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Banking And Financial Dealings Bill

Volume 326: debated on Wednesday 15 December 1971

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3.7 p.m.

My Lords, while I understand that no Amendments have been set down to this Bill, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, wishes to raise a point on it which I undertook to look into, and so I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.

The Question is, That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content"—

My Lords before we agree to this Motion, as I hope in due course we shall, I wonder whether the noble Lord can give me an assurance that he has in fact, in accordance with his undertaking, looked into the question of a possible bank holiday in England and Wales as well as in Scotland, and will he tell us what was the result of the reconsideration he gave?

The Question is that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content". The Contents have it.

Might I suggest to the noble Lord that there is no Motion before the House?

The Question is. That Clauses 1 to 5 stand part of the Bill?

My Lords, it may be in the future interests of the House if we can get this point clarified. There was a Motion before the House which had been put, and it would have been accepted; but there is no reason at all, so far as I can see, why we should not first have had the assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. The Motion was that the Order of Commitment be discharged.

I am incapable of reading English, then, if that is so. Nevertheless, this is a matter on which possibly we can save time, if we can discuss it elsewhere.

My Lords, the Motion to discharge the Order of Commitment was deliberately not moved, because I knew that the noble Lord wished to raise this point. Instead of moving it, I moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

My Lords, on Clause 2, I want just to make a remark for the sake of history.

The Question is, That Clauses 1 and 2 stand part of the Bill?

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [ Power to suspend financial dealings]:

On Clause 2 I wish to make a remark to go on the Record. I entirely agree with Clause 2, which in general terms provides power for the Government to suspend financial dealings, but I just want to say this about it. Had a Labour Government put this clause before this House it would unquestionably have been accused by the Conservative Party in Opposition of "shackling the City" and various other emotive things. As I say, I agree with this clause and I am happy to see it go through, but I wanted to make that remark because on a future occasion when a future Labour Government is accused of passing measures like this, I hope that this particular clause of this Bill may be remembered.

Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the noble Lord has delivered himself with great assurance of an opinion about what might or might not have happened had the Conservative Party been in Opposition at the present time. I would have hoped that the noble Lord's own persuasiveness would have persuaded the Conservative Benches that this was in the public interest.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [ Bank Holidays]:

I think perhaps I owe it to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to say something on this Schedule. I rather thought that on this Schedule he might wish to put to me again the question that he put before. It would perhaps have been more timely now, but I will reply to it. In the meantime, I have looked into this and I am afraid that the answer I can give to the noble Lord is not one that will give him much joy. Perhaps I may just explain to the Committee why we cannot agree to an additional Bank Holiday on New Year's Day.

In deciding not to have a New Year's Day Bank Holiday we are not, of course, preventing people from having the day off. In fact the Government have no views one way or the other whether people work on New Year's Day. What is Government policy is that the parties concerned, employer or employee, should themselves agree whether New Year's Day should be treated as a holiday. After all, those directly concerned are in a much better position than the Government to decide whether it is appropriate for them to treat that day as a holiday. The noble Lord knows that in a number of firms and industries in some parts of the country New Year's Day is treated as a holiday, either because it is treated as an additional holiday or because people prefer to have New Year's Day off and to work on a more generally recognised holiday, or because people take a day off their annual holiday. In fact a good deal of the so-called absenteeism on New Year's Day is not absenteeism at all, as that word is generally understood. Quite simply, work-people take a day off with the full agreement of the employers.

Perhaps the noble Lord can take some comfort from Clause 1(3) of the Bill. This clause permits the appointment by Royal Proclamation of Bank Holidays additional to those contained in Schedule 1 to the Bill. If it was ever decided to appoint New Year's Day a bank holiday the power conferred by this clause could be used to do this, pending principal legislation to put a New Year's Day Bank Holiday permanently on the Statute Book. But before that was done I am sure the noble Lord would agree that the Government would wish to give careful consideration to the matter and to have wide consultations about it.

I am afraid I take little comfort from what the noble Lord has just said. The only thought that is left with me is the remarkable power of telepathy which is enjoyed by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, because he knew that I was going to raise this when in fact I had not given him the slightest indication, and I wonder how he knew that I intended to raise it. I had hoped that the other question put on the original Motion which I thought he had put, would save the time of the House, because I am anxious to get on with the main debate. I will simply say that the noble Lord's reiteration of the arguments that he put on Second Reading do not convince me, and I am sorry that he has not been able to reconsider the matter.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.

Then, Standing Order No. 42 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution), Bill read 3ª, and passed.