HC Deb 04 May 1978 vol 949 cc429-30
6. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will reopen discussions with the Churches with a view to laying before Parliament a draft Order in Council to bring into operation the Easter Act 1928.

Dr. Summerskill

The date of Easter has been discussed in recent years by the Churches in this country and abroad. My understanding is that for the present the Churches are unlikely to agree on the dates provided for in the Easter Act 1928, and we would not think it helpful in these circumstances to propose the laying of a draft Order in Council.

Mr. Shersby

Is the Minister aware that the purpose of the Easter Act was to provide a fixed Easter holiday in the middle of April and to enable the public to have the pleasure of enjoying some spring weather? Does she not think that 50 years of consultations is long enough, even by ecumenical standards, and that the will of Parliament, expressed by our predecessors in 1928, should now be implemented? Will she therefore reconsider the matter and reopen discussions with the Christian Churches along those lines?

Dr. Summerskill

Our predecessors in 1928 said that regard should be had to any opinion officially expressed by any Church or other Christian body. Successive Governments have taken the view that there should be wide agreement between the Churches before moving in this matter. So far, that agreement has not been forthcoming.

Sir G. de Freitas

Should not the Government take the initiative to see whether they can encourage more discussion before all the conditions in Western Europe change? Does the Minister realise that already in France there are more Muslims than Protestants? Will the Government not act until they have to have a fixed Ramadhan?

Dr. Summerskill

I can assure my hon. Friend that discussions have been taking place between the various Churches of various countries since 1928, but with no agreement.