§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LINCOLN
My Lords, I hope that in this debate we shall not take too pessimistic a view about the possibility of extending the present holiday period in this country. I do not propose to say anything about the difficulties, about the fixing of Easter, to which the noble Lord has referred. Personally I do not think these are difficulties at all; but I propose to leave this matter to my brother of Leicester. Nor do I believe that the very great difficulties of changing our present educational system or social habits are insuperable. We ought to remember, for example, that both on the Continent and in the United States of America it is possible to have an educational system which is not tied down to holidays in this particular month of August. I believe that it would be possible so to re-order the school and examination year as to have a month's holiday in June and another month in September; and as has already been shown, both of these months are infinitely better from the point of view of weather.
Nor do I believe for one moment that it is impossible to change social habits. In fact, this is constantly happening. I am continually told that in country matters the opinions of village people cannot be changed. I am told that particular villages will never work together because, it is said, they fought on different sides in the Norman Conquest. I do not believe this to be true. I believe this to be a piece of romantic arguing on the part of those who do not wish for change. If there is antipathy, it rarely goes back beyond a generation or so. Incidentally, in reading the White Paper. Staggered Holidays, I have some confirmation of the fact that so many of these Reports are, 587 in fact, produced by townsmen. I have read through the Paper, and I cannot find any reference to that considerable section of the community who already take their holidays either early or late—the farm workers. These are a large number of people who, of necessity, must take their holidays at a different time of the year.
In this debate it is right that we should be concerned with the practical possibilities of implementing what is clearly a growing concern about this absurd concentration of holidays; and, indeed, if we did not do this we should fall under the judgment of John Dewey, who said that ideals without techniques very quickly degenerate into mere sentimentality.
But I wish to look at the matter rather more deeply and remind noble Lords of the factor which, in my judgment, makes these changes quite imperative. What we have to remember is that, apart from quite a small percentage of the population, holidays, as we now think of them, are a modern innovation. Until recent times the only breaks in the routine of daily work and labour were associated with Sunday or those two or three festivals of the Christian year; and this is really the first, or perhaps the second, generation where men have been able to hope for something more than just keeping body and soul together. Now, thanks to human ingenuity and a deepened sense of social justice, it is possible for the great majority of people to have a sufficiency, both of time and of things, to enable them to look up and take notice and observe what is going on around them. I believe that this is something for which we ought to be deeply grateful.
We all know that, in the emerging pattern of human Life which is coming out of our industrialised society, there will be a degree of leisure quite unknown in the past; but leisure, remember, is always bought at a cost and in some way or another the cost must be paid. For most people, the cost will be work which lacks the satisfaction or the fulfilment of the older sweat and toil. It may not make such demands on physical endurance, but it does make much greater demands upon a man's nervous and spiritual resources.
There are two crying needs which come out of this situation. First, there is the right use of leisure. And I could 588 not disagree more with the writer in today's Times, with his complacent suggestion that in fact there is no such problem of leisure. There is a great deal more truth in the remark of Jerome K. Jerome, that there is no fun in doing nothing if there is nothing particular to do. We have to recognise that there will be a greater number of people year by year who expect to have some period of holiday away from their homes—I would go further, who should have a period away from their homes. Most people under modern conditions need the refreshment and the restoration which comes from a complete change of surroundings. I believe that that change of surroundings has to be of a deeper kind. It has to be a change of surroundings which suggests luxury—that is to say, for a period the normal conditions of life are different, of a rather higher standard. It should be a change of surroundings in which the ordinary little things are different. It is through this kind of change that a man's inward resources are renewed and restored.
A friend of mine, a man of great business enterprise, was going for his three weeks' winter sports, and I said to him, "Are you able to forget your business undertakings?" He replied, "I shan't give them a thought. But I shall expect to get one idea by the end of the holiday which will more than pay for it." I believe this to be true of the effect of holidays in relation to the whole working life of the community. If there is a healthy and good holiday for the whole of the community, in the end this affects the whole life and vitality of the community.
There is the possibility that holidays will be infinitely varied. We have already been told about the vast increase in the tourist industry, and, of course, this is good. That many people in our day move further afield and, because of the means of communication, are able to take holidays at the other side of the world, and, incidentally, are able to take holidays at a different time of the year—all this is something to be encouraged. I am immensely impressed by the extraordinary enterprise of young people, particularly of students who have very little money, in managing to take holidays by going to the other side of the world and back. But I think that the great majority of people will 589 still want the kind of holiday which carries with it certain of the associations of the traditional holiday, a holiday which is without the fear of the unknown and in which they quickly relax. Because it is important that, wherever you take a holiday, the circumstances are such that you "drop into second gear" almost right away. This is the need which must be our particular concern, because it is precisely here that organisation is needed. And I believe that we have some indication of the ways in which this is already being obtained.
If I may be allowed, I should like to illustrate this point. Just after the end of the First World War, a young soldier of the Canadian Army, while he was waiting to be demobilised in one of the holiday resorts of this country, observed holidaymakers, on a wet and miserable day, with nothing to do, simply standing about in the shop entrances. That young man saw that here was a need and an opportunity. He was Mr. Billy Butlin, who I believe has been a great pioneer and a benefactor to a great mass of people in this country by providing the kind of holiday which people need, if they are to be refreshed, in which the amenities must be such as to give this suggestion of luxury. It must not be over-organised. I stay in a Butlin camp at least once a year and it is not over-organised. A holiday must be in the framework of a community in which people easily make friends and relax. This particular way of holiday-making has already been taken up by a vast number of organisations in this country.
I think that it is relevant here to look at the way in which this has been expanding. I asked Mr. Butlin how he had tried to expand the holiday period within his organisation, and these are the figures he gave me. By the end of this month, all the accommodation in the Butlin camps is fully booked up for the last week in July and the first three weeks of August—that is, for 280,000 people. After that, Mr. Butlin tries to persuade people to have their holidays either earlier or later, on condition that the cost is less but the amenities are the same. He tells me that in June, for example, there are now something like 100,000 to 140,000 people booked. But there is still obviously a great way to go.
590 I think that the lesson of this is that we can persuade a great many people to take their holidays earlier or later—although we do not want to concentrate the whole holiday population in June, because it seems to me that then we should not be better off than at the present time, when it is concentrated in August—provided that when they take their holidays they get the kind of amenities and the community of holidaymakers that they want and that we do not give them the feeling that they are either having an ill-prepared foretaste or merely the "fag-end" of other people's holidays. If that happens, then nothing will make them go. But if there are amenities of the kind which make even our English weather of secondary importance, I believe it is possible to do this.
Here I should like to plead that the time has come in this country when we need a particular kind of holiday which has now become a social institution in America: the holiday camps which you see advertised in all the American papers for boys and girls still at school. This has become a great industry in America. I have met many people who have been to these camps, and also those who have run them, and I believe they are of enormous value, not only as a holiday for the youngsters, but for training in independence and in leadership. Many youngsters eventually become what are called "councillors": they go back year after year and spend a month or five weeks away from home. I believe that this is a thoroughly good thing.
There is one final matter that I wish to mention. We have been thinking of staggered holidays, notably concerned with holidays away from home, and I believe this to be very important. But we should also remember that there is a proper place for holidays which are not taken away from home; and, in particular, I want to plead that the Christmas holiday should be a much longer one. In my view, the holiday that comes in the midst of winter, when, whatever reason you give for it, the Christian radiance overspills, as it were, professional boundaries, is something immensely precious. There is no wonder that the wrong kind of Christmas spirit is so lethal when we attempt to put this unusual and unaccustomed upsurge 591 of generosity into two miserable days. There should be a much longer period.
This past Christmas was a classic illustration of what. I believe to be shortsighted, economic meanness. We have this curious kind of neurosis about work. Can we not see that there are times (and our whole economy now permits this) when there should be this kind of leisurely holidays at home? After all, for most people Christmas is still a home holiday: the sort of holiday, like Sundays, when people do not get up and rush about, but do ordinary things. They potter about in their own homes, with their families; they are able to do the odd jobs, and to relax in worship and recreation; and as a result they have a deeper understanding of what their life is all about. This is something that is most important for the sanity of our community. I believe that the words of St. Jerome a long time ago are still relevant. He said:Choose for yourself some fit place where thou mayest take thyself out of the great storm and tempest of all thy cares and bestow some leisure upon thine own soul".He does not see it as a sort of escapist, "pie in the sky" stuff, because he ends up by saying:We say not this to take thee out of thy daily life, but that thou mayest there find what such a man thou thyself oughtest to be in thy daily life".
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, I am happy to follow the right reverend Prelate and to have the opportunity of paying tribute to him on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. He has spoken with great clarity and from experience, and these are qualities which are greatly appreciated by your Lordships. In congratulating the right reverend Prelate, I would add that we all sincerely hope that he will make many contributions in the future to discussions in this House.
I join in appreciation of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, placed this Motion on the Order Paper and so provided your Lordships once again with an opportunity to ventilate what is a pressing problem. It is one that has been under discussion for some years, but it has become progressively more complicated and more urgent. The Trades Union Congress, which is naturally and vitally interested in this question, has always regarded it (more 592 so of recent years) as a serious social problem, and from time to time has pressed for its solution. I agree with the right reverend Prelate that after a year's grind in a factory, in the workshop, in offices and other places, a holiday, preferably away from home, is a necessity, and good for the soul.
My noble friend Lord Champion asked me whether I would say where the Trades Union Congress now stand on this question. I am perfectly certain that they are ready and willing to consider and discuss with the British employers, Government representatives and other organisations to try to find acceptable solutions to the problem, which is not an easy one. The right reverend Prelate mentioned that at one time there were not any holidays. Then, after long pressure by organised labour, one week annually was conceded; that later became two weeks and nowadays three weeks is becoming the general pattern. I think it would be reasonable to suggest that in the future the longer period is not likely to remain at three weeks.
With all the scientific inventions, improvements in industrial techniques and automation, many people are now advocating greater leisure, and wondering what on earth we are going to do with it if we get it. Many industrial countries, certainly in Europe, have longer holidays than we have, but, as I said just now, we can expect longer holidays in the not far distant future. It is true—I think I ought to mention this—that in many cases where the three weeks have been conceded by industry it has been agreed, for many reasons, that the third week should be taken in the winter, or at any rate outside the normal holiday period; and this helps the congestion. On the other hand, there is a large number of people—and it is growing, I think—who wish to take the three weeks together and make one holiday of it in the summer; and those who are able to do so will, I believe, take advantage of this.
I was glad to hear what the right reverend Prelate had to say about holidays. Holidays should be welcomed; they are of great social benefit. But in present circumstances they accentuate the problems which are the subject of this discussion, because we are not taking the decisions that are necessary 593 to cope with these longer holidays. A further factor which must be taken into consideration is that more and more wage-earners who hitherto have not been able to afford a holiday away are now able to do so because of better wages. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, gave the figures for people who go away on holiday—your Lordships will forgive me for repeating them: in 1956, 23 million; in 1962, 36 million, including those who took trips abroad; and it is estimated that in 1970, six years hence, the number of people taking holidays away will have risen to 40 million, nearly three times as many as in 1937, and twice as many as in 1956.
While all this additional holiday traffic is being built up, little or nothing is being done to lengthen the spread. Railways, roads, and the holiday resorts are being strained to cope with the enormous and constantly increasing build-up in five or six weeks, the period at the end of July, August and the beginning of September. Popular resorts have passed the point of being crowded; they are becoming jammed up, making the holiday anything but one of pleasurable relaxation. Much more serious, many local authorities are now becoming seriously concerned about possible breakdowns in their services, such as water supplies and the essential services of street cleaning, refuse collection and disposal. I read only the other day of one council having a special meeting about this because people are taking cars—not only holidaymakers, but weekenders—and flooding into a place at a rate with which they cannot cope. Mostly it is because of this very short, popular holiday period of August and the week at either side of it.
The Social Survey published by the Central Office of Information says that employment is by far the most important single factor at present limiting the choice of holiday dates, and refers to the employers' decision for either complete closure of the works or the rota system as the main factor in influencing decisions when to take holidays. But, surely, while it may ultimately be the employers' decision, the employees must exercise some influence in this decision. Where there is this choice, a substantial number of the employees will have 594 children who are at school, and will prefer the closing down of the factory rather than the rota. What is more important, they prefer the closure right in the school holiday period. I read in the Survey—and this is also mentioned in the White Paper—that three-quarters of the firms in the manufacturing industry have closures. I understand that more and more are being brought into this popular period of late July, August and the beginning of September.
The reason why the rota system is not popular is, I am sure, quite evident to your Lordships. It means that an employee must take his holiday, at best at any time between May and September, and, in some cases between April and September. If this is done fairly, the employee can expect to get his holiday in the period of the school holidays something like only once every ten years. So this is not popular, and it is quite understandable that the employees want to get away, if they can afford it. If they have children, they are reluctant to take them away from school, and they become disgruntled employees if they cannot have their holidays in this particular period. In any case, I am sure that industrialists and noble Lords will agree that the rota system is very difficult to operate, and very often it is an impediment to the maintenance of production and efficiency. Therefore on this question of the closure there is strong pressure for it to take place about the same time, or within this very short period.
The White Paper refers to this point and suggests—which I believe is just beating the air—that industry's closure dates could not be staggered if the existing school holiday pattern remained unaltered. I know that if the workpeople have anything to do with it, or if they are consulted, we shall have the same pressures—not selfish pressures, but many employees with children at school do not want their holidays except in the school holiday period. The Social Survey goes on to say that school is the next most important restrictive factor, after employment, to the choice of holiday. But as the White Paper implies, industry would be able, and no doubt willing, to arrange for staggering if something could be done to adjust the period of school holidays. So we go round. We have all these statistics and we come 595 back full circle to the restriction of the schools. Of course, it is well known, as I have mentioned, that employees become disgruntled over these holidays. It is extremely difficult. I have never known how many employers keep their factories running, arrange for these holidays and accommodate everybody, and prevent people from becoming too disgruntled. But I do know cases where employees have left one employer for another, for no other reason than that they have a better choice of holiday.
So I am certain, after giving a great deal of thought to this question—and I realise the great difficulties—that it is not easy. I am not suggesting it is. But I think it comes down to the problem of finding some solution to the restriction of the school holiday period, or at least to some flexibility, which I think would make a great deal of difference. I believe that if the school holiday period could be extended—not for longer holidays, but so that holidays were staggered over a longer period—this might be an advance towards a solution. I do not know, but I suppose there are those who will say at once, "It is impossible". But it ought to be examined. If the school examinations could be taken earlier in the year so that those employees with children to consider could keep their children away from school without interfering too seriously with their schooling, the examinations having finished, they would have nothing to worry about.
Noble Lords have spoken on this question of bank holidays and statutory holidays, but there is one decision which I think is long overdue, and that is the movement of the August statutory holiday. We have a substantial part of the population in our resorts, on the roads and on the trains, and we let loose the whole nation for another weekend holiday right in the middle of it. How can we expect all the services to cope? I think it is silly and ridiculous. If the bank holiday were taken in September, it would lessen the period between that holiday and Christmas. If we deferred the present August holiday until September, and then worked until the next holiday at Christmas, that would seem to me to be a very good thing to do.
596 I will not detain the House any longer. I emphasise that it is not easy, but I sincerely trust that the Government will now do something about it. This now becomes a Government responsibility. It is no use asking people to do this and that, because they simply will not do it while some of these circumstances exist, and therefore the responsibility is on the Government, and I sincerely trust they will take some action.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and others, I would say that the whole House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for raising this subject this afternoon, for it is a social problem of the first importance, and it is almost the only social problem of the first importance that I know of which we could solve quite easily if we really put our backs into it and got down to work. And it would not cost us any money but, rather, would save a very great deal of money indeed; and it is the fact that nobody is there really to give the matter a push that we have talked and thought about it for so long, and virtually nothing has been done.
The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, will remember the discussion we had on the N.J.A.C. with the Minister of Labour three or four years ago when most of the points that have been brought up to-day were discussed and it was found, as so often happens, that the views of the employers, the trade unions and the nationalised industries all agreed. They were all of the opinion that something must be done before the whole system broke down. Yet nothing has been done up to now except for a further survey and an admirable White Paper—and now we want something done. I think we ought to congratulate the Board of Trade on hunting up every conceivable particular regarding this problem, for now we have no excuse not to deal with it. We know what people want, why and when they want it, and, surely, something must be done.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mabane has shown, the present position is grossly uneconomic, but a point which I do not think has been brought out fully is that it must negative a very great deal of the good that a holiday should do to 597 people, both to their health and to their general well-being. To go off for a holiday and come back again should mean that one returns with renewed vigour to face the autumn and winter. Instead, one often returns exhausted from the struggle to get away and back again. After all, when we come to consider it, renewed health and well-being is the whole object of the exercise. With regard to the roads being packed, I remember an occasion two years ago when I was on the road between Honiton and Exeter and I thought I was going to be there for the rest of my life.
The amusements, the hotels and everything are packed at these peak times, and then, two, three or four weeks later everybody is crying out for people to go and occupy the amusements and facilities which are provided. And now, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, has said, the railways are taking a hand and are going to close many of the ways by which one can get to seaside and other holiday resorts, and the difficulty of getting to those places will be much worse than ever.
I believe that the first thing which the Government can do is to deal with the bank holidays—and this is a relatively easy matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and others have said, we ought to make a start at once about moving the August Bank Holiday into September and making the Whitsun Monday holiday a firm holiday, say, on the last Monday in May, but the same day, the same week, each year. Easter is a more difficult matter. It is a matter of international and Church argument; but, with the lead which the Roman Catholic Church has given recently, I am sure it ought to be possible to solve it. The other two holidays are of more overriding importance and should be got on with at once. Both the August and the Whitsun Bank Halidays would, of course, need to be renamed. After all, we do not tie ourselves down in this way in Scotland.
The educational world is the next which has to be tackled; and surely that can be tackled. I sometimes think that educationalists are so accustomed to instructing young people that they forget that it is possible to be instructed themselves. In this matter, let us instruct 598 them that they must make their academic years and their school holidays fit in with the requirements of the parents of the children whom they instruct. Having received that mandate, local education authorities should begin to do something about it, because the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, is quite right in saying that industry cannot act unless the education world acts too—and industry is ready to act if we can get a lead from the educational sphere.
So far as business and industry are concerned, I would say that office staffs, especially those not attached to manufacturing units, can always stagger their holidays over quite a wide period. But, of course, the office staff, a great many of whom have young children, would want to go at times when they could take their children, and I know that it becomes like a jig-saw puzzle to try to fit in everybody's requirements with the fact that you cannot leave one department completely untenanted while there is work going on in another. If we had a little more latitude in the school holidays, the operation of the staggering of holidays in these big business clerical concerns would be relatively easy.
When we come to manufacturing industry the problem is more difficult, because circumstances vary in practically every industry, and, indeed, in many plants. Some small plants are in the same town as larger plants, and where the girls may work in one plant and men in another the plants need to take their holidays together. I have in my own industry—in fact it is my own firm—a factory next door to a large railway workshop where the two have to run concurrently. Then there are manufacturers with automatic processes which may have to shut down altogether. They have to choose a suitable fortnight or so in which to do so; and, naturally, they choose the time when school holidays are available, and so add to the big rush.
But there are other factories which have to stagger holidays to meet the requirements of their customers; and, believe me, my Lords, we in business do have to think, sometimes at any rate, of the requirements of our customers who keep us alive. I do not believe we think about them enough. 599 The whole art of selling should be to keep the customer satisfied. Many industries have to stagger holidays to keep supplies going to their customers all through the year. Therefore one cannot lay down a law, or even an instruction, to each separate industry as to what it should do. In Lancashire, with the admirable arrangements for the wakes weeks, industry can usually fall in very easily; but if only we had more movement in the school holidays the wakes weeks themselves could spread themselves out and Blackpool would not be quite so crowded as it is at the present time. We come back from the industrial point of view to school holidays, and I am afraid industry can do nothing to relax their present habits without some relaxation of the school holidays. Therefore, with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, I would press that point.
I should like to cover one or two other points, but I do not want to delay your Lordships. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, talk so eloquently about tourism, because I believe that tourism, with young people going all round the countryside, all round Europe and, indeed, all round the world, is one of the most promising signs of civilisation to-day. Tourism is a major industry and is of major benefit to the spiritual well-being of this world, and should be encouraged; and nothing would encourage tourism better than a more convenient arrangement of our holiday seasons.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, mentioned a point of extreme importance—mid-week bookings so that day holiday makers going away on Saturdays to the coast do not necessarily get mixed up with those going away on their fortnight or three-weeks' holiday. That is a matter which the hotels and boarding houses will have to agree to fix up among themselves, and I am sure industry would fall in if they did. There are one or two other important points in the White Paper which I should like to bring out, but will not bore your Lordships. It is most interesting to me to know that the love of crowds, which is always supposed to be one of the reasons why everybody flocks away in the fortnight or three weeks in the year, is largely a myth, and that only a very small proportion of the people of the 600 country have a love of crowds. It is interesting to know that if people could do so, and if school holidays and business allowed, the majority would like to go away in June. And how right they are! because June has the longest hours of sunlight, the best weather, and is in all respects the best month of the year.
I would urge, with other speakers, that this social problem should now be tackled and solved. If it is not, every year it will become more difficult. Fortunately, it is not bedevilled in any possible way by Party politics. All we need is a lead from the Government and a lead from the educational world, and I believe we can solve this problem in a very few years.
§ 4.52 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not find it too much of an Ash Wednesday penance to have to listen to two Episcopal speeches on this subject. But holidays are a pleasant subject to think about in February; and I am quite certain it was no penance to listen to the eloquent maiden speech of my brother of Lincoln. He is not here to listen to what I say, but he may see it afterwards in Hansard. Those of us who are familiar with hearing him speak in other places are well aware of his great gifts, which he has already revealed to us this afternoon, and perhaps one distinguishing feature of his speech worthy of note is that he managed in one speech to quote both St. Jerome and Jerome K. Jerome. That was quite an achievement. I am quite sure your Lordships realise that the two are in every way entirely distinct.
We have, of course, to take an interest in this subject, because there has always been a kind of tie-up between religion and holidays. If we go right back to most ancient times, to the institution of the Sabbath, that is the first clear example that I know of in history of the division between time for work and time for rest; and the Sabbath, although transferred in the Christian Church to the first day, instead of the seventh day, has continued part of our Western tradition ever since. Even that should not be taken too much for granted. I remember having something of a surprise when I was doing a chaplaincy on the Continent. In the Alpine village 601 where I was working a film was being made which had necessitated a very large rather international company of actors, and I was trying my various wiles to persuade them to come to Church on Sunday, at any rate in some numbers. But I found that Sunday was not observed in their company. They explained to me that they found it more convenient to have one rest day in ten. So I had a little bit of education myself, in the sense that even the regular rhythm of the seventh day must not be taken as established beyond all challenge.
Then, of course, it is well known that in the Middle Ages the Festival days offered an opportunity for relief from tedium and also for economic progress in the matter of the fairs, which were so important before the days of commercial travelling. I do not think that our country has ever had any false modesty about realising that religious and economic interests, and even military interests, could in some way be woven together. Some of your Lordships may know that in one of the homilies put out in the reign of Edward VI, in which people were being urged to eat fish on Fridays, it was pointed out that this was not only a valuable religious discipline but would have very valuable results in maintaining the industry of the fisherfolk. And, not content with that, they went on to say that if the fishing industry failed, the Navy would fail and the nation would be exposed to danger. So these things have always been brought together; and we must not be too mealy-mouthed about it.
The modern holiday, as has been said already, in the sense of going away, is for a large part of our population a modern phenomenon. Until fairly modern times it was the single day, either the actual bank holiday or something that had a bank holiday atmosphere, which provided the main opportunity for relief and change. Those of us who are familiar with Victorian literature will remember various instances where these public holidays are described, and they obviously played a great part in the lives of those times. I will not weary your Lordships with more than one example, but I did get down my rather tattered Tennyson to look up the passage at the beginning of the poem "The Princess", in which 602 Tennyson describes a kind of fete in a a park, and these are some of his words:We went…Down thro' the path: strange was the sight to me;For all the sloping pasture murmur'd sownWith happy faces and with holiday.There moved the multitude, a thousand heads:and continues, rather suprisingly:The patient leaders of their Institute Taught them with facts".The poem then goes on to describe how all the various new scientific inventions were being illustrated and exhibited. That is an interesting example of the way in which they combined pleasure with intellectual progress one hundred years ago.
That sort of thing has gone down; has been replaced, as we have heard so many times to-day, by the holiday with travel, the holiday away from home. And at this point I would pay my tribute to whoever wrote the White Paper, Staggered Holidays, which contains such clear and full information about this matter—in fact, so full that it has been very difficult, I think, for those of us who speak to say something that was not already in the Paper. We could do no more than say the same thing in different words and give our comments upon it.
On the broad question of staggering the long holiday, if we might call it that, I feel that we ought to do everything we can in this way. But I do not hold quite such an optimistic view as my brother of Lincoln does about the ease with which such a social change could be carried through. I do not think it does any harm, when considering these changes, to count the cost and weigh the difficulties, because if the thing is worth doing we shall be more likely to achieve it if we have first counted the cost.
I am impressed by the way in which the whole of our national life is woven together in a rather complex pattern that still leaves August as the most vacant month, if I may use that description. It all goes back to the agricultural life of England; the necessity for a long vacation in the universities; the vacation in the law; the vacation in Parliament. And I suppose that from those early arrangements of our time has gradually come the 603 assumption that August, and now also late July, is the normal and natural time for holidays. When we have, so to speak, just given holidays in this sense to the main mass of the people (I am speaking now in longish terms: I do not mean that we did it yesterday, but during this century), and when we have given this possibility to our people, we must not be altogether surprised if they want it at the time when others have had it before. And that, I think, largely explains the sort of first natural instinct of people to take their holidays at about this time.
Then instinct is, of course, buttressed by all the other considerations, especially in the schools, which make it so difficult for people to move their holidays about with complete freedom. Almost every speaker has stressed the importance of the schools. I should like to stress it from yet one other angle. Schools are particularly important in this matter because schools involve families, and it is the families that involve the numbers. Therefore, unless we can tackle this question, we obviously cannot make great progress on a wide front.
What can be done in the schools is limited. We have heard a lot about the bringing forward of the General Certificate examinations; but I cannot see everybody being free to rush off from school the minute the examinations are over, because the interval after examinations is a most important time for occasions such as speech days, sports days and other big events. It seems to me that what we have to work for is a bringing forward of the examinations, and a gradual lengthening of the summer holiday and a shortening of the Christmas and Easter holidays. If, with careful work and patience and consultation, we can save a week or two, perhaps at each end of the present school summer holiday, we shall have done something; and that itself will be most useful.
There is a sense in which some people like crowds, not because of the actual physical presence of other bodies—and still less of other motor cars—but because they are susceptible to a kind of psychological atmosphere. We ourselves have done a great deal to create this atmosphere. Our present publicity agencies immediately fill the papers, 604 when a holiday is approaching, with news of the ever-increasing numbers going by train, by car and by air. People get caught up with this spirit; they want to be in with it. So we ourselves are partly to blame for the tremendous enthusiasm which we have built up around the traditional holiday period.
I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate who spoke earlier that the nature of holidays has to be thought out most carefully, because holidays are most revealing things. Holidays tell us what we are. I am sure that many of us in this House have known what it is to work hard up to a certain point, suddenly find ourselves on holiday, and ask, "What am I? What is there in me now that all the work has gone?" So in our provision for the people, we have to give them an atmosphere, an environment, in which they can be themselves without being afraid of themselves. All this involves the provision of entertainment and so on.
Coming to the question of bank holidays, it is here that I see the greatest positive chance of something coming out of our debate. We are told that on an August Bank Holiday, for instance, 3 million people are thrown into the world of travel, in addition to all those who are already on holiday. It seems to me obvious that if we could reduce or abolish that particular invasion into the holiday world, we should have done a great deal to save space on our roads and in our hotels; and almost certainly, I think, we should save at least some lives. That itself is an incentive to us at this point to press this matter as far as we possibly can.
Perhaps I may say a word about Whit Monday, so that we can see the field as a whole. The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury was asked, either formally or informally, what the Church of England would feel about the abolition of Whit Monday as a public holiday. He has authorised me to pass on to your Lordships his opinion, which is that, after hearing the views of responsible bodies, he is of the opinion that the Church of England would not wish to oppose the suggestion that the bank holiday now falling on Whit Monday should be replaced by a fixed bank holiday unrelated to Whit Sunday. Such a bank holiday would 605 not carry the name of "Whit". He is conscious that there may be some reluctance to lose the Monday following Whit Sunday as a bank holiday, because in some areas that day has been used for processions of Whit. Your Lordships who know the North of England will realise that this has been a great day for processions of Church children, and there will no doubt be some resistance from that quarter. Nevertheless, the Archbishop does not think that the Church people generally would wish to oppose what suited the convenience and the welfare of the country as a whole. So, in so far as there may be any feeling that the religious interests in the country would oppose a change from Whit Monday—
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, may I ask the right reverend Prelate whether he thinks that if the most reverend Primate says that Whit Monday is finished, then it will be finished? It is a workers' holiday, you know.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
My Lords, the most reverend Primate was merely answering a question which was addressed to him, I think by some representatives of the Board of Trade, as to whether the Church of England would feel that from the religious point of view the removal of Whit Monday, and perhaps in some people's minds a downgrading of the Whitsun festival, would create difficulties. I think I have answered that question quite clearly. I do not feel myself bound to answer the question from the other side. It is obvious that nobody would claim that the religious side of this was in any sense the only one, or even an important one, in relation to the wide social aspect.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, may I thank the right reverend Prelate for his answer. It would not necessarily satisfy the worker if he were to lose a holiday with which he is quite familiar and which he greatly prizes.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
That I can well understand. I do not feel that it is necessary for me to comment further on that. All I was going to say—and I am now speaking as an individual—was that a case has been made out for a rearrangement and respacing of the bank holidays. So far as I can see, it 606 need not in any way reduce the total number of holidays, and the difficulty would be to arrange them in a way that suited the largest number of people.
Here I must just intrude one word about Easter, merely to reaffirm what has been said a good many times: that the Church of England would not wish to oppose the fixing of Easter, provided that it was supported by a sufficient area of Christendom. It is well known that the Roman Catholic Church has recently made a rather liberal statement on this matter. I must remind your Lordships that Rome and Canterbury are not the only people involved. There are some others. We are not very much concerned with the Eastern Churches, because they have a different Easter anyway, a week later. I discovered this, to my cost, when I once had a party in Athens on what we call Low Sunday, and I found the conditions very crowded because it was their Easter Day. But there are also involved in this proposal the great Protestant Churches of Europe, the Lutheran Churches and the Evangelical Churches; so that, from the religious point of view, the matter may be a little more complicated than appears on the surface.
I do not myself think that it is in any way impossible for us to consider the fixing of Easter. As we have heard, there is already something on the Statute Book by which it is laid down that Easter should be, under certain conditions, the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. I could not help thinking, when I read that, what a curious way it is of describing the next day—as if the first Sunday after the second Saturday could be anything other than the day after! However, if Easter were to be fixed then, of course, Whitsun would automatically be fixed; but we should not be bound to keep a public or bank holiday on the Monday. We could put it where we liked, and we should clearly want to get the August Bank Holiday put out of the main holiday period.
I myself should welcome it if we could keep up the connection that has gone on so long between holidays and the traditional Festivals of Christendom. We could offer your Lordships some quite attractive dates in the autumn which you might like to consider. For instance, Michaelmas day, September 29, 607 would associate that Feast with something rather happier than the paying of bills and accounts. And there is October 18, which is St. Luke's Day, and is commonly known already as coming in the middle of St. Luke's Little Summer. That could be made a very good selling point by the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, at least, if not by us.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
Yes, I have certainly thought of that. November has a slightly unhappy flavour in people's minds, from the point of view of the weather; but November 1 is often an extraordinarily nice day, with very attractive weather. In fact, one of the features of our national life seems to be that the good weather is moving steadily on through the year. At least that seems to be my own personal experience.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
Good times are al ways coming. I think that is an argument that could be used both ways. I am bound to say, in listening with such great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, that he had one or two friendly "digs" at the Church. I found myself questioning one or two of his points, especially the economic point when he said that if only we could do this there would be millions more pounds in the hands of the hotel keepers, and millions more in the pockets of the public. I hope that is true, but I could not help wondering whether some of the millions that were in the hotel keepers' pockets were coming out of the public's pocket. But these are subtleties into which I need not personally go. I want only to express on my own behalf, and I am sure on behalf of the Churches, our desire to co-operate in this movement, which we believe will increase the health and happiness of a large number of our people and therefore deserves the support of all men of good will.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that our best summer weather seems nowadays to be coming late and later in the year. 608 Nowadays so often the two best months of the summer seem to be the whole of the month of October and the first eleven days of November, right up to Remembrance Day. However, August Bank Holiday has come in for a good deal of discussion in the course of this debate, and no wonder! It seems to be a magnet which is much too strong, drawing people on to the roads and the railways on that particular day, and it is a wonder that the chaos created is not even worse than it is. There has been a good deal of support for the recommendation in the White Paper that the August Bank Holiday should be transferred to a later date in the year, perhaps early in September. The only doubts I have about this is that I wonder whether the magnet will still not be too strong, whenever the date is, if everybody is going to take his holiday on that one particular day. I do not think any noble Lord has gone so far as to suggest that the August Bank Holiday should be abolished altogether, and I must say I hesitate very much, particularly in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, to put that suggestion forward; and certainly I would not do so without taking a very careful look at the circumstances surrounding the creation of the August Bank Holiday.
That brings me back to Sir John Lubbock, later Lord Avebury, whom the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, mentioned earlier. At the early age—early in the Parliamentary sense—of only 37, he piloted through another place the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which was received with the most extraordinary and tremendous public acclamation. The Daily News of the following year, on the first anniversary of August St. Lubbock's Day, as it was then called, had this to say:It is perhaps difficult for the general public to realise what such a holiday means. There are thousands in this great city who are at work all the year round. The shops and warehouses are kept open by relays of attendants. In many of the larger of them the humbler employees may have—like the postmen—a fortnight's holiday in the year but to vast multitudes only a day of closing brings a chance of release. … This statute holiday gives a day in the fresh summer air—and let us hope in the bright summer sunshine—to tens of thousands of persons who might otherwise altogether miss the sight of the yellow cornfields or the summer woods.609 Times have certainly changed since those days. They then had no five-day week; no holidays with pay. The poorer people stayed at work because they could not afford to go away on holiday. They stayed at work from Whit Monday to Christmas Day. I think these words were re-echoed by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, in his most fascinating maiden speech this afternoon. Above all, there were, of course, no motor cars to congest and clog the roads. The circumstances could not have arisen then as arose on one of the bank holidays last year, when the B.B.C. reported in their ten o'clock news that the roads into Southport, which had been jammed with traffic all day long, were still jammed with traffic at 6 o'clock in the evening—traffic which was still trying to get into the town.
Times have indeed changed since those days, and one wonders in one's secret heart: do people in these days really need one special day's holiday in the summer time, above and beyond the holidays which they ordinarily enjoy? I would not seek to suggest that people should not have a special day if they really feel that they need it. But let us free the people, let us allow them to negotiate each for himself his special day's holiday in the summer to suit his own convenience, in so far as he can make the arrangements with his employer. There will, of course, be some factories closing altogether on one particular day, so that the people can go in motor coaches en masse to the seaside if that is what they enjoy. Other people, no doubt, will wish to tack their special day's holiday on to one end or other of their ordinary annual holiday. The important thing is that everybody will not choose the one, same day for their holiday, and that, surely, will be an enormous improvement in the state of affairs.
It may be asked: what is to happen to those sports fixtures which from time immemorial have taken place on the first Monday in August; those cricket matches and horse races which always take place on that particular day? Well, I do not see that anything need happen to them. A great many of the people who have formed a habit of attending these fixtures will, no doubt, be able to arrange still to do so. So it seems to me 610 that, while we should not forget and should be grateful for the memory of Sir John Lubbock and his wonderful inspiration of the August Bank Holiday, we can nevertheless say that in these days of 1964 this bank holiday has perhaps outlived its usefulness, and we may perhaps seriously consider whether totally to abolish it.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, with other noble Lords who have spoken, I should like to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Molson for putting this Motion on the Paper. I think it is a most important social subject, and I have found the speeches to-day very interesting, very forward-looking and very comprehensive, particularly the introduction by my noble friend Lord Molson. So there is very little left for me to say. When I originally told my noble friend Lord Molson that I would speak in support of his Motion, I did so because a few years ago it fell to my lot to introduce staggered holidays into the factories for which I was then responsible. Some of the factories in question were in Northern Ireland, and from time immemorial factories in Northern Ireland have always had their annual shutdown in Twelfth Week—the 12th July, when the Northern Irish celebrate the Battle of the Boyne. The Manchester factories, of course, shut during their appropriate wakes week and have done so for years.
We were obliged to introduce staggered holidays for sharp economic reasons. As many of your Lordships know, I am connected with the tobacco industry, and if we closed our factory for a fortnight we had to build up stocks, and we had to begin building up stocks very early in the year in order to cover the consumer demand during the time the factory was shut. As successive Chancellors of the Exchequer added to the tobacco duty it became increasingly unpleasant to carry stocks, and that is why we went to staggered holidays. Of course, we explained this decision to our workpeople, and we made every possible arrangement to make it easy for them. There were a number of difficulties which we succeeded in overcoming, but the least of the difficulties was in obtaining the co-operation of our people. I would just like to make that clear.
611 Of course, we have to start building up our holiday lists very early in the New Year, almost immediately after Christmas. The foreman or chargehand of the department goes round in February, let us say, and begins to make up the holiday lists. One knows that one has to take one's holiday very early, but it is difficult for people to make up their minds so early in the year. I suspect that this year's holiday lists for our factories have already been compiled. But although we have succeeded in spreading the holidays over the period from May to the beginning of October, there are still a number of married folk with children who simply cannot take the earlier holiday. They are bound by the school holidays and so forth. There are other people whose wives or husbands work in another business which is still having the annual shutdown. Obviously, they want to spend their holidays together so they are confined to July or August—the peak period, in fact. These personal problems are difficult, and I doubt whether we shall ever quite get away from a peak of some sort.
However, there is one factor which is of increasing assistance to us in dealing with this aspect of the matter of getting people to take their holidays spread over the summer. The improved travel facilities and the improved earnings of people are making them more venturesome. They go further afield, and are beginning to realise that it is possible to ignore the summer weather, so called, in this country. When I first went to Northern Ireland some time before the Second World War few, if any, of our people there had ever gone further than the Isle of Man or Portrush. Very few went to Blackpool, none to the South of England. I well remember sponsoring a special excursion for some of the younger girls, under the charge of a welfare supervisor, to the Isle of Wight. In those days this was considered quite unique; they had never crossed the water before.
Since we are talking about Northern Ireland, this peak holiday period in July presents a particular difficulty, because one has to fly the Irish Sea or cross it by ship. This puts a big strain on the travel facilities. However, I am glad to say that more and more of the people realise the pleasures and advantages of 612 foreign travel. Of recent years, when I have walked round the factories and talked to the people I have been told of holidays all over Europe, in North Africa and even in Canada and America—and a jolly thing it is, too. We even persuaded one of our older factory managers, who had never been further for his holiday than the Isle of Man, to take a holiday to Switzerland. After he had survived this, to him, unusual and venturesome journey, he unpacked his bag and emerged from his hotel, and he was astonished to find that the first people he saw were six girls from his own stripping room.
There are other problems regarding staggered holidays, but I think I have dealt as fully as I need with the most important aspect—the people. But it is difficult when you have staggered holidays to arrange for maintenance work. I am afraid I am getting down to nuts and bolts—we have had plenty of theory this afternoon. Moreover, boilers and all sorts of machinery generally need at least one annual overhaul, and it was very convenient when you shut the factory for a fortnight. Now, if you want to re-brick a boiler furnace or put new rings in an air compressor, you must first of all have a stand-by boiler or stand-by air compressor, you must have room to put them in, and then you probably have to do the job at nights and week-ends. So factory industrialists must make preparations before staggered holidays can really become effective. I am not saying it is impossible; I am just holding up the red flag.
Another great disadvantage of staggered holidays is that it splits up fully-trained machine crews—you cannot help it—and this is apt to have an adverse effect on the quality of production as well as on quantity; I put quality higher myself. Again, this means increased supervision, increased training facilities and so forth, but it is a factor of which care must be taken. With staggered holidays one's labour force is reduced by 10 to 12½1 per cent. during the period May to October, and this means that, unless one takes steps about it, one's production machinery is running at something less than the ideal economic rate. In the case of women workpeople, the gaps can be filled with temporary labour, and by the time the end of the holiday period has 613 come they have become permanent labour because those really in the jobs have probably got themselves married or engaged during the holiday period. But in the case of men it is not so easy; it is a problem. I think I have said enough to show that management has not insignificant problems to cope with in arranging staggered holidays. So far as I personally am concerned, and my colleagues, we are very much in favour of it.
School examinations and holidays have already been mentioned, but I should like to refer to the statutory holidays, Easter and Whitsun. I do not want to join in the fray about whether we could or could not have a fixed Easter, but there is one advantage in having a fixed Easter which has not been mentioned in this debate. A fixed Easter would fix the date of the Easter Parliamentary Recess, which would be a good thing. It would also fix the date of Budget Day for all time, which I think would also be a good thing, because some industries, of which the tobacco industry is only one, are very concerned with any announcement the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes on Budget Day. It makes planning difficult for them—I mean the planning of production rates, and so on—when Budget Day is shifting from year to year. So often have I heard in the factories and in the board rooms, "What day will the Budget be this year?", because then you have to assess what to do in your production and other problems. So a fixed Easter would have that incidental advantage.
Much has been said about the August Bank Holiday. I feel it would be a very great advantage to put the August Bank Holiday back to the end of the month or early September, as has been suggested, but the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, seemed worried that either this or the changing of Whit Monday would remove the statutory holiday. I do not think anybody who has spoken to-day suggests that we should eliminate any of the statutory holidays, but merely that they should be moved up or down the calendar. My Lords, I have taken enough of your Lordships' time, and with those few remarks I beg to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Molson.
§ 5.35 p.m.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I think the problem has been posed, 614 and it will not be necessary for me to try to prove the undoubted desirability of staggered holidays. As has already been pointed out, briefly, it leads to the more efficient use of both accommodation and transport, and it will undoubtedly lead to cheaper prices—or could lead to cheaper prices. I do not say that it would, because prices seem to go up but very seldom to come down. I think that, except for the 4 per cent. who, according to the survey, announced that they liked to be in a crowd, it would undoubtedly make people's holidays more enjoyable.
Why, therefore, should I speak, when according to the White Paper Scotland seems to have such a good record on this subject? In paragraph 1 it says:Since the problem in Scotland seems less acute and the holiday pattern is different …",et cetera. The reason is that Scotland still looks to the English for the main bulk of their holidaymakers each year. We are, of course, very pleased to welcome from abroad an enormous number of foreigners, but, none the less, the vast bulk of the "cake" in fact comes from England, and it would help our problem if, throughout the holiday months, we could get a more even pattern of these tourists. It is therefore of great interest to us North of the Border that the holidays in England should be staggered as much as possible.
I think the problem can be divided into two: the week-end peak, which puts an enormous pressure on transport, amusement and other entertainment facilities but does not, on the whole, put a great pressure on accommodation, and then the July-August demand for accommodation, which is confined to the five weeks comprised in the last part of July and the first part of August. First, I should like to put forward a few suggestions—and these are only suggestions—for dealing with the problem of the week-end peak. I have often wondered whether, in twenty years' time, or possibly even less, we in this country will not have to work a continuous shift system (for the want of anything better to call it), by which I mean that the machines will be so expensive that they will have to be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This, when it comes, will solve completely the problem of the weekend peak, because there will not be any 615 week-ends as such; there will just be days when one is on duty and days when one is off duty. I was wondering whether we might not now occasionally adopt during the holiday period, say twice a year, a ten-day fortnight, when factories and works would keep open for one week-end and would then, in lieu, have a four-day week-end the following week. It seems to me that this might help the problem of the acute travel difficulties of the average Saturday at the end of July and the beginning of August.
I would also commend to your Lordships the Scottish system of having no statutory holidays as such but of having local holidays, varying from town to town. This works very well in Scotland and is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the problem is less acute there. I should have thought it might be worth trying in parts of England and Wales. Lastly on this subject, I feel that we must encourage boarding house and hotel keepers to welcome guests who start their holidays in the middle of the week. I am sure one of the greatest difficulties at the moment is that the average person who wants to go on a holiday and wishes to take advantage of the mid-week reduction in train fares and the general ease of travel mid-week cannot do so because the boarding house or hotel to which he and his family wish to go will not take a booking from Wednesday to Wednesday or Tuesday to Tuesday, but only from Saturday to Saturday. I should be the last person to suggest that we should compel people to take bookings when they do not want them; but I hope that the B.T.H.A. and the British Hotel-keepers' and Caterers' Association will encourage their members to do this.
Also, as another encouragement for people to arrive and leave in the middle of the week, perhaps the local authorities who provide amenities such as bowling greens, tennis courts, access to piers, deck chairs on beaches, and so on, could issue weekly tickets running from one Wednesday to the following Wednesday at a considerable discount on daily tickets or weekly tickets running from Saturday to Saturday. I can well believe that they will not want to do this. They say that their job is to please the public. This case, I suggest, might be one of the few cases where the customer is not necessarily right.
616 I feel that a much more important problem is the question of the annual holiday. This peak is not caused, as the survey brings out, by people's preferences; in fact, if people could all take holidays when they wished then June would be in worse chaos than the first week of August is now. We could move too far towards people's preferences. But it would be a good thing, I think, if people were able to take their holidays more or less when they wanted to, although I realise the difficulties this would involve.
I should like to quote once again from the White Paper. Having in paragraph 1 given Scotland a rather better record than England, it says, referring to schools, in paragraph 19:In Scotland the pattern is rather different. The Christmas and Easter holidays are shorter, not exceeding 10 days to a fortnight, and with few exceptions the summer holidays begin in the last days of June or the first days in July.If the examinations in Scotland can be fitted in so that holidays can begin in June—and in some places, I think, they start on about June 10—I cannot see why the same is not done in England and Wales. It seems to me that it must be due to the fact that the local education authorities and the Ministry of Education are not really willing to tackle the problem. I am rather disappointed that a representative from the Ministry of Education is not answering this debate. I could have told the Government before they started that the Department to be attacked is not the Board of Trade, whose White Paper I think is entirely commendable, but rather the Ministry of Education. It is they who are the "niggers in the woodpile", and who make it almost impossible for factories to take their annual week or fortnight away from the end of July and the beginning of August. Much as I look forward to hearing my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, I feel that it is a pity that he will not be speaking (and I take it that he will not) for the Ministry of Education.
If the Ministry of Education and the local education authorities refuse to do anything about this, the only thing we can do is try to persuade the other and rather smaller number of people who can take their holidays more or less at any time to take them either in June or 617 September. To do this I would suggest that special weeks should be put on with unusual and special attractions during these periods. At the moment, attractions tend to be put on when the holiday crowds are greatest, in July and August. This seems to me to be a pity; although commercially and financially, it is sound business. I believe that one of the ways in which we could encourage people to take their holidays outside the main holiday periods would be by putting on special attractions for them at other times of the year. I would also suggest that there might be a greater price reduction to "off-peak" visitors. I have yet to find anywhere I have stayed, at any time of the year, where prices vary much from season to season; and I feel there would be scope for improvement in this way.
I should also like to point out, as did the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that many firms insist that when workers are given the third week's holiday—and on the whole I am in favour of people having three weeks' holiday—it should be taken outside the main holiday period. I think this is a very good thing. I can, of course, see that if people wished to go round the world, or to Addis Ababa, there would be an advantage if they could run their three weeks together. Perhaps in special cases, special arrangements could be made; but as a general rule I think that the separation of the third week is a good idea.
The main way in which we can help in this problem, if we cannot persuade the educational authorities to move, is by giving greater publicity to the weather statistics. June and, to a lesser extent, May and September, are undoubtedly the finest months in this country, from the point of view of hours of sunshine and lack of rainfall. Yet many people, according to the survey, when they were asked why they wished to take their holidays in July or August, said that it was because of the weather. Obviously, they either do not know the statistics; or have gone to one of these exceptional places where June is wet and August is dry. Above all, it must be remembered that this problem is not basically due to the "cussedness" of the British public—though they are often blamed— 618 but is due to the attitude of the school authorities in refusing to alter the historical dates of their examinations, and hence of their terms. I know that a change such as has been suggested would raise some problems; but if it can be done—indeed, it has been done—in Scotland, I feel that it should and could be done in England. I would suggest, therefore, that possibly the Whitsun and August Bank Holidays should be made local holidays, as in Scotland. This should raise no difficulties with religious festivals at Easter. Incidentally, though this is not entirely within the orbit of this debate, I would suggest that we in Scotland might become sufficiently advanced to recognise that there is such a Festival as Christmas. We should then no longer have no holiday at all. Possibly it would not help to stagger holidays; but it would help to make the New Year more bearable.
I should like to suggest that there might be two experimental "ten-day fortnights" a year, where one week-end is worked and the next week-end is lengthened; that the school term should be completely revised in England and Wales, and brought more into line with Scotland; that employers and unions should get together and try to work out a more flexible attitude to works closures and that sort of thing, which I think can happen only if school terms are altered. Finally, I would ask why we at Westminster cannot give the lead in this great movement. Let us have a month's holiday in June and let us work to the end of August. This, it seems to me, would avoid those horribly late-night Sittings with which your Lordships are afflicted in July.
§ 5.49 p.m.
My Lords, before the Minister replies, might I refer to the point made by the noble Duke, and also touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who introduced this debate? I must apologise for not being in my place at the time. That is the question of the Summer Recess of the Houses of Parliament. It has been raised before; but I think it is admitted by all Members of both Houses that by the end of July Members are apt to find things rather trying; their spirits are flagging and, frankly, they are not in a very good 619 condition in which to govern the country because they have been worked too hard and too long. In the old days it was a different matter altogether. But nowadays I marvel at the way Members of the other place keep going at all at the intense pressure at which they have to work. And I am quite sure that they are not as good instruments of government at the end of July as they are at the beginning of May or at the beginning of November.
At the moment, we work right up to the end of July, sometimes into August, and do not come back until the very end of October. It must be the experience of most of your Lordships, as it is mine, that from the first day of October until we come back, one has a feeling of being at half-cock. Things are happening; business is going on; meetings are again taking place which have been put off for the holiday period: and in one sense this is a wasted period. I suggest that Parliament should rise at the end of June and re-assemble at the end of September or the beginning of October.
I am told that the chief objection to this is that it would interfere with the Budget year. Well, there is a thing known as the Annual Year, which starts on January 1 and goes on to December 31, and I do not see why it is beyond the ingenuity of the Government or of those who advise them to change our Budget Year and make it, like the normal commercial year, start on January 1 and end on December 31. I suggest that that would remove the difficulties about postponing the Recess for Members of your Lordships' House and of another place at a time when they are overworked and over-tired and should be having a holiday.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, if I may detain your Lordships for a few minutes, I would express my regret for not being here when the noble Lord, Lord Molson, spoke. Since I have been in the Chamber, a number of noble Lords have mentioned the fixing of the date of Easter. Your Lordships may remember that last year I initiated a debate on this subject, and it was in an exchange this afternoon between the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, that it occurred to me that, in the researches which I carried out before that debate 620 and in discussions since that occasion, I came upon the point which I think the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord were touching on—that is, that many laymen and most clerics sincerely desire to keep Holy Days and holidays separate.
The right reverend Prelate referred to the wording of the Easter Act, 1928, which lies on the Statute Book awaiting the day when its provisions are brought into force by Order in Council. I read the wording in this way. Under the Act, Easter shall be the second Sunday in April, except when the 1st of April is a Sunday, in which case, Easter shall be the third Sunday. Therefore, under the Act, Easter would fall between April 9 and April 15.
From that date, I turn to what the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said about fixing Whit Monday. I think that he was referring to a holiday about that time. Under the Easter Act, if and when it is brought into force, the holy day Whit Sunday would be, at the earliest, May 28 and, at the latest, June 3. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, referred to the other advantages which would flow from a fixed Easter, but that is not the subject of our debate, and I trust your Lordships will forgive me for this brief intervention in what has been a most interesting debate.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, and I should not have done so had I not realised that what the White Paper is trying to do is to alter what has become by long tradition a kind of observance. One appreciates the difficulties in an industry which has a large number of employees who more or less have to remain with machinery which must be kept operating because any interference with its continuous operation would mean a great loss of funds. But I wonder whether we are not ignoring the fact that we are in the midst of a transitional period which will change the kind of traditional holiday that we have been in the habit of arranging.
The idea of holidays is not a new one. There have been Jubilee years, which go back to Biblical time. There have been Sabbatical years, enjoyed by people in higher education and in unversities. 621 And to-day there is the tremendous "push" of holiday advertising, in most attractive forms and colours, almost indecent in some respects, which tries to persuade people to think of spending their time away from work, as though work itself were something unpleasant. Is it possible that this White Paper has not been productive of any kind of procedure for rearranging holidays for the masses of the people—not for those few who can take holidays whenever they wish—without interference with essential industry?
When one thinks that to-day one can charter an aeroplane from here to Canada at a reduced cost, which enables the majority of people to be able to afford it, and that people can pay for their holidays on the hire-purchase system, one realises that we are up against a series of problems, and not merely one, which affects the whole of the economic and social structure of the country. That does not apply to this country only, because in Germany, France, Italy and other countries, in spite of the better weather enjoyed there, the people still desire to get away from where they are. I appreciate that a man and wife with a young family want a change, not only to benefit the children, but also for themselves, to get away from their surroundings. But I am not sure that the result is always refreshment and restoration, especially when they do not speak the same language as those around them.
I come back to my question: Are we not in this White Paper trying to do something which entails so great a break with long-established tradition that we cannot possibly hope within a short period of time to achieve something that would make for a really efficient distribution of leisure for the people as a whole? Do not let us forget something else. I do not think that the word "automation" has been mentioned in this debate. We are bound to recognise that we are not far distant from a time when the amount of leisure will be greater, because human muscle will no longer be necessary to the extent it has been. Indeed, I am told that automation has reached such an extent that you get your electronic device at one end and a completed motor car is produced at the other end without a human hand 622 touching it. That is the kind of thing that we must envisage and, if necessary, prepare for.
I would remind your Lordships that in the adult education world there are in England something like 25 residential colleges. In Scotland, there is, as yet, only one permanent residential college, although there are summer schools, such as St. Andrew's and others. These adult residential colleges are being increasingly used. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that, although the period for the short courses is rather short, the benefit can hardly be overestimated. One can say from one's own personal experience that people go there, ostensibly for a holiday—and, in part, it is a holiday—but so invigorated mentally are they by what they hear, and what they are asked to do in the way of response to the lectures they have attended, that they are better enlightened and better-minded citizens as a result of this short course form of residential adult education. My hope and belief is that this sort of education will continue to increase; that we shall see the cumulative effect of this tremendous amount of work that is being done (it is not very well advertised, I am sorry to say; nevertheless, it is growing, in interest and support) and that staggered holidays will be a matter of, shall I say, more or less indifference, because the method of spending time will not be by lying more or less naked in the sun, but by benefiting mentally, as well as physically, from the short holidays we can take.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, BOARD OF TRADE (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, my first task must be to join in the congratulations that have been offered to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln on what was a most eloquent and illuminating speech, which I know the whole House enjoyed. We look forward with great anticipation to his taking part in our future debates. Perhaps it would be worth while commenting at this point that, curiously enough, this has been an entirely masculine debate, and we have not had any of the noble Ladies who belong to this House taking part. I wondered, from some of the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate, 623 whether, if they had been here, they would not have said that perhaps the supreme luxury to them was not to have to clean and cook.
The Government warmly welcome this debate. As has been said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester, it has been designed to increase health and happiness and also to reduce congestion and waste. I would thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for having raised this question. We have been talking, as I say, about congestion, and I think perhaps it is symbolic that he was once the Member of Parliament for the High Peak. The Government will wish to study this debate closely, and if I do not comment on all the many suggestions that have been made it will not be because I do not think them important, but because I am not in a position to do so intelligently at the moment.
What I think must have struck all noble Lords is the great measure of agreement that has been shown in the debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, said, in a most noteworthy and constructive speech, much has been done, and much more can and should be done. The Government started this off in a way by the moving of Summer Time. There have been many individual moves away from the peak periods of holiday travel which have been made by many firms, as referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Champion, Lord Mabane, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, Lord Ampthill and others. As the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln said, in these matters there are difficulties, but they are not insuperable; and this point was also clearly brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, in a most interesting speech based on his own experience. One comment was that there has been no mention in the course of this debate of the farm worker. I think the reason must be that we are here concerned particularly with those who, so to speak, form part of the peak and, therefore, can shift; and certaintly no disrespect is intended to the farm workers in this matter.
May I refer to some of the ideas that have been put forward? One was that there should be more separate days of holiday. Another idea is that if main 624 holidays are too bunched, individual day holidays are too spaced out; and I took note particularly of the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, that there was nothing between August and Christmas. There was the idea put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln that Christmas should be a longer holiday, and the suggestion by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, that Christmas should now be a holiday in Scotland. I think that, de facto, it pretty well is already: because the Scots have a way of getting things both ways when it suits them. The noble Duke also put forward the idea, which I am bound to say I did not fully understand, about ten-day closures.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I take the point. This is one of the points that we should have studied.
I was also interested in the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, and I think it was fitting that he made the sort of speech he did at the end of the debate, because what has been so significant is the willingness of everybody in the House to accept change; the appreciation that we are in a transitional period and that these changes have to be accepted. Different noble Lords went different lengths in saying how far at the moment they were prepared to accept change, but the theme of the whole debate has been the need for change and the willingness to accept it and, I think, urging the Government to hasten this change along. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester said that the whole of our national life forms a pattern, and that August is the most vacant month: vacant, maybe, from the point of view that it is the month in which fewer people may have to work; but, by the same token, it is the month in which there is the greatest congestion from the holiday point of view.
What caused the Government to study this problem was that, while the number of people taking holidays away from home has doubled since the war, the pattern of holidays has remained the same. As standards of living improve, 625 the numbers will increase still further; and if nothing is done the peak which was already the peak will grow higher and higher and render the peak holiday season more and more uncomfortable. Holidays with pay are becoming longer. People are, as the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, said, becoming more venturesome. I thought he took that as something, so to speak, on the credit side; but from this angle it is very much on the debit side, because, to the extent that they become more venturesome, they use more transport and other services.
The study (this has been said already, but I think I should repeat it) reveals that twice as many people are taking holidays for a week or more away from home, that nearly two-thirds of that number are taking them in the months of July and August, and that nearly a quarter started their holiday within the fortnight at the end of July and the beginning of August. The problem is made greater because nearly three-quarters of all holidays start at the week-end, and because there is a further exodus of a day or more at the August Bank holiday. All this puts a fearsome strain on accommodation facilities.
The result of the study has been a Social Survey which, I think, has been only once referred to in the course of the debate to-day, and the White Paper, which has been much referred to and which the Government published in order to inform the public and to encourage discussion with a view to concerted action, the more so as it is plain that nothing less than concerted action is required—a concerted national effort, as the White Paper says, to ensure that people, including those who come here from abroad, get the maximum benefit from their holidays. I was very glad indeed that my noble friend Lord Mabane stressed the part that the British Travel and Holidays Association have played, not only in attracting foreign visitors here but in analysing the difficulties that we are meeting with in the holiday seasons here, and doing a great deal to overcome them. He has had a most successful, vital, energetic, and constructive three years of office as chairman of the B.T.H.A., as it is called, and I hope he will long be able to serve as President.
626 If holidays in this country can be staggered, then, of course, not only will life be more pleasant and the break from the routine of work more satisfying for our own holidaymakers, but also more overseas visitors will be attracted to visit our cities and to see the beauties of our countryside. As has been said, tourism is big business these days. The B.T.H.A. consider that if the holiday season can be extended over the four months June to September, with some overspill into April, May and October, not only will the United Kingdom and overseas tourists and holidaymakers enjoy themselves better, but there will be a gain of many million pounds a year to the national economy—and I will not enter into discussion with the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Leicester, as to how that particular gain will be distributed between particular pockets.
The proposals put forward in paragraph 27 as to the steps that could be taken in various spheres come under four main headings: bank holidays, school examinations, industrial holidays and action by the trades catering for the holidaymakers. The needs are quite clearly to spread the holiday period over a longer period, to get more people to start their holidays mid-week and to get more hotels and boarding houses to accept mid-week bookings in the peak season.
Could I deal for a moment with the question of bank holidays, which has perhaps taken up as much of the debate as any other single point? I note what my noble friend Lord Mabane said in regard to the number of them, and I was extremely interested by the one, if I might say, dissident, possibly prophetic, speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on this subject, when he seemed to indicate that the day would come when there would be no bank holidays at all because we should have a sufficiency of holidays elsewhere. I think, as the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, said, it will not come perhaps very quickly; but at any rate it is a point of view worth considering.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, may I say that what I noticed during this debate was the constant reference to the old days. Living in an industrial area, 627 I could tell this House that the old days are still very much with us, both with regard to labour and to wages.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I was not really making reference to that particular aspect of the old days at the present moment, but I appreciate the noble Lord's point of view.
As the White Paper points out, bank holidays contribute to the problem mainly because of the additional day trips made and the short holidays taken in connection with them. Nothing can be done to reduce the volume of this traffic: indeed, traffic is bound to grow. But a later date for the August Bank Holiday would at least remove this slice of traffic from the summer holiday peak, whilst a fixed holiday that would always fall at a date fairly early in the season in place of the present Whitsuntide Bank Holiday would tend to relieve the summer peak by encouraging more holidaymakers to take their holidays early. As the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester said, that would not only improve conditions but might well save lives.
The majority reaction to the White Paper that we have had from the country favoured a date for August Bank Holiday on the last Monday in that month. We shall never get unanimity on a question like this, and it seems that the farmers view with some misgiving a public holiday at the height of the harvesting season. As to the spring holiday, educationists would prefer it to be deferred until the end of June, so that there would be no interference with examination arrangements and preparations, but the more general preference was for a spring holiday fixed on a Monday either at the end of May or early in June.
The most reverend Primate's message, which was delivered by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester, was very welcome in this debate. He conveyed the most reverend Primate's message that he is of opinion that the Church of England—I think I noted it correctly—would not wish to oppose the change. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development, is considering the question 628 of bank holidays with his colleagues, and hopes to be in a position to make a statement before long. Whatever is done, we shall have to ensure that adequate notice is given of these changes. There are a number of interests concerned. For example, there are the makers of diaries and calendars. There are, as has been referred to, the processions of children in connection with the Churches, and there are certain bodies like the friendly societies, whose annual meetings are fixed in relation to Whitsuntide. This gives some idea of the problems involved and an indication that it will take a long time, at any rate, before any such change could come into effect.
A good deal was said about the date of Easter. As has been said, this is a question which is not necessarily bound up with the separate question of the present bank holiday. But I thought that, apart from this, the comments that were made by my noble friend Lord Ampthill and by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, were perhaps more for my noble friend the Leader of the House than for me, and so I shall leave that point there.
Now I come to the question of the school examinations and holidays, which I think a great many noble Lords thought quite crucial. I hope I shall be able to make it plain that the school authorities are not as inflexible as my noble friend the Duke of Atholl thought, and, indeed, that instructors are capable of being instructed in matters of the public interest. The G.C.E. is a limiting factor only in a small number of cases, and yet, because of this—partly because it is so critical in the lives of so many—it goes very much wider indeed than the particular cases that are affected by the examinations.
School examinations are, of course, a matter for the examining bodies concerned. Noble Lords will be glad to know that the Secondary School Examinations Council, on which these bodies are represented, has now requested them to arrange as soon as possible that their examinations will be completed each year by the end of June. I recognise that a great many noble Lords have expressed the opinion that this is too late, that it should be by the end of May, as examinations in Scotland are completed by the end of May. We may very well have to move 629 by stages in this affair. I know that time works against us, but, at any rate, this is one of the subjects that will have to be closely studied. It is hoped that this change may be introduced in 1965; that is, that the examinations should be completed each year by the end of June so as to make all July the holiday month for families with children of school age.
I think it is worth noting that it will still be convenient for local education authorities if all schools in any one authority area have holidays at roughly the same time, if only because, as the White Paper says, the best advantage can be made of ancillary services such as school meals and transport only if they are being fully used. What is perhaps more important is that it would clearly not be a good thing for children or their parents if children of different ages or different capabilities or bents in the same family found their school holidays were at different times.
There are sound educational reasons for having the main examinations in the summer and towards the end of the term, as the right reverend Prelate said, rather than before Christmas or in the winter months. I do not think there was any suggestion in the course of the debate to-day that the examinations should be be moved away altogether from the summer months. Only in the long university and school holidays are examiners available to mark papers for G.C.E. "A" and "O" levels. If I may say so, this is one of the ways in which the position in England differs somewhat from that in Scotland, because in Scotland there is a core of examiners who I think are capable of going into action virtually at any time in the year. Summer is traditionally the end of the educational year, and it is the time of year when examiners are least likely to find that ill-health prevents the candidates from sitting or affects their performance. The point was made that we may well be working, and should be working, towards a stage at which the summer holiday is longer. It is longer in Scotland than it is in England and Wales, and certainly if the period of the school summer holiday could be made longer in England and Wales it would also help.
I come now to the question of industrial holidays. This appears to be the 630 most difficult aspect of the problem. As the White Paper indicates, the majority of firms in manufacturing industry close down entirely for a couple of weeks each year. This is convenient from the point of view both of suppliers and customers; and closures, which are already dictated to a large extent by the demands of plant maintenance, will be dictated even more so with the development of automation—and I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that it was surprising that the word "automation" was not mentioned until the very end. It would help if closures could be staggered over a reasonably extended holiday season. At present, more often than not the shut-downs in manufacturing industry fall within a few weeks of the holiday peak for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, made clear; that the workers with families are bound to insist that they have their holidays at the same time as their families. It would help, too, if town holidays on the pattern traditional in Lancashire, Cheshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire were generally introduced. In those parts of the country the closing down of factories and workshops as arranged between the towns themselves is spread out over the summer.
I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, had to say of the experience in Rochdale and what has been done there, and the preferences that were expressed in the cotton industry for an earlier holiday. I think we should be a little wary of taking entirely at their face value the preferences for June, because, of course, when those who take their holidays in July and August were asked why they would prefer to have a holiday at some other time, the reason they gave, in 40 per cent. of the cases, for their preference for June was because of overcrowding during August and July. If there were a big transfer to June, then that reason would no longer operate; so, as I say, I do not think we can take the preferences for June entirely at their face value.
I was also greatly interested in what the noble Lords, Lord McCorquodale of Newton and Lord Ampthill, had to say about the rota system within the manufacturing industry, and particularly in what Lord Ampthill had to say about the way in which he had overcome this 631 difficulty. Of course, the more it is possible—and we know the limitations—to have staggering within a factory itself, the wider the spread can be made. But this is not a problem that can be tackled by direct Government action: its solution can be worked out only within industry, and probably can emerge only gradually. In recent years, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said, it has been one of the subjects studied by the National Joint Advisory Council. Provided school examinations can be completed earlier than they are now, neither side of industry, I understand, would see any great difficulty in spreading industrial holidays over a longer period, especially if the August Bank Holiday could be postponed to the end of the month.
My Lords, the last point I want to mention is action by the trades catering for holidaymakers. It would not be possible to induce many more holidaymakers to take their holidays in off-peak periods unless amenities and entertainments were available in holiday resorts at these times. I was interested in the suggestion made by my noble friend the Duke of Atholl that special attractions should be put on at the "off-peak" periods in holiday seasons, but this is the "hen and the egg" all over again. Of course, if the holiday resorts authorities see signs of people coming in sufficient numbers to justify putting on these amenities and entertainments they will be the first to put them on. They will welcome the opportunity. There are plenty of enterprising people in holiday resorts and, of course, the local authorities are vigilant to secure the interests of their own towns.
There are certainly already indications of growing preferences in industry for holidays in June, as has been mentioned in the course of this debate; and I think it is worth noting that, according to a social survey, nearly 30 per cent. of holidays of people living in London and the Eastern regions already start in June. An extension of the holiday season is obviously as much in the interests of the travel and holiday trades as in those of the holidaymakers themselves. I think this is what my noble friend Lord Mabane had in mind. Certainly the British Travel and Holidays Association have always been a staunch advocate of 632 the staggering of holidays and have carried out useful, though limited, publicity in support of this campaign. I say "limited", but I am sure that they would have liked to do more if they had had the money. As and when any changes are made which will give scope for greater freedom of choice on the part of individuals and families planning their holidays, a major publicity drive, stimulated and co-ordinated by the British Travel and Holidays Association, would be most helpful. But such a campaign would clearly need the active co-operation of the resort authorities and the holiday trades.
Reference has also been made to the possibility of financial incentives. The whole process of easing the holiday peak period could, of course, be assisted by financial incentives, and much is already done by British Railways, by the airlines, and by coach and bus service operators, through reduced fares for out-of-season and mid-week holiday travel. In the same way, most hotel and boarding-house proprietors quote much lower prices in the off-season. But no doubt more can be done to stimulate the greater staggering of holidays by the offer of financial inducements of various kinds; though, as the peak gets evened out over a period, these financial inducements, which will be designed to start the movement going, will also, of course, tend to disappear. Then cheap travel rates in mid-week will be of little avail if the concession is not matched by a readiness on the part of those running hotels and guest houses to accept midweek bookings.
The Government hope that the holiday trade and all those who, in one way or another, cater for the travel, the accommodation and the entertainment needs of holidaymakers will play their part in what must be a concerted national effort to ease the problem of holiday congestion, which is already serious and, if not tackled, will become worse. Success in these efforts will make for the greater benefit, comfort and safety of us all. If there were a steady flow of mid-week bookings throughout the period (and this was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson) there would be no difficulty. What one would like to see is that, if industry and commerce and the professions show that they mean to take seriously the 633 objective of easing weekend travel congestion, hotels and boarding-houses will, to put it colloquially, "play ball" with them. I believe that they will, because it will be in their own interests to do so.
My Lords, in all this, so much depends on knowing where to start. The general feeling in this debate has been that a start should be made by the Government on bank holidays. That feeling I have noticed, and will convey to my right honourable friend. As I have indicated, the Government are already considering action on the spring and summer bank holidays. The Secondary Schools Examination Council has recommended to examining bodies that they should get their examinations finished in June, after which more rapid progress and spacing out of factory closures can reasonably be expected. That is the process of tackling this problem that I envisage. It is not one that the Government can tackle alone. It is one for a concerted effort by all, and I think that your Lordships' debate to-day has shown a most heartening determination on the part of everyone who has spoken to see that the problem is dealt with. I only hope that the same response will come from the rest of the country.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I think we have had a most interesting and satisfactory debate. There has been a remarkable consensus of opinion among all the speakers, with possibly only a few philosophical doubts added by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. There has been agreement not merely on the desirability of some steps being taken in this direction, but even upon what the steps should be and what their order should be; and as my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton emphasised, what is required now is action. I was therefore glad when my noble friend the Minister of State said that what was now required, and what I imagine he was prepared to give a lead in inaugurating, was a concerted national effort.
I think that the timing of this debate is appropriate. It is some nine months now since the Government produced their White Paper Staggered Holidays, and after these nine months of gestation we have had a speech from the Minister of 634 State which indicates that there is likely to be some result. We all welcome, I am sure, what he has said about a forthcoming statement on the matter of Bank Holidays from his right honourable friend.
I was glad also that he noted the general consensus of opinion among the speakers to-day that the chief cause of the difficulty is the lateness of the conclusion of the G.C.E. examination, and I was very glad that he indicated that something would be done to try to urge the eight or nine examining bodies all to conclude their examinations before the end of June. I do not wholly like his suggestion of progress by stages. I think that if a change is going to be made it would be far better to make the change so that it is all concluded by the end of May. As I mentioned before, Birmingham has set an example in this matter, and of course Scotland, as is nearly always the case, has set an even earlier example, and therefore there can be no question about the possibility of the examination being concluded in the month of May. No-one suggested that the examinations should be held in winter. If all the examination boards conclude their examinations by the end of June, it will not be any great advance upon the practice of the majority of them at the present time. I hope that the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board, which appears to be the slowest of them in concluding its examinations, will not allow the convenience of examiners—based, I understand, partly upon social and sporting fixtures—to interfere with the reorganisation of the examinations in the interests of the country as a whole.
I should like to thank all those who have participated in this debate. It has been distinguished by a maiden speech, which we all greatly enjoyed, from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, and by speeches from many noble Lords who, in various ways, have sought to serve the cause of the wellbeing of the country as a whole. We have heard from representatives of the Trades Union Congress, and from the employers—with a most interesting speech, if I may say so, from my noble friend Lord Ampthill, dealing with the practical difficulties which arise and which we are most anxious to face, and 635 which he has so perseveringly overcome. In conclusion, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mabane, who has taken, as the Minister of State said, such an active and valuable part in this work. Having thanked everybody who has taken part, I would ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.