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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 17:08 GMT
MPs battle over forces of darkness
Commons Sketch
By Ben Wright
BBC political correspondent

Sunset
There was no chorus for a new dawn among MPs
Many a plucky parliamentarian has attempted to tinker with the time.

Over the years, several MPs and peers have tried to introduce bills that would put the clocks forward throughout the year and extend the evening light.

But, bereft of government backing, their efforts have failed.

So Conservative MP Tim Yeo did not have a lot of hope for his Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill when it arrived in the Commons on Friday for its second reading.

The procedure governing the second reading of private members bills is almost as tricky to understand as why the clocks are changed in the first place - to which the hesitant answers are normally "the Scots" or "farmers".

Road accidents

With the end of the parliamentary day looming, Mr Yeo rattled through his argument, explaining to an almost empty Commons chamber why he thought the current system should change.

By putting the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in the winter and two hours ahead in the summer, he said road accidents, carbon emissions and electricity bills would be reduced while tourism and leisure time would increase.

Mr Yeo cited evidence from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Local Government Association and Cambridge University scientists to support of his case for lighter evenings.

He also said farmers were less hostile to the idea than they used to be.

Train times

But adding an hour or two at the end of the day obviously takes time off the beginning and it is the prospect of more murky mornings - particularly in northern England and Scotland - which angers the plan's opponents.

Scottish National Party MP Angus McNeil told the BBC Mr Yeo's bill was the "annual battle with the forces of darkness" and that darker mornings would be particularly bad for postal and construction workers.

Mr Yeo's bill allowed for separate votes on the issue in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies - raising the prospect of a different time zone north of the border, and trains arriving in Berwick before they'd left Edinburgh.

This bill wasn't going anywhere though, and, as the parliamentary day ended, the debate ran out of time.

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