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Christmas Holiday

Volume 884: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1975

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what study he has made of the number of firms which in 1974 had an eight-day holiday from Christmas to the New Year; and if, as a boost to the social contract, he will initiate discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry on the possibilities of having an eight-day national holiday week covering Christmas to New Year's Day.

I do not think it would be timely, in present circumstances, to pursue this proposal for an extended national holiday at Christmas and the New Year.

No special study is in hand of the practices of firms during the Christmas and New Year period in 1974.

Does my hon. Friend accept that working people generally have been adversely affected by rising prices, and that it would be extremely helpful if some indication were given that there was a positive side to the concept of the social contract? We all accept that holidays are basically a matter for local negotiation, but does my hon. Friend agree that an initiative of this sort taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State might be welcomed by the CBI—bearing in mind the disruption which takes place in the week in question—and by the TUC? Further, does he agree that the additional days which might be involved would be more than offset by the boost in productivity which would be generated?

I would hope that any negotiations which led to increased holidays would produce the desirable result to which my hon. Friend has referred. The wage guidelines that the TUC has issued in connection with the social contract do not make specific mention of public holidays. However, negotiators are recommended to make progress towards an annual holiday entitlement of four weeks.

Will the Minister take into account the fact that this country has fewer public holidays than most other European countries? Secondly, does he agree that what is happening is that an eight-day holiday from Christmas to the New Year is in existence? Will he give that his official backing?

It is correct that there are other countries in Europe which have longer holidays than we have. I understand that our position is similar to that of the Netherlands. Some other members of the Community have more public holidays. Practice varies widely among member countries. I know of no suggestion that there should be a common approach between all countries on this matter.

Would it be a better boost to the social contract if a clause were inserted into that slightly doubtful document to the effect that for a complete year's work people could have a bonus of a few extra days off?

As the overwhelming majority of people working in British industry and services put in a complete year's work I think that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would result in a general bonus.