Single/Double Summer Time: what’s not to like?
Being neither a farmer nor a veteran of this mission parents call “the school run” – indeed as someone who only gets up before dawn in an emergency – I’m very keen on the idea of moving the clocks forward by an hour all year round. This is, of course, entirely selfish, but then I’m not the only one who fancies a “fall forward, spring even further forward” system of time.
Today, Britain’s Daylight Saving Bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons. This doesn’t mean a time-shift is imminent – the issue is something of a parliament perennial – but it does, rather sensibly, call on ministers to conduct a full analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of moving in line with Central European Time.
Current practice in Ireland and the UK is to spend the (miserable) winter months under Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), then move to what’s known as British Summer Time (BST) or GMT +1 in the summer months. The Daylight Saving Bill proposes that if the committee established by the Cameron government came to the conclusion that a shift to GMT +1 in winter and GMT +2 in summer was, on balance, to the benefit of the whole of the UK, then a three-year trial would follow. The system is also known rather fabulously as Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). Double summer, you say?
SDST was previously trialled between 1968 and 1971 and was also in place during the Second World War, when it was used to help save electricity and provide more working hours in daylight. These rationales still exist in peace time and the clocks-forward campaign is backed by everyone from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa), which estimates that it would result in a net reduction in road deaths, to our very own Senator Feargal Quinn, who also cites the benefits it would bring to tourism, business, the environment and overall quality of life.
Quinn believes that “the only thing that has stopped it happening” is “the Scottish farming lobby”. Indeed, Scotland is the big loser under SDST, as it would stay black well in the winter morning. Advocates of the change say school times could be adjusted to compensate. But the British government itself is firmly against the experiment as a result, with business minister Ed Davey telling the House of Commons that “we cannot make this change unless and until we have consensus on this matter throughout the UK”.
Despite Quinn’s wishes, it seems unlikely that Ireland would ever go it alone, as this would create some interesting (although not unique) border time zone effects. In any case, while grander stretches in the evenings sound amazing, the dark mornings would certainly be grim – perhaps grim enough to crank up the number of these duvet days that we keep hearing are so detrimental to our economic advance. Ultimately, I guess what I really want to do is create more daylight, rather than toy with the clock.