House of Commons Library

British Summer Time

Published Thursday, March 10, 2016

For a number of years there have been calls to change clock times in the UK, so that more daylight would be experienced in the evenings rather than mornings throughout the year. The issue continues to be regularly raised in Parliament. This Briefing Paper provides an overview of the pros and cons of British Summer Time and proposals for further changes to clock times. It also summarises recent legislative attempts to change clock times in the UK.

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Summary

Since days are longer in the summer it is possible to shift the clocks so that the sun sets later. This happens in the UK when clocks are put forward onto British Summer Time (BST, also known as Daylight Saving Time), putting the UK on Greenwich Mean Time plus 1 hour. Shifting to BST gives an extra hour of daylight in the evening, rather than in the mornings when many people are asleep.

Proposals to change clock times

For a number of years there have been calls for further changes to clock times, so that even more daylight would be experienced in the evenings rather than mornings throughout the year. It has been argued that this shift would have benefits including: fewer road deaths; reduced energy consumption; increased tourism revenue; and social and health benefits.

However, some are opposed to such a change. Lighter mornings have traditionally been supported by postal workers, the construction industry and farmers. Those living in Scotland, where there is a shorter winter day, voice particular safety concerns about children and adults having to travel to school and work in the dark.

A number of attempts have been made in Parliament to change clock times. The most recent legislative proposal on this issue was The Daylight Saving Bill 2010-11, Rebecca Harris MP’s Private Members' Bill. It would have required the production of a cost-benefit report on advancing time by one hour throughout the year for the whole UK (also known as Single/Double Summer Time (SDST)) and permit a trial clock change to take place. The Bill ran out of Parliamentary time.

Review of clock change evidence

The Coalition Government subsequently commissioned a review of the scope, quality and robustness of available evidence on the potential effects of changes to daylight saving in order to inform debate. The review was published in summer 2012. It concluded that it would be possible to produce a formal cost-benefit analysis of SDST. However it said that more research would be needed to inform it, particularly in relation to how people would respond to the change in terms of carrying out different activities at different times.

Policy on clock changes

The issue continues to be regularly raised in Parliament. However, the Government has confirmed that, in the absence of consensus across the UK, it had no plans to change the current arrangements.

Time is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, but is reserved to Westminster for Scotland and Wales.

Commons Briefing papers SN03796

Authors: Oliver Bennett; Hannah Cromarty

Topics: Agriculture, Climate change, Countryside, Energy, Energy conservation, EU law and treaties, International trade, Leisure, Standards, Tourism

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