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Britain might set clocks ahead in step with mainland Europe

LONDON -- With a single sweep of an hour hand, Britain could shift closer to its continental neighbors and illuminate the thick gloom of winter evenings, a former minister said, outlining proposals to set the country's clocks in line with mainland Europe.

The proposal to switch to Central European Time, 60 minutes ahead of current settings, aims to reduce road deaths, boost tourism, and promote outdoor activities, Tim Yeo, former environment minister, said last week.

Regional legislatures in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland would be free to opt out of the system, however -- raising the prospect that London could wake up with Paris, but not at the same time as Edinburgh, Cardiff, or Belfast.

Yeo, an opposition Conservative lawmaker, said his plan was "a simple change which would benefit everyone by creating a safer and greener country."

He said government studies have predicted a time shift would lead to fewer road deaths, an increase in tourism earnings, and a reduction in energy consumption -- aiding efforts to meet carbon emissions targets.

To be put formally to parliament, the plan needs government sponsorship; filibustering legislators prevented a vote Friday.

Yeo contended that for the price of an extra hour of darkness each morning, Britons would have "healthier lives with more social and recreational opportunities."

Though the Department of Trade and Industry said it had no current plans to change timekeeping arrangements, municipal authorities have suggested they press the government to examine the options.

Currently, clocks in Britain go forward in the spring when daylight saving time takes effect, and they are turned back in the fall. Yeo advocated standing by the practice.

David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at London's Royal Greenwich Observatory -- the point where universal standard time is measured -- said the change is being proposed exactly 100 years after lawmakers first put forward the idea of daylight saving in 1907.

Scottish legislator Angus MacNeil said England had won a "latitude lottery" and already had a longer day than Scotland. It would be small-minded and unfair to impose on Scots a 9:30 a.m. dawn, he said.