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Britain considers winding on clocks, moving closer to Europe

Britain considers winding on clocks, moving closer to Europe

With a single sweep of an hour hand, Britain could shift closer to its continental neighbors and illuminate the thick gloom of winter evenings, a former minister said Friday, outlining proposals to set the country's clocks in line with mainland Europe.
Former Environment Minister Tim Yeo laid out plans to switch the country to Central European Time, 60 minutes ahead of current settings. But he stressed regional parliaments in other major cities in the United Kingdom such as Wales, Scotland and _ once it resumes _ Northern Ireland, would be free to opt out of the system.
While he aims to reduce road deaths, boost tourism and promote outdoor activity, the proposal raised the prospect London could wake up with Paris _ but not at the same time as Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast.
Yeo, an opposition Conservative lawmaker, said his plan was "a simple change which would benefit everyone by creating a safer and greener country."
He said government studies had predicted a time shift would lead to 130 fewer road deaths, a 1 billion pound (US$1.96 billion; euro1.53billion) increase in tourism earnings and a reduction in energy consumption _ aiding efforts to meet carbon emissions targets.
To be put formally to parliament, the plan would need government sponsorship, after filibustering legislators prevented a vote Friday.
Though the Department of Trade and Industry said it had no current plans to change timekeeping arrangements, municipal authorities have suggested they plan to press the government to examine the options.
Changes to British timekeeping are a twice-a-year fixture, in the spring when clocks go forward and in the autumn when they are turned back. Yeo advocated standing by the practice.
For the price of an extra hour of darkness each morning, Britons would have "healthier lives with more social and recreational opportunities," Yeo said during a parliamentary debate.
David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at London's Royal Greenwich Observatory _ the point where universal standard time is measured _ said the proposed change comes exactly 100 years after lawmakers first put forward the idea of daylight savings in 1907.
Britain adopted summer time in 1916, during World War I; during World War II, summer time was set two hours ahead.
The nation experimented with year-round summer time from Feb. 18, 1968, to Oct. 31, 1971.
"At the time the House of Commons was told there would be permanent summer following the change _ it caused hoots of laughter when the winds began howling and snow fell," Rooney said.
"After three years there was no consensus on whether the trial had been a success, in part because a one-size fits all solution has never been correct for Britain."
Southern towns and cities traditionally bask in warmer weather than northern regions and enjoy more sunlight, meaning the effect of darker morning would be felt most severely in northern England and Scotland.
"During the experiments, some areas of Scotland were in the dark until midmorning, so it seems certain the Scottish parliament would not join England in changing time," Rooney said.
Similar problems in Wales and Northern Ireland would likely see the proposals rejected in Cardiff and Belfast, Rooney said.
In January in southern England, dawn breaks around 7.30 a.m. and dusk falls at 4.45 p.m. Aberdeen, in eastern Scotland, enjoys less sunlight _ with dawn at around 8 a.m. and the sun setting close to 4.20 p.m.
Scottish legislator Angus MacNeil said England had won a "latitude lottery" and already had a longer day than Scotland. It would be small minded and unfair to impose on Scots a 9.30 a.m dawn, he said.
Lawmaker Charles Hendry told the debate separate time zones could "fragment the nation" and warned London's booming financial industry would be hit.