HL Deb 17 May 1985 vol 463 cc1339-40

11.12 a.m.

Lord Mulley

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether in future years they will arrange for the May Day bank holiday to take place on 1st May (regardless of the day of the week) as is the case in the rest of Europe.

The Minister Without Portfolio (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, the answer is no. The Government's view is that taking the holiday on a Monday minimises the disruption and expense to industry and commerce.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I thank the noble Minister for that reply and confess that I was a Member of the Government which introduced it although I think it would have been a little frivolous to have resigned on the question of the date of a bank holiday. Has this not been the established practice and tradition on the Continent for very many years, and would it not be a gesture of solidarity to our European friends to follow this practice at little cost? After all, in this House, we should be the guardians of tradition.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, there are many gestures of solidarity we should make with Europe, and promoting the internal market is one of them, but harmonising the dates of bank holidays may not be. The Department of Employment went out for consultations in the first half of 1982 and consulted widely with all parties. There was no clear agreement about when the date should be and the Government have at present no plans to reopen this question.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, as the May Day holiday is usually found to come close to the Easter weekend, and as there is also the Spring bank holiday, will the Government consider dropping the May Day holiday, introduced only a few years ago, and institute instead a public holiday later in the year when there is more likelihood of some summer weather?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it would be a wise Government indeed who could give any assurances about the weather.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, had many far better reasons, the House will agree, for resigning from the then unhappy Administration? Is my noble friend also aware of the fact that in aviation "May Day" is a distress signal?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, if the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, does not find favour, and if the Government are bearing in mind that Easter Monday, under present arrangements, can be as late as 26th April, which means that one could have bank holidays falling on successive Mondays, does that not produce a good reason for implementing the Easter Act 1928? That Act fixes Easter within the first half of April.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his suggestion, which I shall communicate to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that the time has now come to return to the Whitsun bank holiday, which has come to be known as the "Wilsontide" bank holiday.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I believe that we are not working a week on Monday. I believe that is actually the same holiday.