Lighting Up Time

Since I started to learn about the daylight saving issue some five years ago, I have racked my brain to think of any other government measure that would improve the lives of everyone in the UK, at no cost, and I just can’t think of one. It would make us:

  • Healthier – because we would have more evening daylight to take exercise and be outside
  • Wealthier – because we would save money on electricity, inject £3billion into the economy through tourism and create 60,000 new jobs (if ever we needed that fillip, now is the time)
  • More secure – because our elderly would have an hour shorter winter “curfew” and evening crime would fall
  • Safer – because 80 lives would be saved on the roads per year and 212 serious injuries avoided
  • Greener – because we would reduce our carbon emissions by 450,000 tons per year, equivalent to 85 per cent of all the renewable energy we currently generate, enough to power two-thirds of Glasgow
  • Happier – because it is uplifting to have more evening daylight, just as it is depressing to have less.

Never has an idea offered so much potential to benefit so many and yet been repeatedly stifled by so few. Even in Scotland, where opposition is traditionally strongest, public opinion is no longer against it – and yet it still does not happen.

Lighter evenings are good for all

At a time of extraordinary government spending cuts, you would think that politicians would read the 2009 Department for Transport report which showed that the implementation of this measure would cost the department £5million but save £138million that year and every year thereafter. Multiplied across government departments and local authorities, we could surely be shaving billions off the public budget, and saving many jobs.

And yet Rebecca Harris’s (MP for Castle Point) Private Members’ Bill, which seeks to define that impact (just measure the costs and benefits within government and only implement the changes, on a trial basis, if the evidence supports it), is grinding through Parliament as though the machinery of the state is deliberately thwarting its progress.

The truth is that no UK party seems willing to risk its Scottish vote by promoting this issue, not least because there is clearly some goading from north of the border. Try to impose this on Scotland, they imagine, and the nationalists will whip up anti-English/Union fervour such that the three “main” parties would have an unwelcome fight on their hands, which may weaken their share of the vote, especially while talk of a referendum is rife. Leave well alone, they assess, and their political foes will have one less divisive issue to trumpet.

So we may as well say it for what it is: A political calculation at a senior level taking away these potential benefits from 60million people, so that party electoral stability, and the (notional) strength of the Union, can be protected, or at least not put to the test.

For us in the 60million and for the 128 MPs who voted for this Bill at its second reading (bravo to them and if it ever came to a truly “free” vote, that number would probably quadruple), it is just shameful evidence of a hidden hand of manipulative control at the top.

And if I read angry, it’s because that deliberate obfuscation has cost the lives of more than 5,000 people and resulted in the serious injury of more than 30,000 people in our country, since the 1968-71 experiment proved that it would work. The word “shameful” seems incredibly measured and desperately inadequate.

Surely the cohesion of the Union, a far more strategic issue, should be decoupled from this simple, straightforward attempt to improve the quality of life of everyone in the UK? The Prime Minister laudably argued in Manchester last week that the most important quality in politics is leadership. Here is an opportunity for him to show us what it looks like.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive

For more information about our lighter evenings campaign, visit our campaign website – and please sign up to support the cause! http://www.rospa.com/about/currentcampaigns/lighter-evenings/default.aspx

50 Responses to “Lighting Up Time”

  1. I hate dark evenings,let’s have BST all year- from a Scotchman.

  2. The campaign against the change is already underway, judging from our Scottish newspaper just received.

    A large headline DAYLIGHT ROBBERY is followed by quotes from the Tory MSP Alex Johnstone.

    “”Tory MSP Alex Johnstone branded the Lighter Later campaign “a waste of time” – insisting it would make no difference to most people`s lives. “There will not be any extra hours of daylight because of the clock`s change. This may have some relevance to the extreme south-east of England, but for the majority of people it will make no difference at all”.

    It seems David Cameron has been trying to appease his Euro Skeptics with this absurd move. Which will help the SNP in their campaign for independence, and cause David Cameron much trouble when the time for the referendum comes near.

  3. It seems the evidence being used for the absurd claim there were fewer accidents during the 1968-71 experiment is Hansard, giving an MP`s comments during a parliamentary debate in 1970.

    Could we please have the name and constituency of that MP?

    It is ridiculous that the actual statistics have been suppressed.

    But obviously if southern English MPs keep up with their campaign, these stats can be produced from libraries and newspapers.

    • David, you should read some of the links that are being provided for you rather than suppressing them for yourself.

    • Dear David,

      RoSPA has bent over backwards to provide you with stats, which are linked below as well as on their main website (and elsewhere on other campaign sites). There are plenty of stats to back up the campaign for SDST – nothing has been suppressed! It may be, in fact, that the statistics you mention never existed.

      There are no drawbacks to this plan. Deaths and serious injuries on the roads will fall.

      All RoSPA and other organisations (and people such as myself) are asking for is another trial. If it doesn’t work, we can go back to the way things are now!

      What are you so afraid of? Put down your conspiracy theories, and give it a try!

  4. The responder to my request for the accident statistics for 1968-1971 again fails to provide them – obviously these have been deliberately suppressed by these lobbyists based in Birmingham in southern UK.

    However there was undoubtedly a sharp peak in deaths and accidents in Scotland during the 1968-1971 trial, and it is outrageous that we could once again have deaths resulting from the wishes of the Southern English for better leisure time lighting in winter.

    I have checked the documents listed by the RoSPA responder, and observe the claim that the 1968-1971 rise in accidents was caused because street lighting could then not be adjusted for the 1-hour change, hence children had to goschool in dark with lights switched off.

    That certainly did not occur where I lived, and I would be interested to hear from anyone who actually experienced streee lights not being adjusted.

  5. I wish we could have lighter evenings PLEASE!!! I remember it was tried in the 1960’s and I dont know why they changed it back – its miserable every winter with perpetual darkness.

  6. Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive, is conducting a live Twitter Q&A on the issue of lighter evenings from 12.30-1.30pm today. Head over to Twittter to @RoSPAEvents to take part.

  7. The 40% increase in daylight hours for adults in Glasgow if the hour is changed is a ridiculous miscalculation by safetygonesane. Try saying that to any Glaswegian who experienced the last disastrous experiment in 1968-1971.

    As for the comment that there are nearly three times as many accidents in the afternoon peak 3 hours as the morning peak 3 hours, there would still be this difference after the 1 hour change.

    That safetygonesane has not provided figures of accidents and deaths during the winter months affected by the hour change in 1968-1971, with comparable figures for the preceding and following years, speaks volumes about this campaign.

    It is based on hiding the facts and relying on theory, the theorising being done by the same people who seriously believe that altering the clock by 1 hour can produce 40% more usable daylight.

    • Hi David

      Thanks again for your comments.

      The 40 per cent increase was calculated by the Policy Studies Institute, University of Westminster, last October. It was based on the number of “accessible” daylight hours during the working week for adults in Glasgow. Currently, Glaswegians enjoy just 436 hours of daylight during working hours across the year. Under SDST they would enjoy 611 hours. That’s 175 extra hours: an increase of 40 per cent.

      A number of reports have been published about the effect of the 1968-71 British Standard Time experiment, comparing morning road casualty figures and afternoon road casualty figures from before and after the experiment began (the reason for this was to gauge the effect of “moving” an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening period). The periods of time in the middle of the day and overnight were not considered because they would remain in daylight or darkness whether or not the clocks were changed.

      The overriding message from the studies is that, comparing the period before the experiment with the period of the experiment, the number of road deaths and serious injuries fell in the affected hours.

      The following publications give more details: Home Office, “Review of British Standard Time”, Cmnd 4512: HMSO, 1970; TRRL, “British Standard Time and Road Casualties”, Leaflet LF213, 1970; and Broughton and Stone, “A New Assessment of the Likely Effects on Road Accidents of Adopting SDST”, TRL 368, 1998.

  8. How come we still have not managed to get this one agreed by Government? They promised last year, and it then went incredibly quiet. This has rumbled on for years. Is it to do with UK chauvinism about Greenwich Mean time.? Is it to do with farmers in Scotland, – yet this would help their cause for independence if they wanted to have a different time from England and Wales.

    I work overseas in mainland Europe a lot . Each time I work I have to struggle to get up an hour earlier and there are many others from UK like me, who feel the same. But this is not the main reason. It is far more important to save lives and your campaign makes great sense. It also makes sense to give people an extra hour in the day to keep fit and avoid obesity. Please push HARD to abandon this depressing dark winter changeover. I cannot see a single advantage in putting the clocks back.

  9. Tom, you have claimed that we would be happier –” because it is uplifting to have more evening daylight, just as it is depressing to have less.” I’m struggling to understand how I would be happier if it did not even BEGIN to get light in my part of the country until 0945, given that it takes some time after that to reach full daylight (even longer, depending on the weather conditions that day). Personally, I find that thought intensely depressing. Given that it would still be dark when I left work in the afternoon, I really don;t see how any of your arguments stand up. I’m also particularly concerned that road conditions would be even more treacherous than they are, if we were still in the depths of darkness at commuting time, as temperatures would be lower for longer, so any ice/snow would not have had a chance to begin to melt. Has any thought or consideration been given to these factors?

    • Hi Labradorfan123

      Thanks for your comments.

      With a rising proportion of the working population – now three-quarters of the total – in white collar occupations, and with typical office hours starting at 9am, the concomitant darker winter mornings would affect fewer people than in the past. It’s true that darker winter mornings occasionally bring with them more hazardous road conditions in the form of ice or fog, though, these conditions vary only slightly during the hour that would be affected by putting clocks forward.

      In the four winter months (November to February), there are nearly three times as many fatal and serious injuries among children in the peak hours from 3pm to 6pm as from 7am to 10am – and more than 50 per cent more among adults in the peak hours from 4pm to 7pm as from 7am to 10am.

      The overall effect of adopting SDST would be to align our waking hours more closely with available daylight. This translates to a 40 per cent increase in the number of available daylight hours for adults in Glasgow, and a 35 per cent increase in the number of available daylight hours for adults in Lerwick.

      • With all due respect Tom I wouldn’t say that hazardous road conditions in my part of Scotland are “occasional”. During the last two winters, we faced months of snowy, icy road conditions- it is precisely because of that experience that I dread the fact that we would be subjected to lower temperatures for longer caused by the increased hours of morning darkness. I am in what you term a “white collar occupation”, but I start work earlier than 0900 so have to leave the house at approximately 0730 to get there in time, and there are many in my industry who set off for work a lot earlier than that.

        During the experiment of 1968-1971, there was a net INCREASE in fatalities in the north of Scotland. As the parent of a child who walks or cycles to school, I do not want him to have to face increased dangers on the journey to school. He returns from school at 15:30- well outside the evening rush hour time, so I do not see how he is at increased risk of an accident at that time of day.

  10. I do have some statistics from Scotland for road deaths and serious accidents, but they are not broken down into the periods of the year with the time changed.

    Road deaths peaked in 1969 at c.900. They had fallen to c. 700 by 1980 and c. 300 by 2000. I have read these figures from the time graph given in http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2004/06/19501/38808

    There was similarly a great peak in the graph of combined fatal and serious accidents, with over 10,000 a year in 1968-1971, whilst from 1990 this total was down to c. 4000 accidents a year.

    Clearly what we need is a full analysis of the stats for the winter periods with the clocks not moved compared to the years immediately before and after. Why ihas this not been done?

  11. RoSPA have claimed that 2500 deaths and serious accidents were avoided during the last two-year experiment.

    This is not true, and must be based on a theoretical calculation.

    Newspapers printed the figures year after year, showing the surge in deaths in winters 1968-69 and 1969-1970.

    Is the RoSPA saying newspapers invented these deaths?

  12. The RoSPA replies to my request for information on accident rates during the previous experiment have simply avoided giving an answer.

    I wonder why?

    Instead they say that “all” the necessary information is available on various web pages including those of the Department for Transport. But the all important statistics from 1968-1971 are not available there.

    Also there is reference to the discredited TRL Report 386, which was largely based on USA statistics, and certainly cannot trump the observations from our actual two-year experiment.

    It seems to me that we have have another case of underhand collusion between a lobbying group and the Tory government. So please can we have the accident statistics broken down by UK region for the winter months when the clocks were changed.

  13. What`s this research that shows more accidents happen in the afternoon than the morning?

    Where was it carried out?. Not useful if in the USA.

    When was it carried out? Probably in the relatively mild winters we had from 1990 to 2007? If so, it won`t apply when there is more frost and snow to make hazardous all untreated roads.

    Another factor is that local authorities have cut down their gritting and ploughing operations in the last few years. Accident statistics obtained when most roads were treated before the morning commute will not be valid in future years.

    • The accident statistics from the Department for Transport, released every year, show that accident rates are higher in the afternoons on Monday – Friday (from 3pm until around 7pm) than in the mornings (from around 7am until 9am). The figures are available from the Dft’s website: http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/series/road-accidents-and-safety/.

      There is also a wealth of research, from the UK (as well as other research being available from other countries) to reinforce the yearly figures. Again, this is available from our campaigns page. Research takes into account other factors that may affect casualty rates.

  14. There are already enough problems due to English Bank holidays causing scheduling to be changed on TV and transport without adding to these problems by having clocks at two different times.

    It would be a big task for the railway controllers to move the timings of long-distance cross-border trains to be an hour later or earlier within packed commuter timetables.

  15. This article should be followed by the accident statitics for the 1960s and 1970s showing the surge in deaths duruing the two years of the previous experiment.

    Why is it not?

  16. It is outrageous that an organisation supposedly concerned with safety should be campaigning for a change that will increase accidents.

    We know fine well that there were hundreds of extra deaths from road accidents during the previous two-year trial around 1970, and it is interesting that these figures that I once could readily obtain by Googling have now been suppressed.

    It seems that the South-of-England-based organisations simply do not care what damage, death and suffering they will cause by their desire for an extra hour of playing time at the end of the day.

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your comments.

      It’s a common misconception that there was a “surge in deaths” during the previous trial; we’d be interested to see your evidence for that. In fact, there was an overall decrease in road accidents – around 2,500 deaths and serious injuries were prevented during each year of the trial! A small increase in accidents in the morning is MORE than offset by a very large decrease in accidents during the afternoon and evening.

      RoSPA is not based in the south of England; it is based in the Midlands, with offices in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

  17. On Neil’s point, and also as an employee in a European company, the benefits of CET would be enormous. Not only day to day communication, but also travelling – I could make day meetings in Europe without an overnight stay (big time & money saving). This is sensible business in a cost saving age. Our Euro MPs would benefit from the same savings. Not pro or anti EU – just good business sense.

  18. I’m sure it won’t be a popular thought in this Eurocynical island, but as someone who works with colleagues in western Europe and travels frequently to Brussels, it would make my life both easier and more productive if we were to align our clocks with CET. Lighter evenings would be a bonus!

  19. It’s just getting light at 7:30 am in the scottish borders. By the time the clocks go forward at the end of the month it’ll be getting light after 8am. Another two weeks after that, if we don’t put the clocks forward, it’ll still be dark when my kids are going to school. Most drivers are at their worst in the morning when rushing to get to work/school etc. Add darkness to that and that’s not a situation I want to be putting my kids into to get to school. Keep the current situation where the clocks go forward for winter. If England wants to change things then go ahead. I’ll happily change my watch when I cross the border.

    • Hi Dave,
      Thanks for the comment. The clocks go backwards in winter, though, not forwards! Research shows (and is available on our main website) that more accidents happen in the afternoon than in the morning, and that any increase in accidents in the morning will be more than offset by a decrease in accidents in the afternoon.

      We appreciate your input – and thanks to everyone for all the comments! We’re keen to hear from everyone, whether they agree with us or not, so keep your comments coming!

      RoSPA

  20. I am a health and safety officer in a large secondary school in Scotland and I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention which other countries do not put their clocks back in winter. In Canada and the U.S.A. only 2 states have done this, namely Alaska and the Yukon. Iceland and the whole of Russia do likewise, and Belarus and the Ukraine have recently announced that they will not put their clocks back this winter, An interesting pattern,don’t you think? It’s the NORTHERN countries that have realized that when the weather gets bad and daylight becomes scarce, for a multitude of reasons, it is better to have as much daylight at the end of the day as possible. So do the Scottish people (4 recent opinion polls). It is totally unfair that Scottish politicians are not seing the light.

  21. In Australia states they have different time zones so why not let Scotland have it’s own time zone if that works best for them. I certainly want an extra hour (or two?) of sunlight please.

  22. Like Mark, I live in the North of Scotland. I have always hated the dark early evenings. I am now retired, but I used to get up in the dark and go to work in the dark. Then it got dark before I finished work, and I had to go home in the dark. I never saw daylight from Sunday afternoon until Saturday morning. I loved the years of British Standard Time, when there was more daylight in the afternoons, and I get really, really upset when I read suggestions blaming everyone in Scotland for opposing the change. It can’t come soon enough for me, and I am not alone.

  23. I’m not sure that the Tories are too concerned about losing Scottish votes. I mean, how many Scottish seats have they got, and how much of a swing would it take to win a few?

  24. What’s the population of Scotland? (Where Scotland = population that doesn’t want it lighter later)
    What’s the population of England, Wales and N.Ireland?

    If the south aligned the clocks with most of Europe where most of the business is, we’d be at work at the same time.
    If the north chose to align their working hours (but not the clocks) to the daylight, what would they lose?

  25. Less talking and just get on with it, whats the big deal. If Scotland want to live in a time zone that suits them, fine, no problem. All this fannying about with changing time costs money and its money we don’t have at the moment.

  26. England and Scotland have different school holidays and different bank holidays.
    Is this a problem to Scotland?
    Could Scotland keep GMT and let England do what’s best for England?

  27. This change would be excellent for the whole of the UK. Let’s have longer evenings as soon as possible.

  28. I live in the north of Scotland and as far as I am aware we are still part of the UK. I hate the depressingly long winter mornings and to add another hour for us would be terrible. I look forward to the GMT and I know many other people do too. We have already tried this idea of switching and it was scrapped.

    • I understand Scotlands schools are on holiday at the moment. They are not in England. Also you have different bank holidays to England. Is this a problem to Scotland?
      Could Scotland keep GMT and let England do what’s best for England?

  29. Thanks for the article, Tom. This issue is all about the match between daylight and waking hours – all over the UK – and how we’ve inherited a system that doesn’t meet modern needs and is now dangerous. A century ago, William Willett was engaged in the struggle introduce BST, replacing permanent GMT, which had become obsolete. The arguments against him are familiar to us in our campaign, including that he was a traitor for wanting to introduce “Berlin Time”. Even Nature magazine, which should have known better even then, described his plan as “unnatural”. He succeeded because he was right. So are we.

    • Tina and Jeremy, thanks for the comments and the support.

      We’re hoping more people get involved with the debate – including those who oppose the move. How do we change people’s minds if we can’t engage them?!

      Thanks again, and stay tuned!

  30. Tom, brilliant article, which reflects the anger fely by many Lighter Later supporters. Look forward to this anger being reflected in the National Press at clock change.

  31. David Cameron needs to face up to the SNP and tell the Scottish people that lives are being lost in Scotland, as well as England & Wales, because of GMT. The case for a trial seems so strong. How can any PM justify so many lives lost and injured, because of the lack of will to face up to the nay sayers…

  32. I’m more than happy with the current set up. I do not want dark darker mornings.

  33. I’ve been all for this for years I hope they scrap British winter time i’d love more light in the evening especially as I end up work outside on the roads in the dark in the winter months.

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