HC Deb 03 August 1914 vol 65 cc1807-9

(1) This Act may be cited as the Postponements of Payments Act, 1914.

(2) This Act shall remain in force for a period of six months from the date of the passing thereof.

Bill reported without Amendment.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


The Leader of the Opposition has put a question to me with regard to a matter which he brought to my notice some time in the course of the day in regard to the extension of the Bank Holiday. There has been very considerable pressure by bankers and business men throughout the country to extend the Bank Holiday. To-day there was a meeting of bankers and merchants of the City of London, and they unanimously asked the Government to issue a Proclamation extending the Bank Holidays for three days. We felt that under the special circumstances it was desirable that that should be complied with, and an Order in Council will be issued this afternoon.


I am not going to take up the time of the House, but when I had an opportunity of reading the Bill, I felt that there was a danger that the one Proclamation by itself might inflict hardship upon other people, and that the Government should have a day or two in which to consider the whole situation, and with that view I am glad to find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed.


It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that it is the Government's duty to prevent the infliction of hardship upon other people as much as possible, but it must be perfectly obvious to every Member of the House that to extend the Bank Holiday for three days is going to inflict tremendous hardship upon a great many other people. There is the question of wages—all that must be stopped. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I hope not. If you extend the Bank Holiday, it must mean that for piece-work, apart from time-work, wages are not going to be paid. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If I am wrong, Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly easy to correct me. Where there are large masses of people—


This only applies to banks.


We have got a Bank Holiday to-day, for instance; that does not apply only to banks in the ordinary course. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, legally!"]


It is a matter of custom entirely that the country takes advantage of it, but it is only obligatory upon the banks.


What I want is the ventilation of the point, which is a very important one. If this is going to be technically a holiday for banks only well and good. The more assistance we can give for that the happier we shall be; but I should like it to be said—and that is why I rose—that we hope that this extended Bank Holiday will not mean that general industry will be stopped, so that those who will be bound to suffer later on will not have that suffering intensified. If that is the understanding we shall certainly support it.


If other employers keep their men on for these two days will the naval establishments be kept at work?


I am confident that the desire expressed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Leader of the Labour party, is shared by His Majesty's Government; but I think it might be for the convenience of everyone, and for the public weal, if His Majesty's Government would give expression to that wish themselves.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I am very glad to respond. The Act of Parliament under which Bank Holidays are proclaimed applies only to banks, though by custom it has been extended to other businesses, but, where it is legally extended, it is only to banks.

Bill read the third time, and passed.