Friday, October 28, 2011

Success for 'Lighter Later' campaign

jumping for joy in the park at sunset
The Government is to consider supporting the Daylight Savings Bill, which could save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

If passed, the Bill could eventually mean the advancing of time by one hour throughout the year across the country for a trial period, but only if there is UK wide consensus.

Business Minister Edward Davey said: “This is an issue which affects everyone across the country so we cannot rush head first into this.

"We would need consensus from the devolved administrations if any change were to take place. We have therefore tabled amendments to the current Bill to make sure that it addresses these concerns."

The devolution arrangements for time zones mean that they are devolved in Northern Ireland but reserved in Scotland and Wales.

Therefore, for any daylight saving trial, consultation will be needed with the devolved executives in Scotland and Wales and the consent of the executive in Northern Ireland will also be required.

The amendments would be made at the forthcoming Committee stage in the House of Commons, expected in early November.

The Government says it would not introduce a trial if there was clear opposition in any part of the UK.

Davey added: “It is only right that we at least look at what the potential economic and social benefits of any change might be.

"Lower road deaths, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and improved health have all been argued over the years as possible benefits.

"If there is strong evidence to support this then we should at least see what the possible benefits are.”

The news was welcomed by Daniel Vockins of the Lighter Later campaign, who said "We're pretty excited! There's always been strong support for lighter evenings from across the political spectrum, but with the government officially backing the bill, it's much more likely to go through."

He said that the campaign currently has "40,000 people and 86 coalition members from the FA to The AA to SAGA, to our very latest member: the Scottish branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents who joined up today".

The latter would be especially welcome to convince Scots, who have opposed it before on safety grounds, to back the bill.

The Bill has had a slow passage through Parliament. Rebecca Harris MP introduced it as a Private Members Bill on 30 June 2010 and passed Second Reading in the House of Commons on 3 December 2010.

It would "require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-Departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or for part of the year" "and to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis; and for connected purposes".

The Bill will need to be passed by both Houses by the end of the first session of Parliament, which ends in April 2012.

British Summer Time (BST) is harmonised across Europe under the 9th European Commission Directive on summer time harmonised, but time zones are the responsibility of individual Member States and vary across the EU.

BST begins and ends across member states as the last Sundays in March and October respectively - which this year means this next Sunday.

How would it work?

Since days are longer in the summer it is possible to shift the clocks so that daylight hours are more in line with waking hours, when society may find them most useful.

This already happens when clocks are put forward onto BST at the end of March, putting the UK on Greenwich Mean Time plus 1 hour.

Shifting to BST gives an extra hour of daylight in the evening so it can more easily be used for work or leisure, rather than in the mornings when many people are asleep.

A range of benefits to such a change are expected:

  • fewer people killed and seriously injured on the roads (at least 80 fewer people killed each year)
  • around 0.6% reduction in energy bills over winter
  • cuts in crime
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions (around 500,000 tonnes CO2 per year)
  • more daylight for recreation and sport activities (an average daily gain of 55 minutes of daylight in the evening)
  • increased tourism revenue (over £2 billion per year)
  • improved trade with Europe
  • general improvements to health and wellbeing, particularly for the elderly.

But there are concerns in Scotland that the sun would not rise until 09:42 in midwinter in Edinburgh, although sunset would be delayed to 16:40 from 15:40 and this could increase accidents in the mornings.

A trial period is being suggested as a way to test out the full implications of a change.

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