Soapbox

GMT and BST

So here we are again with the dark evenings. Of course the amount of daylight hours is something that we can do nothing about. What we can do, however, is adjust our clocks in order to obtain the maximum benefit from what little light there is. How to adjust those clocks has been a matter of almost endless debate throughout my lifetime and it is clear that what suits some does not suit others; but I have to admit that I have never felt that the adjustment chosen by the powers that be has been the best that could be done. British Summer Time (Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour) was first introduced in 1916. Since that time there has been a number of adjustments and BST has started as early as 18 February and ended as late as 19 November, which is, I suppose, a measure of the extent to which the debate has ranged. The present arrangements were introduced as recently as 1972.

Most people that I know dislike the dark evenings and would rather swap for dark mornings. But one has to admit that a sunrise as late 9.06 would be, perhaps, a bit too late and that is what would occur in late December if BST was maintained throughout the winter. Nevertheless it is difficult to understand why it is considered acceptable to maintain BST to within 8 weeks of the winter solstice but necessary to delay its reintroduction until 13 weeks after. At the end of October, when BST is ended, sunrise is around about 6.50 GMT and sunset is around 4.30pm. On February 1st sunset is actually later at 4.50pm, although sunrise is also later at 7.40. But, by the end of February, sunrise is back to 7.00. By then sunset is nearer to 5.30pm, yet we still have to wait a further month before Summer Time is reintroduced, which I think is a great pity since the winter days could be cheered with lighter evenings. Why do we have to wait another month?

Official answers are some mumblings about cold mornings, but that seems to be a rather weak excuse. During the war (as Del Boy’s uncle would say) we had British Summer Time throughout the winter and Double British Summer Time (GMT plus two hours) during the summer months and, as far as I remember, that arrangement was quite popular.

People might argue about the undesirability of very dark mornings during the seven weeks before and after the winter solstice. But I cannot see the justification for extending the winter clock settings outside of those 14 weeks whereas we have to suffer for 21 weeks. The bad news is that the EU has now synchronised with the UK times so the likelihood of achieving a change now is greatly reduced —– Unless! —– We go the whole way and go back to our wartime arrangement, keeping the existing change dates; then we would be on exactly the same time as Western Europe. How about it?

Ron Watts

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