Putting the clocks back is a flawed ritual that should be ditched - Sir Greg Knight
The practice was first proposed in 1895 by George Hudson, but it was not until the First World War that changing the clocks became commonplace in Europe. Many countries have taken up the practice since then, and one can see why. Longer summer days offer room to shift daylight from the morning to the evening, so that the early morning light is not wasted.
But a growing number of people, me included, regard our current practice as deeply flawed, because we have not gone far enough. Our current self-chosen time settings mean that for most of those 150 or so winter days, people at work, college or school have little or no sunlit leisure time.
I say the answer is either to stay on summertime for the full 12 months of the year or put our clocks forward an extra hour all year round and move to a system of Single/Double Summer Time (SDST).
Such a move would bring our waking hours more into line with the hours of daylight, rather than as now, where daylight is wasted in the early morning, when most of us are still asleep.
Putting our clocks forward by an extra hour would not only result in the gain of extra daylight in summer; we would also reduce our national energy consumption, and it would boost tourism.
A study by Cambridge University some years ago confirmed that energy consumption would be lower, particularly in winter. Also, in answer to Parliamentary questioning from me, a transport minister has confirmed that the adoption of SDST would save up to 100 lives a year and cut serious accidents by more than 200.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents agrees with this analysis and believes that many serious accidents would be avoided if our clocks were put forward by another hour. The reason for this is that in the mornings most road journeys are well known and predictable –such as driving to work, or taking children to school.
By contrast, journeys undertaken at the end of the day are less certain and potentially more dangerous. On the way back from school, parents may go shopping, or on the way home from work, decide to visit friends or to stop off for a meal.
Age Concern supports the adoption of SDST, too, believing that lighter evenings will encourage many older people to spend more time outside. Sports bodies such as the Football Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, and the Lawn Tennis Association are all supportive of change. They say the move would allow more time for sport, making people healthier.
The decision whether to move our current time zone forward is a matter for the Government, which has shown no interest whatever to embrace change. It could be said that they have more pressing issues to deal with at present. However, I believe that the time is now overdue to undertake a trial of double/single British Summertime.
On this issue, as on many others, Sir Winston Churchill got it right. Churchill predicted more daylight hours would: “enlarge the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country”. As we face another winter of miserable dark afternoons, I believe a growing number of people will agree with him.
Sir Greg Knight is the Conservative MP for East Yorkshire.