’ll finish at, well, at 1.20 am. And that is, of course, because tonight the clocks change in these islands, and we will be moving from British Summer Time (BST – do we actually call it that in Ireland?) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). We get an extra hour’s sleep, but that’s the only advantage I can think of.

The standard time in these parts is GMT. But in the early 20th century, at the suggestion of a Kent builder, William Willett, the idea was considered of moving the clocks back for the duration of the summer and early autumn. It was however only put into practice after the Germans changed their clocks during the First World War, in order to conserve energy. The United Kingdom (together with a number of European countries) followed suit in 1916, and the United States adopted the practice in 1918.

And that’s where it all remained, until 1968. For a period of three years Britain and Ireland maintained summer time throughout the year, in order to keep the afternoons light for longer. But largely because of complaints from Scottish farmers and schools about the dark mornings, the practice of changing clocks then resumed, and has stayed with us ever since.

I think we should reconsider all this. The costs and complications of changing the clocks are considerable, and it has been established that the darker afternoons in the winter increase road accident fatalities. Farmers, I suspect, no longer need the lighter mornings. I believe we should discontinue the clock changes and stay with summer time for the entire year. Sorry, Greenwich, but that’s what I think. I hate the dark afternoons.