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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK


UK Politics

Just a matter of time?

Sunrise over Greenwich: daylight saving could replace GMT

As the UK prepares to switch to Greenwich Mean Time, Lord (Jeffrey) Archer is revving up his campaign to abandon the annual clock change.

The best-selling novelist has put forward a backbench bill proposing England and Wales leave the Scots to reset their watches on their own.

"The letters are flooding in 18 to one in favour of my proposal," Lord Archer of Weston Super Mare told BBC News Online.


[ image: Lord Archer: Support from Bank of Scotland]
Lord Archer: Support from Bank of Scotland
"It's the heaviest mail-bag I've had, other than after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales."

He said most of the letters came from English people, although he had received some correspondence from north of the border.

"Those are the ones against, although there have been a few exceptions. The Bank of Scotland have written and said they agree."

Lord Archer's campaign has also won support from a new government report, which says 3,000 people have died on UK roads in the last 30 years because of the time change.

The report's author, Dr Jeremy Broughton, said: "The study that I have just completed showed that the number of people killed on the roads would fall overall by about 120 or 130 a year if the clocks were not moved back."


The BBC's Roger Harrabin: "Time change would be the government's most signficant contribution to safety"
Dr Broughton based his study on a three-year period in the late 1960s when the UK did not revert to GMT during the winter months.

"This shows very clearly that in the morning there were extra casualties, but in the evening there were far fewer casualties because it was lighter for that extra hour and overall we had significant improvement in road safety," said the research fellow at the Transport Research Laboratory.

Complaints led by people living in Scotland caused the termination of the time change experiment in 1971. The dark morning were especially disliked parents taking children to school and farmers.

Initially, it was thought more children had died on the roads, but the new research appears to show this was offset by fewer fatalities in the evenings.

The National Farmers' Union says opposition from agricultural workers is not necessarily as widespread as was thought.

A NFU spokeswoman said: "We're split down the middle really.

"The darker mornings affect growers' ability to harvest early and meet delivery deadlines. But dairy farmers like lighter evenings as that's often when they're tending their herds."

But Russell Brown, the Labour MP for Dumfries, is adamant that Scottish opinion remains against a change.

"The further north you go the greater the impact is. Our children are going to school in the dark."

Mr Brown also rejects Lord Archer's plan to split the UK's time.

"Lord Archer doesn't understand the complexities of living near a border," he told News Online.

"Two thousand of my constituents cross the border every day to go to work. It really would be a nightmare."

In 1996, a bill was put before Parliament with the intention of bringing the UK in line with Western Europe, one hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead in summer.

It failed despite support from police and road safety campaigners because Scottish MPs said it would leave Scotland in darkness until mid-morning during winter.


[ image: Gordon Brown: Other things on his mind]
Gordon Brown: Other things on his mind
Lord Archer expects his proposal to go the same way, despite the public support he claims to enjoy.

"The Bill will be introduced after the Queen's Speech and be defeated in the Commons," he said.

"I thoroughly expect to be defeated by a prejudiced Labour government because the Cabinet are half Scottish and they won't give the idea any rational thought."

Rhona White, agent for Chancellor Gordon Brown's Dunfermline East constituency, suggests the issue may not actually get any thought at all.

"I'm sure it would not be his priority," she said. "I think it would be the last think on his mind."

But the man who has emerged as the keenest of the prospective candidates in the race for London mayor vows he will not give up.

"I will bring it back. I will not be defeated," Lord Archer said.

This time next year, he suggests, everything could be different.

"It will make a great difference after the election for London mayor.

"If I represented eight million people and said that's what they wanted it would make a hell of a difference."



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Time for a change?





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