Abolish British Summer Time (Daylight Saving). Keep the UK on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Abolish British Summer Time (Daylight Saving). Keep the UK on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Why this petition matters
The concept of changing the time on the nation’s clocks twice a year and alternating between Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time (also known as changing the clocks and daylight saving) was introduced a little over a century ago. There is no evidence that this is beneficial or relevant to the people of the United Kingdom in the 21st Century; this may actually be harmful. However, there is ample evidence that this process causes unnecessary problems, stress, effort and expense to individuals, businesses, the private sector and public services. All for no good reason.
The United Kingdom should cease changing the time and remain fixed at Greenwich Mean Time. Some people think that this will prevent them from enjoying the lighter evenings, but this is simply not true.
As a society, we are already suffering from too much stress, so why do we continue with something that causes needless, additional, stress, effort and expense? In no particular order, some examples of the issues are listed below.
• Many parents of younger children and babies struggle with the changes to the clocks. They get their children established into a routine, only to have it disrupted when the clocks change. This is not a minor disruption for a day or two, where the original routine is quickly re-established. This is a complete change that is semi-permanent. 6 months is a long time in the life of a child. Disturbed sleep for the children inevitably causes disturbed sleep patterns for their parents, which are already upset by the time change.
• Similarly, children and babies get used to regular meal time, so following a time change, you find parents trying to feed youngsters who are not hungry, then later trying to get hungry children to sleep. There is evidence that this may be linked to later life eating disorders and obesity.
• Many organisations and businesses, where their staff work shifts, have to subsidise staff for the missing hour when clocks are put forwards e.g. workers are paid for 8 hours when they actually work 7.
• Many organisations and businesses, where their staff work shifts, have to pay staff overtime for the additional hour worked when clocks are put backwards. This is because the staff on the following shift come in to work an hour later.
• These issues alone cost the Country huge amounts of money, when you consider NHS hospital staff, Coastguard, Police, Fire and Ambulance Services who all work shifts to provide cover on a 24/7 basis. The private sector is similarly effected, with staff working shifts in care homes, security, fuel filling stations or 24/7 shops and restaurants. All this expense, for no benefit.
• Where the employers do not subsidise their staff for their contracted hours or pay overtime (as per the above points) they have to go to additional expense to ensure the pay adjustments are accurately made, either by increasing the workload of the payroll staff, or using bespoke software solutions.
• Time, effort and money are unnecessarily expended by businesses, local authorities and public services etc, simply to change the time on town hall and church clocks, office clocks, heating controls or computer systems. All sorts of modern devices have clocks and timers attached in order to function correctly and they all have to be adjusted by some mean. Gone are the days when it was the office junior’s job to stand precariously on a swivel chair and change the time on the clock, mounted high up on the office wall.
• Unnecessary confusion is caused by the time changes. Working hours are lost when staff forget to change their alarm clocks. Workers have also been known to come into work 2 hours early because they put clocks forwards when they should have been put back.
• Automated adjustment of devices is not always reliable. I had a self adjusting alarm clock that was a function of my home phone, but the problem was that it takes the time code from the telephone exchange and only updates when a call is made or received. Similarly, mobile phones need to be linked to a network cell tower and will not update the time in an area of a building where there is no mobile phone signal.
• Further unnecessary confusion is also caused when computer systems are set to automatically adjust for ‘daylight saving’. Emergency service logging systems can show incidents where an emergency response has taken over an hour to arrive, when in reality it was just a few minutes. Stranger still, the response apparently arrives before the incident was even reported. Many of these systems are required for life saving and evidential purposes, so a great deal of time, effort and money is expended to try and ensure that the time changes are documented or otherwise taken into account.
• Moreover, witnesses to incidents have to be closely questioned about what the time was, how they knew, but also what device they use to tell the time and how it operates, e.g. manually adjusted, radio RDS, WiFi, mobile phone cell tower etc. Even the simple wristwatch is now often linked to a mobile phone. An innocent person could have an alibi compromised, an offender could escape justice or a casualty could have their life put at risk if witnesses are unsure of the time. All these problems can happen anyway, but changing the clocks just adds an additional layer of confusion, compounding the risks and requiring time effort and expense to minimise the problems.
• RoSPA research has shown that the standard of driving for many drivers deteriorates after the clocks change. It returns to normal levels after a few days. This appears to be linked to disturbed sleep patterns.
• Other research has shown that some people do feel a mental lift in Spring at about the time the clocks go forward. This could be linked in small part to the time change, but in fact is mostly the result of a natural increase in ambient light intensity and duration associated with the time of year. The longer, lighter days happen naturally and are not the result of changing the clocks.
• However, the small part of this apparent mood lift, resulting from changing the time, is more than offset by the depression that many feel in Autumn, when the clocks are put back again as we head towards Winter.
• Animals are also affected by the time changes. Some dairy farmers have reported that because the clocks change, the milk collection lorry comes earlier, so to accommodate this and other commitments, they have to milk the cows an hour earlier. The cattle don’t respond well to the disruption of their routine and the milk yields drop significantly for some weeks. This impacts on the farm profitability and may be linked to mastitis outbreaks in some dairy herds.
Put simply, there is no evidence that changing the clocks (daylight saving) is of any benefit to the modern UK society. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether there was any significant advantage to this when it was introduced in the early 20th century.
Part of the argument for the initial introduction of daylight saving, was that it would save energy by allowing better use of natural light and people could enjoy longer, lighter evenings.
Despite the good intentions, the reality of 21st century living is very different. A large proportion of the nation’s workers are employed indoors in shops, offices, factories, hospitals, schools, restaurants and other workplaces where there is a tightly controlled environment with heating/cooling and artificial lighting at any time of the day or night. Only those who work outside may derive some benefit from working during the daylight, but in most cases their priorities are determined by other overriding factors such as delivery schedules, the weather, traffic jams etc. Not the intensity or duration of the daylight.
Where a particular business, organisation or individual can benefit from adapting their working hours or starting times, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so and many already do exactly that. e.g. a lorry driver may start a journey at a particular time so as to avoid the rush hours or to avoid driving at night, but also so that the collection or delivery can be made as required. So while an individual can be flexible to meet their own priorities, it is not necessary for the entire nation to change their working times.
There is simply no evidence of appreciable energy saving as a result of ‘daylight saving’.
So, are people better able to enjoy their leisure time in the evenings as a result of daylight saving? The fact is that lighter evenings will happen naturally; they are not dependent on what time the clock shows. There is no causal link that means we will stop getting lighter evenings if we don't change the clocks. On the contrary, we will get exactly the same number of hours of daylight, regardless of what the clock says. Anecdotally, the naturally lighter evenings combined with the time change may be a slightly greater benefit; but only for those on their days off. This would not benefit those who have to go to bed early because they have to work the following morning. Conversely, as always, there are disadvantages. There are those who will be tempted to stay up late regardless of their work commitments and others who despite their best efforts will find it difficult to get to sleep while it is still light outside.
People's enjoyment of their leisure time in the evening will be as varied as the people themselves. Some may choose to spend it indoors watching TV, others may choose to be outside exercising or eating and drinking. The weather will be a major factor and probably the most significant. The sales of BBQs and fire pits indicate that these leisure activities are very popular and in the case of the fire pit the maximum benefit is enjoyed after darkness. So does it really make much difference if it gets dark when the clocks say 9.30pm or 10.30pm? In truth, not much difference.
There is the argument, often heard, that the time changes are essential for bankers and businesses that trade overseas, notably with Europe. This argument is nonsense. If a trader needs to start work an hour or more earlier, in order to trade with those overseas, then they are free to do so. There is no requirement for the rest of the nation to adopt the same working times. Would we expect the same to be done for those trading with the USA, China, Japan, India, Australia or anywhere else? No, of course not. The USA, for example, spans 3 time zones, so it would be an impossible challenge. We would not try, and rightly so.
The concept of daylight saving apparently originated in the US, but even there, daylight saving has not been adopted by every State. Even within some States that have implemented daylight saving, not all areas within the State do so. And indeed, the reverse is true.
The concept of changing the time on the nation’s clocks twice a year and alternating between Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time was introduced a little over a century ago. There is no evidence that this is beneficial or relevant to the people of the United Kingdom in the 21st Century; this may actually be harmful. However, there is ample evidence that this process causes unnecessary problems, stress, effort and expense to individuals, businesses, the private sector and public services. All for no good reason. So let’s stop doing it.
Having established that we should stop changing the times of our clocks. What time should we then stay with?
Greenwich was established centuries ago as the primary location from which all the other time zones and the international date line were set. It was used because it was the location of the Royal Observatory and as a reference for navigational calculations for long distance sea voyages. 12 o’clock (noon) GMT is the time when the sun reaches its highest point over Greenwich and there are roughly equal periods of daylight either side of noon. 12 o’clock noon is the middle of the day, it is where the term midday originates. This is simply a function of the way our planet and the solar system operates. So let’s just accept that and work with nature, not against it.
So where is the sun overhead at 12 o’clock BST? At that time it would be well to the east of the UK, directly overhead the Germany/Poland border area, or Sweden North of there, or Sicily to South.
The United Kingdom should cease changing the time and remain fixed at Greenwich Mean Time.