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26 Oct 2010 12:10:20

Moving clocks forward could be a fact

MPs will hear evidence for moving the clocks forward for a year as a measure to cut carbon emissions and boost the UK economy.

MPs are considering whether keeping British Summer Time (BST) throughout the winter, rather than falling back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Campaign groups have claimed that moving the clocks forward would result in lower bills as homes and businesses use less energy when evenings are lighter.

A study published earlier on this year from Dr Elizabeth Garnsey at Cambridge University's Department of Engineering found that moving the clocks forward for the entire year would have saved 447,000 tonnes of carbon emissions between 2001 and 2008 equating to electricity savings of 885GWh – enough to supply 200,000 households – and a reduction in peak demand of 4.3%. She added that moving the clocks forward by one hour would reduce household energy consumption during the evening, resulting in carbon savings equivalent to taking nearly 200,000 cars off the road.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) will hear evidence for moving the clocks forward on Thursday from Dr Garnsey, just days before the UK once again resets to GMT. Should the committee be convinced by the report’s findings, it could write to the prime minister - who has manifested to be in favour of the change - to recommend trialling the proposals. Also, it could support a private member’s bill currently working its way through Parliament that calls for a formal review of the proposal.

The daylight saving bill is the latest of eight attempts since 1994 to change UK timings. Moving the clocks forward by one hour for the entire year would force the government to implement the switch if the review reached a positive conclusion. It was introduced by ECCC chair Tim Yeo, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Conservative green advocate Zac Goldsmith. Currently, it is tabled by conservative MP Rachel Harris and it is due to have its second reading on 3 December.

Tim Yeo has clearly supported the change and said the Daily Express earlier on this year that it would extend business hours, cut accidents and help the elderly, as well as slashing energy use and carbon emissions. Yeo said “The best thing about it is that it will save people money and cost nothing to implement. Given the current economic situation I think it is very timely. I am very keen to see this go through."

Traditionally, opposition to moving the clocks forward for the whole year has come from farmers and Scottish politicians who argue that sunrise as late as 10 am in the north of the country would delay agricultural work and increase the risk of accidents among children walking to school. However, changes in the agricultural practice and improvements in road safety have seen a clear shift in favour of the latest bill.

The National Farmers' Union has said it is "keeping an open mind" on the proposals and the National Society for the Prevention of Accidents has said it backs the private members' bill. A spokeswoman from Lighter Later, an arm of the 10:10 campaign that has been calling for a year-long trial, said the time was right for the UK to switch.

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