Morning light to keep shining on the South

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MPs yesterday recoiled from the prospect of plunging their constituents into Stygian gloom for an extra hour on winter mornings and in effect rejected a Bill to move Britain to Central European Time.

Opponents of John Butterfill's British Time (Extra Daylight) Bill argued that it was nothing of the sort - it would place Britain in a time zone designed for Berlin and provide no more daylight.

Scottish Office ministers had been freed by the Prime Minister from a convention of government neutrality and were prepared to vote against the backbench Bill's Second Reading. However, their presence proved unnecessary as Mr Butterfill could muster only 93 votes in favour of a technical motion to close the debate - seven fewer than the 100 required. The Bill now stands no chance of becoming law.

The result was a blow for the Daylight Extra lobby group. Its chairman, Angus Crichton Miller, blamed a "shabby blocking tactic" by ministers but said he was confident the next government would support legislation, probably on the basis of five-year experiment.

Mr Butterfill, MP for Bournemouth West, pronounced himself "bloodied but not bowed". The campaign's task had been made all the more difficult by the Government's scheduling of parliamentary business for the week. MPs who were "not passionate" about the change had been able to leave Westminster on Wednesday night.

In a spirited Commons debate, Mr Butterfill said moving the clocks forward would save 110 lives a year, according Road Transport Laboratory figures, give a pounds 1.2bn boost to the leisure industry and make business with the rest of Europe easier by synchronising lunch times.

Lighter nights would cut crime by 200,000 offences a year, he maintained. "It's a fact that criminals don't get up early in the mornings. They are usually still in bed sleeping off the hangover induced by the proceeds of their previous crimes."

But Calum MacDonald, MP for the Western Isles, warned southerners about the dangers of moving to "Stornoway time". Mid-winter sunrises in London would be delayed to 9.05am - as occurs in Stornoway at present. "They will find it a dark and depressing and very miserable experience."