HL Deb 28 April 1988 vol 496 cc294-5

3.4 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are considering altering the date of the present May Bank Holiday so as to secure a more even distribution of bank holidays throughout the year.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Government are reviewing the position of the May Day Bank Holiday, but no decision has yet been made. We are looking at a wide range of options.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply which seems to me to be rather hopeful and helpful. In the course of those considerations, will the Government bear in mind that it seems ridiculous to many people to have three bank holidays at this time of year, within a span of six or seven weeks, and then only one between the beginning of June and Christmas?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend has put his finger on the real problem. That problem is uppermost in our minds in conducting the review.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, in view of the fact that May Day not only celebrates organised labour and its achievements but is a folk festival of considerable antiquity dating back to pagan times, would it not be a pity if we were to abandon that holiday?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the importance of May Day depends on whom one asks. In Scotland, I understand, it marks the Act of Union.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in a great deal of Christian Europe 1st May is the beginning of the month of Mary?

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, will the further considerations to which the noble Lord has referred include the possibility of having a fixed date for Easter, a matter which my noble friend Lord Airedale raises every year, and has raised for the past 12 years to my knowledge? Is that still an open question or has it been closed by any one of the Churches?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I understand that the requirement to fix Easter stems from the Easter Act 1927

Noble Lords


Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is the Easter Act 1928, as my noble friends remind me. Speaking from memory, I believe that the requirement is that there should first be agreement among all the Churches. As yet, I understand that the Greek Orthodox Church has not made up its mind.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, with reference to the point made by the noble Baroness from the Opposition Front Bench, could not we follow what the Americans have done? For many years they have had Labour Day in the late summer, or as they would call it, the early fall.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we are considering the proposition that we should have a more equal spread of the various bank holidays. We are therefore considering whether it would be possible to find a date some time in the autumn, but what particular festival it should celebrate has yet to be decided. I understand that Trafalgar Day is one of those being considered.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that his last suggestion would be far more attractive to many of us than a holiday which at the moment is often known colloquially as "the feast of St. Marx and St. Engels"?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as I said earlier in Scotland it marks the Act of Union. I dare say that that holiday is not so regarded there.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is widely acknowledged that the strongest possible case is made for a local man; namely St. David? St. David's Day is celebrated at the end of the bleak winter as the spring is burgeoning. Will the noble Lord think again?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have much sympathy with the noble Lord, but the problem is that St. David's Day is 1st March and not the middle of October.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, owing to the factionalism of the British people from all parts and of most of the Churches, would it not be wise to abandon the thought of celebrating any feast and just call it the September Bank Holiday, or something like that?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I suppose we could, but I think that that would be a bit boring.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, what about 1st July? People tend to want a holiday when the weather might be fine.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, 1st July is not a favourite date for the additional bank holiday because we already have quite a few in the summer.