HL Deb 20 October 1987 vol 489 cc11-2

3.30 p.m.

Lord Airedale

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 view of the concern expressed on their behalf in this House at Question Time on 15th July about the bunching of bank holidays at the beginning of the summer, they will now introduce legislation to bring into force the Easter Act 1928 to fix Easter within the first half of April.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, no.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I am very much obliged for that informative Answer. If this suggestion is not welcome, when may we be told what the Government's proposals will be to avoid the bunching of bank holidays, which they themselves so much deplore?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, regarding Easter, which is the Question on the Order Paper, Section 2(2) of the Easter Act 1928 states: regard shall be had to any opinion officially expressed by any Church or other Christian body", before an order is made to fix the date of Easter. There is no immediate prospect of the Orthodox Churches making progress towards a common date, and we understand that the Vatican remains opposed to unilateral action.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the Government are considering moving the first bank holiday in May to a Monday later in the year, perhaps to July or October, to avoid the possible bunching which often takes place between that bank holiday and Easter?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, with respect, that is another Question.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, having regard to the Government's conduct of national affairs, would they consider holding a national holiday in celebration on 1st April?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am happy always to consider any sensible suggestion and I shall put that one forward as a possibility.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the 1928 Act merely says that the Churches are to be consulted? Is it supposed that all the Churches would ever agree about anything?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I understand that under the World Council of Churches the unanimous agreement of some 239 member Churches will have to be obtained. Following the debate which the noble Lord initiated on 5th April 1984, my noble friend Lord Elton wrote to the Orthodox Archbishop of Great Britain and Thyateira to ask whether he would ask the Economical Patriarch in Constantinople how matters stood on adopting a common date. The answer was not very helpful to the noble Lord.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, surely the noble Earl does not defend the ridiculous position in which in this year in a period of seven weeks we had no fewer than four public holidays and none throughout the remainder of the summer until the very end of August, the very time when people would like public holidays. There may be the difficulties that the noble Lord experienced with the Churches, but there are four holidays to be considered. Is it not time that we took a serious look—instead of always repudiating the suggestion—at a more intelligent arrangement of public holidays than we have in this country?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the reason why I said that that was another Question earlier was that the matter was given fairly full discussion on 15th July in your Lordships' House.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, with regard to the noble Earl's use of the term Economical Patriarch, has he in mind the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

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