Almost unheralded, the question of daylight saving is back on to the agenda – and a very good thing that is, too. A Private Member's Bill, which yesterday passed its second reading, would require the Government to open an inquiry into the benefits of keeping British Summer Time throughout the year.
There is, of course, a nostalgia issue here. In some ways it would be a pity to lose Greenwich Mean Time, which has such resonance both in Britain and around the world. This, however, is a detail compared with the many advantages that would accrue from a switch to year-round BST. Road safety groups say that 100 road deaths could be prevented every year. There would be significant economies on energy consumption, as the daylight hours would match most people's waking and working hours more closely than they do in winter at present. And organisations as diverse as the Football Association, green groups and tourist concerns are also in favour. An additional plus is psychological: it would eliminate the damper that early darkness puts on the national mood each autumn.
When year-round BST was introduced as an experiment in 1968, it was in the teeth of fierce opposition from Scots, who cited the risk to children going to school in the dark, and the whole idea was abandoned three years later. But a subsequent study showed all the advantages now being argued, plus the fact that any rise in morning accidents was outweighed by a fall in evening casualties.
Forty years on, there is evidence that opposition from Scots has weakened, with farmers – once implacable opponents – now generally in favour, as the proportion of their income they receive from tourism has increased. And even if Scotland were still to resist the change, there is no reason any longer why it should have the power of veto on something so much to the advantage of the rest of the country. With devolved government, there is an obvious solution: Scotland could vote to retain GMT.