Time for a change: MEPs vote to scrap daylight savings time

Politicians back end to clock shifts in 2021 but national parliaments will now have a say

European Parliament members voted on Tuesday to scrap the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring and then back again in the autumn from April 2021, two years later than initially proposed.

European Parliament members voted on Tuesday to scrap the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring and then back again in the autumn from April 2021, two years later than initially proposed.

 

European Parliament members voted on Tuesday to scrap the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring and then back again in the autumn from April 2021, two years later than initially proposed.

MEPs voted by 410 to 192 in favour of ending the practice of seasonal time shifts. The vote is not the last word on the issue but will form the basis of discussions with EU countries to produce a final law. Member states are yet to take a stance on the matter.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, whose department is responsible for informing the general public of winter and summertime changes, has previously said he has an open mind on whether or not to continue with daylight savings.

EU law has required all countries in the bloc to observe daylight saving time, moving clocks forward by an hour on the last Sunday of March and back by an hour on the final Sunday in October.

The practice of switching the clocks, also observed in countries such as the United States, was first introduced during the first World War One to save energy by prolonging evening daylight in summer.

The European Commission in September proposed ending the practice after an EU-wide opinion survey showed a large majority in favour of doing so. The survey generated 4.6 million responses, with 84 per cent of respondents wanting to end seasonal clock changes. Critics say the survey was dominated by Germans, who made up 70 per cent of the respondents.

Scientific studies

A parliament report in favour of operating on a single time throughout the year said scientific studies link time changes to diseases of the cardiovascular or immune systems because they interrupt biological cycles, and that there were no longer any energy savings.

“New technology and different ways of living mean that we no longer earn anything (from time change), in fact we don’t save,” Marita Ulvskog, the MEP in charge of the time change file, told the European Parliament during a debate on the issue.

If the commission’s original proposal had passed, the coming weekend would have been the last occasion to set clocks forward, with EU countries then deciding whether to stick to permanent summer time or switch back in October to permanent winter time. Countries would not then be able to shift their clocks forward and backward during the year, but would be free to decide which time zone they wanted to be in.

The seasonal time shift has also been the subject of debate in the United States, where legislators have tried unsuccessfully to abolish it. For now, Hawaii and most of Arizona do not follow the practice, decisions that date back to the second World War.

Russia decided in 2011 to switch to permanent summer time in an attempt to improve citizens’ well-being but shifted to permanent winter time in 2014 after public complaints. The majority of countries outside Europe and North America do not adjust their clocks. - Reuters