HL Deb 12 June 1979 vol 400 cc536-7

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the state of the economy of the country, they will give consideration to reducing the number of statutory and bank holidays per annum to help restore the international status of industrial Great Britain.


My Lords, the Government's responsibility in this matter extends only to prescribing days on which the banks are to be closed to the public. The granting of holidays on such days is, strictly speaking, a matter for the employers and employees concerned, though it is of course customary to grant time off or a day in lieu. There are at present eight such holidays.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that thoughtfully considered and courteous reply, may I ask him whether he agrees that nowadays every so-called holiday in fact develops into a holiday period, and would it not be better for the dates to be selected so as to avoid this overlap of grey areas before the holiday and after it? We really want to get this country more productive and more efficient.

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, while wholly sharing the views of my noble friend on the need for greater productivity and efficiency, we try to minimise dislocation of the type he suggests by, as far as possible, holding statutory holidays, apart from Christmas, Easter and the New Year, on a Monday, so giving a long weekend.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether the Government would consider amalgamating the Spring bank holiday and the May 1 bank holiday into a Whit bank holiday, as there has been over many centuries and which has been greatly enjoyed by the public in this country?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, I am very happy to consider that.


My Lords, is it not true that on the Continent, in Europe, they have many more holidays than we have, both religious holidays and other holidays?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, the noble Baroness is perfectly right, they do have more holiday days on the Continent. That is perfectly true of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is not noted for its low productivity. Nevertheless, if they fall at a weekend they do not usually have them as a holiday, so we make up a little bit there. But I should like to point out to the House that we are still below most of our continental partners.


My Lords, is my noble friend not aware that, while in the North of England great emphasis is put on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, our neighbours North of the Border in Scotland put less emphasis on those days but a great deal more on New Year's Day, the day before it and the day after it, and now the habit is growing that everything stops, or is likely to stop, for about 10 days? What are my noble friend's views on that?

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, it would be a very rash Minister who attempted any interference with Hogmanay as it is presently constituted. I certainly do not propose to start.