Published: January 18, 2012
New Somerset time zone proposed by Conservative MP

A Conservative MP has proposed that Somerset should have its own time zone, with its clocks running up to 15 minutes behind the rest of the UK.

The BBC reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg has put down an amendment to a Commons bill on the UK's time zone arguing for Somerset to be able to set its own time locally.

He said this was the practice before times were standardised in the 1840s.

However, the amendment is unlikely to be voted upon when the Daylight Savings Bill is debated this Friday.

The private member's bill, which has been put forward by fellow Tory Rebecca Harris, urges the government to launch a study of the pros and cons of moving the UK's clocks forward a hour throughout the whole year, not just during the period of British Summer Time. It recommends ministers should conduct a trial of moving to BST, which last occurred between 1968-1971.

Mr Rees-Mogg opposes the bill and has tabled an amendment to the proposed legislation suggesting "the county of Somerset as defined by the Lieutenants Act shall revert to the customary time used prior to the Great Western Railway time established in 1840".

Before the 1840s, times were set locally across the country, often by churches, based on the position of the sun.

This practice effectively ended when the Great Western Railway introduced a standardised timetable for its trains.

Railway firms' move to standardised timetables - pegged to GMT - in the 1840s and 1850s were initially resisted with large towns continuing to show both "railway and local time" separately.

Parliament passed a law in 1880 to make GMT the standard time across the UK.

Talking to BBC Radio Somerset, Mr Rees-Mogg said he had tabled the amendment because he wanted MPs to discuss all the issues involved in whether the UK should move to a different time zone.

And referring to past calls by some politicians in Scotland for it to adopt separate arrangements from the rest of the UK, he said: "If it's good enough for Scotland, it's good enough for Somerset."

Mr Rees-Mogg, who was elected to Parliament for North East Somerset in 2010, recently controversially suggested that council officials seeking to impose on-the-spot fines for minor offences should be forced to wear bowler hats.

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