Why do the clocks change to Daylight Saving Time in the UK?

  • Find out why we've been changing our clocks twice a tear since 1916
  • Who was the man behind the introduction of Daylight Saving Time?
  • The benefits - and drawbacks - of sticking to British Summer Time all year round


As everyone knows, there is a ‘good’ clock change in March – when the British Summer Time (or Daylight Savings Time) period kicks in – and a ‘bad’ clock change in October, when we lose an hour of daylight.

For the less technically-minded, it’s when the microwave clock becomes an hour out until you can rope someone in to sort it.


Whose bright idea was it in the first place?

A man called William Willett who, in 1907, put forward the idea of British Summer Time. As a morning person, William didn’t like the idea of people wasting the morning daylight of the summer months by sleeping. Later, in honour of his work, a sundial keeping British Summer Time was erected in Willet Memorial Wood, Kent, and he even got his own wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Oh, and he’s the great great grandfather of Coldplay singer Chris Martin who, rather neatly, had a hit record called ‘Clocks’.


Did the UK use it first?

Actually, no. On April 30, 1916, those efficient Germans were first in, embracing daylight saving time to save on electricity.


So when did the UK catch up?
The following month. In May 1916 British Summer Time was introduced during the First World War to save on coal use. 


If we stuck to British Summer Time all year, how much money would it save?
£485 million, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge. That’s how much the UK would save if we had an extra hour’s sunlight in winter evenings. The BBC also points out that it has health benefits for children.

child in walking through trees with sunlight pouring through


That sounds great. How else can a permanent time help?

Energy: With an extra hour’s sunlight every day through the winter months, we’d use less light and heating. The energy savings made would cancel out the carbon emissions of 70,000 people, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Road Safety: With lighter evenings, many road accidents would be prevented. The AA says this would save an estimated 100 lives would be saved per year.

Business: If our clocks moved forward an hour we’d be on Central European Time, making business with our European neighbours simpler and more efficient.

Tourism: According to The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, earnings would increase by up to £3.5bn annually due to lighter evenings.

So why don’t we stop this chronological curse in its tracks right now?

There are a couple of drawbacks with staying in summertime mode, such as:

Walking to school: Children walking to school on dark mornings might be more at risk from drivers.

traffic driving on road in sunset/sunrise


Travelling to work: Similarly, people travelling to work in the morning would have to do so in darker, and potentially more dangerous, conditions.

Scotland’s not up for it: Particularly its dairy farmers, who might not see daylight until 10am during the winter.

Do all countries use daylight saving time?

Only about 25% of the world’s population (in around 70 countries) use it. In many countries, daylight hours don’t change much from one season to the next, particularly those close to the equator, so they don’t need to switch.

When do the clocks change each year?

The clocks always change on the last Sunday of March (when they go forward an hour), and on the last Sunday of October (when we turn them back an hour).

Our clocks will next change on these dates:

30 October 2016

26 March 2017           

29 October 2017


Find out more about how to keep your home running smoothly with tips and ideas from the British Gas team.


From around the web

The pros and cons of all year daylight saving

100 years of British Summer Time

William Willet paves the way for British Summer Time 

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