1: Changing the clocks for more daylight

The Policy Studies Institute has issued my report on the costs and benefits of moving the clock one hour ahead of its current setting throughout the year. That would mean British Standard Time (BST) in the winter and Double British Summer Time (DBST) in the summer. There is now a high likelihood of the government taking action to implement this change. The suggested smooth transition would be to maintain BST through the winter of 1991 into 1992. In the spring of that year, clocks would be put forward a further hour to DBST, and in the following autumn they would be put back by one hour to BST and so on, with thereafter the two clock changes each year, as at present.

The advantages

  • There would be an extra hour of evening daylight on every day of the year whereas there would be an extra hour of morning darkness in the depths of winter only.
  • There would be a reduction of about 600 fatalities and serious injuries in road accidents in the winter months.
  • More journeys for social and recreational purposes could be made in daylight, benefiting the old and children particularly.
  • There would be an increase of over a quarter in the number of hours for outdoor leisure activities in daylight after school or work. As The Times diary put it: ‘Cricket under the midnight sun – who could resist such a prospect?’
  • An improvement in general health and well-being is predicted from the increase in exercise in daylight and sunlight.
  • Current earnings in tourism would rise by about £600 million annually covering those activities governed by the availability of daylight.
  • Additional annual earnings of about £150 million for the leisure industries.
  • An increase of jobs in the leisure and tourism industries.
  •  An annual saving of about £100 million in fuel costs and improved efficiency in electricity generation.
  • Clock times between the UK and 93% of the EEC would be identical for all twelve months of the year. This would be welcomed by the UK’s EEC partners, especially as the temporal barrier could be symbolically completed before 1992.
  • Businessmen would be able to make round trips to the Continent within a day. Increased revenue for British airlines of £30 to £50 million would be generated.
  • A large majority of organisations surveyed were in favour the change.

The disadvantages

  • It would exacerbate the already depressing start to the day in winter, especially for those whose work has to begin early irrespective of the availability of daylight, such as the postmen, milkmen, others in public services, and some farmers.
  • It would be especially depressing for those living in Scotland, where daylight in mid-winter would not begin until 9.30am. – although there would be the compensation of the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon.
  • People may psychologically prefer to have daylight on rising than later in the day, if they have to choose between them.
  • Unions in the agricultural and construction industries are likely to be strongly opposed, without equally powerful countervailing bodies.
  • The government may well fight shy of promising such a measure before the next election in Scotland where its position is already perilous.

The conclusion
Bill Daniel, the Director of the Policy Studies Institute, comments: ‘The government is inclined to believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The Policy Studies Institute judges that the advantages of reform relative to the low costs of making the change add up to a free and regular banquet’.

In January 1989 Michael Young (Lord Young of Dartington) chaired a conference on this theme and praised Dr. Mayer Hillman’s booklet, Making the Most of Daylight Hours’, (published by Policy Studies Institute, 1988). ‘It is a remarkable job’, he said, ‘If Britain enters into a new relationship with the sun, it will be due to the work of one person who had an idea ahead of his time. It will be thanks to his dedication and research. The book is very solid, with the issues well delineated. It means the public debate will not be carried one way or the other by emotion and prejudice to the extent that it would otherwise have been. His proposal is a social invention, which is as important as a technological one, though rarer. In fact, his case is almost too good to be true. It is a researcher’s dream that all the points in favour should come out like this. A referendum on the issue might well produce a vote in favour even in Scotland’.

At the conference, representatives of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, Age Concern, the rural Development Commissions, Butlins Holiday Camps, the British Tourist Authority, the Sports Council and the CBI all spoke in favour, with the Building Employers’ Federation, the Post Office and the National Farmers Union against (the three latter do not like early starts in the dark).

‘It is an issue which ordinary people have not thought about’, Michael Young commented, ‘and so public opinion polls may not produce meaningful results. But I do believe that the chances of the change occurring will be greater just because there is some opposition, otherwise the proponents might have sat back and not fought for it. Now it will be a lively debate, with small minorities showing strength of feeling on both sides. However, the strength of feeling against change is normally the greater, so the result is by no means an open and shut case’.

There are now two pressure groups, one called Keep Summer Time British fighting against the change, and one called Daylight Extra, which is in favour. A government survey published in June 1989 showed 55% of interest groups were in favour of the change and 34% were against. But most of the 4,000 letters and petitions have been against, particularly those from Scotland.

Interestingly, the previous similar experiment on these lines was ended by parliament on a free vote in 1970 by 336 votes to 81. The MPs then were largely persuaded by the public outcry over horror stories in the press about children run over going to school in the dark on icy roads. The media had been unable to make a story about the large number of unknown pedestrians, including children, saved by the extra afternoon daylight.

Originally published in the Encyclopedia of Social Innovations (eds. Nicholas Albery and Valerie Yule), 1989. (The wide benefits of achieving a better match between daylight and waking hours.)

Dr. Mayer Hillman won a 1989 Social Invention Award for this proposal.

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