Time in the United Kingdom
Until the advent of the railways, the United Kingdom used Local Mean Time. Greenwich Mean Time was adopted first by the Great Western Railway in 1840 and a few others followed suit in the following years. In 1847 it was adopted by the Railway Clearing House, and by almost all railway companies by the following year. It was from this initiative that the term "railway time" was derived.
It was gradually adopted for other purposes, but a legal case in 1858 held "local mean time" to be the official time. On 14 May 1880, a letter signed by 'Clerk to Justices' appeared in 'The Times', stating that 'Greenwich time is now kept almost throughout England, but it appears that Greenwich time is not legal time. This was changed later in 1880, when Greenwich Mean Time was legally adopted throughout the island of Great Britain under the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880 (43 & 44 Vict.). GMT was adopted on the Isle of Man in 1883, Jersey in 1898 and Guernsey in 1913. Ireland adopted GMT in 1916, supplanting Dublin Mean Time.
Daylight saving time was introduced by the Summer Time Act 1916 (6 & 7 Geo. V), which was implemented in 1916 as GMT plus one hour and Dublin Mean Time plus one hour. The length of DST could be extended by Order in Council, and was extended for the duration of World War I. For 1916, DST extended from 21 May to 1 October, with transitions at 02:00 standard time. On 1 October 1916, Greenwich Mean Time was introduced to Ireland.
The United Kingdom experimentally adopted Central European Time by maintaining Summer Time throughout the year from 1968 to 1971. In a House of Lords debate, Richard Butler, 17th Viscount Mountgarret said that the change was welcomed at the time, but the experiment was eventually halted after a debate in 1971, in which the outcome might have been influenced by a major accident on the morning of the debate. Proposals to adopt CET have been raised by various politicians over the years, including a proposal in 2011 to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits.
The dates of British Summer Time are the subject of the Summer Time Act 1972. From 1972 to 1980, the day following the 3rd Saturday in March was the start of British Summer Time (unless that day was Easter Sunday, in which case BST began a week earlier), with the day following the 4th Sunday in October being the end of British Summer Time. From 1981 to 2001, the dates were set in line with various European Directives. Since 2002 the Act has specified the last Sunday in March as the start of British Summer Time with the last Sunday in October being end of British Summer Time.
A proposal to repeal European Directive 2000/84/EC and require that member states observe their own choice of time year-round was initiated in September 2018. The United Kingdom left the EU before this reform became effective; the UK is subsequently free to make its own arrangements. As of September 2018[update], the UK Government had "no plans" to end daylight saving.
In July 2019, the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee launched a new inquiry into the implications for the UK of the European changes, to "explore what preparations the Government needs to make and what factors should inform the UK's response."
Authority over the time zone in Northern Ireland can be legislated by the Northern Ireland Assembly but the power has never been used, as the Republic has followed the UK. In Scotland and Wales, time zone is a reserved matter, meaning that only the Parliament of the United Kingdom has power to legislate.
IANA time zone database
The IANA time zone database contains one zone for the United Kingdom in the file zone.tab, named Europe/London. This refers to the area having the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code "GB". The zone names Europe/Guernsey, Europe/Isle_of_Man and Europe/Jersey exist because they have their own ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 but the zone.tab entries are links to Europe/London. There are several entries for UK possessions around the world.
|c.c.*||Coordinates*||TZ*||Comments*||UTC offset||UTC DST offset|
|Standard time||Summer time
|UTC−04:00 (AST, DST never observed)||Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands|
|UTC−03:00 (FKST)||Falkland Islands|
|UTC−02:00||South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands|
|UTC (GMT)||UTC+01:00||United Kingdom (England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey|
|UTC (GMT, DST never observed)||Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha|
|UTC+02:00 (EET)||UTC+03:00||Akrotiri and Dhekelia|
|UTC+06:00||British Indian Ocean Territory|
- Howse 1997, p. 114
- CLERK TO JUSTICES. "Time, Actual And Legal". Times, London, England, 14 May 1880: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 18 August 2015.
- Bartky, Ian R. (2007). One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity. Stanford University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0804756426.
- Myers J (5 October 2008). "History of legal time in Britain". Retrieved 15 July 2009.
- "Fresh attempt to change UK time". BBC News. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- "Central European Time Bill [H.L.] HL Deb 11 January 1995 vol 560 cc243-84". Hansard. 1995. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- "Tundra time call in clocks debate". BBC News. 23 October 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- "Plan to bring UK clocks forward". BBC News. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "Summer Time Act 1972". The National Archives.
- Joseph Myers (21 January 2007). "History of legal time in Britain". Retrieved 24 March 2007.
- "Directive 2000/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 January 2001 on summer time arrangement".
- "Euro MPs vote to end summer time clock changes". BBC News. 26 March 2019.
- Campbell, John (2 October 2018). "Dublin and Belfast in separate time zones?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
- "House of Lords - Subsidiarity Assessment:discontinuing seasonal changes of time - European Union Committee". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
- "Northern Ireland won't change time zone to suit the EU, say unionists". Belfast Telegraph.
- "Implications of ending clock changes investigated in new inquiry - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
- The Role of the Advocate General and its constitutional context, Office of the Advocate General of Scotland, speech delivered 18 March 2011, retrieved 1 January 2014, "For example, the Northern Ireland Assembly has the legislative competence to deal with time zones."