River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Ron Watts writes to the Editor

September 2007

Ron debates the need for British Summer time and agrees with Les Lawrence that most of our teenagers are fundamentally good kids who will become good citizens. But he wonders what must be done to stop the recent wave of mindless vandalism.

Dear Ray

I was interested to read Cliff Gardner's letter advocating that we should bring our clocks into line with the rest of Western Europe. It is true that a not insignificant part of Europe is west of Greenwich - Portugal, almost all of Spain and part of France but these areas do have the benefit of being further south with the resultant reduction in the summer/winter daylight variation. The Scandinavians have the benefit of being further east so their sun rise is earlier, only the most northern Scandinavians would be as badly off as the Scots would be in the mornings if a common time zone was established. Nevertheless, like Cliff, I have argued for years that we should revert to the situation we had during the second world war with British Summer Time (BST) in the winter and Double British Summer Time in the summer, in other words our clocks in line with Western Europe. I confess my motive was simply to avoid the inconvenience of the dark evenings, although I have acknowledged the associated energy saving.

Recognising that it could make matters difficult for the Scots, however, (they would not see daylight until after 9 o'clock) I suggested introducing BST just eight weeks after the winter solstice so that GMT was symmetrically arranged around the solstice. There does not seem to be a good reason for delaying the introduction of BST until the end of March. Unfortunately the Western Europeans have now all agreed to change their clocks on the same days so that any change would require agreement right across most of Europe. For the British to accept European time, as Cliff suggests, remains the only realistic option.

Some years ago I wrote to the MP that I had at the time urging him to press for a change. My letter evoked a response from the Home Office that was somewhat sympathetic and explained a little of the history of BST. BST was introduced for the first time in 1916, prior to that I assume we had GMT all year round. Over the years since 1916 the dates that BST started and finished have changed several times. BST has started as early as 18 February and extended as late as 19 November. The present arrangement in which BST extends from about 13 weeks after the winter solstice to about 8 weeks before was introduced in 1972. This was after a proposal to extend BST throughout the winter was rejected by a vote in the House of Commons in December 1970, but it was clear that there were many who supported the proposal.

There was a further attempt to introduce change in 1989 when there was a green paper in which a number of options were proposed. None of the options gained sufficient support, however, and the status quo was retained. Perhaps the potential for carbon saving might now force a further reconsideration and strengthen support for a change.

I was also interested in Les's letter. I am sure he is right, the large majority of our teenagers are fundamentally good kids who will become good citizens. Nevertheless I think his last sentence is a little too optimistic - "there is nothing wrong with our teenagers that a little bit of working together can't put right .....". I just wonder what kind of, and how much, "working together" is required to sort out those mindless vandals that trashed the new college building in Lynn, or even if it is possible to work with them. Almost everything in every room on every floor was destroyed, every toilet cistern was smashed, probably with a hammer. This not only released the water in the cistern but produced a continuous flow of water to further add to the damage. And how, for example, would Les advise us to work with those teenagers who kicked a young father to death recently? Assaulting anyone who challenges bad behaviour is becoming common place.

Are we cursed with a number, albeit small perhaps, of morons in our society; morons who beget morons?

Ron Watts

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