HC Deb 16 May 1989 vol 153 cc160-1
12. Gregory

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many representations he has received about changes in dates for national bank holidays; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholls

A number of differing views have been expressed to my Department about public holidays, including the first Monday in May. The question of any changes raises several complex issues, which my right hon. Friend is considering.

Mr. Gregory

My hon. Friend will have noted that there are no bank holidays whatever from the end of August until Christmas and that we have a plethora of them in the spring, which is disruptive for industry. Will he consider resiting or allocating one of those to the autumn? Perhaps we could do our duty by Nelson and make Trafalgar Day a national day.

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend makes a persuasive point, but there are probably two difficulties. One of them is to try to find some consensus about how the bunching of bank holidays might be accommodated, and the other is to find a place in the calendar to which a bank holiday might be more suited. Many people, probably the overwhelming majority of people, would rather celebrate a British occasion, such as Trafalgar Day, than some inappropriate foreign import such as May Day.

Mr. Grocott

Does the Minister not agree that the important issue is not which days are being celebrated but how many days' holiday workers are entitled to? Does he further agree that holidays for British workers compare unfavourably with those in other European countries, both in terms of bank holidays and annual holiday entitlement? Is it not time that we had a minimum statutory requirement of six weeks?

Mr. Nicholls

The issue is rather narrower than that. It is a question whether the present spread of bank holidays is appropriate or whether there is such a bunching that it would be better to dispense with the bunching. It is difficult to find a consensus about how the arrangements might be altered, and that is why my right hon. Friend is considering the matter.

Mr. Fairbairn

May I suggest to the Minister a simple solution to the need for a national day? It is to change the title of 1 May to Union Day, because that was the glorious day upon which the Act of Union came into force.

Mr. Nicholls

Not having a clapometer with me I cannot detect whether those who are in favour of Trafalgar Day outnumber those who are in favour of Union Day. Hon. Members will have to make up their own minds.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Will the Minister consider making St. David's Day a national holiday for the people of Wales?

Mr. Nicholls

Any alteration in the bank holidays which would give me the opportunity to spend more time in the hon. Gentleman's constituency would be most welcome, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware.

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