Gales View (October 28th 2009)
Any day now you will be arriving home from work in the dark. You might have enjoyed an "extra hour in bed" on Sunday and for a short while the mornings will be a bit lighter earlier but before long the effects of putting the clocks back will mean an extension of winter gloom. If you live north of Birmingham (which readers of this newspaper almost certainly do not) then will you will, during the working week, probably enjoy no winter daylight at all.
It is a nonsense!
Back in 1968 the United Kingdom experimented with year-round summertime. That experiment ended in 1971 and the findings suggest that the shift of daylight back towards early evening resulted in the saving of one hundred lives a year. And an audit Commission report into Improving Road Safety for pedestrians and cyclists that studied the four weeks before the clocks went back compared with the four weeks after the change showed a ten per cent increase in injuries and death during the darker evening period.
Does this matter? Well, yes, I think it does. It clearly effects personal safety and it also has an impact on industry, business and energy consumption and, therefore, upon carbon emissions. Daylight saving reduces carbon emissions by 500,000 tonnes and by six gigawatts every day, which is enough power to service 200 thousand households a year or a two thirds of the population of Glasgow! It is, of course, true that a brief period of lighter mornings delivers some reduction in the use of electricity but the savings in the evening are greater - a finding endorsed by the National Grid. More electricity is used on the return, in darkness, from work and for thirty days of each winter the Grid has to rely upon inefficient reserve power to ensure that power cuts do not occur when people get home and turn on the lights, the television, the heating and the cooker.
There are other benefits. The "dusk effect" drives people away from tourist attractions and sports fields alike. Longer evening hours generate a "second wave" of visitors to those tourist attractions and a greater and healthier use of sports facilities. The Policy Studies Institute calculates that the impact upon the economy is likely to be worth between 2.5 and 3.5 billion pounds in the first year following change and that daylight saving is likely to generate between sixty and eighty thousand jobs in the tourist and related industries alone. And that's before we start on the benefits of business hours compatibility with much of the rest of Europe..
Even the Scots, who have traditionally opposed the retention of summer time have, apart from a few die-hard farmers, begun to wake up to the fact that they actually have about six per cent more to gain from daylight saving than England and Wales put together!
Given all of this why did the House of Commons, back in 1971, not extend the change? Incredibly, in the days before computer number-crunching, the results of the experiment were not published until 1973 and by then the momentum had been lost and the political game had moved on. A more recent Transport Research Laboratory report has confirmed the 100-lives-a-year saving figure but the Department for Transport under the Secretary of State, Lord Adonis, having made the case for change now proposes to "ignore the possibility for the foreseeable future!"
"Sundial time" might have suited the first Elizabethan era but has not the time come to take advantage of daylight and carbon saving in the second?