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Last Updated: Monday, 11 October, 2004, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Bill could divide UK time zones
By Roger Harrabin
BBC Radio 4 Today correspondent

An MP is bidding to harness the principle of devolution, to allow England and Wales to move to continental time without Scotland.

Scottish parliament
The Scots can make up their own minds, says Mr Beard

Shifting the clocks an hour forward is popular in England because it gives lighter evenings.

But previous attempts to switch time zones have been defeated by Scottish MPs whose constituents do not want winter mornings to get any darker.

Kent MP Nigel Beard said devolution means Scots should not have the power to determine time for the English.

In a Private Member's Bill being introduced in parliament this week he wants to give English and Welsh MPs the power to change the clocks independently - and allow the Scottish parliament and Northern Irish assembly to follow if they wish.

The Scottish Nationalists say they are relaxed about being an hour behind England.
Removing GMT removes more of British heritage.
Bill, Great Dunmow

But if England went continental the rest of the UK would almost certainly be tugged along.

Road deaths

The government is considering whether to support the bill. Without backing the measure will fall.

Mr Beard says a compelling reason for changing the clocks is a government study showing that it would save 100 lives a year on the roads.

That is because people crash more on dark evenings than on dark mornings.

Similar research in the 1990s was rejected by the Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth, who said Scottish Office statisticians believed the life-saving benefits only applied to England.

Following this revelation Scottish MPs collaborated to sink a previous Private Member's Bill to change the clocks.

The BBC has been told Scottish statisticians involved did not want politicians to make their misgivings public, as they feared their technical scepticism would be used as a political weapon.

In response to a BBC enquiry a Scottish Executive spokesman said the executive now accepts that changing the clocks would also save Scots' lives.

A survey by the safety groups RoSPA earlier this year suggested a majority of Scots would support changing the clocks if they knew about the savings.

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