Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Clocking off British Summer Time

28/10/19Clocking off British Summer Time

Did you remember to put your clock back an hour on Sunday to switch back to Greenwich Mean Time from British Summer Time? Luckily these days, most of our smart phones and computers update the time automatically. Those of us with old fashioned alarm clocks still have to remember to do it though.

Why do the clocks go back?

The days have been getting shorter since the summer solstice on 21 June. Putting the clocks back an hour in the autumn provides us with more daylight in the morning. It’s been a long held belief that farmers and other outdoor workers were strong supporters of the process but this is incorrect. In fact the NFU director of strategy Martin Haworth says: “The NFU of England and Wales has no strong views on whether we should or should not put the clocks back. The last time we tested opinion among our members there was a narrow majority in favour of lighter evenings.

“Whether an extra hour’s daylight would be more beneficial in the morning or the evening depends very much on the work pattern on each individual farm. If a firm proposal was made to put the clocks forward, in order to reduce road accidents, for example, or reduce energy consumption, we would need to consult our members - but at this stage we are keeping an open mind.”

When was British Summer Time introduced?

Did you know that British Summer Time was first introduced in 1916? The idea for doing it goes back much further though. The ancient Romans did something similar in order to maximise efficiency during daylight hours. In the Second World War, British Double Summer Time - two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) – was brought in, while in the winter clocks were kept one hour in advance of GMT in the belief this would increase productivity. Once the war was over, we went back to British Summer Time apart from a brief period between 1968 and 1971 when the clocks went forward but were not put back. The experiment was abandoned as no one could properly assess the advantages and disadvantages.

Which countries change their clocks?

We are not the only country to change our clocks. Ireland, Israel, Spain and Portugal change their clocks at the same time as us. Most other European countries also have a clock reversal, just under a slightly different time zone. Worldwide, only a seventh of the world’s population do change their clocks as most countries don’t.

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