Pressure is growing for the country not to turn clocks back an hour on October 25 so the UK will enjoy lighter evenings in the autumn.
It is feared that parts of Britain that depend on tourism will be hit with major job losses in the wake of the pandemic, and the Government is being urged to consider keeping the country on BST to boost the sector’s chances of recovery.
Kurt Janson, director of Tourism Alliance, said: “Leisure and tourism is one of the UK’s largest and most important sectors, employing 3.3million people and generating £145billion in revenue each year. With the tourism industry only able to restart in July, extending British Summertime will help many of the 200,000 tourism [small and medium businesses] in rural and seaside areas extend their season and generate the revenue they need to survive until the 2021.”
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, has campaigned for even bolder action, moving “the clocks forward by one hour in winter, resulting in GMT+1 and one hour in summer resulting in GMT+2”. This, he claims, would allow people to enjoy an extra 235 hours of daylight after work.
He argues that the case for such changes will be strengthened if restrictions on gatherings indoors continue until a coronavirus vaccine is available and it is necessary to socialise outside.
Champions of extending the hours of evening sunlight also point to a range of wider benefits.
Sunnier afternoons and evenings could lead to less energy use, resulting in lower bills and lower carbon emissions. Campaigners say there will be fewer deaths and injuries on the roads as people are less likely to be travelling in darkness, which will reduce pressure on the NHS.
Meanwhile, more people are expected to exercise after school and work, resulting in lower obesity. A fall in crime is also predicted with criminals having less opportunity to operate under the cover of darkness.
Ian Cass of the Forum of Private Business said: “[We] feel the idea of keeping British Summer Time in place has a number of merits; one of them is the positive impact it could have on the hospitality industry where the extra hours of light to sit outside could really help the trade recover.”
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said: “In my part of the world we’d love it… I know we don’t like waking up in the dark but my observation is – particularly when people need to stay a bit fitter – it would be quite a good idea if we had lighter evenings.”
Former CBI director Lord Digby Jones supported extending BST for three years on a trial basis.
He said: “It would create more daylight in the proper hours for a longer period of time through the year and it would enable the country to make the most of its natural assets at the right time when it needs to get everybody pulling in the right direction.”
North Cornwall Tory MP Scott Mann said: “I certainly think it is worth giving consideration to the idea, if it can be shown that it will support the vital tourist industry in places like North Cornwall. It has been suggested that BST could be left in place for a period of one year. I believe this would be sufficient.”
Year-round BST was last trialled between 1968 and 1971 but the experience of darker winter mornings generated opposition in the north of England and Scotland. In 2018 the Scottish Government put on record its opposition to changing the current system of daylight savings.
UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Minister Paul Scully showed no signs of backing the change.
He said: “The Government believes that the current daylight-saving arrangements represent the optimal use of the available daylight across the UK. We do not believe there is sufficient evidence to support changing the current system of clock changes, including for travel, tourism and energy usage.”