HL Deb 30 March 1994 vol 553 cc1071-2

2.44 p.m.

Lord Airedale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have now sufficiently complied with the requirement of the Easter Act 1928 that "regard shall be had to any opinion officially expressed by any Church or any Christian body" before seeking to bring the Act into force whereby Easter would always be celebrated during the first half of April.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the noble Lord will not be surprised when I tell him that the Answer which I shall give him is the same as that which has been given to him and his predecessors on the 28 occasions during the past 33 years when a similar Question has been asked. The Answer is that it would be undesirable to implement the Easter Act 1928 in the continued absence of agreement among the Churches.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for those interesting statistics. Does he not applaud the far-sightedness of our elders and betters in 1928 who foresaw the coming of the May Day holiday and strove to hold back Easter, realising that Easter Monday can occur as late as 26th April?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not see what that has to do with it. Easter is a prime religious festival and it would be inappropriate to change the date of Easter without the agreement of the Churches.

The Lord Bishop of Sheffield

My Lords, does the noble Earl not agree that as by providence Catholics and Protestants are agreed on the date of Easter, and that date is related to history, scripture, tradition, the passage of the moon and all that, and, as far as I know, there is no widespread demand for a fixed Easter —which would serve no useful purpose unless one could have a fixed weather pattern as well—it would be sensible to swallow up the 1928 Act in one of those repealing measures so that we no longer have this annual Question?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that would be a fairly extravagant use of the repeal mechanisms of the statute book. However, I understand the right reverend Prelate's view. The subject of Easter has been debated for years and years. Indeed, way back in AD325 the Council of Nicaea decided as its timely goal—as one of the documents of the Greek Orthodox Church said—on the bringing about of Christian unity through the common celebration of Easter. We are still struggling to achieve that. No doubt with the right reverend Prelate's aid we may be a little nearer to achieving it in a few years' time than we are at the moment.