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The United Kingdom goes onto daylight saving time once again on 28 October. Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, on the lead-up to the United Kingdom’s experiment with permanent daylight saving time or GMT+1 in 1968-71. The move was controversial and almost straightaway there were various studies and moves to rescind it. …

The question of harmonising British time with Europe came up again in parliament in 1963. Most of the Continent didn’t have daylight saving at that time although many countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands were effectively on year round summer time with clocks 40-50 minutes ahead of the sun in their capital cities. The United Kingdom was on the same time as its European trading partners for seven months each year but was one hour behind in the other five months. Support for staying on GMT+1 all year was strong among business and workers as shown by the 1960 survey but not among the farming community or the education sector. By late December, sunrise wouldn’t be until after 9 a.m. in London and around 9:45 a.m. in Edinburgh.

In general, the tide of opinion was thought to be moving in the direction of keeping the clocks forward. In October 1966, just before the end of daylight saving, a motion was introduced into the House of Commons to align with Western Europe all year:

“That this House, recognising the success of the experimental extensions to the period of British Summer Time and that reversion to Greenwich Mean Time will unnecessarily hamper commercial communication with Europe, urges Her Majesty’s Government to bring Great Britain into line with Europe by adopting British Summer Time, mid-European time, throughout the whole year.”[1]

Home secretary Roy Jenkins undertook a review into the matter in 1966 and 1967, consulting with 87 organisations in agriculture, industry, commerce, construction, energy, education, travel, health, sport, women’s groups, local government, and other areas. He was able to report in March that the Trades Union Congress supported the proposal. The congress had been in favour of continuous daylight saving back in 1960. Jenkins finished his inquiry and was satisfied that shifting the United Kingdom’s time zone to GMT+1 after the end of summer time in 1968 would be in the best interests of the country. An announcement to this effect was made on 22 June 1967.

There seemed to be little backlash to what would in effect be a move to ongoing daylight saving time. Even the Farmers’ Union of Scotland more or less accepted the decision, with president Mr C Young stating: “We do not like it and we do not see the need for it, but we will put up with it if it is in the national interest.” A public opinion poll found that 45 per cent of people approved of the government’s proposal while 25 per cent didn’t want any change and 27 per cent had no particular view.

Daylight saving in 1968 would commence on the earlier date of 18 February for several reasons. It would accustom people to the new time before a permanent change. Sunrise in London would be at about the same clock time, just after 8 a.m., as in late December. Sunset would be 6:20 p.m., after peak traffic, which should mean fewer road deaths and injuries. Clocks would then remain one hour ahead rather than being wound back in October.

A name was needed for the proposed new time arrangement as British Summer Time would no longer be appropriate. Home secretary James Callaghan called for suggestions from members, the media and the public as to what the new time should be called. He received over 100 different names, such as British European Time, British Standard Time, Central European Time, Mid-European Time, Western European Time, Churchill Time, Willett Time, Advance Time, Advanced Meridian Time, Civil Time, Common Time, Mean Civil Time, and Permanent Time. Names that included Greenwich were Advanced Greenwich Time, Greenwich Advanced Time, Greenwich Ante-Meridianal Time, Greenwich British Time, Greenwich Global Time, Greenwich Less One, Greenwich Mean Time Advanced, Greenwich Plus Time, Greenwich Time, New Greenwich Mean Time, and Plus Greenwich. Some novelty names included Orbitim, Orbitime, Orbitum, Same All the Year Round Time, Solar Plus, Solar Time, and Solextra.

Two newspapers ran naming competitions and British Standard Time was selected by one paper as the most favoured choice by far. Callaghan agreed with it. The name was the standout choice in the government poll too, being more than five times as popular as the second favourite pick. In the House of Lords, 61 preferred British Standard Time to Advanced Greenwich Time and 49 favoured the latter. Greenwich Mean Time would be retained for astronomy, meteorology and navigation.

The British Standard Time Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in November 1967. Minister of state Lord Stonham stressed that the proposed change in time zone wasn’t so much due to the United Kingdom trying to join the European Economic Community but to expected improvements in the overall economy after weighing up the advantages for productivity, energy, communication and transport with the disadvantages for agriculture and construction. On the social side were the greater opportunities for outdoor sport and other activities, the expected reduction in road accidents, relative safety for school children heading to school in the dark compared with walking home after nightfall, and not having to alter the clocks twice a year. After a lengthy debate, the bill passed the second reading by 49 votes to 13. Later it was read a third time and sent to the Commons where an even longer debate was followed by a 179 to 61 second reading vote at about 11 p.m.

The bill was eventually passed and became the British Standard Time Act 1968 on 26 July. Plenty of concerns remained, such as children in the north walking to school in the dark who would be encouraged to wear reflective armbands as well as vests and cuffs for visibility, especially as some local governments turned off street lighting at midnight. By May 1968, secretary of state for Scotland William Ross had received 114 representations from local councils, churches, agricultural and other organisations, private firms and individuals against moving permanently to GMT+1 and none in support of it. A few representations had been received by the Home Department from England, three from Wales and none from Northern Ireland by late in the year.

After more than 50 years of daylight saving, the United Kingdom abandoned the practice and instead shifted to GMT+1, which would be used 12 months of the year, initially as a three year trial from 27 October 1968.

[1] Parliament of the United Kingdom, Hansard, House of Commons, 23 March 1967, at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1967/mar/23/business-of-the-house#S5CV0743P0_19670323_HOC_236

For more, see The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, available at Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Google.

DST book cover